I have to say, that while I was there I saw few signs of outward government harassment towards the citizens. (Our driver from a small town called Twante to Yangon did have to pay money to bribe the police so he could keep traveling.) But apparently, that is what keeps the people in fear... the silence.
We were told not to bring up the subject of government to the people while we were there because while we would not be punished, the people could be imprisioned or killed. Nevertheless, when I was at the Schwedagon Pagoda, a monk confided that the government's policy on education was atrocious and the reason that we had become a monk was so that we could get an eduation and help protest the government from the inside.
Burma was an incredible place. Beautiful in some places, but what it lacked in wealth, the people made up for with their friendliness. They were probably the most genuinely kind people that I have ever met.
So now, I am in India. I have to say that the first day has been a bit of a disappointment, although I can hardly blame India. Everything in the city of Chennai shuts down on Sundays. In addition, whenever we asked our cab/autorickshaw driver to take us some place, they would drive us to these tourist souvenier shops where they get commission. Thank God I was with two seasoned bartenders who had learned not to take shit from anyone.
Basically, we wound up going to two markets and getting overpriced clothing and bindis. Now we are at the only establishment still open in this town, a five star hotel. Luckily, they have a business center, which is how I get to talk to you fine people.
I'm just pissed because after India, we are back on the ship for another 10 days and I don't want to waste it. I certainly feel like I'm wasting it now.
Tomorrow, I'm planning to take a train down to Pondicherry and stay there for two days by myself. That will be nice because I will get to do whatever I want to do, plus, hopefully, I'll get some culture. (Chennai's turned out to be pretty Western, or maybe I'm just not looking hard enough.
I also have two field projects from different classes. In one case, I have to do a reportage piece form my nonfiction writing class in which I have to do some immersion reporting. On the other, I have to interview someone about the gender biased ramifications of the Ramayana.
So I am planning to stay in a Hindu Ashram (which is like a temple for lay people) and hopefully interview some people. If not, I'm going to have a lot of bullshitting ahead of me.