Miraculously, we all make the flight, and a more appealing breakfast is served on board. I have come to expect long flights, so am pleasantly surprised to find out that Singapore to Yangon is only about two hours. Just slightly more than the difference in time zone: 1.5 hours. (It's surprising I don't even know these things in advance, but by now I have gotten used to the luxury of doing what I am told without having to question it.) I don't even bother turning on the entertainment system. Before the desire to sleep takes over my body, I am happy to be sitting beside a singer! It's the first chance Megan and I have had to chat. Especially now that there are so few of us, I'm hopeful that I will be interacting a lot more with the Yale bunch once in Myanmar. So many interesting stories in store!
The Yale bunch has their first impromptu rehearsal on BWV4 (Christ lag in Todesbanden) at the Yangon airport. As planned, we are waiting for our "Visa Upon.. ..Arrival", as the sign above the relevant desk says. It resembles a site of an auction more than that of official international government business, with clouds of travelers figuratively and literally reaching for the counters, albeit in fairly civilized fashion. The airport itself looked amazingly provincial, with a beautiful golden gate-like structure, from the runway. Inside, it's actually more spacious and elegant than any American airport I know. Certainly less traffic to process, though, too. Thanks to our fearless leaders Ben, Jenna and Martin, all we need to do is relinquish our passports and wait. Not even for that long. We can rehearse more on the bus, I hear someone say.
Next step: money matters. In Myanmar, they are serious about wanting crisp, new US dollar bills in exchange for their own currency, the Kyat. The money exchange place right by our luggage carrousel only excepts two of my five $20-bills, pointing to tiny tears or almost invisible marks as an explanation for those rejected. It's not as though I hadn't been warned. This still gets me a stack of 37 (crisp!) 1000-Kyat-bills, held together by a rubber band, and some change. We didn't know we would need suitcases for our money here. (As it turns out, the prices at our hotel restaurants actually favor paying with US dollars, and I later find an ATM at a pagoda.)
Leaving the airport, we are greeted by overwhelming humidity – worse than in Singapore! We are greeted by large billboards: Coca Cola welcomes us to Myanmar! Samsung welcomes us to Myanmar! MasterCard, the first credit card in Myanmar, welcomes us to Myanmar! We gather it is a time of change in Myanmar, but we don't know yet from what to what. Most importantly, though, Momo welcomes us onto our bus – definitely the biggest and newest one around, but still much smaller and older than the ones in Japan in Singapore – and over the next few days will make us feel most welcome in Myanmar.