Somewhere East of Suez 3/3
Originally published in Issue #4 of Leon Magazine, The Class Issue.
Dog-tired, we arrive at the next small town, say goodbye to our newfound friends and head for comfort food to appease our stomachs. At the night bazaar, a stray dog sniffs around attentively for bits and pieces, its mangy hair standing up on its skinny back, its muscles toned and taut. We order the usual: three portions of steaming Shan noodles, the conflict-prone Shan state’s national dish that combines sweet tomatoes with flat rice noodles, a portion of tea leaf salad and three Myanmar beers to accompany our dinner. Euro trance is blaring from huge speakers – the same tones we heard a couple of days before at the root of a Buddhist temple, where monks were performing the evening ritual of washing themselves and each other. They had stripped their burgundy robes off and were shaving each others’ heads like the brothers that their religion is raising them to be. Fat ducks lounged in the late afternoon light, by the washroom, awaiting their fate. One of the monks’ tiny smartphone laid in the evening sun, its speakers blaring shallow tones. It sounded like a bootleg copy of a bootleg copy: fuzzy and crackling.
The same music accompanies the night market’s sellers, who try to peddle antiques and replicas to a handful of foreigners who have found their way to this night market in the middle of the monsoon season. The goods that hang off crooked wooden makeshift tables could be either bought or stolen, but there’s no way to know. When asked about their origins, they are explained with a vague phrase about a grandmother’s attic or a demolished monastery up in the mountains. The fine for smuggling antiques out of the country is hefty, up to 10 years in a Burmese prison. A dozen or so kilometres away tucked into the jungle the ethnic fighting carries on. A couple of hundred kilometres west small-scale genocide is underway. We slurp the rest of our noodles and walk into the dark night where the stray dogs have already formed their familiar packs, barking at anything that seems foreign and dangerous.