The People of Myanmar (Burma)

The relentless sun shimmering on gold temples, the inevitable dust and sand at the end of the dry season, the difficulty of coping in a language so foreign to me that even after a week, I can’t easily remember simple phrases – these are the impressions I have taken away from Myanmar.

Most of all, I will remember the people. This is a poor country. The poorest wash themselves and their clothes in the river. They live simple lives.

Nonetheless, a ready smile in return for mine was always forthcoming. A delighted response always came to my hesitant “Mingalabah!” (the greeting for hello, good morning, good evening…everything!).

They daub their faces with thanaka, a paste made from the bark of a tree. It’s supposed to soften the skin, protect them from the sun, and make them look beautiful. Everyone has a different pattern on their faces. And you will see it on children too.

There are beggars who rely on the generosity of good Buddhists to feed them. And they aren’t disappointed. Generosity seems to be part of their culture.

In one Buddhist school we visited, a little boy presented with two gifts – a pen and a notebook – turned to a nearby child who hadn’t received anything, and gave him the pen.

They sang us songs of welcome, and in return, we offered our action-filled version of “When you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.” They joined in the gestures, and when we were done, offered with much laughter, their own version of the song with very different actions.

Buddhism is the religion of 85% of the population and apparently 70% of males spend some time living as monks – eating nothing after lunch and spending time in contemplation. Monks are ubiquitous…less common are the pink robed nuns with shaved heads.

Even children might spend some time in a monastery – walking around in their robes collecting their day’s food.

Children have few toys but they keep busy. This little crew are fishing using sticks and a bag. They drive the fish into the bag.

It’s hard not to fall in love with these children of Myanmar. They are beautiful. I found myself playing with them everywhere we went.

Little ones would clap and smile.

Older children usually offered the universal peace symbol and wanted to high five!

At the school, Ed was swamped with children who wanted to each have turn with this gesture.

A wave brings plenty of waves in return.

But if you hope to visit Myanmar, do it soon. The country has been closed for decades by a military junta. Now emerging, they are modernizing very fast. While some of this is good, it is changing both the landscape (the cities have become polluted and traffic is chaotic) and the people (now there are even small boys in monks robes begging for money – something that a true monk would never do).

In Myanmar you will be delighted by the thousands of pagodas – their golden stupas rising above the poor homes around them. Even the smallest village has one. But most of all, you will be charmed by the generous people of Myanmar and their beautiful children.

A Taste of the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village

Ukrainians brought red fife wheat to Canada and with it they made one of their gastronomic gifts to the world – perogies (which they pronounce perohay). At the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village near Edmonton, Alberta, I learned to make these delicious little dumplings.

After all, food is the best way to learn about people. And a lesson in making perogies (also called pyrohy or varenyky ) is enlightening.

I made two of these little handmade dumplings in the same time my teacher could made a dozen! It’s still hard work and made me appreciate them all the more.

My perogie – before and after!

The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a living history museum, complete with costumed interpreters, offers a glimpse into the world of the first pioneers from this community who arrived in 1892.

They arrived in large groups and settled in east central Alberta from 1892-1930. For $10, the government gave them 10 acres of land which they were required to clear and on which they had to build living quarters.

The first homes were burdei , a sod dwelling rather like a dugout which featured a living roof.

Inside was the bed, an oven for baking and most importantly, a stone mill for grinding that wheat into flour. It’s a tough job as I discovered!

Later more permanent homes were built with a “Big Room” for family and entertaining. The walls are adorned with beautiful hand-woven cloth and photos of the saints, and the ceilings hung with dried flowers and herbs, often blessed by the church.

Their faith was important. At the Village, three churches represent the three main religious groups: Ukrainian Catholics, Ukrainian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox. Services are still occasionally held in this one – Ukrainian Orthodox.

The Hilliard Hotel was the first building to have indoor plumbing. Beer was 5 cents and a bed could be had for $1 per night. But card games weren’t permitted. The only entertainment was the found in the pool hall, which also sold alcohol.

A horse and buggy is a wonderful way to explore the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, though it’s a great place for enthusiastic walkers….there’s so much to see here.

But I believe the best way to explore a culture is through its food. And what’s better than a Ukrainian feast ?

On this small plate: pyrohy (perogies) with sour cream and fried onions, cucumber salad, Koubasa (sausage), and Holubtsi (cabbage rolls).


Airline Etiquette – 10 Rules for Passengers

1024px-british_airways_747-400_world_traveller_cabinThe man next to me on the my five-hour flight sounds like a pig searching for truffles. Apparently these porcine snuffles and snorts are his way of alleviating the sinus congestion of a cold. Unfortunately, his undoubted need for a shower evokes a similar comparison. And he manages, in the course of the flight, to add the rich aroma of a brewery. Apparently beer is the new Dristan.

After three hours, I retreated to the rear of the cabin to chat with whichever flight attendant wasn’t busy. They offered their own nightmare passenger stories. It got me thinking that it might be time for a list of do’s and don’ts for passengers.

So, from what I learned from them, and from my own countless hours in the air, I herewith offer my list of suggestions for airline etiquette.  Needless to say, inappropriate sexual behaviour  is absolutely verboten.


  1. Please eschew garlic-laden dishes 24 hours before flying. Your seat mate(s) will have to bear the brunt of your breath. Worse, some people actually exude the smell from their pores.
  2. For goodness sake, have a shower. Sweaty armpits and other malodorous body parts are very offensive. This is a huge concern for the poor attendants who not only have to deal with the odor when serving them but also with the complaints from other passengers who want to change seats.shower_head
  3. Perfume and cologne should be used sparingly (preferably not at all). Indeed, some people have severe asthmatic reactions to strong odors so this could be serious. Note that sprinkling either of these liberally is not a viable solution for offense number 2.Stinky Feet Not Allowed
  4. Many travellers like to remove their shoes on a plane. I have done so myself on long flights. If you plan to do this, please ensure that a) your socks and b) your feet are clean. Flight attendants have to deal with the complaints of seatmates dealing with the odor and might even have to ask you to replace your shoes. Embarrassing! But note this. Being prone to airsickness myself, I can guarantee that smelly feet is likely to bring this on and it’s not going to be pleasant for either of us!
  5. With so many airlines dropping meal service, passengers often bring food aboard. Choose wisely. Remember that the aroma of your food might be delightful when you first bring it aboard but after recirculating for four hours, it may be unpleasant.
  6. Why do people on cell phones feel the need to shout? The phone amplifies your conversation perfectly well. Fortunately, we have to turn these off for the flight though the period before take-off and after landing can be very noisy as these self-important schmucks make ‘important business calls’. Even after the announcement to turn off cell phones, some passengers think they are beyond the rule. Flight attendants sometimes have to be very firm.
  7. If you have a bad cold, cough, flu – stay home!! Or take a heavy duty decongestant, antihistamine, anything! Humorously, the lady in the seat on the other side of the aisle from my sniffling neighbour pulled her scarf around her face like a mask each time he did this.240_f_89990364_q12sevor9c0b428wcmrduh8ycoxmhjjo
  8. Alcohol is not the solution – to anything! Moderate drinking please. Note that Vitamin C in the form of juice might actually help you feel better.
  9. Courtesy is always appreciated. My attendant friends told me that it only takes one rude passenger to spoil the flight for those sitting around the individual and for them as staff dealing with it. Examples: a) the person who insists they booked the window/aisle seat and are NOT going to sit in the middle (faced with no choice they then make the flight miserable for all concerned); b) the person who complains loudly that they want a cup of hot coffee minutes before landing time or on a short leg flight without time for brewing; c) the passenger who puts on earphones and refuses to respond to others – either seatmates needing the toilet or attendant trying to get their attention; d) the person who shoves his feet, arms, hair, etc. into another passengers comfort zone.
  10. The seats are narrow, the space is limited, but keep your feet out of the aisle.  Attendants need to get by with carts, and other passengers can trip, especially on darkened planes.

I’ve probably left a few out, but you get the picture. If you really want the picture, Google passenger shaming online or on Instagram. These people make WalMartians look sane. While some might feel this is unfair, I tend to think that if you insist on removing your shirt or clipping your toe nails during a flight, you’ve relinquished any claim to dignity.

Antique Hunting – Warwick

warwick-street-from-top-sBritain is full of old things. And I don’t mean the House of Lords.

With royalty, stately homes, palaces, battle sites and ancient ruins at every turn, there’s enough to satisfy even the most avid, (and indeed gory) appetite for past glories and disasters. Continue reading

Tucson’s Heirloom Farmer’s Market

Linda Leigh sells worm castings – that’s polite for worm poop! Is there really a demand for this?

There is at Heirloom Farmers Market in Tucson. Continue reading