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  Yangon  |  25.05.2008
 
 

I woke up this morning and did feel a little bit better. I at least felt like I could get my stuff together and venture out into Yangon. We decided that we would just call round at Manuels on the bikes without the bags first to see if he was in and to see if we could stay rather than traipsing all our gear there just to find he was out. We got to his apartment by 9:30am which I thought was a little early for a Sunday morning. Sure enough Manuel was asleep in bed nursing a handover and he did admit he thought twice about opening the door! But once he saw it was us he invited us straight up his very steep killer stairs up to his flat and made a cup of coffee for us! We chatted for a while until it was time for us to meet Daw Mimi. Then we let him carry on nursing his hangover and we took a cab to Daw Mimi's house.

My imagination had Daw Mimi drawn up as a tiny old woman, which is what she sounded like on the phone. When we met her I soon realised that this image of a 3 foot woman bent over a walking stick was way out. Daw Mimi is in fact round about my height (just a tidgy bit shorter) and although she admits to being in her mid 60's she does look younger. She says it is due to the very strict regimes Burmese women keep with skin care which means most Burmese women look younger than they usually are. Daw Mimi looked very happy to see us and she showed us into her dining area where a young monk from Isreal was sat. She said she was very lucky to have so many visitors come to see her today. We spent a nice time at Daw Mimi's house talking about her, the Dharma, and other bits of general chit chat and she laid before us quite a feast of food for lunch. She had just baked a loaf of bread that had bits of raisins in that was very delicious and some homemade mushroom soup which was yummy. Daw Mimi was once quite an extraordinary business woman who ran numerous sucessful businesses at one time before she sold them all off for a quiet life of meditation. She also used to have an active role in the UN sometimes doing interpretation work for them. This also took her to many Asean countries and she said she enjoyed her many visits to Malaysia...especially the food! Daw Mimi really likes Malaysian durian especially!   It was really nice to meet Daw Mimi and I can see why so many travellers and new comers to Burma gravitate to her home...its because she is so warm and welcoming even though you may have only exchanged 2 emails. We did ask Daw Mimi if there was anyway we could offer our help in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis and I was so sure that she would be able to poin us in the right direction. So I was surprised when her reply was a straight "no." she said that it was just a brick wall and that no foreigners would be allowed to help. I even asked about offering our help in Yangon rather then the sensitive Delta region - and again the surprising response from Daw Mimi was "what kind of help do you think you can offer here?" it stumped me for a second....I would offer any help but to ask me to state an exact form of help and I am at a loss.  Daw Mimi said that most of the clear up in Yangon has happened and it is back to business as usual....and so that door slams closed in our face and we have to really start admitting that the best we can hope for now is to just be allowed to cycle our original route around the country.  As we are listening to Daw Mimi I am getting a strange feeling in my legs and I nudge Lesh to show him that my knees, ankles and feet are starting to swell and feel uncomfortable. He can see that they are swelling up and we put it down to the heat even though it is not actually that hot. This kind lady is what the Burmese people are really like...not that money changer we met on the first day.

Back at the flat I lie down with my legs propped up on 2 of our bags and I can straight away feel the tension draining away and my lead weight feet start to feel a bit like my own feet again (tho the swelling doesn't subside) Lesh and Manuel go out to buy some Shan noodles which is a Burmese version of spaghetti bolognese and its very tasty. The boys stay up chatting for a while but I need to rest...I've not done much today but I feel weary...everything about me is like an old woman....even down to the way I walk now :(

After lunch we say goodbye to Daw Mimi and thank her for a lovely time. It was kind and generous of her to open up her home to us and make us feel so welcome. From her home we make our way back to Manuels flat with all of our bags and gear.  When we get there I can see that my legs are getting more and more swollen and I they are feeling more and more uncomfortable :( Manuel tells us he was thinking of going to the cinema to watch the film Alien V's Predator 2...not because it is an excellent film but because he has seen all the other films on in town and he likes the idea of spending 2 hours in an air con room! We decide that would be a good idea too and so we jump into a taxi since my swollen feet are not fit to chance the bus.  We get to the cinema by 4:30 which is when Manuel thought the film started but it turns out there is no film till 6:30pm, so we go to a café down the street and chill there till its time to go for the film. By 6:15pm when we start walking back to the cinema my feet are like 2 balloons and they are very tender and walking is a problem. Lesh has to help me along the road and quite a few people stare at the white cripple.

The cinema is chocoblock full and I am glad it is not a fantastic film that I have dying to see or else I would have got annoyed with the amount of talking going on around me. The cinema here is just a social place for people to meet and have a chit cat...oh and watch a Hollywood film too while they are at it. I was surprised but there are no subtitles during the film and the whole thing is obviously in English...so I am not sure that even 90% of the audience really know what the heck is going on. As it happens the film is a dumb one and so its easy to keep up with the plot. Aliens kill people....the people kill the aliens ...the end. I can't be bothered to watch most of it as my feet are hurting too much but I do enjoy listening to the audience reactions when something happens. For example after a tense moment where you think something bad is going to happen but it doesn't there are 300 huges sighs of relief all around us which makes me giggle. And at one point the aliens start killing small babies and so a baby in the audience obviously feels a bit vunerable and starts yelling its eyes out..which in turn makes 300 members of the audience laugh while the poor thing fears for his life. To be honest I can't wait for the film to finish as I just need to get back and lie down. I feel like I have 2 timebombs for feet and they are about to explode. Walking back down the cinema stairs is an absolute nightmare only made easier by Lesh helping me on one side and a complete stranger who took pity on me hobbling down who props me up on my other side. This restores my faith in the Burmese people.

 

 
 
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