Virus: Inside and Outside (An Anthropological look on New Normal life of a housewife in Myanmar)

Virus: Inside and Outside (An Anthropological look on New Normal life of a housewife in Myanmar)

Myat Sandi Aung (Anthropology)

MORNINGS seem late for most of the middle class families since doors are rarely opened for insiders and outsiders. Even the functions of a door is nearly forgotten. The air outside looks fresh under the warm rays of the beautiful morning sun, ironically no one dares to breathe it in.  Sandra is preparing breakfast for her family while she hears the yells of a seller ” steamed chickpeas”. She suddenly longs for the taste of it, if she could eat it with warm rice spread an enough amount of peanut oil on. But the image suddenly disappears when she thinks of her home, which is on the sixth floor. She does not want to go down just for steamed chickpeas. She remembers that doors are to be closed and that irritating concept STAY AT HOME.

PEOPLE in Myanmar like those of many other countries in the world have been becoming prisoners of the absolute dictator, the deadly Covid 19 virus. 664 people of them miserably left behind Sandra and all of the people they love in this country. 29314 people have got infected positive. Townships in major business city Yangon are under the order of Stay At Home. Outside is as quiet as an ancient abandoned town in case there are no alarms of street vendors, selling chicken, meet, vegetables and fruit. Sandra feels like during these days, more and more vendors pass through their ward. Sometimes it is annoying as she thinks the emptiness of the streets and voices of sellers look so wired. It is now already eight in the morning but apartments are still sleeping in a deep silence.

SANDRA fries some left over rice with two eggs, then makes a jar of milk coffee while thinking of her favorite milk tea from lucky seven tea house. Usually a plate of noodle salad and a cup of milk tea are her never changing breakfast (as the same taste with many other Myanmar ladies), while her sons love to eat Mont Hinga (a nation wide traditional fish rice noodle), and her husband enjoys Ei Ca Kwe (Chinese Bread Stick) and a big cup of coffee. Myanmar mornings, formerly, used to be alive with people’s chit chat, orders of the waiters in teashops here and there. Teashops served not only places for food but also rooms for social meetings. Friends, house and motor car brokers, heavily relied on Teashops for a meeting business. Forget it ! Recently everyone is under control of this pandemic.

SANDRA stops her thinking quickly for she has to prepare her online teaching classes. It will be started at 8:30am till 11:55 am. Sandra smiles, at the same time, she signs as she recalls the innocent faces of her little students those she loves very much and also the ignorance of same students. It’s a bit difficult for Sandra to make extra strategic plans to attract these students as only she can see digital pictures of them. During these seven months, positively Sandra becomes an expert ( as the result of her strong struggles and headaches)  using digital tools like Zoom, Padlet, outbreak rooms, google drive, google forms and classrooms, advanced powerpoint, and so on. One of the students is very much attracted with her picture quizzes. Thinking of the lively laughs of her students, Sandra prays for the recovery of the world from this cruel illness.

THIDAR, Sandra’s niece, wakes up as Sandra makes morning prayers while offering rice and water on the altar of Lord Buddha. Thidar swiftly washes her face and brushes her teeth as she also has to attend Zoom meeting of English Speaking classes. Digital media, for the time being, is applied at the highest percentage. Thidar has altogether three classes, English, Business management and Art. Sandra allows her to attend these classes as one way to avoid over usage of social media, like facebook and instagram. Sandra explains her well the advantages and disadvantages of  these media. News are uploaded in every second and they change people’s emotions and feelings. More and more people become addicted to these media and the most popular one among them is watching on lives, Tik Tok and various types of videos. Sandra considers that the worst ones are comments under the posts on Facebook, as kinds of Cyber Bullying.

AT the noice of water pump, Sandra notices that her husband Ko Tin Maung has already surrounded by his invaluable orchids in the corridor room. That man extraordinarily has this taste o raising flowers.  The corridor is recently filled with over bloomed flowers. Usually he denies for any plucks of his flowers for any reasons from anyone of the family, now the situation becomes upside down. He is carefully cutting these Royal flowers to change with some cash. A seller will come and take them soon. Sandra has been taking care of Ko Tin Maung a lot as he has got jobless during this pandemic. Even he used to be a strong minded man, Sandra will never forget his face when he plucked the flowers for the first time to sell.

AS an ice breaking, Sandra turns the TV on and for sure it will wake her 5- year-old son up. He is the only owner of the family’s only TV since no one dares to grab the remote for their own choices. Lovingly, the family gives him favor for that chance but Sandra is a bit worried about her son’s Addiction to modern cartoon movies. Baking some cookies and butter bread, playing dominos can only turns his interest back. Yet the problem is people in the family have got their own stress with the situations and paying attention to this kid becomes a new challenge . Now he has been trying to use the tablet and testing some online games. It becomes a big worry for Sandra if this is his new addiction. Like or dislike, Sandra decides to adjust her own timetable for her son,  persuading him to study some school lessons.

“SANDRA!” “Yes, coming!” Sandra stops thinking as Ko Tin Maung has sat for breakfast in the kitchen.

( To be continued )

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