Today was my first full day in Yangon, Myanmar. I did my favorite thing and got completely lost in the city! I walked the streets for about 2 hours and took pictures and tried talking to the locals. Mostly all I can do is smile at them because we don’t share the same language but a smile is universal. I love when I can light up someone’s face by smiling at them. Many people know the word tattoo and that is all they know to say to me with a thumbs up. Which I graciously thank them for. Many people want to touch my white skin because I’m a foreign creature. Mostly children, but older females have done the same. Everyone straight stares at me. I feel like Angelina Jolie in Cambodia.
Walking around the city of Yangon I started to cry, don’t worry complete tears of joy! I’m so thankful for the opportunity to make my dreams come true and to be out exploring the world. I love being out of my element and getting lost in the culture of places I don’t belong. I cherish every smile and I just want to hug all the little children. I want to hold their hands and play with them and see the world through their eyes. I’m sometimes so overwhelmed by the magnitude of this journey and how much it means to me to find my balance and center in life through my travels. I couldn’t be more happy to be here and I’m loving this experience because Myanmar sure is different and beautiful. Let me tell you why.
There is a lot of spitting in Myanmar. I mean hocking loogies. I don’t know why. I’m definitely only noticing it in men. But it’s grose. I think this might have something to do with the betel chew that is so popular in this culture. It’s their version of chewing tobacco I suppose. It stains the lips and corrodes the teeth. Everyone does it here and the streets are all stained with betel juice spit. Its a little disconcerting the first time a local smiles at you with what looks like a bloody mouth, but you get used to it.
So I take back what I said yesterday about Myanmar being nicer than Thailand. I really don’t think it is. My taxi driver must have driven me through the really nice parts of town. However, I’m in love with the old ugly buildings which have a definite British style of architecture. They haven’t been painted in years and there’s all kinds of moss and shrubbery growing up the length of them. The streets are not well maintained and slightly dangerous if you’re not paying attention to where you are walking. Just as in Thailand though the streets are full of small food stalls and you can buy anything from electronics to air conditioners right off the side walk. I can’t decide if I trust the street food here yet.
The culture here is very loving, caring and affectionate. Both men and women walking in the street together keep a hold of each other. Either with a hand on the shoulder, linked arms or holding of the elbow. Even two men walking together. Men are not afraid of touching each other or being affectionate. It’s so amazing to see this. I wish more of the world could share this kind of affection. Human touch is so important. I know in the states especially it’s not part of our culture, but it’s so refreshing for me to see here.
The last thing I did today was take the Yangon circular train, which is a commuter train that covers 28 miles and takes about 3 hours to make the whole loop. It connects many satellite towns and suburban areas to the big city. The train station was slightly confusing and I was wandering around lost for a few minutes until a young local girl came and asked me what I was looking for. I told her circular train and she took my hand and led me to the correct ticket booth. After I paid the very cheap 20 cents USD for the train, I asked the girl where the toilet was. She again took me by the arm and led me all the way to the other end of the station to the restroom. Along the way she told me I was beautiful and was snuggling up to my side and telling people she passed that we were sisters. My heart melted for this precious little girl, who told me she was 13 years old. She waited for me while I went to the bathroom then walked me back and sat with me until the train came. She bid me farewell with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Right when I got on the train I met a lovely girl from England and we sat together the entire three hours sharing travel stories and enjoying the scenery. I had the pleasure of sitting next to and interacting with several locals. One little old lady just wanted to pat me on my white leg and kept telling me she loved me, even after she got off the train, as we were leaving the station she was at my window saying goodbye and that she loved me. Towards the end a mother and daughter sat next to me. They were both tiny. A lot of the Burmese woman are. But this tiny little girl kept smiling at me and touching my tattoo. They spoke no English but I kept smiling and telling her how beautiful her outfit was.
Seeing as it’s a very cheap and lower class form of transportation, I truly saw the culture of the city. I felt like a local and enjoyed every minute of it. Locals jump on and off the train at each stop to sell fruit, corn or even data cards for your phone. I was shocked at how much garbage I saw on this train ride. Not on the train but around the tracks. Mind blown.
As soon as I got off the train, my beautiful little “sister” was waiting for me. I was so happy to see her again, I’m not sure why. She grabbed me by the arm and walked me to the exit of the bus station while chatting the whole way. At the exit she bid me farewell with a genuine hug and a kiss on the cheeks and said “goodbye my sister”. I wish I had taken a picture with her because she genuinely changed my life.
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