20 pairs of Burmese eyes stare at me as I stumble on a public bus in Yangon, Myanmar. I point to my crumpled photocopied map and smile big, “Shwedagon Pagoda?” The bus attendant shoos me forward and makes some sort of joke at my expense.
I curse myself for being too cheap to take a taxi.
As soon as I pay the $0.10 bus ticket, a shy young woman with very good English informs me that I am on the completely wrong bus. So that’s what the joke was about. She points to the other side of the street and instructs me to take the #28 bus. The advice is well-intentioned but utterly useless given that none of the city buses have roman numerals on them. All I see are the loopy loops and defined curves of the Burmese alphabet.