Pest Control, Myanmar Style

So, there I am in the middle of my Burmese language lesson, and out of the corner of my eye, I catch sight of something streaking across the kitchen floor. And it is then I realise that the mouse problem is back. I’m not averse to sharing my home with small, inoffensive rodents, but they tend to multiply pretty fast, and without some kind of action, the fear is that we’ll soon be far outnumbered. Fortunately, however, my Burmese teacher …

In Our Neighbourhood

The festival of Tazaungdaing (တန်ဆောင်တိုင်) is drawing to a close, and things in our neighbourhood here in Bahan township have been pretty lively. So I thought I would share a couple of videos from the last few days. Here is a video from the festival the other day – complete with cross-dressing and papier-mâché puppets (Burmese culture, interestingly, has all kinds of interesting things going on around gender).   That was a few days ago. Today is Sunday, and so …

I threatened to love my body, refrain from liver…

Here in Myanmar, the holiday of Tazaungdaing (တန်ဆောင်တိုင်), marking the end of the rainy season, has almost arrived. On my trip back from the tea-house after a breakfast of potato curry and paratha, there was dancing in the streets, even though it was still early. There is tinsel everywhere, and the raggedy back-streets around my apartment rocking with loudspeakers. I really like this kind of public liveliness. Yesterday, whilst getting ready to head out in the evening, I heard a Burmese …

Ko Pha and I

Outside the rain is coming down in torrents, and it doesn’t look as if it will stop for a while. The lights have just blown, and outside it is dark. It is 2pm and we are sitting in the front room of the apartment by candlelight, listening to the Weather Girls singing “It’s Raining Men” (what else are we to do?). All of this is a mild inconvenience for all of us in the house, with the exception of Ko …

Yangon, again

Well, it has been just under a year and a half since I was last here, but three days ago I flew back into Yangon. I’m here for several months doing some work with the project I jointly run (along with Hannah Stevens), Wind&Bones. I’m still finding my feet again, but I’m glad to be here. The plan is to be here for several months, perhaps longer – depending on how our various plans work out. It it is good …

Ethics and Writing

We spent our final afternoon at the book festival in Ubud yesterday with a diverse group of writers talking about questions of ethics. I’ve been interested in the relationship between ethics and writing for a long time, and I am often puzzled by the way that creative writing programmes – unlike, for example, journalism programmes – pay such scant regard to matters of ethics. Sometimes, perhaps even frequently, I have encountered the view that the writer’s job is simply to …

Photos from Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 2018

There’s a lot to digest from the Writers and Readers festival here in Ubud so far. The last few days have been something of a blur of fascinating conversations, new friendships forged, and piles of new books to read. There’s still the final day to go – I’m running a workshop this afternoon with Hannah Stevens as a part of our Wind&Bones project, looking at writing and ethics. From tomorrow, life gets a bit calmer as we head up to …

Three Lessons from Tanimbar, a Prologue and an Epilogue

At the Ubud Writers and Readers festival tonight, I’ll be giving a talk on my book Stealing With the Eyes at the lovely Casa Luna restaurant. I’m really looking forward to it. The subtitle of the talk is “Three Lessons from Tanimbar, a Prologue and an Epilogue”. As a taster, here is the outline. I’m looking forward to it. Prologue: On Babies made from Shit “From her shit she made a ball, and out of this she fashioned a baby” …

That Which Blossoms in the Dark

Here in Ubud, I’m getting ready for the opening night of the Writers and Readers festival. It’s going to be a busy few days, and I’m already excited. Last night was the informal reception for the writers involved in the festival, and for the people covering the events over the coming few days. It was a wonderful evening of fun and of stimulating conversations – about everything from poetry to LGBT rights, and from mental health arts project to the …

Everywhere is Exotic, Everywhere is Mundane

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about travel-writing and anthropology, and about the obsession with exoticism that runs through both, in different but equally uneasy ways. Travel-writing often seeks to heighten the exotic: the excitable travel writer revels in it, talking up their experiences and carefully framing photographs to make sure that the Coca-Cola signs are not included. Meanwhile, anthropology tends to downplay it: the sober anthropologist refuses to get involved, sets out to demonstrate that this apparent exoticism is …