Hosting a playgroup is one of the best ways of getting to know people and finding friends for your children. Of course your kids will always prefer to play with someone else’s toys but they also enjoy the opportunity to have friends round and show theirs off! It really doesn’t take too much effort, but some of the points below might help to get you started;
1. Be clear on the start and finish time. Most playgroups are about two hours and the understanding is that you can drop in at any time between the start and finish. You never know when the little ones are going to nap/have a tantrum or how bad the traffic will be so being flexible is the best option when inviting people. That said, it’s also good to manage expectations and if your kids need to have an uninterrupted lunch at 11.30 then make sure you indicate that the group finishes around 11.
2. Directions. Of course you need an address but don’t forget to include your phone numbers, landline and cell in case one or other doesn’t work, PLUS some brief directions. Road numbers don’t always make sense here and it pays to highlight landmarks and the colour of your gate.
3. Snacks. Fruit and water or juice works for the kids, with perhaps some crackers, popcorn or biscuits if you like. No need to go overboard though if you are an enthusiastic baker or have an amazing cook, feel free to show off! It will be much appreciated. Tea and coffee for the adults if you like and make sure there’s something for the nannies too; mine likes 3-in-1 coffee particularly.
4. Will you be there? Some groups are nannys only and some are mainly parents. Others are a happy mix of both but it might be prudent to indicate whether you will be around and expecting to socialise.
5. Don’t feel the need to put on entertainment or organise games. It’s usually enough to share toys and snacks and let everyone have a good old chat. If weather and your location allow, you can let people know that outdoor or messy play is on the agenda.
6. Before the playdate, have a conversation with your child about sharing, especially when they are younger. If there are particular toys they feel precious about then it’s absolutely fair enough to put them away for the duration of the playgroup. Of course, that won’t avoid meltdowns completely but at least gives your child a bit of a say in matters!
7. RSVP. If you would like to know who and how many will be attending then ask for an RSVP. There are times when you might have only one person turn up and it’s bound to be the morning you re-arranged everything to be at home! That said, if it’s a nanny group then it’s pretty self regulating and you probably don’t need to get involved at all.
8. Relax. Playgroups are supposed to be minimal effort and maximum fun. The kids will just enjoy being in a different environment and parents/carers will be glad of the chance to get out of the house and socialise.
Don’t worry too much if you feel that there aren’t enough playgroups and playdates set up. Once you’ve hosted and once you have a nanny in place, you will find that in no time at all, your little ones will have a much livelier social life than you!
Whether a short-term visitor or long-term resident, you won’t get away without a few bouts of upset tummy whilst in Yangon. Some are more sensitive than others but it will take time for your gut to become accustomed to its new surroundings and bacteria, and your physical health will be compromised by the climate, jetlag, stress, change of diet and/or lack of exercise. Suffice to say, that whilst some months you may seem to just go from upset to upset, you will soon find yourself going for much longer periods without so much as indigestion. Just give it time!
One of the main factors in your health will be hydration – you really need to step up your fluid intake in a hot country and being dehydrated can make you very ill, never mind exhausted.
What you need to know
Dehydration: Occurs when the fluid loss is greater than the input of fluid. This means that dehydration occurs not only when someone does not drink enough but when there is excessive fluid loss commonly through sweating and bouts of diarrhoea and or vomiting. This is always a bigger consideration when the climate is hot and humid and when there is an increased chance of transmission of disease through food and water. Prevention and treatment: Steps to avoid dehydration are simple. It is recommended that you drink a minimum of one litre of clean water for every 10 degrees Celsius per day, so if it is 40 degrees that will be 4 litres and 35 degrees 3.5 litres, plus whatever other oral fluids of choice over the day. Avoid long periods in the sun. If these preventative steps are not effective and treatment is required, ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) can be given to replace both the fluid and minerals that are depleted. You continue to lose water even when asleep so while you may feel OK when going to bed but you can develop the symptoms of dehydration while actually in bed.
For most people, the term diarrhoea needs no explanation! But diarrhoea is defined as watery or liquid stools, usually with an increase in stool weight above 200 g per day and an increase in daily stool frequency. If prolonged (and depending upon the offending bug) dehydration may occur. Try to estimate the amount of diarrhoea and replenish one litre of ORS for every litre of diarrhoea (or a medium glass for every movement). You must also try to include in your daily intake the same 1 litre for every 10 degrees as noted above. Diarrhoea can have many differing causes; some are serious and need treatment some are not so serious and are self limiting. For this reason if you get diarrhoea, no matter how mild you think it is talk to a health professional. All cases of diarrhoea will mean that you are suffering from an excess loss of water and salts. But it can be treated at home long before it becomes serious in the most simple of ways;
- More fluids should be taken, such as bottled, boiled or treated water, or weak tea.
- For children, very diluted juice is easier to drink than plain water
- If diarrhoea continues for more than one day, oral rehydration salt (ORS) solution should be taken
- Normal food consumption should continue.
ORS Solution (Oral Rehydration Salts); is available commercially in sachets that are mixed with clean (bottled, boiled or sterilised) water. If ORS solution is not available, a substitute containing 6 level teaspoons of sugar plus 1/2 level teaspoon of salt in 1 litre of safe drinking-water can be used, in the same amounts as for ORS. (A level teaspoon contains a volume of 5 ml.) Medical help should be sought if diarrhoea lasts for more than 3 days and/or there are very frequent watery bowel movements, blood in the stools, repeated vomiting or fever.
Antibiotics: When no medical help is available and there is no blood in the stools, a course of ciprofloxacin may be taken by adults (1g a day for 3 days) or doxycycline 100 mg or trimethoprim 100mg (twice a day for 3 days). For children and pregnant women, azithromycin is recommended (1 tablet 500mg once). Prophylactic use of antimicrobials is not recommended. Antidiarrhoeal medicines, e.g. loperamide, are not recommended for general use but may be used exceptionally (such as when embarking on a long journey), in addition to fluids and by adults only, for symptomatic relief. Antidiarrhoeal medicines should never be used to treat children.
This of course only covers some of the antibiotics you may need and therefore try to get medical advice as soon as possible. If there are any other symptoms, medical advice should be sought as soon as possible.
Vomiting: If you are vomiting when you have diarrhoea then the causative agent in all likelihood needs to be treated. Treatment in these cases should be on a case by basis due because of the causative agent and therefore medical advice should be sought. Your doctor can prescribe, if necessary, a drug that can be used to stop the vomiting and the nausea that often comes with it.
Vomiting can be due to other issues like reactions to something we ingest such as a form of toxin that the body is trying to get rid of. Vomiting is also a sign of a blockage in the Gastro Intestinal tract (the tube that goes from the mouth to the anus via the stomach and the gut). In this instance medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.
When we vomit we lose a large volume of water but also salts from the stomach contents and from the resulting green/brown stuff that comes later (bile fluid). It is very important, especially if you have diarrhoea as well to replenish the lost fluid and prevent dehydration. Even if you vomit after drinking you vomit less volume back that you drink in, so despite how bad you feel keep going with small, frequent sips of ORS. You will feel much, much worse if you are dehydrated as well.
Prevention and treatment: Most pathogens are introduced via the faecal-oral route and therefore hand washing is an absolute must. The rule of thumb with food in most countries is peel it, cook it, wash it or DON’T eat it.
What to avoid
- Water should only be drunk when you are sure of its purity. Don’t drink it without boiling, chemical disinfection or using a reliable filter. NOTE: Water needs to be boiled for 20 MINUTES to be safe. This also applies to water used for making ice cubes and cleaning teeth. Bottled or canned drinks (including water) are usually safe, as are hot tea and coffee. Remember that while the actual water may be clean; is/are the water containers used from the source to your mouth dirty or contaminated including the water dispenser in the office/house?
- Milk should be boiled (twice) unless you are sure it has been pasteurised.
- Cheeses and ice-cream are often made from unpasteurised milk. So take care and only buy from a reputable source when quality can usually be assured.
- Meat should be thoroughly cooked and eaten hot whenever possible. Avoid leftovers.
- Fish and shellfish can be hazardous at certain times of year, even if well cooked. Take local advice about seafood, but when in doubt it is best to avoid them.
- Vegetables should only be eaten when thoroughly cooked.
- Green salads should be avoided.
- Fruit should be peeled, including tomatoes.
- Wash hands thoroughly before eating or handling food, and always after using the toilet.
Remember be prepared with some ORS in your first aid kit AND ask someone for some help. If you are ill like this at least a fit pair of helping hands to make up a new batch of ORS or help clean up any mess or vomit is very useful!
With thanks to Peter Wilson and the Red Cross.
As Myanmar gets its infrastructure together and internet becomes more accessible and available (and sometimes faster too!) a wealth of useful sites, groups and resources are available. Here is a roundup of some of the best;
- Yangon Expat Connection. This is a googlegroup that has been going for almost three years and has over 3000 members. Initially created to cater for the transient expat community to exchange information and sell goods, it now boasts on average 20-30 posts per day on subjects ranging from housing, events, visas, sports and many things besides. To read more about the group click here; https://groups.google.com/forum/#!categories/yangon-expat-connection to join the group simply send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org stating why you would like to join.
- Moving to Myanmar (eBook). A fantastic resource for anyone considering a move here. Written by the brilliant Becky in Burma, herself an expat and one-time resident of Yangon, there are tonnes of practical tips, personal anecdotes and shared experiences from locals and expats. Plus a massive resource section on everything from culture shock to What to Bring when packing your shipping. A definite must read! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moving-Myanmar-resources-friendly-ebook/dp/B00CBP3ZFY
- Yangon Connection (Facebook) https://www.facebook.com/groups/127303500750801/. A lively crowd of 3000+ expats and locals share blog posts, questions and events, with debates and requests for donations to local projects coming thick and fast.
- What’s Happening in Yangon (Facebook) https://www.facebook.com/groups/307122865994971/. Another group of 5000+ mainly younger members exchanging info on events etc.
- Dos and Donts for Tourists http://www.dosanddontsfortourists.com/ A gentle and humorous view of cultural differences that might fox the tourists in Yangon, but is equally relevant (and funny!) to residents and would-be residents.
- Squar.com http://www.squar.asia/ A recently created local language forum, along the lines of social media chat sites like Facebook. Squar bills itself as Myanmar’s First Social Media Forum and has garnered a lot of attention already, despite being only a few months old!
- Yangon Taxi Translator app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.chromeinfotech.yangon.hktaxitranslator&hl=en_GB. This neat little app will translate 1000+ street names into Burmese for you so you can show your taxi driver exactly where you want to go. Works off line so you don’t need to be connected to the internet. Currently 83p (GBP) from Google Play.
- Burma Shavings. For a long time about the only resource connecting expats, Burma Shavings is a monthly newsletter distributed to members and staff of the US embassy only. Great classified section though, if you can get your hands on a copy!
- The Golden Guide to Yangon (2013) was once known as the expat bible, being a directory of resources, from embassies to schools, health clinics to shopping, services and leisure activities, all used and recommended by expats in Yangon. Collated and distributed by the excellent fundraising group the IFG (International Friendship Group) the book is available in expat shops such as Sharky’s and Monument Books at a very reasonable 6000kyats – all proceeds to charity. Be quick however as these guides sometimes run out. We are awaiting news of the 2014 edition and publication date.
I was lucky enough to attend a half day PRISM Brain Mapping Workshop in Yangon recently, run by Ian Davies of Team Thinking. In a nutshell, PRISM is about understanding behaviour through neuroscience and it appealed to me because I am always fascinated by people’s behaviour – and my own!
The workshop promises to help you find out your preferences, or strengths and weaknesses if you like, and thus allow you to make more informed decisions and improve interpersonal relationships both at home and at work. A whole workshop all about me and my brain, what’s not to like?
Of course I wasn’t alone. I was joined by another 6 delegates from all walks of life and nationalities and on a rainy Saturday morning we sat and cradled our coffees in Ian’s lovely home office, wondering for all the world what we were about to discover about ourselves and each other.
The work starts before the course. Once you have paid your deposit, PRISM sends out an online questionnaire that must be completed prior to the workshop, so that your results can be analysed and mapped for Ian to decipher and interpret. It took about 30 – 40 minutes to complete and had three sections. You were asked to answer multiple choice questions about your preferred behaviour in the workplace and at home; which statements were most or least like you in particular environments. Ian was careful to emphasise that I should think about how I really am, rather than how I would like to be (or how I would like to be perceived) and this was surprisingly harder than I had thought. I’d love to be able to say I’m not at all impatient, brusque or confrontational at home but sadly, that is just not true!
Still, the idea was to find out the true me so that I can communicate more effectively with my fellow man and not waste my time in jobs that are too far out of my interests and motivation. I couldn’t wait to find out!
With a series of exercises and tasks, Ian led us through the complexities of the brain map. Actually, it’s not that difficult once you get the hang of it and seasoned PRISM’ers have since asked me if I’m a gold, red, blue or green. Yep, the brain is divided into four main quadrants which are then divided in half again. Interesting, our group contained very little Red behaviours and we all concluded that these people are the least likely to attend such a workshop, being competitive and tough decision makers as they are, with little patience for discussions and collaboration!
It was certainly fun to do this in a group as, although we barely knew each other, we had quickly formed opinions as to how much blue or gold behaviour we expected and when the final results were revealed, much debate ensued. The map also contains three separate lines and the real point of interest is where these lines form big gaps or converge. These lines refer to your natural behaviour, your adapted behaviour (such as you show the world around you) and then an average of the two, which is how you tend to behave most of the time and probably how people tend to perceive you. If there are large gaps, these might indicate areas of stress or frustration – where you are not being allowed to use your natural behaviours to the full, for example.
I thoroughly enjoyed the day and had some suspicions about myself confirmed; I’m good at starting projects but not finishing them and I’m comfortable initiating contact with strangers, for example, as well as a few surprises; I’m very patient with ‘difficult’ people and I can fail to take matters seriously when under pressure. Whilst you go through the brain map during the workshop, Ian then sends you your full 30-page report afterwards, which has tonnes of information based on your map. The most useful bit for me was the areas I could work on to enhance my overall performance, especially at work. One of them is talking less and listening more which sounds suspiciously like an old school report and with which my husband would heartily concur!
All in all it was a very enjoyable morning and a terrifically useful tool to use in the future. The personal map and report is very thorough and I know I will be referring to it again and again. Ian is a great trainer, clearly knowledgeable, very friendly and approachable, ensuring a steady pace through the sections and providing a very relaxed atmosphere – and plenty of coffee and biscuits! Now, how do I persuade my husband to go on the next one….
For more information, go to:
Our wonderful neighbour always brings back treats from her home country, Tajikistan. Gorgeous dried apricots, walnuts, pistachios and prunes which are devoured instantly in our family. This year she surpassed herself and brought peaches. Peaches! I can’t remember the last time I even saw a peach let alone ate one. Having eaten them at home by the truckful she picked the most green and unripe ones she could find and ferried them 36 hours back to Yangon to share with friends and neighbours. Honestly, the fragrance was amazing and I didn’t even think of sharing with the kids.
Imagine her consternation then, when she got home one day to find all her peaches gone! All her carefully chosen, lovingly packed and tenderly deposited fruit left in the fridge for safe keeping. Where had they all gone?
“Oh” said the housekeeper, “they looked like they might be off so I made them into a pie.”.
Oh, indeed. Oh oh oh dear….
No doubt, Yangon has its fair share of mosquitoes. Mozzies here tend to be small, quiet and fierce! A recent visitor from Scandinavia, no stranger to mosquitoes because of the abundance of water and forests there, commented that they were like stealth insects because their small size makes them so hard to detect – until after the bite that is! Annoying because of the fierce itching their bites induce, there are many ways you can avoid, if not entirely, being bitten. Any entomologist or malaria expert (and there are plenty in Yangon) will happily tell you how and where they breed, live and bite, but you don’t need to be an authority on mosquitoes to take some very simple precautions;
- Mosquito coils, e.g. Godzilla. These can be bought in any supermarket and when lit emit a smoke which repels the insects; they are for outdoor use only. If you are outside, especially at dusk and dawn, place them under a table or by your front/back doors. They are very toxic however, so keep them well out of the way of children and especially crawling babies who find them fascinating. Make sure to wash your hands if you have handled them.
- Aerosol sprays, e.g. Raid/Jumbo. Again widely available, these promise to kill mosquitoes and other insects. They are very toxic (and smell horrible) so care should be taken not to inhale the spray. Best to spray as you are leaving the house or car and stay away for at least 30 – 60 minutes before entering again. Bathrooms, under tables and beds and behind curtains are favourite hiding places so make sure you spray here too. Spraying towards the ceiling will allow the spray to settle over the room and is very effective.
- Mosquito nets. All beds should have mosquito nets and whilst these can be annoying, they are very effective. Good ‘domes’ can be bought from Sweety Mart and work well for children’s beds and single beds. If you can get ones that have already been treated so much the better as these will not only repel but kill the mozzies too. Any holes must be repaired (easily with needle and thread) and make sure you are not touching the net when sleeping – mozzies can bite through them!
- Repellent, e.g. Odomos/Sketolene. The local brand, Odomos (or Sketolene, from Thailand), comes in cream and liquid form and is safe for use on children. However if you travel outside the country it’s worth stocking up on other brands, of which there are plenty! For kids I would recommend Mosi-guard which comes in liquid spray form (my favourite) as well as stick and cream, plus Extra Strength. Another good one is Icognito which, though mild, comes in many variations including shampoo, shower gel, wipes, after sun and even in a loofah! Great for slathering on kids in or after the shower and all of the above are child friendly and skin kind. That said, there are tonnes of options out there and many people feel that formulas containing Deet are best, but these are not safe for children.
- Fogging. Most residences, hotels and compounds will fog the grounds regularly, the idea being to interrupt the life cycle of the mosquitoes so they don’t have time to breed in vast numbers. You will be advised to close all windows and stay indoors for at least an hour. Most fogging occurs monthly but weekly is probably better to really stem the breeding cycle. Opinions vary as to the efficacy of this method but at least it’s one more weapon in the armoury against mosquitoes!
- Fans. Mozzies hate wind so if you have a fan on in your room, you should have less mosquitoes. Try placing a fan blowing under baby’s cot to deter mozzies from one of their favourite spaces.
- Avoidance. Whilst you can make sure your environment is not so hospitable to mozzies, you can also make sure that you don’t let stale or stagnant water collect on your property. Keep nets well maintained and make sure windows are not left open or keep window nets snugly fitted. Some say not to let your kids play outdoors during dawn or dusk hours but the fact is mosquitoes will bite you 24/7. Still, they seem most fierce at these times so be generous with the repellent if you have to be outside.
Malaria and Dengue Fever are of course a concern, though in Yangon incidences of Malaria are becoming rarer. What you do need to be familiar with is the symptoms, so you can seek help quickly. Both often (but not always) start with a sudden onset of very high fever and can be quickly debilitating. The only way to know if you have either condition is to get tested so go to your nearest clinic. It’s perfectly possible to suffer only mild symptoms too, but with Dengue even the worst symptoms suddenly usually disappear after 7 days. Recovery time can take up to 6 weeks however, depending on how badly you suffered.
Whilst Malaria can be treated with drugs such as Malarone, the only respite for Dengue symptoms is painkillers and fluids and waiting it out. In rare cases platelet counts can fall to dangerous levels, called Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (see post HERE) but this is unusual. Your doctor will be able to advise you further.