Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Contemporary Myanmar and the World (1962-2018)

Pablo Neruda’s Burmese experience

What many in Myanmar do not know is that Pablo Neruda lived in Rangoon in the late 1920s, as a (somewhat poor and unhappy) "Honorary Consul" of Chile. During his time here he had a torrid love affair with a Burmese woman (who used the English name "Josie Bliss"). When she became overly possessive and slightly mad, he secretly left for Ceylon, only to find her one day camped out on his front lawn in Colombo with a bag of...

December 1954
Vice President Richard Nixon confronting a very witty Burmese communist

In December 1983, Vice President Richard Nixon confronts a very witty Burmese communist outside Pegu. The sign reads: Pax Vobiscum 
Scant regard for homo sapiens of the East
Begets doubts about your move for peace. 
Rest assured, however, of one important fact
That we shan't fight like Kilkenny cats
To ensure for ravenous wolves of Wall Street
An easy lie and wealthy retreat

8 July 1962
The 8 July 1962 New York Times’ headline

The 8 July 1962 New York Times ran this headline: "15 DEAD IN BURMA IN STUDENTS' RIOT; 27 Wounded by Army After Curfew Protest Campus Building Is Blown Up". Photo courtesy of Mizzima.

Burmese names in the novel “Rayuela” by Julio Cortazar

In the 1963 novel "Rayuela" by the great Argentine writer Julio Cortazar, the main character comes across a a list of words that have no meaning, and so seem magical. This was the list of strange and fantastic words:

  • U Nu,
  • U Tin,
  • Mya Bu,
  • Thado Thiri Thudama U E Maung,
  • Sithu U Cho,
  • Wunna Kyaw Htin U Khin Zaw,
  • Wunna Kyaw Htin U Thein Han,
  • Wunna Kyaw Htin U Myo Min,
  • Thiri Pyanchi U Thant,
  • Thado Maha Thray...

One of our great gentlemen-scholars: Bohmu Ba Shin

A photograph from the time of our great gentlemen-scholars: (from left) Bohmu Ba Shin, U Bo Kay, Saya Min Thu Wun, and Gordon Luce (expelled in 1964, aged 75, after a life time of contributions to this country's teaching and research, together with his wife Daw Tee Tee Luce, a tireless worker for disadvantaged children and sister of U Pe Maung Tin).

Myanmar has hosted the Southeast Asian Games twice: in 2013 and in 1969

Myanmar has hosted the Southeast Asian Games twice: in 2013 and in 1969, when they were called the Southeast Asian Peninsula Games (SEAP). The photograph is from the 1969 Rangoon opening ceremony. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/02/08/putting-it-briefly-myanmar-games-offer-460-golds.html

Before almost any tourists: Pagan (Bagan) 1972. (Photo credit Nick DeWolf)

From the National Geographic in 1974.

Rangoon 1975.

I think it's Merchant Street near Mughal Street. (credit Nick DeWolf).

Burmese kids on a bus 1980. They are somewhere between Mandalay and Pagan/Nyaung-U.

Morning in Rangoon 1983. (Credit Michael Foley)

2 May 2008
Cyclone Nargis

On 2 May 2008, more than 100,000 men, women and children lost their lives as Cyclone Nargis devastaed the Irrawaddy delta. It should always be remembered as one of the most tragic events in Myanmar history. Many of the poorest families that were affected have still not recovered. But I believe as well that the immediate aftermath of Nargis set in motion certain dynamics that led directly to the positive changes of 2011-2. Nargis should also serve as a wake-up...