Saturday, February 28, 2015

No More !

I've been contemplating my views on travel recently.  I was given the opportunity to attend a conference in Borneo in March.  I respectfully begged off.  Really?  Who would turn down a free trip to Borneo?

I used to beg my employers to send me to conferences.  Toledo?  Fabulous!   A big factor in becoming a consultant was that I got to travel every week.  But now?  I'm slowing down.  Becoming jaded?  Lazy?  Hmmm.

Part of my rationale for turning down the conference was the timing.  I'm currently in Bangkok on a visa run.  The conference would have been two weeks from now and would require 4 airports for a 4 day trip, each way.  Two weeks after that is a 1 1/2 week holiday and I was hoping to visit Vietnam.  It just felt like too much. 

For 18 years as an independent management consultant I traveled a lot.  I have lifetime status on Delta, thanks to the million plus miles I flew on them.  Now, when I have time off, I don't care to spend it in airports.

A friend recently took a 16 hour bus ride to go to the beach.  Nope.  Wouldn't do it.  No interest.

Other friends are riding their motorbikes across Myanmar for days.  Nope.  Not interested.  Seen enough pagodas.  Had my photo taken by enough locals.

So, am I getting old and lazy?  Jaded?  Or is it because I've lived abroad (Guatemala, Samoa, Malawi, Myanmar) long enough that I've learned to appreciate the routine.  For example, here in Bangkok this weekend, I'm just relaxing.  And grazing.  So far I've had salad, New Zealand green lipped mussels, raw tuna and salmon and some grilled chicken livers and gizzards,  I'm enjoying fast internet and cable tv,  I'm going to take a bath when I log off. 

Whatever the cause of my decrease of urge to see everything/do everything, I'm enjoying this stage.  I may not see every pagoda in Myanmar but I'll treasure the time I spend with my favorite vendors at the produce market and my ladies at Style Star who work hard to make me feel so pampered.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What's New in Mandalay

I find it hard to believe that it's February 21, 2015.  Time seems to be flying by.  Nothing extraordinary has happened but I thought I'd fill you in on what I've been up to the last couple of weeks.

I continue to love having the new Citimart grocery store open.  The good news is they have a variety of western products, including cheese, ham, olives and more.  The downside is that they cost American (or more) prices.  When I shop at Mingalar, the produce market I prefer, I can spend $10 for all the food I can carry.  At Citimart, I can spend $40 for one bag of groceries.  Still worth it, though.

Teaching first grade is an adventure every day.  I work hard to keep it fresh for the kids and for myself.  Routine is good because kids that age like to know what to expect.  But, it's always good to have novelty and make it interesting.

Last week we had international tests for grades 3-10.  One of the grade 4 teachers asked if I was willing to do some shared stuff in the afternoons after their tests.  You bet!  The first afternoon, we played Science Jeopardy to help my kids prepare for their upcoming Unit 6 Science test.  My first graders proudly beat the socks off their grade 4 competitors.  Admittedly, my guys have been studying this stuff for the last few weeks and this was long ago info for the 4th graders.  It really didn't matter who won - there was learning going on and a lot of excitement and fun.

The country celebrated Chinese New Year last week.  At least 50% of people in Mandalay are of Chinese descent so it's a big deal.  So big, in fact, that only 6 of my 19 students showed up that day.

We started the day with the fourth grade again.  The seven students from their class joined ours and we created timelines of a typical day.  Wonderful to see the kids working so well together and helping each other.

It's customary to give gifts of food and cash on Chinese New Year.  Kids told me about receiving up to $100 from family and family friends.  One boy came in on the holiday with a grocery bag full of "snacks"  = cookies, chocolate, jellies, etc.  The bag was a gift from his Chinese tutor.  I asked if he planned to eat all of them (anticipating a major sugar high) but he assured me he only planned to eat two- one for each of our breaks.  He gave me one snack and another to Tr. May, our assistant teacher.  When he realized that only five other students were there that day, he realized that he had plenty of snacks to share with all the other students.  He told me before school he had a surprise - he was going to give everyone a snack.  All day, he kept reminding me of his surprise and I let him know it was up to him to decide when to share.  He happily waited until the end of the day when he announced his surprise to the class and shared his treats.  I was happy to hear the "thank yous" and see the appreciation.  The best treat of the day was at the very end of the day when this independent, creative, sweet little boy gave me a hug for letting him share his "surprise".

The same day, we had one period where the kids worked on a variety of projects in math and language arts.  When they finished their work, they got to read or draw.  One boy was drawing and proudly came up to give me the "project" he'd made for me.  He'd drawn a heart, colored it in and written the word "LOVE" in the center, then cut it out.  He gave it to me and told me it was because he loved me.  I love him, too, along with the rest of these amazing kids.

Since there were so few kids at school, for the last 30 minutes of the day I organized a kick ball game for all 3 first grade classes.  13 on one team, 12 on the other.  We didn't exactly go by the rules but everyone had a fabulous time.

On Friday, I went grocery shopping after school to one of the three modern grocery stores in the city.  While checking out a family asked if they could take their photo with me.  Sure.  Always nice to be a celebrity.

After shopping, a friend and I went out to dinner and then to the beauty salon for shampoo, blowdry, massage and mani/pedi.  Total for pizza, beer and spa was $14.  A great Friday night.

Next week is a full week of school and then on Saturday I'll fly to Bangkok for a visa run.  We've got three days off the following week so it will be short.  I'm looking forward to the break in Thailand but also to a week with my littles.  There's nothing better than seeing all that excitement and enthusiasm as the kids come in every morning.  Except, maybe, all the hugs I get every day.

Friday, February 6, 2015

New Friends

The internet has made the world so much smaller.

I got an email from a charming lady from London recently.  She'd been googling Zeygo market because she was coming to Myanmar with a small tour group.  She stumbled upon my blog and not only took the time to read it, she emailed me about it.

After a couple of email exchanges, we agreed to meet up when she was in Mandalay.  I'm so glad that we did!

We agreed that I'd pick up Dorothy and her friends Diana and Miki at their hotel at 4:00 p.m.  on a Friday evening.  I must confess, as the day progressed, I was not looking forward to it.  My Friday evenings are usually dedicated to being a sloth and relaxing after a tiring week.  Having said that, I knew that once we met and got out, I knew we'd have a good time.  I was right.

Another teacher and I met the ladies at their hotel and we planned our evening.  I was a bit concerned that they had passed on their group tour of U Bein Bridge and dinner to spend the evening with us.  Especially since we weren't taking them to the tourist sites, but rather to the places that we go to regularly.

We started at Mingular market, the produce/wet market where I buy most of my food.  We wandered around and tasted some of the local fruits.  Miki and I agreed that dragon fruit is a big damn disappointment.  It is beautiful and has an exotic and misleading name, since it is one of the blandest fruits you can find.  Dorothy was impressed, as I am, with the Mandarin oranges, which are relatively cheap and plentiful here.

Our next stop was a quick one at Gandamar market, which is a local grocery store.  Dorothy was interested in buying some soap for souvenirs and I've bought thanaka soap there.  Less than a dollar, smells like sandalwood and foams up nicely.

Next we headed to our primary goal - Style Star, the salon where I go at least once a week.  It was busy on a Friday night but we each got a treatment fairly quickly.  Three of us went for the shampoo/shoulder and arm massage and blow dry.  Two of us opted for the foot/leg scrubbing and massage.  The hotel where the ladies stayed charged $70 for a foot massage.  Style Star, which is for locals rather than tourists charges $6.50.  The shampoo/massages were $2.50.  The ladies seemed quite pleased and seemed to really enjoy the pampering and local experience.

To top off the evening we headed to Joy Garden on 62nd St., near 35 to have a Myanmar dinner.  Rather than ordering from the menu, we went for the barbecue.  We chose the sticks of stuff we wanted - paneer cheese, okra, spring onions, goat, chicken, pork, spicy fish in banana leaves, a whole fish, lotus root and more, along with a bottle of white wine, some sodas and a beer for $35.  Our visitors generously paid for dinner. The food and the conversation were terrific.

I so enjoyed meeting these ladies.  We found so many things in common.  We had so many common interests.  Intelligent conversation.  The serendipity of spending time with like-minded strangers.  I'm sorry we only had a few hours together.  They each generously offered to host me at their homes in London.  I hope they realize I was very serious when I said I'd take them up on it.  I'm already checking dates and flights.  Really, 70 countries and I've never been to England?  I have to correct that.  Having new friends there will just make it better.


We lose a lot of teeth in first grade.  It just comes with the territory - six year old kids lose baby teeth.  One day I found a tooth on the floor.  No one claimed it.  Served as a great science experiment, though.  We put it in a glass of Coke and waited to see what would happen.  The kids were appalled a couple of days later when they saw the tooth just rotting away.

 After the Christmas holiday, which was three weeks long, I took a poll of number of teeth lost.  7.  It's fun to watch the new "adult" teeth coming in.

On Tuesday, we had another tooth lost and this time, it was mine.  Actually, I just lost a crown.  It happened at lunch and I was very happy I didn't swallow it.  The kids thought it was very funny that I lost a baby tooth.

Aye Aye Than, who is the heart of our school, arranged for a driver to take me to the dentist after school.  I hate dentists.  I've had bad experiences, including a drunk dentist who broke off a Novocaine needle in my gum (yes, in the United States).  As I opened the door to the dental clinic the smell hit me.  Classic dentist office smell.  From the tiny lobby I saw the bottom half of a man lying in a dental chair and heard the drill.  I cringed.

Thankfully, 30 minutes and $20 later I was on my way - crown cemented back into place.  The female dentist spoke some English.  The equipment seemed current and the place, while not fancy, was very clean.  The dentist was double gloved.  There were no shots and no pain.

The kids were very impressed the next day that my tooth had already grown back.  If you're in Mandalay and need dental work, check out Pepsodent - near the Palace and conveniently next door to a travel agent and money changer.