by Daniel Opacki
Since leaving Myanmar, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and put into context the many beautiful and amazing experiences I’ve had. Looking through the thousands of photographs I have has taken time. I’m not nearly finished. One is that when considering the wide differences in regions and cultures, people and customs, it’s now easy for me to understand how unreasonable it is for anyone, including myself, to think reforms in Myanmar can be anything except wildly imperfect.
At the same time, all of my good friends and former students in Myanmar are hopeful and doing the best they can do with what matters in their lives. While everything isn’t perfect neither is everything the same as it was in 2009. I see many former students happy with job opportunities and free to be civically engaged in their communities.
I’m hoping for Myanmar’s imperfectly successful transitions to take root and wishing all of my Myanmar friends and former students great happiness and success.
However, I’ll be busy writing about my entire time in Myanmar, including my American Center period. The AC, as it’s called, was a hostile place from within during my time there until July 2012. I’ve no idea what’s gone on there since. I visited twice after I left. Once to greet and say hello to people. Then to bring a group of students, the first-ever Student Council from a local international school, to meet Ambassador Mitchell on the day President Obama got re-elected. It was an important day in the lives of those young students and a proud day for me to be with them. Here’s a photo:
Posted below are several photos from my best-liked folder. The final picture is especially ironic since it’s about the first student-led protest in Myanmar in a generation and it happened to be at the American Center over tuition fee increases.
Children learning at an Inwa monastery
The Golden Palace in Mandalay
A farmer in Shan State
Nuns collecting donations in the early morning
Boys fishing in Shan State
A woman smoking a cheroot while selling snacks from her home
Women selling near a bus stop in Shan State
This pole has stories to tell
Simply, an old bus
Women in a paddy field in Shan State
A young monk looking out the school window
The essential Inle Lake photograph
Children in Shan State
A woman with her baby carrying a basket of roots
A woman with child in Shan State
A herder watering the Buffalo
A happy mother and father with their bundled up baby
The village barber with a young customer
Novice monks walking quietly in the morning
A village school in Shan State
A boy carries water from a nearby well in Shan State
A young monk collecting a donation of rice
The Judson Church Pastor giving sermon on December 24th, 2010
American Center students protesting tuition and fee hikes circle the Assistant Public Affairs Officer responsible for the hikes in May 2012. It was the first public student protest by a student council in Burma since 1962 -directed at the American Center whose management had grown increasingly disciplinarian while Burma was being set free. Some people want to get by in life by avoiding responsibility, doing whatever it takes to look good, and blaming others for their inadequacies. Inside of this photograph, I recognized two students who were spies and got paid for their reports to the Burmese undercover police. Oh, the irony.