When we returned to Yangon in January we were very happy to feel that the cool season was still hanging around. This was the first year that I actually felt its arrival-when we first came to Myanmar our friend Dave had told me “one day you will feel a cool breeze and know that the cool season has arrived!” Well, for four years I waited for this magical moment and it never happened.
Don’t get me wrong, we have had a “cool season” each year but I had never experienced it actually arriving. This year, it happened on a Thursday right before December break. The morning had been as warm as usual, but I stepped out of the library around 10am to feel a distinct temperature shift and yes, a refreshing breeze! Before anyone gets too jazzed about the temperature drop, there is a reason that I put “cool season” in quotes. This merely means that the lows go all the way down to 19 at night and only get up to 32 or 33 during the day. Also it’s not humid. Trust me when I say this is an improvement over the rest of the year.
To our delight, the cool season has been hanging around for quite a while-it’s only really this week when I noticed it is definitely over and now we need to brace for the upcoming hot season which, frankly, is extremely hot. I will always say that I don’t mind too much though, as it will still be dry through April so even though is might be 40 or more, your sweat is actually accomplishing something and standing in the shade is helpful. It does mean that riding on my scooter makes it feel like I am in the inside of a hair dryer and my eyeballs feel like every drop of moisture is being whisked away as I scoot down the street.
While we still had the good weather, Gav and I tried to make the most of it by visiting all the restaurants and other places that have great outside spaces. There are several good restaurants on the lake that give great views of the sunset, a great new restaurant in a park halfway to downtown, and a dilapidated old shipping container on the river where we like to for a beer. That place also has a very friendly resident little fluffy dog so extra bonus. We also went down to Chinatown for Lunar New Year to see all the hoopla.
One of the things we wanted to do one last time while the weather was nice was to visit the snake temple just outside Yangon. We have been twice before and each time we just love it-so many pythons just hanging out, sleeping on the Buddha statues or in the baskets made for them on the walls. This time we decided to take some of our new teacher friends along for the excitement. We picked them up on a Sunday morning, drove the hour down the increasingly bumpy roads and prepared them for the kids who would bombard the car as soon as we stopped, trying to sell us fish food and things. Everyone sprang out of the car, clutching their 1000 kyat notes (about 30 pence) to appease the sellers. We all got some Fish Fruit Loops (it was alarmingly coloured) and started making our way along the platform over the lake toward the pagoda, feeding the fish and the turtles along the way. Good thing this was pretty entertaining, as when we got to the pagoda door I noticed that….I could not see any snakes. Sure enough, not a single python was at the temple, which was rather embarrassing. There were like 60 the last time we went, not even a year ago! Gav asked in his rudimentary Burmese “what happened to the snakes?” and we were told they “went to the forest/jungle.” Mmmm that does not sounds likely, did they all just make up their minds at once and slither in a snake conga line to a new home? We have not solved the mystery. Good thing there was a nice open-air restaurant on the way home that had cold beer. And a cat friend for Gav.
We missed out on the good wildlife on that day, but some wildlife did decide to visit us at home. One morning we noticed that something had started nibbling on our bananas again, which meant we had a little resident mouse friend. So we pulled out the trusty live trap and baited it with tasty bananas for many nights in a row. Our little friend managed to get in and help himself to the fruit, but avoid setting the trap off. Every night we tried again, setting the spring on an ever increasing hair trigger. One evening we actually heard it go off while we were watching TV and ran triumphantly into the kitchen only to find a very scared gecko that then jumped on Gav. Eventually we got lucky and trapped our little buddy. Then of course we took him on our scooters to Rat Corner which is where everyone goes to release their vermin in the morning. It’s conveniently also a dumpster site. And close to school! Hopefully it is far enough away from home that our little friend does not find his way back.
We also managed to cram in the last of our school (outdoor) events before the weather turned. One of the biggies every year is the Family Fun Fair. This is an event run by student council that raises money for organizations that the school supports. There is an entry fee and then you buy tickets to do certain things like play in the bouncy castle or, Gav’s personal favourite, ride the human powered Ferris Wheel. The Ferris Wheel is legendary, and kind of the symbol of the Fun Fair. It’s the main thing students remember year on year and the love to ride it and scream. To first timers this thing looks like an absolute death trap as it is powered by many men climbing up it in flip flops and then using their body weight to swing it down and around, leaping off at the very last second before the car behind them bashes their brains in. Gav is terrified of an accident happening but every one else loves it. Just to annoy him I signed up for Ferris Wheel duty which basically meant helping the guys who ran it load the cars so that the weight was evenly balanced. This meant that sometimes parties got split up. I had a 7th grade boy have to ride with a 2 year old girl he didn’t know tucked under his armpit (there are of course no seat belts, you are just instructed to “hang on tight.” He looked at me with terror in his eyes and said “what do I do if she cries???” She was totally fine, he shrieked the entire time.
You could also pay to put people in jail. Gav got thrown in by some students immediately. I went over to laugh at him and then he paid to have me put in too, so that backfired.
Last week we had a staff social on the building at school that overlooks the Shwedagon Pagoda. The heat was kind of ramping up, but I think we squeaked by on the last bearable night for dancing outside without passing out. It was a great night with a live band and Gav harassing everyone to get their photos taken while the light was still good. This fancy-ish evening replaced our usual Friday night beers with friends. In January we were delighted to welcome our friend Mike back to Yangon after nearly 2 years. He had some significant health issues that meant that he has been working remotely from New Zealand since we all left in April of 2021. But he has gotten a clean bill of health and we were so excited to have him actually return for in-person beer!
It seems like time is racing away. Before we know it we will be wrapping up our time here in Yangon. We’ve already had a zoom meeting with the other new teachers and some separate meetings with our new immediate colleagues. We are in the middle of figuring our Nell’s transition which is the trickiest thing, but even that I think is on its way to being sorted out. This week I have been working with some HS science classes and at the same time helping PreK do research on castles (including the very pressing question of how did the toilets work back then) and I have to say I am looking forward to being able to specialize a tiny bit more than “just help everyone.” Although I will miss how sweet the elementary kids are. I am nearly positive that no middle or high school student will make me this badge.
Let’s just ignore the fact that I am the only “Libarean”, so the bar is not high!
Enjoyed this blog Linz!
We always enjoy your adventures. Thanks for sharing. “Old” friends of your parents, Mike & Marilyn Frazier.
Ha! Love the badge!
That is VERY strange, about the pythons. I’m guessing there was an “incident” (i.e. some kind of python attack) and they’ve all been shipped off to the jungle. Unless it’s a seasonal thing and they really do go to the jungle of their own volition to mate or something? Who knows.
Love the sunset shots. That ferris wheel is terrifying.