Saturday, April 5, 2014

At the YaCHt Club with no Yachts

Today is the first day of my one month Myanmar New Year break, and we've certainly gone into it with a bang. The last two nights have been very musical. The music stirs something in me. Part of me just wants to spend the next month sitting in my room, practicing my ukulele and guitar playing and just enmeshing myself in music. It's self-contagious, this music thing. The more you do it, the more you want to do it.

Two nights ago, I made my performance debut here in Myanmar. It was at a hotel bar. I was there with a few new friends, and there was a band up on stage that was alternating between several singers. “Well,” I thought, “as long as they're alternating singers, why can't I be part of the rotation?” So, I asked if I could sing and they let me.

I guess I did okay because soon afterwards, I got requests. This is a picture of the note that was sent to our table from the adjacent table, asking me to sing their favorites. I was honored and humbled to get this note. I'd already sung one of the songs on the list (before they'd gotten there), and I think I eventually did Let It Be (the specifics of two nights ago are kinda hazy now), but if I were to dedicate my song from next night, last night, it would be to the guy who sent me the note. It made me feel appreciated and honored to have 'a fan', and sewed a seed in my head for the CCR tune on the list. 

Last night, we went to the yacht club on Yangon's Inya Lake. At least, it was called a yacht club. There was nary a yacht to be seen. Indeed, the site was on one of Yangon's scenic lakes, but no one would moor a yacht on a city lake, right?

Initially, I was taken via taxi to the wrong yacht club. A friend had written the name of the place I was going in phonetic and Burmese script on a slip of paper. Before I showed it to the driver, I did my best pronouncing what was written, but was not understood. As usual. The subtleties of verb tone and the very different consonants here makes it very hard for a non-native to be understood, even if you 'know' the words. In the end, I showed the slip of paper to the taxi driver who seemed quite confident he knew where it was. I got in the cab, and when I said the words again in his language, he graciously repeated them, allowing me to hear how I'd spoken incorrectly. Eventually, he said in English, “ah yes, the yaCHt club”, making the CH sound in the middle of the word. Since he was so kind as to correct my pronounciation, I thought I'd do the same.

“It might be confusing with that 'CH' spelling in there,” I told him, “but we actually say it yahht.”

“You are from America?” he asked.


“Well, that's the American way of saying it.”

I didn't feel the need to argue the point.

Even then, he dropped me off at the wrong yachtless yacht club. When I eventually found the place (it was a quarter mile down the road), the venue was beautiful and I got to hear one of the more interesting musicians I've ever heard in my life: a singing violin player.

See, you don't think of violinists as vocalists. Seems to me that is inherently difficult to play the violin and sing at the same time. You need the chin to hold the instrument in place, right? This guy proved me wrong.In doing so, his misuse in a single lyric of both 'was/were' and 'in/on' made me cringe as an English teacher.

I talked to him during one of their breaks, mentioned I thought I could CCR pretty well, and he invited me up on stage to sing with him Wow. My performance debut here in Yangon continued into a second evening. 

In other news, I've called off the ambitious trip onto the roads less traveled that I talked about a couple blogs ago.  It's too iffy and too expensive.  I got lots I can do right here in Yangon, including doing the more well beaten path up to Mandalay and Bagan, for which I can plan more readily and understand the costs involved.  The trip down the peninsula was confusing and difficult.  

I also want to take much of the next month to learn the local language.  I've purchased a very nice book called Burmese for Beginners. I have practice partners anyplace I go as the Burmese love to laugh at my attempts are speaking their difficult language.  Just tonight, the entire waitstaff of a nearby restaurant stood at attention while I rattled off: "Ti', Hni', Thon:, Lei:, Nga... (one, two, three, etc.). They were smiling ear to ear and when I finished my onr to ten with no mistakes and without looking at my book, I too felt proud. 

Yeah, been here a month and only now do I know my numbers.  Pretty bad, really.  That said, one of my regrets from my time in Thailand is that I didn't learn more of the language.  I lived there almost a year, and in that time, I learned maybe 70 words or so.  Certainly not enough to carry on a conversation.  I don't want to have learned so little a year from as I did in Thailand. Both languages are hard to learn, but I think I'll do better this time. 


  1. Great performance. I so admire your ability to take the bull by the horns and do what you love. Not a lot of folks can do that.

  2. I think that was your best vocal yet. Well done!


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