Katsudon for the Win

By now, you must have seen pictures of Myanmar’s Election Fever from yesterday on papers and social media pages.

I cannot stress how big yesterday’s election was for Myanmar.  People all over Myanmar and abroad turned up to cast votes for the first time in 25 years, and many of these people voted for the very first time in their lives.  Yangon was a wonderful sight.  After people cast their votes in the morning, massive crowds gathered in front of the NLD headquarters in the evening to watch the live counting shown on huge LED screens.

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Last afternoon at office

Last days at work are often awkward…

This is why I will be departing in somewhat of an Irish tradition this time, scheduled strategically on this particular Friday when most people in my team are away on inevitable business trips.

Since I will be transferring internally (my new desk is literally downstairs), my move is not a big deal logistically speaking.  No need to change email accounts, or commute routes.  There is not yet any need to hand out my personal email account.

The main task at hand in this transition process is clearing out my desk.  This desk I have grown attached to after two years in this job, the longest I have stayed in one place in the past ten years.  With a clear view of Shwedagon Pagoda and blue skies to my right but sufficiently away from glass windows to have to be concerned about UV radiations, and the right proximity to and a safe distance away from my supervisor buffered by two colleagues, I find my desk to be quite strategic in the team, though my colleagues may disagree.

Here is just a preview of unexpected findings as I strive to make my drawers and desk resemble their pristine state after two years of habitation:

  • Two bottles of hand sanitizer, one bottle of Thann conditioner (why would anyone have this at work?), and two tubes of hand creme (this one is still normal)
  • One MNK painting of owls, supposedly to watch over me as I do my job
  • Three power banks I have never used or know how to use
  • One large brown envelope titled August 2019 containing a letter for our future selves from one very drunken night at Onyx with friends last year
  • A LOT of lip glosses, although my lips remain as cracked and dehydrated as my lip moisturizing products are left intact
  • A collection of outdated name tags and strings from at least eight different conferences (I have read somewhere that I am supposed to recycle them, but where?)
  • One tiny pet lion – which I have named as Pete Lyon – from a former love interest that ended without much drama in a Skype call in my office conference room
  • One unnoticeable heart-shaped nail polish paint mark on the left handle of my chair following an incident involving a colleague of mine leaving his broken chair at my desk and claiming mine as his own (thought I left those days at kindergarten)

Did I really need these items?  As I deal concretely with an embarrassing amount of personal remnants, I remember this passage from some indie magazine I read whenever I think I can afford to splurge US$30 on a magazine proclaiming this:

The heart of essentialism isn’t about asking how little we can live with, but determining what we simply cannot live without…Perhaps the entire point of essentialism is this process of self-actualization.  If asked to identify the non-negotiables in our lives, we probably wouldn’t think about the restraints of our five item wardrobe or our abstinence from sugar, but about the times when we’ve palpably lived.  We couldn’t imagine life without the tribal rug we bought in Tangier or dad’s smoking jacket in the back of our closet, unworn but revered.  As we follow these internal pulls and sometimes irrational desires, the superfluity disappears and leaves us each with our own messy and eccentric authenticity.  And nothing is more essential than that.

Amen.

Serial Monogamist

Winter in Yangon!

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.

Length of breakup negotiations: This really cute baby was born around the same time of my breakup.
Been a lifetime: This really cute baby in his sailor outfit was born around the same time of my most recent breakup.

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.”

WHAT?!

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.

Lean In
Defining Decade

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.

If that’s what you want.