It is fun talking to the students about life in Myanmar. One of my questions was of course if there were any female geology students, because we have only met men so far. The students told us that only 10% of the geology students can be girls, and only those girls with the absolute highest grades can get into the program. This means that boys with lower grades can fill up the 90%, but a girl who falls above the 10% and has much better grades than the boys will not get a place. Why is this, I was wondering. Because it is difficult for girls to manage the hard life of a geologist, that is going in the field, and doing hard work. Moreover, here in Myanmar, girls and boys are not allowed to touch each other, and can also only talk to each other before it gets dark. Being on excursions or doing fieldwork therefore really complicates things. So, the students tell us, therefore it is difficult for girls and therefore their number is limited for studying geology. But it is not limited not for other subjects, as many women are teachers, doctors, biologists etc.
We also talked about dress codes. Almost everyone dresses in a longyj, men and women, boys and girls. This long skirt, which is knotted differently at the waist by men and women, is extremely practical in the heat, does not take too much space and always looks well dressed. Blouses or shirts with long or three-quarter sleeves complement the outfit. Jeans and T-shirts seem to be very popular among younger people, but shorts, short skirts, and sleeve-less tops are at least around here non-existent. The point is to cover up as much as possible to avoid the heat of the sun, but it is probably also a matter of decent dressing. Quite different to how the tourist crowd dresses, and also very different from neighbouring Thailand! But then the dress code is very similar to Laos, and actually reminds me very much of the indigenous population in Mexico’s states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Another interesting issue is that we cannot really judge each other’s age. We all think that the others are so much younger than they actually are. My guess for the age of one of the researchers, who joins us here, was that he is 36 years old, but he is actually 45! And he on the other hand guessed that I was at least ten years younger than I actually am. Great! Let’s move to Asia and keep feeling young!