I can’t believe that it is 2020 and that we are nearly at the end of January! Seems crazy to me as it feels like I was just hoping to make it to Thanksgiving and all our holidays and now it’s nearly February. We had a fantastic holiday during our Christmas break to Sri Lanka. Three weeks of driving around the island, visiting ancient cities and seeing animals. Hopefully Gav will do a post outlining every thing we did. Cross your fingers that he doesn’t talk about every bird we saw-there were lots. The major reason we wanted to go to Sri Lanka was to do some leopard spotting, and it didn’t disappoint!
That was by far our best sighting, but we saw them nearly every day we went on safari drives. You have to be lucky, most sightings are just of them crossing the road and if your truck isn’t there, or is stuck behind another truck it’s often too bad for you! Makes it exciting and a little competitive between the guides, which is funny. We also got to see elephants but sadly couldn’t find any of the elusive Sloth Bear, so we will have to go back. We absolutely loved Sri Lanka and will certainly return. Their tourism industry is suffering quite badly still from the terrorist attacks last April, which is too bad. It’s a stunning country, has amazing food and people are very friendly.
Elephants! Private pools! Take me back!
It was a rude awakening to have to come back to work after such an amazing holiday, but that’s life. To console ourselves, we turned around and booked our April vacation. To Beijing. Whoops. Let’s all cross our fingers that the panic over the coronavirus clears up by then, but I think I will buy some trip cancellation insurance just in case. Bizarrely, Nell got a vaccine for that last year-do you think I can ask the vet to stop by with a little shot for me and Gav?
It appears that the Myanmar central bank is going to start circulating new 1,000 kyat notes this month. Helpfully, these will now be the exact same color and size as the 10,000 kyat note so that won’t be confusing at all. Last week I went to a big English book sale in a convention center. I spent just shy of 300,000 kyat (about £150) on books for the library and then had to go through the school’s arduous process of getting reimbursed. Apparently in the past, this was very loosey-goosey, with someone sitting in the business office next to a drawer that was just stuffed full of cash. If you kind of waved a receipt in front of them they would fork over whatever you asked for. I think that’s how the school ended up in debt a while back, so the current administration tightened things up significantly. Unfortunately for me (and everyone else) it’s now a very annoying process probably designed to discourage you from actually asking for your money back. There is a computer system you have to log on to, fill out a ton of forms, and then wait for your supervisor to approve the purchase. However, the system doesn’t alert you as to when that approval has gone though so you have to either arduously keep logging in and crossing your fingers or badger your supervisor. Once that’s done it’s not over, the purchase still needs to be approved by the Business Manager and of course there’s no alert then either. When all is said and done, you have to take the PO number, the original receipt and the final shreds of your dignity to the cash desk where forms are signed in triplicate and you can finally get your money back. Perhaps due to the currency change going on, the cash desk had only 1,000 kyat notes in which to repay me. That is the equivalent of being paid £150 in 50p pieces. This is what I was handed:
I guess I should feel lucky, there was a parent in front of me getting reimbursed for something and she needed an actual BAG to take her bundle of cash away. Anyway, I didn’t want 300 1,000 kyat notes so I managed to swap them at the canteen where they are always begging for change.
Last weekend Gav was away in London on a school trip. I’ll let him tell you about that as well, but he managed to take an extra personal day to see his family and have a little fun. I was home alone with Nell for 5 days and she was very pout-ey about Gavin being gone. I ran the Yangon half marathon on Sunday with a few people from school. They changed the venue for the start which was great because this year there were actual toilets with lights! Last year it was oozing porta-potties with no lights inside that caused actual gagging from the people using them. I managed to finish the race in under two hours but it was more of a struggle than last year-I think three weeks of eating my way around Sri Lanka didn’t help the situation much. But it’s a great event, the weather cooperated and it was all done and dusted by 7:30am so what more can you ask for?
Gav got home on Wednesday and today has had to go on another quick trip up to Nay Pyi Taw (the actual capitol of Myanmar but hardly anyone lives there). He left the house at 5:20am poor guy, but he will fly home this evening. Our school’s second campus is having an open day to try to recruit some more students. No one actually wants to live in Nay Pyi Taw so there are very few customers, but the government is putting huge pressure on businesses and embassies to make the move up there. One of the big international aid groups is taking the plunge in July, so several of the families currently at our campus in Yangon are having to move and are kind of freaking out. Hopefully having an actual look around will soothe some nerves.
I’ve just come back from having a haircut. Going to anyone but my trusted guy in London always bring with a certain frisson of terror (due to some traumatic international haircuts in the past-I’m looking at you Paraguay), but I try to tell myself each time to relax, it’s only hair. How bad could it be? This lady REALLY likes to blowdry my bangs with a big round brush so that I look like I am from 1992. I can’t make her stop. By the time I got home (after squishing down my bangs with my bike helmet) I realized that the giant blowout was concealing the fact that she didn’t cut them evenly so I just had to do it myself with some kitchen scissors. Fabulous.
Love the stories! Cash and haircut were outstanding!
LOL — at least your “fringe” was easily repaired. Dave and I have been meaning to go to Sri Lanka for ages but we haven’t made it yet. One of these days. I’ll have to get your tips on where to go.
Your cash story is funny too. I remember changing a traveler’s check in Ghana way back when (1994) and being handed so much paper money that I couldn’t fit it in my money belt. Like, BRICKS of paper money. I don’t even remember how I carried them. It was kind of pretty money, though, so that helped.