Shortly after I returned from Bangkok (post-accident), I discovered to my great dismay that all but four of the photographs I had taken during my month-long travels through Myanmar/Burma were gone. I felt so profoundly shaken up, because honestly, what were the chances that I would return to that distant and fascinating yet politically oppressive country? And photographs, being the most vivid connection to my experiences of Burma’s beauty, contradictions and mysteries, was the one missing link to my spotty memories, a jumping-off point for sharing my stories.
I obsessively checked and re-checked all my memory sticks and SD cards; I even brought them to a professional photo service shop a few months ago, hoping and praying that a technician could retrieve any number of images from the camera or USB devices. But to no avail. So I grieved for the loss of countless captured moments that were only partly still etched in my mind.
Like the shots of the River Irrawaddy from the boat we took from Bagan to Mandalay. Or the street scenes in Yangon. In Pyin U Lwin. In Kyaukme and Kalaw. The stunning and placid beauty of Inle Lake, broken only by the astounding sight of fishermen balancing atop their narrow boats, as if caught in mid-dance, and steering with their feet.
Alas, what choice did I have? With sadness and regret, I let it go. Possibly a hidden message lay therein: Backup, backup, backup. Or maybe: The stories that I wrote throughout my travels would sustain me and, in brief moments of hyper-lucidity, might deliver up images stored deeply inside my human memory cache. And then, quite suddenly, I found L’s page on Facebook. A careful glance through her photo page confirmed that she had recently uploaded a bunch of her pictures from Burma. It was as close as I would ever get to retrieving my lost images – because I spent an entire month traveling with this Estonian woman whom I met in a Yangon guesthouse. Oh, just imagine my surprise and appreciation!
So, here, from a bank of photos uploaded half a world away, and with deep indebtedness to my friend and kindred (adventurous) spirit, L, are snapshots of the very same scenes that I witnessed – once removed.
The curious thing about this whole matter is that the only batch of photos that were inexplicably deleted were from the one and only country that I did not travel completely solo. I wished for those images to resurface so badly that I have no doubt that a bevy of angels had a hand in this discovery/recovery.