Sunday, February 9, 2014

I Love Mandalay

When I return from vacation in April and it is 120 degrees and humid, please remind me of this post.

This isn't a one-way street, where we happen to be going the wrong way.  It's just Mandalay, where people drive "as they like".

Beautiful, decorated fabrics used for formal traditional longyis.

Fresh tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes.  How about six for a dollar?

Red tomatoes, green tomatoes.

Carnations, roses, greenery.

This is the lady who handles the money at one of the stalls we bought from.  She handed change over via a long handled fan.

When I asked to take her photo, her husband wanted to get in the picture.  It is rare to see physical displays of affection in public, which is why she is laughing so hard..and trying to get away.

These women were watching as I took photos.  Taking a break from shoveling sand.  They were surprised that I wanted to take their photo.  I think they're beautiful.  By the way, they're bundled up, because even though they were doing physical labor, they were chilly.  It is winter, after all.  I was wearing a t-shirt and sweating because it was about 90 degrees.

I love to try new foods.  This is a vegetable.  It only cost 50 cents so I bought a bag.  It can be stir-fried, usually with other vegetables.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Longan and tangerines.  $1.00 worth of fruit.

Today is Sunday and I had a lot to do.  I was up early, ready for shopping for school and home.  About ten minutes before the taxi was to arrive, a friend stopped by to ask if I had plans for the day.  I invited her to join me.  She hesitated for a second then ran up three flights of stairs to wash her face and brush her hair.

First we headed to Zeygo Market.  On our way there, I experienced the normal and wonderful experience of connecting with the locals.  Making eye contact and smiling as we sat in traffic or passed each other.  One guy, about my age, was passing my taxi (he was heading in the same direction but in the lane of oncoming traffic) and we made eye contact.  I smiled.  He smiled.  Then he tried to wave while swerving back into the proper lane and almost wiped out on his motorbike.  No worries, he regained control, smiled and waved as he headed past us.

We went in a side entrance at Zeygo, which was fortuitous.  I'd never come in that way and had missed a whole section of the market.  First we entered the notions section.  Zippers, buttons, sparkly stuff.  A bit expensive, but will be wonderful for crafts for summer school.  One stall had nail polish, buttons, rubber bands and other assorted items.  I'll be going back there since we have no supplies like paper clips or rubber bands at the school.

We walked on a few feet and hit the mother lode of paper.  The vendor was more than slightly surprised when I bought 30 packages of crepe paper.  I explained I'm not a tourist but a "sayama" - teacher.  Ah, she understood.  For Valentine's day we're making a "card" for the parents - a sheet of homemade paper (bought from the crepe paper lady), with a heart drawn on, filled with torn pieces of crepe paper glued on and the kids will write - I Love You To Pieces.  Cute, eh?

Next we moved up a couple of levels to the toy vendor.  Sadly (and surprisingly) some of the cheap toys I bought the kids as rewards came up missing the other day.  I was restocking.  I got small Rubix cubes, sticky geckos, fashion rings and magnifying lenses.  The kids will be thrilled.  By the way, yes, like most teachers, I pay for this stuff out of my own pocket.  But easier here than in the US.  I paid $20 for the art supplies and toys and it's enough to last until the end of school.  The irony is that most of the parents are millionaires and could/would pay for this stuff.  I just hate to ask them for it since they've already paid hefty tuition fees.

Next we headed to Diamond Plaza.  Neither of us needed much at Ocean the grocery/general store but we spent 45 minutes there anyway.  First was the bakery.  I bought a loaf of raisin bread since that was the only sliced bread available and will be good for lunches for the week.  I also bought a couple of pastries.  Total price was $1.20.

While at the bakery, which has a section for dining in, I noticed two guys with plastic gloves on their right hands.  Why get your hands sticky when picking up a pastry when you can use a plastic glove.  Clever.

My grocery tab, which included confectioners sugar, hamburger, gin, cheese, dried banana chips and sushi was $11.  I'd planned to get an iced mochachino to go from the bakery but decided to pass.  Saved me a buck.

Next, a few blocks away from the "Chinese market".  It's an area where vendors set up stalls every day to sell fruit, veg and meats, along with an assortment of kitchen related items.  I love the Chinese market.  Remind me I said that when it is 120 degrees out, and I'm willing to settle for the less fresh, more expensive produce because it means less sweating.

The vendors at the market are delightful, as are the people who just work and live on the streets there.  Yes, I still pay the "foreign tax" that all foreigners pay even though I point out that I'm an sayama.  Sometimes that help, usually it doesn't.

Today, I bought longons (like lychee), tangerines, a perfectly ripe pineapple, cucumber, okra, a bucket and a basket for the shelf in my desk.  Total price was about $5.  I also got to take some photos and exchange many smiles with the people working there.  I also got to buy a vegetable I've never seen before being in Myanmar and had no idea how to cook.  But, it was fifty cents.  I brought it home.  There was another one that I saw for the first time here that I may buy next week.  I love exploring new foods.

When we arrived back at school the guards came out to greet us.  I only have to go up one flight of stairs and could have managed my bags but they insisted on helping.

I asked one of the English speaking guards about how to cook the new vegetable (which looks like a grub) and he had no idea.  He checked with another guy, who also had no idea.  Then, luckily, an assistant teacher was working overtime and explained how to cook it.  Stir fried, usually with other vegetables.  I'll let you know how it goes.

I love it in Mandalay.

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