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Where the Heart Is

By Evan Kleiman

    The authoritarian regime has been extremely oppressive, harsh and has been very influential in the natural progression of the Burmese, yet what still has flourished and manifested socially, and physically is where the essence of Burma lies, it people, its uniqueness, etc. The land on a sunny day is so magnificent it looks like a painting. The buildings reveal this character that is much like the character of human beings. The same wrinkles you would see on a 90 year old woman’s face are revealed in the washed out buildings. So much so that you could almost accurately predict when the building was built  and by whom. In it of itself this is incredible because in most places around the world, the buildings are re-repainted; they are just masked with “transnational paint,” even though underneath they are truly a product of the vernacular.
    The essence of the entire trip throughout Burma lay in my interactions with the people. I spent it traveling through villages and immersing myself in the exploration of primitive lifestyles that solely represented the vernacular. Burma as a whole is almost fully sustainable which has allowed it to keep an authentic reality with very little outside influence other than American made sodas and high end hotels. It was untouched.
    In "The State and the City:1988 and the transformation of Rangoon" by Donald M. Seekins, he discusses the impact of the forces of state and society upon the city.  An interesting section  explained how

         “the junta has exercised control of Rangoon’s public spaces and has also engaged in a conscious attempt to change the symbolic meaning of certain spaces-in other words, to sever or neutralize their historical connections with revolutionary nationalism. It has done this in order to create a “new” apolitical Rangoon, which would combine the themes of commercialism, Buddhist piety and “Myanmar identity” in an environment inhospitable to popular activism”(Page 3).

 It is a constant struggle between the strong influence of Buddhism and the pull of the authoritarian regime in addition to the appetite for capitalism. Personally I hope that this country remains untouched and manages to rise above the political structure while preserving the beauty of its strong vernacular presence.
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