Novel set mainly in Pisa
A memoir of four years in Myanmar
14th September 2021
Our Home in Myanmar by Jessica Mudditt – a memoir of fours years in Myanmar.
Jessica, an Australian journalist, and her husband, a Bangladeshi called Sherpa – also a journalist – spent four years in Myanmar from 2012 to 2016. It was a great and ‘historic’ time to be there as the country began to open up to Western ideas before it plunged its way back into the horrors of the persecution of the Rohingya population of Rakhine state. It was very far from being a free country, but there were signs… Jessica joined the English language The Myanmar Times as a sub editor before being promoted to a more senior position as features editor. She eventually fell out with management and moved on to being a freelance working for several local and regional publications. Sherpa secured the editorship of a business publication, handy because of the instability of Jessica’s own income. She travelled extensively around Myanmar, and experienced several amazing places and events. Did you, for example, know that the is a temple complex in Myanmar – many times the size of Angkor Wat in Cambodia – which is almost deserted and free of visitors? She also heard Aung San Suu Kyi speak and witnessed two visits to the country by President Obama. For a while Jessica worked as a trade envoy at the British Embassy, and then – again as a journalist – for a state controlled (and much censored) newspaper. It was an exciting life… She lived through the 2015 general election when the National League for Democracy won an overwhelming parliamentary majority. But then it all began to go seriously wrong… Militant Buddhism was on the rise, and Sherpa did not feel safe. He was not religious, but he was Bangladeshi – and many of his fellow countrymen were Moslems. He was ‘tarred’ with the same brush. His work permit was not renewed and the couple had to leave the country at pace and head back to Australia.
Our Home in Myanmar is a very illuminating book. Since reading it, I have thought again about some of the experiences that Jessica recounts. Some are amusing, some are merely strange, but many are much more sinister. People were arrested on the most flimsy of charges, and then spent years awaiting a corrupt trial. Corruption was everywhere as was political censorship. The process of obtaining a work visa was an unpredictable lottery. Jessica and Sherpa believed they would make their long term home in Myanmar, they loved the country and the people, but it was not to be. Myanmar flirted for a few years with the idea of democracy and limited freedoms – but has now headed right back whence it came. The brutal crack down of earlier this year was pretty predictable.
Our Home in Myanmar is highly recommended for anyone who wants to learn a little more about this fascinating and contradictory country.
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