Pee Straight: The Sequel

I was just at the bar with the squatter toilet where I was initially scared of peeing on my foot earlier in the semester and instead of worrying about if I could pee straight, I was thinking of all that had changed from the first time I had been there. Last time I was at that bar I met a friend who re-inspired me towards film.

Then I went to Singapore and spent the weekend watching film screenings and student shorts. My step-mom, Sheila, mentioned how that even in Asia I was being pulled towards the film industry, which has always been a passion of mine. A day after I read her email, I put my film ticket stub into my pocket because I have been collecting them from 1997 and realized that she might have had some insight on what inspires me.


They Say It’s an Island

I went to Singapore expecting it to be a bit like Vancouver. Liquor was certainly priced as though it were Vancouver, but I didn’t get the cityscape/ocean combo I was hoping for. The island is oddly secluded from the open ocean and the architecture is rather extravagant, but I think I appreciate Vancouver more than I did before.

Singapore is lovely, but I got the impression that I was walking around in someone’s pristinely made Sim City. I heard it described as “artificial” by people living there and apparently eating and shopping are the two hobbies of Singaporians, maybe out of boredom?

Fortunately for me, film was the hobby of my gracious hosts in Singapore. They spoiled me with a private screening of a Cannes Film Festival Film and then student screenings from the New York University Tische School of the Arts Film School, Singapore location (aka Pretty Big Deal). It was really inspiring to spend time with graduate students studying film. A lot of them come from business/econ/poli-sci backgrounds which I found shocking because at UBC I was the one commerce student allowed to take a film production class and the art driven kids looked at me as a capitalist anti-christ.

Anyways, I have been re-inspired towards film with some very ambitious and expensive goals. I 

have been dreaming about the New York University MBA/MFA Film Production Graduate Program. It requires being fantastic enough to get accepted independently into the NYU MBA and MFA programs then you enter their unique and first of its kind, film production program. Fortunately, one thing I realized in Thailand is that I am ambitious. I am over the culture absorbing aspect of Thailand where I can appreciate the uniqueness of the whole world stopping at lunch time and people coming to class an hour late – I need to get to New York, a place where people don’t stop walking on escalators and lunch is multitasked.

Happy New Year, Again

I just had the most uplifting conversation. I was feeling very melancholy about Songkran, Thailand’s New Year which is a 3 day water fight. I went out to “play” yesterday and it was fun at first, splashing water on each other and there is a clay paint that people put on other people’s faces. As the streets got more crowded and the men a little drunker, they started being really aggressive putting the paint on my face. My earring almost got ripped out and someone grabbed my face with 2 hands from behind me and wouldn’t let go, meanwhile they were pelting you with water. That’s when I retired my gun and decided my New Year was over. I spent day 2 of the 3 day event watching movies in my room with no food and no restaurants open. Finally I just left the house to go to 7 Eleven and I met a New Zealander who passionately hates Songkran for stagnating the economy and killing 2,000 people each year. To put that in perspective, 26 people died in the military coup last year.

At 3pm yesterday we had to find a taxi driver who wasn’t drunk. I am not regretful to be going to Singapore tomorrow.

Thai-German Night

We went to a Thai-German restaurant & brewery yesterday and I am still smiling about how much fun I had. I don’t have a kitchen so dining out has lost sort of lost its appeal. To have to wait half an hour to get into a nice restaurant with real beer was very exciting for me. There was a very elaborate live show with enough performers that it could have been an awards show. Before we emptied our beer tower people were dancing at their dinner tables and the restaurant slowly evolved into a night club. It was a place where cliché dorky dance moves came to life but no one acknowledged that they were dorky – it was just a hell of a good time. It felt like a very ethnic version of America’s Bandstand.

Myanmar (Burma)

Ten days in Myanmar was the most unique travel experience I have had.

Getting off the plane, the men are wearing
sarong skirts with collared shirts and the women are covered in Thanaka face paint and everyone speaks impeccable English. It felt like a National Geographic twilight zone to be hit with so much culture and to be able to communicate flawlessly. English being everyone’s second language is impeding on my ability to be funny and it is starting to get me – I miss that quick witted mother of mine and over a glass of wine. Myanmar is a British colony so they speak a lot of English here and everyone is incredibly educated if that is not too condescending forme to say.

Yangon was our first stop – I won’t bother describing the Shwedagon Pagoda, it was too unbelievable. A girl there painted Thanaka on my face while we spoke with a monk who had an astonishing amount of ear hair. I would have thought that ear hair would fall under the category of shaving your head every day. Anyways, Thanaka is a light muddy-chalk think
that girls put on their face and arms as makeup and to protect themselves from the sun. Daily face and body paint makeup, day one and I was already enthralled with Myanmar.

Next we headed to Bagan where we were greeted by a horse-drawn carriage and continued to visit some of the 2,500 temples in the area. It was better than Angkor Wat in Cambodia because there are few tourists and each temple is managed by a family who are essentially giving you a tour of their 11th century home. Just as we were thinking that temple #1,276 was looking similar to temple #973 we
revelled in the attention of a busload of Myanmar villagers who had come to Bagan and had never seen a foreigner. Two dozen photos with strangers and my attention span held strong – “you want me to hold your child? No problem. Smile!” I was entirely charmed by the tea shops and slow pace of life in Bagan. At night there were people in the streets singing and playing instruments, making me wonder if their government had the right idea in blocking YouTube.

Alas, we were off to Mandalay where I got moody because I didn’t want to be in a city of 6 million people, but it was my transfer point to go trekking. Chella left back to Bangkok from here and I went to see a performance by the Moustache Trio who are a famous example of human rights abuse in Myanmar. One of the comedians went to prison for making jokes the government didn’t like – then he was mentioned on the film About a Boy and he was released.

After a performance by the Moustache Trio, my highlight of Mandalay was my bicycle taxi driver with whom I had tea and chapatti with. In most countries conversations with the locals result in awkward (and fake, very fake) laughter as we struggle to understand each other. It was a treat to be able to communicate with a local. Only in Myanmar, the people are so kind that a taxi driver with 6 children would absolutely refuse to let me pay for the tea. Our horse carriage driver in Bagan also took us to the bus station free of charge because we were “friends now.” It really makes Thailand look like a commercial crockpot.

Then I headed to Hsipaw, a small city in some very steep hills. Hills that doubled back and forth enough to make many people on the bus vomit. I went on a 2 day trek to a village of 1,000. I was not too pleased with our first day of trekking. It involved a 4 hour hill climb in the desert sun with a guide who I am certain was racing us to the top. Everyone was too sweaty and beat down to talk to each other during the hike but at least my sarcastic thoughts are usually at my best when I am tediously frustrated.

We ate some incredible food and slept in a village of 1000 people. At first I was disappointed that the village wasn’t more primitive but it was great to see a self-sustaining and content village in contrast to nearby ones we walked through the following day. Day 2 of trekking involved a village wedding and a lot of rice whisky. It was an incredible experience not just to see the wedding, but we were invited to participate in eating, drinking and watching the vows.

The final town I went to was Pyin U Lwin where I saw giant caves and military bases. Their Defense Academy sign boasts “The Triumphant Elite of the Future.” The caves were more humble with Buddha statues and monks inside. One of the monk’s bought me lunch and I am fairly certain he was flirting with me because he touched my arm when he laughed at my jokes that I know he didn’t understand.

I endured over 40 hours of bus travel on this trip and only officially slept in a bed 6 out of the 9 nights I was here. Myanmar is breathtaking and I will certainly be back.