I Have Been Something More Than Lucky

I Have Been Something More Than Lucky

Yangon is around 8,000 miles away from everything I know intimately. 8,000 miles away from my family, 8,000 miles away from the English that I know and speak, and 8,000 miles away from any town at all that I can get around expertly with only one or two of my wits about me. 8,000 miles away from my life.

Yet, it’s almost as if I’m right at home. The language difference doesn’t bother me – it comforts me. The food isn’t a big deal – I’m used to the flavors and combinations. Yangon’s “signature smell” isn’t far off from some dingier places in New York or San Francisco. The staring men are disturbingly universal. There’s pieces of my neighbor’s house in the hallway of the apartment building, which would be different if they weren’t in the middle of a remodel. A doctor’s office sits snuggled between the neighboring apartment building and an internet café, and I have yet to find anyone that doesn’t speak a lick of English. Apparently, Thailand is really the place for that type of challenge – at least teaching-wise.

On a third flip side, Yangon is completely different. My American readers may read this as assume that the places are “americanized”, with nice tile or linoleum floors, kept clean of dirt and the outside by a big glass door. The doctor’s office has no door to the entrance. Something that I have come to prefer in my travels. There’s no gateway to the inside of a doctor’s office the way there is in America. It’s just…open. Literally – the outer office is open to the world. The internet café is what, I assume, you might find in America – a few people sending e-mails or writing blogs, the rest playing RPGs of some sort and renditions of Candy Crush in a crowded, poorly lit room filled with computer stations.

I (nor anyone, I would argue) cannot explain travel. It can be principally understood. Emotions leak through books and movies and plays and operas until they saturate your inner soul with what it feels like to stand in the Grand Bazaar in Turkey, or be swept along the hills of France into the vastness of the sea in Italy. You may smell the stench of pureness of life in India or stand alongside an adulteress in Switzerland, being unbothered the chill of the outside. You may hear the clucks of the chickens in the market in Morocco or an argument in Spain and it may convince you that you have actually had those experiences; but until you are so frightened for your life that you sleep on the way to Italy, or hold your finger to your nose in India, until all of the romanticized notions of travel are gone from you forever, understanding travel remains undone.

The greatest goal I have for myself right now is to truly understand travel. To get lost and bring myself back.

But for now, I’m about to meet a new teacher and go to a party for a departing one. And when I come back, I’ll try to go to sleep, despite the three hour long nap I just had. And tomorrow, I’ll go shopping for things I didn’t bring, but realize now that I need. On Monday, I’ll be taken through a cultural orientation and take pictures and act the part of the obnoxious tourist who will smile when they mispronounce the language because they’re embarrassed but they’re trying. I’ll get the traditional longyi suit for women tailor-made, complete with the clasp and button because there’s no way I can learn how to tie one of those properly. When the first holiday comes around, I’ll awkwardly take part and enjoy it immensely. That’s all for now. I’ll give as much as I can and I’ll teach as much as I can and hopefully I will provide a strong foundation for learning. I’ll enjoy it all, and after this, perhaps, I’ll begin to understand travel. Or is it being an expat I want to understand?

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