|Back in 2012-2013, we traveled in style! 😂😂😂|
When they said time flies, it really does. And to be honest, it doesn't feel like 7 years that we've been here in Myanmar. A lot have changed since the day I landed in Yangon on a rainy day, 19th May 2012.
One thing hasn't changed and that is the power cuts. For some reason, this year, it had gotten worse again. Right now, as I am writing this blog post, I am stewing in my sweat because there's no electricity. 😫😫😫
Of recent years, I have to admit that my "zen" with Myanmar has been diminishing more and more and more. Whilst I have seen the country progress in so many other aspects - like from zero internet to 4G in a matter of a couple of years - there are also many other aspects that have remained unchanged if not worse. And this has a lot to do with the mentality and strange culture which is prevalent here in Myanmar.
Take the electricity issue for example - I was lamenting to a Myanmar friend of mine over the weekend about the power cuts as it disrupted work and it disrupted sleep. He works in hydro power, by the way. So he patiently explained to me about the cost of electricity which the government was charging the people. I can't for the life of me remember the figure he gave but long story short, the government was making huge, and like seriously huge losses with the rate they charged the people for electricity. When they wanted to increase the rate, the people protested. So now, the government just let the situation be as it is and they do this "power cut" rotation thing. And everyone is on bitch-mode. So my friend was saying - "This is the problem with the people - no solution, they protest. Solution, they protest. Then consequences, they protest."
I realized, this was exactly typical Myanmar. They are an enigma of a country, excited to move forwards, but lacked the will and the mindset change to do so. In essence, they don't really know what they want. And they don't exactly look at long term good. To put it bluntly, they are very short-sighted. Ok, I am generalizing here. There are many great Myanmar people whom I do know personally who are trying to help shape and change the nation positively. As I work a lot with the youths here, I kinda feel sorry for them. These young Myanmar millennials are all at once, caught between wanting to push forwards and bowing down to the older generation which had been the custom and culture all these while. I often have conversations with them about the prevailing issues in Myanmar and the one take-out I get from these conversations were that they "tolerate" and "bear with it" and "there's nothing they can do about it". In other words, they are accepting.
I've been teaching at Strategy First for 4 years now and recently they were upgraded to become Strategy First University. I feel a little ashamed because I am the least qualified as a lecturer. However, I do my best for the students who walked through my classroom doors because it is a commitment I had made to the school and to the founder and principal - Sayar Aung Chit Khin, a man whom I respect very much and one of those Myanmar people who are trying their utmost best to do the right thing for the people here - and that is to enable and facilitate their growth via the education platform. An exciting project is coming up in July, which will see me teaching on weekends as well, both Saturdays and Sundays, so stay tuned if you wanna know more!
7 years of coaching and mentoring the Myanmar youth and I'm also beginning to get a little jaded because I've had quite enough of their love for drama and emotions. I don't quite care anymore nor believe when they use the word "hote" and majority are what I would categorize as NATO people (No Action, Talk Only). Recently, I even took drastic measures by giving up on a team that I was coaching and mentoring. simply because I no longer find their words credible. They want to achieve their goals, but effort and time spent on achieving those goals are according to their whim and fancy. They say they are "committed" but failed terribly to understand what commitment actually meant. After having a really long think about it, I've decided that there are some people whom I will never be able to inspire nor coach or mentor. Sigh..... more fails for me on this front 😥😥😥
But I read this article by Chatri Sityodtong, the CEO and founder of the ONE Championship brand and he said this ~ "Eliminate the bad apples. I believe in surrounding myself with good people with positive energy. People always ask me why I am slow to hire and quick to fire for my companies. I hire very slowly because I believe the culture of a company is its fuel for extraordinary achievement. A broken culture leads to low morale and poor performance. Every single hire is a critical component to the culture of a company. I fire quickly because nothing is worse than bad apples who damages the happiness of others or brings the team down or does not exemplify the shared values of the team. Likewise, in life, nothing is worse than negative, selfish, entitled people in your life. It takes strength and courage to eliminate the bad apples from your life, but it is necessary so that you can unleash your potential. Think of those people as dead weight bricks. Cut out the dead weight bricks from your life and watch your life soar." Such an apt article when I was trying to decide if I really did the right thing. I need to learn about what he said - "hire slow, fire quick" - will I stop coaching or mentoring or helping these young people? No, I won't. It is my passion and my commitment. BUT, I will from this day forward, be more choosy about the people I am going to mentor and coach because not everyone deserves my time. I'm getting rid of dead weight so that I can help those more deserving to soar. Ok, so onwards and upwards then.
Another thing about Myanmar after 7 years here is this mysterious "arr nar" culture. There isn't an English word for it, but in Cantonese, we say "mm hou yee si". After 7 years of living here, I realized they used, I'm sorry, not used, they ABUSED this "arr nar" culture to their convenience only. For me, I was brought up to understand that "arr nar" or "mm hou yee si" meant for example, when someone offered you a free class or a free gift and you accept it but you feel so "arr nar" or if you had to borrow money from someone so you feel "arr nar" or if you were sparring with your instructor and you were "arr nar" to punch him. That is "arr nar". Here, they are "arr nar" about every damn thing BUT only to their convenience though - particularly when they're asked to voice their opinions or to be honest about a mistake or to express their frustration to their team mates for not performing well, when they are unhappy, they don't want to tell you because they are "arr nar", this list could go on and on. However, when the push comes to shove, like stopping the car in the middle of the road to unload stuff, thus blocking traffic, where is the "arr nar"? Or when skipping classes without informing the coach even though they know the coach prepared for the class - then where is the "arr nar" ? And when they are unhappy, they don't want to tell it to you in your face, but they gossip behind your back then where is the "arr nar" ? I personally think that hiding behind this "arr nar" culture had set the Myanmar people back by years. 😕😕😕
I think the power cut and the heat has gotten to my head hence my blog is sounding a little bit bitchy at the moment 😝😝😝
I'm still with CMHL for a majority of my time on the weekdays. On top of that, I've taken on additional roles in my capacity as a consultant - so besides Marketing, I am also involved in Group Corp. Affairs and I am also consulting for one of their start-up acquisitions - The Pink Sun Media. So, that's a big chunk of my time gone for all of those. If I have to ask myself honestly though, I have enjoyed my time working here. There are very, very bad days and on those days, I've wanted to leave, but I gave WWT my commitment that I'm here to stay and I would help as much as I can within my capabilities so I take itttttt 😝😝😝 There are also days where I've wanted to throw people off the building LOL! But it had been such a journey for me to see the organization grow from 12 stores to where they are today. Daw Win Win Tint, the Group CEO and owner is another one of the Myanmar leaders that I respect a lot. I may not often see eye-to-eye with her but I like and respect that she has the Myanmar people in her heart. I just realized Sayar Aung and Daw WWT both have the same values - to upgrade the Myanmar people. #win
SoyAi under Htet Shine is doing ok and I'm relieved. The Children of Tomorrow Youth Centre is continuing the weekend classes as per usual. I don't spend as much of my time at the Youth Centre these days. I let Htet Shine manage the business and the children and whenever he requested for my support, I'm there. I know sometimes, he just needs a listening ear, to be assured that I am still there for him and he is another one of my commitment - that I will be there for him no matter what. At least I know that one front of my succession planning is solved. I know that SoyAi will continue to do the work it started out doing and I know that Htet Shine himself has a heart so big for the children that I'm not worried at all. And talk about forward planning right - he knew that every year, I would host a Pre-Thingyan Party for the children and this year, he even chased me like 2 months ahead because he said "If he needed to plan it, he needed time because he is so busy with SoyAi." Again, even some of my students or my colleagues at work do not have such kind of forward planning!! On days where I am "suffering" (LOL, so drama!) in Myanmar, this boy, this boy whom I've mentored, coached and groomed is my inspiration because..... because he was able to change all his negative pasts and moved forward with a fighting mentality and attitude. You know, from someone who couldn't wake up at 7am, he's now making his rounds, delivering tofu and soy milk before 6am, rain, shine or snow!! And he doesn't dramatize his problems or challenges. When he speaks to me, it's very matured, no bitching, just problem-solving. He has a long way to go, I know but look at how far he's come!! For me, SoyAi, the COTYC and Htet Shine are the only things I can truly be proud of, of my time here in Myanmar.
The Mobile Soup Movement that I started in 2015 with MOH a.k.a. Da Tiger, a.k.a Sayar Richard is still on-going every month and we still give out 100 - 150 care packages a month to those in need. A lot of media had interviewed me about this, but I don't know why because I am not asking for donations nor help. They asked me what's my purpose in doing this. I don't have much of a justification except that I feel there are people who needed this and both of us will do the best that we can within our capabilities. We both have enough to cover our basic needs and even our wants so I believe very much that we can share. Whilst we're not asking for any donations or help, I do call for volunteers every month to come help pick up the packages to be distributed to those whom they felt would need some dry ration or toiletries to help tide them through for awhile. The current state of the USD - Kyats isn't exactly helping the situation though but we manage anyway.
Being in Myanmar is a real lesson in patience and trust me, patience is not my middle name. Right now, the power is still out and it's 4 hours and counting. My battery is almost running flat so I'm gonna hasten my writing 😕😕😕😕 There will definitely be a need for some zen-like mentality and the power of positive-thinking to get through some of the strange things that goes on here. Last night, while I was about to go to bed, the power got cut off again. Believe me when I said I used up all my energy to zen-out while stewing in my sweat. I even tried telling myself "Don't think about the heat, Eileen. Just close your eyes, relax.... all is good. All is good. All is good." 😓😓😓 Then there was one time where they completely closed off the road leading to our apartment because they were doing cement work for whatever reasons and we couldn't drive through and we couldn't walk through. I was like "What were they thinking???" And when you asked the Burmese people why did they do that, they will be "arr nar" and they will just grin at you. Which in all honesty, makes me wanna smack them instead. Anyway, with our grocery shopping bags and all, we had to literally scale through walls and makeshift ladders to get back to our apartment block. I mean, .... *speechless*. But instead of you know, chucking a ball about it, MOH and I just laughed and we joked about why it happened the way it happened. (trust me, we could come up with a million of these jokes on a daily basis after 7 years living here!!!)
I can literally feel my time and patience running out. Every morning, I wake up, telling myself to expect the unexpected and to zen out. But within 5 minutes of driving through from my place to wherever I was going, I am ready to kill someone. Where I live, I love it a lot because on my right is the jungle and 10 steps to the left is where I do my MMA training with one of Myanmar's MMA champions - Sayar Phoe Thaw. I am actually thankful for the MMA classes because it helps me deal with my pent-up anger and stress 😂😂😂 Like seriously, I drive through the roads and there'll be aunties gossiping in the middle of the road and they literally couldn't care less that a car was trying to get past. I don't really wanna honk and I tell myself "Stay calm, Eileen, stay calm." but every so often, I would blast that honk like there was no tomorrow. I hate to admit it but seeing them jump out of their skin gives me some joy 😝😝😝 Or the taxi driver who refuses to budge from the one-car lane even though I am the one who had reached the end of the lane first. Or the people at work, or the students I mentor who feel they are "entitled" to things or their "arr nar" excuses or "hote" and NATO with you. It's all very taxing. Now do you see why I need to manage my anger issues and punch some bags? LMAO !!!! In fact, on weekends, the both of us choose to hibernate in our 'cave'. Don't even wanna talk to anyone at all. That's how draining things are sometimes.
I question myself a lot these days - "What The Hell Am I Doing Here?" But see, here's the thing and I am not sure if it's the Universe trying to screw around with me or what. Every time I have these despairing feeling that my time is up in Myanmar or I am overstaying my welcome here in this country that I fell in love with 7 years ago, there will be something or someone or a situation that would tell me "Maybe another day, Eileen." It could be that 'side-ka' (trishaw) dude who gave me an understanding smile after I had safely maneuvered past the gossiping aunties. Or that taxi driver who actually reversed and gave me way even though it was his right of way. Or that security guard at the pool who offered to share his lunch with me because he saw me training so hard. Or it could be Htet Shine making another win for SoyAi. It could simply just be meeting new people who has the same mindset and mentality as me - like those guys who train at the MMA gym next door to me - they come from nothing and this is all they've got so they make no excuses, no matter how tough life is for them. Or it could be seeing a student excel and grow another level up, people I mentor and coach who came out of their shell and did things they would never usually do (like traveling alone 😜😜😜) Small wins by some of the teams I coached. Or the security guard at my apartment block who couldn't stand the state of my dirty car and washed it for me. Or it could be Li-Su my once-a-week help who sometimes treats me with my favourite fruits when she knows that I am going a bit cuckoo with stress. It's truly bizzare because it happens every time I questioned my stay here in Myanmar. I am seriously not kidding. Truly bizzare. So, I choose, despite having a bad day, to always start my day on a positive note. Most of the time, the both of us are quite zen with the strange and enigmatic Myanmar (right now, not so much for me because it's been 6 hours dealing with the heat and I've had no respite from the heat the whole day!😭😭😭) - like you know, really instead of losing it with things, we try to make light of a situation. Like instead of raging on the road, we joked about how we should equip our car with betelnut shooters and paintballs and rotten eggs. I would be so gangsta on the road if my car did that - like every time someone annoyed me on the road - press a button and rotten eggs shoot out at them. That'll be cool don't ya think? 👿👿👿
I attended a seminar on Myanmar's state of economy leading up to next year's General Elections and Uncle Serge Pun, another one of Myanmar's respected business leader was on the panel. He said Myanmar needed an "enlightened government". I chuckled at all his witty and bold remarks and agreed with all that he said. But I think Myanmar also needed "enlightened people"!
I realized this country is still full of hope. As sorry as the situation may be and as scary as the situation may be - there is so much hope for this beautiful country. As such, I shall continue the work that I do here and try my further best to empower the next generation so that they can positively shape this nation here. Everyday is a learning but when has learning ever stopped? I will continue to inspire and as well as be inspired and I will count my blessings everyday for the great opportunity of being here and meeting so many beautiful Myanmar people.
p/s : But for right now, on the anniversary of my 7th year in Myanmar, I hope the power comes back soon. Meanwhile - here are some photos of our earlier times in Myanmar - most of these situations hasn't changed at all 😜😜😜