I’m back in Burma.
When I left at the end of August I has stashed a bag of things in a friend’s apartment for safe-keeping, knowing that I would be back for them, whether it would be for a month-long work trip or something more permanent. As it turns out, it was for something more permanent.
I moved back to Burma a few days before the holidays, a one-way ticket clutched tightly in my hand. The first few days back I set across the town looking to say hello to my favorite vegetable curry and flower street vendors, imagining their delight that I was back to spend countless Burmese kyat at their stands. What I found instead was vacant sidewalk corners and roads, with no sign of my beloved vendors. (Turns out that a recent mandate by the government had moved a majority of the street vendors to a regulated zone.)
The days began to pass. With nearly all of my Yangon friends gone for the holidays, work weeks away from starting, no plans for the holidays and nursing a slightly bruised heart from a whirlwind romance and surrounded by a language I was only recently starting to understand, I found myself sitting in coffee shops alone and wondering what the hell I had done.
But very slowly my doubt and sadness began to wane. My local Burmese friends took me to lunch, teaching me the difference between certain teas and words. The taxi cab drivers on the street began to remember me and not even attempt to charge me anything over the “local” price. The smell of the streets and colorful scenes that unfolded in front of me every day made me excited to pick up my camera. I somehow even managed to find a sun-filled apartment that has more windows than walls, complete a porch that will perfectly fit a plumeria tree and herb garden.
It may have taken a few weeks and countless hot teas, but I began to remember that I was on the path to living the life I’ve always dreamed of. Being an international photojournalist in a developing country that still has censorship laws may not be the dream, but it’s my dream- and I can’t imagine having started 2017 any other way.
Eventually , just before packing my bags for another month of travel and work, I found my flower lady. Upon seeing me walk up she came out and embraced me filling my arms with newspaper stuffed with free roses and jasmine. And for a fleeting moment I realized that I was home.