The Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been undergoing significant political change in the last few years.
And, as a sign of this, President Barack Obama became the first American president to visit Myanmar late last year, praising the government's progress in shaking off military rule and putting on pressure to complete the process of democratic reform, according to news reports.
But Obama’s visit could only touch the surface. Myanmar has been closed to the West for so long that it remains a remote and confusing place for many North Americans.
Perhaps, the work that a pair of volunteer Christian Reformed Church journalists have done can help to shed a little insight on Myanmar.
The journalists are Mike and Claudia Elzinga. They left their jobs in Grand Rapids, Mich., last year to tell the stories of Christian Reformed World Missions missionaries around the globe. They will return this summer.
Referring to their most recent visit to Myanmar, they say some things are apparently changing in Myanmar as elements of Western culture seep in, but much remains the same.
“Most men, old and young, wear longyi (skirts) and most women wear long skirts with fitted tops. There are no McDonalds or KFC restaurants, and only recently did Coca-Cola hit the shelves,” writes Claudia Elzinga on a blog titled “The Curious Country of Myanmar” on the website twocamerasonemission.com.
The website provides an overview of the work that she and her husband are doing. Mike is taking and posting the videos on the website and Claudia is doing the writing. Both take photos.
In the latest blog, Claudia says of Myanmar, “The roads are incredibly nice, with beautiful and well-kept landscaping, and not many cars on the roads...Motorcycles/bikes are prohibited in the city.”
The blog describes the challenge of finding an ATM machine in Myanmar and the kindness of the people. Claudia relates a curious experience she had, highlighting the topic of kindness.
And then they discuss a meeting of pastors that they attended in Chin state, which is overwhelmingly Christian in a Buddhist country.
The pastors had come come together to decide on the spelling of particular words their native tongue, Matu, probably to use in putting together worship materials.