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Travel stories - Liberal Myanmar

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

"Why are we doing this?", I asked myself again for the hundredth time, shifting the center of gravity of the heavy backpack on my aching back. Myanmar. Six hours of hiking. Inland, in the middle of nowhere. Heat. Rain. Unbearable humidity. Backpacks sink heavy. Shoes lag behind in the mud. Mosquitoes bite. Heat. The guide says, we are close. Rain. No part of the garment is dry. Sweat has become our second skin. Endless fields of greenery. Sun is burning behind clouds. Unbearable humidity. What did we even need this for? Why are we doing this?! Endless fatigue. Breaks every half hour. The guide says, we are close. New rain. I don't even put on a raincoat. I stare at the dense sky with my mouth wide open, drinking the heavenly water and laughing like a madman. Conrad's Heart of Darkness. We walk on. We walk one more. The guide says, we are close. I'm thinking where are I put my knife. I want to kill him. I won't. I'm too tired to do that. We walk. Around the bend, suddenly I see about twenty houses made of mud and branches. Mirage, I'm crazy, I think. Or I didn't? Savagely pinching my forearm. It hearts. Reallity! Houses exist! Looks like we've really arrived. Really!! Yes,we have arrived, the guide tells us with a broad smile, unaware of how close he was to dying. We pass the dwellings followed by the confused looks of muddy children. There is no road. There is no electricity. There is no water. We are dirty. I'm so happy!

"Can we wash somewhere", fifteen minutes later I ask the guide in my broken English. He turns and conveys my question to a hundred and twenty-year-old woman who lives with her younger sister, daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter in the house where we will spend the night together with them. On separate beds, I hope. She answers something by pointing her finger behind me. "You can. There", he also points in the same direction where there is only a wooden wall, sooty from the open fireplace in the middle of the room. "There?", I repeat a little foolishly, aware that we are obviously not talking about a bathroom with a shower cabin and a water heater heated by hidden solar panels. "Somewhere outside?", I think, still hoping that in the culture of the Burmese villages in the rainforest, it is fashionable to have the most intimate space outside the house, like how the Finns have saunas. I was hoping, even if his yes with the widest smile so far doesn't seem very Finnish. I turn to look for support, but Mia was taking a photo of a huge insect on the wall with her cell phone laconically consuming the last percents of her battery and I didn't have the strength or heart to tell her that she won't be able to charge it in this village, and Silvio is smoking on the veranda and having fun making faces at some stray child which sees him as an untreated psychiatric case. From my wet rucksack I take the miserable remnants of soap alienated in the meager accommodation in Yangon, a to some extent dry towel and boxers hidden in a nylon bag. I confidently went outside, on the way I did inform Silvio that he has a chance to wash up, and that he now can stop scaring the boy, and went behind the house.

There is no Finnish sauna there. There is no bathroom either. There is no building. There is no wall. There is no wooden partition either. It has an open area of the yard with a view of the neighboring house and an improvised terrace. It has an even more miniature bar of soap than the one I'm holding in my hand. It has a small green washbowl. It has a barrel filled with cold water and a wooden ladle floating in it. It has a towel and it's bigger than the one in my hand. I ingeniously connect the obtained data and conclude that Myanmar is clearly not ashamed of nudity, and somehow in my head I'm already coming up with a new criticism about the conservatism of Croats. I look around, no one alive. I take off my t-shirt, take off my shorts, and with my hands on my boxers, I make a little dramatic pause, again checking that I haven't missed seeing a hidden room, a partition, a hole in the ground, but nothing, just a big yard and houses. I take off my boxers, proud of the Burmese nudist liberality, and start dousing myself with water from the washbowl and then soaping myself up, humming softly as I try to get rid of the discomfort of having a white ass in the open. Somewhere on the third stanza of the legendary and very appropriate "My way", I notice a boy on the balcony of the neighboring house and instinctively I turn the other side. I look and see that he is laughing confusedly, but I would also laugh if I saw such a sunless miracle in my yard, I thought, comforting myself. Nevertheless, a little shriveled in discomfort, because he is a child, with the movements of a wounded crab, I took a few steps to fill the washbowl again with a ladle to wash myself quickly and of course I bump into Silvio who was approaching in without a shirt, but still in pants, grinning at my sad presentation of a Western body. I try to laugh overwhelmingly, squeezing my stomach, but someone's scream freeze my face and poor aps. Behind my friend stood one of a hundred-year-old woman with a new towel in her hands and with a roar worthy Tarzan, she showed some displeasure with my favoring of nudism. While I, stunned by her reaction, desperately try to hid my crotch with my palms, she ran screaming back into the house, probably for help because of the abnormal foreign exhibitionist in her yard . All confused, I quickly reached for my tiny towel and covered my vitals, ignoring the unwashed soap while realizing that my wife still had enough battery left to film part of that circus in the yard because she was aiming her cell phone at me from the window like a resurrected Jean-Luc Godard. Then the guide also flew out of the house and without the slightest smile, he explained to me that with my exhibitionist show I had committed a serious offense of violating village morals, except that he did not use such nice words. At the same time, like a madman, like with flag, he waved a long piece of clothing, which he pulled out from under the towel they left on the concrete slab. Trying to stop his tirade, and afraid that the centenarians would throw me out of the house and I would sleep outside with malarial mosquitoes, cobras and leeches, I stuttered in a combination of Croatian and English, trying to explain to him that I had asked them nicely and that they had sent me here, until I realized that what he was holding in his hands was some kind of ultra-long nightgown with an opening for the head and hands, and it dawned on me to late that this was a vital washing part for the villagers. They put it on and wash under it, hidden from the view of the neighbors, as good-natured as a newly baptized Mormon. Because of course, nudity is strictly prohibited here.

With this knowledge, now also intellectually embarrassed, still hidden by a miniature towel and with already dried soap all over my body, I thought that I will definitely not shower tomorrow. I can do without it for a one day.



"Zašto ovo radimo?", zapitao sam se po stoti put, pomičući težište pretrpanog ruksaka na bolnim leđima.


Myanmar. Šest sati pješačenja. Unutrašnjost, usred ničega. Vrućina. Kiša. Nesnosna vlaga. Što nam je ovo uopće trebalo? Ruksaci teški tonu. Cipele zaostaju u blatu. Komarci grizu. Vrućina. Vodič kaže blizu smo. Kiša. Nijedan dio odjeće nije suh. Znoj je postao druga koža. Nepregledna polja zelenila. Oblaci iza kojih prži sunce. Nesnosna vlaga. Što nam je ovo uopće trebalo? Beskrajan umor. Stanke svakih pola sata. Kaže, blizu smo. Nova kiša. Ne navlačim ni kabanicu. Zurim u gusto nebo široko otvorenih usta pijući nebesku vodu i smijem se k'o luđak. Conradovo Srce tame. Hodamo dalje. Blizu smo, opet kaže. Iza zavoja dvadesetak od blata i grana napravljenih kuća. Fatamorgana, potpuno sam pukao. Ipak nisam. Stigli smo, kaže nam vodič sa širokim smiješkom bez dvojke. Prolazimo pokraj nastambi praćeni zbunjenim pogledima blatne djece. Nema ceste. Nema struje. Nema vode. Prljavi smo. Sretni.

„Možemo li se negdje oprati“, petnaestak minuta kasnije pitam vodiča na svom kvrgavom engleskom. On se okreće i prenosi moj upit sto dvadeset godišnjakinji koja s par godina mlađom sestrom, kćeri, unukom i praunukom živi u kući gdje ćemo skupa s njima prespavati tu noć. Na odvojenim ležajevima, nadam se. Ona mu nešto odgovara pokazujući prstom iza mene. „Možete. Tamo“, pokazuje i on u istom smjeru u kojem se nalazi samo drveni zid čađav od otvorenog ložišta na sredini sobe. „Tamo?“, pomalo maloumno ponavljam, svjestan da očito ne pričamo o kupaonici s tuš kabinom i bojlerom kojeg griju skrivene solarne ploče. „Negdje vani?“, pomislim još uvijek se nadajući da je u kulturi Burmanskih sela u prašumskoj zabiti mondeno imati najintimniji prostor izvan kuće, kao što recimo Finci imaju saune. Nadam se, makar njegov yes s do sada najširim smiješkom ne djeluje baš finski. A ni ozbiljni pogled gospođe u godinama koja stoji do njega. Okrećem se u potrazi s podrškom, ali Mia mobitelom fotografira ogromnog kukca na zidu lakonski trošeći zadnje postotke svoje baterije i nemam joj snage ni srca reći da je u ovom selu neće moći napuniti, a Silvio na verandi puši i zabavlja se radeći face nekom zalutalom djetetu koje ga gleda poput neliječenog psihijatrijskog slučaja. Iz mokrog ruksaka uzimam bijedni ostatak sapuna otuđen u oskudnom Yangunskom smještaju, donekle suhi ručnik i bokserice skrivene u najlonskoj vrećici. Samopouzdano izlazim van, obavijestim Silvija da se ima priliku oprati, a i da prestane plašiti dječaka i zaokrenem iza kuće. Tamo nema finske saune. Nema ni kupaonice. Nema ni građevine. Nema ni zida. Nema ni drvene pregrade. Ima otvoreni prostor dvorišta s pogledom na susjednu kuću i improviziranu terasu. Ima još minijaturniji komad sapuna od ovog što ga držim u ruci. Ima maleni lavor ispunjen hladnom vodom. Ima bačva s tom istom vodom i u njoj plutajuća drvena kutlača. Ima ručnik i to veći od onog u mojoj ruci. Ingeniozno povezujem dobivene podatke i zaključujem da se u Myanmaru očito ne srame golotinje i nekako u svojoj glavi već smišljam novu kritiku o konzervativnosti Hrvata. Ogledavam se oko sebe, nitko živ. Skidam majicu, skidam kratke hlače pa s rukama na boksericama napravim malu dramatsku pauzu opet provjeravajući da nisam ipak propustio vidjeti neku prostoriju, pregradu, rupu u zemlji, ali ništa, samo veliko dvorište i kuće. Skidam i bokserice ponosan na Burmansku nudističku liberalnost i krenem se zalijevati vodom iz lavora pa onda i sapunati tiho pjevušeći dok se pokušavam osloboditi nelagode zbog bijele guzice na otvorenom.

Negdje na trećoj strofi legendarne i vrlo prigodne „My way “, uočavam dječaka na balkonu susjedne kuće i nagonski mu se okrećem bokom. Pogledavam i vidim da se zbunjeno smije, ali i ja bih se smijao da vidim takvo neposunčano čudo u svom dvorištu, pomislim tješeći se. Ipak, pomalo skvrčen u nelagodi, jer ipak je dijete, kretnjama ranjenog raka, napravim par koraka da kutlačom opet napunim lavor da se na brzinu isperem i naravno da naletim na Silvija koji se približava gol do pasa cereći se mojoj otužnoj prezentaciji zapadnjačkog tijela. Pokušavam mu se stiskajući trbušnjake nadmoćno nasmijati, ali nečiji vrisak mi sleđuje lice, a bome i trbušnjake. Naime, iza mog prijatelja je u kadar ušetala mlađa od dvije stogodišnjakinje s novim ručnikom u rukama i urlikom dostojnog Tarzana pokazala određeno nezadovoljstvo mojim favoriziranjem nudizma. Dok sam ja osupnut njenom reakcijom očajnički dlanovima skrivao međunožje, ona je vičući otrčala nazad u kuću, valjda po pomoć. Sav zbunjen, na brzinu sam dohvatio svoj maleni ručnik i prikrio vitalne dijelove ne obazirući se na neispranu sapunicu pritom shvativši da je mojoj supruzi ostalo još dovoljno baterije da snimi dio tog cirkusa u dvorištu jer me s prozora ciljala mobitelom poput uskrsnulog Jean-Luc Godarda. Tada je iz kuće izletio i vodič te mi bez imalo smiješka objasnio da sam sa svojom egzibicionističkom predstavom napravio ozbiljan prekršaj povrede seoskog morala, samo što nije upotrijebio tako fine riječi. Pritom je poput luđaka, kao zastavom, mahao nekim dugačkim komadom odjeće kojeg je izvukao ispod ručnika koji su mi ostavili na betonskoj ploči. Nastojeći prekinuti njegovu tiradu, a pomalo i u strahu da će me stogodišnjakinje izbaciti iz kuće pa ću spavati vani s malaričnim komarcima, kobrama i pijavicama, mucao sam na kombinaciji hrvatskog i engleskog pokušavajući mu objasniti da sam fino pitao i da su me oni poslali ovdje, sve dok nisam shvatio da je to što u rukama drži nekakva ultra dugačka spavaćica s otvorom za glavu i ruke te mi je prekasno bljesnulo da je seljanima upravo to vitalan dio za pranje. Navuku to na sebe i peru se ispod toga, skriveni od pogleda susjeda, ćudoredni poput svježe pokrštene mormonke. Jer naravno, golotinja je strogo zabranjena.

S tim saznanjem, sad i intelektualno posramljen, još uvijek skriven minijaturnim ručnikom i s već osušenom sapunicom po cijelom tijelu, pomislio sam da se sutra sigurno neću tuširati. Mogu jedan dan i bez toga.



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