And then we made it home. I was nauseous throughout our taxi ride, flight, another taxi ride, a subway, a walk, and seven-hour bus ride. And then I laid in bed sick all day Friday and slept.
Thus, the return wasn’t great, but our time in Rangoon really was.
Y’know that “program” that I had on Tuesday?
There was another one on Wednesday.
Thankfully, they both went well and were great opportunities!
Tuesday also ended with us at a dinner party for the United Nationalities Association. I’m not really sure why we were invited, but you can only argue with an old Karen man so much before you just respectfully go along with whatever he tells you. They just kept encouraging me to talk about politics on behalf of the Karen whenever I could. What?!
So we went, completely underdressed. They insisted we wear Karen shirts–which we didn’t bring, but borrowed–but we were still completely underdressed. I only had two pairs of jeans and a knee-length skirt with me. For such an event, I knew the short-ish skirt would stick out; I opted for jeans. I’d rather be talked about as casual than inappropriately slutty.
And then I found myself sitting next to a two guys from the French Embassy in three-piece suits. Awesome.
We also got to enjoy dinner on Tuesday and lunch Wednesday with some of my students from previous trainings! Through our time here I saw eight students, which was fun.
Two of the girls are working for a small community-based organization in their hometown. A dam was built there in 2006, displacing many families. They are doing reporting on the displacements and writing reports to the legislature to demand compensation. Another student is now studying at the local seminary.
It was really fun to get to catch up with them and continue to get their advice on future trainings.
If you’re eating street food and getting around on foot, Rangoon isn’t too costly. You can get a meal for a $1 or $2, and even a thirty-minue taxi across town for $4.
But the hotels will get you.
As foreigners, we can’t stay with friends, but are required to stay in hotels, all of which are expensive. We were told by friends to expect around $60 per night for a low-end hotel.
This was too much for us, so we ended up at the Ocean Pearl Inn.
It was still completely overpriced at $30, but included “breakfast”–uncomfortably sweet toast, one egg, one banana–and free transport from the airport.
It has been an experience to say the least.
My favorite part? The sink pipe went into the wall, and back out again at your feet: so you spit your toothpaste into the sink and suddenly feel said toothpaste spit hitting your toes.
The streets of Rangoon are very unique. Due to poor infrastructure, the roads are poor and the sidewalks are atrocious. You have to remind yourself to look up and around you, but if you do so too much, you’ll be on your face. The sidewalks are nonexistent in many areas, move under you in others, and sometimes turn into huge ditches or rivers.
There are many, many cars, but once you really look at it, you realize its taxis. Over half the vehicles are taxis, and a significant number are buses or public trucks; leaving a relatively small number that are private vehicles. There are just a shocking number of taxis.
And even with this, we managed to take a random non-taxi home after dinner one night. We walked to the main road and had a car pull up to us. We then saw there was a woman in the passenger seat and apologized, walking away to get another taxi. He assured us it was his wife–“the boss”–and he could take us wherever. We climbed in.
As we drove, Stephen started looking around in the car. “Is this even a real taxi?” he asked. I confidently said yes; all the taxis have “City Taxi” stickers on the outside. No problem!
And then we got out. No sticker. No special taxi license. Just some random guy on a date with his wife who thought he could pay for dinner if he just drove us across town…
At dinner on our last night in town, our waiter was over-talkative. He stood next to us for about ten minutes before our food came and continued to talk to us while we ate. It was pretty awkward.
But the best part? He told us about Obama coming to visit Rangoon. The conversation went like this:
Waiter: Where do you come from?
Waiter: Oh! Do you know Obama come here? Obama come to Yangon!
Stephen: Yes, I heard that. Very exciting. Did you meet him?
Waiter: Yes, of course. I meet him on the movie.
To which Stephen later muttered, “So, we’ve met Obama, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Abraham Lincoln. And The Terminator.”
One afternoon we took the circular train around town. It was recommended by an advisor and a really good opportunity. The entire trip is three and half hours, $1 for a ticket. The seats are less than comfortable in the “ordinary class”. However, we were able to catch a glimpse into the life of the city.