Made to measure

Lindsey mentioned the gala in her last post so here’s a few comments about it.  This is an annual event hosted by the school with the aim of raising some money.  I have a colleague who used to work in event management at a hotel so she basically did everything to organise it.  My sole contribution was to move the event from the gym where we had it the last two years to a hotel.  Surprisingly to me, it was actually cheaper to do this than to convert our gym into a ballroom and a lot of the organisation naturally fell to the hotel so overall it was a great decision.  The event was a complete success and for the first time we actually raised a decent amount of money for the school.  I had one of those reality check moments during the event when I was addressing the room.  It seems impossible that just 8 months ago I was living in London and now here I am dressed up in a tux addressing 280 people in Myanmar sitting at a table, by the way, with the deputy US Ambassador.  Doesn’t seem real.

The tux gives me a vague segue way into what I want to actually talk about (loosely) which are hand made things.  I realised that although not essential I should really have a tux for the gala.  I asked around and got a recommendation of a place to go to where I could get one but when we followed the instructions to the place, when we got there, it wasn’t there.  There was however a clothes shop so we thought we’d take a look.  On a rack there were some black jackets and I tried one on in no way expecting it to fit, only to my amazement it fit pretty perfectly.  The black trousers they had to go with it were not labelled at least in my size but Lindsey made me try some on anyway.  Stunningly, the first pair I tried on fit pretty well although were maybe slightly too big.  A belt with them would be fine so I bought the lot.  The only thing was that trousers here need to be hemmed it seems.  I was duly measured and told to come back in half-an-hour and when we returned all had been done.  Myanmar retailers have a funny habit of giving you a ‘present’ after you buy something.  It’s almost like they can’t quite believe you’ve bought it for that price so to make up for it they give you something else.  When we bought our sofa for instance, it was all we could do to stop them giving us a horrible faux leather footstool.  When we picked up the clothes we were duly given another pair of trousers as a gift.  Funnily enough, when we got them home we discovered they were the same pair of trousers that I had bought only 1 size smaller so an even better fit!  I’m not sure whether this was on purpose or not but quite amusing anyway.

I recently bought a water pump on the recommendation of the head maintenance guy at school in order to try to figure out a way of setting up a hose to water the garden.  At the moment I am doing it with a bucket which is really annoying.  At first the maintenance guys at school didn’t install it which is fair enough as it isn’t really a maintenance job.  Last weekend, the morning after the gala, I thought to myself, ‘maybe I can do this myself’.  I thought I would take down the name of the thing and youtube it to see what came up.  Half of my DIY efforts start this way.  Anyway, when I tried to find it, I only found the box and then I realised that the hose was also missing.  I rushed out into the garden to discover that they had come and installed it the day before.  As you can see from the photo, there is no way I could have done this myself.  In addition to that complexity they also ran an electric cable from there into the house to provide the power for it.   I know that these things are possible anywhere but here there is something about the inventiveness and ingenuity of the people that is really nice.  It is also extremely affordable and easy to arrange.  If you have an idea about something you want done or made, here you can find someone to do it at a reasonable price in a reasonable time frame.

The last story on this in about the photo at the top.  This is a shoe rack to replace the mess of shoes we had just lying around in the same place before.  I designed it myself with the intention that a seat cushion would go on top.  We gave the design to the guy who built our shelves and within a couple of weeks he’d made it.  The wood is all reclaimed from packing crates I believe so it’s environmentally friendly to boot (no pun intended).  The last part was the seat cushion.  For this we went to a material shop which is partly a charity training underprivileged people how to make the material.  We’ve bought rugs and curtains from them in the past and a host of random bits of furniture.  We selected the material and gave them the dimensions and a week or so later and it was ready and fit perfectly!  There is something very satisfying about this kind of work and I love that we are in a place where doing this sort of thing is so accessible.

There is no IKEA in Myanmar although there is a guy who buys things from the one in Thailand and imports them here for a small extra fee.  I hope IKEA and there ilk never arrive although I suppose it’s an inevitability eventually.  Hopefully, by then, we’ll be long gone.

2 thoughts on “Made to measure

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  1. Wow, that all sounds pretty ideal. I love the fact that they do the work and do it well! That shoe-rack looks great! I had similar experiences in Morocco — you could take furniture specs to a craftsman and a week or two later you’d have a piece of furniture, made to fit. Can you imagine doing that in England or the states? It would cost a fortune.


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