I recently returned from Inle Lake, Myanmar, where my husband and I stayed at Myanmar Treasure Resort. Rooms at the resort sit on stilts above the lake, lotus flowers abound, daily opening and closing, following the movement of the sun. When we first crossed the walkway from the lake shore to the resort, I thought the flowers were water lilies, similar to the ones Claude Monet painted and grew in Giverny.
The following day we take a boat tour on the lake, one of the stops, a weaving community in one of the lake villages. Myat Pwint Chel, silk and lotus weaving.
Fiber, in the stems of the lotus plant are removed, spun onto bobbins and crafted via loom and hand into scarves and clothing. Lotus fiber is light brown and is dyed naturally with tree bark and the lotus stem to create hues of red, green and blue. It is hard work to extract the fiber from the stems. Many women throughout the villages in Inle Lake work diligently: cutting and breaking the stem in short segments, twisting the natural growing fiber, laying it on a board and winding it into bobbins.
I watched as the artist used her small knife to cut the stem, roll the fiber, stretch it and continue. Her hands worn, blistered, dark, fingers strong, expertly removing the fibrous threads from the beautiful floral stock. Hours, days of manual labor to create a spun craft for sale.
The paradox of me, aware of my ‘tourist privilege’. Watching the colors, the green of life with multiple shades, the green of ‘cash’ exchanged. Wondering, what is it’s worth/value? What are their lives like?
Reflecting on my journey, my ‘place’ in this space. How am I on this planet? A curious foreigner, curiosity both ways as I am welcomed, greeted with smiles and generous hospitality.
I arise early the following morning, stepping out from under the warmth of the extra comforter. It’s been cooler in the evenings than usual. A heron flies past, morning stillness reflected off the dock to my right. Lotus petals closed in the early morning air, waiting for the sun to warm their petals.