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Personifying Myanmar

After seven months of living in Myanmar, it was finally time to bid farewell. As I looked outside the car window on my lone taxi ride to the airport, a wave of emotion overcame me as I passed dainty teashops and mega shopping centres – the latter of which were only erected during my stay here. There and then, I couldn’t help but feel I was saying goodbye to a person, rather than a place. A person with a vibrant yet humble personality, a disposition full of surprises, and most importantly, potential. If anything, I was saying goodbye to a turbulent teenager budding to adulthood.

If I were to personify Myanmar at the present moment, he’d be that kid who was always polite, modest, and empathetic. He loved to read and take care of the things and people he cared about. Having been raised in a very Buddhist household, he never picked a fight and was always quick to forgive and forget. However, the other kids took advantage of his peaceful disposition and got him to tag along with their games, but never to share in the prizes. They took advantage of him because they knew he wouldn’t, and frankly, couldn’t, fight back. Eventually this took a toll on him, and his teenage years brought upon an identity crisis that sometimes found its outlet in violent means that surprised even his most oppressing bullies.

I met Myanmar near the end of high school. After going through a rather transformational year of his life in 2015, you can tell he was still unsure of where he stands. What he was sure about was that he wanted to return to his childhood self when everything was simpler and all the adults adored him for being a good reader and listener. The future was more reassuring then. Thus, he began testing the waters at a concept called vulnerability, and in the process, found teachers and peers who were more than eager to help. They all remembered how intelligent and composed Myanmar was when he was just a boy, and saw potential in him. Plus, who doesn’t want a devoted mentee, especially when there’s not that many to go around anymore. Sure enough, Myanmar decided to embrace the change and slowly started shedding that hard exterior he built up as a teenager. He began changing every day, externally at first, and then slowly, from within. He started seeing the world a bit differently. However, there’s hope that he’d stay true to his values as they are what grounds him and has gotten him thus far.

While this was all endearing to watch, one can’t help wonder if Myanmar will go down the same path as his neighbour’s kids. While they all grew up to be self-sufficient adults, not even their parents can recognize them, and I can’t help but wonder if they feel empty on the inside. Will he also lose his humility in pursuit of flashy new toys some of his new mentors are telling him he needs? Or will he stay true to his values, like Japan, and grow up (eventually) to be humble yet enterprising? Only time will tell.

However, from how welcoming, kind, and endearing Myanmar was to me for the past seven months, I think he’d grow up just fine.

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