Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Home Sweet Burma

I was really looking forward to seeing Chris and Chalain in the country they’ve been living in the past three years, and also being at a “home” for a couple weeks. Also, I was looking forward to getting to know more Burmese people since the Burmese people we encountered in Thailand were some of the kindest people I had ever met. Many work in Thailand on the islands since most Thai people do not find it enjoyable to be at the beach and can’t understand why anyone would sunbathe on the sand in the sun.

We took a taxi to Chalain and Chris’s home, also known as Inya Lake Hotel. Yep, they live in a really nice hotel and receive all the services offered, including toilet paper, water, and cleaning services. How awesome would that be? The apartment has a fully functioning kitchen and a huge living area, bedroom, and bathroom. So nicely decorated, too. It was good to have a home for a bit.
The first day we simply relaxed, watched movies, and went to a traditional Myanmar BBQ with Chalain, Chris, and many of their friends. All the food was displayed raw on a stick for people to pick out what they wanted barbecued. It was so good, and my favorite had to be the barbecued cheese and mushrooms. Bryan would probably say something completely different and it mostly likely includes red meat. The place was a huge two story outdoor restaurant with several locals and foreigners throughout.
The next day we went to the pool and then later made our way over to Shwedagan Pagoda which is a 2500 year old massive and beautiful buddhist temple. Together, Chris and I took about a million pictures before went to eat our first Mexican meal in a long time. Not the cultural experience by any means, but Bryan and I really had been craving our staple food from home. I was not expecting it to be as good as it was and it really hit the spot. I had tacos and a burrito and hadn’t felt so full in a long time. Good ol’ Mexican.
The following Monday Chris and Chalain went to work as teachers at the International School of Myanmar. Bryan and I stayed home and watched movies. It was so nice to sit on a couch and know exactly where we were going to eat breakfast. Chalain and Chris have a wonderful cook, Shelia, who prepared fresh fruit for us to eat throughout the day. It is very inexpensive to have a cook, and they treat her well. She comes to their place about three times a week and prepares delicious food. It was nice to be able to enjoy homemade cooking while we were there.
Through out the week I enjoyed yoga right off the lake with Chalain, went to a very informal and fun art gallery, and got a pedicure. Unfortunately, towards the end of the week I started to feel down in the dumps. This was especially unfortunate because it was right at the beginning of a fun birthday party that I really started feeling like crap. Their friends organized a party at a yummy Thai restaurant, and they were paying for all the food and wine. Thankfully, Chalain was willing to leave the party early in order for me to go home and go to bed. The next couple of days the symptoms turned from fever and chills to a really bad headache and neck pain. Later, I found a huge dent on my forward. I had no idea how I got a dent or why I had a headache for the following two weeks, but I really thought I had a brain tumor. No worries, everyone. I went to a doctor in Bangkok and he insisted I didn’t have cancer. Although, he was kind of a jerk and he barely looked at me, so….
The following night, Bryan and Chris, went to the hotel bar to watch open mic performers, among the performers included Chris and Chalain’s friends, Michael and Jim. Apparently, it was really fun, but I wouldn’t know as I spent the evening on the couch. Most of the following days in Burma were spent watching movies in the apartment and trying to recover from whatever disease I had acquired. Although, we did venture out onto the beautiful hotel grounds a couple times to take pictures. They live in a very big city, but it sure didn’t feel like it. The hotel sits right next to a beautiful big lake surrounded with palm trees, verandas, and all sorts of beautiful plants and animals. It was quite peaceful and relaxing.
One night, we were talking about whatever happened to Dave Chapelle, so Bryan went and looked it up on wikipedia. At the same time, I looked up and noticed a freaking humongous spider. It was so big I couldn’t find the words to communicate this to Bryan and Chris. My intention was to point and say spider, but instead I communicated this with a very deep and loud gasp. Bryan thought I was surprised about the fact that Dave had a mental breakdown, and then he realized what my gasp meant. Chris immediately called for help at the front desk and the guy came up with a paper towel. As soon as he saw the spider he ran out of the apartment and a minute later came back with a very huge bath towel and a can of poison. As he was spraying the spider, the spider sort of swung back and forth and we all screamed. Well, I know Chalain and I did, but I’ll have to watch the video recording of the scene to see if Chris and Bryan did too. It was pretty hilarious. Chris said he had never seen a spider that big in all the years they’ve been there.
During the second week of being in Burma, Bryan and I decided to extend a week in order to spend Thanksgiving with Chalain, Chris, and several of their American friends. This also gave us the opportunity to get our India visas there instead of Bangkok. Chris and Chalain were so kind to let us stay a whole other week as we weren’t quite ready to leave our temporary “home.”
While we were there Obama visited. He is the first US president to visit Burma and all the Burmese people we talked to were very excited. Burma has had a tough and sad history, but with the freeing of Aung San Suu Kyi, a powerful, peaceful, and influential female political figure, and the newly elected President, Thein Sein, things are starting to look up for the Burmese people. It was fun to see all the painted murals of Obama around the city.
We also went to school with Chalain and Chris for a day. Chalain teaches 1st grade and is a very good teacher. It was fun to see her interact with the kids. Bryan and I participated by teaching them about passports. Bryan also taught them a few Moroccan Berber men dances. They soaked it all up. Later, we visited Chris’s preschool class and he is also very good with little ones. The kids were so incredibly adorable it was ridiculous…and so well behaved for the most part. Initially, they were quite shy to meet Bryan and me, but they soon warmed up to us. Chris is also a high school basketball coach, so we were able to see him in his role as a coach. His team dominated the game.
We also attended international day at their school which was a day for people from all over the world to represent their countries. There was food, parades, a talent show, and adorable kids dressed in traditional outfits. Bryan and I really enjoyed the Pakistani food….so good.
Thanksgiving was a blast. Their friends Rue and Ara prepared the Butterball turkey, yes I said Butterball and the most amazing stuffing I have ever had. When I asked Ara what the secret was he said butter. “If you think you need more butter, then you do,” he said. Also, lots of garlic and green onions. Bryan made his famous homemade mac and cheese, and I made deviled eggs. Thanks to everyone for a fun and memorable Thanksgiving.
On one of our last days in Burma, Bryan and I made our way over to the circle train and what an experience this was. I had no idea what to expect and only knew the idea was to ride the local train around the city. It was so much more than this. The trains were colorful, usually blue, orange, or green. The seats ran sideways on both sides and it was mostly filled with local Burmese farmers. At one of the stops about 50 people got on the train and completely filled it with bags filled with produce all the way to the top of the train. This made it impossible for people to get off without having to climb on the huge stacks of produce. At one point, the nice Burmese lady and her little girl we interacted with needed to get off, so one by one the local people handed the little girl down the aisle to her mom. It was quite cute and it was fun to see the community work together to help. The train smelled of all kinds of interesting things, including food which was prepared by ladies who would sporadically come on the train. They sat on little chairs and made noodle type dishes using gloves and their hands. They then held the big bowls of ingredients on their head without using their hands…while on a moving train. Pretty impressive. It took about 3 hours before we made it all the way around, and even though the seats were uncomfortable, it was hard to look out the window, and it smelled of who knows what, I’m so glad we were able to see what it was like to be a local Burmese farmer. It is not an easy job.
The Burmese people were wonderful. So kind, thoughtful, honest, and loving. For example, we went to a garden party at one of their friends place and one of the guys left his beer in the taxi. Ten minutes later the taxi driver brought the beer back. It was wonderful to be surrounded by people like this.
The day had come where it was time to let Chalain and Chris have their privacy and apartment back. All and all, their place was the perfect spot to relax and recover from the world of backpacking. We were ready to be adventurous again. Thanks again, Chalain and Chris, for allowing us to invade your place for three whole weeks. We definitely did not go by the old Ben Franklin saying, “house guests are like fish, after three days they start to stink” idea, and you two never once made us feel awkward or unwanted for staying so long. You’re going to make such good parents, and I can’t wait to meet your little baby girl in the summer. Love you two.

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