On Wednesday we got the not unexpected news that our 2 week lockdown has now been extended to October 21st. It doesn’t change much about our daily lives except that we are working from home a bit more and there seem to be fewer cars on the roads as the government has mandated that almost everyone (including most factory workers) need to work from home.
Yangon is divided up into different “townships” much like London has different councils that affect things like council tax and cost of parking, etc. Each township here also has its own little ways of doing things and has different ward offices. One of the mandates of the lockdown is that you not leave your township unless you have a letter with a special QR code on it that gives you permission to do so. Gav and I happen to live in the same township as the school and also our usual grocery store and our normal dog walking route. Some people from school live just over the border in a neighbouring township so technically they are not supposed to cross over into Bahan but so far this lockdown we have not seen any roadblocks or anyone monitoring this. In April there were some makeshift roadblocks in seemingly random places with local self-appointed gate keepers manning them so maybe it is just a matter of time!
Despite the lockdown we have managed to keep ourselves entertained. Technically you can gather in groups of up to 5 people still (although you are not really supposed to leave the house except to get food or medicine) so once in a while a small group of people will get together for dinner. TECHNICALLY that means we are leaving the house for food so following the letter of the law here if not the spirit. Anyway, our friend Liz has us over for what she calls her “some assembly required” dinner where we all make pork buns. And drink beer. Nell loves when Liz has us over for dinner because she gets invited too, so that is her up above taking advantage of people who are too kind to push her off their laps and also maybe making a bid for a pork bun.
Another colleague arranged for a virtual beer tasting session on a Saturday night. Directions were sent earlier in the week about which brands of beer to buy to be ready for the tasting. This was a specifically Myanmar Beer tasting session which we all approached with hesitation as there is a reason most people only ever drink Myanmar Beer and not any of these other local varieties.
We made a slight error in that we forgot to get these gems in our weekly grocery run. We usually go right at 7am so that we don’t have to wait in line forever to check out, but Gav headed over there on Saturday afternoon only to be greeted by a queue that snaked around the entire store. He left and decided to try his luck at the local “minimart” (really just someone’s garage with a fridge in it) and managed to procure 3 of the 5 brands, although one of them was a variety with a worrying 8% alcohol level. No problem as this was not a serious tasting and anyway everything tasted horrible as you can see by our tasting notes below. We had to give a rating, a description and a suggestion of what that beer would pair well with.
Despite the gross beer it was a fun evening, but it did not inspire me to branch out in the beer consumption department.
We had some local excitement one morning last week. As I was coming home from my morning run I came across one of our neighbours battling an electrical fire in the front of his house. Flames were shooting out of his generator I think and he was dumping water on it which I am pretty sure is something you should not do with an electrical fire. I came home and got Gav, who has already noticed that something was not right as the electricity in our house was going nuts. He ran around unplugging everything he could think of and as soon as he was done we heard a big pop and the power cut. At this point we were calling a colleague down the street to see if he had a proper fire extinguisher so that maybe we could actually help put the fire out rather than just fan the flames. He did, but by the time we got back to the house that was on fire there were some “officials” there (not in a fire truck or anything just two guys on a moped with hard hats on) so it looked like things were more under control. We went home and turned on the generator to discover that the pop that we heard was every single light bulb that was tuned on at the time of the power surge busting. Now this all was happening before 6am so we didn’t have to many things on, but we did have 3 “chandeliers” turned on. The Burmese LOVE a gaudy light fixture, so feast your eyes on the glory that is our lighting.
Yes, that is very ugly. And yes, it does have about 20 bulbs in it, none of which work anymore. It is very hard to get “warm” lightbulbs here in Myanmar. The Burmese do not like warm lighting, they actually report that it is “gross” and they do not understand why foreigners prefer it to the cold fluorescent lights that are common here. This means that the local stores do not carry warm lights, you have to go to speciality shops for those, and of course those are all closed right now. So we are without some of our overhead lighting for the time being. To my horror, a few days later I discovered that the washing machine also fell victim to the power surge. Of course I discovered this after I had put the sheets in and poured in laundry detergent. Some maintenance guys from school were around to come have a look, where they discovered the only thing wrong was a blown fuse. The problem? The fuse was behind a silicone seal so you can’t change it. They had to buy us a whole new washing machine over a blown fuse! Unbelievable.
I did my civic duty and voted from abroad! I am a newly registered voter in Colorado as my parents have moved there. Colorado has a very easy email voting system and I got confirmation that my vote had been processed.
It is also election season here in Myanmar. They go to the polls November 8th and it is quite a big deal. There are banners and flags up everywhere touting the different parties and most cars have a few decals decorating them. We started seeing one particular red flag about a month and a half ago and figured it was political but couldn’t really tell what was on it. We called it the “running chicken” flag. When Gavin asked his colleagues what the “running chicken” flag was for, they quickly corrected him that that was not a chicken, that was a proud fighting peacock! I don’t know, you decide.