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.
Gettin’ Hitched: The Riley Wedding ☟
A selection of photos from nine months in the Golden City. Brought to you without the consistent drip of sweat, the frequent itch of mosquito bites, or the slow growth of mold on seldom-used shoes. Lacking the metallic exhaust, the savor of bean curry, the snap of burmese, or the curious glances. Yangon in photos.
Hong Kong ➢ Macau ➢ Taiwan
Hong Kong is an island/city/quasi-nation box of cramped high rises stuck between the hills of the island and the channel separating it from the mainland. Also, there are a surprising amount of spiders.
When you climb enough you develop an implicit trust in the gear you climb with. When you don’t climb for a while, that trust disappears and everything gets a lot scarier. Casual, safe falls onto a rope become grippingly terrifying. So, when I got back to the States, after working in Bangladesh for six months, Beans and I decided to take a trip to the desert to get scared on Ancient Art.
There are feathers in my toilet. Have you ever discovered something simple that made you rethink every decision you’ve ever made. I flushed the toilet; new feathers and water replaced the old feathers and water. I turned on my shower. Please, no. . . feathers coming out of my shower. This can mean only one thing. A bird somehow, some-way made my rooftop water tank its final nesting place. [Emergency Recall]: Flashbacks of washing my hands, taking a shower, cleaning out my coffee cup, and NO! NO! you did not rinse your toothbrush off with that dead bird water.