Sunday, May 18, 2014

Making Chicken Noises at the Market

Yesterday was great.  Two other teachers and I got a taxi for the day.  Rather than visit all the tourist/historical/religious sites, we just opted to run errands.

We started with breakfast at a local tea shop.  Generally, tea shop customers are male and Myanmar so, as usual, I turned heads.  The teachers I was with are Myanmar and Singaporean so they don't stand out quite as much as I do.

The tea shop manager, me and one of the young servers.

So tasty - fried dough filled with mashed banana.  Traditionally sprinkled with sugar but I was happy without.

Dipping another pastry (a gift from the tea shop manager) in sweet tea was perfect.

Most tea shop customers are men.  I saw two other women this morning.  But, not a problem.   I've never received anything but friendly smiles and good service.

The front of the tea shop on 26th street.

The tea shop is just yards from this bank.

After walking through the crowded, open air room, we settled at a table near the open kitchen.  The manager, a charming and flirtatious 72 year old took our order.  I opted for the banana plahda, which is fried bread with mashed bananas inside.  The manager treated me to another pastry, which was much like a plain long John donut.  It was great when dipped in the strong, sweet tea.

After the tea shop came shopping near Diamond Plaza.  This baby was ok with me as long as I didn't get too close.  The mother and baby are wearing the traditional thanaka on their faces.  It's made from a paste which is from a special kind of ground wood.
Our next stop was near Diamond Plaza, where I wanted to buy some fabric for my new longyis.  The cleaning ladies I've been teaching English to gave them to me as gifts.  One is long enough to wrap around me twice.  The other, like the rest of my longyis fits but I prefer a double wrap.  Since teaching first grade is active, I don't want to risk flashing the kidlets.

After buying some fabric (less than $5 for 3 yards), we wandered toward the cooking supplies and I made the greatest purchase ever.  Pie pans!  Technically, they are very small serving trays but I think they will work just fine as shallow pie pans.  We did have a communication glitch during the purchase.  I was explaining to the teacher from Singapore that I'd found pie pans.  "Pie? What is pie?"  she kept asking.  English is her first language, so I just kept repeating "pie".  She wasn't getting it, so I started naming types of pie - pecan, pumpkin, lemon meringue, peach, apple, etc.  She finally figured out I was saying "pie pans."  She thought I was speaking Myanmar and that pie was a Myanmar number.

Next we headed to the gold pounding place.  I'd seen a piece of art there and wanted to price it.  I still loved it - gold leaf in the shape of a large leaf, framed on a black background.  But at $95, out of my price range.

Since we were near a grocery store we liked, we headed there next.  I wandered around, picking up a few things I needed and then remembered I wanted to buy eggs, but hadn't seen any.  I asked an employee where they were.  She did not speak English, so I used the Myanmar word for eggs - Oh.  I kept repeating "oh" and she kept looking at me blankly.  We walked over to another employee and I tried again in English and Myanmar.  No luck.  We picked up another employee who gave me another blank look.  I was getting frustrated and was now surrounded by six young female employees, all wanting to help but having no idea what I wanted.  So I started making chicken noises and imitated a chicken laying an egg.  They immediately got it and we all headed to the eggs, about 10 feet from where we'd been huddled.

I picked up the eggs and said "eggs"  and "oh".  They looked at me and smiled.  Clearly, "oh" is not actually the Myanmar word for eggs.  I asked for the word and again, they wanted to help but didn't know what I wanted.  So I started saying words in English, then words in Myanmar.  Then I said "eggs" and pointed at the eggs and looked at them quizzically.  They got it.  The Myanmar word for eggs is "ooh"  no "oh".  It took ten minutes to get the eggs but I now have six new Myanmar friends.

I also picked up a bunch of DVDs for the kids and a Coldplay CD for me.  The CD was $.70.  Sorry, Coldplay, Myanmar does not abide by international copy write laws.

After shopping we walked next door to the food court.  While the other two teachers were buying some Myanmar food from one vendor, I went to the place where I'd bought the excellent coconut noodle soup previously.  I was very excited to order it - "1 bowl of chicken coconut noodle soup for take away." all in Myanmar.  The workers seemed both shocked and delighted.

If you'd like to either grocery shop or enjoy some "oh no cow sway" (coconut noodle soup) from the food court, ask any taxi driver to take you to Gandamar Wholesale (its not actually a wholesale shop) on 78th street.  The driver may also know it as the old Ruby Mart.   The food court next door has stalls with Indian, Japanese, Thai,  and Myanmar food, along with rotisserie chicken and a stall that sells coffee and smoothies.  My bowl of soup, which was enough for a meal, was $.80 USD.  By the way - when I write Myanmar words, that's my own spelling - I just go phonetically and write it the way it sounds.

After a rough morning of eating and shopping we decided we needed a rest, so headed to a beauty salon.  We spent the next two hours being pampered like queens.  The place is clean, air conditioned and the staff are lovely.  Shampoo, blow dry and massage - $6.50.

My massage therapist at Style Star.  She's tiny but incredibly strong.

Another staff member.  For the shampoo, you lie on the comfortable beds in the photo.  

Two AIS teachers (left, center) and the shop owner, paying the bill.

The owner of Style Star located on 35th St. and 70th.  It's very common for women to own businesses in Myanmar.  

The ladies who work at Style Star.
Feeling cool and refreshed, we headed back into the 100+ degree heat to one of the important religious and historic sites, the oldest monastery in Mandalay.  We had no interest in the monastery but were very interested in checking out the goodies for sale just outside the monastery.  Unfortunately, the vendors have become accustomed to interacting with tourists and have gotten a bit greedy.  After explaining that I am not a tourist, but a teacher who lives in Mandalay, I asked the price of a small wood carving.  The vendor confidently said $18, which was ridiculously high.  It pissed me off.  I understand that this is the off season and they may be lucky to see a dozen foreigners a day and want to make as much as possible but this was highway robbery.  She asked what I'd be willing to pay and I said $5.  She laughed, right up until I walked to the next stall.  Then she came running and offered the price of $6, which was fair.  But I refused because I didn't want her to think it was ok to try to rip off foreigners.

By then we were back to being hot and sweaty so stopped to buy a beer on our way home.  My interaction with the vendor was annoying but the men riding on top of a truck filled with cement bags made up for it as they waved and smiled when they saw me on the street.  That's more typical in Mandalay.

I was planning to add photos with captions explaining locations but the internet is too slow.  Here's the info

Tea Shop - on 26th St., around 65 (I think) near Aya Bank.  Not far from Mandalay Hill.  Well worth seeking out.  If you are visiting Myanmar, you MUST enjoy a meal at a local tea shop.  The locals may stare, but it will be friendly stares and if you smile, you'll get dozens of smiles in return. Plus, free tea and excellent food for less than $1 USD.  No English menu but the manager speaks some English and there's always a local or two who will be happy to translate for you.

Style Star - outstanding place for shampoo/arm/shoulder/back massage and foot/leg massage.  On 35th at 70th.  Across from Super Points.  English is limited, but no worries - they are used to foreigners.  Women only.  Sorry, guys!

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