One of the big lessons that we've learned while living in Myanmar is to "live without". While we live fairly posh compared to many of the locals that live around us, we live with considerably less than most of our friends in other parts of the world. It's amazing how accustomed we've become to not having things like "hot water", "usable phone lines", "internet", and "reliable electricity". When the electricity goes off, we just to light some candles and continue to do whatever it was that we were doing. When the internet goes down, we write all of our email messages in a text file and wait for it to return. (and then we forget about those files until we clean our Desktop a month later...)
Of course, we didn't just all of a sudden become super patient and flexible. Far from it. During the first couple of months, we complained and walked around the room stomping our feet. Ok, maybe Bessie didn't, but I sure did. No internet? "F#@#$!" Electricity out again? "WHYYYYY?" Fortunately, that technique failed to change anything and I had to learn new ways.
What I did learn to do was to see how the people in Myanmar reacted and followed their lead. I remember being in an elevator when the electricity went out. Fortunately, the elevator happened to be stopped on the 7th floor and not say, stuck in limbo in between two floors. Unfortunately, it was on the 7th floor. But, instead of complaining, everyone laughed...laughed! They thought it was funny that we had to walk down 7 floors. I could have looked like the fussy Westerner and complained about it, but I just went down the stairs with everyone else.
For me, though, the most amazing thing is how the local people will not let the lack of decent infrastructure deter them from doing anything. In an extreme example, a friend of mine said that from his town it was "only a 5 day walk" to get to the Indian border. More commonly, people use huge basins in their homes to store water in case the water goes out. Many houses have huge devices that use a huge battery to store electricity so that when the electricity does go out, the can still power the lights.
And if they want to have a 5-story ferris wheel, then there is going to be a 5-story ferris wheel.
With the lack of reliable electricity, people have come up with a rather inventive, if not safe, way to operate a ferris wheel without the use of mechanical power. After all, with no reliable source of power, it can be really easy to have people suspended in air for hours at a time while waiting for the electrical juice to return. So, how to remedy this problem? All you really need are a handful of people, coordination, and lack of fear.
Let me explain.
The process is actually fairly simple. First, you load up each car by carefully controlling the ferris wheel from spinning out of control. One by one, you move each car into the loading area and let people get into the car. That just takes a couple of kids propping themselves against the momentum of the wheel like some kind of human door stopper.
After the cars are loaded, you need to get the wheel spinning, right? Well, now you take all of those people that were loading the cars and have them scamper up the rafters of the ferris wheel. Some of the more experienced (i.e. crazy) workers will do flips on some of the cross bars while heading up like some kind of Russian gymnast on a high bar.
When the workers have reached the top of the wheel, everyone simply moves to one side, using the weight of their bodies to push the momentum of the wheel in one direction. As you can see, most of them hang off the side of the car while the wheel is in motion and then deftly jump off when they get closer to the ground.
To stop the wheel, the reverse process is done: workers will grab onto some of the cars as they pass by the ground and then hang on for dear life while they get caught in the momentum of the wheel. When enough people are hanging onto the cars to slow it down, they smoothly climb closer to the center of the wheel and then climb down again to help load up new passengers.
Confusing? Well, here's a video to show you how it all goes down:
Click here if you cannot see this video.
Now, at this point, you may be thinking: "That looks crazy. You didn't rid that, did you?" Well, to be honest, in the beginning we had no intention of getting on this crazy contraption. After all, it was build in less than a day but a bunch of shirtless guys who, I'm guessing, don't have any sort of degree in engineering. Riding it would be crazy, right?
On the other hand, there are also parents sending their 10 year old kids on the ride, so if they approve of their 10 year old riding it, surely two grown adults can do it. Plus, where else in the world are we going to be able to ride on a ride like this? When in Rome...
Ok, honestly, we would have taken more pictures, but we were too busy hanging on tightly to our car as the 5-story wooden wheel was spinning through the air. And to be honest, it was kind of fun being on such a "low tech" ride, without the aid of any sort of machine. Scary, yes, but exhilarating.
So, maybe we can live without all of those infrastructure things that we became accustomed to. In some ways it even makes our life more adventurous. Just tell me that next time I start banging my head against the table while trying to send an email.