Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shel Silverstein's Dirty Dan

"Oh, I'm Dirty Dan, the world's dirtiest man,
I never have taken a shower.
I can't see my shirt--it's so covered with dirt,
And my ears have enough to grow flowers."-Silverstein

Before I came to Burma, I read so much about warnings to foreigners lamented the damage that we could cause by traveling there...
"But the water is either a little too hot,
Or else it's a little too cold."  -Silverstein

That if we did visit, we had to be careful to take care of their culture, not exploit, and to preserve their way of life.
"I'm musty and dusty and patchy and scratchy
And mangy and covered with mold."-Silverstein

Yet when I arrived, I was stunned at how disgusting, polluted, and destroyed the environment was by the very hands of the Burmese people.
"I live in a pen with five hogs and a hen
And three squizzly lizards who creep in."  -Silverstein

Trash and garbage and dust swept from corner to corner... and I understand this is the effect of a totalitarian society... and what defense could the Burmese people actually mount against this?
"My bed, and they itch as I squirm, and I twitch
In the cruddy old sheets that I sleep in."  -Silverstein

But I also saw such horrible displays by local people.  Men on trains just tossing garbage out the window, and the sides of the ground littered... I mean just covered in trash.
"In you looked down my throat with a flashlight, you'd note
That my insides are coated with rust.
I creak when I walk and I squeak when I talk,
And each time I sneeze I blow dust."  -Silverstein

There was hardly anywhere...and I traveled all throughout the country, that I wasn't constantly stepping over trash.
"The thought of a towel and soap makes me howl,
And when people have something to tell me
They don't come and tell it--they stand back and yell it.
I think they're afraid they might smell me."  -Silverstein

I saw taxi drivers in National Parks finish plastic water bottles and then...almost as if for fun...toss them up in the air and leave them where they fell.
"The bedbugs that leap on me sing me to sleep,
And the garbage flies buzz me awake.
They're the best friends I've found and I fear they might drown
So I never go too near a lake."  -Silverstein

I saw a dead rat next to a restaurant and nobody cleaned it up... women washing clothes in the gutter... packs of sick dogs roaming the streets... men shaving in polluted pools, and completely unsanitary feces and urination ditches where children play.
"Each evening at nine I sit down to dine
With the termites who live in my chair,
And I joke with the bats and have intimate chats
With the cooties who crawl in my hair."  -Silverstein

Even more shocking was the abuse toward animals.  Dogs beaten routinely on the streets, house cats being chased around neighborhoods by children beaning their heads with rocks... even the driver of a horse cart picking up a couple of dirt clod rocks and throwing them at the face of the horse for not obeying... I was stunned.  Completely stunned that the Burmese have let their country fall into such disrepair.
"I'd brighten my life if I just found a wife,
But I fear that will never be
Until I can find a girl, gentle and kind,
With a beautiful face and a sensitive mind,
Who sparkles and twinkles and glistens and shines--
And who's almost as dirty as me."  -Silverstein

So what traveling to Burma impressed upon me is not to warn or scare foreigners away...or to force them to re-consider traveling here because of the country's politics...but rather to implore more foreigners to visit, to seek employment, to make lasting friendships...that's what Burma needs...foreign teachers and doctors and engineers and nurses...people who understand the value of human life...more than money or business opportunities... and believe me, I saw plenty of Korean, Chinese, and European businesmen scheming... but instead Burma needs people to educate about garbage, sanitation, and personal cleanliness.  Okay, that's my Shel Silverstein Soap Box for the day.  Thanks for letting me vent!

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