Messages From Myanmar #25
07 February 2017
Hello there, Rodger French here.
We find ourselves in an odd sort of twilight zone these days. No more major trips are planned, no more visitors are scheduled, and we leave Post in late July in order to report for duty in Rome in mid-September. From this travel correspondent’s perspective, life in Myanmar is currently a matter of quotidian routine.
Not to say that there’s nothing afoot. Anne is working very hard (as always) to get the new American Center ready for dedication, although the date remains uncertain. I am still working in Diplomatic Security and have lately been asked to help out with visa applicant screening in the Consular Section, where the rubber, truly, meets the road.
[Diplomatic Sidebar - Since Myanmar is not on the list of countries cited in President* Trump’s spectacularly ill-conceived Muslim immigration ban, we are, for the moment, carrying on bidness as usual.]
So… no breathless descriptions of the wonders of Southeast Asia and no dramatic photoz today; just a shout out to say hello and let you know we’re doing alright and representing as best we can. But, just to make this a bit interesting, permit me to offer up a few of the things I will and won’t miss about living in Yangon. Because, why the hell not.
Yes - The people, who have been very nice to us; especially the Embassy staff, who are just terrific.
No - The traffic, which is unpredictably awful and getting worse, despite the fact that Yangon does not yet allow the chaos of motorbikes on the streets. Most traffic signals are still controlled manually by the police, so we regularly encounter red lights that last 10 minutes or more. Who thinks this is a good idea?
Yes - Breakfast at the Embassy’s Shwe Café: Tuesday, Shan noodles; Wednesday, Nan gyi thohk; Thursday, Mohinga. (Feel free to look ‘em up.)
No - The jungle heat permeates. The jungle heat is out to get you. The jungle heat always wins. (Although, to be fair, in 18 months, I’ve only worn socks once, and that was to the Marine Ball. I don’t mind that.)
Yes - Urban wildlife, particularly the feral dogs and the crows.
[Urban Wildlife Sidebar - I was walking on the sidewalk one day and came across three crows having a committee meeting, debating the disposition of a dead rat. Respect.]
Yes - Shwedagon Pagoda is the essence of magnificence. I pass Shwedagon twice a day going to/from the Embassy and never get tired of looking at it.
Bonus Feature - Actual business names. Granted, Ghana will always be the champ in this category, but these are not bad:
- Big Boss Brothers Service Co., LTD
- Brother Billions CCTV and Security
- Golden Happy Hot Pot
- Micky Mouse Bar
- Sweety Home Spring Mattress
- Tony Tun Tun Beauty Spa