Participation in Local Culture

We have formed a deep bond with a Shan community over the last 6 months of going in and out with travelers.  The relationship began 9 months ago, visiting their village for the first time, and from day 1, they have been warm and open to tourism and the potential opportunities that inevitably come. But its a real tribute to them, as being open to new things and very foreign-to-them people is really new.  For those who grew up in the west, we've grown up often in places where the world has come to them, places with large populations of immigrants that have formed the fabric of society, but in rural Northern Shan State, new cultures and new ways are all really new, and harder to embrace different cultures and ways of life, so being embraced by this community is exciting for us.  

We are particularly forming a bond with the village leader and his family.  His wife cooks amazing Shan food, and we joke with them about how Shan food is far better than Burmese food, as even many Myanmar nationals also love Shan food.  We always tell her she should open her own restaurant in Lashio, as every time we go there it is something different and always so tasty.  

Shan village leader and his wife at the front steps to their home.

Recently when we've been there to visit, their home is the place where the youth come to practice their traditional dances for Shan New Year celebrations coming up in mid-December and for the recent Tazundaing celebrations (which we'll get to more later.)  The kids in the village know when the foreign travelers have arrived, and are all eager to play games that we bring with us, like Uno (a card game we've taught them to play).  We often spend time together with the kids and their parents learning about their way of life, their culture, and having fun with them.  

For us, it is really fun and a warm environment, and I think they enjoy us as well.  And we do our best to fit into local culture and dress.  However, it is also a new income stream for their family, as we make donations for their hospitality and pay for their amazing Shan food.  And we are happy to have created new opportunities in their community, and are always on the lookout for new income streams for them, as that is our purpose and desire for impact in Northern Shan rural communities.

Recently they invited us to participate with them in their recent festival, where their village played host to 5 other Shan villages that made their way to their village in the evening to celebrate in dance and music and feasting.  It was a wild and raucous event, and lots to learn about their culture and religious understanding.  It is also an event where young men will meet young women and kindle a relationship that is started through an expression of desire to marry.  

Not every night is a festival night like this, but it is great to be invited into a tight knit community to share in their celebrations.  To us it communicates a depth of relationship and trust that we don't take lightly, and it inspires us to keep on investing in this community.

Moving Forward...Slowly!

Photo courtesy Chris Sinclair

Photo courtesy Chris Sinclair

Our heart is to create impact in our community through adventuring in the communities along the Burma Road and bringing new opportunities to the people in these isolated areas.  I just returned from Thailand, where I could speak Burmese with so many people, evidence of the mass exodus of Myanmar's people looking for job opportunities abroad.  Hopefully in their risk of seeking employment in another country, like Thailand, China, India, Malaysia or Singapore, they find good work, where they get paid justly and are not mistreated, but that is the exception and not the rule.  Our vision is to create jobs in rural Northern Shan State, where education and employment is limited, resulting in great risk for a job abroad, leaving family members behind, and potentially risking their safety for a chance at a better life.  Trafficking, forced labor and prostitution, unpaid wages, human slavery, forced marriages to Chinese men...these are all common potential outcomes for people from Shan State living abroad.    

Myanmar Adventure Outfitters will make impact, but getting there is a slow process in starting up, and jumping through all the hoops.  Merely the legal process has taken us nearly 6 months to start the business and we are not done yet. We are on location now, and can start to develop the business, what we will offer, and make connections in communities outside of Lashio where we will take travellers. But to do this right, to really honour the people, it takes time to build relationships where they are valued the way that they deserve, and not just used for our benefit.  Everything seems to happen slower in Myanmar. Even wire transfers, which has taken now 3 weeks to transfer, and has still not arrived. We are ready to start moving forward, purchasing equipment, developing our service, but are at the mercy of a slow system.

To those who are following us, we hope to represent more than just the beauty of our area through our Instagram and Facebook feeds, and in the next couple months we hope to start offering travellers a small sampling of the service we will develop as relationships form, and through this to make economic and social impact in the region.