There was one question I was dreading more than any other when I returned home: what was your favorite country? Is it possible to pick, and Jason put it, between riding an elephant, being made leader of a tribe that has never seen a camera before, swimming with whales and learning their language? Can a father choose between his children? This blog, in essence, was a defensive mechanism against that question, so I didn’t have to sum up 100 days of experiences into a simple, “SAS is cool” response.
Then we arrrived in Myanmar.
Perhaps it was the fact that the our ATM and credit cards were useless thanks to the international economic sanctions imposed on that country. Perhaps it was the fear of the totalitarian state – is this what living in Germany in the 1930s was like? Or maybe it was the fact that I had to morally justify a visit to this country when the object of my heterosexual man-lust, Desmond Tutu, is the world’s most ardent opponent of the Myanmar government and told us he would not have joined us had he known we were traveling there (Danno – I would love to talk to Anna Eshoo at some point about why I think sanctions are the wrong approach to dealing with this country….)
But perhaps it was the fact that the white paste that the women and children use on their face elicited more surprise and culture shock to me than the sight of a burning funeral pyre. Or the fact that there are monks all over the place. Or the fact that huge and ancient city ruins - without a lot of tourists - still exist in the world.
Perhaps it was the fact that we just didn’t know what to expect.
All in all, my experience was the utopian ideal of Semester at Sea’s mission. Clearly not everyone had a similar experience. But I imagine that the early Semester at Sea trips into Communist China, Vietnam, Cuba, and apartheid South Africa must have been like. I’ve been waiting to write about it all week – I hope I can convey why I enjoyed this trip so much.
By the way, when researching what I should do in Myanmar before leaving on the ship, I had the hardest time finding people who had been there (I eventually found Brent Schulkin’s uncle who gave me some great suggestions). But turns out my sister Lilian has been here and I had no idea. Who knew?
I’ll finish the India report, then write about Myanmar. In the meantime, enjoy this picture – the meterological phenomenon that created a full halo around the Shwedagon Pagoda was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen (the halo was a lot brighter in person).