Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Is the Honeymoon Over?

As with all good things, familiarity breeds annoyance.  I realize that’s not the actual quote, but it’s my blog.  I’d planned to wrap up my lesson plans on Saturday morning, then do a bit of sightseeing.  I’ve been here three weeks and really haven’t seen anything but two main roads and a mall and grocery store.

It was raining Saturday when I headed to school around 6:30.  I made good progress on my lesson plans and even with some socializing with my assistant teachers and another couple of teachers who dropped in, I was done by 11.  It was still raining hard so I used that as an excuse to just hole up in my apartment.  Movies, Mr. Kindle and me.  With the occasional nap thrown in.  A perfect Saturday.

On Sunday it was still a bit rainy and overcast and I decided I really wasn’t in the mood to go out, so once again just enjoyed the privacy of my room.  I gave myself a mani/pedi, read a book (yes, the whole thing), watched Capote, which was excellent and napped some more.  I finally got into the shower about 2:00 p.m. and then strolled outside to see if there was anyone around. 

It’s much like living in a dorm here.  People hang out on the open walkways, chatting and making plans or in the common lounge.  If you want, there’s usually someone to socialize with.  I knocked on the next door, home of Jodie, a 50 something woman from northern California.  She’s also new and we have a lot in common.  She wasn’t home, but arrived a few minutes later and came over to tell me about her day.

She’d spent the day with her assistant teacher (all the assistant teachers are locals), going to a monastery for a special alms ceremony.  She’d enjoyed it and said she got some great photos.

We talked for a couple of hours and then got ready for SUNDAY NIGHT SHOPPING.  That’s all in caps because it’s one of the two big weekly events.  The school bus pulls up, everyone who wants to climbs on board and we head to Diamond Plaza, the only mall in Mandalay and the home of Ocean Super Store. 

When I first arrived I was very excited about Ocean.  Large, stocked with almost all things a palagi could want and air conditioned.  It’s also crowded.  I’m not sure why but Sunday evenings (we leave at 6pm and return home at 7:30 pm) are packed.  It’s rush hour on the streets and Ocean is packed cheek to jowl. 

That’s when I realized the honeymoon was fading.  People pushing, too many people standing in front of displays so I couldn’t see what I wanted, let alone get close enough to grab it.  Most annoying was that I’d come primarily for fresh vegetables and the pickings were slim.  No bok choy.  No cucumbers. 

After half an hour of being tossed about like a leaf in a stream, I called it a day.  I did score maple syrup.  And I stocked up on some other “western” items.  Mayo, peanut butter, whole wheat bread.  But I was hot and sweaty as I waited in the long checkout line.  The doors outside are left open so the air conditioning doesn’t have a chance to keep up.  And the families in front of me in line kept sending out scouts to snag last minute items to add to their baskets.

I was tired of being stared at.  I was feeling grumpy about people checking out what was in my buggy.  Ok, perhaps that was a little guilt since it looked as if I was shopping in Publix in Lake Mary rather than in Asia.  There was nothing Asian in my buggy.

I almost got clipped by a motorcycle as I crossed the small street in front of the mall, lugging my backpack and bags of groceries.  I made it across the big road without incident and climbed on the bus.  Unfortunately, as I was tossing in my bags and climbing up into the bus, the driver started the engine and rolled back a few feet, so I just threw myself into the bus.  Not graceful but it worked.

I sat there, sweaty and waiting for the driver to turn on the air con and considered why I hadn’t enjoyed the shopping.  Ocean was the same.  It was my attitude which was different.  The rose tint in my glasses was fading.  As I stood in line sweating and smiling at the people staring at me I was wondering why I wasn’t in line at Publix, where no one really gave a crap about what I was buying.  Where I could whell my groceries out to my car and then drive them into my garage, about six feet from my kitchen.  Next time, I’m going back to City Mart, which is MUCH less crowded and feels more like shopping than rugby.

On the ride home, I enjoyed watching all the activity in the streets.  The air con had really kicked in and the sweat was drying.  As we approached the school one of the teachers said “The moon!”  I looked over and saw a huge crescent moon hanging over a brightly lit gold pagoda.

The honeymoon isn’t completely over.

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