I have a distinct childhood memory of one summer spent camping somewhere in Oregon on our family vacation. My sister and I pedaled about on our little bikes, befriending new kids in adjacent campsites, hurtling throughout the campground in a pack of small bicycles with no regard to the one-way arrows posted by some septuagenarian campground manager. One of the pleasures of camping is the freedom to unabashedly observe the possessions and paraphernalia of the campers around you, you smell each other’s food (for better or for worse), and you hear each other’s late night music and conversations.… Continue Reading
Five Years’ Time
In February five years ago, I flew to Myanmar for the first time. I had never been to a developing country before. I had considered and sworn off the idea of cross cultural work back in college, my business studies leaving me certain that westerners overseas did more harm than good.
But I came to Myanmar, planning to see Yangon and Rakhine state, and experience the place my fiancé had called his home for the past seven years. It was to be a three-week visit, and for two of those three weeks, I wanted to be anywhere but Myanmar.… Continue Reading
A Wintertime Wedding
In Myanmar, wedding season is dictated by the lunar patterns of the Buddhist calendar. Every year from about June until October, Buddhist Lent takes place. During this time (which also happens to be the monsoon season), the monks generally stay within the confines of the monasteries, and it is seen as an inauspicious time to make any major life changes. Buddhists are discouraged from changing jobs, moving houses, starting new ventures, or marrying during this time. The October full moon festival of Lights (Thadingyut, as it is called in Myanmar) marks the end of Buddhist Lent, and not long after the full moon, weddings parties are taking place all over the city.… Continue Reading
Christmas is for the Oppressed and the Oppressor
The Christmas story is not really a very nice story. We have made it that way through years of re-telling, whimsical stories and songs, and whitewashed nativity scenes. But the nativity story is really dominated by themes of power, patriarchy, vulnerable people, injustice, genocide and poverty. If you were reading the Christmas story for the first time, the stage that is set is not one upon which you would expect to find God.
Before I moved overseas, my love for Christmas was love for the folksy story many westerners know and celebrate; my understanding of Christmas was incomplete.… Continue Reading
Dining out with Yangon Food Tours
I recently had the opportunity to tag along with Yangon Food Tours for a dinner tour. It was a great experience, and I wanted to share some of it here on the blog for those of you who are curious about Burmese cuisine, and for anyone who might be interested in taking a food tour while visiting Myanmar. It was a great experience, and, as someone who lives locally, the dinner tour is totally worthwhile in terms of getting a good sampling of Myanmar foods.… Continue Reading
On Renting a House
We started looking for a new place to rent in May. A variety of circumstances, not the least of which was the nearing advent of Baby #2, caused us to realize that our current home is just not the right place for us anymore.
From a foreigner’s perspective, renting a house in Yangon is an arduous undertaking. If you are new to Myanmar and cannot yet read or speak, it involves doing everything through a translator, as even the rental signs are nearly always written in Burmese.… Continue Reading
Elisabeth’s Birth Story
I only had time for one pre-natal appointment with my Chiang Mai OB before giving birth to Elise. At the appointment my doctor echoed the words of my Myanmar OB and mentioned that I was measuring small and that the baby seemed small. I wasn’t overly concerned, as they said the same thing about Lena, and she was 6.5 pounds at birth (She was born at 38.5 weeks). I was nearly 37 weeks at this appointment, so I expected that I had some time for the baby to pack on some more weight before birth.… Continue Reading
International Women’s Day: A Defense and a Lament
When my daughter was born, the medical staff asked what name to write down. Without looking at one another, my husband and I both replied, “Magdalena.” We had another name in mind too, but as soon as we saw her face, we knew we wanted her to carry the story of a woman loved by God and chosen as the first to see his resurrected face. In a society where a woman’s testimony and personal worth had little value, it seems no mistake on God’s part that he chose a woman as a first witness to his resurrection.… Continue Reading
Of Flags and Feet: Patriotism and Respect around the World
Earlier this month, Amazon and the nation of India had a small debacle. The first offense on Amazon’s part was to sell doormats emblazoned with the Indian flag. This product was met with much consternation and anger in India. Shortly after, Amazon found themselves in hot water again, this time with a third party vendor selling Gandhi flip-flops on their site.
One thing frustrated me about these news stories: none of the western outlets reporting this story gave any reason for the outrage of the Indian people.… Continue Reading
Myanmar Cultural Tidbits: A Few Folkways
I want to share a fun list of some cultural attributes of Myanmar. These things have become comfortable and enjoyable for us, but in returning for a visit to the U.S., I see again how these cultural folkways might seem surprising or amusing to some westerners. (What’s a folkway, you ask? Good question. Folkways are the customs and conventions of daily life. Folkways indicate the cultural ideas about what is rude and what is polite. Cultural norms, by contrast, tend to indicate the culture’s perspective on morality, and what is right and wrong.)… Continue Reading