part travelogue, part cultural critique
Our neighbors were taking a short trip to visit their ancestral village. They invited us to join them for two days, promising take us up to a famous Christian mountain that rested on the border between the Bago division of Myanmar, and Karen state. After a 6 hour bus ride to the city of Taungoo and a hearty meal of rice in the sweltering heat, we piled into a private van that our friends had rented for the final leg of the trip, excited to drive up to a high altitude and to escape the thick heat of the lowlands.… Continue Reading
June 20th is World Refugee Day. In honor of the occasion, here are a few titles you should add to your summer reading list.
My family history can be traced back to economic migrants who came from Europe. (My paternal grandparents moved to Canada in search of a fresh start in 1950s; my maternal side of the family came to America in the late 1800s.) The face of the world has changed since that time, and today’s politics may look different, but the history of human migration—and the things that force people to migrate—are tales as old as time.… Continue Reading
I’d like to preface this by saying that I am not a film/theater critic. I’m merely writing this as someone who appreciates The Phantom of the Opera, as someone who has seen a few too many one-sided narratives in my life so far, and as someone who is always on a hunt for nuance in stories.
A few weeks ago, I watched Phantom of the Opera (2004) with my husband. This was the first time I’d watched it in probably four or five years—certainly the first time I’d seen it since having children. Phantom has always been one of my favorite musicals.… Continue Reading
It’s been a while since we shared our favorite titles! Some of these are books we read quite a while ago and I never got around to recommending, and some are still fresh in my mind. I will try keep my words to a minimum, and in some cases I might just include a favorite quote from a book and cross my fingers in hope that you will be inspired to read it.
Over the past year, I’ve felt especially compelled to learn more about the lives of people who are marginalized, to listen to a new set of stories.… Continue Reading
I have a distinct childhood memory of one summer spent camping somewhere in Oregon on our family vacation. My sister and I pedaled about on our little bikes, befriending new kids in adjacent campsites, hurtling throughout the campground in a pack of small bicycles with no regard to the one-way arrows posted by some septuagenarian campground manager. One of the pleasures of camping is the freedom to unabashedly observe the possessions and paraphernalia of the campers around you, you smell each other’s food (for better or for worse), and you hear each other’s late night music and conversations.… Continue Reading
“Live leaning in when the pain is fierce
Oh, the bow, it will break at his coming
Stand who can understand the design
The refining holy fire.
Oh, gracious light. Oh, gracious light
I have been walking, walking so long, in darkness.”
(Sandra McCracken, Oh, Gracious Light)
There is an episode of Call the Midwife, where an elderly woman with a gynecological malady (I can’t remember what) comes in to the clinic asking for help. The midwife calls a doctor to assist, and the doctor diagnoses an ongoing disorder.… Continue Reading
Elise is wide eyed at everything, from the start of each day. Her wide eyes search me out in the morning hours, and she is keen to touch my face as she greets me. In fact, she touches every face she can reach, no matter how unfamiliar the face. To her, every person is attractive, a potential friendship.
She zealously crawls about the house, hungry to see and touch everything within reach; when she finds an item of interest, she stops to taste it and forgets all else.… Continue Reading
I want to share some thoughts on the matter of injustice, by way of a personal experience. But before I tell our story, I want to preface this by saying that it is a single story, and is by no means an indicator of the hospitality we usually receive as foreigners in this country. On the contrary, it is an exception in our case, and I want to make that clear.
Not long ago, a person we’d once thought of as an honest friend took advantage of us.… Continue Reading
In February five years ago, I flew to Myanmar for the first time. I had never been to a developing country before. I had considered and sworn off the idea of cross cultural work back in college, my business studies leaving me certain that westerners overseas did more harm than good.
But I came to Myanmar, planning to see Yangon and Rakhine state, and experience the place my fiancé had called his home for the past seven years. It was to be a three-week visit, and for two of those three weeks, I wanted to be anywhere but Myanmar.… Continue Reading
In Myanmar, wedding season is dictated by the lunar patterns of the Buddhist calendar. Every year from about June until October, Buddhist Lent takes place. During this time (which also happens to be the monsoon season), the monks generally stay within the confines of the monasteries, and it is seen as an inauspicious time to make any major life changes. Buddhists are discouraged from changing jobs, moving houses, starting new ventures, or marrying during this time. The October full moon festival of Lights (Thadingyut, as it is called in Myanmar) marks the end of Buddhist Lent, and not long after the full moon, weddings parties are taking place all over the city.… Continue Reading