I've been slowly working on some content for more meaningful blog postings, but a request from the esteemed Nathanael Chambers for some hilarity reminded me that I'd been collecting a few anecdotes for future posting, so in the interest of Mr Chambers' academic pursuits I present the following:
- we lived in our apartment for a month before we figured out the phone number. There was a number on the rental contract, but it wasn't right. In discussing the situation with our driver I somehow managed to make him think there was something wrong with the phone, so the way we actually found out the number was when a repair technician he summoned came out and spent some time trying to figure out what was wrong. I bet this one went on the technician's list of "stupid people I had to help at work."
- Also in the Communication Across Language Barriers is Difficult category: Alissa asked our cook to include a salad with our dinner one night...and the only thing we got for dinner that night was a salad. I'm guessing our cook was thinking, "really? All you want is a salad? Because you look like you eat a lot more than that."
- Power outages are common. The other evening as we were preparing to head out for dinner Alissa put on an outfit and, precisely as she rounded the corner into my view, halfway through the question "does this look okay?" the room went completely black. We both got a good laugh out of that one.
- One of the most popular cars in Yangon is the 1986/87 Nissan Sunny Super Saloon. They're ubiquitous. As you may well imagine, these 20+ year old cars come with some quirks, one of which is that they all look nearly identical because they've all been repainted plain white at some point in the last couple decades, another is that the ignition keys are frequently quite worn to the point that nearly anything would work as a key in the ignition -- most also have new, completely separate lock systems for the doors. To emphasize how common these cars our: our company is currently leasing one for our coworker David and one for us -- actually, we're on our second one (the first had more issues than usual). Anyway, sometime back in February our country director Jim needed to run an errand and the vehicle he normally uses was being used for some other purpose, so he borrowed the keys for one of the Sunnys, went out into the parking lot, got in a white Sunny and drove off. Except that it wasn't one of our Sunnys. Shortly thereafter the owner of the Sunny Jim took arrived to find his car missing -- people sitting around in the parking lot told him a white guy had just driven off with it, and there was a rush to contact the police until thankfully someone suggested checking in with the NGO office upstairs where the white people frequently go. Once the people in our office were notified they called Jim on his cell and he returned the car as soon as possible.
- In Myanmar culture nobody wears shoes or sandals inside of offices or residences. I'm generally pretty cool with this, but I have two related issues: the first is the inadvertent, highly awkward foot-to-foot contact that happens under the table at meetings. Generally people seem to pretend it didn't happen. I think this is why some of the westerners still make a point of wearing socks. The second issue is with bathrooms at offices, places in which I generally do not want my skin to touch the floor. Everyone has seen things on bathroom floors they'd rather not touch, but imagine some of the messes that can happen in a place where, from time to time, you'll see a sign showing people more familiar with squatty pottys how they ought to be using this strange toilet in front of them...