The First Five Meters
The original title was “the first 50 meters,” but that was way too ambitious.
There is a security man outside my building. At least he always sits there and his impeccably ironed shirt has a patch on its sleeve with “security” on it. He sits on a molded plastic chair and I think he sleeps/lives in the ground floor hallway. At least, I saw him lying down once in a small bed next to the stairs.
It is all guess work. I cannot interpret even the simplest signs around me.
I have had two dealings with the security man. On day 1 he pointed to a spot where I could deposit a bunch of discarded plastic and cardboard packing materials. And over the last two days, he and I have communicated over a key I need for the front gate. Apparently, the padlock goes on the building at 11 pm. I got the key yesterday. My security man showed me how you have to fiddle (a lot) before the key works. With the help of a bystander who knew the words “no original,” it is clear that I have a copy of a copy of a copy. As I walked into my building, he gave me a solid thumbs up. I returned the gesture: we are good.
There is a narrow pathway between the electrical transformer right in front of my door and the stalls or vending carts. It depends on the time of day. In the morning, there is a fruit and vegetable stall. In the evening, the same space is occupied by a crepe seller and a grilled meat-on-stick seller. Right in front of the transformer is a beans-in-a-leaf seller.
Within my building proper and well within my five meter limit is the entrance to a diagnostic clinic. I have not had the need to explore it, but I have visited the freezer in the little grocery store next door. It packs passable ice cream, 300 kyat for a small tub of vanilla and 500 kyat for chocolate. The young woman in the store hands you a little wooden spoon in a graceful manner typical of Myanmar; her right hand extended and her left hand touching her right elbow. There is a hint of a bow and always a smile.