As I write this, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is in it’s 11th day. I was shocked when the coup happened in Myanmar but nothing compares to the shock of a modern day war in Europe. The inability of any country or group of countries to intervene though does put into perspective Myanmar’s own plight.
Back in February last year, there was much talk and hope in the streets that some Western country might come to Myanmar’s aid. Talk and international condemnation by Western powers and organizations became insulting to the Myanmar people and I wonder if the same feeling is starting to grow in Ukraine. Sanctions may be a lot more effective against a country like Russia than Myanmar but I imagine the people of Ukraine want something else. If the world cannot step in now for fear of another world war in which nuclear weapons are so readily available, then what is to stop Russia from invading any non-nato country on its borders?
Looking closer to home I have recently completed a project I wanted to begin before Covid but couldn’t get started with. This is the project to rent a car. I had tentatively started the process before Covid started but then all the government offices closed and there was no way of getting to the first step which is getting a local licence. Fortunately, a colleague of ours has just gone through the process and was able to lay it all out for me. To get a Myanmar driving licence, as you are not allowed to drive on foreign licence, I would first need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP). Now there’s a scam if ever I saw it. There is a website where all you do is upload a photo of your existing licence and a photo and pay something like $70 and you can get an IDP. The problem of course, is that they don’t have Myanmar as a delivery option. It was possible in the ‘other’ option though but then you have to pay another $44 for the DHL costs. You get a tracking code and I watched as my little bits of paper flew from California to Germany and then on to Bangkok finally arriving in Yangon about 1 week later. Armed with an IDP I then got hold of a kind of fixer who took all my documents including my UK licence and passport to the driving authority who for a fee then provided me with a Myanmar licence valid for 5 years. If nothing else it is a great memento. Next up – actually getting a car through an ‘agency’. The foreigner rental car of choice here seems to be a Suzuki Ertiga which is totally fine and I would have got that had it been available but it wasn’t. After a couple of days the guy sent me photos of the Toyota version of the Suzuki, an Avanza and then after a bit more back and forth on the price he said he would come and bring me the car. When he showed up it was clearly with the family who actually owned the car who also brought their young child. I think it’s basically like AirB&B where this guy helps you rent your car. The cost is about $400 a month. Well at least this time they actually wanted to see my licence.
Yesterday we took our first drive to a DIY shop called Pro1. I love DIY shops and immediately want to buy everything in there the moment I get there. The ride was actually fine except for one part where you have to cross two lanes of traffic. It was a bit hairy as I was nosing out with a guy 1 inch from my rear bumper honking his horn while buses of death were crossing in front of me 1 inch away from my front grill. In the end we managed it and I now have a working sprinkler among other bits and pieces.
Covid (and then a coup) has been pretty disastrous to a lot of businesses in Myanmar as it has worldwide. During our 9 months away some of the restaurants and bars we went to before no longer exist but some have sprung up in their place. One restaurant that was fairly new just before we left is a place called Dirty Crickets. Last Friday they were having a 2 for 1 special on cocktails so we went along. (Can’t resist a two for one cocktail deal!) The place is tiny but has a little balcony which we were shown to with great people watching. The cocktails were lovely and cheap and the food was delicious. Whatever woes we might complain of it is nice to find these little gems from time to time.
Finally, and for no other reason than I like a bit of alliteration in my post titles here are a few photos of the various birds and other critters we see on our walks. I am carrying my camera around a lot at the moment not least because I have an After School Activity of Photography with just three middle school students (better than Lindsey who has just one student – ha ha)! They are unbelievably enthusiastic and do things like show up 15 minutes early and then don’t want to leave. Their enthusiasm makes me want to actually come up with things for them to do so I am learning more about my own camera as a result. This happened before with my last lot but that was online only so not nearly as fun.
It’s cool that you’re doing an after-school photography program. I’ve often thought of doing that here but I haven’t made the leap yet. Traffic sounds pretty hairy in Myanmar. Did you drive home from your cocktail outing — and if so, was that better or worse than driving sober?!