Write to Renew - One of our previous graduates, the talented Jay Nahani, is leading us in a Write to Renew workshop June 14th. For writers and non-writers alike, this one-d...
Feb 21, 2014
This whole time I have not had “travel authority” – legal permission to live and work in this Township. I have a house, staff and office here, but am not officially allowed to use them. After over a month we got a letter from the national Minister of Co-operatives authorizing the project, but we still had to await “remarks” from the Regional “Prime Minister” and immigration and co-operative departments, then the District, then the Township immigration and administration authorities. It meant that I could visit co-operatives and partner agencies all over the country but not consult with the farmers I’m here to design a project with; I could meet with my staff quietly at my dining room table, but only sneak into the office before or after hours to “quickly” do emails (which takes over an hour each time).
It also meant that for the first 2 months we moved our family to 23 different hotels. Finally the most local level of government – the Quarter Administration – took pity on our emotional and financial plight and quietly granted permission to move into the house. The huge exhale of “We Are Here” relief, and inhale of “Welcome” and friendship I’ve been writing about, started then, just 3 weeks ago (Sarah made me double-check – we slept exactly 21 days in that fuzzy pink love nest).
Then it all fell apart, in the final week. At 10am on Wednesday, 3 days before we our final departure, we received official “oral” permission from the Regional level to live and work here. But at 10pm on Wednesday, we were informed by the Township level that we’ve been illegally staying in our house and given 15 minutes to pack a bag, wake up the kids, and leave town. By 11pm we were safely across the river in our old hotel, desperately trying to hold onto the neighbourhood warmth we’d been basking in, and honestly worried about arrest or deportation.
This abrupt ending is in sharp contrast to the endless warm embrace of the people of Myanmar – presumably even the same people whose official government role forces them to take this inhospitable action. I wonder what inner conflict they are feeling between what their heart would want to do and what they believe their laws tell them they have to do. I’m never allowed to even meet with them, which is probably a good thing since I too vacillate between wanting to yell at them and feeling compassion for them.
Compassion – that’s a good word. Also patience. Acceptance. Embrace. These have been the lessons of Myanmar. We only got 3 weeks of living in the place we thought we’d have 3 months, but they were rich, real and full. We travelled and saw much more of the country than expected, and felt held and awe-struck and blessed everywhere we went. I did not have permission to follow my very ambitious and very detailed workplan, but still managed to creatively accomplish all the goals.
The legal restrictions and complications may have confined our stay here, but they did not define it. The people and culture of Myanmar were the real Stuff of our stay, and our family’s own resilience and togetherness the Strength. Today the house will be flooded with people who genuinely Know and Care for us, giving and receiving presents and hugs and tears. How can I remain angry or frustrated at our eviction, or even sad at our leaving, when we’ve been gifted with such lessons in love?