This time, I had no guardian angel, so, instead, just yelled out the name of a popular tourist attraction as each bus pulled up slowly to the bus stop, knowing the attaction was only a few blocks away from my host's home.
Jumping onto a passing bus, I sat down next to a man who spoke fairly good English. He assured me I was heading in the right direction. An hour later I found my way to the front door of my Couchsurfer's apartment building.
Myanmar lacks some Western conveniences, such as door buzzers, but the people certainly don't lack ingenuity. Each apartment has a rope tied to a bell, stretching down to the street.
If a visitor wants to get into the building, he pulls the rope, which rings the bell, notifying the occupant, who then attaches a front-door key to a small caribiner and slides it down. Some residents attach plastic bags to the end of the rope to haul up goods from passing street vendors.
Myanmar is the kind of place that guests need to follow the rules, which led me to a quandary. I've always believed that the best way to understand a culture is by staying with the people who live there, which is why I'm a proponent of Couchsurfing, an internet site that matches travelers with local hosts. The problem is tourists in Myanmar are allowed to stay only in officially-licensed hotels or guest houses, so, technically, by staying with a Couchsurfer, I would be breaking the law and breaking the terms of my visa.
As for the government's official policy that tourists can only stay in official hotels, Jonathan said the government is now much more relaxed. In addition, he said there's so much beucracy among agencies that it's hard for officials to keep track of anything, let alone an American staying where he may or may not belong.
The bottom line seems to be that home stays still are illegal or might not be, depending on which agency and which person is asked.
The American had nothing but good things to say about Myanmar and plans to stay long term. Since another friend was visiting, and I was also quite tired, we all just stayed in, watched a movie, and Jonathan answered all of my questions about his adopted country. I had an added bonus of sampling some of his authentic Myanmar cooking.
The next morning, I packed up for my return flight to Singapore, unpacked, and repacked for my flight to America for Christmas. I lead a rough life.
Although I'm grateful to have visited Myanmar and would urge others to do so, Myanmar isn't Disneyland.
Regardless of one's politics, my personal impression is that the people of Myanmar are anxious for foreigners to experience the magnificent temples and the rich culture of the 100 ethnic groups that make up the country and anxious to leave behind the almost 50 years of international isolation.