Alrighty people, week 2 in Myanmar is in the books. This week has felt a lot different than the first. I’ve been more settled in, I’ve gotten to know the people here better, and as a result I’m generally enjoying myself much more.
The past week has really flown by. For this post, instead of hitting you with a running narrative of what happened, I’m going to sum it up like a collection of short stories:
Sauteed Chicken Hearts. Just after I had posted my “Part I” post on Monday, one of the teachers came up to me in the cafeteria. In front of me she set a small, circular metal bowl and said, “Teacher Moe Moe cooked these for you.” In my head I’m thinking, “Awww yeeee, jackpot. Authentic homemade Myanmar food.” Excitedly, I ask, “Awesome! What is it??” See bold font above. Yup… sautéed chicken hearts. I knew I’d try them, but what I didn’t expect was to actually like them and finish the entire bowl. They were actually really good. I said to my friend, “Of course I get fed chicken hearts right after just posting about my time in Myanmar.” So I figured this was the appropriate story to start part II with.
Betel Nut. I chewed betel this week. If you ever see a picture of a smiling, older Myanmar (see: Myanmese) person and their teeth are stained a darkish shade of red, that’s the mark of a long time betel habit. It’s a popular, inexpensive alternative to cigarettes that I’ve heard about since getting to S.E. Asia. To prepare it, you wrap these cancerous nuts into a betel leaf with some limejuice and tobacco sprinkled into it. Buying them, you get a pack of three for about .10 cents. You chew without swallowing and after about 5 minutes you spit out this gritty, deep-red saliva mix. I didn’t really like it, but it’s something I can check off my bucket list. One step closer to being a local. Wearing my longyi is next…
I wore my longyi. And I looked good (see below).
Whorehouse Karaoke. This is one story of the week that I actually missed out on and I’m pretty bummed that I did. On Friday night, we had been out at a bar for a while and one of the Myanmar staff wanted to take us to do karaoke. I passed because we had a big hike planned for the next day and I wanted to be fresh. Some of the other teachers ended up going and I found out about it the following morning. Apparently instead of being a good wholesome family karaoke joint, it was a dark room in the back of a legitimate brothel. Like a girls-lined-up-in-the-front-with-a-long-hallway-full-of-bedrooms-inside kind of brothel. Look, I realize that not going to a whorehouse in a developing country at 2 am to drunkenly shout into a microphone is probably a good idea, but I’m still sad that I missed out on the experience.
Epic Mountain Trek. From outside my classroom at the school, there’s a pretty sizable mountain that you can see. It looks beautiful and lush, but also doesn’t look very forgiving. One of the Myanmar teachers came up to me during one of our breaks, pointed and said, “Teacher Austin! Do you want to go climb that mountain?” Like I said last week, if a local invites you to do something, you say yes. So obviously I responded, “Heck yeah I do Teacher Robert.” Besides, I was already planning on hiking the mountain this weekend with my buddy anyways, so now we had a local guide & translator. Apparently they’ve done it before and the last time they did it they got up at 5am, came home looking like homeless people, and hired a monk to lead them up to the promised land. Sounds like a pretty fantastic way to spend a Saturday.
As we set off the next morning and got closer to the base, 2 guys on a motorbike wearing some sore of government or military uniforms pull up next to us and tell Teacher Robert that there is a gate ahead and that we’re going to have to have to ask permission to pass. My friend was un-phased and said to power onwards, but Robert, who pretty much a large man-child, had a look of apprehension on his face that made me nervous. Being shot in the head by rebels of the Shan army really wasn’t high on my list of things to do while I was here. In the end, we didn’t find any gates and there wasn’t anybody who wanted to execute us. Successful day Mom!
What we did find up the mountain though? Motherflippin’ monkeys and puppies. Right as we walked up to the first set of Pagodas, about 5 or 6 adorable little puppies who couldn’t have been older than 6 weeks old came sprinting up to us. While most dogs in Myanmar are racists that don’t like white people, these little guys latched onto us and followed us around for the next half hour. As we got closer to the monkeys, they did play with fire a bit. While I’m confident that I could take a monkey in a scrap, I doubt our cute, monkey-food-sized friends would’ve fared very well.
The monkeys were cool to see hanging out on the pagoda, but after spending a good amount of time in this part of the world, you realize that wild monkeys are definitely not chill bros. They’re little assholes. Miniature humans who steal and have no conscience. If they were people, they definitely would not use their turn signals. I was able to get some good pictures though.
We couldn’t get much higher up the mountain because the path had gotten too overgrown and we would’ve needed machetes to cut our way through. While I do want to go back with machetes next time, it was still an awesome day.
Birthday BBQ. I’m not sure when Teacher Laura’s actual birthday is, but since she’s decided to generously throw herself three birthday parties this year, I got to attend the first one. It was a great evening with of all of the teachers, both English and Myanmar, hanging out, eating, cooking, singing, laughing, guitar playing, eating cake and taking pictures. It was the Jewish summer camp experience that I never had (Okay so I might not actually know what Jewish summer camps are like. Don’t ruin this for me).
To sum it up, it was a really fun week. Whereas I felt really out of place and a little homesick last week, I’ve really started to like it here. One more week left! The part 3 post with more sentiment and less whorehouses to come next time. See you then.