Stalking George Orwell in Burma/Two Posts in Two Days

Turns out my Spider-sense for a good read was right on target. I’m halfway thru “Finding G.O. in Burma,” and I am about to Google Stalk Emma Larkin.

Turns out my hunch was right; her name is a pseudonym. And it also turns out she has written something more recently than “Finding G.O,” first available in 2004, with another printing in 2011. In 2010, her book Everything is Broken: The Untold Story of Disaster Under Burma’s Military Regime…

While I took the availability of the book I purchased as a good thing (displayed in public, and not available only from a bibliophile in a trench coat, or down a long-winding alleyway that requires a secret knock for admission), I take it as a more foreboding sign that the more recent, more critical book was no where to be found (and had no mention in either of the books of hers that were on display, as authors with  multiple works often cross-reference their credibility to double up on publicity options).

A review of the book is here.

I am in love with this woman, in no uncertain terms. She’s an American writer based in Bangkok, and I must find her. (I also must acquire a Burmese tutor, but all in good time. Random knowledge of “umbrella” and “pineapple” have gotten me this far.)

Her writing, despite being a decade old, has conjured up a bit of paranoia for me. Maybe I’m naive in thinking that I have my situation under control, that I’m safe here…but whatever doubt rises up in me is only momentary, and quickly quelled back into a persistent, unshakable certainty in the necessity of my being here.  Whenever people ask me why I’m here, I’m really unable to hand them a tangible line of logic; mostly I have accepted that I look like a hippy lost in time, or a present-day citizen of Portland (where the spirit of the 1990’s is alive and well). The longer I”m here, though, and the more I try to buff away the easy layer simplicity, a misunderstanding from my side of the cultural lens, that loops into “its dirty because its underdeveloped because its dirty because its underdeveloped…”

When I was set to arrive (as in, T-minus hours from arrival), the rep from the go-between company I used to get here said to me…. “Now, don’t worry. It’s very safe. When I was there, the biggest thing in the paper was that a tourist’s bag had been stolen.”

Yes. Clearly in a country that has been lost to time, and successfully held hostage by a military junta/dictatorship for half a century, a country that is the worst human rights violator in the world (or at least top three, I haven’t checked their ranking in a few weeks), a country whose censorship laws prohibit anything negative from being reported or printed about the government, a country who locks away educated, socially aware citizens and foreigners that even do so much as criticize the government in any small way…. yah, sure, I would expect complete transparency there.


Violence isn’t reported, because military officials like things to look good on paper (and with the complete absence of paperwork, even better). That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

I try to bring up even an academic conversation about politics, and people still get all “frightened, nervous rabbit” on me…they fall silent, perk up their ears, and develop a kind of closed-mouth twitch, as if they’re just listening, waiting for something unseen to pounce on them.

People are completely under-represented in terms of basic rights…nevermind luxurious ones.

In talking about economic conditions, one professor I spoke to mentioned that he only makes $150 US a month. A MONTH.

Wrap your brain around that. A hard working, educated person who holds a doctorate, responsible for the ongoing stimulation and education of young minds, receives LESS in one month of 60-hour work weeks than the average US Walmart Employee does in a week. And in the US, that employee also receives government-implimented social benefits.

Oh, and the factories in Bangladesh (our neighbor out here, and a supplier of refugees to this country) where Walmarts goods are produced have no formal building or maintenance codes, and no enforceable repercussions for negligent persons in charge. So when the buildings collapse, people die, and nothing further happens. Fun.

Back in the US I have had a long life of luxury, both in my indulgences, chances taken, opportunities shirked, and further chances taken advantage of. I’m here to make karmic repercussions for any wrongdoings in past lives, and for building karmic merit for proper advancement.

Or maybe I’m just here to fuck shit up humanist-calvary-style, by sensibly educating a populace and by finding the proper motivator i needed to really (ACTUALLY) go to graduate school. I have a goal. I have a purpose. I don’t quite have a plan, but I have a direction and I’m ready for the long, imaginable hardships ahead.
And, as everyone wiser than me to have spoken it first knows, not all who wander are lost; its the journey that’s important, not the destination.

Long Overdue Update from Burma/Birma/Myanmar

I had promised to write something several weeks ago, and am just now having the realization that I completely flaked out. Maybe that’s not entirely true; I don’t have a lot of free time after teaching all week (and thrice-weekly adult night classes) so my free time is directed to expat hot spots and recovering from going to them for a majority of the following day. I haven’t been to the American Centre/Center (which spelling??) as often as I meant to, either. Today, I accompanied the sister to the head of the school (who has a legitimate and viable career with the school as well, but I’ll be damned if I can actually remember it), and two of my teaching colleagues to the Myanmar Book Centre (this time I’m sure it’s the British spelling). At my request, we purchased 5 Dr. Seuss books, and 5 grammar/phonics/language skills books for my kids, which i remind you spans Nursery (age 3) to Primary 2 (age 9-ish). I feel about three notches below someone who could stretch one loaf to feed a village…no one in particular comes to mind. I just mean that the lengths I have gone to in trying to find good sources has been more exhausting than the actual teaching, and to know that there are now materials in my possession and at my disposal for the betterment of the students in my care….I feel like solid gold. I also purchased a book at the center next door, whose name I have conveniently forgotten…it’s calledFinding George Orwell in Burma, by Emma Larkin. Holy fucking fuck my brain is salivating in anticipation of devouring that juicy academic morsel. Also, several weeks ago, the head of my department (also on the book scrounging adventure) had loaned me The River of Lost Footsteps by Thant Myint-U, which I need to finish, but which I may not before my upcoming visa run next weekend. I am going to Phuket with about a dozen of the other teachers I met while in Thailand, and I am overjoyed that it is only 10 days away. I have not had any luck with the organizations that I contacted weeks ago, but my time management has been shoddy. I will give it another college try in the weeks following my visa run, because I think that will give me a renewed purpose, and starting back to something after charging up with the other optimists/free thinkers/challenge takers/mental cases who have also agreed to teach sounds like just the jumpstart I’ve needed. I also want to start doing free weekend language camps. More on that as things actually develop.