Showing posts from May, 2010

Into the Wilderness

He says, 'I'm only stopping here to get some gasoline. I guess I'm going thataway just as long as it's paved, I guess you'd say I'm on my way to Burma shave.' —Tom Waits The morning sun shot off like a firework over the hills. Ron and I took our backpacks to Sam’s trekking office, where from a painted portrait, three feet across, the old gopher-toothed Burman explorer looked out from under his rice paddy hat to the narrow room and the street beyond. Naing Naing, Sam’s nephew and our guide on the trails to Inle, was there waiting. He tagged our bags and sent them to Nyaung Shwe, on the northern bank of the lake, where we would proceed, in a meandering way of hills and vales, over the next three days. Naing Naing kissed his little daughter goodbye and shouldered his knapsack, and we followed suit, with only the bare necessities. We walked south out of the Kalaw valley, on winding ways cut into the hills, past groups of novices in burgundy tunics, with metal d

Portraits of the Early Monsoon

This is how the world will be, Everywhere I go it rains on me. —Tom Waits The monsoon works like this . During the wet season, which follows the hot, humid season and occurs at a different time of year depending on where you are, but generally in the summer, and in Burma between May and September—during that wet season, it is perpetually cloudy, and for about fifteen minutes every day there is a biblical deluge that floods the fields and roads, raises the rivers and sewers, and washes up everything in the world. Then the rains soften to a sprinkle, and then they cease entirely, and the world is a muddy wreck, though the air is much cooler. In the heart of the monsoon, in August, it rains perpetually, but I was there during the time of the daily deluge, which caught me nearly every day in a place of some fascination. It is worth surveying the montage of them, with some necessary digressions, and so I will proceed. I am in the home of Mysande when the rain starts coming down. She is a p

The Clouds Burst

Rise up and take the power back, it’s time the Fat cats had a heart attack, you know that Their time is coming to an end, we have to Unify and watch our flag ascend. —Muse A trash fire burned outside Lumpini Park . It was a desolate scene, with a line of soldiers visible in the smoky and seething distance, and the boom of gunfire seemed to come from every direction. A man rode up on a motorcycle, his face masked like a highwayman, and in one hand he carried a huge Thai flag that nearly touched the ground. Expertly he steered his motorcycle around and around the trash fire, and the flag waved quietly in the smoke. Plumes of it—a fog of war—rose into the air all around Rajprasong, from piles of tires set afire to keep back the soldiers, on that first day of the siege. Security forces moved to tighten their cordon. They built walls of sandbags and razor wire and pointed their rifles out from the rubble. Weighted in battle armor, they thudded across the highway overpass that runs along the

A Thief in the Night

I know I am a scout And I should find a way out So everyone can find a way out. —Modest Mouse The man they called Seh Daeng , “Red Commander,” known otherwise as renegade Major General Khattiya, sat down for a hasty last meal in Siam Square. Lower lip jutting, eyes tight as Lee Van Cleef’s, a cowlick plastered to his forehead where his hat had been, aggressively spooning fried rice into his mouth. The Defense Minister had recommended that Khattiya be dismissed from duty for his support of the Red Shirt rebels, had forwarded the papers to Prime Minister Abhisit, but Seh Daeng still wore his army fatigues on the field of Rajprasong. He said that if the other rebel commanders, the “cowardly idiots,” gave in to government demands, that he and the “hardcore” members would take over and would never give up. “We will fight until we win,” he said, gleeful and animated before the journalists and admirers. “We will use the trucks as barriers and we will drop firebombs on the armored vehicles.” H