This essay was published in To Myanmar With Love. ThingsAsian Press. 2009. pg 232.
I love Mandalay. I hate my hotel room. I wander and explore. I discover the Unity Hotel. At the reception desk, Thida is so lovely and gracious. With a kind smile she says, “We will be happy to welcome you.” I checked in the next day
After breakfast, before my climb of Mandalay Hill, I invite Thida for coffee. She smiles. She declines
Before my tour of Innwa, Amarapura, and Sagaing, I ask again. She smiles.
Finally, after I return from my river ride to Mingun where for good luck I pat the tail of the huge stone elephant, I try once more and Thida smiles. “You have asked me three times. Now I will say “yes.” Yes!
Public social relationships in Myanmar are conservative and discrete. A “date” in Myanmar means that the girl shows up with a chaperone or two. Thida introduces me to her cousin and her friend. During our dinner date I comment on their excellent English. They tell me they attend an evening class at the local Monastery School. I admit that many years ago, as a high school teacher in New York City, my specialty was teaching English to immigrant boys. (“Juanita is tall. Conchita is taller than Juanita. Carmelita is the tallest.”) Thida invites me to teach a class.