Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ramblings About Being Home

It's Sunday morning and I'm enjoying being home in my new apartment.  Enjoying the view through the floor to ceiling windows and listening to Sarah Brightman.  I thought I'd use the time to capture some impressions I've had during the last month.

  • First thought when I deplaned at JFK:  "What a dump!"  After the airports in Bangkok and Narita, which are sleek, comfortable and modern, JFK suffered in comparison.  Second thought:  "Americans are so fat!"  Yes, I own a mirror and I'm aware of the pot calling the kettle stuff...but after so long in a country where people are very slender, it was amazing to see so many obese people, most of whom were eating giant slices of pizza courtesy of  the nearby food court.
  • I love to drive.  I never used to but during the last 4 years I've had limited access to a car.  Being able to hop in my car and run errands or just go for a drive was such a treat.  One morning I talked to a friend as she drove in to work at 6:00 a.m.  I told her I'd already been out to get my favorite 7/11 coffee and go for a drive.  "Why?"  she asked.  "Because I could."
  • Long haul flights aren't so bad, if you know how.  Because I have lifetime status on Delta (thanks to flying over a million miles on them) I'm able to reserve my seat when I book my flights - even the restricted seats.  I fly either 747s or 777s on the Bangkok/Narita and Narita/US flights.  I've discovered the perfect exit row seats.  Tons of leg room, ability to get up without crawling over anyone or vice versa.  Almost as good as first class.  I take my down blanket, which folds away to nothing, noise cancelling headphones, eye mask and moisturizer.  I read and watch movies.  Time flies. Pun intended.
  • I love my friends.  We pick up where we left off and it seems as if I've been gone a days rather than months.  I can't express how much their love and support means to me.  I miss just hanging out with people who get me and laugh at the same stuff I do.
  • I love my new Myanmar friends.  Two of the guys on the staff were waiting at the airport - nice to see familiar faces.  BTW - because I get a work visa on entry, instead of standing in line with all the tourists/locals at immigration, I go to a small office.  The ladies there know me now and are always friendly.  After 5 minutes to get my visa, one escorted me to the "Diplomat" desk.  As people in the long immigration lines watched, wondering who the hell I was, I laughed with two of the immigration officers.  Some started to get into line behind me but were firmly told to get back in their long line.  Did they think I was really a diplomat?  Rock star?  What a disappointment for them if they saw me hop in the Ayeyarwaddy International School bus.
  • When I got off the bus at school two friends were waiting with flowers.  They and the staff carried my luggage upstairs and we checked out my new apartment and gossiped.  More friends stopped by to catch up and welcome me home.  I miss my old friends in the USA but love my new ones in Myanmar.
  • Saw a billboard on the way to the airport in Bangkok:  "Do not tattoo Buddha.  Do not buy or sell Buddha for decoration.  It is disrespectful."  Glad I've refrained from buying any of the beautiful statues and paintings of Buddha I've been tempted to buy.
  • As I type this, I'm watching a small truck pass.  It's making about it's 20 pass on the small road outside my apartment.  People often use the road to help new drivers practice because they can drive on the deserted road that stretches in a square around the school compound.
  • Mandalay is a desert.  Flying in yesterday it was obvious that the rainy season hasn't started.  The land is parched and everything is even dustier than when I left.
  • I was assured it was "cool" yesterday at only 100 compared to recent temps of 106.  It wasn't so bad in the shade but brutal in the sun.  That didn't deter the boys I saw playing in a field near the airport.
  • Why is a Big Mac $1 cheaper in the Bangkok airport than in my local McD's in Lake Mary?
  • I'll be dining on Subway today.  Purchased at Don Mueang airport yesterday.  Yum.
  • I heard yesterday that there's no cheese again at the store.  Damn.  I hope it returns soon.  
  • One of the English classes I'll be conducting for school staff starting this week will be using debate as the format.  Should be great fun.  Another teacher is already doing it and said that they get big crowds for the weekly debate.  
  • I miss my kids.  Many of them will be coming to summer school but that doesn't start until the end of May.  Hopefully I'll run into some of them around town.
  • Construction is booming in Mandalay.  Mostly large hotels and giant private homes for wealthy Chinese families.  Mansions on a scale that would make Real Housewives green with envy.
  • A bus, followed by one of the white pickups used for local transport just pulled into a driveway across from the school.  Wonder what's up with that?
  • I'm planning to expand my social life this year.  I hear the American Center has a great library and weekly classes/events for expats in Mandalay.  I'm also planning to see if I can get a book or cooking club going for parents of the kids at the school.  Would be fun and a good way to socialize more with locals.
  • The full-size bed I'd been promised didn't appear in my room.  I slept last night in the same twin bed I've had for the last 8 months.  I'm torn - is it better to have the comfort of the larger bed or the space that I have in the room with the twin?
  • The small truck continues to circle the school.  I'd better quit watching it and typing and head for the shower.

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