Movember; the ‘M’ stands for Myanmar as the month can simply be broken up into 2 distinct events; the time I was in Myanmar and the time I was not.
I headed to Myanmar this month for another visa run and to also visit some friends I work with. Was it an ever blessed time! If I had to sum up my experience in Yangon though, it would be bi-polar.
It was an experienced a lot of different things that were just polar opposites of each other.
For the first time, I saw 6-lane roads in Asia with beautifully manicured medians, tons of green space, beautiful rivers, and $40 million dollar mansions. At the same time, you don’t have to go very far to see what 5 decades of repression does to a country and its people. I visited a village by the train tracks where 200 people who live in bamboo shacks are just scraping by to support their family.
Downtown was filled with a flurry of old beautiful colonial buildings but don’t spend too much time looking up at them because the sidewalk you’re walking on could have an uncovered gaping hole that may just have your name on it.
There is also new energy in the city with the middle class excited for reform and entrepreneurs ready with new social entrepreneurial ideas. At the same time, there is a large part of the population that don’t know who Barack Obama is, let alone the fact that he was making a monumental visit to their country.
I had lunch at a beautiful french restaurant that is a social enterprise set up to train and prepare young people, for free, in the culinary arts in hopes to provide them with skills for better opportunities in the city. Meanwhile, some kids are taken out of school at the age of 8 because they need to take care of their siblings while their parents work.
I had a coffee at a cafe that offers English classes and free English chat sessions to help local practice their speaking skills. The price of my Americano was more than a days minimum wage in Myanmar.
Even with these conflicting experiences though, I left Myanmar very hopeful for its future. There is this overwhelming sense of optimism that you see in the people. Although perhaps that was just because of the people I was around. I mean, I was spending time with co-workers with similar goals and aspirations for our organization. I was at social entrepreneurial meet-and-greets networking with young adults with new energy and fresh ideas. I met local people with the heart, drive, and determination to work serve the children and their families in the community. I witnessed the excitement of new partnerships with a common vision, goal, and purpose. It was then that I realized that this is what I’ve been missing. This was the other part of my November.
The other part of November and frankly, majority of my time in Thailand leading up to this point, has been anything but partnership, cohesion, teamwork, synergy, cooperation, communication. I am missing people to partner with; people to share ideas, goals, and visions with. It was this realization that made me recognize that I had given up on a lot of my plans, ideas, and hopes. I mean, I traded them to focus more on relationships with the kids; helping to build them up to be become better students, friends, children, and human beings. I suppose it’s a worthy trade-off but recently, a part of me has been quietly mourning the loss of that other guy who had big dreams to revolutionize education for children in rural settings. I mourn because as important as it is to build solid relationships with these kids, I still believe in the value of education and the ideas that came along with that program.
My frustration lies in the fact that it feels like a one-man-team and the truth is, I can only do, initiate, and implement so much. And I hope you’re reading this correctly; I don’t want to be a one-man-team. I don’t want to be the North American thinking that he has all the answers and programs to implement and make a better society. I want to bring all of our ideas together and see what works, see what sucks, and see what needs to be improved.
At some point, you have to realize that no one is buying in, that they’re not interested in a partnership, that they don’t want change, that the way things were before was just fine and if they had it their way, that’s how they would want it to be. So you have to ask yourself, when is enough, enough? At what point do you accept your differences and part ways? Because eventually it’s not even worth battling over because there is a value system that’s simply too different. When situations haven’t changed and there’s no evidence to assume that they will, when do you pull the plug? When do you have to act out your own selfishness and change the scenery for the sake of your own sanity?
These aren’t rhetorical questions, however, I also don’t have the answers for them.
The only thing that I do know though, at this point, is that even with all the frustrations that I’m feeling, at the end of the day I still feel that God wants me to be here. I feel that God is still holding me here; not holding me down but rather holding me up and preventing me from sinking. I think of it as a harness that He has around me. Even though the sand is sinking and my confidence and strength is wavering, I have my harness on and I know who it’s attached to and I know that He won’t let go.
And that’s the thing, I think that’s partly why I’m here; for me to learn these lessons, to develop my character, to help me persevere, to strengthen my faith in preparation for the next thing. I was recently reading in Jeremiah 12:5-6,
If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country,
how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?
Your relatives, members of your own family—
even they have betrayed you;
they have raised a loud cry against you.
Do not trust them,
though they speak well of you.
It’s not necessarily a comforting message God delivers to Jeremiah but I feel that it does help him put his current struggles into context and give him a reason for it. And I feel that this is the same message He has for me.
“I know it sucks; I know it’s hard; I know it’s frustrating, but I’m here, I’m holding you, and it’s something that you do need to get through in order to be ready for the next thing that I have planned for you.”
When I was first deciding to come to Thailand last year with my sister, God, very vividly, said to me, “Thailand is just the beginning.” My only reaction at the time was fear. Fear of the unknown; fear of giving up everything I had worked so hard for; fear of change; fear of giving up my man-made security. But there was fear because I was relying on myself and the things that I had accomplished instead of relying on Him.
But it was through that experience, and host of other times before that, of trusting in God, that I look to draw my strength upon. I know this time in Thailand is merely the beginning of what He has in store for me and that it is only going to get more difficult which is exactly why He’s preparing me now.
I want to compete with horses.
Originally posted to Life Passions