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This article is taken from PN Review 225, Volume 42 Number 1, September - October 2015.

Letter from Myanmar James Jennings
The Fokker flew swiftly. My destination was Mawlamyne, the capital town of Mon state which used to be called Moulmein. Mon is one of the smaller states of the Union of Myanmar. The place is hot and tropical and gets more rain than the rest of the country. We took off from Rangoon, or Yangon as it is now called, and flew into a wall of steam. After thirty minutes gunning across the Gulf of Martaban, the little aircraft hit the Mawlamyne landing strip and I and the four other (Burmese) passengers climbed out. I took a deep breath of air.

A customs officer in a chocolate brown boiler-suit and sandals inspected my passport with great care. This was only a domestic flight, but foreigners seldom came in by air and he was not going to be hurried. On a sheet of paper he laboriously copied down details of my travels. I let him take his time. There was no rush.

‘Why you come Mawlamyne?’

‘The Baptists. They started here.’

Yes, OK. More writing. The Baptists.

‘All those lost books.’

‘Lost books. Yes. Lost books.’

The officer continued to write. A cluster of local people spectated from behind a barrier, enjoying the sight of an official doing his work on a foreigner. When he had recorded enough details of my visa biography, he told his deputy to take me to the town on his motorcycle.

Dust blowing in my face, we roared past stylish old clapperboard ...

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