Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 53 - Myanmar (Burma): Burmese Days - My Favorite Burmese rituals, traditions & quirks

It's always sad to leave a country right when you're getting accustomed to it. The sites, sounds, food & customs that first seemed unusual, or perhaps daunting, transition into familiar comfort as you learn to navigate around traffic or identify the daily rituals or discover your favorite foods & street vendors.
So on my last morning in Myanmar as I ran around Kandawgyi lake with the rest of the joggers, walkers, yogis, chanters, even yellers (yes I ran by a few people cathartically yelling into the air), I compiled a list of my Myanmar moments and memories that I will miss.

* Betal nut vendors, rolling the betal nut (chewing tobacco) into banana leaves.

* Betal stained teeth and red blobs of goo spat from both men's and women's mouths into viscous pools on the ground.
* The 'smooch,' which is a pursed lip smacking call used to capture the attention of the waiter.
* Teahouses lining the streets, packed with locals sitting on small plastic stools drinking sweet condensed milk tea or green tea
* Monks with shaved heads, including women and kids, carrying silver bowls to collect alms. Its amazing how locals will always donate to the pot. And many of the monks were the most jovial monks I've seen in South East Asia!

* Women strolling casually with all sorts of items balancing on their head - from umbrellas to sacks of rice to trays of food.
* Mohinga stands with rice flour battered onions, rice noodles and fish soup broth feeding locals (and me) at all hours

* Longis - long skirts tied and knotted at the waist of men, which somehow magically stay put while walking, sitting, doing construction work, riding motorbikes, etc.
* Women & men with painted faces. Some painted completely white, while others have painted decorative circles, leaves or other shapes.

* Greeting locals with the Burmese hello, minga laba
* Printed bills of the same currency in mismatched sizes, some double the size of another bill
* Public phone stations on the side of the street. Not payphones, but literally a landline phone set on a table for local calls.
* Reverent bowing & prayer recitation upon passing a Buddha shrine

* Support for Aunt Sa Suu Kyi, shown through posters of her and her dad in homes, taxis, etc. Suu Kyi is the female leader for the National Democratic League.sShe is a former political prisoner (put under house arrest in 1989-1995 and 2000-2010 by the Burmese government) and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Things will get nasty in 2015 for the election year if the constitution is not amended to change the unfair arycile that was added to prevent her from being in powet: -  'anyone whose spouse or children owes allegiance to a foreign power cannot become president or vice president.' Suu Kyi was married to the late British scholar Michael Aris, and her two sons are foreign citizens.
* And of course tea leaf salads and palm sugar and coconut candies

NEXT STOP: Sub-Indian continent leg of my trip. 8 days in Bhutan!!

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