You can read the original report here. Myanmar was last surveyed in 2006 before this report.
More than four out of every five people asked in Myanmar responded that they had given to a good cause within a month of the interview. If you look at donating purely money, Myanmar ranks #1. But if you look at volunteering time and labor, the top three countries are Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka and the US.
It is 63 degrees this morning! SIXTY THREE. No more rain and flooded streets. Yangon is gorgeous when it wants to be.
This week, I’m truly a free woman. FREE woman. Just to top things off, today is the day to claim my free tenth coffee at Bar Boon downstairs from my office, after I have purchased their coffee at exorbitant prices for the past nine times. Love it when things work out like that.
Today, I want to write about boys. Through the lens of an ambitious, heterosexual female.
When you are in early twenties, it’s easy to dismiss boys as unimportant or trivial. There is still graduate school to worry about, and you’re still learning the ropes at your workplace. Yet, at a time when Myanmar is going through a historic transformation, the society as a whole is changing. When it comes to dating, there is more than one protocol to follow for us Burmese ladies, and we’re getting pickier than to say yes to someone your parents ask you to. Arranged marriages are falling out of fashion and yet we also do not yet openly discuss dating with your parents – at least my family does not.
So amidst this change and confusion, where do we look to for guidance and advice when it comes to boys?
But we are not alone in feeling clueless.
David Brooks of New York Times comments that “[Society] is structured to distract people from the decisions that have a huge impact on happiness in order to focus attention on decisions that have a marginal impact on happiness. The most important decision any of us make is who we marry. Yet there are no courses on how to choose a spouse.”
Even if marriage isn’t your end goal and you are focused on your work, new studies suggest that you should not underestimate its role.
Upon one of the many long rural car rides, my former boss Jim Taylor of Proximity Designs, memorably said that my career trajectory will inevitably change depending on my life partner. Then, Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook and the most badass woman alive ever, has popularized the idea that “the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.”
And remember, Sheryl is not talking about hypergamy. Marrying up has lost its cool in 2013, as this Financial Times piece aptly articulates. Out with hypergamy, and embrace equal relationships. Grab this book written by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober to hear their research on how to get to 50/50.
While Sandberg tells you to remember the professional impact of your pair-bonding decisions, Dr. Meg Jay tells you to be intentional about your love life as you are with work and get out of relationship ruts.
She says that most of today’s twenty-somethings grew up in broken families and unhappy marriages so we tend to be skeptical of this institution, but Dr. Meg Jay claims that marrying late is not necessarily marrying better. Did you know that statistics show that divorce rates stabilize once the age of marriage hits 25? Some of us don’t want to get married next year but it’s never too early to becoming aware of what you would make you happy ten years down the line.
Of course my mother prefers for me to date one person and marry him, like she has done and like so many Burmese men and women aspire to. Lucky for them. When my mother gets freaked out about my dating decisions, this is what I repeat to her from Lean In:
“When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is to date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious.“
“Live life as though nobody is watching, and express yourself as though everyone is listening.”
– Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela passed yesterday, exactly eleven years after the quiet death of Myanmar’s strongman and dictator former General Ne Win.
Memory works in curious ways. Certain dates, you remember without any concretely strong emotional ties to the event. The evening I heard the news of Ne Win, I was dining with my family at Summer Palace Restaurant at Traders, while a Myanmar actress Htet Htet Moe Oo celebrated her wedding reception downstairs in the same hotel.
Mandela will always be remembered fondly but which one of the two will be remembered more readily in eleven years from now? The good guy or the bad guy? I wonder.
Food is cheap. And there is a variety to it. Modern conveniences are there. Rent is affordable. Job opportunities abound if you know where to look. Spas offer amazingly cheap rates. The best, fresh coconut costs merely 50 cents. People I have come across are interesting. And if you are a heterosexual young male, gender ratio among expats definitely favors you. The only down side is that there is a lack of green space, which is made up for by the river front view.
My trip to Phnom Penh was long due. I hadn’t been out of Yangon for already three months. If you count only trips you take for yourself – and not for business, social obligations or relationships – it was since March that I hadn’t taken a break for myself. This was a much needed reset. I had thought I was going out of my mind.
My very first meal in Cambodia was ironically a semi-Japanese place, a quick five minutes away from my hotel near the Russian Market, chosen by my very thoughtful college buddy John who drove all the way to the southern tip of the city from his office up north so that I wouldn’t need to get around on a tuk tuk.
“Cozy” is one of those words you use when you try to be sanguine about some unfortunate situation, much like the usage of the term “interesting.” If you are like most guys, you would rather disappear into thin air than be described as “nice” or “sweet” by a girl they fancy.
But when I think of this place, “cozy” is the word I use in the most genuine and blissful way. I felt cozy. And comfortable. In the most relaxed and carefree way. Without the need to worry about running into anyone or be engaged in any obligatory small talk. Generally, people, noises and spot lights are what I crave, but not when I am in Phnom Penh. Anonymity is calming.
Just when I thought the ambiance couldn’t get any better, I studied the menu while waiting for John and Wes, sipping my passion fruit mint shake, listening to their tracks and watching staff get busy with noodles in the open kitchen in their “Noodle me please…” shirts.
And look! They have only two items as the main fare. The beautiful thing about this menu is that there is nothing to be studied. You make so many decisions and choices every day, it’s sometimes best to not have that luxury. This could be an urban legend but Obama is said to have the same shirts so as not to waste any of his presidential brain space on fashion every morning. Decision fatigue, some people say.
Which is why this noodle place is extra charming. You show up hungry and they feed you. That’s the best kind of menu, and a wonderful break from the many new presumptuously low quality dining establishments in Yangon.