November 18, 2014

tea with guerrillas

Hsipaw is a great spot to jump off into well, what i call the villages.  it's the grey zone between where the government is comfortable having foreigners and the restricted area.  i didn't have proper footwear for what would turn out to be a very long trek.  the first day was spent clawing my way up a downward stream of mud.  not a lot of photo opportunities since it was raining all day.  we are tired when get into the village where we sill be staying.

as we pack up to leave the village this little guy comes down the village path to see the foreigners.  the woman at the home we were staying told the little boy that we were taking away children in our packs!  he turned and ran away very quickly - i thought that was really mean.  i didn't bring along anything for the children and we were in areas where we were still a curiosity and children were interested but wary of us.  and no wonder if the mean spirited grannys were telling children we were kidnappers!

the time in the villages were a real window into the lives of ordinary Burmese people.  we passed through Shan and Palaung villages.  we stayed in homes where dinner is still cooked over an open flame in the living room.  we met women trapped in the cycle of poverty.
we saw the power the budhist monks weld in some of the villages.  we played with kids during recess at a school.  we crossed paths with the shan and palaung armies which was a bit confusing at the time.  there are all these armies that fight each other and sometimes band together to fight the Myanmar Army and there are more three letters acronyms for these groups than exist in the whole of washington d.c. afterwards to me it seemed that it is a bunch of narco warlords fighting for control of the resource rich areas.  they were however, quite polite to us, posing for photos [which we were later advised not to publish anywhere public] and sharing a cup of tea.  i can share the photo of this jumbo red snail that was crossing our path.

in one village we stayed at the home of these lovely ladies where the meals are cooked over open flame inside the house.  we knew there were multiple sisters in the family and there was one woman who sat apart from us, in an asian squat, smoking her cheroot, but wasn't participating in the preparation of the meal.  someone asked if that was also a sister and they said, 'no, she's a villager who has come to see the foreigners'.

there is no internet.  there are no cell phones.  they have some solar panels that have been provided by the government but electricity is used sparingly.  they have water courtesy of USAID in most of the villages.  they grow their own food stuff in private gardens.  this is a primitive life.

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