Monday, 27 February 2017

How are you doing, Yangon?

How are you doing, Yangon? 
The locals would say Neh kaun la which means 'Are you well?' 
To which you reply Neh kaun ba deh. 😇

Right now Im sitting in my dark apartment while the faint light streaming from my living room window casts shadows on my half empty plate. I am confident the lights will be back soon. I thoroughly enjoyed my plate of long-grained rice found in the streets of Yangon, and my new-found favorite...their local arugula. These fresh baby rockets aren't the only inexpensive delights in this city. 

Yangon has a lot to offer... and a lot of things that might make you want to run back to the airport, hop on a plane and swear off of. But before you rebook your return ticket, here are several things about Yangon that have kept delight on my plate and has kept me wanting for more:

1) Baby Rockets / Arugula. 
Over the holidays I recently discovered why artisan restaurants offer hefty piles of this delicious leaves for nothing. Although you won't find these famous greens in their street markets, groceries all over Yangon that carry international products sell medium sized containers of fresh and organic arugula or baby rockets for less than USD$1. This makes me want to eat it with everything. So I've been gorging on these for weeks now with every delightful bite. If you love fresh flowers, you'd be happy to know too that you can get red, yellow, pink, white and all sorts of roses and flowers for also a 1USD a dozen.

2) Fresh Cow's Cheese.
This you can find in their local wet market. In the neighborhood where I am at, there are several Hindus, Muslims, Christians living within their very Buddhist society. Down town is quite a conglomerate of culture and thankfully, the food gets pretty interesting especially in their streets. I have a favorite vegetable seller who lets me know which is the best and if they're fresh. Kind local sellers have even warned me if the produce they sold would no longer be good the next day. Their cheese looks like white tofu patties that are seared on the top. Initially I thought they were made of soy or mushrooms. So you won't miss it, local name, at least in the street market, is deinhkel.

3) Fresh Cow's Milk.
I can buy fresh cow's milk in the streets of down town Yangon even past 10pm and get very good quality cow's cheese amidst the vegetables they sell 'til midnight. You will need to boil the milk first though. Drinking the milk straight after purchase is not recommendable. You have been warned. Most of Myanmar people's diet is plant-based mainly because of their Buddhist belief (In reincarnation you might end up eating a cousin or a not-so-good neighbor who's passed away.) You can also purchase a tub of fresh and unsweetened yoghurt at groceries for 2USD.

4) Not Malls but Parks.
Other than good cheap food, another reason to linger in Yangon are for their lush parks. Within the city they have multiple gorgeous greens and manicured lawns full of flowers, some by the lake and mostly with children's playgrounds. These parks are well maintained and are not just tourist attractions but also a fun place where locals do their early morning exercises or late afternoon sprawls. Highly recommended are: People's Park (with dazzling lights and water show at night), Kendwagyi Park by the lake and the park that wraps around Inya Lake. Be armed with a camera. It's the perfect place to unwind but be ready to quickly click those sharp lenses.

5) Gems.
Land of treasures. Many establishments named "Yadanar" can be seen all over the city. It is the Myanmar word for treasure. Mining is one of their primary sources of income and precious and semi-precious stones can be bought at the famous Scotts market or now more commonly known as Bogyoke market. One must be careful though because my mom had to return a handful of lapiz lazuli bracelets after discovering they were fake and simply died blue. (It marked her skin blue after sweating under the harsh Yangon sun.) I found an article on line that was quite handy in deciphering real and fake lapiz lazuli. I'm pretty sure these aren't the only fake gems in the market, but just like in any tourist infested shops anywhere where cheap products are sold and merchants are prolific, it would be handy to know how to tell a real jade stone from green plastic.

6) Music and the Arts.
Many beautiful paintings can be bought off the streets, but again, be careful. Silkscreened copies of masterpieces even from well-meaning local artists might be sold to you. Myanmar is lenient with duplication and selling of paintings, and although they truly are beautiful masterpieces, they are also truly fake. Myanmar's rich artistic heritage is shining. Like the city, the music scene is also a conglomerate of genres, tribal, Hindi or karaoke. They love western music as much as they love Bollywood pop songs. During their Water Festival, Thingyan, much dancing can be seen in the streets. Both young and old, and people from every imaginable Myanmar tribe celebrate by blasting the city with their songs, throwing water on everything moving while gyrating.

7) The People.
They love foreigners. Most locals are eager to show you around or make you try their often spicy delicacies. Countless tribes and indigenous groups make up Myanmar. Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is home to not just the Burmese but the Chin, Shan, Kachin, Kayah, Rakhine, Ayerwaddy, and a thousand more people groups. From iron clad long-necked women, to intricately tatooed faces of old ladies, Myanmar people have tribes within tribes distinct even in traditions and dialects. Amongst themselves, they shock each other with the differences within their own culture. A culture shocked foreigner isn't shocking to say the least. I still experience culture shock after many months of living within their former capital. Myanmar people, especially the ladies, tend to have a shy and unexpressive facade, but they're very kind. Both men and women are friendly yet also sensitive. Nevertheless they are forgiving to the high-spirited travelers. It would still be wise to learn more about their culture beforehand rather than offending them at first encounter.

Like any city, living in Yangon has given me moments of ups and downs. Since moving here in 2016, the power outage has decreased dramatically. Genuine thanks to the current leader of the land, Daw Aung San Su Kyi, a true lady indeed. I wouldn't say I purely enjoy the developing commerce of the land whenever I get caught in down town traffic. Just the start of 2017 they've implemented stricter traffic laws: Seat belts. Some taxi driver friends of mine weren't so happy spending some jail time and being fined Ky 30, 000 to welcome them into this new year after they were caught on cctv. Ahh progress.

So if you've been living in Yangon, Neh kaun la? I'd like to hear your own delightful reasons to linger in this city. Make this list longer and add pictures too.

It has been fun. Cheizu tinbarte, Yangon.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Famous Lines.

What happens when God speaks?

Light explodes.
Darkness is dispelled.
Worlds are formed.
Life arises.

Jesus was there at creation. Upon the breath of God, Word was released.

Creation began when The Word was spoken.

"And The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Emmanuel. God with us. 

What happens when God moves into the neighborhood?

Our Lord God doesn't just want to live near you, He longs to live inside of you. 
Only when we allow His Word to be planted in our hearts will His perfect will for us come to pass.


Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Secret of the Moon and the Sun

In the beginning

The Beloved sang.

The song of the Beloved echoed through darkness.

Something that wasn't there before suddenly was.

It was a dance. 

Time tells the story of the Sun and the Moon.

Time is our story teller. Only Time can tell.

"The Sun and the Moon were once together.

"In the beginning the Sun and the Moon held hands and danced as the Beloved sang.

"It happened many millions of years ago. The Moon was granted the silver beauty of the Beloved, while the Sun first received the Beloved's golden Light.

Time tells of when the Beloved first spoke. "On that day the Beloved first sang, He nodded and said yes to the Moon and the Sun."

This is a secret between the Moon and the Sun.

Will Time tell more?

"It was a song of Love. The Beloved sang and the Sun and the Moon shared a kiss."

The Sky blushed. Pink light exploded. Will Time continue the story?

"The song of Love was sung and the Sun and the Moon danced. They were in Love.

"The Sun twirled and beamed gold. The Moon bowed and gleamed silver.

"Because of Love, many Stars were birthed by the Sun. The Moon glowed as Stars filled up Sky.

"Pink. Blue. Yellow. Red. Purple. Green. 
Stars are colorful, like the Beloved's song of Love!

"Suddenly, there was a terrible sound. Lightning tore through Sky.

Sun and Moon covered their ears from the horrible loud thunder. They let each other go.

"Lightning fell on some dust and created a rip that caused mountains to rise.

"Tears fell from Moon's eyes, the tears covered the mountains. The mountains gleamed with the beams from Moon. Alas! There was snow!

"Sun tried to reach for Moon but the mountains grew and divided the two.

"Sun had no tears but threw flames that fell on the mountains and melted some snow. Alas! That became oceans!

"The oceans became streams that watered more dust. Trees and flowers began to grow. Some plants sprouted from the mountains. Thicker and thicker they grew as more tears fell from Moon. More waters fell from tall mountains as Sun's flames grew hotter.

"There were new sounds coming out of the water and the trees. A new song was sung and a new name was heard. 


This is now the home of the mountains, the oceans, the trees, the plants, the streams and all the new creatures creating new sounds. Will Time tell all?

"No sound can compare to the song of the Beloved.

"Moon tried to sing a song to calm Sun down but no voice came out. Only the Beloved can sing that song of Love. Sun sighed. Moon beamed. Love remains.

"Sun blew a kiss to Moon and melted some more snow. The melted snow quickly bounced up to Sky and became Clouds. Moon was Love struck, as always."

Huge mountains now separated the Sun and the Moon. Earth stood in their way. Clouds covered their view. Will they ever dance again?

The Sun peaked out of Clouds. Some Clouds hid the Moon.

"This is the Sun and the Moon's secret", said Time. "In the beginning they held hands and danced to the song of Love."

"As Time has told, this is all we know," said Clouds as they told the story to some yellow flowers that newly sprung up from Earth. "The Sun and the Moon would only smile whenever we ask about the Beloved's song and their dance."

The sweet-smelling flowers exuded bright light. They had more questions but Clouds had to go back up. The warm morning breeze began to blow. 

Clouds kissed the flowers, the grass, the trees leaving wet splotches on almost everything. 

Earth giggled. Clouds chuckled. Sky seemed to tickle everything that morning. 

Blue violet hues of light were leaving and some red orange slowly emerged over Earth. Sky's colors were changing. All creatures looked up to watch.

Suddenly, light exploded.

The Sun smiled. The Moon was breath-taken. They looked at each other just like they did yesterday. 

One, two, three ...seconds passed. That was all they had. Time was counting. 

"I can do a million more of these, Sun."

"Me too." the Moon replied staring at Sun's fiery eyes.

Love bounced back from Sun to Moon, from Moon to Sun. Love dwelt in each other's eyes. Both could still hear the Beloved's song of Love.

Only the two know this song of Love which was heard on that day when the Beloved first sang.

The Moon beamed and began to sink. "Goodbye for now."

The Sun blushed and started to rise. "I'll see you soon."

Will they ever hold hands again and dance? 

Only Time can tell.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

"What's next, Papa?"

Two years ago, the Lord spoke to me, "Orphanage". It has been almost two years and I knew my time in this nation was soon coming to a close yet I haven't really been involved in any orphanages.

One Sunday morning, I sat beside this lady and we began talking. To my delight I learned she worked and lived in an orphanage and I asked to visit them.

My life has never been the same. 15 children have enriched my life beyond words. Once a week I would visit them, cook them spaghetti or watch cartoons and learn English with them. Sometimes we would swim and play games. Getting to know these beautiful children has been such pleasure. I pray someday they will know how they have blessed my heart beyond measure.

I look forward to seeing their bright smiles and hearing their dreams of growing up to be pastors and teachers and doctors and architects one day. My earnest prayer for these precious treasures, that they be all that the Lord has called them to be.

They are no longer orphans. 

An orphan spirit is someone who feels lost, doesn't know what to do with his life and is constantly feeling abandoned, struggling with rejection though often surrounded by a lot of people. Not these children! They know they belong to Jesus and they are confident in His love. They know the Father takes care of them, in fact, they are so full of the Word they could quote scripture and sing it with such boldness. These boys and girls know who they are in Christ and I am so delighted to have met them.  No wonder the Lord wanted me to cross paths with them! A sure reminder, an eye-opener, that we belong to His family. I am so honored, very privileged to have met such lovely men and women of God. I am excited for what's next for these children. I know they will, one day, boldly and confidently live lives so pleasing unto the Father. Actually, they already are now!  

Romans 8 Msg

15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!