A queer feminist anthropologist exploring the realities of culture, gender, and sexuality in contemporary Asia
I feel nomadic at heart. I am happiest when I am on the move, carrying everything I need on my back. I have traveled alone, and together with friends and family. The most memorable experiences are not of the scenery, of the food or of the tourist attractions but of the people I met.
I think there are three simple things that make traveling most enjoyable, no matter where you are or how familiar you are with that place:
Food (and drink): Eating is something we all have to do. It unites us in our fragility, and sharing food highlights our humanity. Food though, is different all over the world. I believe food, and the rituals that surround it, are often representative of the culture itself. And, in most cultures I have visited, meals are the time when people interact the most.
Local people: Culture is not in the landscape, not in the wildlife, and not accessible if you isolate yourself. Culture is about language, habits, rituals and religions. Only by meeting local people and by talking to them will you get to know the personality of whatever location you’re in. It is people that tell the stories.
Stories: Stories, not histories, hold the truth of a society or culture. The creation myths, local legends, and the simple stories of local people will enrich your view of the culture that surrounds you. Make friends with people, listen to the stories, and you will learn far more about the culture.
I am always conscious to remember that I are a visitor, an outsider. I may be richer, better educated (by some standards at least) and only there for a short time, but I rely heavily on their hospitality. I try to appreciate local peoples’ generosity, and share with them what I have in turn.
So here’s a selection of posts I’ve written about my travels.
When I first arrived in Beijing in September 2014, I knew almost nothing about the country I’d just moved to. I was embarking on a new life that didn’t seem to have a sell-by date – I had no idea how long I’d stay or even when I would next go home. While many of…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Daj1qlw5qrI Reading this in China? View Narrate China on youku “It was a very peaceful place… and up ahead, we hear this blood curdling scream”. When he met a traveller on the way to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), Tom accidentally got more than he bargained for. In this video, Tom thinks back on an old story from…
Pyone Thet Thet Kyaw can be found at the British Embassy, working for the Department for International Development (DFID) in Yangon from 9-5, and leading her own dressmaking start-up, Virya Couture, on 39th Street every evening, juggling two completely different careers but pursuing one dream. Pyone spans sectors while securing rights for her fellow women…
Pyone Thet Thet Kyaw is a Rakhine Burmese woman who works for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in Yangon, and runs her own dressmaking start-up in her spare time. As the founder and head designer at Virya Couture, she teaches vocational skills to underprivileged women, helping them overcome poverty.
Betel nut is Burma (Myanmar)’s most common addiction. Little parcels of tobacco and Areca nuts wrapped in lime-coated betel leaves are passed around and chewed. Betel is commonly chewed by cab drivers who use the drug concoction to stay awake for long hours on the road (5pm-9am is a common cab driver’s shift). The parcels…