“Please, may I ask you a question?” Kusala preceded every question with this solicitation of permission, like he hadn’t already been putting me through the question-answer ringer for 15 minutes.
“Yes Kusala. And you don’t have to ask me if you can ask me a question every time. I give you everlasting permission to ask me questions until we get back to my bike, OK?”
“I thank you. What is ‘McDonald’s’”?
I hesitated for a moment, staring at the sky as the young monk patiently waited for my reply. We were walking across U Bein’s Bridge, a 1.2 kilometer wooden bridge that connects Amarapura to Kyauktawgyi Paya, 11 kilometers outside of Mandalay. How do you explain a world famous franchise restaurant that sells questionable food, which may or may not be physically addictive, hawked by a clown with gender identity issues? It’s a tricky concept to illustrate, even when you have the full catalogue of the English language at your disposal, never mind when you’re limited to a few hundred, one and two syllable words.
The guy certainly had a lust for knowledge. We’d already covered a range of topics, including detailed questions about English grammar and comparisons between life in the U.S. and Burma. Just when I was thinking I’d like to take my leave and ride my half-busted rental bike back into Mandalay before Buddha’s return to Earth, he’d unloaded with his coup de grâce.
I offered my best, watered-down explanation, which wasn’t very good, while privately imagining what a precious thing a little ignorance-is-bliss can be. Think of it, a world without McDonald’s – or even the concept of fast food. How much is the visa to that place?
I stifled what probably would have been a very culturally insensitive joke, inquiring if Kusala might have a sister I could marry for citizenship, begged forgiveness for my lousy explanation and made a running mount of my bike before Kusala could ask me about Martha Stewart.
- Read the previous post in this series: Goldfinger
- Read the next post in this series: Robbie Williams owes me
Leif Pettersen, originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, contributed three stories to the upcoming anthology “To Myanmar (Burma) With Love: A Connoisseur’s Guide” published by Things Asian Press. His personal blog, Killing Batteries, and his staggeringly vast travelogue could fill a lifetime of unauthorized work breaks, if one were so inclined.