My name is Bofan Ji, a rising senior from Beijing No.4 high school. You can call me Charles, and please don’t ask me where that name comes from (I made it up myself). I am so excited about the trip that I have a hard time trying to calm down and pack my stuff. Born and raised in big cities in China, I often find myself in a right-in-the-middle position which prevents my sense of belonging to my family background. My parents have 100% rural roots; in fact, they are the first university students in their villages, a situation that reminds me of Pascal Khoo Thwe, the author of From the Land of Green Ghosts. From an early age, I have listened over and over again to their legendary stories of how they managed to study while having to help with the farm work, and every time it always leaves me to wonder how difficult it must have been for them to attain the life today. Their ties with our rural relatives remain shockingly firm, even though they live in a completely different world.
Similarly, I cannot wait to picture how the forces of modernization have shaped the lives of the Burmese minorities who have lived a rural life as well. (Oops, getting technical here…my would-be major is political science.) In contrast to the traditions of Chinese peasantry which grows complacent with their gradual incorporation into the central state, political scientist James Scott argues, these hill societies are much more prone to state evasion, attempting to avoid the loss of autonomy in the process of state-making and viewing powerful civilizations as essentially tyrannical and dangerous for thousands of years. Largely undisturbed by rise and fall of dynasties of Southeast Asia, their traditions are more rooted in the past, and social changes in recent years may have resulted in a greater cleavage between their modern lives and their history and hence, on an individual scale, a greater sense of generation gap. On the other hand, Myanmar’s trajectory of social development is much hindered by its brutal and narrow-minded military regime in the last century, and the path to democracy and economic growth constantly suffers from ups and downs. So is my previous assumption really the case, or simply an unfounded fantasy of an academic nerd? (I am not a nerd, or eighty-percent likely not a nerd.) Let’s find out through our journey!
I also have a plan of developing social initiatives to help the local ethnic minorities after our version of “Burmese odyssey”. Maybe we can try to get their stories being heard by more people, or raise donations in combatting real-world problems. I am not sure yet, but we will find out when we have actual field experiences. If this sounds interesting to you guys, we can have a discussion about the goals of our trip via email.
At the end, I wanna say that I wish you guys all the best 🙂