Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Best Night Market in Southeast Asia

I’ve been to night markets all over Southeast Asia. Chang Mai, Penang, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Manado. These are just to name a few. These bazarres have been nightly, weekly or occasionally monthly affairs filled with vendors selling the same old basic stuff throughout. That said, they’re always cool to visit, but sometimes you’re left wondering what’s so special about them. 

Not so in the case of the night market I visited tonight. I say without reservation that Yangon’s Kyuntaw Road night market is the most interesting, most striking, most varied and extensive night market I’ve ever been to.

This may be because it’s an annual market. It’s only once a year for ten days that Kyuntaw Road here in Sanchaung township gets transformed into a street fair. I may also be singing its praises because it’s my neighborhood. Kyuntaw Road is my cross-street. It’s the main road that my little city street connects to. The night market  begins just 2 blocks south of where my street leads into Kyuntaw.  

Okay, but completely objectively, never have I been to a night market/street fair that has been as energetic, lively and frankly, hokey as the one at the end of my street. It kind of epitomizes Myanmar. 

Before the market got underway, this neighborhood of Yangon called Sanchaung was full of parades.  See, this is an old neighborhood. Each of the local Buddhist temples (pagodas being the preferred translation) have been around a long time, are quite revered and have special days during which the locals demonstrate their reverence by loudly parading (or donating to such processions) up and down every  street in Sanchaung on their way to the  temple. This is why I was able to get some cool video footage of a few examples of this. 

Of note in the video – At 0:38, we see the rare Burmese ladyboy, only the third time I’ve captured one on camera in my time here. Both men and women wear the same garment here on the lower part of their body, the longgyi, the English word would be sarong, which itself is taken from Indonesian.. In any case, the difference in how they're worn is in how they’re tied. At 0:38, this man has tied his longgyi in a woman’s style. No one seems to care. The large collection of banknotes he’s also wearing are donations from admirers of his performance. 

I’m not really sure if this festival is a local or national thing. It doesn’t seem to be connected to any of the major Buddhist holidays. I asked the guy at my laundry service who speaks pretty good English what was happening today, and he said it was a celebration of the local pagodas. 

I hope to learn more about how the Kyuntaw Road night market, the best night market in SE Asia, came about. I’ll let you know what I find out.Enjoy the video.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I Tried to Exercise Today

I tried to exercise today. 

 To tell the truth, I had kinda given up on exercise. I've had the same view as Donald Trump has had on the body and physical activity. Our president believes that there's only so much activity a body can give, and so if you exercise, you're using up that capacity. No kidding. That's what he thinks. My choice wasn't caged in such illogical sophistry. I'm just lazy. 

 Well, I had an interesting day today, topped off with a refusal to allow me to exercise. My goals for today's errands were to buy some new business shirts. I've recently been given some new responsibilities at work wherein I have to go out and sell my company to corporate clients. I'm not perturbed by this task; selling stuff is what I'd done for 20 years before becoming a teacher. Whilst in the midst of this dressware shopping, I looked up and saw a basketball. 

Basketball. My favorite sport. In my 20's and 30's, I used to go out and play in pick up games two or three times a week. At the time, if I could do nothing else but spend the entire day on the basketball court, I would be entirely happy with that. Basketball was my release. Nothing better than to get all your muscles moving for a few hours, and better than working out a gym. Basketball has a purpose. See, one thing I've never understood about "working out" is that there's no achievable goal. Maybe in the long term, but who's thinking about that when you're on some boring treadmill? With basketball, you do a lot of running; you have to. Point being, it's cardio-vascular with a purpose.

  It's better yet when you're good at shooting the basketball. As I've been doing that since age 11, and have been taught by some pretty good coaches over the years, I'm a pretty good shooter, and I was shocked when I went out onto the court today and shot the basketball for the first time in a couple years. 

I couldn't even make a lay up. After a couple minutes, I realized what the problem was. The key aspect of shooting a basketball consistently is muscle memory. That muscle memory was still in place even though it had been 4 years since I'd played the game. The memory was the same; the muscles had atrophied. I'm just not built like I was before. 

I watch Klay Thompson nowadays and how effortlessly and thoughtlessly he releases his shot, that was like me 10 years ago. Time is the ultimate opponent. I was finally starting to get a feel for how weak my muscles were in comparison to the last time I'd went shooting (again, my technique and stroke were that of that of 35 year-old Joko) when the facility where I was found someone whose English was good enough to tell me to leave. 

As I've written about before, I was very excited to see that a well-maintained basketball court was 1 block from my house. That was 6 months ago. It was only today that I strapped on my Nikes and went to play. 

The facility was actually a seminary. A Chinese Christian seminary in the midst of urban Yangon. And these double-minorities couldn't see fit to allow me to exercise for the first time in a long time. I got chased out after barely breaking a sweat. I think I need to contact the head seminarian. If I explain, tell them I'm an English teacher, that I'll share my English teaching with them, they may let me stick around and shoot some hoops.  

I remember the high-schooler who lived across the court in Dallas when I was just akid. We had the only hoop on the street. He told me, whilst coaching me how to the play the game, that you never leave the court without hitting your last shot. It's bad luck. 

The Myanmar guy was smiling while telling me I had to leave. I ignored him and concentrated on my free-throw. On my second try, and first and last make, I adjusted for the muscle memory and swished it. 

Frustration Calls - The Story

The lyrics you are about to hear in this remarkable song came out of an experiment to test a theory of mine.  In a recent lecture, I not...