Saturday, May 10, 2008

Cyclone Nargis

Obviously I have not been writing on my blog as this is the first post since returning to Seattle. The last month has been spent reacquainting myself with food, friends, western toilets, and, of course, a job. Everyday I find myself thinking back on my trip, whether it be a particular moment or an all encompassing lesson that I learned over the 8 months I was gone.

For the past week only one place/experience has been on my mind. Burma. For a week I have watched helplessly as the death toll has continued to rise. I remember when the BBC was reporting 2000-3000 dead, only to find that several hours later it was reporting 10,000 deaths. As of now the official death toll stands at just under 23,000 though from many of the reports I have read it is estimated to be as high as 100,000. How did this happen? Why has so much devastation been wrought on a country that has already had so much taken away from it?

As the week passed and reports came out about the slow response of the Burmese government, their refusal to allow foreign aid workers into the country, and their overall inept handling of one of the largest natural disasters in recent history I began feeling the same mixture of anger, disgust, and sorrow that I felt while I was there. I remember the conversations with those who were not afraid to express their fear of and hatred towards their government. I remember the state of the countries transportation (or lack thereof) which in the event of a disaster like this would make it almost impossible to get supplies those who need them. I remember something else as well. I remember arriving in Cambodia and thinking that I had just stepped into the modern world. Cambodia. Modern. That is the state that Myanmar is currently in. If you compare Cambodia to it Cambodia seems modern and developed. This is why the people of Myanmar need our help. The isolationist policies of their government have prevented the country from growing. Now with the devastation wrought by Cyclone Nargis the people of this country face far worse conditions than they were when I was there.

Desperate for news from inside the country I emailed the only Burmese person who’s email address I still had. Our communication has always been via email, and despite the fact that we never met face to face I felt as though we became friends through our frequent Gmail chats. Below is his reply to my email from earlier in the week.


Thank you for your help and encouragement though we never meet before. I was really shocked on that day and I'd never forget it. It is the most terrible experience for my life. Because the flat I live is on the 7th floor , on the top of the building and the roofs were being destroyed. The Cyclone started on friday night (2.5.08) and more strong in Saturday morning and destroyed the building and killed the people and animals. Now I face with the problem of no water , no electricity and high living expenses in YGN. I couldn't support my parent who live in the small village near yangon. Their house's roofs were also being destroyed. But fortunately they are in good health.

My heart goes out to the people of Burma. In all the countries I visited I never met kinder more welcoming people. This tragedy should not be shouldered by them alone. I encourage anyone who can do so to donate money to the Red Cross Myanmar Cyclone Nargis fund.