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Here is Burma in the spotlight’s glare: cheap Chinese products, bad roads, on-and-off electricity, censored internet, starving people, useless education, brain drain, corrupt government, no freedom of expression, and hopelessness. This is what it’s like in my deteriorating country, a land deep in turmoil.
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I very much hated my country. And I wished I were somewhere else.
Now I’m about to go off to college and away to America. I suddenly become conscious of a vast change that I’m soon going to experience in my life. Am I relieved because I finally get what I wished for? Yes, because I am leaving poverty behind. But no—because I’m leaving my native country, a country that is dear to my heart. The thing is I am happy with where I was born. Burma may be under a ruthless dictatorship and one of the worst places in the world to live. Yet it is my home, and when I’m away from it, I’m going to miss it—everything from its food, people, culture, to the air I breathe.
Burma is where I’ve spent all my seventeen years of life, and every particle in me is compounded of Burmese soil. It is where I’ve learned the cultural values that define part of who I am—to be tolerant, respectful, and responsible to my family. It’s where the New Year is celebrated with my favorite Water Festival. The people speak the familiar Burmese language that is music to my ears, and eat the piquant flavored food that I’ve always loved. It is home to my family, friends, and people that I care about, and me too. It’s a hidden gem being squeezed by greedy hands, a place that is embedded in my soul.
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With the realization of me leaving sinking in, I’ve finally learned to love and appreciate what I have. I now understand that there’s more to a country than having the best living standards. I will surely benefit from the modern ways in America. But I know I’ll never feel the same warmth and sense of belonging that I have for Burma.
Fifty years ago, people from Southeast Asia had to come to Myanmar for their higher education. Now we have to leave Burma for our own higher education. Burma can become a country with good roads, schools, hospitals, and someday—a government that cares for its people. It can be where people from other countries come to have a better life, and stop being a bleak home for my people. And I hope to be one of those people who will help bring this change to my country, making it a welcoming place to live in. I want to take care of my country and make it a true home. I want my children to be able to get a good education here and not have to leave their home country as I’ve had to do.
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