Room for rent, conditions apply

Flatmate wanted.

Fully furnished fifth-floor apartment.

Bedrooms: One, but it is very big, so I plan to buy a partition and make it two rooms.

Location: Myaynigone, on that street with all the tyre stores. If you want we can get an old tyre and make a swing on the balcony… sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.Jared Downing / Frontier

Jared Downing / Frontier

The apartment is small but neat and situated near a gap in the buildings so sunlight enters freely. 

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It is an old place, but not in a mouldy, cockroachy sort of way. It has a comfortable, mid-20th century feel – like your grandmother’s house – complete with flowery curtains, Winnie the Pooh figurines and fruit-shaped refrigerator magnets. It also has a bizarrely state-of-the-art entertainment system. Apparently the former tenant liked to watch her quilting shows in high-definition and with surround-sound. 

She was also a devout Catholic, as is obvious by the enormous portrait of Jesus adorned with Christmas lights and fake flowers.

Also includes:

-A collection of bootleg DVDs (in Burmese and English)
-Iron and ironing board
-A large poster of Shakira
-A borderline racist African child figurine
-Other surprises

The Myaynigone neighbourhood (as with nearby Sanchaung) is up-and-coming in the expat scene, thanks to Yangon’s new foreign hipster class. We find quiet gated communities dull, and we have no kids to send to the international schools, even if we could afford the tuition (and we can’t).

Rather, we came to Myanmar for exotic excitement; for places like Myaynigone, a neighborhood which might have been dreamed up if Charles Dickens had enjoyed a beer with Dr Seuss. It’s a tangle of old, twisted alleyways packed with tall, skinny apartments crammed together like mismatched books. They melt into an underbrush of tea shops, fruit stalls, plump women grilling chapattis and shirtless men elbow-deep in old car parts—the kind of quaint, rustic image of poverty that is sure to get Facebook likes.

(It is also within walking distance of a City Mart and People’s Park, if you like to jog.)

Practical matters: The garbage is picked up each morning by either Holy Moley or Oh Boy. They push a small cart through the neighborhood. One shouts “hoooooly-mooooley” and the other shouts “oh boy, oh boooooooy!!”

My girlfriend, who is Burmese, tells me they must be saying “a hmit,” which means “garbage,” but I am not convinced.

I have not learned how to buy drinking water in bulk. Maybe we can find out together. I would have my girlfriend ask around, but she is too busy dealing with my landlady. My girlfriend made the error of giving my landlady her phone number, and now receives almost daily calls to fill out the latest form or to “tell your boyfriend not to sit on the balcony railing, I can see him doing it from my window”, and so on. I felt bad for causing so much trouble, so I had my girlfriend bake her some cookies. It’s important not to take people for granted.

I should mention the balconies. The narrow back porch (where the washing machine is) offers a view of a years-old trench of garbage between buildings which, when observed, helps one reflect on the human condition.*

The front porch on the other hand is the jewel of the flat: wide and open with a view of the bustling street below. From there you can see the rows and rows of other balconies, packed together like Lego bricks, hung with laundry perhaps, or overgrown with flowers and plants. Hundreds of tiny windows into hundreds of tiny lives, just like ours.

Anyway, rent is $250 a month + utilities. Enquire within.

*There is no fire escape that I know of, but I like to think the garbage would lessen the blow of a heavy fall.

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