Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sunset Over the Plains of Bagan

In the village far below, the children jostle you as they practice their English and try to sell you their wares. Many of the children here sell postcards after their school day has ended. Today I am far away from all that. It's nine stories up on steep steps that only get steeper and narrower as you climb. It is one of the higher stupas from the thousands on the plains. At seven stories self preservation takes over and I stop where the view is still panoramic but less dizzying.

As the sun drops and illuminates the ancient brick stupas, their shadows gleaming across the dull clay soil -weathered spires dotting the plains. Stupas -monuments built over artifacts of loved ones, temples to royalty and memories of ancient man, a thousand years of history. The sunset is a scene that has repeated day after day, year after year.

It is lovely and peaceful - but my peace is soon shattered as a smiling eight year old face peeks around a time-worn column. His face lights up as he rushes over to try to sell postcards. Although I don't buy, he's satisfied with a conversation and a gift of a pen for his start in school tomorrow. Then he runs off and to my horror leaps onto the edge of the worn smooth stone archway, six inches from a seven story drop and hurries off, balancing on bare dirty feet, his string of postcards bouncing across the rock behind him. He jumps to the other side, gives me a parting grin and leaves me alone with the view and a sigh of relief.

On the ground again the vendors crowd the base of the stairs but a short distance away a man begins a conversation wanting to know where I'm from. When I say from Canada there is the inevitable "Ah, Canada." With a clear pronounciation of each consonant and a nod of his head. I've had this conversation many times and often there is a smile and a hopeful question, "maple leaf?" Unfortunately, like the lip gloss I didn't come prepared with either small pins or lip gloss. Maybe there will be a next time. I hope so.

In the meantime - cheers - to a meeting of cultures.



Teresa said...

Ahh, the first thing I thought of you taking, Canada pins! Oh well...
What beautiful pictures of a world I can barely imagine. The history!! Wow! Thanks for bringing me along!

Teresa said...

How is Thailand? It bet it would be very annoying if those kids followed you would'nt it! I sure miss you!

Teresa said...

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Love Maria

Kathy said...

What an absolutely amazing trip! And great pictures. You've got to have a couple of travel articles ready to go. Thanks for taking us along in your backpack. Loved it.