24 July 2009

Transition thoughts... last travel email. ... dreamtime...

Melbourne Monday 20Jul09, I'm back. Tired, but very very happy - one of the best trips ever.

Traveling is a bit like dreaming, once you are back the place you've been to fades out like a dream. Yet if you go there again, the other place fades. ... Dreamtime...walking...

This period of transition back to Oz, opens a window of awareness as one country fades out and the other fades in.
so while it lasts here are some transition thoughts...random as they come...

- It's nice being back. That surprises me. It does not mean I don't want to stay away longer, I do, but it IS nice to be back. Here things work, fast, efficiently, cleanly, well.
Stuff gets done. Jobs get ticked off all day.
That's a good feeling, that clean efficient, 'gettin' s*** done' feeling.
What would take a leisurely hour or two in Yangon, gets done in 10 mins here. You HAVE to do it leisurely there, else you burn out real fast. Here you CAN do it fast. So I get a LOT done. Clothes are washed, dried, emails answered, 11 phone messages dealt with, bills collected, parcel from post office picked up, Uni courses sorted out, tutors sorted out, people met, updated on politics and key changes at work, weekend planned...etc...

- When going somewhere new it can be hard to get beneath the tourist-visitor surface. I've eventually found a way to meet expats and locals interested in meeting travelers. It is, not surprisingly, an internet based thing. www.couchsurfin.org,
one of them is a lady who works for http://www.businesskind.org/GoodJob.html

- walking around in Myanmar, was a different way of being. Not better or worse, - different.
It FEELS different, though it is hard to say in what way. to illustrate: if someone steps in front of me, if a car squeezes into my path, or I get splashed with sludge from the street, that's ok, I just move around it, smile and get on with things. I genuinely don't feel annoyed, I don't even have to stop any annoyance. That's how it is. In a car, in a taxi the same applies.
Back in Melbourne, or even in Singapore, people brush me carelessly, step into my path, I feel irritated.
I feel I have a right to move along in my path and others need to keep out of it. Evening today as I slowly ride my bike on the footpath slowly, a lady waves and stand in front of me, then discharges her store of frustration on me for that. Footpath rage. We call each other names, I move on, the atmosphere and mood of Myanmar still protects me and it does not penetrate deeply.
I'm sure such things exist everywhere, it is simply more or less visible, or hidden in different places. On the way to the Hotel in Yangon, I witnessed how one driver got out of a car and opened the door of another car, to hit the driver. Never ever seen this before. Road rage.
I just read an article where an Indian lady gripes about her own country, a rather rude experience at Delhi airport her story here.
As a child in Germany I used to observe adults, and how they related to us kids. I saw how some of the older adults would sit and lie in wait for someone to give them a legitimate reason to discharge themselves. The lawn of the high rise flats where we lived were no-walking zones. Any adult who wanted to vent some anger simply had to wait for a kid to come along and walk on the grass and then they discharged themselves, with 'legitimate reason'.
It was easy to see they didn't care about the grass, they wanted an officially acceptable reason to be 'in the right' and then they'd pack in all the frustration inside themselves and fire off a salvo. They just needed an excuse. But firing off at someone at random would be too crazy, so they waited, to see someone break some rule. Then they'd fire off. Kind of like psychic landmines. I like the modern American term "pushing some one's buttons". Very apt.
Us, kids of the block, treated it as a kind of game, we'd bait the adults and set them off, like the challenge of setting off a mousetrap without getting your fingers caught. In my mind it was understood, that these were our respective job descriptions. Oldies just did that, they grumbled and bitched, and put down the 'decadent' Youngies. And Youngies had to provoke them, they wouldn't be normal and healthy if they just said 'yes, Amen, of course, whatever you say I will do' what kind of kids would they be who did that ? Not normal ones.
So if hair was usually short, then the young ones had to wear it long. Anything to set the adults off. Unpierced skin ? Pierce it. No tattoo is normal - Young ones->Tattoo it. etc... But it was all cosmetic in the end. The youngies turned into grumpy Oldies and so it contiuned.
Yep, I've noticed grumpiness zones in myself too, of course. Some of my friends know exactly what & where they are too :-) somedays I feel like a regular hairball mine, touch any hair and off it goes.

- Ah those grumpyness zones, those buttons... hm.... For the first time I see what they mean by 'observe, don't judge'. I heard all that so many many times.
But the reality is: Usually I don't want to observe myself, or be too aware because I will see things I don't like. "not like" =equals= 'judge' as 'bad', or 'not nice', 'undesireable', 'not good enough' etc... . the logical next step is to change those things.
HOw ? by trying not to do them, not to be them. this usually just leads to symptoms suppression and not any real change. After a while the effort of suppressing symptoms is too hard. I give up, and go into normal, unaware mode again.
Why not play a 'game' for a week ? The game is: I promise myself to make NO effort whatsoever to change whatever I see in myself. In fact the games is now reversed: I'm NOT allowed to try and change anything, just 'see' it. That is all, only see it.
No effort to 'improve', to 'fix' to 'change' to 'be good' is allowed in this new game.
Anyone who has done meditation, will recognize this is a classic technique. For some reason it never hit home so clearly before.
Ok lets see how I go for the next 7 days. An experiment.

After this email, I'll post any further thoughts on
doing this means I won't fill your inbox with stuff you may not want. If you are interested to read more, peruse that site, check it out every now and then, or use RSS feeds.

All the emails sent on this trip the last 3 weeks are on: http://heikorudolph.blogspot.com/ with new photos.

Thailand seems to be going more thuggish - airport scams at:

- Have you ever inverted a black and white photo ? White becomes black and black becomes white ? It's all just the same photo, all the same objects, same details, same shapes and everything, just inverted.
It feels like that to me being in transition.
Where there was white in one photo, there is black in the inverted one. where there was dark grey there is now light grey.
It feels excatly like that now as I move from Myanmar to Melbourne again. Same photo, same image, same life on Earth.

- I used to think about going overseas to help those poor countries. (I know, there is a bit of a cringe as I write this, at the "do-goody" image of that, but hey' no 'fixing' allowed, that's what I really feel, politically correct, or cool, or not) So let me play the game of inverting the image: Let's pretend that I've been sent by the poor places, to aid those who are rich. Then this becomes the outpost. My holiday was then not really a holiday it was a 'home visit', I'm out on mission again right now... . Hmm... Interesting perspective... Is all of life an outpost mission as some would claim ?

- Regarding 'helping' - These days I understand that I gain as much and more than I give. Is it therefore selfish or not ? It's not about about such labels, it's really just about fear VS courage. Either just do it, or don't.
And when you don't do it, then at least be kind to yourself. Beating yourself will have the same result as beating another person: they will resent you...
I know, logically this makes makes no sense, how can I related to myself ? don't know, but we can.
More is possible than the mind can encompass or dream of.

A nice quote I heard:
"the future changes all the time, in the biggest ways often by the smallest of things" -

Tuesday 21Jul09 - teaching, lecturing. - The idea of people discharging themselves is basically the same as nations discharging themselves, in what is called 'war'. In both cases there is usually a grain of justification, some genuine 'yes you are right and the other is wrong' but only a grain. Then that is used at the trigger for an avalance to let lose on the other.
on the personal level, between people this seems to work more subtley, the person able to hide from themselves the fact that their reaction is way out of proportion to the 'injustice'.
Between nations, it is often easier to see this process, unless of course you are directly involved yourself.

- something that illustrates the difference of the climate between where I've just been and where I am now: When I'm in Melbourne and a stranger approaches me, my first reaction is defence.
Are they going to hit on me for money ?
Are they a nut case ?
Not that such thoughts are actually clearly elucidated in my mind, it's more of an attitude...
A few times i've reacted off hand to people who just wanted to ask the time (oooops...), other times I had correctly spotted someone hitting me for money, 'spare change' or whatever.
Yet these reactions in me are automatic, it's how one is here.
A colleague told me the same experience: a tourist just wanting to ask directions, and he felt very suspicious, careful, totally unused to having strangers actually talk to him.
One approach is: guilty until proven innocent, the other is innocent until proven guilty.
Yet when I wander around Yangon, Moulmain, or other 'undeveloped' places in Asia, that suspicious nature falls off me (mostly, not entirely). People in the street will smile, there is an openness. Don't get me wrong, in the tourist hot spots lots of people are out to part a sucker from his money, and a healthy dose of defensiveness is useful to survive. Yet that is simply commonsense.

To all who have been reading these missives: Thanks.

After this email, I'll post any further thoughts on
doing this means I won't fill your inbox with stuff you may not want. If you are interested to read more, peruse that site, check it out every now and then, or use RSS feeds.

All the emails sent on this trip the last 3 weeks are on: http://heikorudolph.blogspot.com/ with new photos.

'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....' - Leonard Cohen

Haiko's - blog list here or direct: life42 or backpacking or stories

I walk with her, and I hear the gentle beating of mighty wings....
I hear the sound of her wings.... and the darkness lifts from my soul...

20 July 2009

Last day in Moulmain - one day in SIN

Thursday: Last day in Moulmain, last walk down from the Kyatanlan Pagoda, I've been here almost a week. (16Jul09)

Wandering down the long covered, "shoes off " walkway from the Kyatanlan Pagoda, I  see a group of people stand around before me, monks, kids, and women. Coming closer one of the Ladies emerges from the group bearing a tray with a glass of red liquid in it.
Ok that's nice.
Bowing and thanking them I take the glass and have a sip.
Nice. Real fruity cordial.
There's a huge vat, almost empty nearby and all sorts of fruit float in it, the whole thing is red like wine.
I've hardly finished the glass and I'm given a plastic cup, of more.
Ok, it's good, I can do both these.
There are smiles and chatter as the foreigner drinks and looks at the monks and kids.
I'm by no means singled out, every passerby gets a drink like this.
I've no idea why, but it is probably to do with doing something good for others. 
I enjoyed my drink.
BTW: glasses are never washed, 10 cups or do the rounds until the whole vat's empty.

Yesterday in semidarkness with light drizzle in the warm atmosphere.
One of the many passers by in the dark calls out:
"Hey man",
I turn around, I recognize him from the first day as he hurries past.
"Hey Mr Old Bachelor"
He called himself that when we first spoke almost a week ago.
We keep walking our separate ways.
Few people walk fast in Myanmar, I'm one of them, the Old Bachelor was another.

Yesterday, Wednesday: up at the Pagoda, the Kaytanlan, the one that's closest to my guest house and has that 300 walk way up.
I'm looking for candles. I have one so I can show what I want.
But everyone I show them to thinks I want a lighter to light it, natural assumption.
So I hold up the lighter next to it and point to the candle, speaking simple English, more as something to fill the void than because anyone would know what I'm saying.
But now I get blank looks.
I know, I'll try the Lady at the other side, near the brass Buddha, bet she's  more 'with it'.
I do my routine.
Sure, she gets it immediately and produces some slightly used and recycled candles.
I knew it, she's more switched onto these practical levels.
She gives me the candles.
"one ?"
"Two ?"
"ok, sure, even better."
I get 3 in the end and decide to make a donation.
I hand over 1000 Kyat note and say 300, I can even say most numbers and money values in Burmese even these days.
"A donation ?"
"Yes a donation !". What else would it be silly! -  I think.
Well she's about to enlighten me.
Everyone MUST MUST MUST give a receipt for any donation, carbon copy etc....
she writes out the fancy receipt and takes my 1000 note and disappears. 
After a while she pops back.
"Are you back here tomorrow ?"
"Yea, probably, why ?"
"Can I give you 700 tomorrow ?"
"No!,  today !" 
She immediately pops up the 700 all ready all ready.
She's really more than just 'with it'.
I'm intrigued by her technique.
"Where are you from ?"
"You want me to come to see you in Australia ? I come if you want me to !"
Woa! I'm thinking --  hold it girl. She's certainly with it, 300% with it.
"What's your name ?"
Now one is usually supposed to start with the name bit first, I think she's realized that too by now.  I don't usually give my real name if someone comes onto me that fast, and if they've first tried to play funny buggers, but hey, this is not Egypt.
"My name is Matada (not sure anymore actually)" She spells it out nice 'n slow so I really get it.
I'm amused. Anyway lets see how she's going to handle this.
She holds up one finger. By now I know this means: 'are you travelling alone ?'
Again I'd not usually admit that.
I'm curious. 
"I'm 29 years old. Single. How old are you ?"
Matada looks at me.
"Thirty ?
I point to the sky.
"Yes more" I tell her.
I gesture up.
40 ?
I gesture up.
45 ? Now she's starting to get wide eyes.
I gesture up.
50 !!! Shock and horror written all over her face.
Yes kiddo, I'm no spring chicken anymore. sigh.....
It takes her a while to come to grips with the idea, and put it into context.
"My mother is 50. no, she's 53 and fat !" she gestures a rotund shape.
I feel that the output power of the 'interested-in-you' beam has just dropped by half, not totally dead, but it's declining rapidly.  As an Engineer: that means the reach of this beam has decreased by the square root of the distance.
Well that kind of finshed it, I thought it would.
Sometimes honesty can be very effective.
Matada  is exceptional, the other 15 attendants I've strolled past are mild and 'noice'.
She stood out in her own way.
She must have a real motivation to try anything to get out of this place.
I can sympathize with her.
Nice as it is as a tourist for me here, living her as a national would be pretty tough...!
I can return to Australia any time.
She is in a sleepy small town, selling donation tickets all day at a big temple.

If she meets the right lamb for the slaughter - then god help the poor bastard.
Still compared to some of her Thai sisters, in Bangkok, she too is a lamb.
She has gumption.
I wish her luck.

Friday 17Jul09 Familiar Yangon.
last day in Myanmar, just got in from a 9 hour train ride from Moulmain.
The distance is not far, could be covered in 3 hours in Australia.
But the tracks are such that the train bounces in simple harmonic spring motions as it goes along, bit like a ship at sea.
If it went too fast, the carriages would bounce right off the tracks. So the train only goes a bit faster than cycling speed most of the time.
The engineer talking: at the Harmonic frequency it takes very little extra energy to get HUGE swings, so the train would have to stay away from that deadly frequency by never going too fast....
Control engineers spend HUGE amounts of time figuring out the harmonic frequencies of things like planes, ships, bridges, because at the harmonic frequency things tend to vibrate themselves to pieces... literally. People died before this was fully appreciated - end of Engineer sidetrack, we return to our normal program now.

Actually come to think of it: I went over a few long iron bridges, going across rivers. The beams are set up in the direction of travel, with a narrow gap, between them. Good for cars, but terrible for motorbikes. My motorbike taxi driver thought the lengthwise beams were stupid too, shook his head when I expressed my shock and horror. Bikes kind of have to snake around in 's' shapes to avoid getting their tyres stuck and falling over. Anyone who ever got their bicycle wheels stuck in tram tracks will understand.

Also the same bouncing problem: when a big truck goes over the bridge the guards at the end of the bridge hold back the traffic because the beams making up the road surface have small hills and valleys, and as you drive over them you bounce gently up n down as you do on the train. So to avoid bouncing the bridge to bits at its harmonic frequency they dribble the traffic across. I didn't mind the gentle bouncing, it was the cracks between the beams that scared me. The guy driving me was used to it, not sure I'd have made it. Probably would have walked the bike across.
(Note: every bridge has military armed guards, a boom gate and you pay 100 Kyat or so to cross. Don't know why, that's how it is. Even in its heartland, Myanmar is in many ways a lose conglomeration of little fiefdoms. Even long distance busses, between Mandalay and Yangon, 500km, stop frequenly before some boomgate set up in the middle of seemingly nowhere and hand over a small note.)

Although the country drives on the right side, cars, busses can be left hand drive too. Many of them are old commuter busses, with Japanese and Korean writing still visible, the kind of subburban busses that run around a city. Now they ply their routes between local towns, doing rounds of 80km or so.

Singapore (SIN), 18Jul09 Saturday: I've found a room, in a penthouse converted into a backpacker's place, part of a residential high rise tower near Chinatown, easy walking distance.
The contrasts with Myanmar are more than the clean-ness.

At the corner of Pagoda Street and New Bridge Road, at 7:30 pm, I've arranged to meet the brother of a family in Myanmar I've been friends with.
I'm cruising the corner, checking out the people, I've no idea what he looks like and he's no idea what I look like.
Interesting what one notices when one hangs around a corner of a busy street like this.
All sorts of people are hanging around, and I wonder what they are doing there, what they are keeping an eye on... I get questioning looks, as if to say "...are you the one I'm supposed to meet for ...xxxxxxxxxxxxx.....?
I've no idea what they are all hanging around for, but I DO know I don't want to know any details.

Its getting way past 7:30.
I have no mobile phone but the brother Hlaing, does.
Trying to make a phone call from a public phone is REALLY hard in Singapore, every man and his dog has a handphone.
There is simply no need for public phones, they are out of date, totally.

There is one of the very rare internet cafe's right at the corner.
"Can I use your phone for second ? I'm happy to pay."
The girl minding the shop is totally thrown, she has no idea how to deal with this unorthodox request.
She offers me internet time instead, thinking surely that must be what I'm after.
"No the phone please?"
"Really ? Uhmmm .... we don't do that ..."
I explain that there is probably  someone waiting for me just at the corner 5m away but we haven't be able to make contact.
She hesitates then rings up for permission to let me use the phone.
I mentally resign myself to look elsewhere.
A bit of talking, and yes, it's ok, I may use the phone.
Great :-)

The actual cost of local phone calls in Singapore is negligible. At the airport local calls to anywhere in Sg are free. At my backpackers, a phone is simply provided for free, for use to any number in Sg, including mobiles. Internet is provided for free as well. So the cost of a call, internet access, is not an issue not even for a backpacker's. Wireless internet is also provided free.

This is what most strikes me as different from Myanmar, and much of the rest of South East Asia: in Myanmar people would simply decide for themselves, check me out, make a judgment and either do it or not.
I'm trying to imagine what it must feel like to genuinely feel I have to ring the boss to let this guy use the phone for a local phone call. Hm.... Not a pleasant trip to stand in those shoes. Prefer my own shoes.

THe internet cafe girl doesn't want to take any money so I just quietly put whatever change I have on the table and walk off.

I eventually meet up with Hlaing and a mate of his. It took another phone call though. Phew....
He's on a company sponsored visa, he can only stay in Sg as long a he works for that company, as a fitter and turner. He's not able to move and get a better job. It's that company at their rates or else go home.
I don't dare ask what he makes.

We have dinner at a restaurant, my shout, they are both very polite and order simple dishes.
I hand over some sweets and food from his sister MuMu.
Did I see her kids ?
Yes I did, including the 2 year old boy.
We chat about his father who had a stroke but is getting better.
We talk about Myanmar weather, locations such as the Golden Rock, where we've traveled to,  before going our separate ways again.

We all agreed that the tea houses of Myanmar are a great institution. One can just sit and watch the world go by for however long. There is not pressure to move you on and make room for others, really no pressure at all. Chinese tea is free, it's provided as a given.
Morocco has a similar tradition of tea houses, different style, but same idea, buy one glass of mint tea, and you can sit for hours, and people do just that.
"Here, you have to pay for everything," Hlaing remarks.
Yes, that's true.
Come, eat, go.

That makes me realize, it's the lack of time, people don't have time, they don't dare sit and just relax, and be, doing nothing much.

Run, rabbit run
Dig that hole, forget the sun,
And when at last the work is done
Don't sit down it's time to start another one
For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race towards an early grave.
        Lyrics: Breathe, Pink Floyd

What also strikes me about SIN, is that I have no desire, I'm simply not in the mood to sit for hours in a tea shop, somehow the whole atmosphere is not conducive to that.
I've turned into the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, with his pocket watch under the arm, "must run, must run..."

Note: In Myanmar a few years ago a SIM card cost USD $2000, more recently I heard it's only 1000. Not sure it's true though, does anyone know ?
Foreigners can buy SIM cards  - rechargeable ones - for USD 20 I hear. But that's foreigners.

Well one more day to go, then back to Oz, back to lecturing.
Compared to 99.99999% of the people I've met, I have a dream job, and I'm even more appreciative of it... well for a while anyway, until I forget and the temptation to bitch and grumble gets me again. :-P  

Sunday 19Jul09 Singapore (SIN):
0630am I'm up and typing again.
Since returning from Myanmar I've noticed how I behave and what goes on in my mind more.
In Singapore I've spent way too much time on the internet, doing my internet check in for the flight to Melbourne.
Apprehensions about the imminent re-entry to 'normal' life in Australia manifest in worry about "what if this and what if that...?"

But what strikes me as strange: is that I'm more aware of these things than before.
It's because I've stepped out of 'normal life' for a while.
The trick is to keep that perspective.

Just posted this blog on xylantheum.blogspot.com

"This is just preventative, to take care of you, so nothing worse happens to you."

"I'm doing this to prevent further and more serious problems."

This is how thoughts go round in my mind.
It only slowly came to me, the voice that said those things was really the voice of fear.
Sure, there is reasonable commonsense taking care of things, locking the front door, keeping your money safely out of sight, taking care crossing the road.
But there comes a point, and only I know when the point comes when it gets ridiculous.... that point is hard to spot, because there are no signs, there are not major fault lines to tell me I've crossed that point.

The thing that does tell me though is my body, the mental climate within myself. If it gets obsessive about an issue, or if the feeling is simply 'bad' then chances are I've let my mind run away with fear. Fear of the 'what if this..... or that ..... happens ?'
What if she leaves me... ?
"What if he does this........ or that .........?"
"What if my health .... ?"

This is a  very neat trick that fear does to the mind.
Fear gets me running around, thinking I'm doing something useful to prevent bad stuff happening.
It makes me think I'm fully taking care of myself, that this is a positive thing.
Yet the real trick is: fear is a great liar, its a distractor.
The real damage is done now. Right now. This INSTANT, in the NOW.

There is only one thing I've been told to do about it: 
Not to change it, just to be aware, not dislike or fight it, just to be aware. That awareness will change it by itself.
Fight it - and I get what ?  A war inside. An argument: "oh but I'm just making sure, that this or that bad thing won't happen to me... come on that's reasonable, EVERYONE is doing it!"


What is the climate inside ? right NOW ? 

Sounds very Buddhist doesn't it ?
I'll let you know how I go ....

Monday 20Jul09 Just off the plane, unpacking, time to get back into the groove.

thanks for following these email, there won't be much for quite some time now....



'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....'  - Leonard Cohen

Haiko's - blog list here or direct: life42  or backpacking or  stories

I walk with her, and I hear the gentle beating of mighty wings....
I hear the sound of her wings.... and the darkness lifts from my soul...

16 July 2009

more random thoughts, ... Moulmain... "The elephant" and "The Litany".

monday 13Jul09

- Walking along the path from the " Breeze " guest house to the pagoda at the top of Moulmain hill takes one through a section of old trees covered in fuzzy green tropical growth. They meet overhead and form a big tunnel. Between the trunks restaurants are set up, in one of them 10 round hot plates sit on red hot coals, on each one a guy pours dough spreading it paper thin. In no time at all the hot plate cooks it and it's ready to be taken off, more poured on. The finished ones are collected by another guy and at the end of the row of hot plates is a young dude furiously preparing a large vat of dough. Both hands in semi liquid white dough sloshed about. It kind of clings and flows like the green slime you can buy in toyshops.
The pace is fast and quick and lively and lots of talking, laughing.

My turn to stare in wonder and watch the spectacle. they speed up even more as they see me and I get offered a round paper thin backed whatever-it-is to try...
It's good.

People amble about, many monks from the monasteries lining the 300m approach up the hill.
There  are small shrines set in the walls of houses the bricks old and red, moss overgrown.
The buddha statues gleaming gold.
A young girl presents offerings, flowers and woven things, incense...to a small shrine in the moss covered brick wall.
The moss really loves the rainy season, it's thick and GREEN, soft and juicy looking.

At the start of the covered walkway to the top it's shoes off for those 300m - avoid the one or two dog turds on the way. (That's why i got a torch for the way back in darkness this time).

Tourists are so low in numbers that they are somewhere between just stopping to be a curiosity and someone to practice 'hello" on if you're a kid or a young monk.Adults don't do anything.
Rarely does anyone offer me a taxi ride, and then only if it looks like i might actually want one.


At the market today I'm watching a watch-maker. He takes appart those electronic digital el cheapo watches and fixes them. There isn't any part that he doesn't know how to disassemble and reassemble. Stuff that no one in Oz would ever bother fixing.
I sign to him that I'm after a watch, just the round watch part.
The watchmaker presents me with a Swiss pocket watch....Oh My GOD, temptation !

How does that song go again about temptation ?

With a little bit 
With a little bit of luck
..... you'll give right in.
I had a little bit of luck.

I've had a thing for pocket watches all my life.
This one is the real thing, mechanical movement.
Swiss made, - open the back and see the solid workmanship.
We bargain, by writing down the bids.
40,000 Kyat is his opening salvo.
15,000 Kyat my reply.
Laughs. ok I get the sense that there is some substance in this watch.
19,000 Kyat is my next bid
He's confident, interested, but the price is genuinely too low.
25,000 kYat the next offer.
A gentle shake of the head.
Time to talk of other things, take a break.
"Where are you from ?"
"Ah Australia good, Myanmar bad."
"Australia good," I agree,"Myanmar nice". what can i say ?
a bit more of this and then
30,000 - "Final price" I declare firmly. I mean it.
A bit of shaking of the head, some thinking, then nodding, ok, you got it.
I offer some US dollars. No, he prefers Kyat, it would be too hard and too much hassle to change it.
"Go Yangon" he says points to the dollar notes.
ok fair enough, I count out 30 x 1000 Kyat. the highest bank note is 1000 Kyat in Myanmar.
for 100 USD you get about 210,000 Kyat, roughly US $1 = 1100 Kyat, or 1:1000 for ready reckoning. Which is a brick of notes.

The price must have been right, because after 'the transaction" he asks me "La-pay-yee ?"
"Yes, La-pay-yee".
He nodds to one of the boys who races off and gets the super strong, super sweet, condensed milk brew of tea that rivals coffee in intensity.
They motion me to stir it as they hand it to me.
No, i prefer to let the mountains of sugar and condensed milk stay sitting at the bottom.

The watchmaker is really unhappy with his country. It's a common sentiment.
If i lived here as a national of Myanmar, i'd probably feel the same.

i wander off, happy with my purchase, but i wonder, his discontent struck a note in me too.
Yet i can see much that he has here, that he would lose in Oz, or any super-clean super-organized First World country.
Yet he does not know what he has until he loses it.
Aren't i the same ? Don't I complain about my job at times ? and bitch about the outbreak of bureaucracy-mania  and the rampage of the fear-mongering-for-$$$-profit-tacticians in Oz ?
Yes same really.
Except it IS really a lot worse in Myanmar. Life is tough here.

Seems we need to leave something - step outside it, perhaps even lose it, to know it's true value from a different perspective.
Some would say that is the whole point of it all.
Some of us need to step out further than others... the cycle of the gaining of wisdom the sages tell us. The journey of the fool, who sets out only to arrive where he started from, but now he has wisdom....
let's hope so.

YOu have to gain it all and lose it all,
to know it all.

i guess that's my counterbalance to my overly romantic honeymoon view of things here.

I am aware of the other realities about Burma.
YOu only need to mention 'Bu.rma' and "The Lad.y" in any English speaking country and watch the predictable and routine reaction run its course of righteous moral outrage, like a litany of 'the sins of the generals'.
I've heard most of it, I could probably add specifics to it from my own findings, I believe much of it is true, yet it is but one true perspective of many true perspectives.

HOwever, i tend to focus too much on the bum side of things in Australia already. So therefore I need to focus on the positive, knowing full well that this too is only ONE of many true angles of  that very same elephant.
So call me indulgent, or romantic if you will....

yet knowing the contents of 'the litany' better than most people, when i am at the top of Moulmain hill, at sunset and the rain drizzles, the humid air wraps around and the chants of monks drifts across from the distance,.......... is that not beautiful ?

In the temple complex next to the biggest golden Pagoda, a group of female Uni students smile and egg each other on, gather up their courage to talk to me, offer me a bisquit from the box they have between them. Of course i take one, I smile and chat.
They have all learned English, the theory, they know it is the lingua  franca of the world, the internet and any chance of leaving this country for a better life.
But here is a real live foreigner, and it is a chance to try out all those years of theory on him.
So the courageous ones reach out further and ask me where am i from.
"Australia. ...."
"Are you students ?" i ask, "University student ?" I point to one girl.
And after a few sentences it is enough, they retreat as the 'heroines-who-talked-to-the-foreigner' and are warmly welcomed back into the safe  circle of their friends.
Do these small encounters matter ?
Who knows.... but i think so.


I was going to stop talking about the Burma question "The Litany" and all that until i got a link from a friend to a Michael Leunig article which I've copied below.
It's more like a final concluding comment, by an author who makes the point so well there is nothing for it but to simply quote him in full. I think he would understand and take it as a compliment.

- link to original article here 
or full text below:

"Epiphanies of man to man" by Michael Leunig

July 11, 2009

It is so beautifully plain, the things an older man may tell a younger man.
CARS mock me and the cold suburban winds harass as I try to cross the busy road. The vexations of winter are upon the city, and outside the supermarket a dreadlocked young man is earnestly waving pamphlets at the bitter evening. He's an environmental evangelist on the lookout for sinners, and as I pass he seizes the moment.
"Do you care about the environment?"
"Yes, I do."
"What are you doing about it?"
"I'm doing as much as I can."
"Yes, but what are you actually doing?"
"Well, if you must know, I'm planting trees."
"Where are you planting these . . . trees?"
His taunting manner hardens, his detective eyes narrow, his silver nose-ring glistens insolently.
"What sort of trees?" continues the would-be guilt-maker.
I take a deep breath and a long pause. I look away. I look into the past. Then turning to my rude inquisitor once more, I announce that he is about to receive a piece of advice - "advice from an older man to a younger man".
What has come over me? Suddenly I am channelling words from a bygone era. They flow like water from an old underground main that has suddenly cracked - words that sound deeply bizarre in this hip and grungy modern suburb. The eco-warrior looks perplexed and incredulous.
And so I tell him. I tell him to treat strangers with respect. I tell him that if he really cares for the environment, he had better care for the human environment. I tell him that a friendlier world is a more sustainable world. I tell him off.
Momentarily he swells and bristles in defiance, but it doesn't really work for him; there is no point - the meeting of minds has been too weirdly off the scale. A small group of onlookers has become strangely solemn. As the sordid urban scene deflates and dims, I walk away wondering why it has to be like this. Oh dear - the things an older man may tell a younger man.
* * *
Soon I am back home in the bush, standing near my shed in the sensuous peace of a great drizzling fog. Through the mist, the shape of a man appears. It's Jim, our good neighbour and husband of Marg, plodding up the hill towards me with a huge grin, and looking as damp and happy as a man could ever be. He is wearing his old farm jacket - held together with decades of mud and mending - and darting around him like a sprite is his young sheepdog, Patch.
Jim has been on the earth at least a decade longer than I but has been a farmer for many, many centuries.
"Out looking for your dog, Jim?" I greet him.
"Blimey, no - I just got lost in the fog," says Jim with a big chuckle.
But no way was he lost; farmers with so much Scottish ancestry don't get lost in fogs. Jim was out wandering through the mist and rain simply for the purpose of rapture - communing with God and totally immersed in the miracle of rainfall at the right time. It was written all over his face. It's been a long time since we had a real winter. He was loving it.
We stand in the drizzle discussing the rain, remarking what a pleasure it is to see the creeks running and the country soaking it up. He tells me of the great winters past and all manner of hilarious fiascos and mistakes that come with them.
"People who don't make mistakes don't make anything," says Jim. He is a wealth of funny old wisdoms. He grows them on his farm.
Once we were perched high up on ladders together, painting the spouting at the local hall. "Jim," I said, "I think the trick with working on ladders is to not look down."
He had a few more thoughtful dips and dabs with his paintbrush, and then, very slowly and emphatically, he replied with the following gem: "No mate, when you're up ladders the trick is to not FALL down." Ah yes, there it is again - so beautifully plain and simple; the thing that an older man may tell to a younger man.
* * *
Falling down is a very big subject, and so is the concept of downfall. None of us escapes, and I have had my share of both.
Once I was thrown from a horse near a country town where I lived in western Victoria. That night, in a state of extreme pain, I was taken to a local doctor, a man much older than I who was wrapped in a silk dressing gown and a large cloud of alcohol, and he advised me to go home, stop grizzling and have an aspirin, but this didn't help. The next morning found me sleepless and miserable in the casualty department of the regional hospital, where I was attended to by a very nervous young doctor who didn't seem to know how to set the wrist in plaster.
Observing this embarrassing impasse, the nurse discreetly slipped away and returned a few minutes later with Bob the cleaner - a thin, stooped man well beyond retirement age, wearing a brown uniform and carrying a broom. With great humility and tact, and still holding on to the broom, Bob gently instructed the doctor on how to set the broken bone. In the clear frugal voice of a gentle old bushman, the cleaner talked him quietly through the entire process without the doctor's dignity or authority being compromised at all. In due course the wrist healed perfectly.
* * *
The old might reveal startling truths to the young, but what the old may reveal to each other can be miraculous.
When I lived for a few years by the bay in Melbourne, I became aware of an elderly man who would give me a gentle smile of recognition in the street whenever we passed. It was a nodding acquaintance but I think he knew my work as an artist. His friendliness seemed considered and was made special to me by his dignified and intelligent bearing, but strangely we had never stopped to introduce ourselves and talk.
Finally we bumped into each other in the supermarket one morning and could hold our silence no longer. After some general banter by the biscuit shelf, I asked what he had in store for the day.
"Oh, I'll be meeting up with a few old blokes. We get together occasionally and tell lies to each other about the war."
"You were in the war?"
"I was. I flew Lancaster bombers over Germany."
I understood something of what that might mean to an intelligent man and felt a pang of sorrow that must have shown for a moment on my face. We parted ways in the biscuit aisle, but a minute later he returned with a rather sweet and awkward look in his eye.
"Let me tell you something," he said, "I must tell you this. I think you'll understand . . ." And surrounded by groceries, I listened to an astonishing tale.
"You see, I've been having these terrible nightmares for a few years - same nightmare over and over; I dream that I'm flying over Hamburg on a bombing raid and there's this Luftwaffe night fighter on my tail - and I'm doing everything I can to lose him but he keeps coming after me and firing and I can't get clear. Then I wake up in a terrible panic, and it's been bloody awful, these dreams. So I was getting some help with all this, getting professional help and going along to this old fella who talks me through the whole business and all sorts of things every week and it's been good. He's been really wonderful. Anyway here's the amazing part. A few weeks back I'm going through it with this fella, who by the way is German by birth, and he suddenly stops me and apologises and tells me that he's about to depart from his professional principles and tell me something important because he can't proceed unless he says it. And then he tells me that at the time I was flying bombing missions over Hamburg, he was in the Luftwaffe flying night fighters in the same part of the sky . . ."
There is a moment of silence.
"And what happened? What did you say?"
"Well, we didn't say anything. We just sat and looked at each other for a while - and then we had a few tears together. You can imagine. It was OK. It was good. Who would believe such a thing? I felt I should tell you. I thought you would understand."

link to original article here  I hope Michel Leunig will understand :-).


If you are still reading this, then WOW !

should i have not talked to the Uni students because their government was bad ?
"sorry girls, can't talk to you, gotta boycott you until the guys at the top, become good boys".

my money goes to the people in the street, the motorcycle taxi drivers, the small food shops, the local guest house... the owner of which is supporting his daughter in ....Australia ! talk about circulating the money around.

Anyone wanting to dive into this evergreen controversy the May2009 Lonely planet book on Burma/Myanmar gives a very clear, brief, but well written account of the major issues, arguments for and against etc....


Most tourists here come from non-English speaking countries. "The litany" there is different.
- see theory of "The 3 top media themes for each country" - go on someone ask me what it is, then i can sprout off about it like a NZ geyser :-) i'll be brief, promise he he he.


'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....'  - Leonard Cohen

Haiko's - blog list here or direct: life42  or backpacking or  stories

I walk with her, and I hear the gentle beating of mighty wings....
I hear the sound of her wings.... and the darkness lifts from my soul...

13 July 2009

random ramblings of a traveller - Moulmain

 These are random ramblings, impressions, going who knows where....

Thursday: There is something melancholy about Moulmain, dreamy and timeless but with a tinge of sadness.... it creeps up on you slowly... perhaps that is why the place has stood still in time ?

An older  man in the street stops me, asks me where I'm from,
tells me his life story, 3 girls, married,
am I married ?
Good. - he grins at me.
"I'm an old man, 60" he tells me and we go our separate ways again.

Friday 10Jul09 ---- 8 hours on a river boat ferry chugg chugging up to Hpa-an, described in the guidebook as quintessential 'small town' at its best.
The lady next to me shares some of her newspaper with me, to put on the floor to sit on deck for 8 hours, (sleep, talk, walk....)

By the end of the trip, the little 5 years old is running up to me pointing to her cheek. So I bend down and she kisses my cheek for giving her one of those squishy RMIT giveawaystressballs.
Her mum and granny of course got her up to it but she enjoys the game. The Danish couple also get kisses. They have a clever routine, the wife chats up the women and kids and the husband takes pictures with an  SLR and a lens that looks like like a bazooka cannon. He can zoom in so he's a fair distance away, not too intimidating.

People are really poor here, but I feel safe, the street vendor very politely hands back the change, I'd forgotten it. I leave my bag on the deck of the ferry as I go to the loo - I would not do that in any other country. (Note: don't mention anything more about the Loo.)

The atmosphere, the things people think about, the realities of life seem nothing like back in Oz.
Myanmar here feels like a time warp into another world, a few hundred year ago, - or like a totally different planet. The concerns of Melbourne, email, internet, bureaucracy etc.... seem like a dream viewed from here, - a dream (or nightmare?) that will soon engulf me once more - all too soon, such is life, I'm lucky to be able to come here at all.
Mind you they have bureaucracy here too, Burmese style, read George Orwell's best seller "Burmese Days" 1940's for a "drive you crazy" heart rending account of expats, Burmese and tragic love.

it's raining right now, the hotel manager sent a guy out with an umbrella so I could get back the  300m to the hotel, -
"Hotel" ???
 I mean the backpacker's place, US8/night, double bed, aircon, shared toilet. Perfect !
Actually - I'm treating myself, it's $4 for the fan room, it's my concession to getting older.
In the old days I'd have taken the $4 option.
that's a 100% increase in my accommodation spending due to age alone... !
And increased spending power.

Yangon has some nice wooden traditional family homes, done up as hotels, $15 / night... just the thing if you want pretend you are back in the days of the British Raj....

Saturday 11Jul09 - I decide to forgo my usual mode of operation, and do it the easy way: Rent a motorcycle taxi for the whole day, and do the sights one after the other. (another sign of wisdom or just age and more money ?)

Cave temples, lush vegetation, no tourists because it is the rainy season, and it buckets down at random intervals...
The scenery has me floored, lakes, statues of monks with food bowls snake 300m to the next temple.

Another temple we go to the path is flooded.
The Taxi driver Thaung Cho leaves the motorbike behind and we wade, to the temple.
Parts are pretty deep. We go slow.

This temple has a long damp, wet, dripping deep cave, illuminated by the odd neon bar mounted on sticks.
Its slippery, parts are like oil on glass. the ceiling is full of bats,  the smell of bats is unique. I remember reading that apparently bats deliberately cultivate bugs and stuff in so they kill other competitors for cave space. Nice what pops in my mind at a time like this.
Bits are only do-able on all fours, the Bat excrement on the floor makes it specially slippery. Little jumping crabs run about on the floor, getting out of our way.

After all that, suddenly the cave opens up, daylight floods in on a single natural column on top of which is (of course) a golden stupa !
It's totally unexpected and I'm going nuts with my camera.

a bit further on is a lake, surrounded by on all sides by limestone cliffs. The guidebook did mention this secret hidden lake.

A careful trip back and we (the Taxi driver and I) are offered lunch at the monastery.
Then back along the path we came, wading through water from ankle to thigh height.

The two more cave temples, where the queen of a defeated king sought refuge in the 7th c.


On Sunday ( 12Jul09 ) there is a mountain to climb, with a monastery on top (naturally). Any hill in Burma, and there is stupa on it.
It's raining in shorts bursts only. It's 3 hours round trip, 2500 ft. Water running down stairs, and I meet a group of guys carting stuff up for monks.

Seems that the monks here are relaxed lot, kids can join, boys, and they play and laugh and the monks are fine with all that. It's a pleasant contrast to the more intense and austere "shush...." way that I would imagine in my serious Germanic soul.

There are a lot of nuns here too, they wear pink, which I find is great for quick identification at a distance, because in robes and shaven heads its hard to tell at a distance sometimes. Not that it matters, one pays respect to both nuns and monks here.


I'm back in Moulmain (Malawmyine) 12Jul09 . I actually missed the place while in Hpa-an.
As if to welcome me back in style I asked for a larger room than the broom cupboard I had last time. I'm shown into the northern upstairs wing of the old villa. there are two four poster beds draped with mosquito nets and views of the sea across the road. Wow.
This IS the larger room, complete with furniture, high ceiling and bedside fan.
Its times like this I dream of retiring and writing. The writers of old used to hole up in places like this and write. No immediate chance of that though, there is the small matter of some source of income to consider....

Sitting in a Burmese tea house, by the side of the road, pouring endless cups of Chinese tea and nibbling fried stuff, bisquits and whatever they have.
The world drifts by.
A lively market just around the corner, dirt roads, people milling about.
This feels more home to me than anywhere else. I know I'm on a two week holiday cum honeymoon in a foreign country where I can travel wherever I want but I think it's more than that.
I don't feel that in Western countries, there is something that we have lost in the West (and gained something else in its place) and there is something they still have here, and something else they don't have.
Not better or worse, just different.
Don't know what it is they still have.

I like certain antiques, the feel of age, of use. To me it feels like I've stepped into the way of life and the culture from which those antiques comes, the source itself.

Yes, yes, I know: If I was Burmese and grew up here I'd probably try my best to get out of the place. Wouldn't be able to wait to claw my way to Australia or somewhere else.
The grass is always greener etc.....
It seems, I like living between places, knowing many really well and being the connection between them.

On the way to the main Pagoda of Moulmain, another older man asks me:
"where are you from ?"
"ONE ?" (meaning: travelling alone?)
"yes, one"
"Me one too, I'm an old bachelor"
"No wife no kids ?"
"No. - Freedom." He laughs, "I go where I like, I wander around."
"Me too, no wife no kids"
"What is your job ?" I ask.
" NO job now" he turns his palms up, "but I have lots of money".
"Ah retired"
"Are you bored ?"
"Yes. better hurry, sunset will finish soon"
He assumed I'd come for the sunset, its a popular tourist spot for sunset viewing.

Travelling in Myanmar: People here don't stare, don't pester, and don't treat you like a purple alien with antennae. Kids will call out and laugh. University students might ask to have a picture taken with me on odd occasions, but that is all. Of course the main tourist areas attract the usual scene, yet even that is mild in Myanmar.
- if an area is out of bounds for tourists, there's a good reason, don't go there.
- there is TINY tiny backpacker scene here, its the way I can afford to travel here.

ok enough for now... off to Naw-la-bo Pagoda tomorrow... rainy season means no real public transport so will hire a motorbike taxi if possible.


PS: anyone wants off this list don' be shy and tell me,
Feel free to forward them on.

'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....'  - Leonard Cohen

Haiko's - blog list here or direct: life42  or backpacking or  stories

I walk with her, and I hear the gentle beating of mighty wings....
I hear the sound of her wings.... and the darkness lifts from my soul...

10 July 2009

city out of time - Moulmain - inspired Kipling and countless others.

Its a cliche, everyone from Kipling onwards said it in one form or another:
            By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,

Moulmain, the city , east of Yangon on the other side of the Gulf of Mottama seems to inspire similar responses from people who visit there.
So I'll join the chorus:

Old crumbling buildings, algae, green lichen, palm trees and GREEN everywhere, the sea never far away. Golden stupas and pagodas on the ridge of the hill. The gold glittering and gleaming in the sun.
Cars come in dribs and drabs, its never really crowded on the streets.

This city is slow, time seems to move differently here, people are calmer and more direct,
I feels as though the British just left yesterday...essentially the SAME place, ...

Just to emphasize the point: I ended up in the same guest house, the exact same arrangement of the furniture in the entrance, to my eyes NOTHING had changed... from when I first visited in 1999.
I know what to expect: I know that at 6am there will be a god almighty communal throat clearing and phlegm spitting by the local guests.
Nothing left to the imagination... all the rooms in the lower floor are connected at ceiling height to allow air circulation.

The guest house itself: an old huge rambling mansion, straight out of Mervin Peake's Ghormenghast trilogy.

Stepping off the train: I felt as though I'm still in a dream of the past, or just walked into an ancient history documentary. I'm sure this feeling will fade within 24 hours.
Arriving anywhere the first day, the first few hours are the best to get a measure of the place before the spirit and the body acclimatize and the differences from other places fade and the mental background noise resumes full strength.

Still I think I could retire in a place like this... where 10 years are like a few days...

Thursday 9Jul09

the poem by Rudyard Kipling that talks about Moulmain transposed Burma into the realm of mystic phantasy is below: - apparently he fell madly in love with a Lady he met on his first day there....


By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"
             Come you back to Mandalay,
             Where the old Flotilla lay:
             Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?
             On the road to Mandalay,
             Where the flyin'-fishes play,
             An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

'Er petticoat was yaller an' 'er little cap was green,
An' 'er name was Supi-yaw-lat -- jes' the same as Theebaw's Queen,
An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,
An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:
             Bloomin' idol made o'mud --
             Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd --
             Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed 'er where she stud!
             On the road to Mandalay . . .

When the mist was on the rice-fields an' the sun was droppin' slow,
She'd git 'er little banjo an' she'd sing "Kulla-lo-lo!"
With 'er arm upon my shoulder an' 'er cheek agin' my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an' the hathis pilin' teak.
             Elephints a-pilin' teak
             In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
             Where the silence 'ung that 'eavy you was 'arf afraid to speak!
             On the road to Mandalay . . .

But that's all shove be'ind me -- long ago an' fur away,
An' there ain't no 'busses runnin' from the Bank to Mandalay;
An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
"If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else."
             No! you won't 'eed nothin' else
             But them spicy garlic smells,
             An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;
             On the road to Mandalay . . .

I am sick o' wastin' leather on these gritty pavin'-stones,
An' the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho' I walks with fifty 'ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An' they talks a lot o' lovin', but wot do they understand?
             Beefy face an' grubby 'and --
             Law! wot do they understand?
             I've a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
             On the road to Mandalay . . .

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be --
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
             On the road to Mandalay,
             Where the old Flotilla lay,
             With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
             On the road to Mandalay,
             Where the flyin'-fishes play,
             An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

Rudyard Kipling  "Mandalay".

Women here do smoke HUGE cheeroots, it might them a day or longer to finish one...

'dance me to the children who are asking to be born....'  - Leonard Cohen

Haiko's - blog list here or direct: life42  or backpacking or  stories

I walk with her, and I hear the gentle beating of mighty wings....
I hear the sound of her wings.... and the darkness lifts from my soul...

08 July 2009

Myanmar1: The colour of your job, - trip up the coast and back in 2 hours.

In downtown Yangon (Rangoon) 7Jul09 MOnday buying an airline ticket to Sittwe ("Sit-way") on the North West Coast 400Km from Yangon. 

The travel Agent Lady fills out the airline ticket.
The office is not busy but the chatter of the staff is like a flock of birds, lively and relaxed.
"Excuse me, are you are Professor ?" she looks up from her writing.
"Huh? ...Yes. How did you work that out ?"
"The way you behave, the way you speak. I worked in Singapore at the University and met many professors."
"I see, how did you spend in Singapore ?"
"15 years."
"Wow, that's a long time, you have PR I assume ?"
"What exactly tells you someone is a professor ?"
"They are different."
"How, what is different ?"
"The way they speak, carefully check everything before doing it. Research things on the internet. They check on google first, have a plan.
Other people if it does not work they change, and do things quick, not so polite."
"But I just walked in and bought the ticket this morning."
"Yes, but you came yesterday and checked the price and asked about Sittwe."
She gotcha!!! ha ha ha !
"Ah ummmhh...yes you are right ! I did come in and check out if I could trust your agency."
I had indeed checked the flight times and prices and compared them to others.

None of that was too surprising. At times I'd look at myself and think, "you look like an academic." Even I noticed that aspect off myself, the "academic whatever-it-is" about me.

Interesting how a job can bring that out in a person, and stamp them.
I've found School teachers and nurses, also get 'stamped' or 'coloured' in some way by their jobs.
I'm sure every job does that in some way, but those are the ones I've noticed in particular.

Of course poeple who sell cars, houses, or their bodies etc... get their own stamp in some way. Not everyone gets stamped by their job, but many, enough to create a stereotype.

NOTE: the word 'Professor' is used by non University people as a generic term to mean any 'academic' who teaches at a University. Outside academia not every people realizes that 'professor' is a rank within the academic ladder and used as a technical term to denote levels of promotion similar to ranks in the military, or any other profession. 

Off to Sittwe on Tuesday.

Tuesday evening: 9pm: back in Yangong (Rangoon)
Rain delayed the flight 400km NW up the coast to "Sittaway".
Everyone got back in after an hour.

After an hour of flying: "Sorry the weather in Sittwe is too dangerous, we are turning back to Yangon".
That's travel in Myanmar. If you want Western reliability and the ability to plan everything like clockwork... this is not the place for it.
I guess that's what I like about it.
Weird, but true.

If you take the bus, the axle can break, and you sit there for 3 hours while they get the welder from some village to fix it.

If you take the ship... uhmmm .... don't want to think or about it.

So tomorrow: back to the Ticket Lady.
and ... 'Ze professor' will pay another visit to the returnee Singaporean PermResident-cum-travel-agent-in-Yangon.
I'll go for a refund. Fingers crossed. I'm pleased I listened to myself and didn't buy a return ticket as well. 

...As I was saying... internet here is precarious, typing this one survived two electrity blackouts in the last hour. Each time the local hotel generator stars up up, the Uniterrupable power supplies (UPS) kick in, and beep beep beep, - if you're lucky the PC survives and does not hang or freeze.
Then the network guy comes around and resets the connections, cranks up the get-around-govt-blocking software and off we go again... "mamma mia, here we go again,... da da....how can I resist you... " (Abba)

But you know what ? Life was kind of simpler when the internet did not exit here, but now that it does... well off I go... .

I had better send this while the going is good....
an a dollar / hour its all very affordable... and re-teaches me again good IT backup procedures....



Aswan, Egypt, Tombs of the Nobles