Trip to the marketplace
Moving away from the noise and bustle of the main street with its motorbikes and wooden wagon taxis, we saunter along the small dusty side road to the marketplace. Weaving our way past sleeping stray dogs, small but lively groups of schoolgirls, and old men with crinkled faces and yellowed teeth, we watch occasional pupils picking their way across the plastic bag polluted river to school, and reach the market after a few minutes
It’s winter in Kalaymyo – which roughly corresponds to our late summer – but people, feeling cold, are dressed warmly in scarfs, hats, jackets, trousers and longyi (their national dress, a long wrap-around skirt worn by the men). Women wearing colourful wrapped scarf-cum-headdresses, babies on their mother’s back, children eating breakfast at the family stalls, all are part of the kaleidoscope of the market place. Many of the vendors simply squat on the ground. The corrugated iron roofs, weathered wooden planks and pale dusty ground flecked with small pools of betel nut spit, contrast with both the vibrant colours of the clothes, and the impressive array of vegetables and general merchandise.
What is sold in the market? Readymade breakfasts assembled before your eyes (noodles, herbs and spices, sauces, chopped vegetables and meat), soaps, shampoos, basic stationery, fried vegetable snacks, cheap Chinese clothes, cosmetics, shoes, endless vegetables and grain, canned drinks, various assortments of raw and dried fish and meat, river weed for pig food.
A small woman with watchful humorous eyes, selling breakfast, sits next to me and observes my note-taking with interest. She offers me a large homemade cigarette, proudly showing her tin of chewing tobacco and laughing somewhat rudely at my initial incomprehension and decline of her offer. Then, having brought in enough kyats for the day, she unties and brushes her long dark hair, climbs on her motorbike and roars off into the distance.
New developments using technology
As a result of our recent trip, especially with Frank Xing’s computer expertise, we’ve been able to make some worthwhile changes to our systems and communications.
We have hired new local staff to work in a new market. Ye Ye Win has a business degree from Yangon University and is more quickly able to understand the business concepts of microfinance.
We were also able to build on the skills that were already there, providing much more simplified documentation and translation into Burmese for new and potential clients. We also upgraded the technology of local staff by ensuring that they all now have smartphones, freeing them from having to go to internet cafes.
We can now action and approve proposed business plans the same day by using Google drive.