Burma 2011: Stereoscopic 3D
Running time 58 Minuten

The true beauty no picture can express.
Burmese saying

in a Forgotten Country

Myanmar 2011
formerly Burma

OFF Voice
This is "Sin-In Pyaie Sone" (Sin Piei Soon), meaning “perfectly beautiful woman”.

Beauty and fascination…
Barbarity and brutality…
often go hand in hand – in Sin Piei Soon’s country as well.

A mighty kingdom founded in the eleventh century; annihilated by the Mongolians; centuries of turmoil; a new kingdom; conquered by the British; last king deposed; Japanese domination in World War 2; retaken by the British; declaration of independence; Military regime since 1962.

Despite misfortune and bad times right back into the past, these people still retain their captivating charm.
How could the soul of the country have been so well preserved here?

Perhaps harmony and tenderness have survived the ravages of time  – because (thinks), well, maybe because the modern world has been shut out?

But then – strange things happen…

Yeah (grinning), a friendly reunion like every year. For the ice-cream vendor this is his first encounter with the modern world – a bit of a shock – and not without risk…

Kachin Manau festival, in northern Myanmar
In honour of Lamu Madai, The god of spirits and creator of the universe

OFF Voice
This is Burma, more than five times the size of England. In 1989 it was renamed Myanmar by the military government to demonstrate the country’s final independence from colonialism.

An international balloonist group first visited Myanmar In 1998. Undeterred by critical press reports about the military regime, they wanted to get a bird’s-eye overview of reality.
They have been coming every year for thirteen years now. First encounters have turned into lasting friendships.

But what impressions do these fiery hot-air balloons from afar make on the people here? Do they awaken their dreams, their yearnings for freedom? And how do these people live their day-to-day lives?

In 2011 we accompany the thirteenth Myanmar Balloon Meeting, and meet various people wherever the wind happens to take us.

Subtitle Peter Blaser:
2:47: Initiator Myanmar Balloon Meeting since 1999
Has ballooned “almost” all over the world

It’s like coming home. That is one side of it: the way the people are here, their warmth and friendliness, makes human contact the highlight of this balloon meeting.

We’ve seen a lot of this country, practically as the first group. And our reception everywhere has of course been unbelievable. Maybe they saw us as a symbol of Myanmar opening up. We certainly experienced some incredible situations.

Subtitle U Tint Naung:
3:39: Managing Director, Golden Express Tour
Felt like an eagle on his first balloon trip.

U Tint Naung (Off)
It was not easy to get a permit for our first balloon flights.
But the minister himself encouraged us not to give up. And that motivated us, because it was only possible to fly with permission from the authorities.
We could also prove that it was safe to fly in Myanmar. And I dare say that we also got a permit because it helps to develop our tourism business. We stayed in communication with the local authorities and they gave us some instructions. So they were able to help us whenever necessary.

I think the hot air balloon flights taught the people something. They ran happily after the balloons and helped us when we landed. That pleased me very much.

After the first flight, Mr. Peter Blaser told me that normally the balloon teams never flew more than once or twice in the same country.
But after one or two flights in our country, seeing the beautiful landscape and meeting the friendly people, they decided to fly here every year.
And since then they’ve been flying here each year – for thirteen years already!

Subtitle Regina Blaser:
5:00: Has already seen a lot of the world.
Supports a vocational training project in Myanmar.

This country has stayed just like one imagines a developing nation to be. It is to be hoped that they can make their own way without being overwhelmed by our Western consumerism.
For me it is incredibly good to experience their tender gentleness and the harmony that still exists here, also the beauty of this country, its buildings and the way in which the people move – this is an incredible joy.

And the people here are so unspoiled and incorrupt. Over the last twelve years we never had anything stolen. Even though the thirty people in our group left their cameras and various other possessions lying around…
I think that is unique in the world these days.

OFF Voice
Hardly anywhere else in the world is life governed so much by the Buddhist philosophy. Almost ninety percent of the people are Buddhists.
According the Buddhist religion, every living being is subject to the never-ending cycle of death and reincarnation.
Attending service in the Pagoda is part of everyday life, and helps to reflect on the four noble truths:
The realization that each and every life is characterized by suffering.
The realization that this suffering is caused by greed, hate and blindness.
That only by eradicating these root causes can suffering be ended.
That this is attainable by following the eightfold path – ultimately leading to the state of Nirvana, the cessation of suffering and the termination of reincarnation.

Subtitle U Sucitta Sara:
6:55: Abbot of Shwe Yan Pyay monastery since twenty years.
Formerly this place was a battlefield. The pagoda a fortress.

Munk (Off)
Oh, you mean the flying balloons? I didn’t know you meant that when you said balloons.

00:10:45:14 – 00:10:48:20
Oh, you’re from the balloon team?

OFF Voice
Yes, your Reverence

Munk (off)
I’ve seen the balloons in previous years.

In the past, I forget when (pause), I saw them three or four times. Once they flew up from over there. The next time from the East. Another time to the west of the pagoda, but I forget the year. I think three or four years ago. Once I saw them land by parachute.

OFF Voice
What do you think when you see these balloonists flying here?

Munk (off)
We regard all creatures (pause) equally with compassion and loving kindness, just as we ought to bear compassion and loving kindness toward all human beings. We feel the same loving kindness for everyone as for our own children, whether monks in the monastery or balloonists.
Buddha taught us that loving kindness is not classified, that it should be disseminated to all four points of the compass, throughout the universe.

I regularly send out loving kindness every morning, to all the living creatures on earth, including human beings and animals.

The way the Burmese people are – very friendly, and also very interested in our ballooning – makes you feel their joy of living. What happens here is truly a matter of giving and receiving.

It is their lifestyle, their culture, based on Buddhism, which is so fascinating. Not yet littered by consumerism.

They are not rich by any means, rather poor in fact. But they are not destitute, they have enough to eat and to live.
One certainly has to realize that life is hard here for a good many people, with their low income and steadily rising cost of living.

But they are not bitter about it. They make the best of things in their happy and friendly way.
It is this phenomenon that makes Burma so special.

OFF Voice
Every Buddhist child attends a monastery school at least once in its lifetime – some for a few weeks, others for several months, and some for their whole life.

Die Novizenweihe ist die wichtigste Zeremonie im Leben eines jungen Buddhisten.

On the first day the boys are treated like little princes.

The noviciation ceremony is the most important one in the life of a young Buddhist.

OFF Voice
The entire family celebrates their children’s induction into monastery school.
This is the day when boys and girls aged about nine start training to become frugal monks and nuns.

They are trained in personality development, in philanthropy and in modesty…

First their heads are shaved bald.
And then they possess nothing but a monk’s habit and a wooden bowl.

A tough school with strict rules

Munk (off)
We guide our novices through their rules of behaviour, which are part of their studies.

The lecture hours begin when the village people send us our breakfast. Not at a fixed time: some come late, some early.

The rules for novices are strictly in accordance with the table manners, dress codes and behaviour prescribed by Buddha.
That is how we guide them.

Phone Cho (off)

11:56: Ground crew and driver, Golden Express Tour
He always find the landed balloons, everywhere

When I flew myself, I felt how I was lifted up in the air. and I saw the world from above for the first time.
I got a little nervous when we flew so high. I was scared that the floor of the basket might suddenly fall to the ground.

So I just  clung tightly to the frame.

Sometimes, after nightfall, we couldn’t find the balloons any more because radio communications didn’t work in the country. In some places it was very difficult to collect them.

Children run after the balloons. So they know best where the balloons landed. When we couldn’t find the balloons, we just asked them. Questions, questions – sometimes it took an awfully long time get the balloonists back to their hotel.

Some of the villagers wanted to help, and ran after the balloons – leaving their rice pot on the cooker. When they got back, their rice was fried instead of steamed!

Since we got to know each other, we’ve become well acquainted. Mr. Peter Blaser always came with me in my car. Mrs. Regina Blaser went out for shopping with me when she was free. She always bought gifts for the drivers and other staff. All the staff were happy, and we were glad to help them. I could speak some English with them, and made good friends with them. I dealt with them like close friends.

They love Myanmar people and we love them.

Phon Cho (off)
13:57: Has three children, and is a grandfather
The pilots call him Schumi, because he drives so fast.

I love them like my family. Today I call Mr. and Mrs. Blaser ‘Dad and Mum’.

OFF Voice
Myanmar is a multi-ethnic country. More than 135 different ethnic groups live here together, 50 million people, speaking 111 different languages. But in order to understand each other, nearly all of them speak the official Burmese language as well.

Even today, nearly two thirds of the workers are still employed in farming and related activities. Once upon a time, Burma was called the granary of South East Asia.

OFF Voice
Now maize, cotton, vegetables, peanuts or sugar cane are cultivated, mainly on small farms.

Since the nineteen-seventies, industrial development is also proceeding in Myanmar.

The military regime aims to modernize the entire economy on a broader basis than the traditional focus on farming and manual crafts. Within the framework of this policy, a good many private operations have been nationalized.

Judging by its richly abundant variety of mineral resources, this ought to be a prosperous country.

Oil, gas, silver, copper, gemstones such as jade, rubies, sapphires....

Viele Burmesen verehren ihre 37 Geister noch immer hoch.
Nevertheless – in Myanmar, good luck and good business are also in the lap of the gods.

A lot of Burmese people continue to worship their thirty-seven different gods.

Before Ko Thein Oo climbs up to harvest toddy sap, he always prays to the tree spirits for their blessing. And he is not the only one to bank on good luck this way.

Subtitle Ko Thein Oo
Palm sap is sweet in the morning, but gets sour by midday
His uncle supports his two children financially.

Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar (off)
This is the cutting knife. Holding it in this position, you have to cut the palm toddy sap can be tapped.
You can cut as many as nine palm fronds at a time for a pot of sap. To cut a male palm frond, you hold it this position.
Sap will not flow out when you cut, but drip out drop by drop.

You have to climb up regularly, twice a day.
If you miss out only once on cutting and tapping, you’ll get less sap the next day.

OFF Voice
What does the world look like up there?

Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar  (off)
Everything looks small up there, but I feel no panic.
I even fell off palm trees twice.

OFF Voice
How did that happen?

Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar  (off)
I was up on the tree where three clay sap-collecting pots hung around my knife scabbard. Suddenly I slipped off and fell to the ground. All the sap pots broke, and I hurt my back a little, but with no other injuries.
In the morning shift, I have to collect toddy sap and boil it up to produce palm sugar…
…but to make toddy liquor, you have to ferment the sap.
To produce alcohol, you have to ferment palm sugar for about two days prior to distillation.

OFF Voice
How do you get palm sugar into circular form during production? 

Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar  (off)
It’s just a handmade form.
OFF Voice
Can you explain the process to us?

Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar  (off)
It’s like this: you boil it up for one and a half hours…whilst boiling you have to stir it until it gets so concentrated that you can hold it in your hands. Then you can shape it, but quickly so as not to burn your fingers, because it is still hot.

OFF Voice
How much do you earn per day from this business?

Subtitle Ko Thein Oo:
18:44: Often has to get an advance from the palm tree owner.
Was formerly a bullock cart driver.

Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar (off)
We earn just enough to live on. But in the toddy-palm season we earn quite well. The toddy-palm trees are not our property, however, and we have to pay the owner one day’s income every four days. So for every four days’ work, we get paid for three days.

OFF Voice
I’ve heard that your homemade palm liquor is very strong, with high alcohol content. Is it really so strong?
How is it distilled?
Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar  (off)
It is extremely strong, just like gasoline. If you distil a pot of fermented toddy sap, you get a smaller amount of liquor with concentrated alcohol content, about three bottlefuls. Then you take the next pot and get the same quantity. After mixing everything together, you get six bottlefuls altogether. Then you distil the mixture again and get a liquor containing so much alcohol that it is flammable.
This palm toddy liquor is in fact double distilled.

This is a naturally produced toddy sap liquor.
It contains so much alcohol that it is flammable.
It can also be used as motorbike fuel. You fill your motorbike with palm toddy liquor instead of petrol. It works fine, but long-term use can damage the engine. It’s good for short-term use only.

OFF Voice
How long have you been doing this job?

Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar  (off)
Ever since I left school, when I was only twelve years old.
I’m anyway educated, because I was once a fifth-grader (jokingly).
OFF Voice
And since then you are…?

Ko Thein Oo, PalmSugar (off)
Since then I’ve been a labourer. First I drove a bullock cart, but now my parents are gone, and so is the bullock cart. So I became a toddy palm climber.

Subtitle Ah Sin Pyaie Sone:
20:46: Broke off school in Mandalay
Wants to open her own fashion store in Bagan.

Ah Sin In Pyaie Sone (off)
You first have to rub Thanakha wood on a special millstone in water.
The cream should not be too thin and not too thick.

The women make different patterns with Thanakha cream. Sometimes square, sometimes circular…
They paint circular shapes on their forehead, and a straight line on their nose. Sometimes they also put a lot of paste on their chin.

You can make a lot of different patterns with Thanakha cream.
On my cheeks I like to wear it like this,
and on my nose like this.

Thanakha cream can also be used as an ointment if you hurt yourself, to make wounds heal faster.
It‘s like that...

With Thanakha cream you can also make special designs, hearts or leaves, for example. To make leaf shapes... how shall I say… you put Thanakha cream on your face and then press a tree leaf on it. Or press a heart shape on to the Thanakha cream when it is still damp.

When I was a little girl my mother always gave me Thanakha cream to eat, and she also smeared it on my skin.

I live in a very warm place. Thanakha cream protects me from the sun and keeps my skin smooth and supple. That’s why I use Thanakha cream.

You can see when people don’t use Thanakha cream. With me it’s like this: my body is always perfumed by Thanakha even when I didn’t take a shower.

It is very good to use Thanakha cream. Very very good! I don’t like modern make-up. I only like Thanakha cream, and that is only what I always put on my skin.

Wearing Thanakha cream does not mean that one is not beautiful. One is always beautiful when one wears it. Some of us also make stripe patterns with a toothbrush. But I myself simply dab Thanakha cream on my face. I like it best that way.

OFF Voice
Wood is beautiful – and wood is money.
Myanmar’s bountiful timber resources are under state control, including above all the world’s richest teakwood reserves. Teak exports are booming, despite the trade embargo. Already in the eighteenth century teak was used for structural purposes, as exemplified by the U-Bein Bridge, the longest teak bridge in the world.

Subtitle Than Than The:
23:01: Sells souvenirs to support her sick mother.
Want to do it later once the school

Than Than The (off)
My name is Than Than The. I live here, and broke off school in the sixth class. My father died when I was in the second class.
Now I only have my mother and six siblings.

OFF Voice
How do you make a living?

Than Than The (off)
I sell this here.

OFF Voice
Can you show me?

Than Than The (off)
Stone necklaces.
I sell one or two each day.

OFF Voice
How much do you earn per day?

Than Than The (off)
I make three or four dollars.

OFF Voice
Three or four dollars? Is that enough to live on?

Than Than The (off)
No, that is not enough. So my mother sells sticky rice, my sister sells chewing tobacco, and I sell this.

OFF Voice
Why did you break off school?

Than Than The (off)
Because our father died, and we had practically no money. If I had carried on going to school we would have had even less money. And my mother has stomach trouble as well. So I had to take care of her, and broke off school.

Then I went to evening school. But I didn’t learn much there, so now I sell stone necklaces and don’t go to evening school any more. Whenever I can sell necklaces to the tourists, I give all the money to my mother.

It makes me happy when these balloons come because then I can sell more souvenirs.

I know Auntie Regina. Every year when she pays us a visit she always buys my stone necklaces. She always pays five dollars for two necklaces. Another fire-balloon already flew past this year, and now these balloons are with us again.

But so far they didn’t buy anything.

OFF Voice
A train trip is not the fastest or most comfortable way to see Myanmar, but it is certainly the most impressive way.
Burma’s railway network dates back to British colonial times, but lack of state investment has taken its toll since then on the infrastructure.

OFF Voice
Where are you going?

Couple in train BOY (off)
Back to Rangoon.

OFF Voice
Why are you here? Rangoon is 700 kilometres away.

Couple in train GIRL (off)
I remembered my brothers and visited them here.

OFF Voice
How will you return to Rangoon?

Couple in train GIRL (off)
To Rangoon?

Couple in train BOY (off)
We’ll go by train to the terminal station, and then go to Rangoon by car.

OFF Voice
Have you seen any hot air balloons flying here?

Couple in train BOY  (off)
Oh yes, we saw them.

OFF Voice
How do you feel when you see those balloons?

Couple in train BOY  (off)
I feel something. You don’t see anything like that in Rangoon; they don’t have them there. …..as I say, I feel something!

OFF Voice
Would you like to take a balloon flight yourselves one day?

Couple in train GIRL (off)
Take a balloon flight? … hmm… what shall I say…no, I don’t want to do.

OFF Voice
Why not?

Couple in train GIRL (off)
I would be scared: I don’t want to go in anything like a fire-balloon. 

I just want to see it flying.

OFF Voice
Would you fly in it together?

Couple in train GIRL (off)
In that case, yes – but rather in imagination only.

Couple in train BOY (off)
I like them to fly here… they come and visit Burma to see the beauty of our country and get to know how the people live here and their customs. And that way they can see the country from above. And that is simply why I want them to come again and again.

Whatever – their way of living here is based on honesty, simplicity and openness… …it is like that.

OFF Voice
Teamwork and muscle power: in time with each other, they make tools that are sold throughout the country.
Mandalay, traditionally a metropolis of arts and crafts, is now a booming marketplace for consumer goods and modern products.

This former capital city, reflecting the splendour of the Burmese kings, is the biggest and oldest centre of Burmese craftsmanship. Here they follow the time-honoured tradition of their forefathers.

Most of the Buddha statues are export models, a good many of them destined for China.

OFF Voice
Where did you learn this work?

Subtitle Kyaw Kyaw Aung:
28:47: Makes a living from his hobby
Has a family with three children to feed

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
Because I grew up here, I have always seen it and I’ve made it my hobby.

OFF Voice
How long does it take to complete a Buddha statue of this size?

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
About fifteen days for this size.
It was a rock once. We had to mine it. We had to get it out of the marble quarry with cranes.

By stander A
Explain that you made the rough cut here. You first chisel out the rock on four sides, then carve the details of the robe folds.

By stander B
Yes explain it like that.

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
He asks me to explain all about it.

By stander A
No, not like that. You should listen more carefully. As you said, the rock is mined out of the quarry. To get the right size, it is roughly cut out on four sides. Then it is brought here and unloaded by crane. Then somebody starts from the head.

By stander B
It takes about two months. Don’t say fifteen days.

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung  (off)
But we have machines...

By stander B
No, it takes longer considering all....

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
Oh yes, it takes longer considering all the work involved.

By stander B
He wants you to explain from beginning to end.

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
Well, to explain in steps:

It takes about one and a half months including rough carving, polishing, filing, sandblasting, and retouching the body.

The statue is not polished in the raw condition. Someone else polishes it after our work is done.

OFF Voice
How much does a polished Buddha statue like this cost?

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
This one costs at least 2800 US dollars.

OFF Voice
How much do you earn per day working here?

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
About six dollars per day.

OFF Voice
Is that enough for you? Do you have a family?

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
Yes, I have a family. I just have to make ends meet with the six dollars per day.

OFF Voice
Have you seen the hot air balloons?

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
Yes, I saw them fly past. Sometimes I saw them flying low while we were working.

I wanted to fly with them when I saw them.

OFF Voice
Where would you like to fly to if you had the chance?

Stone Cutter Kyaw Kyaw Aung (off)
I want to fly around the world in a balloon. No, as I said, I just want to fly with them.

OFF Voice
Their work is holy. And their workplace is sacred. This hallowed place can only be entered barefoot.
Giving instead of receiving.

Gold, the symbol of wealth.
They spend days beating a lot of Burma’s gold resources into ultra-thin gold leaf – much thinner than a hair.

Many devout Buddhists adorn their statues with gold leaf to gain favours for their next life.

Subtitle Ma Hlaing Hlaing Tint:
32:08: Studies economics and wants to be business owner.
Works every day, often for 14 hours

Gold leaf Girl Ma Hlaing Hlaing Tint (off)
I study and work here… and this business is our traditional job… Now I have completed my studies, and have time for work. I hold a bachelor degree in Economics.

This business is very important because it relates to handicraft… It took three years to learn this business properly. And even after three years of study, we are officially allowed to continue learning here. 
This job is labour-intensive. You have to pay attention to every single detail, taking care not to include dust and sand. We work in an airtight room.
For the women who do this job, it is a home industry and they don’t have to go out to work… It is hard work… but you can do it where you live.

OFF Voice
What are your plans for the future?

Gold leaf Girl Ma Hlaing Hlaing Tint  (off)
My plan for the future is to be business owner. I can also found my own small company. A normal worker who is well trained in this business can become the owner in the end.

OFF Voice
How much do you earn here?

Gold leaf Girl Ma Hlaing Hlaing Tint  (off)
We get 450 US dollars per month for selling our wares in the shop. We also get a commission depending  on production output. In this family-oriented business, the more you work, the more you earn.

OFF Voice
What do you know about the balloon team?

Gold leaf Girl Ma Hlaing Hlaing Tint (off)
All I know is that these balloons normally come every year in December and take part in a contest. They usually go on a planned flight all over Burma… I’ve seen them doing that.
OFF Voice
Would you like to fly with a balloon one day?

Gold leaf Girl Ma Hlaing Hlaing Tint (off)
Yes, I’d like to, but I have no ballooning experience and don’t know anything about the balloonists either.…but I would fly with them nevertheless.
They seem to have fun ballooning… I simply want to go ballooning as well and feel happy and free up in the air for once.

OFF Voice
In Myanmar there are ten traditional handicrafts, known metaphorically as the "Ten Blossoms".

They also include the art of making lacquerware.

Nearly all Burmese lacquerware comes from Bagan, the most famous tourist attraction in Myanmar.

Bagan is renowned as the city of four thousand pagodas, and is one of Asia’s richest archaeological sites. It was once the capital of the first Burmese kingdom, and about 2000 edifices from those times can still be found there.

Another blossom, the lotus flower symbolizing purity, grows in the dirtiest pond. But all the dirty water runs off magically, and it remains as pure as ever.

Just as the lotus flower upholds its purity and remains unsullied, so should the human soul free itself from the dust of the material world.

Here threads are spun from the stem of the lotus flower and woven into the finest silk. Clothing as a symbol of purity – fashionably finished in the dyeworks.

Subtitle Paw Than May
36:35: Is 73 years old.
Finds it difficult to make a living at her age.

Old Woman Paw Than May (off)
My name’s Paw Than May (Pa Tan Me). I’ve been working as a weaver since I was thirteen. First I do my weaving, and then I do all the other jobs involved in making fabric.
My parents have passed away, and now I only have my two siblings left. One is a widow. They also manage to get enough to eat, but it is not easy.

I was born on the lake, and we were so poor when I was a child that I couldn’t go to school.
So I didn’t get any education.

For working half a day I get about 80 cents plus a meal. We depend on this income for our living, but is not really enough for our livelihood.

OFF Voice
You mean eighty cents per day?

Old Woman Paw Than May (off)
Yes, but not regularly. Yesterday I only got half as much… Only threading in the silk strands is paid better … on average I only get 30 cents.

OFF Voice
Thirty cents per day?

Old Woman Paw Than May
Yes, 30 cents only.
OFF Voice
How can you survive?

Old Woman Paw Than May (off)
I usually asked the weaving mill owner for more each time…
Labour is cheap, but bread is dear. I live in poverty… I don’t have enough income to spend as much on food as other people do.

Since I was young I’ve been working like this… We have nothing… and we depend on our employer to provide us with the essentials. We are just daily wage-earners, without any independence.

OFF Voice
Does their world end where the water stops?

The Inle Lake people have created their own microcosm, where life is adapted to the rhythm of the water.

The far-off pulse of modern times hardly penetrates their world.
They balance on teakwood rafts through a labyrinth of waterways.
And their dwellings are poised on bamboo stilts.

It took decades for this floating island to grow out of the mud from rampant hyacinths.

Almost the entire lake is covered with this buoyant garden in the land of floating tomatoes.

Farmer WOMAN (off)
I always pick the big ones and leave the small ones.
It takes some time for them to get ripe. We’ll need another month of sunshine if they are not ripe soon.
Now it will be difficult to get them ripe.

Farmer MAN (off)
We come here as soon as the seed is sown.
We go back home after twelve or thirteen weeks, when the harvest is over.

We live here only during harvesting. Otherwise we live in the village.
Normally, we pick big ripe tomatoes every ten days

Subtitle Thida Win
41:34: Sells green tomatoes better than the ripe ones.
Cooks and looks after the children.

Farmer WOMAN (off)
I get up at six and help my husband.

I help him if there is something to do. We get our child ready for school even when we sleep here on the farm.

 I don’t work as much on the farm as my husband.

Farmer MAN (off)
She is cooking

Farmer WOMAN (off)
Yes, I take care of the cooking.

OFF Voice
 Do you also help with the livestock?
Farmer WOMAN
He works more than I do. I don’t do much.

OFF Voice
How’s your farm doing here?

Subtitle U Myo Naing
41:34: Has been working for twenty years on his parents’ farm.
The lake water gets lower every year.

Farmer MAN (off)
Pretty good. We can live, even if we don’t make much profit.

OFF Voice
What do you do apart from agriculture?

Farmer MAN (off)
We have a few chickens and pigs.
OFF Voice
How much do you earn from selling a crop?
Farmer MAN (off)
Overall, we regularly earn at least 2500 to 3000 US dollars per year.
After the harvest, we sell to the merchant. And then he sends it to the broker.
I saw the hot-air balloons. The children were also here and they were happy. We felt something when we saw the balloons from another country.
Whenever I see a hot air balloon, I want to go ballooning as well.

OFF Voice
What do you think when you see them ballooning here?

Farmer MAN (off)
 I think they come here to learn…

We are happy that they travel in our country. And we feel encouraged when they visit our floating farms.

OFF Voice
It seems as though time had stood still. Or perhaps not?

Does Buddhist humility accept the human desire for progress and material prosperity?

Subtitle Ko San Lin
44:16: The freshwater fish were once introduced by the state.
The fishing quota depends on the weather conditions.

Fisher Man (off)
I didn’t go fishing in the lake yesterday morning. it was about 9:30 when I went to the pagoda to pray, and then I saw the balloons fly past. I just saw them from my village, but had no idea where they came from or who flew them.

OFF Voice
Did you wish you could fly as well?
Fisher Man (off)
Yes, sometimes I want to be happy. But happiness is out of reach for us. We are poor, and that is just a dream for us. I dream of it, but it’s far away from my life here.
As a fisherman, I can’t earn enough to live well. But if I catch more fish, I can earn more income and my family also has a chance of a tasty meal.
When our income is less than usual, we have to lead our life according to the circumstances.

So my two older daughters had to break off school when they were in seventh class, although they are both clever.

We can only afford to send our son to school… Our daughters help support their parents with the money they earn from rolling cheroots.
Whilst I go fishing, they have to sort the fishes and nets. After that they work in the cheroot factory to augment our meagre income.

We lead a poor life as fishermen

Our livelihood is just enough for food, without saving for the future.

The cost of living is so high that we struggle against poverty… If you have a vegetable farm, it is easier to save money for the future. But that is just for farm owners – we the common fishermen stay as poor as ever.

… Even if I’m not so happy, I accept what Buddha gives…

OFF Voice
Progress is slow, as slow as modernization of the road and rail network.

The first motorway has only just been opened – from the military regime’s new capital to the booming Mandalay shopping centre.

But so far the river is still the lifeline for most people – and still the best way of transporting all kinds of goods.

Above all the bamboo rafts, which spend weeks reaching their transhipment points.

Subtitle Khin Zaw Oo
Balloons are just too strange for us raft riders.
Prays for the spirits’ blessing before every trip.

Raft Rider (off)
Once we had to help retrieve a balloon in Bagan. The big basket seemed to fly past its landing place at high speed. We raft riders had to pull it down before it got out of control.
Those balloons are totally foreign to us and we know nothing about them. We don’t know how they work or how to fly and control them. The only thing we know is that they fly – but why do they do that...?

Bamboo raft riding is my calling. We are transporting this bamboo to Ah Myint village. Then we’ll take the bus back to my village and wait for the next job. Sometimes I have to go to really remote parts of the country.
This river trip takes more than a day, so we have to spend the night on the raft. That is the traditional kind of routing plan for us raft riders.

OFF Voice
What kind of obstacles might you have to face on a trip like this?

Raft Rider (off)
A lot. We might run on to sandbanks, which can break up the raft and sink it. I think it is a waste of time then to try and save the raft and get it off the sandbank.

If we get caught in a whirlpool, we lose control of the raft and it often sinks. The only thing we can do is hold on to something and let ourselves sink with the raft. After a while we come up to the surface again with the raft. That belongs to our job as raft riders.
OFF Voice
Are you always sure of reaching the surface again?

Subtitle Khin Zaw Oo
51:02: Sometimes he doesn’t see his family for up to three months on end.
Will not do anything morally wrong just for more money.

Raft Rider (off)
Yes, that is sure. But sometimes when we reach the surface we have to let the raft go and swim away fast to save our lives.
We have to pay attention to weather changes and special weather conditions… When it is windy, we have to make an offering to the spirits before embarking: banana, pickled tea leaves and coconut. This offering guards us from every evil and misfortune. It is important to forecast weather changes early enough, especially in the dry season.
And in the rainy season, flooding is very common and whirlpools are the most dangerous. We have to be very cautious. Once the raft has sunk, our life is at serious risk. Back on the surface again, we are usually safe. Except for petty obstacles: the raft may bump against all kinds of things, like rocks – and that makes it hard to control.

OFF Voice
How much do you earn from bamboo trading?

Raft Rider (off)
We don’t get any profit from that because we just transport the bamboo to the brokers. We only get paid for our work and the transport costs.
We can just about live on what we earn. But the pay we get for our work often changes. It can vary from 1 to 2 dollars a day.
We just have to make do with what we get – however little it is.
There is never enough money left to save. We are just workers earning a bare living, and the longer we are away, the less money our families have at home.
By-stander A
There’s a rock mass ahead.
By-stander A
You’d better get off the raft now.
By-stander B
Paddle forwards.
By-stander A
Yes, that’s right.
Raft Rider (off)
I’m not going there, I’m not going there, no way!
I’m not going there.
By-stander B
The waves will be hefty!
Raft Rider
It’s ok. I’m certainly not going there.
Obviously we are not going there.
By-stander A
(00:01:10:10 to)
Good, that’s far enough away…

OFF Voice
Does this country still preserve values that are long forgotten elsewhere? Can this truly be harmony and content – even without democracy?

Or does it only seem so? Is it simply a matter of survival?
Maybe the people here, with their religion and their attitude to life, are freer than we are with our restrictive regulations that are supposed to protect us?

Is friendship strengthened by NOT forgetting, as the monk believes?

Subtitle U Sucitta Sara:
53:36: Wants the Burmese to get on well with the world.
Believes that only reciprocal love can bring peace.

Human beings, especially the ordinary people, don’t remember those whom they’re not familiar with.
When the balloonists come often, we become familiar with them and wish them safety and wellbeing.

They travel the world to learn things for the benefit of humanity and global development.
In order for us to send them our loving kindness and goodwill for their safety and welfare, we should see them from time to time so that we remember them better.

That strengthens the bonds of friendship.
People easily forget. So it would be better for the balloonists to come here once a year. That would make the sending of loving kindness more effective.

Now, since they are flying so high above, I want them to send their loving kindness to the people of Myanmar and to all the people of the world if possible.

If they sent out their loving kindness for the wellbeing of Myanmar people as well as to themselves, and also to the world at large, they would remain safe and get on well with other people.

It would be better if the loving-kindness were reciprocal. That’s why I want them to send out their loving kindness and bear a good heart. I would urge them to do more for humanity.

This world is full of wondrous things, but they wouldn‘t have much meaning without you. Burmese saying

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