Letter 13 from Eric Arnow Arnow Letter Index
Eric Arnow has his own web site now. For years I've been putting his letters from Asia here. From now on they'll go on his site, the Bumble Buddhist which also now has all the previous ones from cuke and photos more. - dc
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2005 02:54:47 -0700 (PDT)
I am here in the 40,000 population city of Fang, near the Myanmar border, having just spent a few hours on a fairly uninteresting tour. I got off the bus here, having decided to escape Chiang Mai.
Things were getting hot in Chiang Mai, too hot, and there were lots of guns on the street.
You see, it is the hot season here, with temperatures over 100 degrees, and time for the annual water festival. On every street corner, young people are toting big and small water pistols and rifles which shoot a good ten or more feet. Not to mention pails and buckets.
Well, they are usually polite about it. If you hold up your hand to indicate no thanks, they usually leave you alone. So I hopped a bus to Fang, and found that the Water Festival is all over Thailand, and I have gotten soaked sometimes voluntarily, sometimes sprinkled or doused involuntarily. But remember, it is well over 90 or even 100.
You dry off within an hour, and as long as you aren't wearing anything special it's really a relief.
My only bad moment was when, as part of my day tour of a couple of hill tribe villages, and a dunk in a small river, that my passport got a bit wet. And it didn't help when some kids dumped a pail of water at me, getting it wetter still. Anyway, the villages were not much to see, except to see how maybe at least 2 billion people live. Either straw huts or cinder block with straw roofs, women with teeth blackened from betel nut juice, barefoot kids, etc. I brought oranges for the kids who seemed to like them. I refused to bring candy that the guide suggested.
As for my news update from around the world, here it is.
Last March 28 was Army Day in Myanmar. The newspaper of Record, The New Light of Myanmar, reported that the military was of great importance to sustaining peace and creating democracy in Myanmar, and warned of foreign elements that needed to be guarded against.
They even said that "a certain super Power" incited unrest within the country, and pushed small countries around. But they didn't say what the certain superpower was.
I assumed it was the USSR, but that broke up 15 years ago. Could it be Estonia? Probably not, too small. So I guess I won't know what country they were talking about. But it took a lot of courage to raise the issue.
But I sure am glad they are protecting the people of Myanmar so well.
Anyway that night, there was a TV movie on, and I got to watch Myanmar television.
It was a touching coming of age story about a young army officer, as he ordered his troops around on the parade field. He and everyone else were wearing pure white uniforms, and a 50ish woman was watching from the viewing stand. Probably she was his mother. But remember, the only Myanmar language (you are not to say Burmese, as that is old fashioned and a hold over from colonialist "Burma" ) I know is Mingalaba--blessings and hello, and Chezu dinbadeh--thank you. So I can only guess.
So there is this young officer shouting orders to the troops, who dutifully move their rifles in crisp formation, wearing their sparkling white uniforms. It is very clear from the movie who the good guys are in Myanmar. They are really lucky to have such good people as the military.
Anyway, at the end of the scene, the young man approaches an older man who has lots of medals on his chest, probably a general, and after presentation of a medal, the two embrace.
So I assume that the young man is the son of the general. The son is practically in tears of emotion. I was very moved. So were the people watching, who smiled and commented in Myanmar language. So you can be certain that the Army of Myanmar is really doing a great job.
There were other adventures I had while I was there. It is clear that the country is struggling. One of the goals of the military government is to modernize the country. So I guess that means there is room for development. And the military is making Myanmar safe for democracy.
Meanwhile, I got an email about a news event in America. I don't know if it is true or not but seemed worth mentioning. I seems that President Bush visited a group of Indian leaders recently. As a side note, after getting all wet the other day, I passed a bookstore and found an old copy of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a history of the Indian Wars between 1860-1890.
Except for a few skirmishes and short lived victories, it is a heartbreaking story, noted in a quoted review by Geoff Wolff of Newsweek.
"There were atrocity stories, dozens of them. I guess the mutilation of Cheyenne and Arapaho women and children at Sand Creek was the worst, if only because the victims were friendly toward their murderers and were bayoneted, many of them, where they stood huddled beneath an American flag.
"It falls to a journalist reviewing the books of our days to treat the dreadful as though it were commonplace. The books I review...report the destruction of the land,,, they detail the perversion of justice; they reveal the national stupidities. None of them--not one--has saddened me and shamed me as this book has. Because the experience of reading it has made me realize for once and all that we really don't know who we are, or where we came from or what we have done or why [my emphasis]"
After 911, a friend of mine said "The American people don't know what they have got, but they had better wake up." Indeed.
The white men's accounts of things at that time remind me of recent news reports. We really don't know who we are, or where we came from or what we have done, or why. But we are doing a great job helping the Iraqi people, rest assured.
So anyway, there is President Bush with the Indians, giving a speech about all the great things his administration is doing for the Indians, and after his speech, they give him an award and give him an Indian name, "Walking Eagle", and the President, apparently feeling very pleased leaves the event.
So the reporters ask the Indians what the significance of the name, Walking Eagle, is.
"A walking eagle is an eagle so full of shit that it cannot fly".
Lurching on to a news story from China, it seems that some Buddhist monks were fighting about a cat and who had rights to it. So the abbot showed up and demanded a quick response; otherwise, he would cut the cat in two and give each group half. (Maybe he had read the Bible and King Solomon??) Anyway, no one responded, so he cut the cat.
Later on his chief disciple showed up and the Abbot asked him what he would a have done. The disciple took his sandals off, put them on top of his head, and walked out. The abbot said, "if only you had been there, the cat would still be alive."
The more things change the more they stay the same.
And that's the news from Asia and America.
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