I have so many unfinished blog posts on my computer and, for some reason, I’m finding it particularly difficult to finish them. It’s probably due to the difficulty of writing retrospectively, once the lustre of new experience has faded. And so I’m beginning from scratch, and I’m not letting myself leave this cafe until I’ve published something.
(I did just put some unedited photos of Pantanaw up from about 5 months ago though, to help you visualise small-town Myanmar. It must have been quite painful uploading them with this internet so it’s only right that I put them out there).
So I guess I’ll just write about my life in Yangon for a bit; vastly different to life in Pantanaw. And I’ll mention some of (only) my most recent travels, over Christmas. Last year I visited some pretty great places but I don’t know that it’s very exciting to read about other people’s holidays. If I find some time and inspiration, and good wifi, I’ll upload some photos.
Okay, Yangon …
Well, I currently live in one of four apartments on the fourth floor of one of about twelve six-storey apartment buildings within a housing complex, all painted green. There are three of us living in this three-bedroomed apartment for a total cost of 830,000 kyats (about NZ$970) a month. We had to pay all of the rent at the beginning of our six month contract. The same goes if you have a year long contract. My two flatmates – Mohit from India and Adrianne from The Philippines – both work in advertising. We are all pretty busy with life and so haven’t really invested much into making it homely. We have some furniture made from pallets and thin mattresses. There’s a fridge, two-ring gas cooker and sink in the kitchen. And the bathroom contains a flush toilet, a shower head and a washing machine. Everything we need, no flourishes.
My school is about a seven minute walk from the apartment – FANtastically not requiring a taxi journey. The school itself requires an entirely different blog post, though I can say that I’m slowly becoming accustomed to the disorganised and slightly unsupportive ways adopted by many there. This year I’m teaching Year 8 and Year 9 science, and Year 10 Food and Nutrition. Challenging for many reasons I won’t go into here, but not for its class sizes, nor for its offering of non-contact hours to teachers, nor, in fact, for its students. I was recently told I have the most difficult kids in the school who are, by no means, NZ-difficult.
With each passing week Yangon is very obviously changing before my eyes. A new four-storey shopping more, akin to this found in Bangkok, has just opened around the corner from my house. Brand new apartment buildings and office blocks are being built in every direction where I live and, it seems, all around Yangon. The sight of a westerner is fast becoming commonplace. And I now have three options to choose from for a very acceptable coffee.
I’m slowly getting back into running, inspired by a weekly run and leisurely breakfast with the Yangon Running Club. We just had the Yangon marathon and half marathon on the weekend which was fun. Long, white legs are rare and beneficial in Asian running races it seems – I got tenth. Never before! My non-work-related activities besides running are varied … I’ve been trying yoga/pilates/barre classes at my local yoga studio, and I also consider it my duty to support new restaurants and bars opening up around town. Each weekend seems to present more and more socialising opportunities as more and more foreigners move in – I’ve been to embassy dinners, opera concerts, documentary viewings, art and photography exhibitions, barbecues, hipster farmers’ markets, public talks … you name it. This weekend I’m even trying something called acroyoga, which I’m considering as my “do one thing that scares you” every day, week and month option. I’ve been assured it’ll be fun.
Over Christmas I had the opportunity to tag along with my Kiwi friend’s family trip to a couple of Myanmar’s famous tourist spots – Bagan, with it’s thousands of pagodas, and Inle Lake, with it’s famous standing fishermen. When the wifi allows I’ll add a couple of pictures.
I also visited “the” beach in Myanmar – Ngapali – for a relaxing four days over New Year with a few friends. Delayed booking meant I stayed in four different (but all luxurious) hotels.
And then in the last week of the holidays I joined some other friends for a cycling trip that took in the highlights of Kyaiktiyo (or the Golden Rock), Hpa an and its Mt Swegabin and Sadder caves, and then down to Mawlamyine the capital of Mon State.
I’m running out of time so I’m going to end here and spend a few minutes trying to upload a photo or two. Sorry it’s not very interesting, but hey, it’s a start.