Just a girl in a teashop

Ode to a Burmese Tea Shop

There’s a special little spot reserved in my heart for a street in Yangon. Not even a street really just a little slice of a street. Sandwiched between a tea shop and a book store on 37th street, away from the bustle of Trishaws and taxis.

Cigarettes are served up like snacks in the centre of the table, next to my delectable favourite fried potato balls.

I finished my first cup of tea and hailed the young boy in a Manchester United shirt, a team he’d probably never watched, to get me another with the kissing noise that is customary here, if not a little vulgar to foreign me.

I settled back in to my book with the battle sounds of the teashop echoing behind me, chinks of cups, incomprehensible yells from the teaboys and business deals being finalised over trinket sized teasets between grown men on child sized stools.

Grown men on toy chairs

Grown men on toy chairs

I felt my anxieties ease, the medicinal qualities of a cup of tea and good literature working it’s magic on a lonely alien in a Yangon tea shop.

A good book and an even better cup of tea is there anything more perfect?

A good book and an even better cup of tea is there anything more perfect?

I’m sat across from the bookshop we found on the first day in Yangon, reading the same book I bought, the buildings around me drenched in flaking paint with mildew carving into the bright greens and blues with stark brutality. Natures only claim here is in the cracks it has found home in the decaying colonial era buildings, An archaic and disarming reminder of a British era past. Leaves and vines find their way from drainpipes and unkempt corners next to laundry draped over balconette rails. Back on street level betel stains new and old decorate the floor around me and also the teeth of passing street workers, ‘mingalabar’, they say with their crimson lips parting into mischievous grins.

The book shop, piles of the classics, even the books here are fakes

The book shop, piles of the classics, even the books here are fakes

Returning here after 3weeks around the country has allowed for deeper analysis of this instantly mesmerising city. This friendly capital of old practically hostile in relation to its southern and Northern counterparts.

It is hard to distinguish at times whether passing looks are those of intrigue or disdain, confusing the two an easily forgivable offense, but looking out from my streetside (almost floor level) perch I can’t help but watch my surveyors pass with childish bemusement.

The tea boys here barely look old enough to be in school let alone out of it, yet there prowess and positions undeniable, they rule this place under the sharp eye of their, older, superior. Placing tempting potato balls down before me, mysterious banana leaf wrapped packages. Sneaking stares of curiosity when I turn my head away, only to break into fits of giggles when I catch their glares.

A teashop in Yangon, my sanctuary in a sea of unfamiliarity.

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