Rediscovering Humanity in Myanmar


Yangon, 12 o’ clock. A 7-9 year-old girl wanders on the street selling some sort of dried vegetables. She carries them, together with several other bags of all sizes containing more products and the small amounts of money she already collected, on a long metal bar that she holds on her right shoulder. The bar seems heavy, even if well balanced on her tiny shoulders, but her eyes are the chilled and happy eyes that all children with no big worries have – even if to our eyes she would have the right worry for so many things.

As she walks, she passes by an old woman, made heavier by her age, by her blindness, by an injured ankle. The woman sits on the floor, in the dirt, with a whole different energy coming out of her pale eyes. She is begging.

Then, Magic.

The young girl gets closer to the woman, tells her something, drops her metal bar on the floor and starts helping her to stand up. Two more women and a kid join her in the effort. The old woman suffers, but manages to stand. The girl gets back the bar on her shoulder and stands in front of the lady, grabs her hand, puts it on her left shoulder, and gets back to sell her veggies. The heavy bar on her right shoulder, the heavy hand on her left shoulder.

She has to walk a bit more slowly now, but that seems fine to her. A woman gets close to them and gives her an umbrella as a gift – it is about to rain, as always. A boy buys the veggies. Another boy gives her a bag with some food. Another woman gives her some money. The old lady gets it, and I get it as well: the young lady will share her daily harvest with her. Gratitude is tangible on her foggy face, and the entire neighborhood is joining this scene of humanity, two generations in one body, together in front of the challenges of life.

Humanity: the same humanity that spreads, in these days, thousands of young people collecting offers and aid for the victims of the floods hitting the country in the past week. The same humanity that stopped the loud music in the middle of a club party yesterday night, to have the whole club’s staff collecting offers as well. A humanity that fills this country where people have no surnames: some say because life is too hard and ephemeral to be attached to any sorts of legacy or heritage, I like to think it’s because in Myanmar it does not matter “whom you belong to”, you will always be a man and a brother, and we will share the good and the bad of this life in the best possible way.

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