Moments | October 20

Sharing little moments, thoughts and stories with you.

Posing for a photo with a monk in Myanmar.

When you catch on to the fact that a young monk is trying to covertly snap a photo of you with his cell phone, hey – that’s pretty cool. So you give him a “thumbs up” and a cheesy smile. This causes a moment of confusion followed by a laugh followed by gathering up the family for a proper photo. I loved this moment, as I did so many times in India, because it’s a reminder that we’re all so much the same the world over. In moments like these you see right through the differences in religion, culture, gender, and so on, and you wish the whole world would see it too and be at peace.

Myanmar is shaping up to be a real highlight of the entire year. The crumbling architecture in the city of Yangon, the floating villages in Inle Lake and the otherworldly, temple-filled landscape in Bagan gave us the feeling we’d stepped back in time, but the people really put it over the top. They are the friendliest people we’ve encountered anywhere in the world. 

A nice woman in the market at Inle Lake handing me a sample of a flan-like desert.

Nmgsoe, our boatman, his wife, and some children from the village.

One day we were out on the lake, the boatman we hired for the day took us to his village. There we met his extended family and neighbors. The men were working on making a few wooden boats. His wife gave us green tea, fried fish and crackers. (The fish by the way is just given to you whole, with no silverware. Ha. It was salty and delicious!) The boatman showed us his cat, which he had trained to jump through a “hoop” formed by stretching out his arms. They marveled at our iPhone (a fancier version of their own cell phones) and asked how much it cost. Where conversation was limited, given the limited amount of English the boatman knew, smiles sufficed. Then one of the men picked up a small wicker ball, pointed to it and asked “you play?” I nodded and figured we were about to play soccer, but they formed a circle and used it like a hackeysack! I couldn’t believe it. Something I spent hours doing in college, at many a Phish show. And yes – I still had some skills – I think they were impressed :)  The experience that day is one of the moments we’ll treasure the most. 

In the market I saw a man selling these little logs and I wondered if it was for the thanaka cream so I made a circling motion with my hand to my cheek and asked him “for face?” To which he invited me to sit down so he could give me a demonstration. 

{video: Making Thanaka Face Cream in Myanmar}

As you can see, some water is applied to a small stone slab and the tree bark rubbed on it. (And ladies, this does not come in a tube! I’ve seen women doing this in the bathroom.) The man then applied it to my face. He was so sweet, he wouldn’t even take a tip. After a few minutes it dried, became darker, and had a cooling effect on the skin. A welcome feeling in the intense heat and humidity here. It also acts as sunscreen. A girl in the market giggled at me. Yes, the cream looks pretty on Asian skin and looks clown-like and sad on a pale foreigner like me. Ha, oh well. 

In other news… watching the news outside the U.S. has been interesting. Like the other day watching coverage of the Hong Kong protests. The coverage turns to “so how is America weighing in on this? What is Obama saying? What will the U.S. do?” Just amazing. Travel makes the world both smaller and bigger, and as I watch this I’m thinking about all of the countries in the world, and how far away America is, and what does America have to do with it? Yes, I understand we are a powerful force and democracy in the world but sometimes it seems so weird and so wrong that we make every other country’s business our business. What do you think?

Till next time,
Beth