Day 1: Breathe, and give yourself time

Today is Aug. 25, 2016, my 1st day in Myanmar.

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Sule Pagoda, downtown Yangon | my mom’s first reaction seeing this picture wasn’t commenting on the beautiful buddhism temple, but on the fact that “men are wearing dresses, too?!” Mom, that’s called a longyi

This is my first full day in the city.

That’s what I kept reminding myself throughout today. With my co-fellow having gone to work and me truly alone, by myself, for the first time upon arrival, Yangon all of a sudden seemed more adventurous than ever, simultaneously filled with more dangers, in my eyes.

Oh, just to be clear, I’m not talking about terrorism or mass shooting kind of danger. I’m not even talking about robbery or theft kind of danger (I haven’t heard of any expat complaining about having stuff stolen during the short time I’ve been here). I’m talking about being accidently elbowed on the streets because the sideways are ridiculously packed by food vendors, pedestrians and the butts of parked vehicles. I’m talking about being ripped off by fruit sellers and cab drivers because I look new, dumb and don’t know better. I’m talking about street dogs that are lying and roaming around, mostly lying around, even though they look harmless and have not attempted to attack me or anyone around me.

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A map of downtown Yangon | with Sule Pagoda and Yangon City Hall right in the middle of a perfect grid system

At the end of the day, I feel like I’m in danger by what I don’t know and don’t understand.

If you think “the unknown” is not that big of a deal, we are truly different people. For a perfectionist, an executor like me, it is. After only one day and one night, I’m already guilty of crashing at my co-fellow’s place for too long, disturbing her and her roommates. I want to find my own place and settle down, even though I know that takes time and comes with difficulties, especially after just moving to a new country. I want to know the pricing of this city better, because I’m tired of paying double, or sometimes triple, the amount people ask from the locals (I’ve always been a cheapskate, that hasn’t changed after the move). I’m frustrated by my basically non-existing Burmese speaking skill, dying to bargain, chitchat or at least say more than “hello” and “thank you.”

After fighting with jet lag, as well as my own frustration, till mid afternoon, I finally gave up and took a nap. By the time I woke up, the city has started falling into sleep after a day of heat, noise and work. It’s much more pleasant walking outside –– still hot, very much so –– but much better.

We walked around our neighborhood, bought a bag of snacks at a convenience store –– containing a tin of delicious lychee soda and a bag of not so durian-rich durian crackers –– for roughly $1,50 (1,500 kyats), and sat by the side of the street while having a bowl of shan noodle.

In the midst of this, I remembered to remind myself: hey, you are not doing half bad. Breathe, and give yourself time.

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