I had the privilege recently to speak at David Farley’s Restless Legs reading series at Lolita in the Lower East Side. I wrote something for the event, called “The Hopes & Dreams of Our Travel Generation’s Contributions to the Betterment of Travel are Hinged on our Collective Ability, and Willingness, to Celebrate the Mundane along with the Marvellous.”
It ended with my favorite sandwich:
I had it a few years ago, just as I was leaving BURMA. I was wrapping up a six-week research assignment in a country many said you shouldn’t go to because of the military government. I showed up at the Yangon airport with a $1 or so of unused kyat wadded in my pocket and an appetite to fill the three hours till my flight left for Singapore. The city had just opened a huge new airport – I zipped past immigration and found myself alone – just a sea of polished white tile and a dozen empty storefronts. No other travelers were there yet, and there was nothing to eat.
I saw a couple uniformed local women sweeping the spotless floor. One had thanakha tree bark-paste dotting her tanned cheeks in the image of perfect suns. I asked her if I could go out for something from the sidewalk vendor, visible from the departure lounge window. She immediately set her broom down and shuffled off in her flip-flops to ask, then shuffled back to say no, and quickly offered to retrieve something for me. It’s the sort of sweetness I found throughout the country.
Soon, she returned with a portable feast: a cup of tea, a bottled water, a bag of chips, and a Styrofoam container with two sad croissants, each stuffed with a cold hot dog. Sandwiches, YES!, I thought. I tried to give her my money, but even though the minimal cost was easily more than her day’s wage, she refused.