About the Burmese Road Trip

He looks at me with his big beautiful brown eyes, with his arm stretched out to reach for my hand. My heart melts instantly. Without saying a word, I gently put my hand in his, as if he’s royalty. Yet it is him that makes me feel like a queen. His tread is slow and careful, but I am confident that he’s going to lead me to where I need to be….

The door is made of thin light wood barely covering the area. Once inside, I turn to put the clearly used piece of rope around a nail to lock the door behind me. Not that it really matters ‘cause everyone can peek through the gaps in between the wooden panels if they would want to. I don’t care. I’ve seen it all and have no shame. This is just something that needs to happen and if these kind people are offering it to me, I’m not saying no!

When I see what I’m working with, I giggle to myself. Well this one is different! There is a plastic semi see-through bowl with a hole in the middle, dropping everything that goes through mid air onto a tilted hill with deep red hard sand. Two wooden boards are nailed to the floor on each side to keep the bowl from shifting. Crafty people. I love it!

We had been on the road for about three hours, before we stopped here to get the car washed from all the dust that it caught on the way. I had to go for a while now but I also didn’t feel like breaking the peaceful and quiet vibe we had established between the four of us. So I huffed and puffed the need to pee away. That usually helps me stall for like an hour, so I was damn grateful that the driver felt such a strong urge to clean his car now, mid route.

While we wait for the car to be ready for take off, the little cute boy that I just want to wrap under my arm and take home, pours a cup of water.  He’s so self sufficient for such a small boy. I think to myself when he goes and offers it to me. To me!!! Again looking at me with these big brown eyes. Stop me now, I just want to eat him up! I restrain myself and gratefully accept the cup. What an amazing day!  And all I’m doing is just going from one place to the other…

It was quite interesting to see my mood shift instantly as soon as I got into the car this morning. The surrounding area was hot, busy, dusty and kind of hectic, yet an instant feeling of calm came over me. I hadn’t even realized that I was holding a certain tension in my body, regardless of my meditation sessions- Note to self: Do a body scan more often.

 Sitting in the front seat, with the window rolled down, I get to enjoy the ever changing view. The scenery changes from a mountainous landscape with lushes green colored trees, to flat dirt roads in deep red/ maroon colored sand. People are working alongside the road, sorting stones and they seem to be doing fine in this heat. Impressive and boy am I happy I’m in this car right now!

“Banana?” I ask my fellow passengers, who are both Burmese. Besides the few head nods and a semi ‘Mingalabar’ (Hello in Burmese) we had not interacted. The lady shows the only two teeth she has left in her mouth and happily accepts. The guy doesn’t really respond. When our driver pays for gas at the station he asks for a bottle of water and passes it to me, and only me.

“For me?” I ask surprised. I know he doesn’t speak English, but facial expressions are universal. Yup, it was just for me. I offer to share again, but no one will have it. I’m happy with the extra liquid, ‘cause at home I drink a lot (like constantly). I should drink twice as much here in Asia where it’s hot and humid.

“Passport” the driver says when he pulls over at this hut made of bamboo with a bunch of guys just standing there. “Why?” I ask suspiciously. I’ve already crossed the border, should be no need to check again. “Police control.” “Okay okay, but I’m taking it to them!” This is my most important possession. I’m keeping it safe! Coming from Thailand my first thoughts are corruption and that they want to extort extra money from me, but I’m glad they prove me wrong.

The police officer is cheerful and seems excited to see me and talks about The Netherlands. Everyone here seems to have ‘friends’ from The Netherlands.  That’s wonderful, I’m happy you like us. “Van Persie, van Persie” they all say. Yes, yes, van Persie. I put up my thumb in approval and laugh along. I don’t care about soccer, only when the National team is playing and that’s basically just about us all being together and cheering on a team. It doesn’t matter to these guys, they just love mentioning a name and showing off their knowledge. Fine by me. If it makes you happy, it makes me happy.

This encounter was not much unlike the one I had earlier today, we entered this area called ‘Export.’ Interesting. I thought. Why are we pulling over here? It was just for me to show my passport again and to tell them where I’m going. They’re very easy here, no problems and they all laugh at how I’m trying to get out the tongue twisting word ‘Mawlamyine.’

After about three or four of these kinds of checks we are home free. The rest of the drive we remain silent. Sometimes the driver hums along to a Burmese song. When the Burmese version of ‘Don’t stop believing’ by Journey comes on the radio, they all start laughing out loud when I  sing along in English. Can’t say I blame them. The atmosphere is really chill and I am having a blast. Let this ride last a few more hours please…

 Being in that state of mind, makes me feel as if it’s a four-hour long meditation session and as though it’s a preparation for the Vipassana I want to do in this country. Of course that will be a lot less relaxing. Sitting on hard floors, meditating hours on end in the same position. No speaking (looking forward to that). No reading (like that a bit less). No writing (don’t like that at all, but okay I will oblige). No food after twelve (I’m gonna be so hungry!!). Plain rice for breakfast and lunch (Fine by me, I want to lose the weight I gained with all these warm meals anyway.) Getting up at 3:30 in the morning (Can totally pull that off). Sleeping on the floor (a lot less excited about that, but it’s something new and definitely out of my comfort zone, so bring it on!)

 I take another deep breath and enjoy everything that has been given to me. Before crossing the border, I wasn’t really feeling it. I had just made the decision to go home and organize things back there in order to continue traveling in Central America. I felt as if I was done with Asia and about ready to go home for a short break. Boy was I wrong : )

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