Lines from a SHINING LAND - Excerpts (3)

1932 - Jessie


Lying in my tent at night I was terrified that a herd would just come through the jungle trampling everything including our poor little tents. But in the morning we would move off into deep jungle with no fears. The mist rising thickly, the gibbons leaping overhead from tree to tree and our placid old lady elephants walking sedately along with us and all our belongings packed on them. We could not march after ten a.m. Elephants need a lot of time to feed. The elephants would be unloaded and led down to the river to bathe. Then for the rest of the day they grazed. All of them had large wooden bells around their necks. In the evening the men would go out into the jungle to bring them back to near the camp. They were tempted with pieces of sugar cane which they loved. 

1983 - Daw Kyi Kyi May

Oh, that reminds me of something else. When we are asked what sort of drink would we want to have when being invited to British homes I have found the Burmese to be reluctant to say outright what they want. A westerner might think we could not make up our minds even on a simple matter like choosing beverages. We would just say "ya-bar-de" which means "Anything you have will do", so that the host need not lose face if what we demand might not be available. As a Burmese guest, the rule is not to embarrass the host by asking for this or that, but take what the host has to offer. There has been many an occasion when people who do not eat beef at home will close their eyes and swallow down pieces of meat because they do not want to offend or embarrass their host by not eating their specially cooked meal. Mind you, that is just between Burmese themselves. I think most of the British who have friends in Burma have sometimes been unable to refuse Burmese hospitality and have to eat plate after plate of admittedly delicious cooking. 

1960 - Nick Fenn

In 1960 an Australian agronomist came to the Irrawaddy Delta , bringing new strains of rice, new methods of crop rotation, irrigation and fertilisation. The villagers were delighted and eagerly adopted all the new methods.
A year later he went back to see the results of his labours. He found that indeed they had doubled the yield of their paddy fields. But instead of doubling their production they had halved the acreage, securing the same amount of rice for half the work. They valued leisure more than wealth. They were grateful to have more time to sit under a palm tree discussing the universe. They were very good at it. 
The Director of the Agricultural and Rural Development Corporation was equal to the challenge. He introduced western cosmetics into the village store. The younger women quickly developed a taste for make-up. They had ways of their own to make their husbands increase their income to pay for these expensive foreign products. And, little by little, the lost acreage came back into production. The Green Revolution prevailed in the Delta. 

1932 - Stella

After a picnic lunch we drove on, making arrangements to pick up our guides again to take us to a Padaung village. The village of the giraffe-necked women. We had to leave the car and climb up the mountain. At last we reached the bamboo fence surrounding the village and were greeted in a friendly way by the Head man - who placed his own house at our disposal as it was getting dark by this time. We were just as much a curiosity to the villagers as they were to us - they had never seen white people before and the women kept feeling the stockings on our legs. At puberty the girls have brass rings wound around their necks and legs and arms to prevent them from running away. The rings around their necks cannot be removed as the neck would collapse. Their heads appeared to be small at the top of these long necks. The men brought out their prized possession, a nose flute, and played and danced for us. The dance was very sedate - just gentle knee bending as they moved around in a circle. That was a really memorable visit - I often wish that I had had a camera of my own - but I am lucky to have the snaps I am giving into your care. 
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