The Cuso Orientation Cocoon
Cuso, in its wisdom, insulates its volunteers in the first days from the realities of life in Yangon. It picks people up from the airport. It puts people up in a good hotel for the four or five nights, and fills the days with a mixture of discussions and orientation sessions and free time/guided outings and dinners.
The CUSO office is part of the cocoon. Located just north of the 8 mile junction, it is in a frmer house, now office, in a suburban part of town. The mile count starts downtown. The office internet works; everybody speaks English; there is cold water in the fridge. The Mile 7 Hotel is nearby, also just off Pyay road, a major spine road between the airport and downtown. The first day, we were picked up; later we walked (roughly 30 minutes) or took a taxi. The Mile 7 hotel is fully air conditioned; its elevator works, it has a back-up generator in case of power outages and has a pretty good internet connectivity.
Mostly, the cocoon is the CUSO staff and volunteers who have been in Yangon for some time. They flag the taxi and negotiate a price, and pay. They know restaurants where the food is good and safe. They patiently help as some of us struggle with the fancy Huawei smartphones that connect us.
And so, at the end of day 5, the cocoon metaphore breaks down. Maybe we emerge as Yangon butterflies; maybe not. But the cocoon is no more. Yesterday, I spent my first night in my apartment. That is a story of honking taxis and howling dogs.