Memories of Myanmar and the Speed at Which Time Flies

View of Yangon

Spot the pagoda.

As I write this I am sitting on a chair in the corner of my Newcastle living room. Everything here looks the same so I am weirded out that I just sped through Southeast Asia: 10 flights, 8 days, 5 cities, 4 countries. The only physical indication that I took this trip is my lingering jetlag – today I slept until noon.

I have no suitcase to unpack because Malaysia Air lost track of it somewhere between Yangon and Melbourne. I stood at the baggage claim in Melbourne long after the others had gone, watching it revolve around and around with no small black Samsonite making an appearance. When I went to the desk to enquire, they only made me feel less confident in my bag’s reappearance.

“Wait, R-G-N?” the clerk asked, scrutinizing my bag ticket. “Where’s that?”

“Yangon,” I said. “Myanmar.”

But he wasn’t listening, and turned instead to the girl next to him so she could look at it.

“It says it’s going to Newcastle,” she said. “Wait, where’s Newcastle?”

It’s in your country, I wanted to shout. You work at an AIRPORT.

“North of Sydney,” I said instead. “New South Wales.”

“Oh, okay,” she said. “Well you have to pick it up here in Melbourne and re-check it.”

“I know,” I said. “It didn’t turn up.”

I was rewarded with a printed letter from Malaysia Air apologizing that my bag did not arrive in Melbourne with me. At the bottom of was a disclaimer in all caps making it clear that the letter did not constitute acknowledgement of liability. To date (over 24 hours later) my bag still has not arrived at my door but I remain hopeful.

My roving bag seems insignificant, a mere annoyance in light of the fact that I just whipped through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Myanmar.

I have not been everywhere; not even close. It is still exciting to visit a country for the first time, especially when it is a country that seemed so far away until recently. In fact, it is barely over an hour’s flight to Yangon from Bangkok, a city that sees no shortage of tourists. It didn’t feel quite like Thailand, though.

Monk in Yangon

*****

A month has passed since I wrote the above passage. I put off writing about Myanmar because I wanted to catch up on Europe first; I am a sucker for chronology. As a result, the immediacy of Southeast Asia has worn off. Christmas is less than a week from now and while my body is still showing up for work, my mind has catapulted forward to the brief, upcoming holiday break. My memories of Myanmar have blended into the past, absorbed in the avalanche that was 2015. In a few years I will need considerable time to tell you what year it was when I first visited the country formerly known as Burma.

I am also one of those people who still think the 90s were approximately 10 years ago.

This is what makes me sad about travel, yet what propels me to keep doing it: the experiences fade. They are overtaken by new destinations, buried under passing years, until they are a combination of memory, photographs, and Facebook notifications designed to remind you what you were doing ‘on this day’ in 2013, 2011, 2008.

I was put out about my missing suitcase, but it turned up on the front stoop two days later, contents intact. The clothes were soon washed, toiletries put under the sink, empty suitcase relegated to the upstairs closet; I still have no idea where it went but we both made it back to Newcastle safely. Now I can chime in if people talk about lost luggage, but other than that the whole episode has been forgotten.

Yangon architecture

Stood on an island in the middle of the street taking this pic because I loved the colors so much.

Myanmar, though already a once-upon-a-time story, has not been forgotten. I will write about it in more detail – as much detail as can be gleaned from a too-brief, 48 hour stay – but for now I can call it up in my mind: the evening heat that caused my scarf to cling to my neck at the Shwedagon Pagoda, the sound of bells, the smell of incense. It is all still there, but I have to focus to retrieve the experience. It is a part of me, but it takes time to access just like any other piece of the past.

2016 will bring more travels that I will likely lose touch with (kind of like my suitcase) but I am really excited about it. No doubt that by the time I grow comfortable with writing the digit 6 instead of 5 it will be time to write 7, but that is the same every year. This year, however, I have finally accepted that time is flying. It’s not enough to remark on how quickly the year has gone; I now need to understand that this is how it’s going to be. The years are going to keep moving full speed ahead, so I had better keep moving with them.

2016 is going to be an eventful one for Lateral Movements, so watch this space!

3 Responses to “Memories of Myanmar and the Speed at Which Time Flies”

  1. I am also one of those people who still think the 90s were approximately 10 years ago.

    -SAME. I was just telling Sarah and Kate over TKG how I think basically EVERYTHING that has ever happened, happened in the past 10 years.

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