November, 2013. I was wandering around the streets of Yangon, Myanmar (aka Burma).
My girlfriend was holed up in our hotel and I had the afternoon to see what I could see through my lens. I ventured through the back alleys and ended up on Maha Bandula Rd. The locals were curious. An older man walked toward me and as he got near, pointed at me.
He was either referring to the camera dangling from my neck, asking if I was headed to one of what felt like thousands, or just as likely, pointing to my stomach. I’m not the fittest I’ve ever been.
I pointed to my camera, and then to him. He smiled back.
I took this photo. I showed him on the screen.
He smiled again, shook my hand, nodded, and continued on his way.
That short exchange summed up everything there was to learn about the Burmese people. We bussed, trained, and walked around the sometimes gorgeous, sometimes disgusting country for 4 weeks and that was one of my fondest memories. And trust me, there were plenty.
This man, with barely a word of English to his vocabulary summed it up. It was clear he didn’t have much, and he was old enough to have seen a truckload of really unpleasant things, considering what’s happened in recent decades. Probably more than most people should see in their life.
But his smile was warm and welcoming. He was proud that a foreigner was taking interest in his city and his culture. And he wasn’t afraid to approach me and say hello.
It was barely two minutes, but something I’ll remember for a lifetime.