It’s been 4 days since I’ve been back from my 3 week (self-proclaimed) sabbatical in Myanmar. 3 weeks seem like a short time on hindsight, and even more so when compared to how long it’s been since the last time I went back — 3 years — but during the 19 days there, time passed so slowly my skin crawled.
Since the last time I went back (2014), a few things have changed. Yangon now has an international airport terminal. Several of my cousins have babies, thus I am now an auntie, and yes, I do not approve of being called that. I’ve grown; from a clueless 19 year old waiting to start uni with an unfortunate-looking haircut to a still-clueless-but-faking-it 22 year old equipped with longer hair, 3 years’ worth of law school BS skills and a penchant for matte lipsticks.
Going back is always a traumatic experience because I am inept at speaking both Burmese and general social mumbo-jumbo, so I could never quite retaliate in time if a relative says something ignorant/rude/passive-aggressive/stupid. I would like to think the BS skills I’ve cultivated in law school has alleviated a bit of this problem, and there is truly no greater satisfaction than when you get to correct your aunt’s misconception towards your future career (context: if you tell people in Myanmar that you study Law you are better off telling them you are Satan’s spawn).
My mantra was essentially: breathe, SH, it’s your life, not theirs. Then I smile at them and continue eating my lunch.
I’ve also brought back, as a souvenir for myself, enough mosquito bites to feed the mosquito equivalent of a small African village. My legs, frankly, look disgusting. The term I have settled on is a skinned pineapple — and despite what a certain someone said about it being fresh and juicy (and if you are reading this, yes, it was smooth), my current leg situation is really not a sight for sore eyes.
So you can only imagine my relief and exhilaration when I landed back on Singapore soil, and saw my mom sitting in Changi Airport McDonald’s waiting for me. I’ve never been more glad to be able to order food in English, to be able to drive on safe roads where the red light is not regarded as a mere suggestion to stop, and to be able to feel comfortable. I was never, and probably will never, be comfortable in Myanmar.