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Myanmar or not?

It all started with about 15 kilogrammes of children's clothing... wait, let's try again:

It all started last year on my trip to Laos, about 14 hours walk from Luang Phrabang (the tourist capital). We were guests to a community somewhere up in the hills north of the city, where the children either wore some threads (it couldn't be called clothes anymore) or nothing at all. I felt pity, especially because people from those areas freeze very easily, since it's always hot there. I decided to come back.

So when my girlfriend's mother, who runs a second-hand clothing store for children offered I'd take some before she clears out last year's "collection", I gladly did, even though I didn't have any concrete plans yet -- plans, yes, but no concrete ones.

So with the clothes in my flat, I felt obligated to do something and finally ended up booking my trip to South-East Asia. Well, Bangkok, from there it's all do-as-you-go. It turns out that by rare circumstances, my girlfriend will be accompanying me for two of the five weeks I have set aside. The rest I am alone.

And I wanted to go to Myanmar [0]_, which is the last of the countries on the South-East Asian mainland I haven't yet visited. But just today, I called the German Department for Foreign Affairs and was informed that Myanmar is fighting with bomb attacks in the cities and avian flu outside -- aside from the internal frictions caused in large by the ruling militia. Anyway, I am less afraid of the flu than of bombs, which are a risk -- however low -- that I won't take because I don't have any influence or control.

So I am reconsidering (and I would love to hear any advice you may have). There are, of course, plenty of alternatives: for instance, the circle Chiang Mai, Laos, Hanoi, Hue, Saigon, and back. The clothes will be welcome (and needed) mostly anywhere, and I have at least some experience with the other countries. I doubt I will actually go back to Luang Phrabang because the only sensible way to do so is by spending two days on the boat from Chiang Khong, or flying in to Vientiane. I don't want to do that boat ride again, and I don't have money to burn either (despite flights being rather cheap over there).

Anyway, my intention is not to travel and be a tourist, but instead to teach computers. I've done this before and noticed the need, and it's really not hard to get a bunch of interested kids into an Internet cafe, which you "rent" for the day for $20. I don't speak any of the languages there, and few speak English, but it's surprising how little speech is needed (maybe that's Bhuddism?). Sounds like Hanoi or Saigon will be the best places for that. Phnom Penh (in Cambodia) also has me interested.

My flight's on the 4th of April, and I shall not return until the 5th of May, although the return date is flexible. I am excited, but also feel somewhat weird. Last year, I took a full turn in my life but have since been disabled. Now that I am regaining control over my body, but at the same time wondering whether a Ph.D. is what I want (I could just do Debian without the academic appendix, and probably earn money more effectively), I am burning to actually dive into the matter to be able to finally answer that question. The trip to South-East Asia just pushes this further out into the future.

Some of you may wonder why I am even daring to bother with such petty concerns -- after all, they aren't really existential, more like luxury (compared to some previous troubles in my life). Well, I don't have an answer. I feel weird about it all, and it's been weird to be disabled for the better part of that last half a year, just after quitting my previous job. At least I am maintaining my optimism.

.. [0] Moray Allen (of the Debian project) was actually the first to give me : a good reason (in Brussels) to call Myanmar Burma instead/again -- it seemed backwards before. But apparently, Myanmar was the name chosen by the militia in control, which is undoubtedly not to be supported. Burma has the negative taste of Britain to it -- negative only in the light of the tourist boycott Tony Blair called out last year. I will stick with Myanmar as do most other sources.