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Tea Leaves

What running has taught me about life in Yangon under military rule

Touring the city on foot past barricades reveals soldiers, beggars and sex workers

Bars in Yangon are still busy, but often close early as the downtown streets grow quiet at night. (All photos by Carlo Wright) 

It is 4:30 p.m. in Yangon. The searing heat has subsided just enough to make it feasible to exercise outside. I exit my third-story downtown apartment into a staircase cloaked in darkness. With no electric power, a slither of daylight at the foot of the stairwell is all there is to guide me.

I run up my street. The noisy hum of electricity generators heaving toxic fumes fills my ears. They operate for hours every day, keeping a busy Muslim tea shop, computer stores and hairdressers open, but high fuel costs cut into earnings. When I moved in, there were no beggars on my street either. Now mothers sit adjacent to parked cars, clutching their sleeping children with one hand with the other held desperately aloft.

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