Sisyphi | Mission to Burma 03
by Aaron Joel Santos
While traveling around Mandalay and the surrounding ancient capitals, I came across several dozen workers loading barges with large rocks from the mainland. Just carrying rocks and dumping rocks and repeating the process ad nauseam. It was poetic and interesting in that way that sometimes very repetitive things can be poetic and interesting. I stuck around for a bit and took some photos. I also climbed the planks up to the barge and almost got bounced into the water (apparently long thick unsupported beams BOUNCE like all get-out, I learned almost tragically), which elicited cheers and laughs and bonding and all that. Once up on the boat, I had to steel myself for a good 15-20 minutes before making my way back down. The beams are steeper than they look. In the end, it was kind of a leap of fate.
Anyway, the rocks were being transported to build highways. A few boats down, people were hauling lumber and smaller rocks and charcoal. All back and forth, back and forth. For each trip, an individual earns one stick. At the end of the day, the sticks are traded in for 50 kyat a piece. About five cents. A good worker can make as many as 300 trips during the day. So that’s like US$20 a day, when there’s work. No clear answer on whether or not there’s always work.