Cheroot Smoker

It was early 2016, less than two months after Aung San Suu Kyi’s landslide victory in Myanmar’s democratic elections. After 50 years of military domination, the country was on the cusp of a change in government.

We were in Bagan, staying at a homely B&B which was modest by western standards but luxurious compared to local. The proprietor was a blustery woman who had done well with the growing tourist trade. When we asked her what she thought of Aung San Suu Kyi, she shrugged and said words to the effect that Suu Kyi had very little knowledge about the common people.

It occurred to me then, and not for the first time, that the view of a country differs greatly depending on where you are. The world might see a political maelstrom but at its center, the common people exist in quotidian calm. The distance between our worlds is not as great as we’d think.

This is one of my favorite street portraits. It was taken in Bagan, of a market vendor selling yams and thanaka wood. I’ve shared it before, although my WordPress search says I’ve only posted it in color as part of a collection. As a standalone portrait, I prefer the nuances of black & white.

I’m inspired by Donna in her #SundayStills post to share my favorite B&W photo along with a haiku. A haiku! That is something new for me. So even though this is a re-post of an old photo, here’s my first ever attempt at writing a haiku.

In the morning light

Many thousand miles away

She’s seen this before

Photo taken in Bagan, Myanmar in 2016

Every week I write about a person met during my travels. Whenever I can, I take pictures of people. It’s these little encounters that I remember most. In this series, I’ll share a portrait and story on who they were and where they’re from.

CadyLuck Leedy hosts the  Just One Person from Around the World weekly challenge. Every Wednesday she has a new post along with links to other posts.

New for this week, I’m participating in Sunday Stills: Best Black & White Photos, hosted by Terri and challenged by Donna to also include a haiku.


  1. What a perfect subject, Sandy. And I’m sure “she’s seen it before!” (and a lot more) The fact that you were in the location you were makes this picture even more unusual. We hear so many scary things, but to see an ordinary person, well it’s truly priceless. This is one that you should share multiple times I think, and offer it for sale. The smoke – it all adds to the appeal of the picture.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Sandy, do you know Sarah Wilkies, Toonsarah? She has a picture of an old man that is really cool. Totally different, of course, but appealing like yours is. You might want to check it out if you haven’t seen it.


        1. Sarah & I follow each other and regularly share comments Marsha. I know which man you’re talking about. She & I have covered common ground in SE Asia and some of her images reflect places we’ve both visited. You are very thoughtful to refer her to me.

          Btw I’ve been checking out your blog. It’s very good. I might have to dust out one of my short stories and submit πŸ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Sandy – I’m delighted that you joined in #SundayStills….and took up the challenge to write a haiku. Your portrait of the vendor is incredibly effective. Your haiku adds to this portrait perfectly. The last line is especially haunting. This post was a great combination of blog themes. I hope to see you at #SundayStills #SpringGreen this weekend! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  3. PS I read the title again and it says cheroot smoker……..ok what is cheroot then? Also I think many government heads say what they would like you to believe, not anything to do with what is actually going on with the people! Control and power is their mantra! Cady

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That face says it all! A great piece of photography there! Is that a regular tobacco cigarette? What is thanaka wood used for? And what is it? I very much liked the haiku…..I’ll have to read more about that and maybe give it a try! Thanks for joining in again this week! Always a great post from you! Cady


    1. She’s smoking a great big hand roll, with what I assume is regular tobacco but who knows πŸ™‚
      Thanaka wood is used to make a paste that people wear as sun screen. I think it’s a soft wood which you can rub down and produce the paste
      As for the haiku .. Donna tells us how to do it. Basically 3 lines with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second and 5 in the last. If you’re good with poetry, there is more form but the syllable rule is enough for me. Good luck with it !


      1. OMG ! Sandy I don’t think I am ready for Haiku! I’m not good even with poetry……but I may try it! Thanks for all that info, especially interesting was the sun tan paste! Cady


  5. An excellent portrait, very striking! No wonder it is one of your favourites, I would be very pleased to have taken it!!

    And I think your observation about how we perceive changes in a country depends on our perspective. From afar we follow the main headlines, and I’m sure there are sections of society in a country who are closely bound up in events. But outside those most people will just be getting on with their lives, more interested in putting food on the table than who is in charge!


    1. Exactly so. I once lived in a country which had a reputation for crime. My life was normal and I was shocked when I visited abroad and people told me how the streets were riddled with shoot outs and violence. The newspapers there told a different story from the one i knew. As you say, one part of country doesnt necessarily define the whole.


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