Yangon has been home for eighteen months now, and typically we miss home each time we step beyond Myanmar’s borders. The scenic beauty, the quiet peaceful life, the warmth of friends, all makes us wish to get back soon, wishing to end the noisy, action-packed, hectic and stressful holidays we end up going for.
The quiet landing and the blissful sight of lush greenery, serene lakes and water bodies are thrilling to start with, but it takes less than a week to realize that Yangon may just be going the western way. The roads have more traffic than when we left, water logging, power cuts, and poor telecom connectivity, become frustrating even as we realize that there is still limited availability of goods and services of quality.
Change is imminent and evident too…but the pace is too slow for most of us. We wish to see quick results, a race to catch up with the west, at least for services and facilities, and many of us are here to participate in the progress as well. But Myanmar is a country that needs help from all quarters, in organizing, managing, planning and implementing. The common man needs help too. Education having suffered for decades, the quality of graduates remains inferior to their counterparts in other countries, English language skills are a desperate need, and access to the latest research, important.
Yet people keep pouring in, just as much as the rain. Flights are full of tourists, and hundreds are making Yangon their home as they explore business opportunities. The hype in the foreign media about Myanmar leads to hope for us residents, both expatriates and locals. There are new retail outlets, more international brands, and new restaurants…but still have to figure out whether they carry the leftovers from other markets, or display the latest styles and creations. The gap nonetheless is too broad, and we would like to see it bridged, not for more material or modern ways, but certainly to enjoy a more comfortable, and better quality of life. If only we could do without the panic buying each time we step abroad, for fear of having to do without bare essentials we have become accustomed to, but are not always available here.
Often, there are disappointments, since living here is like undertaking a journey back in time. A trip abroad is like travelling in a time capsule and being pushed two decades ahead.
Life is smooth sailing, relaxed, and quietly peaceful. You miss the rush and the frenzied pace of activity, noise and chaos, multitasking and juggling. But then, this is what provides for better health, an ideal environment for spiritual elevation, recognition and understanding of the true purpose of life, that is lost and often never discovered in a lifetime elsewhere.