It’s that time of year again…time to wrap gifts, send wishes of happiness and wellness to friends and family, bake Christmas cookies, stuff stockings, sing carols, and enjoy the festivities of Christmas and the New Year. It is also time to read a faithful account of Deborah’s 2012 Year in Review.
Cutting Edge Luddite
My sister finally took me to task for not keeping pace with technology. The Transformation of Deborah began when my desktop PC (yes, they still exist) began making it’s-only-a-matter-of-time noises. I proactively reached out to the family tech support (aka, my sister Anne) to assist with a laptop purchase. Seeing a long-awaited opening, she eagerly stepped in to advise me on everything from laptops to TVs. Looking back, it is clear she tackled the project with salesmanship proficiency. During the consultation process, she routinely said things like: “You live in the Dark Ages,” “Do you live in a bubble?” and my favorite: “Are we related?” I found myself utterly exposed to a relentless barrage of Anne’s must-have list of gadgets, and by the end of the year, I had purchased a new laptop, printer, TV, iPod (because everyone needs at least one Apple product, right?), and mobile phone. I even purchased a new car to replace my beloved 1998 Honda Civic (242,000 miles), and am already very fond of my Prius’ fuel efficiency and working heater.
Anne has a decidedly smug bounce to her step these days.
This year I tackled my first half marathon. It began inopportunely: I was in queue for the port o’ potty when the shot rang out to begin the race. The other runners were distant dots on the horizon when I finally crossed the start line. At the end, I staggered across the finish line and collapsed in an exhausted heap next to the water stand. I swore I’d never run another race: My knee hurt, my side ached, and my face was caked with salt. I was a victim to yet another one of my annual athletic whims.
Nary a fortnight had passed when a seed was planted to run a trail race. I volunteered at the Ice Age Trail Ultra marathon and was impressed (and a little resentful) by the woman who was belting out a song as she effortlessly ran past my stand at Mile Marker 11. Hmm. What would it take to reach this stage of runner Nirvana?
This year I also broke a personal record by biking more than 2,000 miles. I was aided by the successful completion of two week-long bike rides, GRABWAAR and RAGBRAI. Biking across the country is definitely in my future. Who’s in?
The Friendly, Enduring People
With U.S. economic sanctions lessened and Aung San Suu Kyi’s tourist ban lifted, I decided it was time to fulfill my interest in visiting Myanmar – a country with diverse cultures, deep history, amazing sites and scenery, and harsh political climate.
Traveling in Myanmar is like being in a 1960s time-warp. Myanmar has been under a military dictatorship since 1962 and it is apparent in an absolute inability to manage its country affairs and keep pace with the rest of Southeast Asia. Urban Myanmar drive fifty year old cars (if they’re wealthy enough to own a car at all), and in the rural communities, oxcarts and bicycles are common. Technology advancements that we take for granted, such as credit cards, online purchasing, and mobile phones, are unknown or used only by the very wealthy. Infrastructure projects have been mainly halted (except when the Chinese have stepped in to access natural resources). The average Myanmar subsists on less than $200 per year.
Men and woman wear longyis (sheets wrapped like skirts) and women ride side-saddle on motorbikes and adeptly carry baskets on their heads. Fisherman in Inle lake paddle with their legs in an unusual standing pose and tribal people wear attire based on their tribe. They are overworked and underappreciated and amazingly resilient – withstanding poverty, human rights violations, genocide, and freedom of speech infringements.
Despite the harshness of life in Myanmar, the people are uncommonly open and kind. The crime rate is extremely low (although bribes to public workers are not) and there is an “unlocked door” feel to the entire country. Ninety percent of the population is Buddhist and their devoutness is apparent in the number of temples, shrines, monks, and nuns. Foreigners are still an uncommon sight and I was often met with curiosity and shy smiles.
Myanmar is an amazing country on the brink of change. Change is exciting, but also brings with it the vices of modern economies and neutralizing of culture uniqueness. Myanmar, take care how you emerge.
In conclusion, it was a great trip with many rewarding experiences.
And so, I come to the end of another Year in Review. Wishing you great happiness in the upcoming year.
Signing off from 2012,