Lucia's visit to Burma - One Year On
In 2011 Lucia visited Burma, below is her account of her experience of that place at that time.
It is difficult for us in Leicester to understand how life is lived in a regime which oppresses free speech and makes a crime of standing up for one's beliefs, a country such as Burma (Myanmar) under military rule. For a person such as Aung San Suu Kyi, who has lived in the liberal suburbs of Oxford with her husband and family and yet spent the past 20 years imprisoned in her own home in Burma, separated from her family due to her beliefs and her love of her homeland. Who is now being presented with what is in some ways a poisoned chalice, and yet still the opportunity of a lifetime, the opportunity to represent a people who elected her in what they thought was a free and fair election back in the 1990s and now do so again in the hope that their rights will be respected and their voices heard.
Below is Lucia's account of Burma as she saw it and of her personal experience of Aung San Suu Kyi, a hero of our age:
June 19, 2011. Part 1.
I hadn’t slept for days of a long serene sleep. I kept telling myself I was not scared, that I was ready to be jailed and die of malaria in an empty cell delimited by grey humid walls.
I even imagined my last supper, a half-empty tin bowl with some opaquely pearled and brown rice.
Instead I woke up at the pungent smell of durian rising from the staff dormitory at my guesthouse, and in a matter of hours, I took a shaky rusted taxi to Shwegondine Road.
What was I doing in Burma? I was going crazy, that’s what an aspiring novice – a senile man with trimmed white hair and white vests but without a sense of the afterlife – told me.
But watching all those people gathered at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD), pouring out of one single room onto the street, I could not help myself but smile.
There were stalls of food, of souvenirs, of curious bystanders who wanted to take advantage of the situation for their own profit.
I was there, waiting like everybody else for the Lady.
I felt exhausted with excitement. But soon after recognising the women I met some days before, I felt home – and couldn’t stop smiling.
We all were scared, I believe, and our mutual smiling gave us an oblivious pleasure in the suffocating air of Yangon; after all, it was the first time the Lady came out in public since the release.
I walked in and out of the offices, out of breath, out of plans. I simply copied the movements of the crowd, like the breath of the sea: they went inside, I went inside. They went outside, I went outside.
Soon the crowd started to push, and I understood: the Lady was coming.
I pretended to be the journalist I am not, and demanded not to be relegated with the crowd behind the human barricade of the NLD Youth, pointing at my female friends with a knowledgeable je ne sais quoi.
I chuckled to myself and my impudence, and my ethereal happiness. There she was. I see her, click click click click.
I start taking pictures, and balloons are released up in the air, and a cake is brought up, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is pushed and shoved as everybody else.
Joyful in my sweat, I get to stand next to her.