Neil’s Wheeling 8 – Jan 31, 2014 (my favorite so far)

As a commentator, one always looks for inspiration. It seems unlikely that I will ever have an email that contains so much material that warrants a comment. -Steve

Tim writes:

Found another keyboard today, so gonna try to do some fill-in. I believe I’ve lost a number of posts, so have asked Dorene and Julie Darling, Neil’s daughter, to give some specific feedback. Can’t worry about that spilled beer right now, plowing onward.

Btw, Erin, at one time I realized when I type on my phone, any power surge (very common) kills the connection and loses the post completely, so as I realize I’ve gambled too long of a time, I go to a quick send, “gonna send now = gsn”, hoping to get on with a ‘part 2’. Often, a ‘send’ will then give me a message of ‘no connection possible, try later’.

Neil is with me this time, and has a ‘few’ words:

“Sunrise yesterday from the hot air balloon floating over the thousands of temples and pagodas of ancient Bagan. Sunrise today (Jan 30) from a boat on an 11 hour ride up the Irrawaddy River from Bagan to Mandalay. Kipling’s poem, “On the Road to Mandalay,” came to mind.

On the road to Mandalay

where flying fishes play

and the dawn comes up like thunder from China ‘cross the bay. R. Kipling

What an amazing country. What warm and welcoming people. My life is full. I am happy, relaxed and playful. Tired at times, too. Considerably less full of shit after my diarrhea dance. My flirtation and dance with life is a ton of fun here. Grandfather Tim, is a big part of that. I’m so glad he’s here. I introduce him constantly as my grandfather. Hesitation, smiles, laughter. Whatever barricade of politeness might have been there is broken and another connection is made.

Myanmar, like Iran, is a police state. Here, unlike in Iran a year or so ago, I can talk freely with people without a government minder, and it seems much less like a police state. Myanmar is not without violence and oppression. Tourists are restricted from those areas.

A 16 hour overnight train from Yangon to Bagan. A bouncy, rollicking nightmare on tracks, where sleep is only a dream. Tim bruised his ribs trying to sleep, the toilet was too slippery for me to negotiate so I went to pee at the end of our car and peed over the open coupling connecting us to the next car. Tim sometimes held me from behind. Sometimes not.

I would not have missed that trip and we got in 5 minutes early!

A day in a horse cart amidst the temples and pagodas of Bagan. We religiously avoided the ones with tourist buses. And then this boat ride to Mandalay.

Such perspective, such joy. And we are only in the beginning of our 2nd of 6 weeks. You are a witness/participant to and in history. This is the absolute first time in my 86 years that I have used whatever this machine is called to send a message. What will the future bring?! (Tim is actually typing all this for me and I am so grateful).”

So there you have it from grandson.

Steve D. will appreciate the over-dramatic eye-roll I’ve developed now, adding the rolling finger to the side of my head.

Anyway, all is well, the various other infirmaries we have picked up are just part of the journey I guess, but nvs can sure be a curmudgeon in the mornings. It always gets better though.

Did you guys get my message where I told you how much I wish all of you could be here? It’s true. gsn, tw

Steve writes:

I’m having a hard time imagining that Tim would have signed up for this trip if he knew that his job would be to support Neil while Neil whizzes off of the train. I can’t get the image out of my mind.

I’m also pleased that Neil is displaying his best of American citizenship to the Burmese.

Just so you know: The 16-hour “bouncy, rollicking nightmare” overnight train from Yangon to Bagan was a choice that the boys made.

The choices were:

Airplane – 1 hour – $85.

Taxi – 10 hours – $80.

Bus – 11 hours – $15.25.

Train – 16 hours – $30-50.

Which would you choose? –Don’t forget to factor in the possible adventures on Air Myanmar, Uncle Twan’s Taxi, or the Grey-Elephant Bus Co.

Tim: if you think that Neil is a curmudgeon in the morning, try mentioning the unpaid dowry. He still owes me!

I was sorry to hear that they are avoiding the pagodas with the tourist buses. The tour guides will, of course, take tourists to see the best available. By avoiding tourists, you avoid the best-preserved, best-decorated, and best-examples of pagoda art. I know that every time I go to Paris, I refuse to look at the Eiffel Tower.

Tim, when you get back, we can have an eye-rolling contest. Be warned, however, that I have years of practice.


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