Earlier this year Katie and I travelled to Greece for some climbing and culture. We were welcomed by our gracious host, enlightened guide, and zealot of all things Greek, Dimitris. Dimitris was our oracle, enlightening us by explaining how extra virgin olive oil was different, how the ancient Athenians were the most YOLO people of all time, and how Cretians essentially won WWII for the allies by losing the Battle of Crete to the Germans. For the following three weeks, tidbits of Dimitris knowledge would float through our heads as we explored the Aegean. After staying with Dimitris for a day in Athens, we travelled to the island of Santorini.
Although they are highly enjoyable, holidays in Italy aren’t really conducive to interesting storytelling. Perhaps this is because every single person’s Italian holiday gush sounds exactly the same. If you’ve ever fallen victim to one of these recountings, you know the glazed over look in the eye as the holidaymaker retreats into their visceral memories of gelato and pizza, the enthusiasm in their voice as they recite the notorious buzz words. . . The Vatican. . . The Colosseum. . . The Pantheon, and the eager hand gestures, channelling the inner Italian spirit with the thumb pressed securely to the index finger.
I’m guessing that some of you feel the same way. Some of the recent comments of a powerful political leader glorifying sexual assault have been hard for me to shake over the last couple of weeks. Continue reading
Like any other country at the moment, Myanmar has mixed feelings about their expats and immigrants; feelings ranging from stewing xenophobic tension to glowing admiration. Myanmar’s current policy towards foreigners on working visas mandates that we leave the country every 70 days. For some this is an annoying inconvenience, for me it’s a regular forced vacation to an exotic location every couple of months. Due to our regular visa runs over the last two years, Katie and I have been running low on Asian countries to visit (it’s a tough life). We decided to stretch our visa run distance and length to hop over to Western Australia for something novel. Continue reading
Bagan, plane of endless temples; it is Myanmar’s transcendent cultural icon. It’s the Cristo Redentor of Brazil, the Angkor Wat of Cambodia, y’all it’s the freaking Statue of Liberty 🗽! Along with any location given cultural icon status, Bagan caters to hordes of tourists, of which I reluctantly accept membership. Nothing like standing on top of a temple meditatively watching the sun set across a beautiful temple plateau dotted with 475 people taking selfies. Continue reading
Summer is here in Myanmar, and summer means Thingyan (the Myanmar new year), and Thingyan means it’s time to go on our second annual 10 day sport climbing trip. Thailand has traditionally been the destination for sport climbing in SE Asia, but the karst wonderland of Thakhek in neighboring Laos is the up and coming new crag on the block. As devout Thingyan climbing pilgrims, Katie and I decided it was time to cut our teeth on Southeast Asia’s newest rock mecca. Continue reading
In 2015, Myanmar was ranked the world’s most charitable nation by the World Giving Index. For those who live here, this isn’t necessarily surprising. When major flooding hit during the monsoon season last year, the community mobilized immediately. Students organized volunteer efforts, donation groups patrolled the streets soliciting donations from cars and pedestrians, and trainers at my gym interrupted my lat pull-downs to show off pictures of the rice they’d delivered to affected villages. Continue reading
Mandalay is Myanmar’s royal city, and we are Mandalay’s loyal weekend warriors. The ten-hour night busses that take us to Mandalay and back to Yangon make for grueling transportation experiences. On a typical Mandalay trip we will spend two nights on busses and one night at a hostel. When we arrive back in Yangon early Monday morning, we emerge from the bus in a zombieish haze and essentially head straight to work from the bus station. After more than ten trips like this, Katie and I have the details dialed: Our favorite hostel, number of melatonin tablets to take on the overnight bus, cheapest motorbike rental shop, everything is dialed.
Note: The writing below acknowledges the existence of sex and commercial sex work as a profession. All participants gave consent to sharing quotes and photos.
I have had several unsatisfying experiences trying to explain what mental health services look like in Myanmar. To those looking from the outside in, I’m sure that the technical language and the inexhaustible acronyms tend to suck the humanity out of the concept. It is easy to trip on the language of PFA, GBV, UNHCR, IPV, WHO, MSM, PLHA, IDU, IDPs, and CSWs, when really the idea is to shed light on the people, to raise the collective awareness about the people hearing other people. Down to the core it is about the healing and transformation of humans; the process of regaining some part of lost humanness.
Thanks to the unreal amount of support we received from our family and friends, Katie and I had the most amazing wedding. We couldn’t have been happier with how things went, and we were overwhelmed with the amount of love poured out by everyone we know. For those that were at the wedding and missed the video, or for those who are just curious, the video below is a factual account of how the Riley wedding came about.