Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I'm Leaving Yangon... Again

Yesterday was a momentous day.

Over the last couple weeks since re-aggravating my herniated disc, I've been living with a constant, dull pain. More disconcerting is the increased numbness in my left leg and foot. There's also been more sciatica involved with this recover.
The other night, I was just lying in bed and my foot hurt. I wasn't standing on it. I hadn't injured the foot specifically. I knew the pain wasn't actually in my foot, it's just the nerve connecting my foot to my brain is being pinched by the disc and making it seem like the pain was in my foot. I decided at that point that on Monday, I would head over to the Yangon consultation office of Bangkok's biggest and best hospital, Bumrungrad, and get the wheels turning on finally getting that discectomy operation that would shave off that portion of the disc that's been hurting me for quite some time now.

The doctor saw me without an appointment, and I described my history, treatment and current condition.
Although not an orthopedist, the doctor agreed that surgery would seemingly be the next step, but he told me straight up front, the cost would be around 300,000 Baht ($9000). I'm glad I have insurance! Last year when I got the MRI before my epidural, I was given the MRI results on DVD-ROM. The doctor copied all those files, asked a few other questions and told me they'd send it all off to Bangkok and I'd have more details in a few days. My initial plan was to have this taken care of during my next week off work, i.e., mid-September. The doctor told me the recovery time for this procedure was at least a week, sometimes longer depending on whether or not 'fusion' was required. I figured a week was enough time and was genuinely relieved that I might have a chance of full feeling in my legs sometime soon.

That evening, a call came. It was from our new Director of Studies, in other words, my new boss. I could tell from his tone it wasn't a social call.

“We're starting a course up in Naypitaw which we're asking you to teach, it's a 16 week assignment” he told me (or at least something fairly close to that). Immediately, I thought 'no'. They've asked me about working in Naypitaw in the past, and although I was initially interested a year or so ago, now, not so much; certainly not for 4 months.

“It's 8 to 10 AM, Monday through Friday, so 10 hours a week. We'd put you up in a hotel, and you'd have a one week break halfway through. We're also considering a food allowance as you can't cook in the hotel room. The course would be taught at the hotel itself...” He kind of trailed off a bit, gauging my response before asking me if I'd do it or not.

See, that's the thing. I signed up for a job in Yangon. Not in Naypidaw. I know companies relocate employees all the time without necessarily getting the consent of the employer, but that's not something my company would force on me. I was somewhat free to refuse.

Getting paid the same for less than half the work I do now? Staying for free in a modern, luxury hotel? Getting to see an entirely different part of Myanmar? That sounds like a nice gig, right?

Naypidaw isn't known for its heavy traffic
Well, no, not really. You see, Naypidaw is like the Siberia of Myanmar. It's a created capital, less than 10 years old and still quite deserted. There's nothing to do there. I wouldn't have any friends there. I've made a comfortable life for myself here in Yangon which I'm enjoying quite a bit. Again, my initial reaction was no. Besides, I've got these health things I need to take care of. I'd be forgoing my September break if I took this Naypidaw job (it's scheduled to start on 17 August).

Then, I started to think about it. I want to see Naypitaw, even if living there doesn't sound thrilling; but then again, when will I ever get a chance to live in such a strange place? There might be nothing to do, but I've always been good at entertaining myself. The internet is much faster and reliable up in the capital. Living in a luxury hotel... hot water, room cleaned every single day, a gym, a pool, that'd be nice.

Plus, my employer has been good to me. I feel like I still owe them something for sending me off to do my CELTA.

It's like a gov't Disneyland with no one visiting
Readers of my blog may remember me mentioning Dean, an American friend who stared here in Myanmar at the same time I did. He went and taught in Naypidaw for most of last year up until this last March. I called him to ask him some basic questions like how do you do laundry? Where do you eat? Those kinds of things. It turns out Dean just got another job in Naypidaw and will be there starting in September, so I wouldn't be without any friends. I decided to consider it and told my boss he'd have an answer in the morning.

I think what ultimately made me lean in favor of going was one moment when I was coming out the back room of my apartment. My foot kicked the big plastic tub I use to catch the leaks from the roof, the air-conditioner shut off as it does 30 times a day due to the inconsistent voltage of the Yangon electrical grid and I spotted a cockroach on the wall. All those happened simultaneously. \Yes, I like my place, but I don't like those things.

I still had demands and needs before agreeing. I met with the company brass this morning and told them I'd need movers. With or without the surgery, my back won't allow me to move most of my stuff. I've pre-paid for my apartment for a year, so it's just going to sit here while I'm gone, thus I don't have to take everything. Still, I've got lots of musical instruments, electronic equipment, books... stuff I don't want to be without. I'd need movers. They agreed to this.

We also agreed to make the mid-term break two weeks instead of one, so I'll be going to Bangkok in October for the surgery instead of September. I think I can live with that. I found out I'm most likely to be living at the brand new Hilton in Naypidaw. I would have my own car and driver. $10 per diem food allowance. Most importantly, I got guarantee that 16 weeks would be the longest I'd have to be there. They wouldn't re-assign me to another stint in Naypidaw once this one ends.

So, I agreed to do it.

Second week of August, I'm moving to Naypidaw.

I don't know if that's the pool or for decoration, but that's the Naypidaw Hilton... 


  1. I think this is a very good idea for you. In addition to the shorter hours of working which may be a relief of sorts, you should make ever effort to rest and get stronger for the surgery. Are there any exercises or relaxiation techniques you can concentrate on that will make healing after go more quickly. When in October?

  2. My goodness, what a turn of events. Good luck with the back.

  3. May God continue to bless you, as you make this temporary move. May He provide for you, when you have your surgery. Prayer for you, continues. Blessings, Lynn


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