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A Minor Diversion: Portraits From Myanmar (PHOTOS)

Posted: 05/17/2012 7:00 am

I left Myanmar will a camera full of images from the golden hued temples of Bagan, the tranquil floating villages of Inle Lake and the expansive Irrawaddy River. However, what is etched in my memory is Myanmar's people.

Despite all that has happened in Myanmar's history, its people generally remain one of the most welcoming and serene. If I lived in a country that had been so pillaged by foreigners and challenged by its own government, I doubt I would have the humanity to continue to receive outsiders with the open trust with which visitors are welcomed in Myanmar.

Wherever we went, be it the buzzing streets of Yangon or a remote monastery in the Shan mountains, the people of Myanmar were curious about us. They were most fascinated by what was on our DSLR camera. They giggled at pictures of themselves and observed in amazement at sights from their country they had never seen. People wanted to know what life is like in other parts of the world. Very importantly, they wanted to know what the world thought of Myanmar.

The change in the air in Myanmar is almost palpable. Pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi plaster the streets of Yangon and a visitor only has to utter her name for a crowd of fans to openly cry her accolades. Old Russian and second hand Japanese cars are making way for more diverse foreign imports. People are starting to have a choice and many told us they also have a voice for the first time. This is a series of pictures taken of people we encountered on our two week journey through Myanmar.

Baby with Thanaka Paste in Myanmar
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The local solution for sunscreen is thanaka, the powdered bark of a tree. I suspect that mothers take particular artistic liberty in applying clown like thanaka patterns to their children's faces.
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