Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Wheel

Whew!  We made it to Myanmar.  We made it on by bus and by foot, across a border that literally just opened to foreigners five months ago.  We are in a little town called Myawaddy.  When we arrived at the border, we were escorted to a "foreigners lounge" and the agent told us the news.  The buses only run onward every other day, and we got in too late that day.  So we would have to wait two days to get a bus out of town.  Luckily, Myawaddy is the most interesting middle of nowhere that we have ever been stuck in.  For example, this:

Almost no one speaks English, and there are no maps, but it feels very welcoming.  Almost everyone had yellow face paint on their cheeks when we arrived, and we assume it was because of Chinese New Year.  Hungry, we walked through an outdoor market until we found the only thing that looked like a restaurant: a table and chairs and pots and some women sewing.  One of them bade us sit.  She poured a dark vegetable broth and rice noodles into bowls for us, slid tamarind and chili our way and cut fish and tomatoes into the bowls with scissors.  She told us the Myanmar words for everything, and kept refilling the noodles and broth.  The food was less tangy than Thai food and had more hints of lentil and  black pepper.  Perhaps because we were hungry, it tasted amazing.  And it was all 1000 kyat.  One dollar.

After dinner, we followed the lights and sounds of music until we entered a place where people were taking off their shoes.  We were at a Buddhist temple, except this night it was also a carnival.  Picture it: golden statues and bouncy castles, ancient bells and wood carvings and a ferris wheel.  Ferris wheel?!  They were looking for people to get on, so of course we did.  I got nervous when four young men in flip flops climbed onto the outside of the ferris wheel and found positions in the framework near the top.  What is going to happen to them when this thing starts, I wondered.  Then I realized they were the reason it was going to start.  There was no motor.  They all shifted their weight at once and the wheel started turning.  Fast.  I held on for dear life as the little Burmese kids across from us giggled.  The young men pounced off the spinning wheel right in the nick of time.  I thought their job was done, but no.  They stood right under the wheel, bent backwards like they were doing the limbo.  And flicking their bodies at each car to keep the momentum going.  The human powered ferris wheel, in a Buddhist temple, on Chinese New Year, in a Myanmar border town.  Absolutely worth it.

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