Picturing the Queen

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Part of my job is to listen to statements made by government officials and international agencies that will impact our development work in the country, so I attended a talk by the UN Secretary General’s Special Advocate for Financial Inclusion who was Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. Besides, the UN has been critical to the government particularly in Rakhine state about the issue on Muslim minority. Maybe in financial inclusion, they will be on the same page, and I would like to hear that.

I have not been to the venue, the Convocation Hall of the University of Yangon so I came early. It was too early because the security details have just finished setting up the x-ray machines as I arrived at 8AM. They let me in without checking on my identification card and I had the impression they thought me as part of the advance team. Inside the hall, I saw black-shirted people milling around who turned out to be the university security force. I just sat at the aisle, several rows from the front where Victorian chairs were lined for the queen’s team. Some rows were marked also for government officials and the university professors. Around 830AM a new group of black-suited people arrived and inspected the place. They peeked behind the curtains, looked at the flowers, scrutinized the rostrum and the tables, and inspected the audio room. By their swagger I assumed they were from the police or the military.

As some professors were also early, they took pictures with the backdrop as background. I tried not to imitate them, but the temptation to do a selfie proved too powerful to resist and so I took two shots! Droves of people arrived and the aisle became crowded with those jostling to take pictures and looking for the best position. Sitting for more than an hour I wished the event would have started on time. With nothing to do, I just entertained myself gazing at individuals posing for pictures. It also crossed my mind that the queen who would be of the same age as Mr. Ban Ki Moon, the UN Sec-Gen. I was beginning to be impatient as queens were not supposed to be late, or maybe it was the reverse, the commoners are required to wait for the queen.

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The Convocation Hall of the University of Yangon

At 945AM, the master of ceremonies announced that the program will start. A presidential adviser gave an introductory speech explaining the concept of financial inclusion. What was stated as a brief introductory remark drifted into a long speech. The presidential adviser comically stated that his role is actually that of a lu shwan taw, the comic group during social events to keep the interest of the people, in this case, while the waiting for the queen. He concluded his talk when the queen arrived. People looked at the main entrance of the hall hoping to get an early glimpse of the queen. Press people crammed with their cameras ready and I saw people readying their cell phones. I remember my cell phone and took it out from my pocket. I should have brought the office camera, but I never thought of it because I came to listen not to take pictures.

The queen stayed for a while for an interview at the ante room and at 1030AM, she gracefully entered the room escorted by a Union minister. I was surprised to realize that Queen Maxima was young and gorgeously beautiful! She was tall and slender wearing a brown body fit dress. Cameras and cell phones clicked as she passed. My cell phone too was ready, but since I was looking at her, I forgot to take pictures. So I randomly tapped the cell phone thinking it can capture the queen as she walked in. Afterwards, when everybody was seated, I looked at the shots was very disappointed to find out I barely made a good shot! One shot has no head, the other shot was half-body cut, the last shot was moving and she looked like a spirit being chased by the ghostbusters.

She talked basic stuff about microfinance which I am familiar with. Nothing unusual and my thoughts wandered. It crossed my mind that if I want to have a good picture of the queen, my remaining opportunity would be when she come down and walk back to the entrance. I have to makes sure that my cell phone is ready. When she finished speaking and the program was concluded, she walked down the aisle and I was ready with my cell phone. This time I made sure I was looking at the image of the queen from my camera. As she walked towards me, I tapped and got a good shot of the queen! It was not perfect, but I was satisfied, and my waiting for the queen was not in vain.

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