ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Letter from Burma

Updated on October 6, 2015

A Letter from Burma

October 17, 1996

Dear Eric,

I'm flying over some barren brown Burmese mountain tops on our way to a primitive place called Heho. Although we have only been here 3 days, it feels like 3 months since I last saw you leaving the parking lot in Bangkok. I went outside on her balcony to watch you leave, but you had already gone.

You've been on my mind ever since then...I've been trying to act OK and so far have managed not to drift off too much into my own head, however it has been difficult being here with my head elsewhere..."Headless in Burma."

Yangon or Rangoon (I prefer Rangoon) is a charming city, much nicer than I imagined it would be. We went to the DAB bar that R recommended and met the manager Brent and had a few drinks...AJ was elsewhere.

My brother-in-law Cyro in Rangoon.
My brother-in-law Cyro in Rangoon. | Source

I can't believe we're already landing! The landscape here is entirely different than what we have seen so far. Rugged mountains, more brown than green, perhaps victims of deforestation or maybe just not enough rain.

We only spent the first night in Rangoon and then flew out the next morning to Bagan, a magical backwards place, an ancient dusty land of pagodas and striking sunsets. Dry air reminded me of Koh Si Chang. Cacti, palm trees and horse carts.

We hired two horse carts for the day. The horses had no names, only numbers. No...mine was not 69. I asked the driver his favorite color. He said that it was Yellow, so I named his horse Yellow Sun. In Burmese you say Wansunny. "Malingalaba means Good Morning."

We've landed...more soon.


We're back at Heho airport. Yesterday was amazing. After landing we hired a car and drove nearly two hours to Pindaya cave that houses an estimated 9,000 Buddha images. On route we stopped at a village to take a break. It was market day and the villagers acted as if they had never seen foreigners before. Marina bought some shoes while a group of sixty peasants gathered around her.

Two hours more and we arrived at Inle Lake at sunset. There were a number of gaudy Chinese style hotels, but we were in search of something more cozy when we finally discovered the perfect place called 4 Sisters Inn. Dinner was by candle light and they even made us gaucamole! The bill for our delicious meal was "as you you like."

The next morning Sister #2 asked me; "Sister, how being your egg?"..."Sister...your boat is here."

I actually had been awake since 4 am, awoken by some energetic roosters crowing at the full moon. By 6:30 am, we were out on the misty and glassy calm lake. We passed fishermen rowing their boats with one leg, swimming water buffaloes, villagers bathing and children walking arm in arm along the river bank. Flocks of birds were everywhere, flying above us and over nearby boats.

The morning was incredibly cold. My feet quickly went numb even though I had taken a thick blanket from the Inn. After an hour we arrived at Jumping Cat temple, where an old monk greeted us with a warm smile, treats and hot tea. The tea tasted awful but made a good hand warmer. The temple on stilts was 200 years old and built entirely of wood. Cats roamed everywhere. The monk brought a hoop out and showed us how his cat could jump through it.


The Snow in Rangoon

The hours pass by with games of Hangman with my niece and villagers playing takraw nearby. We are waiting for yet another delayed plane. The planes here are always, always late. A lanky Burmese man just came up to me to ask me what I was writing. I told him poetry. He gazes down at my notebook and tells me that the planes are always late because of the "snow in Rangoon." I tell him he must mean fog. He reassures me that he means "snow". He walks away and it dawns on me that he is talking about heroin shipments.


Beneath Burma's Yellow Sun

A yellow sun is setting over the Ancient temples of Bagan
where out of the midst
and dusty plains
#89 clip clops down the dirt road.

Won Oou smokes his cigar and tells us
about the "ass crack" in 1975.
"Ass crack?"...a moment later we realize he is saying: "Earthquake."
We laugh with relief...followed by silence.

The Ayeyarwady River flows to the Sea,
roosters crow and fires burn,
flowing robes; pink, red and saffron.
My Brazilian brother-in-law searches for shoes...
I search for the right quote...

"Rivers and roads lead people on." ~ Georgia O'Keefe ~

Monks in Rangoon.
Monks in Rangoon. | Source

Hidden tortures lie beneath a dream-scape of peace and tranquility.

This dream-scape story offers you a glimpse of Burma, void of the endless conflicts that lie behind these peaceful scenes. While we drift on this calm and tranquil lake, innocent Burmese are being killed and tortured by the brutal military regime that reigns over this broken country. For years, I struggled with my decision to visit Burma, supporting The Lady Aung San Suu Kyi in her steadfast declaration that tourists should: "Stay out of Burma. "Tourists are merely keeping the present regime in power," she warned, so out of respect, I waited...hoping that eventually there would be some sign of progress. After years of waiting and seeing nothing that indicated even baby steps toward Democracy, when I had the chance to see Burma in 1996, I jumped through the hoop like the Cat and landed in a place more Wonderland than you could ever imagine. What a vast difference it is to see, smell and taste a place first hand...the sensual trip of visiting a place rather than the distant armchair experience.

Prisana in Rangoon.
Prisana in Rangoon.

Truth can free us and imprison us.

The letter to my husband never ended...there were pages torn and missing from my worn Burma notebook...I have no idea where they went, or how they were lost? What I do remember is that Eric and I were losing each other when I left for Burma and for years after my return, we struggled to find that peaceful union between two would be decades of what someone once described as a Half Leaf love, only he used the word "Democracy".

My unfinished letter remained buried among pages and pages of notes about SLORC and Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize-winner who was still under house arrest at the time of my visit. My editor at the time was envious of me and told me that he was forbidden ever to enter Burma. "You are lucky," D said. "You are free to go anywhere. Still, I don't regret what I wrote...even if it closed the door for me to a country that I love. My intention was to help the Burmese and if my words helped them in their struggle for freedom, than it was worth it."

Mandalay, Burma
Mandalay, Burma | Source

What it really means to be free.

I am free to go anywhere, because I don't have the courage, insight, nor the immense knowledge of my editor. I admire D for what he has written and the risks that he has taken. D -- if you ever find this letter, excuse me for paraphrasing what you actually said. The truth can free us and imprison us. If we write the truth, we take great risks. Look at Snowden. Will the world really change now that we know what we already knew? Was it that big of a surprise that the NSA has and always had full access? It certainly was something I suspected from the beginning of email, or even before, when my NASA friends first explained the concept a decade before email became a public form of communication.

My story of Burma will never end. I dream of one day seeing Pola (my Mom's housekeeper's daughter, who was sent back to live with her grandparents in Burma) and Ray (my Mom's other housekeeper's son, who was also sent back). I will miss Tdua Lek (Little Body in Thai), yet another daughter of one of my Mom's extended family of housekeepers...Tdua Lek is 12 years old and greets you every morning with the most beautiful smile.

In spite of everything that they have suffered and endured, their spirit is always free. They sing in the face of adversity and have taught me what it really means to be free.

Pola with my husband Eric
Pola with my husband Eric


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Prisana profile imageAUTHOR

      Prisana Nuechterlein 

      7 years ago from Thailand and Colorado

      Hi Johnsonrallen,

      Thanks for stopping by. I just saw your comment today. I so miss my Burmese extended family. I miss listening to them sing and their joyous smiles.

    • johnsonrallen profile image

      Robert Allen Johnson 

      7 years ago from Fort Wayne, IN

      Great stuff! I had the privilege to visit Burma/Myanmar a few times on visa runs while living in Thailand. Border visits, of course, but visits nonetheless. It's a nation that still holds my heart. Little did I know, upon returning to the US, I moved to the city with the largest Burmese population in the world anywhere outside Burma itself. Seeing them in the markets and walking the streets reminds me of that place so dear to me.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)