Things that have come back into my life this week: a mattress – actually, a bed – a mirror, a shower nozzle, a basin, space, privacy (of a sort). I’m happy.
My new accommodation that I requested (and am paying for) is a massive upstairs of a guest house, complete with two bedrooms, a huge living area, a food preparation area (nothing to cook on though), a toilet and bathroom. It’s amazing!!
The locals are still having trouble accepting that I like to be alone sometimes, and that I’m quite independent. They are terribly concerned for my security and struggle to let me walk anywhere alone. I’ve even been followed by a guy on a motorbike as I walked about five minutes to my classroom, just to be sure. I’ve managed to control the inner scream and am trying my hardest to take a deep breath and ignore.
I have a new responsibility adding to my portfolio too. Being the expert counsellor that I am, my task is to help the daughter of the guest house overcome her shyness – I’m guessing this is in exchange for my reduced rate in the guest house. So far my interactions with this girl, Po Po (22yr) have been interesting. She first called in yesterday while I was finally sitting down to do some preparations for my first class. Her English is near non-existent so I tried my best with my Burmese dictionary to interact with her. My first request was for her to help me buy some milk powder or evaporated milk. She seemed to understand and led me down to her motorbike. We set off to get said milk powder but ended up at her house. I waited on the chair set out for me while she went off into the house – was she getting milk powder from her mother? Or asking her mother to help with translating? Or …? Turns out she was just getting changed. Oh okay, she did have a very nice traditional costume on when she arrived. Back on the motorbike and off to the main street to get this milk powder. But no, we continued past all the shops, and seemed to be driving by the monastery, and then pulled up in front of some other buildings. “School, school” she says enthusiastically, pointing to the buildings. Oh, okay, so she’s brought me on a tourist visit to the school. That’s nice and I am interested to see around the buildings, but there’s no milk powder here. Oh wait, there just happens to be a giant advertisement on the school building for milk powder! On our way out of the school I run over to it and point and smile eagerly. “Yes, yes”. So we finally get my milk powder. Then I mentioned buying some fruit. Once again, “yes, yes”, she smiles. And then I end up at a restaurant telling them what I’d like to eat for dinner. I gave up on the fruit. Her friend and cousin, both as lovely and generous as Po Po, joined us at dinner and we chatted a little more (they thought I was 27yr J), but I was getting conscious of the decreasing amount of time available for planning my lesson for the next day. When they finally suggested leaving I was relieved. Until they set off back into town with me on the back of the motorbike. I had to interject here and managed to communicate that I needed to go home. Phew. Then they showed up an hour or two later back at my place with lots of snacks for me. Then she brought me some breakfast this morning. Then they popped back in this afternoon just as I was sitting down to start preparations again (suppressed inner scream). It turned out that they were wanting to take me to visit a nearby pagoda. We’ve re-negotiated this and I’m going tomorrow at 5pm – aaaah, I like schedules and appointments. (Loosen up Kim!).
This really is good for my development. My ability to have an opinion and communicate it assertively is growing. I had a chat with Ko Myo this evening and tried to communicate some boundaries … Po Po can visit for an hour between 7pm and 9pm but not every day. I have also asked if I can – oh, here’s Po Po and her cousin again, bringing me some traditional sweets from Mandalay because they were worried I’d be hungry (they’re so thoughtful) – stay in this new accommodation for the whole six months rather than moving into the guest house owner’s own home in a busier part of town once it’s built. Fingers crossed!
… It’s now a day or two later and I’ve just come back from visiting a couple of pagodas and a cemetery with Po Po and her friends. I can’t remember the names, sorry. For those who haven’t seen one before, pagodas are large golden tiered statues shaped kind of like a pyramid, but with eight sides (does that make sense? I’m sure there’s a more technical description for their shape, but just look at the picture). They are often (maybe always?) situated beside a temple and a monastery. The eight sides of the first one we visited today were each labelled with a different day, though Wednesday has been split into morning and afternoon to make the eight. In Myanmar every person has a “lucky day” that relates to when you were born. You work it out using a couple of tables. Mine is a Wednesday so, because I was born around 7pm my lucky day is “Wednesday afternoon”. This in turn relates to an animal. For Wednesday it is an elephant – without tusks for the morning, with tusks for the afternoon. People worship at the side of the pagoda representing their day. I also learned when I was in Yangon that people have a lucky direction. Mine is north-west. I’m still not really sure what the significance of this is, but Myanmar is NW of NZ, and Pantanaw is NW of Yangon, so maybe I’m on the right track! The second pagoda we visited has a small model of the very famous pagoda near Bago called Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, which is built on a large golden rock. We didn’t hang around here long as there was some pretty impressive thunder and lightning and we wanted to beat the rain. My next excursion with Po Po and friends will take me back there, and also to see how their traditional mats are made. Watch this space.
From my first analysis of Po Po, she doesn’t seem shy at all, though Ko Myo assures me that she is often so shy she won’t leave her home. I suspect I provide a reason to get her out of the house and an opportunity for her to learn English. Seems like a fair deal.
On the teaching side of things, I’ve just finished my second lesson for the week and all is going well. My next post will be about that. Well done to those who are still reading these rambles. Mum.