Since I came to Mae Sot I’d desperately been desiring to go to Burma. It’s simply across a river, but it seemed I kept having setbacks. Because foreigners visas are restricted to 15-day Thai entry when they return from Myawaddy (the Burmese town across the river), I had to wait until the end of the trip to go. One teacher from Love and Care wanted to take me, but then we heard rumors (that we later found out weren’t even true) that the bridge was broken and Myawaddy was still too flooded to visit. Though the flooding took a serious toll on the impoverished city, it was still possible to visit. Finally, I was able to go the day before leaving Mae Sot.
I woke up bright and early, paid my last dues and set off on the adventure that would redefine my trip in just a short span of time. I went with two hosts who showed me around, noting that Myawaddy was a good example of what most of Burma looks like. If this is true… I can’t even begin to imagine what we might see further in. The roads were dusty and full of pot holes. At one point we even saw a huge boat on the main road near the friendship bridge that separates the two countries. We got around by motorbike– I’m assuming there isn’t much to choose from in terms of public transportation and went to visit a small nursery near the town center. There I met the sister of one of the students at Heavenly Home Orphanage. She was the sister of Sinoli and Rebecca and currently works at the nursery. They briefed me on the issue of electricity… basically Myanmar makes a lot of money by exporting their electricity to countries like Thailand and China, but doesn’t have ‘enough’ for its own citizens. Thus people in areas close to Thailand such as Myawaddy have to buy BURMESE electricity from THAILAND! And those in more rural areas often have no electricity at all unless they have a generator. In the capital, Yangon, electricity is more available but only for certain hours in the day and it can cut off unexpectedly. So… needless to say I couldn’t charge my phone.
We dropped off some books and headed to an area that had been severely ravaged by the flood.
This was once a small village, but it’s now little more than a pile of mud and sticks. On the left you can see a man sitting in what used to be his house. A few huts still remain toward the back-right, but most of the other houses were destroyed because the people cannot use concrete to build.
This was what used to be a man’s home. It is now reduced to sticks and mud. Next is a photo of him and another woman from the village standing on the building blocks of their new home…
Conditions are clearly very poor, but the people were willing to let us take pictures because they want the world to know how they’re living–and most importantly that their government isn’t doing anything about it. Their rent is still due, they’re still expected to work (many work in factories), and they still have to find a way to eat.
Despite all of this–many are still smiling. Like this woman: they still see hope in their futures. We took a trip down the city until we got to a cross-roads where we would continue if we wanted to go to Yangon and turned around to come back to the city center. We stopped for gas:
And got lunch (biryani) but soon after it was time to leave.
A view of Myawaddy from the bridge:
Seeing how rough Myawaddy is–despite being JUST across the bridge from the much more developed Mae Sot–gave me a new appreciation for Thailand. The inconveniences I experienced there would be nothing in comparison to trying to stay in Burma for any amount of time greater than what I did. I can’t imagine spending a night… We can only hope that the situation will improve, but it requires political action. Unfortunately, the US seems to be between a rock and a hard place with Burma because ‘putting their foot down’ with sanctions would give China the advantage.
On a brighter note, the going-away party was fantastic and absolutely memorable!
More information and pictures to come 😉