The Way Myanmar Makes Me Feel

A bottle cap from a Myanmar beer rests on a table in Yangon.
It’s in the way Myanmar men wear longyis.
It’s in the way Myanmar men wear longyis, shirtless.
It’s in the way shirtless Myanmar men with cigarettes tucked behind their ears wear longyis.
Okay, okay… Myanmar makes me feel more than shirtless men wearing longyis right outside of restaurants do.

 It’s in the way I feel at home here.

It’s in the way tropical sticks to my face here.
It’s in the way girls in the kitchen wear thanaka on their faces.
It’s in the way girls in the kitchen wipe sweat from their thanaka-covered faces.
It’s in the way the girls play in between serving up dishes from the kitchen.

It’s in the way a bell is rung when food is ready to serve here.
It’s in the way there’s familiarity in that ring.
It’s in the way a bike bell gets near and loud and far and quiet just as fast.
It’s in the way a fellow patron makes a kissy noise to one of the servers.

It’s in the way Burmese murmurs sound here—mumbles I desire to understand.
It’s in the way locals ask for extra things I wouldn’t know to ask for.
It’s in the way plastic chopsticks scrape against a bowl.
It’s in the way beer bottle caps clatter as they hit the floor.

It’s in the way I taste a bit of metal with every sip of beer here.
It’s in the way chicken bones crunch when I bite into them.
It’s in the way I really hate surprise chicken bones.
It’s in the way cement crumbles when people walk upon it.

It’s in the way couples walk arm-in-arm as they pass by here.
It’s in the way a woman tugs at my arm, begging for money.
It’s in the way I respond with "not today" like I do every day.
It’s in the way I once felt in love in this very noodle shop.

It’s in the way a server from next door comes to flirt with the servers here.
It’s in the way they giggle.
It’s in the way nearby fruit sellers seem curious about me.
It’s in the way pineapples are piled high and pomelo peels dangle.

It’s in the way one light gently swings back and forth here.
It’s in the way a few ceiling fans (out of many) actually work.
It’s in the way dimness inside means sunset outside.
It’s in the way fluorescent bulbs hum.

It’s in the way I feel buzzed now.
It’s in the way I feel aglow.
It’s in the way I don’t just feel at home here.
It’s in the way Myanmar makes me feel alive.

I'm so happy to be back.

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