So I am pretty used to getting looks, stares, pointed at, and asked for pictures in almost every country in SE Asia because of my hair and skin color, but Myanmar (Burma as the English call it) surely takes the cake as the most intriguing people. Myanmar has been shut off from tourism for so long, I mean just as early as 2010 was it safe for people to freely engage with Myanmar. So it’s not really their fault that they do not know what’s going on outside of their country. I arrived in Yangon, Myanmar the second to the last day of their water festival called Thingyan. Now I had previously been in Thailand during Songkran, and I got drenched everyday all day, but Thai people have NOTHING on the Burmese people when it comes to the water festival activities. In Thailand it seemed more commercialized and gimmicky, but in Myanmar it was definitely more about the rituals and people just having fun and anticipating a great new year!
Thingyan usually lasts about three to five days, and guess what…this year it lasted five just so that I could spend a few extra days getting drenched! LOL! It is customary to throw water on everybody that walks past, because it is seen as a cleansing ritual to prepare you for the next year. Only the elderly and monks are safe from this practice…although there were plenty of old folks who threw water on me *side eye* but it’s all in good fun!
I remember as soon as I hit the street early on the last day of Thingyan, which was my first full day in Yangon and people stopped dead in their tracks and just pointed. Now I mentioned before that I have seen this before, but the Burmese people were not shy! There were truckloads of people yelling for me, and I didn’t even realize it until a group of tourists I was walking around with shouted at me to pay attention to the locals LOL! I had so many Burmese women try and give me betel nut (an addictive stimulant much like tobacco or caffeine) to chew and clay powder to put on my face, but I firmly had to tell them no each time. I even had one woman come up behind me, pull me back and try to forcibly put betel nut in my mouth…I mean the Burmese people were not shy when it came to wanting pictures or just the obvious stares. I took a video of ONE man taking pictures of me with THREE different phones, now that just blew my mind!
By the time I got to Myanmar I gave up on trying to tame my fro, so it was flying high and mighty! One woman told me that they would have to pay a lot of money for something that I have naturally. I spent four days at a Buddhist monastery called The Bar Wa Centre and the buzz surrounding my fro just kept going! It had been my dream to stay at a Buddhist monastery and learn more about Buddhism and meditation, and these monks and nuns were asking about ME!?! Like all this ruckus because of me and my fro? I didn’t know it at the time, but I was diving into a deeper level of self-love!
I can’t tell you how much I love my skin AND hair after my experiences in Myanmar! I believe this is the country, along with its people, that helped me appreciate my natural beauty; and realize that I can love the way I look and not conform to what society’s idea of what beautiful is! I love me, my black skin, and big afro! Afros and passport stamps forever!