Yangon Day 9 to 11: Shopping and Packing

World

The last three days in Yangon were spent in a more lazy fashion, with much time afforded to sleeping, shopping and dining.

We were again at Bogyoke Market and this time, we stumbled upon a side alley where men and women were huddled in small groups either along the road or over small tables with snacks and tea. We soon realised that many of these were part of the gemstone trade. People were simply buying and selling gemstones on the street.

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We also visited a street that was presumably known as the place that gem dealers hawk their precious wares. In a makeshift stall located at the end of the street, R found some stones that he had been looking for and we spent a fair bit of time looking through the array of items on display.

Back at Bogyoke market, I joined Mel to look at Chin fabrics while R went to look at more gemstones. At Yoyamay, we bought pouches, cushion covers and a throw made of handwoven fabrics.

I had wanted to visit some furniture shops, but with R being unwell for a couple of days, we didn’t quite make it to any on this trip. On our last night though, we came across a “gift shop” which sold homewares and at a pretty affordable price too. It was really an accidental find as we were supposed to meet Mel for dinner at a restaurant next door and simply wandered into this shop out of curiosity.

It was more of a shop selling handcrafted goods than a “gift shop”. I bought some chopsticks (how Chinese am I?!), a rattan basket, and R bought a magnet that is now stuck on our refrigerator at home. I do like the products in this shop and may return on our next trip.

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One of the things we ate during those last few days was chicken biryani. It was way more oily than the version we get in Singapore but the smell and the taste were so good.

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Our last dinner in Yangon was at Sofaer & Co. Opened just few months ago, it’s a beautiful restaurant that serves fusion Burmese dishes. The interiors were so pretty.

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We couldn’t leave without having mohinga again so we decided to have it for breakfast on our last morning.

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Yangon Day 5 to 8: Adventures In and Around

World

We are now back in Singapore and feeling slightly unsettled by an unpleasant incident that had happened with the Burmese customs. Aside from that, the trip was still a good one and I’m gonna jot down some highlights of days 5 to 8.

I accompanied R to the Professional Development Conference on Day 5. He was there to speak on his topic “The Teacher’s Toolbox”. It was eye-opening for me to be at a professional event and I learnt a few things observing and speaking with people.

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The next day, I took the train up to an area away from the city to visit a special school called Eden Centre. I had already scheduled a time with the staff some days prior. They brought me around to see the classrooms and the different children, teachers and staff who work there.

Eden Centre is privately run and supported by donations. As I walked around, I remember feeling very impressed with the work that was being done. The centre deals with global delay, autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and takes in children from ages 0 to 18. There are physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and a training manager. There is a training room and even a hydrotherapy pool. I left the centre feeling heartened by what I saw and experienced.

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Across those few days, Mel also brought me around to some pretty cool places, like 50th Street Bar and Pansodan Art Gallery. We had ramen at a Japanese restaurant, bought fresh flowers from the night market for her house, and had Shan noodles at the almost-famous 999 Shan Noodle House.

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She took an afternoon off work to take me cycling on an island. Locating the jetty and getting on the right boat were enough of an adventure in themselves, so much that I was ready to go home by the time I landed on the island. We eventually spent about 2.5 hours on the island.

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This island, called Kanaung To, comprises just one main road and many little villages connected by small winding paths. A local woman loaned us the use of a bicycle for two hours and so we were able to cycle around and explore the land. The kids were very curious to see us, staring and waving as we passed.

The next three days were spent seeing more of the city and shopping at Bogyoke market. More in the next post!

Yangon Day 1 to 4: Energy Within the Chaos

World

We have been here in Yangon, Myanmar for over a week now. This city is gritty, chaotic yet beautiful and bubbling with so much energy and enthusiasm at the same time.

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One week isn’t long, but neither is it too short to fully experience a city. Our first three nights were spent in a B&B in downtown Yangon. On our first day, we walked down Strand Road, made a turn and came across a large night market, full of hawkers selling food and makeshift stalls peddling all kinds of items.

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As we walked on, we found ourselves at Maha Bandula Park and not far off, was the Sule Pagoda. It stands as an island in the middle of a roundabout, splendid and shimmering.

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We met up with a Singaporean friend who lives in Yangon, who took us to dinner at Shan Yoe Yar, a popular restaurant serving Shan cuisine. We had Shan noodles and shared additional dishes. One egg dish, in particular, was absolutely delicious.

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The second and third day were spent gem shopping at Bogyoke Market and the Gem Museum respectively. R managed to meet his Burmese gem dealer friend and I suspect that he will be meeting her again before we leave.

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We also went to Junction City, the newest mall to open in Yangon, and Myanmar Plaza, one of the city’s largest malls. Stepping into these malls was like being transported back to Singapore — great if you need a respite from the chaos, not so great if you need a respite from Singapore.

We met up with Mel, another friend who lives in Yangon, and she introduced us to some local food places she frequents. One of these was Lucky Seven, where we got to try mohinga, milk noodles and prata. Yes, like Singapore, Myanmar has prata too.

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In the evening, she brought us to a local beer garden to have barbecue and drinks. By the the third night however, we succumbed to our Singaporean taste buds and had Aston’s for dinner.

We moved to a hotel on our fourth day, choosing it for its proximity to the city centre as R was going to have a number of meetings there. Much of the day was then spent catching up with work before we had hotpot dinner and retired to our room.

The next few days became some of the most interesting experiences I’ve had in Yangon. I attended a conference, visited a special school in the outskirts, and even went cycling on an island. More in the next post.

Adapting, learning, flying

Inconsequential

It’s the third week now and tomorrow, we’re leaving for Myanmar. I’m doing a number of different things and the days are starting to blur into one another. I figure I should jot down my thoughts before I start feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything this past week.

I’ve been fixing the items I got from IKEA. Last Friday, I cleared the study room and put together two desks. Fixing those desks was hard work. On Tuesday, I put up aluminium shelving units in the utility room and tidied the space.

Work wise, I’m also filing online stories and pitching ideas to more publications. On Monday, I attended a Personal Branding workshop. It was more to support R but it was a good opportunity to network anyway. Interestingly, I met a lady there who is an advocate for those with dementia, and another lady who is a mother of a child with autism. I will probably arrange to meet each of them when I’m back from Myanmar, if they are willing.

I will have the house, specifically the kitchen, cleaned by today so that our vacant apartment will not be attracting unwanted visitors. I also need to pack my luggage. The time this week has simply flown by and I can’t believe it’s already Thursday.

A new season in life

Book matters, Lists, Singapore

It’s the second week being out of full-time employment. Quite surprisingly, each day has been full and fulfilling. I am meeting people, writing stories, arranging flowers. I also have time to cook and tidy the house.

I have also submitted the complete manuscript of my book to the publisher for editing. Another milestone reached!

Some stuff I found online and have become my favourites in these two weeks:

The Hustle – Daily emails with a smart-ass version of global news

Skillshare – Learning platform with tons of videos to teach you all kinds of things. Even Seth Godin is on it! (Paid membership required, but new members get a month of free unlimited access.)

The Futur – Brand agency but they provide some great content for free. Geared towards business education for the creative entrepreneur, the resources can be found on their website and various social media platforms.

Jeraldine Phneah – Personal blog by a 26yo Singaporean. She has a very well-written post on the non-existent 2017 Presidential Elections.

Launch Summit – Virtual conference for tech start-ups, presented by Launchpeer

Cherishing the ‘now’

Faith

I find myself looking back on the past every now and then. Since I’m in a different church now, I don’t see my friends at the church I used to attend that often anymore. Just few weeks ago, I caught myself thinking this: If only I have a community here, like that back in my church.

I had probably thought this a couple of times before and my past resolve to “Let’s build a community” or “Let’s start something” was probably partly due to this thought. I just never realised it before. This was the first time that I caught myself thinking about it and being aware of it. And it seemed like it was because the Holy Spirit was revealing to me my true motivations.

I started to really think about the times I had with my group of friends back then – when I saw them at church every week, when we would all go for lunch, when we met for cell, and when we went off for retreat together every year. And I realised that there were many times I had been unhappy about something, pissed, upset, disappointed and I had secretly wished to be in a different community. I saw the deficits and wanted something better.

Now that I am no longer a regular member of that community, I miss being with them and wish I could meet them more often. 

(I’m such a terrible human being.)

But I learnt something… That’s who God is. He doesn’t reveal something to us to make us feel bad or guilty (like realising how self-serving my desire was), He does it so that we learn something. And He reveals it at the right time so that we draw closer to Him.

So I learnt that I simply need to cherish the place I’m currently at. Stop wishing for something better, stop feeling sorry for myself, and start living in the here and now.

It sounds so simple but honestly, it has never really been who I was. In many parts of my life, I was constantly looking either to the past or to someone else’s life. I was always comparing and feeling dissatisfied with what I had.

When I realised this, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see that I do have a community here. In fact, I meet them every week. I was trying to look for a community I wanted when God had already put these people on the same path as me. There are only a few of us and although I used to think the group was getting too small, I now see that it’s a great size for building stronger relationships. 

Before this, I have been asking God how we can build a community. And I believe God is now answering, “Right here. They are right here.”

Blogging

On Writing

For the past two weeks, the subject of content marketing has cropped up a number of times in casual conversations, which eventually led to more thoughtful, in-depth discussion.

The current opinion, it seems, is that blogging is no longer the way to reach out to your audience. Or rather, the traditional way of maintaining a blog isn’t.

The traditional way: Post a new entry on your website or your blog. Share the link on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and any other social platforms you use. Watch website traffic increase as people click on your link to read more.

The new way: Post the entire message on the social media platform. The reason is that when people are on a social media platform, they rarely want to leave it just to read your post. With the amount of content available, they would simply scroll down and move on. To engage with your audience, your message needs to be on the social media platform itself.

Many local bloggers have noticeably become inactive on their blogs. They are instead actively updating their audience on Instagram and creating content on Youtube. Even if they are still active on their blogs, the entire post shows up in their emailers and on their Facebook page.

Media companies however, doesn’t seem to have changed much. Sure they have increased their use of social media, but they continue to put up many of their stories on their websites before blasting only the links out on Facebook.

I’m not sure how long this traditional way of “blogging” will last. R is of the opinion that a website with an active blog still has a place in branding and marketing. I agree, because people do want meaty content, but I don’t think website traffic should continue to be the main motivating factor.

As I write this, I am not blind to the fact that it’s ironic that I talk about changing the way we blog while I continue to do it the traditional way. This is after all, a personal blog which I do not intend to publicise or use for personal branding. But as I consider options for my book and new business, this is something I shall give further thought to.

Mission

World

R and I returned from a mission trip to Cambodia last week. It was very good to be back at a place I’ve thought about often. 

We went with Aunty Joyce, Steven, Ruth, Lay Eng, Adeline, Veron and Josephine. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work with these wonderful people.

Without fail, I’m also blessed by the people there. The simplicity of life is also one that strikes me.

Now that we’re back, it’s time to think about how we can contribute when we go there again.

The Sermon

Faith

On Sunday, the preacher Professor Freddy Boey talked about the Beatitudes.

The next day, Hoon passed us a book on the Sermon on the Mount.

The first line of the Beatitudes goes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Recognising that we need the Holy Spirit is the first step. It’s not the easiest thing to do. It’s about realising that what we need is more than what this world can offer.

And when we have tasted the goodness of the Holy Spirit, we can agree that He is not just more, but also better than anything this world can give.

Am I living in God’s Kingdom? Every day, do I recognise how much I need Him?