When we arrived in Yangon, our friend Pwint was at the airport to meet us. She had brought her nephew who hauled our big suitcases into a van and then drove us to Pwint’s condo. For the past few years, i have addressed Christmas cards to Pyay Gardens in Yangon, and now i got to see the address in the flesh: 3 yellow 5-story buildings across the street from the Insein General Hospital.
Later, i would simply tell taxi drivers “Insein Hospital.” Pwint lives by herself in her condo on the 5th floor, now that her husband has died of liver cancer. Her 30-year-old veterinarian son fled to the U.S. for amnesty. Her daughter lives in Hong Kong. So Pwint was delighted to have company in her 3-bedroom top floor home. And we were delighted to have a homestay with a view of Aung San Suu Kyi’s home on Inya Lake. We parked those big suitcases and our thousands of dollars in crisp $100 bills. (There are no ATMs in Burma.) What a relief not to have to carry either one of those anywhere during our 2-week stay in Myanmar. Using Pwint’s as our homebase, we packed our rollerbags and flew off to Bagan for 3 days to see 40 square miles of 10th century temples. Pwint was happy to see us when we arrived home again, and she had yet another delicious Burmese dinner prepared for us. In the mornings, we visited the nearby Thiri Mingalar market for breakfast groceries–yogurt sold in clay pots comes with tiny baggies of jaggery, a sort of thin molasses. Papaya, 3 different varieties of bananas, and tangerines. Pwint also bought mohinga–the Burmese national breakfast–a dark broth of soup with a baggie of rice noodles to be added in just as you were ready to eat it. We did our sight-seeing in the mornings and then as the January afternoon temperature rose above 90, we retired to the swimming pool. Pwint lives on the top floor of building #1; her mother, Sanda, lives on the second floor of building #2; and her sister-in-law, Cho, has a condo in building #3. Several times as we walked through the parking lot of the Pyay Gardens, we saw members of Pwint’s extended family–her doctor niece just returning from an overnight shift or the nephew, who had picked us up at the airport, and who is studying engineering.
The names of people and places have been changes to protect the innocent.