The more things change….
We spent a few days in Burma in 1995, and just like today, Aung San Suu Kyi was in internal exile at number 54 University Avenue in Rangoon. Her return to exile this week has had Burma briefly back in the press, and has prompted me to go back and find what I wrote about Burma at the time. An excerpt follows:
In Burma, people really live outdoors more than in. Thatch and open rooms. It’s the vast Mississippi bayou with banana trees.
Smoke from wood fires hung in stratified ranks and the good people of the Irrawaddy delta tended to their livestock and their morning chores. Out in the middle of rubber farms in the middle of nowhere, cruising along another bad road, the world exploded before us. The whole earth went splintery and kaleidoscopic with a terrific bang.
Chan kept his heavy foot on the gas for four or seven seconds, our little Toyota flew down the road, all three of us were blinded in the billowing dust until slowly we realized the windshield was gone. We couldn't see a thing, and Chan slowly coasted to a halt.
He anguished for a time. He wanted to be alone. There'd surely be hell to pay for busting his dad's windshield. Mirja and I walked over to the roadside to let him grieve by himself. He pulled some of the big glass chunks out of the windshield and I got up and helped, both of us cutting our hands a little and scraping the glass off the seats and wiping the sweat off our brows.
A crow cawed a curious tune. Two men wandered out to look.
Aye Chan, a 22 year old competitive bicycle racer, once raced from Rangoon to Mandalay and back. He fell and lost both incisors to gold teeth.
The day we met, Aye Chan grinned goldly, "Road very bad out there."
Aye Chan ("EEE-Chan,") was a child of relative privilege, a third-year vet school student with parents with government jobs. His dad was Chinese, a doctor working in Burma on a leprosy project. His mom was a philosophy teacher at Yangon University. A family album he kept in the car was chock full of smiling brothers and sisters.
We hired him as our driver, and on Tuesday the seventh of February or, as the newspaper The New Light of Myanmar called it, the eighth waxing of Tabodwe, 1356 ME, we set out for a drive into the country. He borrowed his dad’s tan Toyota with tinted windows.
First on Chan’s Tour of Rangoon Hotspots, “That's military headquarters.”