“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, August 19, 2005

End of week 3 - seems like longer

So I've reached the end of my third week here, and the second teaching. The students are wonderful--polite, quiet, yet still teenagers. I teach US History, World History and a Model UN class. Right now, we have no textbooks, but there are still things we can do.

Yangon is great--lots of restaurants and bars, things to do that are interesting and exciting. I'm so glad to be here!

Sunday, August 14, 2005


So it has rained almost every single day since we got here. A lot of the other teachers are concerned that they never see the sun (depression). Personally, I think tropical rain is exciting.

While it is a bit aggravating and amusing when the rain decides to pour outside my 4th floor classroom--the roof must be tin because I really can't speak over the noise. A good forced break I guess. Outside my appartment though, when I feel extremely cosy and dry inside, I love to see the sheets fly across. That's the important thing to understand: rain rarely comes down here--it normally moves sideways, diagonally, and any other way. In other words, umbrellas are useless because you're soaked from the waist down anyway because of the downward direction, not to mention the puddle spashes that come upwards!

I used to think that "sheets" of rain was a great metaphor, but quite hyperbolic and exaggerating! Here, it is absolutely literal. When it's a healthy storm (not just the drizzles that occur the rest of the day), I can't see the pagoda, or even more than 100m clearly from my window. It certainly adds to that other worldly feeling of being here.

At least the rain here isn't cold--while I'm not recommending a douse of water like a bucket falling over you (that wet sensation is certainly a squelchy, yucky feeling), at least it's warm water, and there's no cold wind to make you freeze. In that sense it's the coming inside that makes you colder!

Basically when a day goes by without rain it is plesant and surprising. And when the sun comes out (peeking between clouds is all it ever gets) it's positively glorious!

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Instead of paying the $12 per kilo for my excessive luggage, I had it air-freighted from Kuwait. I finally got it today (despite it being on the same flight in as I was, two weeks ago). A customs warehouse decided to hold it up for ransom because I foolishly decided to bring dvds and computer programs--these types of things in English are technically illegal here! Tea money tea money--a curse but a blessing in some situations.

It was a delight opening them this evening and discovering what I had packed almost 3 months ago. My appartment looks different--perhaps its the 250 or so books stacked up along the wall because I don't have a bookshelf. My appartment will begin looking my own now, which will be good, but I still long for other things I own to really make it distinct.

Walking down the street

One of the simplest pleasures I have here is simply walking down the street. Not only is it exercise and a means of getting outside, it is also probably the most accurate exposure to Myanmar culture. The street vendors crowd the street--I had quail eggs with sesame seeds the other day, fried in a pan that looks like it's for mini muffins. You can buy any organ or body part and have it fried instantly.

Sure, stepping over the puddles, holes in the drainage, broken bricks and murky muddiness makes an obstacle course of sorts, and you could spend your entire time just watching for yourself. But then you would miss the fantastic sites. Handpainted movie posters with Hindi slogans and sexy stars, nicnac sellers (including a main selling needles from an open umbrella!), children smiling out from behind rice-paste "sun-block" covered cheeks, ladies wearing bright colors and carrying a matching umbrella in thai designs, and people generally moving on their way and going on with business as they do anywhere.

The great thing about Yangon is its size--you really can walk anywhere in downtown, and then walk back too! The suburbs sprawl somewhat, but exploring on bike is still a possibility.

The other day I bought two green plastic chairs for my balcony. Because I already had a few packages, someone from the shop carried them home for me. It must have been comical to see me negotiating the crowds with two chairs following on a little man's head.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mental images

Myanmar really is one of the most picturesque countries in the world.. everything is beautiful—the people, the children, the sights. Even the garbage and dirty is quaint enough to photograph well, even if it is the mélange of color and shapes and grime lines that make the image so poignant.

There are so many images of the country that stand out to make it unique: The men in their longi skirts, who look like they’re off to have a massage or spend time in a sauna, but are wearing collared shirts and business wear on top in a very clashing combination. The women with their streaks of rice paste across their cheeks, some kind of traditional sun block apparently, although I must say I’ve only seen the sky behind the clouds once or twice since I’ve been here, and the sun, never. The green, sprouting up from every crevice and crack, trees sheltering the train tracks beneath my window, and palm trees swaying in the breeze between two shanties. The mould, growing on every available surface, crawling in army lines up, down and across buildings, and when the rains go, they will be painted away and everything will look fresh and clean instead of just damp. The smiles of everyone I pass, from a child holding an umbrella from the storm, to a lady listing the products I’ve taken from a shelf in the super one supermarket, to the polite men who nod a slight bow of respect as they grin at me. The busy stalls on the street sides with unrecognizable (even to a tropical familiar) fruit and vegetables, and old ladies selling lunch from a curbside fire on small plastic stools. The ancient trucks and buses, crowded full of commuting people, with no windows (at all), and people sitting contently side-by-side chatting amicably with their neighbor. The tea-money, slipping blithely from fingertips to pockets, as hip of payer collides as he passes the briber—he pokes the money in there, as if a true servant or the briber to mighty to touch the other’s lowly fingertips. There’s the mud and water, filling the middle of the suburban intersections, sludging between me and the curb, and sloshing around my ankles as I run across the road. I bought the biggest umbrella I could find, but discovered that it’s too wide to negotiate between other’s umbrellas, and the lampposts, poles, trees, street-stalls, people and other obstacles that fill the roads and roadsides. I’m going to buy a handy purse sized one that doesn’t take up too much space!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Well I made it to Myanmar, and not without hassle of course. Got stung for $200 for my handcarry bag in Qatar because it had all my computer/electronic equipment in it and was way too heavy. Some of you I’m sure will snigger and roll your eyes at that, I’m sure. Oh well!

As the plane was coming in it looked like a snow covered landscape, not because of cold, but because of the clouds reflected in the rice paddies. If you’ve seen the rains in India on the news, you can get some idea of what I arrived into—a nice tropical thunderstorm to remind me of why I love Asia! It was very green (in sharp contrast to the dry desert of the Middle East) and muddy. I could see the puddles even from the plane, and the runway itself had around 2 inches of water swirling over it. I’d forgotten how quickly the visibility disappears is like during a monsoon rain. It’s quite spacious yet not sprawling because there just isn’t the same population problem here like there is in the rest of Asia.

It was a little outdoor airport, and I …

Monday, August 01, 2005


Here is a copy of my passport photo that has taken me around the world and back. But it's old... so here's a newer one (but still a few years old). Passport expires this year. Whatever will I do then? Well, get another one, of course.