Run Yan­gon re­veals city’s hid­den se­crets

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse - NYO ME ny­

SCAVENGERS in their hun­dreds took to the streets of Yan­gon on Au­gust 7, pok­ing their noses into un­ex­pected places, ac­cost­ing in­no­cent po­lice of­fi­cers armed with candy, and hug­ging un­sus­pect­ing strangers.

About 60 peo­ple joined the Run Yan­gon Scav­enger Hunt, or­gan­ised by the Pre-Col­le­giate Pro­gram (PCP). Their mis­sion: to keep their eyes open, take no­tice of things they would nor­mally ig­nore, and treat the peo­ple they en­coun­tered as if they were, well, peo­ple.

The or­gan­is­ers cre­ated the event so that Yan­gon res­i­dents could learn a lit­tle more about their city, its res­i­dents, its build­ings, its his­tory and its ge­og­ra­phy.

“We in­cor­po­rated the mis­sions into the liv­ing restora­tion project. Par­tic­i­pants had to visit colo­nial-era build­ings to complete their ob­jec­tives, which in­cluded tak­ing pho­tos, find­ing out when the foun­da­tions of a build­ing were laid and so on,” said or­gan­iser Hnin Ei Nan­dar, 18.

The hunters were sent out on a to­tal of 50 dif­fer­ent mis­sions. Some were tasked with find­ing out the true name of the Lokanat Build­ing*, what Ma­ha­ban­doola Park used to be called** and what it is built on, the orig­i­nal name of Bank Street*** and so on. So, like Poke­mon Go, but with real stuff.

Some scavengers were or­dered to di­vide into teams of two and lick an iced lolly to­gether. Some had to adopt a Ti­tanic-style pose on a bridge, pedal a tr­ishaw, knock on a door and es­cape by leap­ing on a bus, or hand candy to a traf­fic cop.

“Some peo­ple don’t like traf­fic po­lice. But for a scav­enger, or­ders are or­ders. Our of­fi­cer took the candy we of­fered him, and then let us take a pic­ture of him. I didn’t ex­pect that,” said 23-year-old Kyi Kyi Sway.

“An­other task was to track down in­digo dye. Ap­par­ently Myan­mar was once fa­mous for its in­digo. I didn’t know that ei­ther.”

Other par­tic­i­pants re­ported hav­ing their eyes opened for them. “Nor­mally, we travel by car, not on foot. Now I can recog­nise many more places,” said Poe Zarchi.

Her friend and team­mate Htet Myat Swe added, “Maybe we’d be bet­ter at com­mu­ni­cat­ing if we had to talk to strangers and hug them. For hug­ging pur­poses, you have to choose the right tar­get. I went for the fam­ily with chil­dren be­cause they seemed to be more up for it.”

Khin Me Me Thet agreed, and pointed out the most ben­e­fi­cial as­pect of the process.

“Now I know the streets of down­town Yan­gon.”

* The real name of Lokonat Build­ing is the Soe­fer build­ing, af­ter its de­signer Isaac Soe­fer. **Ma­ha­ban­doola Park was called Fytche Square (af­ter the then Chief Com­mis­sioner of Bri­tish Burma Al­bert Fytche) dur­ing the colo­nial era. ***Bank Street was orig­i­nally known as Shafraz Road.

The spread is nor­mally gone by din­ner time, so hurry over for a full sea food lunch. One of the most pop­u­lar dishes is fish­er­man’s soup, known as tout san.

Myat Noe Pwint Phyu, a par­tic­i­pant, runs through her check­list.

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