Yesterday, I made a quick post about my first night in Yangon, Myanmar, and how my girlfriend and I had been somewhat overwhelmed. The lack of English, the sheer amount of people and cars on the street, and the general unfamiliarness of everything had our heads spinning. Today I waned to write something short about adapting, and how everyone, I believe, should get dropped into Yangon for two days at some point in their lives.
Fang Deng and I headed out this afternoon with a renewed sense of invigoration. We weren’t going to be moron tourists wandering awkwardly through the streets again, nervously chewing on street corn in a lame attempt to blend in. No, that was not going to happen again. And we weren’t going to be so damn snobby about things either, not like the previous day, when we tried to diminish our poor performance by blaming Yangon itself.
“The street kids are persistent!”
There would be no more of that. We made a plan and did some touristy stuff like visiting Kandawgyi Lake and revisiting Shwedagon Pagoda, which we had run away from the night before, frightened by the kids and their plastic bags. But today we had our own bags and we brushed the kids aside easily. Today we wouldn’t be afraid. Today we talked to people and bought pineapple chunks from street vendors and, you know, enjoyed ourselves.
It was a good day. Turns out the people in Yangon are cool; they even understood my charades when language was an issue (although, truth be told, I’m a pretty damn good charades player). Walking back to our hotel, I turned to Fang Deng and said:
“You know, I feel comfortable. This place is fine. It’s not disgustingly hot and dirty and impenetrable like we thought it was. I could hang out here for awhile. I could like it here.”
Fang Deng stared at me.
“You don’t feel that way?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
Understandable. She doesn’t like earthy things like dust and sun. Given a few more days and I think she would start to change. I think she would grow comfortable in time. I wondered how most people would do here, or anywhere that isn’t their home. It took me about a day to get the hang of the place; maybe it would only take a cloudy day for Fang Deng to feel at home.
The ability to adjust to someplace – or something – that one is not comfortable with. It’s underrated. Although Yangon isn’t as nearly as uncomfortable as, say, being lost somewhere in Pakistan might be, it’s not a bad test. If you spend, I don’t know, more than two days in Yangon and want to get out of there before the burning hot sun scorches your neck one more time, maybe it’s time to reflect on who you are. Cause really, what’s so hard about applying sunscreen and eating some fried noodles on the street?
If I ever have a kid, I’m sending it to Yangon on its 18th birthday. Just so it will know how long it takes to adjust to things.
“When can I come home, daddy?” my offspring will say.
“When everything seems beautiful,” I’ll tell it. “Or they deport you.”