High hopes

Since the revolution in 2007 and the democratic elections in 2010 Myanmar has gone through a rapid development. A development that will speed up even more in the near future and change the society rich in traditions into a more globalized and prosperous one. Right now the country is in the midst of a time-consuming transformational process from military rule to a well-functioning democracy.

Yangon, the biggest city in Myanmar, is a growing city in many ways. Globalization is slowly leaving its flagrant marks on the city of opportunities.

The newly appointed capital, Nay Pyi Daw, is an empty enclave in the midst of what used to be a swamp. The inhabitants have not yet taken the city to heart and it seems to be a city of extremes in a country that is still underdeveloped.

The many colors, the lush trees and the friendly smiles in Yangon leap out at you in contrast to a city that is otherwise characterized by overpopulation, disrepair and a moist climate.

The street scene in Yangon is highly characterized by litter and stray dogs. The number of waste containers seems funny compared to the amount of litter that you see everywhere.

In spite of the slow advent of globalization in Myanmar the people proudly hold on to their colorful traditional clothing. All classes of society make a virtue of their clothing. Both men and women wear the characteristic longyi’s with pride and they come in any color.

All social groups come to Yangon in hope of finding work and a brighter future. The switch to a modern city creates a lot of jobs. At a construction site of a modern five star hotel it teems with workers without any safety gear who are unlikely to work for more than the minimum wage of about 35 kroner.

Everywhere in Myanmar you see smiling novices, nuns and monks that proudly carry on a thousand-year-old tradition and way of life.

In the poor and slum-like areas you see huts full of creative and innovative solutions to practical problems. Here people manage to make use of the little they have to achieve the best possible living conditions.

The contrasts in the country are conspicuous at the world’s longest teakwood bridge in Sagaing Province. The many tourists move around confidently and superciliously across the attraction that is also being used as a location for perpetuating the weddings of the upper class. At the same time the wide, dirty river under the bridge comprises an important source of income for the lower classes that struggle to get the catch of the day using primitive methods.

Jade is one of the valuable natural resources in Myanmar. The unique stone is being mined in the northern states of the country where civil war is part of everyday life. In spite of the fact that many Burmese are employed at the jade market in Mandalay, Myanmar get far from enough out of the privatized jade industry.

To ’kill time’ has become a natural part of westerners’ everyday lives. A 15 hours long train ride makes it evident that this notion has not come to Myanmar. The locals, the young and the elderly ones, sit calmly while they contemplate the little passing villages without any signs of restlessness.

Patience is a virtue when it comes to the troublesome process of democratization. All Burmese have learned that. People have sky-high hopes of the semi-democratic system and all the positive things they expect to come along with it. But the fulfillment of those hopes seems to be a long time coming. The struggle for a good life and a well-functioning democracy is long-standing, and democracy and progress don’t always seem to go hand in hand.