Yangon Snapshots

Oh hello!

It’s been a while.

In the two years that I was gone, Yangon seemed changed but remained the same in so many ways. I had managed to drop by every 6-8 months, and each time, the change was incremental, yet drastic. This post is just me taking note of the sentiments I have noticed personally, from the sidelines, behind the major headlines you may have seen in the news.

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Behind the Brand @ Cici

Hillary: The woman behind Cici clothing line

Lately, I have had to initiate difficult conversations at work. As I cruise through my mid-twenties, I have also begun measuring professional success and satisfaction through a different set of yardsticks. When I shared this with one of my best friends, she emailed me this article in the morning and told me that it is better to start valuing yourself and letting others know to value you while you are still young. It is a life skill.

Overall, with the opening up of Myanmar, I would say that it is actually a very fortunate time to be a single, twenty-something professional woman in Yangon, especially as a repatriate. We really cannot complain. I feel grateful for all the opportunities, timing, and generous help from trusted advisers, mentors and supervisors at work and outside of office.

While things are fairly comfortable for repatriates and large companies with access to capital, it is also worth reflecting that most of Myanmar’s youth is faced with massive insecurity over job readiness, English skills and other training opportunities, the same way most of mom and pop stores struggle with the trade opening of the country. What matters more is employment for the critical mass, as someone wise said at Euromoney a few months ago.

Amidst all of this, I must say I am very impressed with Hillary, the mastermind behind the new clothing line Cici, aimed at dressing young, modern professional women of Myanmar. As a fresh graduate of Swarthmore College and a family with roots in retail and garment industry, Hillary has appropriately taken up her role as a bold business entrepreneur, handling the media, staff and guests expertly and with so much grace. I just love how much the brand is in sync with the woman behind it.

For her first collection, she invited real young professional women instead of models to walk her debut show, which was a real fun experience! The young savvy designers behind the line also made an offer to some of us to give them English lessons in exchange for cute clothing. Deal!

Day -5

Day -5

Project Cici

Day -5

-2 Hours: Hillary graciously handles media

-2 Hours: Hillary and media interviews

-1 hour: remove the consequences of heavy handling by makeup artists...

-1 hour: Removing the heavy handling of makeup artists…

Zero hour

Zero hour

Thank-yous

 

Project W at Project Hub Yangon

 

Project W at Project Hub Yangon

Project Hub Yangon is launching Project W. Supporting women entrepreneurs is in! It has been sexy for a long time and for a very solid reason. When Project Hub has regular fellowship programs, most seats are dominated by young men interested in tech start-ups. There was only one woman at their last Pitch Night. So cool to have this program! Deadline is mid-May. Apply!

True nation-builders in Myanmar

Myingyan

Working at an international organization focusing on the poorest of the poor “bottom billion” farmers demands grappling with two different realities on a daily basis. And especially so for a fundraiser like myself. How can one individual be worth 6 billion dollars? And another has to borrow money for a meal?

But don’t pity the poor just because they may have to borrow money. Here, we don’t speak of the culture of poverty. We talk instead about the spirit of entrepreneurship. People here know how to do business. Despite the five decades of isolation and economic hardships, the farmers we work with remain resilient. This resiliency is nothing short of great inspiration.

Then, there are all these international visitors that swing by my office. Movers, shakers, and high net worth individuals under 40, with their titles, awards and impressive resumes. How does someone from a genteel family with an opportunity to attend an Ivy League deserve more credit and public recognition than a single mom small holder farmer that dares to raise two children with grace and generosity even in the most economically desolate place of the world?

Just some Mary Oliver-induced thoughts on a late Friday afternoon at work.

Song of the Builders.

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God –

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

– Mary Oliver, Why I Wake Early (2004)

Hudson River