Friday, April 25, 2014

I CAN READ!

It's a quarter to five on a Friday.  Last month, this woulda been my favorite part of the week as it woulda been the end of the work week. Now, I'm looking out into the sky disappointed.

Back on Monday, I noticed thunderstorms predicted for today in Yangon.  First time I've seen that in a weather forecast in SE Asia since December. All week, I've been looking forward to the thunderstorms, which can be quite exciting here in the tropics. Also cools things down.

This morning while waiting on a download, I checked the weather on my phone again.  The hour-by-hour forecast said T-storms from 4 to 5 PM.  It's cloudy, but I am not seeing any ominous black clouds out there. Aww, man.

You can tell it's been a slow week when I'm disappointed by the inaccuracy of a weather report.

The download I mentioned was actually a streaming video that wasn't streaming.  See, I am a big Golden State Warriors fan, and my favorite basketball team was playing in a pivotal game 3 of their first round playoff matchup against the favored Los Angeles Clippers.  Game started at 9 AM here.  Although there are plenty of places around Yangon that have satellite TV that show NBA playoff games (I don't know of any, but I'm SURE they're out there), none of them are open at 9 AM.  What to do?

Somewhere, somehow, it'll be on the internet.  Even if it comes down to me just watching a text update thing, that's what'll have to be. The internet cafe about 6 blocks from my house offers about 50% (depending on how many other users are there) faster speeds than using my phone's hot spot at home, I trudged down there this morning to watch the game.

I found a site that was working pretty well!  The site where I was streaming it from was all in Chinese, but they offered three choices of feeds.  The one I picked was the original NBA TV feed, it streamed without too many hiccoughs, and the Warriors were winning!

Then the NBA TV feed ended because the game that had been on TNT was over and they were picking up coverage of the game in progress.

Oh.  I'll check out the other feeds.

Took a while, but I got CCTV5, and my team was now losing.  I think CCTV stands 'Communist Chinese Television', as the original audio feed was down to like 10% volume and I was listening to commentary from two Chinese analysts. In Mandarin, of course.  I understood like 2 words in 10, those two words being the names of the athletes.

It was getting to be later in the day, and the internet cafe, a big two-story establishment with about 60 to 80 computer stations in it, was starting to get full.  The speeds slowed down.

Got to be where I'd be able to watch like one minute of video followed by three minutes of the screen just being frozen while it buffered itself or whatever. Even during the commercials and time outs!  There were no controls to advance the feed even though we were falling way behind what was happening in real time.  At half time, I shut down the site and re-loaded to catch up to real time.  It was midway through the 3rd quarter. Still losing, but it was close.

By that time, the cafe was entirely packed.  At that point, I got 30 seconds of video for every five minutes waiting. I think I showed remarkable patience. I made it until two minutes left in the game.  My Warriors had made it close, but those Clips went on a run and it was an 8 point lead with not much time left. I clicked over to Facebook (which I had avoided for 4 hours knowing it would have shown me results), and sure enough, we lost.

In the words of the Chinese commentators I listened to for 5 hours, my team of Shi-Fan Ku-Lee, Kae Tom-Son and Igoo Dala lost out to that damn team from LA with Bae Gi-Fon and Zhis Pau.  Five hours it took to watch 2/3rds of a two hour basketball game.  Five hours at the cafe cost me all of $2, so it's not like it was expensive or anything.



It was not a wasted day though.  See, once I figured out the odd timing on one-minute on, four minutes off, I just used my time in the air-conditioned cafe to do other things.  Specifically, study my Burmese.  The written part.  I did those little 'draw this letter' exercises I've seen being used for beginning English students. I learned about vowel markers and then both spoke and wrote in Burmese what my book told me to. Studying wise, being out of my house and away from distractions, it was a very productive four minutes out of five. 


How many of you have memories of before you knew how to read? When you were about four years old, therebouts? I do. I remember being a little tiny kid riding around in the back of my mom's '62 Ford Fairlane and looking out onto the world and seeing all those signs with what I knew was writing, but I couldn't understand it. I remember being a very frustrated 4-year old living with illiteracy. 

That's what it's been like living here in Thailand and Myanmar this last year+. I've been an illiterate. After spending all time in the cafe doing writing and reading drills, when I was walking home, I noticed a big sign in Burmese script. That's an 'L'..That squiggly there means it's aspirated, so it's like an 'HL'...with an 'a'..that's a d, and that thing there that looks like an S is definitely an N. Oh look, there's the rarely used 'Z' with no vowel sound on it at all which means... 

'HLEDAN ZI' Hledan Market! That's where I live! OMFG!! I CAN READ!!! I CAN READ!!! I'm not 4 years old any more! So excited. I smiled the whole way home.

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