Wednesday, March 23, 2011

following george.

I am back in Bangkok and have been putting in long days at work. Yes, I am here working... not just adventuring around to interesting countries, hanging out on on beaches and bike riding through ancient cities. Holy, my life is good.

My work here is also good. I am disappointed that it will end in a few weeks. It leaves me to wonder how to set any long-term goals. Something in me wants to keep doing international work, for a long time. But my goals and what actually happens are usually very different. There are a lot of unexpected surprises that have happened on my way to heaven, put it that way.

My next trip will be to Myanmar (Burma). I haven't booked my exact travel dates yet, but I'll be going for at least a week. My plan is to fly to Yangon and head north to Inle Lake and Mandalay. If there is time, I will also go west to Bagan and Nagpali Beach.

I am madly trying to learn some "survival" phrases in Burmese. Myanmar is less accessible to western travelers. Canada and other western nations have imposed economic sanctions against this country, for political reasons. As a result, there is extreme poverty and low levels of education. There is also less chance of having fluent conversations in English. This is actually a good thing. It means I get to learn a little more Burmese than just "hello" "goodbye" "please" "thankyou" and "cheers".

Everything that I have read about Myanmar is conflicted. One lens says it is the most beautiful country, full of people who are warm and generous. Another lens says it has a history of climatic unrest, political oppression and natural disasters. It is a country that transformed and shaped George Orwell's life and writing career. Biographers have said that his last words and thoughts were with Burma. And that simple fact is enough for me to go.

As I was walking through the pouring, torrential rain (with my new umbrella - thanks to the secretary at my work) to ask the doctor about malaria pills, I began composing a letter to the late and loved George O. It is only half written, but it attempts to express the unique sense of creativity, imagination and expectation that grabs me when I think about Burma. It also unveils that what I really want to do with my life is write. I just do not know what to write, yet. Beginning is always easy. It is finding the purpose, the structure and the end that is a bit more tricky.

Five years ago, I sat in my little garden in Royston and read a collection of essays by George Orwell. His essay titled "Shooting an Elephant" is priceless. But the essay that has stayed with me is his essay titled "Why I Write".

You can read it here:

I think it is really something that I went from reading about George Orwell to following his footsteps. And so, I am curious to see what this next adventure holds.

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