Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nyaung U Township Bagan - A Scene at a Restaurant

Burmese meal. Don't be surprised when ordering just a single entree then getting all these side dishes along. Everything is part of your Burmese gastronomic experience. And they like them sour - not chilly! Which is fine with me!

Cute 2 year old Burmese child playing with a straw. There is still window time left to cure his gaze deviation.

Characters: A tall blond British girl and her backpacking posse of 4, me, a Burmese family of 6 (a 20-something girl who waits at the tables, her sister who helps serve the orders, an 8 year old boy and his 2 year old brother who’s sucking on a straw-string, a septuageranian lady and her even older husband)

Right after deciding on a Burmese meal, I entertained myself talking to the children. The older one was provoking the cute, albeit strabismic 2 year old. He kept pulling on the string that the toddler was playing.

There was sheer delight on the table as my full-course Burmese meal started to arrive. I knew I ordered a single entrée, but plate after plate after plate of side dishes queued in front of me. This was going to be a feast.

Enter the
white mafia. What an endearing British girl, with her Irish mates, I mentally noted. She started to stand and began checking out the graduation photos on the wall. This has been a characteristic feature of the Burmese countryside. Business establishments decked with graduation and family photos – like they were personal mini-museums.
British Girl (BG): Is that you? (She talks loudly to one of the Burmese ladies, as she points to the latter’s graduation photo. She enunciates every syllable, making sure she gets heard and understood.) What de-gree did you fee-nish?
Myanmar Girl (MG): *&^%* (I couldn’t hear her well, as she was speaking with the faintest voice.)
BG: Oh. You’re ve-rry ve-rry smart! How many de-grees did you fee-nish?
MG: Two. (She sheepishly tugs at the her long hair and looks behind her, to where her sister was sitting.)
BG: Aww. You’re ve-rry ve-rry pretty. You are ve-rry ve-rry wit-ttee.
Me: slurppp…. munch … munch…. (Thinking, what an adorable british girl giving these locals such superlative compliments)

BG sees the elder woman walk through the door from the backroom. She raises her voice to include her in the conversation.
BG: Are you their sis-terrr?
Myanmar Grandma (MG): I am grandmother.
BG: Awwww. You look so young! I thought you were their sis-terrr! (She looked 70. The younger ladies looked 20! They grinned at her thick douche of compliments.)
Me: Slurrppp… slurrrpppp… slurppp….. (Though I was obviously enjoying my feast, my digestive constitution was acting up differently. I was feeling the bolus of masticated food churning back up… refluxing!)
BG: Is he your son? (She points to the 2 year old, as she talks to the grandma. At this point, their grin seemed to have slipped into perplexity. If she said she was the girls’ grandma, that would make the 2-year old her great grandson, wouldn’t it?)

As if slapped with a judicious case of misplaced flattery, the Burmese family retreated to their backdoor.
BG flips her ponytail and heads back to her table where her mates sit wide-eyed and mum.
BG: Is our order ready?
Excuse me if I barf!

Being friendly doesn’t mean you have the license to cajole and patronize the locals. Ignorance of the English language after all does not constitute stupidity – or there would be millions of stupid people walking all over Europe. Sometimes, a simple smile is enough to let them know you mean well. Otherwise, sheer garrulousness sans deliberation will only spotlight your imprudence.

This is the Eye in the Sky summoning my digestive tract back to its normal peristaltic movement.

Display items. They have the cola equivalents: Max for Coke, Quench for Sprite, Crush for Royal Tru-Orange at just 300 kyat a piece (sometimes even just 200 kyat). Since a government agency owns these local cola plants, they made the likes of Coke and Sprite rather expensive - at 800 to 1,200 kyat a can (no bottles - so no contest at all!). Coke in can will fetch a minimum of about PhP35 or more. Personally, it was hard to get myself to buy anything that I know is 50% cheaper back home... so Quench and Max were fine with me. They almost taste the same, but being a Coke-lover, come on...

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