Men At Work


This gent was learning how to climb telephone poles in Mandalay. The hooks were giving him a bit of trouble on the ground.

orchid sellers

Orchids have many uses in both medicine and cooking (used any vanilla lately?), so live orchids are a hot commodity at the market in Aung Ban. I’ve mentioned the deforestation problems previously, along with Kandawgyi national botanical gardens’ conservation efforts. People like these orchid peddlers would probably be the most productive collaborators, since they have a real stake in the biodiversity. Teach them how to grow and propagate the species, and you’ve got a pretty solid start to a conservation/repopulation scheme.


Handy for rain and sun A lot of the peddlers sport these all-weather hats. The basic design is quite attractive, but I’ve also seen some with rather intricate designs.

Whoops! Forgot what day of the week it was, there. These days it’s all the same: 6-7 wake up, attempt coffee and hygeine simultaneously –> review Pathoma –> review First Aid –> food? –> USMLE World questions into the evening –> cure 3am insomnia with pharmacology flash cards. Well, it’s a life of sorts.


This nun and her friend tend a monastery shrine up in Shan State, providing tea and snacks for all of the visitors. An unusual occupation, but much appreciated. They also had the most advanced water system I saw outside of Yangon – I wish I could have asked more about it.

Let Me See

Even now that most affluent visitors tote smart phones into the temples, the real resource for history and directions is the kids. There are usually a handful of kids attached to any major temple, willing to give a history and tour for a few thousand kyat (maybe 2-5 USD). Since most of them don’t have a school, it’s their venue to learn and practice any languages they’ve been trying to learn. You’ll get the most information in Myanmar, of course, but some of the kids have straight up memorized the English guidebooks. Either way, the tours are pretty decent, and certainly more fun than waving your phone around in the air, trying to get service.

Today formally kicks off our final exams, at last! Of course, no sooner do we finish these than we enter dedicated study for the USMLE Step 1 exam. Oh joy.

Shrine Carver

The steps to Shwedagon Pagoda are lined by peddlers of everything from sandals to bells and buddhas. The statuettes often come with gilded sandalwood pedestals or miniature shrines, which – where space it is at a premium – are carved, painted, and sold on location.


Click on the image for a much better view!

Doing the Garden Digging the Weeds

Inle Lake is much more than the tourist trap that you’re likely to see in a guidebook. Like the rest of Shan State, it’s an important agricultural resource. All of Myanmar’s tomatoes are grown in its extensive aquaculture beds. While these superficially look much the same now as in the past – pole frames supporting acres of crops, each threaded by a network of canals to allow tending by canoe – the overapplication of pesticides is a real problem. There is no healthcare system to pick up on the extent of the human effects, but it isn’t difficult to imagine, when the people rely on the lake for fish, drinking water, and bathing.

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