“I flew into Yangon on the evening of Friday, March 13. The plan was to spend the weekend there and get some work done for a couple of days. Alas, that five-day trip has turned into two months as I cannot return to Singapore (she’s been based here for 10 years) due to travel restrictions on visitors entering the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a surreal experience for me, a learning opportunity and a waiting game. I am thankful for this unexpected moment that has turned into a precious experience. Our experience with time always goes in one direction: Forward from yesterday and towards tomorrow. Fortunately, we have the chance to make things better every day.
When I got the news that I am unable to return home at first, I thought it was just a hiccup that would last for a few days. But I soon understood that there is still so much uncertainty in the world and my return home would not be so quick. The major concern I had at that time was Myanmar’s healthcare system – unfortunately it remains one of the weakest in the world; my health and safety could be at risk. The Yangon airport had shut down its operations by then so there was no way out. Everything is out of my control. Hence I stopped worrying about it. I reversed my emotions: instead of feeling worried and upset, I am practising gratitude.
“It is said that if you don’t feel fear, the unknown will be kind to you. If I was focusing my energy only on the unfairness, uncertainty and materialistic matters, I was going to lose it.” – Daniela Caccia
My family and friends in Bergamo – the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy – and other people in the world are going through a much more terrible time. They are exposed daily to fear and death. Despite all, I feel blessed and fear is a choice that I do not want to opt for. It is said that if you don’t feel fear, the unknown will be kind to you. If I was focusing my energy only on the unfairness, uncertainty and materialistic matters, I was going to lose it. I want to be grateful for myself and the people around and for the ability to work remotely from where I am. I am approaching this as a learning experience – an exploration of myself and new skills. Adversity is the foundation of growth.
The first time I travelled to Myanmar was in 2010 with a dear friend from university. The country was still fairly unknown to tourists. Back then there were no ATM machines, no good infrastructures to house tourists and I felt that time there was not moving at the same speed as the rest of the world. Work brought me back to Yangon in 2013 and the city was visibly changed but I didn’t have the chance to explore much. More recently, I returned in February this year during the Chinese New Year break. This time I managed to venture into the far northern reaches of the country and it was a wonderful discovery of pristine lands and old traditions. I was fascinated by the mystery, the traditions and the landscapes. Since then, the country has never really left my heart and it has held a special memory for me.
“We tend to predict the future constantly and we are terrible at it. We spend our days guessing how an action will impact the future and we are often wrong. We spend most of our days worrying and we try to control the future. What if instead, just for a little while, we simply did our best?” – Daniela Caccia
Here in Yangon, the lifestyle is unpretentious and more authentic. I appreciate what matters most at the core of life: the value of time, genuine friends, nourishing food, meditation and early nights. However, I don’t have the chance to explore Myanmar more during this latest trip as the country took early preventive measures against the coronavirus and I have been in self-isolation for most of the time I’m here. Myanmar is on lockdown and has imposed an evening curfew so all commercial premises like F&B outlets and hotels are closed.
But my genuine curiosity is fervid and I still manage to walk, with masks and gloves, around some of the buzzy streets of Yangon, beating the heat and fear for my safety. There is a beautiful park called People’s Square and Park which offers an unobstructed view of the city’s iconic Shwedagon Pagoda. The blurry colours and peace you get here at sunset are blissful.
At the end of the day, I have learned to fall in love with the process – even the messiness of life and the confusion it brings. We tend to predict the future constantly and we are terrible at it. We spend our days guessing how an action will impact the future and we are often wrong. We spend most of our days worrying and we try to control the future. What if instead, just for a little while, we simply did our best? The future is still going to take care of itself. All we have left to do is to do our best work. Let the future take care of itself.”