Myanmar reporter discovers art of not sleeping in the Big Apple

Myanmar reporter discovers art of not sleeping in the Big Apple

Tin Yadanar Tun 20 Dec 2017

Hundreds of people took advantage of the free admission to MoMA on Friday evenings. Photos: Tin Yadanar Tun

At the core of any visit to a true 24-hour city lies one very important question: To sleep or not to sleep?

When the sun goes down, these cities show their other side. Gone are the office workers, delivery trucks and kilometre-long traffic jams – night-time is when these cities spring to life with bars, restaurants, clubs, museums and galleries.

Recently, I visited perhaps the most famous 24-hour-city, the city that never sleeps: New York. Being considered somewhat of a sleep addict by my family, I assumed all would be usual and my reputation would get through unscathed. But by the end of my two days in the Big Apple I had only slept for six hours.

That’s not because I was drinking huge cups of Starbucks’ coffee (in the US they sell a 916 millilitre cup of coffee), it’s because sometime soon after arriving, my circadian rhythm switched settings from Yangon to New York. I simply forgot to sleep.

At night New York lights up. Most of the high-rise buildings in New York City are, on average, more than 38 floors high with the highest being the 104-floor One World Trade Center. At New York’s beating heart, Manhattan Island, these luminescent canyons of steel and concrete go as far as the eye can see.

While not being a terribly confusing city to navigate, I felt the best way to get one’s bearings would be to see it from up from high. Good thing New York’s not short on tall buildings. I decided to head to the tallest building in the city, the Trade Centre, but when I arrived I was shocked to see that hundreds of other people had the same idea.

The strangest thing about New York is how crowded it is. During the day, Yangon is crowded. But at night-time, many parts of the city look like a ghost town. Not New York. You’ll see almost as many people out during the day as you will at night. It means, even though you’re in a foreign city, you’ll never feel alone. It’s always very easy to find someone to start up a conversation with. People are always eager to find out where you come from and what your story is.

But this time I decided that rather than wait for hours in line I would move on to another attraction. The world famous Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) gives free admission after 4pm.

It seems, people in New York, like in Yangon, love free stuff. I have never seen the kinds of crowds I saw that evening at MoMA. Thousands of visitors on every single floor. MoMA boasts some of humanity’s greatest artistic works, but I can tell you half a Warhol’s not nearly as good as a whole one. With all the clicking of shoes reverberating off the shiny wooden floor, those iconic dripping clocks from Dali’s ‘Persistence of Memory’ took on a more literal meaning. Under normal circumstances, one could spend more than a few hours meandering through MoMA. But with the crowds it felt more like I was waiting for a bus on Mahabandoola Street after work.

Thankfully the other great thing about New York is its food stands. Unlike in Yangon where people always find a place to sit, be it on a trishaw or a small plastic stool, New Yorkers don’t sit. They eat their food quickly, usually standing and with one hand. While the ubiquitous New York pizza slice can be purchased from street stands and corner stores for as little as US$2 at anytime, day or night, I was shocked to see the popularity of Middle Eastern-style cuisine.

It’s not hard to find friends in New York city.

There are halal street food stands all throughout the city selling trays of sliced beef and chicken with rice, salad and sauces. The spiced meat has a similar flavour profile to Burmese curry — so naturally this was my meal of choice. The kebab is universally adored but who would’ve thought that New Yorkers loved their biryani or danbauk so much? There were always 5 to 10 people crowded around these stands munching down plates of the spiced rice. Someone needs to tell Nilar biryani to seriously consider expansion into the Big Apple.

New Yorkers don’t just eat quickly. They walk quickly and talk quickly too. You won’t get stuck behind a pair of umbrellas on a New York sidewalk. While it can be overwhelming at first for someone from a city as laid back as Yangon, the rapid speed of the city soon gets your adrenaline going. It wasn’t long before I found myself moving at a brisk walk with my eyes to the pavement only looking up to scream “Ey! I’m walkin’ ‘ere” at yellow taxis.

That taxi driver was probably an Iranian, or Punjab, or Polish; perhaps New York’s most endearing feature is its diversity. Whether you’re at the base of the Statue of Liberty or eating a slice of pizza in Uptown Manhattan, New York has the ability to feel like it could be anywhere in the world. In 48 hours I heard more languages being spoken than I could count.

My advice: if you’re in New York on a tight schedule, let the rhythm of the city pull you along. You’ll probably be surprised at how much stamina you really have. Otherwise, there’s always Starbucks.





10.07.2014 Discussing Sport-Based Youth Development

International Sports Programming Initiative- Sport for Social Change

The International Sports Programming Initiative is funded by the SportsUnited branch of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), and the program is developed and delivered by Global Training and Development Institute. SportsUnited is a Division in ECA devoted to Sports diplomacy, and taps into sport’s ability to increase dialogue and cultural understanding between people worldwide. For more than sixty years, ECA has funded and supported programs that seek to promote mutual understanding and respect between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Other ECA programs include the Fulbright Program and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. For more information about ECA programs, visit: http://exchanges.state.gov/

Sport for Social Change

The exchange program provides a 2-way educational and cultural exchange to 20 professionals working in sport-based youth development (10 from South Africa, 10 from the United States). The program will encourage participants to share their experiences, challenges and successes in managing and organizing youth sport. While traveling overseas, participants will discuss sport-based youth development and the practical applications of using sport in working with youth in their communities. In addition, each participant will be paired with someone from the opposite country participate in a 3-day job shadow at their counterpart’s organization as a way to see the methodology in practice.

For the first portion of the exchange, South African fellows will travel to the U.S. with Dr. Marion Keim and Ms. Nariman Laattoe (of the University of the Western Cape) to participate in the 12-day U.S. based exchange, which includes a 3-day job shadow. After the South African fellows return home, all participants in this program will use a web-based platform to collaborate in the creation of a small social change project that uses sport to engage youth. These small projects, supported by mini-grants, will empower South African participants to use their previous skill combined with their experience in the United States to address a community need. In March of 2015, the group of U.S. fellows will travel with GTDI program staff, Roy Pietro and Danielle DeRosa to Cape Town, South Africa to learn more about the practical applications of sport-based youth development in the Western Cape region, and to also spend time at their counterpart’s organization to job shadow and work on the small grant-funded project.

Sample U.S. Based Agenda

For more information on this program, please email Danielle DeRosa.

(Canceled) 9/18/2014 Diaspora Tour & Panel

DiasporaIn recognition of the tremendous contributions that America’s diaspora communities make toward the development of their countries of heritage, Andrew O’Brien, Special Representative for Global Partnerships for the US Department of State,   is leading a Diaspora Tour that takes Washington on the road to:

  • Build awareness around the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) partnership;
  • Encourage creative partnerships between diaspora communities, local governments, and the private sector;
  • Demonstrate US government policy commitment to engage with diaspora communities;
  • Open dialogue with previously unengaged demographics and diaspora communities

Increasingly, cities are embracing diaspora communities as a tremendous resource for its own urban development and revitalization, as well as a great resource for building important economic and cultural links with diaspora heritage cities, countries, and communities.

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