Stories from our second day living in Myanmar

It’s 12:41 AM in my new home in Yangon. On only my second night in the country I’m unable to sleep so I decide to write about the previous day instead, my computer glowing in the dark in my bed under the protection of a mosquito net dome while everyone snores around me.

I’m wrestling with swirling thoughts; excited, hopeful, and fearful. My day began with my six year-old son Lukas throwing up and us rushing around frantically in our relatively empty but spacious new home looking for paper towels, wipes, and plastic bags. Where had we unpacked them? Why hadn’t we bought more supplies after our first grocery store run?


Nico at the new home

Nico opens our front door


My four year-old son Nico, skinny as a rail to begin with, was refusing to eat more than a few mouthfuls of Rice Krispies cereal. He opted to lick all the strawberry jam off his toast but declined to eat any of the bread. Both sons are picky with food to begin with so I wondered aloud how they will fare in a land where food poisoning is a common occurrence and most afflicted expats get medical care in the neighboring countries of Thailand and Singapore.

Luckily both boys perked up and ate multiple helpings of pasta for lunch. Maybe it was just the time change and their internal body clocks sabotaging our morning. While it’s my hope that eventually they will give Myanmar traditional cuisine a chance, at the moment we are trying to mainly find foods they would be eating normally in Italy or the USA. Thankfully we were able to find a large grocery store (City Mart) and stock up on the usual kiddie staples of peanut butter, bread, jam, cereal, fish nuggets, pasta, and anything they might remotely recognize.

After noon while my husband was home getting the kids to actually eat solid food, I had a lunch appointment at the Savoy Hotel restaurant with the head of a new American University in Yangon. Generous with his time, he recounted his triumphs and challenges setting up Myanmar’s first non-profit, non-sectarian institution of higher learning.

He also confirmed that in fact I may have just a tiny little problem. Myanmar has the worst Internet connection in all of Asia, and though we have free Wi-Fi provided by the World Food Programme, it may not be able to adequately support my ability to consistently teach online to 25K students in 160 countries through Udemy, Skillshare, and other platforms nor enable me to stream live webinars for the UN’s University for Peace in two weeks.

No matter. After an almost four-hour meeting and talk of special projects and possible future collaboration, he kindly gave me a lift home. There we encountered yet another problem. My street, Than Lwin Rd. splinters into a half dozen smaller side streets all sharing the same exact name. It never occurred to me that one could get lost even with a definite address firmly in hand. Thankfully I somehow remembered how to get back through hazily recalled landmarks and luck. I’ve never felt more proud to find my own address.


Lukas at Inya Lake

Lukas by Inya Lake


Once home and back with my boys, we decided to “go have an adventure” as well as gain a better understanding of our own neighborhood. We knew that Inya Lake was not too far away. As we set out, the skies decided to open up and drench us in monsoon downpours. We actually have a driver but this being a public holiday in Myanmar, Martyr’s Day, he had the day off and we thought we might go for a walk like we always did in Rome. The problem is there are no sidewalks on the smaller streets and plenty of ditches and holes to potentially fall in.

With both boys whining and umbrellas in hand, somehow we made it to the main road and the lake, though with no discernible way to cross the busy intersection and no entrance in sight. The rains stopped, though to add insult to injury cars sped through puddles, splashing pedestrians (aka: us) along the way.

A few steps past the Korean Embassy, we saw Myanmar’s most famous stateswoman, Aung San Suu Kyi‘s residence across the street. This was when Nico decided he suddenly had to “make a pee pee” and IT COULD NOT WAIT. Needless to say we didn’t make the best first impression with her guard as we tried to find cover behind a nearby tree.


Michael in front of a painting of Venice.

Michael in front of a painting of Venice.


Finally we somehow made it through four lanes of traffic to the walkway by the lake where people were out and about enjoying their holiday. Afterwards we made it to a gleaming shopping center (Myanmar Center) where the boys insisted on pizza for dinner. Everyone ate heartily and thankfully we remembered to say no to potentially dangerous ice cubes and drinks not canned or bottled.

It was finally dark and we decided to take a taxi back home. Through a combination of our inadequate Burmese and the driver’s limited English we made it. We even were able to direct him to OUR Than Lwin Road.

We seem to be making progress. And after writing about my not-so-ordinary day, I’ve achieved another worthy goal: extreme sleepiness.

Thank goodness.


pizza for dinner

Pizza for dinner