Myanmar Style Election Campaigns: Winter Melons on the Roof

One night at Casa de May, my father laments the fact that as a political science major in college, I have yet to have heard about winter melons popping up on top of marketplaces across Yangon.  By that, he means winter melons randomly hanging out on top of roofs at major markets.  One of the hottest trending stories this week!

Winter melons are called “kyauk-phayone” in Burmese language, same alphabets as “Kyant-Phont” or the incumbent USDP party.  The original market sporting the now famous melon is Insein Market, known locally as “Insein Zay-Gyi,” which – you have guessed correctly! – is composed of the same letters as Aung San Suu Kyi.

The placement of the USDP winter melon right on top of the market plaque symbolic of the opposition party is considered or rumored to be one of the many strategies to win the votes in upcoming election in Myanmar this November.  It looks like the election strategists have seriously thought their plan through to win it this year!

Several people have pointed out, however, that these trending vegetables are being used as lightning rods at markets.  But that makes up for a less interesting story, and…does that even work?

Oh Yangon and all its quirks!



It’s Raining

The ominous sky this afternoon did not feel so great.

Not that there is any logical, scientific and rational link between today’s melancholic cityscape and anyone’s day.  Or the earthquake news in San Francisco or the deadly blast at Siam in Bangkok for that matter, but today is simply not the kind of day I can hope to expect any good news.

This drizzly weather reminds me of one of the many poems read, back when I had plenty time in Falam, Chin State.

With lots of life changes packed in a few weeks’ time, I sure do hope I can rely on the sensibility behind each step taken along the way, quite unlike a strut along feeble pavement coverings of Yangon – leading one straight into the city’s sewage – especially during monsoon months.

Pedastrians, beware.

Flimsy pavements of Yangon

It’s Raining in Love
Richard Brautigan, 1969 

I don’t know what it is,
but I distrust myself
when I start to like a girl
a lot.

It makes me nervous.
I don’t say the right things
or perhaps I start
to examine,
what I am saying.

If I say, “Do you think it’s going to rain?”
and she says, “I don’t know,”
I start thinking: Does she really like me?

In other words
I get a little creepy.

A friend of mine once said,
“It’s twenty times better to be friends
with someone
than it is to be in love with them.”

I think he’s right and besides,
it’s raining somewhere, programming flowers
and keeping snails happy.
That’s all taken care of.

if a girl likes me a lot
and starts getting real nervous
and suddenly begins asking me funny questions
and looks sad if I give the wrong answers
and she says things like,
“Do you think it’s going to rain?”
and I say, “It beats me,”
and she says, “Oh,”
and looks a little sad
at the clear blue California sky,
I think: Thank God, it’s you, baby, this time
instead of me.

Vanity Lessons

There is this one passage from a novel read last year, and I have forgotten about it for a long time, until now.

As is the case with every other society, certain segments of Yangon can be a bit like descriptions from such novels, despite the fictional setting in Canada almost a century ago.  Indeed, the basic rule of the game remains the same – no matter the gender – and can even be found in business contexts, except that the modern, professional version of rules takes a different format.  Ever wonder why $3,000 suits exist?  Newsflash: It’s not just the thread count. Or that time when someone at work said to me, “Never split the bill, because it says you do not have money. Always take care of the bill, or let the other party take care of it,”  At another time, someone more senior than me advised me to wear diamonds and not pearls because “pearls are weak,” as I drew up a plan to handle workplace bullying.

Like it or not, vanity lessons have always been an essential part of human societies.

So I actually chuckled when I read this passage for the first time last year:

…Winifred had insisted on these outfits.  She said I’d need to dress the part, no matter what my deficiencies, which should never be admitted by me.  “Say you have a headache,” she told me.  “It’s always an acceptable excuse.”

She told me many other things as well. “It’s all right to show boredom,” she said.  “Just never show fear.  They’ll smell it on you, like sharks, and come in for the kill.  You can look at the edge of the table – it lowers your eyelids – but never look at the floor, it makes your neck look weak.  Don’t stand up straight, you’re not a soldier.  Never cringe.  If someone makes a remark that’s insulting to you, say Excuse me? as if you haven’t heard; nine out of ten they won’t have the face to repeat it.  Never raise your voice to a waiter, it’s vulgar.  Make them bend down, it’s what they’re for.  Don’t fidget with your gloves or your hair.  Always look as if you have something better to do, but never show impatience.  When in doubt, go to the powder room, but go slowly.  Grace comes from indifference.”  Such were her sermons.  I have to admit, despite my loathing of her, that they have proved to be of considerable value in my life. 

Atwood, Margaret. The Blind Assassin. New York: Anchor Books, 2000, pg. 235.