Beer and Explosives-starting to feel like the US

Trip Start Apr 18, 2012
Trip End Jun 12, 2012

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Flag of Myanmar  , Shan,
Friday, May 4, 2012

We arrived in Kalaw, a lovely town in the hills of eastern Myanmar, and immediately called Spencer and Moo Moo, a sister-and-brother trekking team (without a website, an office, or very many clients) who Emily Sap had met when she was in Myanmar in February. Emily recommended Spencer and Moo Moo because they are wonderful, and also because she thought she owed them twenty bucks and asked that we hunt them down to even out her karma.*

When I first told Spencer, over the phone, that I was Emily's friend, the message was lost in the language barrier. But when we saw him in person and repeated that we got his number from Emily and "the tall man, Brad," he jumped with joy and insisted that we spend the remainder of the day with him and his family. We had lunch in his family's restaurant (which was an extension of their house and where we were the only customers).

Post-lunch, Spencer marched us through the hills of Kalaw to a local "rocket" festival, in which groups of boys from surrounding villages drink, dance, and shoot large rockets at a target on on a nearby hillside. One unlucky villager stands near the target on the hill and judges which rocket comes closest. Brilliant.

Spencer insisted that we return to his house for dinner with his mom, so we took a quick walk through the local market, picked up some flowers for our hosts, and then waited for Spencer's cousins to pick us up for dinner. Spencer's brother, Ko Htay, who is a fabulous chef, cooked us one of our best meals yet, and we spent the evening with everyone talking about Emily. Spencer even tracked down Moo Moo so that she could talk to me about Emily over a horrible phone connection. Let me just pause here for a moment to recognize that Emily is an international sensation. She charms people worldwide.

The next day started out with more Emily-worship (Mom gave us a letter and a present for Em, which we will deliver when we get back to the US). We then set off on a two day trek** with Ko Htay (the family chef and Spencer and Moo Moo's older brother) and a hilariously silent cousin, Bo Bo. Yes, I trekked AGAIN! And this time, I trekked all the way to our next location--Inle Lake.

The Kalaw-to-Inle Lake trek was shorter and easier the the 18-mile death march of Hsipaw, and it involved amazing meals prepared by Ko Htay and his silent-Bo Bo sidekick. We stayed overnight in a village, which was lovely...but I hope to block out the state of the bedding from my memory. When pondering at night what creature comforts we miss from home, Kyla immediately said, "Greek yogurt" and I said, "a washing machine and dryer."

One more note about the trek: before we left, Spencer suggested that we bring little gifts to give to the village children we would meet along the way. "No sweets," he said; "sweets are very bad for children." "No problem," I thought to myself, "we will just swing by the market and pick up some Baby Einstien DVDs or puzzles or crayons." But Spencer insisted that we bring a bag of 200 non-biodegradable balloons. Fine. I can live with that. But then he also told us that, in honor of the festival, we should also bring mini-rockets for the children. Great. We left armed with an arsenal of choking hazards and explosives.*** Since we had already shed our moral code, I decided that it'd also be fun to introduce the kids where we were staying to games on the iPad. It turns out that I will do anything to be popular. If only I had an iPad in middle school...

Anyhoo, we are now at Inle Lake, relaxing on the deck of our little bungalow on stilts. The next few days will not involve trekking. I hope.

*turns out that Em didn't owe Spencer $20 after all, so I'm hoping that the excess good karma will now flow to me.

**can someone explain the difference between a "trek" and a "hike?" And while we are at it, does anyone know the difference between a pagoda, a stuppa, a paya, and a temple??

*** even though I joke about the balloons and mini-rockets, I feel conflicted about posting the pics. On the one hand, the balloons and rockets were a useful social lubricant, and it was great to play with kids and to photograph the fun. On the other hand BALLOONS??? And ROCKETS??? We will make a donation to an organization that helps Burmese kids when we return to the US.
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