Neil’s Wheeling # 12, 13 and 14 (whoa way behind on my part)

Neil’s Wheeling # 12 Feb 7, 2014

Tim writes:

Some internet reflections from Neil:

No coincidences and a lot of miracles. Wonderful, playful, delightful things keep happening with me and Tim in Myanmar. Coincidences? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Miraculous and joyful? Yes!

Just as I wrote that, sitting in the shade in front of the KKO internet cafe where Tim was doing his magic, I saw two monks walking across the street with parasols in the mid-afternoon Burmese sun. What a great picture – but they were too far away.

They crossed the street, one going into the internet cafe, the other stopping and smiling in front of me, parasol still up. We talked for an hour. His family. His life. His choice to be a lifetime monk. Politics in Myanmar.

He brought up the oppression and killing on the border of Bangladesh. He’s learning Japanese and we exchanged a few phrases and counted together to ten! He’s 29 and has been a monk for 20 years. We exchanged addresses. I’ll send him a copy of his picture.

Another encounter earlier in the day as we walked Nyaung Shwe:

{Mr. Google explains: Nyaung Shwe is the tourist hub for visiting Inle

Lake. It consists of one main thoroughfare with numerous side streets and a few

parallel roads.}

Tim found the Nat shrine in town. Nat’s are those wonderful spirits that do all sorts of delightful things.

{The Nats are spirits worshiped in Burma (or Myanmar) in conjunction

with Buddhism. They are divided between the 37 Great Nats and all the rest (i.e.,

spirits of trees, water, etc.). Almost all of the 37 Great Nats were human beings

who met violent deaths.

{Much like Roman Catholic saints, Nats can be designated for a variety

of reasons. Every Burmese village and each house has a guardian Nat. An

offertory coconut is often hung on the main southeast post in the house, wearing a

headdress and surrounded by perfume.

{One may inherit one of the 37 Nats from one or both parents to worship

depending on where their families originally come from.}

Three women were preparing offerings and tending to the shrine. Tim made first contact. It’s easier for him to take off his sandals than it is for me. It was a respectful and unhurried contact. I joined in. We got a careful explanation of the importance of the Nats and what the women were doing. They cracked up when I referred to Tim as my grandfather. They finished and locked the gates to the shrine and to the two tigers guarding it and they left. Had we been 30 minutes later we would have missed it. Coincidence!

We have been generally successful in avoiding other tourists and we are not in a hurry. So we sit and observe and listen and talk and learn. Most tourists we’ve seen make little or no eye contact with locals. We smile a lot and nod and once our smile comes, the return smiles are beautiful.

I like being 86 – most of the time. I’m loving being 86 in Myanmar. People often ask me how old I am and are frequently amazed. My age and my cane are, I think, an entry to many encounters. Tim’s smile and the way the two of us play off each other is another entry.

At the huge and colorful tribal native market at the far end of Inle Lake two days ago I hung out with a really old guy for a while and it was fun. Neither of us spoke the others’ language and it didn’t matter. Using body language, we determined he was 74 and I was 86. I won. We then opened our mouths wide to see who had the most original teeth left. I won. He tried my cane and wanted to keep it. I wouldn’t let him and he laughed. We hugged each other and parted, hands over hearts. Locals standing and sitting nearby loved it and laughed. Tim didn’t get there in time to take a picture and it didn’t matter. Another miracle.

A while earlier in Mandalay we made friends with half a dozen men who had a shop a couple blocks from our hotel. We had passed them a time or two and greeted them. They invited us to stop and sit with them. My age came up and they were unbelieving. They did the open mouth, head back test on me to check on my original teeth (“original” pronounced with hard “g”) Then one guy felt the skin on the back of my hand then on up my arm to see if there was more than skin and bones. I passed and got thumbs up. Being 86 in Myanmar is fun.

Tim and I are participants, not observers. This is such a marvelous place. As I was walking back to the Mingalar Inn, our place of stay here at Inle Lake, I took a detour through the market knowing I wouldn’t buy anything because I’d spent part of the day repacking my expanding carry-on. I got an exquisitely carved shell that will look just right on my book case, and a puppet. So much for discipline.

As I left, I asked the young shopkeeper to guess my age. “Fifty?” “No, eighty-six” and her eyes really widened. “You have so much energy and strength.” A number of people here have told us that 60 is really old and that folks in their 60’s and 70’s rarely get out of their houses. Being 86 in Myanmar fun!

Nat urally, Steve doesn’t add anything that might 86 this meandering message from Myanmar’s men.


Neil’s Wheeling #13 Feb 8, 2014

Tim informs us:

Quick stupid phone send.

Boarding all nite bus to Yangon.

V. quiet last 2 days with stomach issues.

All is well.


Steve replies:

You want short and sweet? You got it.

Slow thoughtful email send.

Does the Yangon bus have reclining seats?

If not, a guy could get a crimp in his stomach issue.

Is it true that the bus’ toilet is an old milk carton?

Are chickens allowed on the over-night?

GSN Going to Sleep? Not!


Neil’s Wheeling 14 Feb 9, 2014

Tim writes: (The underlined technical terms are explained at the end.)

Mutt and Jeff got back into Yangon early this morning after that all-night bus ride over the mountains from Inle Lake.

Though we are 14 and ½ hours ahead of PST, the eoni server thinks I’m in La Grande when I get on the internet.

Yeah, some continuing stomach upsets between us, but different each and at different times, so one of us is almost always a little bit low energy, and WAY less enthusiastic about tasting the local cuisine from the venders. Kinda sad, cause that should be part of the deal. Just don’t want the grief any more.

This next day and 1/2 will finish our big circle through central Myanmar. Tues. a.m. (for us) completes the first 3 weeks and we are off to Thailand a bit, and Laos a lot. It has been a remarkable adventure, for sure.

One of my most recent posts that got lost was from Inle Lake, the ancient and huge, shallow fishing grounds where quite a number of tribes/villages settled over the millennium because of the fishing and wildlife, fertile flood lands, and mountain resources. Just maybe the most remarkable setting we’ve visited so far – though the temples and ruins of Bagan were stunning, it’s kinda filled in with “modern” life, like 100 years ago.

Inle Lake is still an anthropological study of vibrant village lifestyle from way distant [past]. The fishing techniques, the teak canoes and the much larger lake transport boats are all still handmade right here.

There is a massive traveling market that moves to a different lakeside village every day. We saw it in action twice during our visit and it is huge, with anything the locals could eat or want or need to live well until the next visit, next week.

The only real modern addition to all this is the powerful, un-muffled, smoky Chinese engines now used on the large transport boats. Neil and I got one of those big boys for ourselves early on to spend the day circling the lake and visiting villages and different original craftspeople from the region…also stopping at the day’s traveling market where N had the encounter with the other old man who liked his cane.

That boat ride was the best E coupon of the trip so far. Almost 50′ long, about the width of 1 1/2 European butts, shallow bottom, all teak, and slicker than snot. Some carried 5 tourists (never more) with a deck chair each, some had dozens of locals sitting on the bottoms (no limit observable) and some had probably a couple of tons of produce or lumber or just mud for building up canal walls in the villages – which were almost all on stilts.

Of course we took lots of photos, but reviewing later, this is really National Geographic material, and point-and-shoots or dumb phone cameras just don’t do it justice.

So one of the shopkeepers here got kind of excited about what was going on with my terminal’s connections, gsn. Best t

Steve adds clarifying details for the temporarily confused:

1. the eoni server = Eastern Oregon Net, Inc. = the place where Tim’s cellphone is connected to the internet.

2. La Grande = the name of Tim’s home town. Pronounced, in Oregon, as La Grand. In Spanish, it means The Big. I don’t know what is big in La Grande beyond the mispronunciation of Spanish words.

3. tasting the local cuisine = attempting to collect on life insurance policy.

4. 1 1/2 European butts = It’s the pants that make his butt look big.

5. slicker than snot = phrase has unclear meaning, either very nice -or- very slippery.

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