Return from the rainforest

I returned to Yangon just over a week ago, from Borneo. From rainy season in the rainforest to our too short cool, dry season.

There has been a slight shiver, a hint of chill which has been resting over Yangon the past few weeks. A crispness in the morning air, as a slow sun lifts heavily, slipping its fingers gently through the trees, dabbing slivers of colour and soft light.  I feel the cool air on my skin as I cycle through the morning lanes, just before sunrise.  I can see the cold in the woollen hats and scrunched up faces on the few people in the lanes, in their scarves, long sleeves and warmer wraps and  even in the occasional t-shirt wrapped round street dogs to keep them warm.  I admire the elderly man cycling with his arms crossed, tightly hugging his chest and wonder how on earth he will tackle the bend a few yards ahead in the road. These days are precious and they do not last long. Already they are losing their grip as the sun gathers strength and the cooler air dissipates more quickly.  I cherish these days, clasping them to my heart and holding onto them as long as possible because they will soon be only a memory. Our dry season is indeed short, and the days soon become hot, humid and heavy and we look to the long rainy season for relief.

So I have to confess that I was a little surprised when I was planning my visit to Borneo and discovered it was the midst of rainy season there.  I really had not given it any thought and vaguely assumed that as it was not so far away, the season must be similar.  However, that is not the case and I arrived to glorious and spectacular rains.  And my goodness, do the rainforests love rains!Borneo 8My plan for the ten days in Borneo was simple. Rest, swimming, wandering, contemplation, writing but most of all,  just being.  I can easily spend hours just listening to the rains, gazing at the iconic Borneo peaks from afar with a sense of awe, watching the trees and letting the stresses which build up be washed away. Of course I took many photos, and in addition to a small selection here, there will be a wider set on the sister blog.

Borneo 6I had another plan though.  One which combines the modernity of 21st century communication, the experience of breast cancer and the most fundamental human essence of friendship, trust and connection.

Through the blog, I have connected with total strangers and shared the most personal of details.  That is the subject of great discussion elsewhere on the blogosphere this week.

Through this technological wizardry, I had connected with a woman in Borneo some time back through a comment she made on the blog. We have a lot in common. We have both been living in Asia for a number of years, settled with family and with husbands from this part of the world and been living in very different cultures to that of our early years. We both originally hail from the UK.  And we were both diagnosed with breast cancer and experienced treatment in our adopted regions.

I spent New Year’s Eve with her family, generously included in their plans, as well as an afternoon being guided through the craft shops of her city picking up treats to take back and learning the bahasa word for gecko.  And of course sharing our experiences of living with breast cancer diagnosis and its impact. It was especially interesting to share insights of the cancer journey while in a culture very different to the one of our origin. Until diagnosis, we do not know or understand the very deep held beliefs around the disease and it brings unexpected moments and experiences which can be heart warming and challenging.

Borneo 12

There is more to tell of my Borneo visit, and as I settle back into the intensity of life and work in Yangon I will tell more of my time there.  In the meantime, I hold onto the freshness of the memories of the experience and the simplicity and complexity of life today.

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Dreaming of Borneo

There are some magical places on our planet which conjure up a real sense of mystery and enigma.  Some are real and some are mythical – Zanzibar, Shangri-La, Machu Pichu, Inca Trail, Kathmandu, Timbuktu,  Silk Road, Mandalay and Borneo are a few which spring to mind.

I lived in Kathmandu for many years, and when I left even for a few days,  I used to love sitting in the departure lounge of whatever airport I was in when on my way back to Nepal.  I used to get a quiver of excitement tinged with disbelief seeing “Kathmandu” on the flight departures board, and a greater twinge at the thought that not only I was heading right there, but that I was actually living there!  That shiver of excitement was evoked without fail every time I returned to Kathmandu.  I remember one friend being surprised that Kathmandu was real – they thought it was one of those mysterious, mythical made up places – perhaps like “Atlantis”.

That suggestion of mystery and romance is contained in so many places.

Borneo for me, is one of those places.  Now I have to confess that until very recently I actually believed that Borneo was a country. I only recently learned that it is in fact an island, part Malaysian, part Indonesian and with Brunei nestling on its northern shores.  I have long dreamed of visiting mystical Borneo with images of rainforest, volcanic peaks and possibly even Tarzan having featured in my imagination and dreams. How unfortunate that I knew so little of the island.

???????????????????????????????So, in the spirit of carpe diem, the wish bucket and not squandering time while I am well, I have decided to spend some of my leave in Borneo.  (Thank you AirAsia and Agoda for making dreams affordable 🙂 ).  Tomorrow I will travel to Malaysian Borneo.  I know that there has been major deforestation and that my expectations of the island will be different to the reality.  But the other purpose of the trip is about removing myself even further from the roundabout and putting myself in a space where I can disengage, relax and focus on my emotional and physical wellbeing.  I imagine it will also provide rich material for the creative side.

borneo rainforestIn fact, I am not sure at all what to expect.  That is part of the mystery and enigma. I promise that whatever I do find, I will share here very soon.

Sweet dreams……….