August AND September 2018:
Teachers, never run a drama club. I’m half joking, its worth all the effort to see your students really getting into it, buuuut the last two months I’ve been living and dreaming MacBeth. Rehearsals, organizing, planning, plotting, costume hunting, working out logistics…. it goes on. It’s going great and working with high schoolers is a joy (I see how that can sound sarcastic but after a day of pre school real conversation is nice) but dear lord I need some free time! 1 week until the show so I’ll update you in October… when Christoph is here..Which brings me to Chris flying out, date you a man who will fly half way around the world to watch your school show.. and spend a whole month here! Ngapali and Luang Prabang here we come.
The rest of these month has been spent mentoring my two mentees taking their Cambridge Personal Development Qualification, moving apartments, friends birthdays and a few lovely trips to Inle, Yangon and the lake in Taunggyi. So without any more rambling here is my month in photos..
Yangon: Over 2 trips to Yangon to see my bestie Kelly we’ve eaten all the good food, ridden the circle train and visited Yangon Walls – a super cool art movement to clean up the city.
We had trips to Inle and all the coffee at Genius Coffee shop on the river.
Birthdays for these guys and a ride out ot the lake North East of Taunggyi for a hike and seeing all the butterflies.
Today I finally caught a day to myself and I’m sat in the newest, most hipster cafe in TGI – My secret cafe in town – over looking the mountains and pagoda with a coffee.
I’m now back and settled into normal life in Taunggyi. Settled into my beautiful new apartment and back in the school routine.
It’s nice being back in a routine, starting my day by walking half an hour up to school. This walk is an interesting start, some mornings I gaze for ages at the soft clouds just covering the peak of the mountain, I appreciate the cool air compared to our week in Yangon or I photo the colourful flowers that grow wild. Some days I trip in the endless road holes, step in trash piles, hold my nose from the sewage smells or cross the road to avoid stray dogs. Balance?
One thing I struggle with in Shan state is the men. The cat calling and endless staring. Shouting at me weird things in questionable English does nothing but disgust me. I’m very friendly and if someone starts a normal conversation on the street I’m open and talkative. Last week I had a taxi driver stop me alone, down a dark road outside of town and demand my phone number – in less than 24 hours I had creepy messages and phone calls until I blocked him. Ofc this happens all round the world I just feel it’s intensified here. Some days I deal, some days I hold anger in.
Being back has brought with it a ton of new work, extra before school classes with students needing extra help, which is tiring but now, three weeks, in I see improvements and it feels worth it. My normal classes are keeping me on my toes # preschool life and this school year I have started a secondary (grades 7-10) drama club! This has brought the most work, but also the most joy – I won’t bore you with the ins and outs but the secondary students have chosen Macbeth and I’m starting to dream about it 😆
While week days are enjoyable and evenings often contain trips to the market and cooking it’s the weekends that have been wonderful. Guillaume has been in town two weeks in a row and we took an epic road trip to Kakku and then to a town between Mong Pawn and Loilem, these towns are in Shan state east of Taunggyi and usually you need special pass to go here as a foreigner, we planned to ride until we hit a checkpoint and never came across one, although there was a ropey looming barrier we shot under so who knows 🤷♀️
We also have been following the football, both the World Cup and the Myanmar league.. the local league is relaxing to watch. The football stadium on a field under the mountain and never packed out. Shan United have won every match I’ve seen them play so I’m never disappointed.
Watching the World Cup abroad has been a challenge firstly logistically as matches have been in the middle of the night, so we either have to persuade bars to stay open or to film it and watch the next day and everyone has a media blackout! I managed this for the England v Colombia game but alas my friend did not. I got super patriotic singing English football songs all day and wearing England flags on my face, and with only 4 brits in town I felt even more that I wanted to enjoy the matches and not think about how much I wanted to be home for it!
Next week is my visa run to Laos to see Whitney, whom I worked with in Hanoi, I’m excited to get out of town and see old friends, coming back to TGI without Christoph was hard but also my other three besties (Josh, Kim and Julio) have all left town and although I feel I don’t have time to be lonely I am starting to miss them.
With my euro trip finished up and rounded off with a wonderful 2 weeks with my boyfriend between Germany and the UK I was sad to leave. Christoph lived in Taunggyi the past year and I’d be returning without him. It took a while but I’d settled back into Europe and especially seeing my best friend almost daily.
May 29th I met fellow Taunggyi teacher Tom and we boarded a flight to Bangkok. Delays left us stranded in Oman for 12 hours with no luggage … we made the most of the bad situation and even had a wander in the 101F heat.
Further delays in Bangkok meant what should have been a days catch up with Jake and Wong (my former flatmates from Vietnam and China) ended up being just an hours coffee – still any amount of time with them is bliss. Then after further visa issues I finally made my way to Yangon for a week doing a few work things and receiving my teacher of the year prize yalllll!!!
The second day back and I broke. I called Christoph and cried. Yangon was too hot, too busy, too dirty and too difficult and I missed home. He reassured me. I got over it. Aaaaaand this week been a great!
My best gal pal Kelly lives here and usually we just get each other for weekends but making daily plans and even bumping into each other in work has been so so great. I also got to catch up with some other Taunggyi expats who I last saw in Amsterdam and meet new teachers. Yangon’s a social place with lots of cool events happening which I do envy a tad when thinking about heading back up the mountains…
So this week I partied at 7th joint until the early hours, took part in Kelly’s drink and draw event (a must do for creative expats in Yangon – find it on Facebook or message me!), I got Chinese food at Imperial Garden, caught up with more Taunggyi expats at The Marina and got coffee at the cutest coffee house ever Sofaer& Co. The only thing I didn’t do was get the circle train … next time 👋 for now… TO THE MOUNTAINS!
May 2018: Expats home bound thoughts:
This April and May I’ve been back in my hometown of Croydon, south London. I’m spending all of my summer holidays here mostly because I have been blacking out a lot the past few years and finally have been convinced to see a cardiologist annnd partly to see my best friend’s face (who doesn’t read my blog).
So aside from being poked, pricked and wired up to be tested on I’ve had a fair amount of time to just think about being back. That sound kind of daft but after living abroad for 5 years I haven’t spend this much time in my hometown recently, I also haven’t stayed at my mom’s home in 5 years!
England has this feel to it, maybe it’s the air, I don’t know, every time I come back it changes a little, maybe it’s me who has changed. Coming back I always have this excitement first – I eat all my favourite foods and see everyone, then I have the dull times where I don’t have my daily routines to do so I have more time to fill, which some trips fills up so fast and some I just laze and watch TV. There’s memories everywhere, every time I walk even to the local shops there’s 100’s of times I recall. I’m overwhelmed by all the signs I can read and how easily I can communicate. It’s the air. It smells like warm, damp spring.
The first thing I really noticed being back was the fashion. I flew Myanmar to Amsterdam for a few days then back to the UK. In Myanmar the fashion is brightly coloured, all of the colours at once and very covered up. The women smiling, shy and giggly. In Amsterdam the women dressed in greens and browns, had amazing heels on and bold make up, they walked with confidence and purpose. The UK is a mix, a few more eccentric fashions, coloured hair, wacky shirts, everyone seems busy, some friendly to each other – neighbourly even in crowded places and some just seem angry and hostile.
The second thing I noticed about being back for so long was I was lonely. Friends have moved away, or we’ve drifted. It’s been years. In these past two months I’ve met with a total of 10 friends. 1 I met working in Italy, 1 I met working in Vietnam, 6 I met working in Taunggyi (Myanmar) and 2 are long time friends from Croydon. It made me think about how most of my life is abroad now, and most of the people I stay in (long term) contact with I’ve met abroad.
Explaining your daily life is tricky 😂 I’m lucky my grandfather, grandmother and dad were all expats themselves, living in Germany, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Belize… the list goes on. But explaining life to my mom’s side is so tricky I sort of skip a lot of information out. I find myself not talking about my life for fear of blank stares or unrelatabily (I may have may that word up?). I also find people have the impression I do so many things and that I’m always busy. My aunt told me I need to slow down, and her proof was “You send photos of beautiful temples all the time” so I must be non stop. I explained that going to these temples was the same as her going to the local park. Just because what we see daily is far away people think we’re having non stop adventures. We’re not. I’m home and in bed most nights by 9pm! I’m doing the same daily things just further away, with different sights along the way.
Being back is a mix of enjoyment and unrest. It’s wonderful playing cards with my nan in the garden, and doing DIY with my grandad, and spending time with my best friend is the greatest thing ever, but I miss my other life. I will always be missing someone or somewhere.
March here has brought some really cool adventures on Inle, to Ngapali and to Yangon and also Bangkok.
This month Christoph’s parents visited from Germany and good friend of mine Whitney visited from Vietnam.
Playing tour guide in Nyuangshwe and on the lake is my favorite. We stay at the Minglar Inn where the owner always makes us super welcome and makes our guests feel at home. I jotted down some information about the lake in English and German for Christoph’s parents:
Inle lake is the second largest lake in Myanmar, covering 44.9 square miles at an elevation of 800 meters. It consists of 17 villages. The people who are from here are all Inthar people which translated to ‘sons of the lake’, and this population is around 70,000 people. A style of fishing on this lake is men standing a rowing with one leg, this is so the can clearly see into the lake through the weeds.
Shwe Indein pagoda, is believed to be created in the 12-13th century. It’s name translates as ‘shallow lake’.
Inle See ist der zweitgrößte See in Myanmar der eine Fläche von 44,9 Quadrat -Meilen auf einer höhe von 800 Metern abdeckt. Es besteht aus 17 Dörfern.Die Menschen von hier sind alle Inthar Menschen ,was übersetzt ” Söhne und Töchter des Sees”bedeutet.Es gibt rund 70.000 Einwohner.Eine Art des Fischerei hier auf diesem See ist das die Männer auf einem Ruder stehen,somit können sie das viele Unkraut klar erkennen. Pagode Shwe Indein so glaubt man wurde im 12-13 Jahrhundert erstellt.Übersetzt als “flacher See”
This time, with both visitors we did a sunrise boat trip to Shwe Indein pagoda, a series of beautiful pagoda south of the lake. The sunrise on the lake is chilly but so gorgeous.
Fake fisherman. The way to tell if the fisherman are fake or not is that a fisherman there to pose for tourists will be happy to see you, a real one will be pissed.
Tea at small hut and then a walk up through the market to the pagoda, where our visitors explored the stupas and I played with my puppy! How cute is he? I met him and his 2 brothers when they were a few weeks old and he is the last one left, now he is a few months old, getting bigger and stronger and not wanting as many cuddles. I get occasional kisses though, also he gave me a flea bite..
Noodles stop – Shan noodles here are the best, and Whitney is ace at photographing food.
And of course a sunset at Maing Thauk bridge. Coconuts with my favorite two coconuts.
We also took a trip to Ngapali as I had a 4 day public holiday and it was Christoph’s parents last week in Myanmar, it was so nice and relaxing. We stayed at the Merciel resort where the beach was at our door! And they had this stunning pool, although we only swam in it twice as we prefer the sea.
We took a boat out to Apaw-Ye-Kyun island to go snorkelling. It cost us 50,000 for about 4 or 5 hours and the snorkelling equipment from a man named Mr Bean, Christoph found it cheaper after I left. Snorkelling is not my jam, I get super panicked in the mask and can’t breathe well. I tried for about half an hour and enjoyed what I saw, then settled to sunbathe on the boat while the others swam.
Most of the 4 days were sat chilling, and eating. I really enjoyed the food here and felt it rivaled Shan food. Lots of curries with coconut rices and fruit juices. Rakhine curries and salads really surprised me, slightly spicier and sweeter than most curries here and way less oily. The seafood here is meant to be amazing however being veggie I didn’t try any.
The final weekend of March, with Christoph away, I flew to Yangon to see my bestie Kelly and some other friends. It was my first time partying in Yangon it I loved it. We saw an Italian acapella concert, an Irish band at 50th street bar and danced all night at 7th joint. We brunched at Pansuryi and checked out the artwork, we danced on a pre Thinigan boat party and ate at Bondi bar. Mostly we chatted and chatted and chatted 😀
Christoph and I had a 2 day Visa run to Bangkok, extended to 4 days as I wasn’t well to fly back. We did all the normal visa run things (see my blog on Bangkok). We ate, we saw temples, we ate more, rooftop bars… 😀
This visa trip was different as it was Chinese New Year! I was kinda gutted not to be spending it with my flatmates at home BUT we made a million dumplings the day before I left which also tied in with valentines (galentines?) day.. awww! Our household is super cute.
But in Bangkok we went to, of course Chinatown which was super fun, danci, fire breathing dragons, music, loads of food stalls and millions and millions of people. Just like China 😀