My Myanmar sojourn is coming to an end and I am going home tomorrow.
I don’t have much to pack: clothing, toiletries, kindle, water bottle, laptop and some books. I’ve given away the few things that I bought which I no longer need. I’ve handed over my work and said my good-byes. There is not much left to do except sit back, relax and savour my last day here.
As I frequently do when I’m at home (which for the last six months is my room at my shared house in Mandalay), I found myself at my desk working on my laptop. Apart from the sound of my fingers tapping away on the keyboard, I could also hear the familiar sounds of the street in front of my bedroom window—a cacophony of traffic, people, and animals.
It still seemed surreal that I am here. This time last year, I was blissfully unaware that I would find myself in Myanmar one year later. It would have been unimaginable that I would spend (and survive) six months away from my husband and children.
I’ve come to understand the power of commitment, to appreciate the clarity that comes from unequivocally committing to something. Once I/my family committed ourselves, there was never any doubt in our minds that we would see it through. It wasn’t a “let’s see how we go and if we don’t like it we can always change our mind” situation. This was a commitment, an all or nothing proposition—no wriggle room, no if/but/maybe, no opt-out clause.
The beauty about fully committing is, there is no wasted energy spent on assessing, analysing, evaluating, or debating whether it is the “right” choice or not. Like Nike’s slogan, we knew that we were going to “just do it”.
It was no doubt one of the toughest thing that we had ever undertaken, especially in the beginning when we were getting used to not having each other around and towards the end when we can’t wait to see each other again. But quitting was never an option.
Since there is no backing out, we had to step up and cope. In the process of stepping up, we discovered previously unexplored capacities and became stronger persons.
Before Myanmar, the longest period that we had been apart for was five days. We relied on each other, played different roles and shared household chores and responsibilities. For example, my husband Leslie does most of the cooking and cleaning, while I look after the bills, school notices and other household trivia. During the last six months, we all learnt to do things that we normally wouldn’t do. I started my blog, learnt to adapt to my new life and re-learnt how to prepare my own meals again. My husband learnt how to use internet banking, reconcile bank statements, and (worryingly) shop online. Both Jason and Jessica became more self-reliant and also helped more around the house.
The emotion that I felt most frequently during the last six months was a deep sense of gratitude, tinged with disbelief, that I’d been given such a wonderful gift: an opportunity to immerse myself in an endeavour that is immensely important to me. Not many people have the opportunity to do what I am doing.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to live in Myanmar, to learn more about the country that is the home of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. I observed firsthand the challenges that face a nation that has been closed to outsiders for more than 30 years, and to observe its initial steps towards becoming a democracy.
I’m grateful that we have our tribe, our community of friends and family back home, who have our back and are there to give a helping hand or lend a shoulder to cry on.
Most of all, I’m grateful that I have such an amazing family who is willing to go on this wild ride with me, and who always give me unwavering support.
A New Ending/Beginning
Right now, I stand yet again at another precipice. One chapter is ending and a new one is beginning.
I’m ecstatic about finally getting to see my family again. This time tomorrow, I would be on my way home.
There is sadness for the old that is coming to an end. And also anticipation for the new that is still to unfold.
There is a sense of being at peace, acceptance, and equanimity. For this is the natural cycle of life.
Leaving and returning. Ending and beginning.
I’m glad that life has brought me here to Myanmar. Each time I return, I know that a part of me will always feel like I’m coming home.