Feb 20, 2014

The Myanmar Testosterone Club

Boys will be boys. Whether Myanmar or Canadian, white- or brown-skinned, boys will be silly, wild, creative, bored. Teenagers will be aggressive, tender, high, low, smelly. The mutual thrill of befriending someone from another culture (see 3 blog posts ago) has quickly and naturally transformed into kids’ friendship, and our living room has transformed into the same loud, smelly-feet clubhouse as our Canadian home.

The twins – now somewhat distinguishable as “Nee-Nee” and “Ko-Ko” – usually arrive first, ready to launch into living-room badminton or guitar or whatever’s on hand. Pyo Zin Oo (the short joker and our favourite) comes a bit later and alternates between the Kill-The-Man badminton attacks and quieter artwork with G’s geometry set. The other two boys are a bit more irregular. How these 5 have ended up being the gang is a mystery, but they’re lovely and real.

Saturday we rented a “moto-taxi” – motorcycle attached to a cart – into which we stuffed all 7 kids, John Bo and his parents, and me and Sarah. For $5 we motored to 2 ancient temples and the local volcano – a series of burping black mudpools that are slowly creating hills and a surreal lunar landscape on the edge of town. We bought a variety of beautiful mystery fruit and two lava-clay owl ornaments, the twins bought 3 sparrows to be released for good luck, and we still got home in time for the daily soccer (“football”) game at the stadium.

Presents and food are still central. The boys arrive with local sweets or fried mysteries that we usually struggle to enjoy. On them we inflict chocolate chips and sushi and cilantro pesto, with equally baffling results. We celebrate and play with the cultural differences, while mostly enjoying the common elements that make us people and friends first.

Sunday the boys walked us down to the river and hired a fishing boat to take us out to the sandy island in the middle of the river. The 7 kids erupted onto the island doing everything you’d expect kids to do – run, swim, sand castles (looking alot like the temples we visited yesterday), scooping tadpoles, racing, digging canals to bring water in from the river, chasing birds. We were 8 dirty, wet, panting bare-chested boys on a beach (and one amused wife) – is there anything more universal?

At first I babysat them, helped the boys integrate and learn how to navigate language and cultural barriers. Now they toodle through town with their gang or hang out here while Sarah and I do what good parents everywhere do – hide in our air-conditioned bedroom, coming out to break up the occasional argument, redirect bored kids, feed them regularly, and arbitrarily send them all out to the street when they need some air.

John Bo laughs at me when I flash the neighbour. The twins laugh at G when he farts. Boys will be boys. And friends.

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