About an evening spent with Nanbwe from the Yoe Yoe Lay guesthouse.  Two women having too much fun.

Was it because I was sick?  Was it because I was her age?  Was it because I am an American?  Or was it just because Mama wanted company for a night out?  I will never know (as I will not ask).  Either way, Mama was quite concerned about my feverish condition when I arrived yesterday and has been looking in on me.  Today, over breakfast, she invited me out to dinner.  “You rest all day and then you will feel better and we will go out, OK?”.  How could I refuse such a kind invitation?

I rested all day, but by 4 PM I was anything but feeling better.  But I was hungry.  I weighed my options: I was already sick and tired of staying in bed.  I had to get some food.  Why not prop myself up with some IBUs and go with Mama.    She promised to be a good lead to some authentic Burmese food and a fun way of ending an otherwise wasted day.

Indeed, the food experience could not have been any more amazing.  We went to a restaurant obviously frequented and loved by middle-class locals.  The food by American standards was still dirt cheap despite an amazing range of local side dishes.  (To give you an idea: I have been eating fried rice or fried noodles wherever I go and pay usually $1.50 to 2.50 per meal. This “fancy meal” was $3.50 per person).  We ordered a beef and a shrimp main course which came over as much rice as you wanted.  But the side dishes were to behold: various vegetables and salads, pastes and spicy sauces.  Please don’t ask me to tell you exactly what the ingredients were as Nanbwe (Mama’s real name) could not translate them into English.  And as most of you know, I am not a cook so I was rather clueless.

I felt really good.  Nanbwe — I started to call her “Sister” which seemed more appropriate as I was older than her — was ready to roll and enthusiastically suggested a shopping trip to the local mall after the meal…  I must not have looked as excited as she expected and she quickly added:  Or, do you like massage?  Oh my, yes!  We had found our common denominator and I added:  And if I feel well enough, afterwards we could go to a puppet show.  I will take you out.  That seemed an off the beaten path suggestion, but Sister was game almost immediately.

Nanbwe had hired a taxi for the evening.  The driver waited for us everywhere and took us wherever we wanted to go.  As we were lying on the mats getting a very interesting massage Burmese style  he already arranged the Marionette Show tickets for us!  Wow, that was smooth organization.

Fully dressed and covered with a big towel, the two of us found ourselves on a big, curtained-off mat in a rather fancy massage parlor.  Two young girls sat on us, at times stepping on us, pulling, pushing, and stretching us, and kneading our muscles like dough.  It hurt!  But I endured as it definitely hit the spot with all the muscle aches I have been dealing with over the last two days.   An hour later we were whisked to the most famous puppet theater in Myanmar for a marionette show. This is one of the most authentic and traditional experiences you can have in Myanmar.

Puppets are for sale everywhere as souvenirs and are lovingly handmade.  There is a fixed set of traditional characters, such as the prince, a princess, a monk, forest spirits, a drunkard, etc.  I felt quite bad for the performers.  This is low tourist season and a full set of 6 musicians and 6 puppeteers performed for a lousy audience of 4.  The small theater holds 50 people…

A brief English announcement was made about the gist of each of the following skits.  And the hour show consisted of about six skits with simple story lines but beautifully painted canvas backdrops, gorgeous costumes and highly skillful puppeteering and live music.  For a brief moment about two to three minutes into each skit the curtain above the 1/2 life size puppets would be lifted for the audience to see the puppeteers involved in this particular part.  At the end of the show all six performers came on stage to take a bow and we were introduced to the only and oldest living master of this craft in the country.  He is of the impressive age of 86.  He is still performing lead roles daily and training young artists.  He came out to the four of us to shake our hands.   And if my camera battery had not given up the ghost at this opportune moment I could have had a nice picture of him…

I was holding up.  The power of IBUs is impressive.  By the time I got back to the guesthouse, a group of the youngsters had gathered around a big table in the courtyard and I joined them for a beer.  Two of them had a bad motorcycle accident that day.  Under the circumstances they got lucky!  Neither one had been wearing a helmet but neither of them had broken a bone.  Bad flesh wounds from fingers, arms to toes however were enough to make me cringe.  From all they described the accident would have been avoidable by a local who understands the traffic rules.  The main rule is the most simple one: you always yield to the larger vehicle.  You never have the right of way.  You follow the pecking order.  They had not.  A big bus drove them off the road and they fell…  That’s why I never even dream of riding one of those scooters myself, no matter how tempting it might be.  I wish them a speedy recovery.  But just like me, they might be stuck here for a while until their condition improves.  We are lucky to be at the Yoe Yoe Lay where people form a community and Mama personally cares about each and everyone of us.

This was a long and exhausting evening.  But I made it.  Perhaps, I just need to start to get moving bit by bit.  Just bed rest does not seem to improve anything.

Good night!