To Inle Lake

Catching the bus from Bagan at 4am was brutal enough, so I could have done without the presence of another tourist, an Israeli called U.

Considering U had been travelling for seven months or so he got stressed very easily. He flew into a panic, and a temper, when he realised his backpack was no longer on the roof of the bus and only calmed down when the driver showed him he had put it inside, to protect it from the rain and dust.

U only calmed down – he didn’t apologise or anything, which seemed bang out of order, seeing as the driver had been under no obligation to keep his pack out of the rain. Thank goodness for K and N, who were also on the bus and were able to interpret between U and the driver.

It wasn’t just inside the bus that there was unpleasantness, though – there was some outside too: we passed people repairing the road and many of them were quite clearly children. I’d say some were scarcely 10 years old and yet there they were, digging trenches and carrying baskets of stones.

Even though I understood how economic necessity forces millions of children around the globe into work when they should be at school or playing with their friends, whether that’s working on the family farm or looking after younger siblings, or making carpets or footballs or whatever, it was still pretty shocking to see a tiny child struggling with a basket of rocks.

I couldn’t find out whether the children were working by “choice” (aka because they were getting paid) or as forced labour. If the thought of a small child carting rocks by choice makes you happy – because it means they’re not doing it by force – then you’re in a country that is seriously screwed up.

From Burmese Daze – the book. Available directly from me (£6, including p&p in the UK); or from Lulu, Amazon, or to order from your local independent bookshop or via Hive. E-book available from Smashwords.

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