Sunday, July 31, 2016

Aung San Suu Kyi

Lately, I've taken quite an interest in Aung San Suu Kyi.  Many people may not even know who I'm talking about and that's okay.  Up until several months ago, I didn't know who she was either.  It all started when I audited an Asia comparative studies class at my most recent alma mater, American University.  As I took this course and I became more and more familiar with many of the countries in Southeast Asia, I started paying more attention to this part of the world when it showed up in the news.  This is when I was first introduced to Aung San Suu Kyi.

For those who are unfamiliar, Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar (or you may know it as Burma).  The NLD is a political party that has been fighting for many years against military rule in Myanmar.  Myanmar has (up until recently) been under military rule since it gained independence in 1948.  Aung San Suu Kyi has been in the news a lot lately, because her party won the most recent presidential election, which is monumental.  It would make sense that as leader of the party, Aung San Suu Kyi would become president, however she is barred from the presidency by the constitution.  Her sons are British (as was her late husband) and according to the constitution that was written by the military regime, Suu Kyi cannot become president.  Many believe that the constitution was written that way with Suu Kyi in mind.

So as I read more and more about Aung San Suu Kyi in the news, I found myself wanting to know even more.  As many of you may have realized, I am a huge advocate for women's empowerment.  Considering the fact that Asia is not necessarily a part of the world where you normally see female leaders, I began to wonder what led Suu Kyi to where she is now.  I wanted to know what her story was.  This led me back to American University, where I found myself in the library.


I started by taking out two books, Letters from Burma and The Burma Spring.  Letters from Burma is a book that was written by Aung San Suu Kyi herself.  She wrote one letter each week for a year from November 1995 to December 1996.  This was a somewhat transitional time in Aung San Suu Kyi's movement.  She had recently been released from house arrest, but that didn't mean that everything was all well and good.  Suu Kyi wrote not just about politics and the dissonance that was occurring in her country at that time.  She also wrote a great deal about Burmese culture and society.  This book seemed very much like a blog before the time of blogging.  Each letter was only a couple pages long and each one discussed a different topic.  I really enjoyed the way Aung San Suu Kyi wrote this book.  It was very matter of fact, but she does not come off as bitter or spiteful.  She reminds me a lot of Nelson Mandela.  She just wants the best for her country and its people.

The Burma Spring, written by a U.S. journalist, detailed not only Aung San Suu Kyi's life, but also the history of the democracy movement in Myanmar.  Since taking out these initial two books, I've continued to read several other books about Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi.  I still can't seem to get enough.

I mentioned this new interest to my best friend and he, although not nearly as familiar, knew a little bit about the democracy movement in Myanmar.  That's when he told me that there was a movie that had come out a few years ago about Aung San Suu Kyi.  I was amazed that I didn't know this, but he suggested that we watch the move together some time.  It took us a couple months to find the time to watch The Lady, but eventually we sat down and watched it.

The Lady tells the story of Aung San Suu Kyi from 1988 when she went to Myanmar to be with her sick mother until 1999 when her British husband died.  To me, it seemed like an incomplete story to just tell the story of those 11 years, but now that I think more about it, I think it would be too long for one movie to tell Suu Kyi's whole story.  I can't even imagine how much strength it took for her to continue the fight for democracy while her husband was dying in a far off land.

I thought this movie was an incredibly good recreation of Aung San Suu Kyi's story, but I also think I enjoyed it so much because I already knew the story.  As I watched the movie with my best friend, he kept telling me how glad he was to be watching it with me because I was explaining more than the movie could.  I wish Suu Kyi's story was easier to detail in a movie, but it is just too long and too complicated.

Aung San Suu Kyi is an amazing person and I continue to learn more and more every day.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Must-Go" List

Any one who has read any bit of my blog has probably quickly realized that I love to travel.  It is one of the things I enjoy the most and I like to think it is one of the things I do best.  I'm also always coming up with new places that top my "must-go" list.  I have an infinite amount of places that I would love to go.  As time goes on, I start to realize the wonders of places I didn't know existed or didn't know much about.  Before I know it, places I've newly discovered are topping my "must-go" list.

Bagan, Myanmar (AKA Burma)
After noticing this happening more and more, I began to think a little more philosophically.  In theory, there are places out there that you don't know you want to go to, because you don't yet know they exist.  But does that mean you don't want to go?  Maybe you just don't know that you want to go yet.

As an avid traveler, I'm constantly discovering new marvels that this world has to offer and this continues to cause my "must-go" list to expand.  However, I'm starting to think that what I'm discovering along the way is the list itself.  I want to go to these places, so they must already be on the list.  I just don't know that they are there.  I can't see them.

It's kind of like that question: "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?"  My question is: "If there are places I don't know exist, does that mean I don't want to go?"  I already know the answer: Of course, not!
Milford Sound, New Zealand


As most people who know me well could tell you, I would love to go anywhere.  It doesn't take much convincing.  So odds are that if there is a place that I don't know exists, I probably want to go.  I always want to discover the unknown.  The places that I know well are the ones I want to visit the least.

I think my reality is that I will spend my life discovering the places that were on my "must-go" list all along.  I just have to keep searching to make them visible to me.