Posted by: yannaungoak | May 27, 2015


It seems odd that the only times I feel compelled to write these days are when I’m on a flight, alone, with my phone switched off and my brain somehow set to “transition mode”. It is also odd that this “transition mode” only sets in on my flights from Singapore to Myanmar, but never the other way around.

Maybe going back to Singapore – back to the wife, back to the house – is too comforting to push me into being reflective. That transition is more of a switching off, where a certain domesticatedness automatically takes control inside me, and I am usually unconscious of it until I’m well in the thick of it. An obvious, adult, set of worries surrounds me on my flights back to Singapore: of laundry getting done, paychecks getting processed, and of finding places for dinner with the wife. No questions are asked beyond “How do I go about getting these tasks done?”, and then automaton-esquely, the Singaporean in me goes about doing them when I land.

The flights going the other way are always more jarring, requiring of a calibration, and a consciousness of a transition. It is a less obvious stream of thoughts, in the sense that if the random person sitting beside me on the plane were to guess what’s going through my mind, they’d probably get it wrong. Less obvious, and less adult as well, and definitely having less to do with ascribing personal responsibility to myself.

It is the transition of suddenly having to come to terms again with Myanmar, and the absurdities of the pace, of the transition that it itself is going through, and the leeway I have in choosing how much I want to be a participant in it, or just be a spectator watching from the sidelines.

I think the reflectiveness is really induced by the need to make that choice all over again, or rather something between that pseudo-freedom to choose and a recalibration of myself to the choices I have implicitly and explicitly, already made.

Questions pop up. “Why the hell did that stupid population control law get passed?” “When are they going to announce more details about the elections?”

They get more abstract. “How might all these moves be strategically important?” “What is the long game everyone is playing?” “What is the scope for ‘change’ and ‘transition’ anyways?” “How do we decide what is collectively good for 50 million people?”

I then get reminiscent. “Hmm I remember this lecture about public choice I attended at school.” “I want to go back and read Ken Arrow’s book on social choice.”

And so I drift into nerdiness. Away from the responsibility of having to actually do anything, to the pleasure of just being able to think about things, at least for the two and a half hours before hitting the tarmac at Mingalardon.


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