Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Messages From Myanmar #26

Messages From Myanmar #26
19 April 2017

Hello there, Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:
 “Ngapali Beach”

Alrighty, then, it’s time to catch up. Rather than bore you with tales of day-to-day life in the Foreign Service (much of which consists of speculation as to (a) the ramifications of President* tRump’s Twitter-based foreign policy and (b) the ramifications of Secretary tRex’s virtual non-existence), I thought I’d bore you with a recap of some recent happenings that arguably bear mentioning.

26 February: Another Musical Triumph - One year after the very successful Album Release Party for “Che, AcordeĆ³n,” Anne and I produced another “Small Concert” here at The Shang. I presented a program of Tango, musette, and musical miscellany, and she presented Prosecco. About 40 people, mostly from the Embassy, attended and a splendid afternoon ensued.

02 April: Yet Another Musical Triumph - I have been most fortunate to be asked to perform with The Orchestra for Myanmar on two previous occasions. This was my third and (regrettably) final opportunity and we made the most of it. The Orchestra was joined by members of the BBC Orchestra (serious players), The New Children’s Choir (cats, well herded), soloists from The National University for Arts and Culture (local and very good), and The Strand Singers (expats and ditto).

I was soloist for two tangos by Astor Piazzolla: “Oblivion” and, following a segue of my own devising, “Libertango.” The former is a wonderfully slow, lyrical, and atmospheric piece. The latter, however, is terrifically rhythmic and intense; and the Orchestra, led by our Spanish conductor and driven by the accordionist as well as the Brits augmenting the string section, determined to take no prisoners. The SRO audience in the Strand Hotel Ballroom cheered and we were all covered in glory. I love being a musician.

07 April: Family Visit - My brother is a sincere evangelical Christian. I am sincerely not. But he’s a good guy and we get along just fine. Anyway, he was doing his thing in the ‘hood (Vietnam) and came to Myanmar to meet with some like-minded folks. Naturally, he stayed with us and we had a fine visit. He’s very personable and a good storyteller, and was quite favourably impressed with Myanmar and its people. We avoided talking religion and politics (mostly) and spent time doing normal things and catching up on family stuff. It was nice.

12 April: A Week at the Beach - As previously noted, Thingyan is the celebration of the Burmese New Year (Happy 1379!). It is also a good time to get out of town, since everything (including the Embassy) closes for a week. This year, we headed for Ngapali Beach, located in Rakhine State, a mere 45-minute flight from Yangon. Since A.J. has points with the Hilton chain, we booked a nice place at their resort; lagoon side, of course, because who can afford a beachfront villa?

Us, as it happens. For mysterious reasons, we got bumped up to a very nice place on the beach, complete with its own “plunge pool.” Was not expecting that… did not complain. The deluxe accommodations, along with the Asian lunch/dinner buffets and infinity pool made for a very relaxing week, something we (and by “we” I mean Anne) really deserved. In addition, the staff were all very courteous, considerate, and good at their jobs. Good thing, too.

On our last night, we received word of a tropical depression developing in the Bay of Bengal, making its way to the Myanmar coast. Over the course of the evening, it developed into a deep depression, and finally a cyclonic storm worthy of an actual name: Cyclone Maarutha. We’ve been through hurricanes before, but it’s still a bit unnerving to be hunkered down near the beach, waiting for a cyclone when you have a plane to catch the next morning. The staff, however, was on the case and we made it through in fine form with a nice vacation and a good story to tell.