This is for real. On Inle Lake, a beautiful spot in Shan State, Myanmar, fishermen balance on the prow of their dug out boats and drop their hand crafted nets on unsuspecting fish.
They dance more than fish, and seem to like the admiration of strangely clad westerners with big cameras. While I was snapping shots of this highly coordinated fisherman, I thought to myself, “he must be paid to entertain the tourists.”
Knowing what I know about Burma, and being in one of the made for purpose cities for tourists (read: confiscated farm land to build hotels, tourist attractions and infrastructure built with slave labor, and the entire experience defined and controlled by the regime in a tightly governed slice of Myanmar, access out of which is prohibited to foreigners except to other “approved” places) while war and oppression continues unabated, even in the very ethnic state we were in at the time, I had good reason to think this.
In fact, just North of where we were, there were 10,000 recently displaced Shan refugees whom our relief teams were helping to provide food and shelter to. They were forced to flee their villages because of Myanmar Army troops and the military offensives that continue to support the illicit and normal industries that are controlled by Army forces.
So as wonderful as it was to see a fisherman dance in what is clearly a fascinating part of the regional history, it was likely a show. That makes the beauty pretty bitter when you think that his world has been taken from him and he is now tourist entertainment like a giraffe at a zoo.
My wife, a much better writer and describer of things also wrote about this, and other epiphanies here.
Myanmar is changing. That is certain. But when will there be anything that resembles justice and the possibility of peace? When will the violence stop?
I am part of a team dedicated to free full lives for children affected by conflict and oppression. You can check out what we are doing about the problems and read about the impact we are making at the Partners Relief & Development web site.