When I was young, whenever I arrived at mohinga shop, mohinga seller would ask what I would like to have. (For those of you who are not familiar with Mohinga, it is a traditional Myanmar dish of rice noodle in fish soup). I would usually order a bowl of mohinga with fishcake (nga phal). After my order, I would look around other people’s bowls and I saw them eating the same hot bowl of mohinga with different rice noodles, flat ones whereas my Mohinga soup was filled with thin rice noodles (Mote Phat). At that time, I did not know the difference between the noodle types and had no clue how to order mohinga with flat rice noodles. As I was an extremely shy person, I did not have courage to ask the sellers or people sitting next to me about this noodle type.
I only knew that the flat noodle is called as “Hnyat” when my aunt cooked mohinga at home and asked me whether I would love to have it with normal or flat noodle. Needless to say, I chose that flat noodle that I didn’t know how to call, and damn, it was so delicious. (I did have foodgasm at that time.) Still, the next time I ordered mohinga at the shop, I would still eat it with thin rice noodle. Why? Because most people would just order it with thin rice noodle and I felt like if I ordered with thick rice noodles, I was not conforming to the society where most people just ate with thin rice noodles. It took me over 20 years for taking up courage to order mohinga with thick rice noodles. That might seem like an unimportant and simple task for other people but in the world of an extremely weird and socially awkward introvert guy like me, that was quite a huge challenge.
Sometimes, I went to local tea shop together with my friends. There, a waiter would ask what he could serve for me. My usual order would be tea but the waiter followed up with another question. What kind of tea, sir? I said “Pone Hman,” meaning normal proportion of hot water and condensed milk. When my tea was served, I always felt that the taste is too sweet and I did not enjoy it. (I wondered how much condensed milk might be added in Cho Saint, sweetened and creamy.) There were many other options available but I still ordered Pone Hman to conform to the society where majority ordered Pone Hman. I did not want to be an outlier. Just a few days ago, I ordered Pawt Saint (Less sweetened and creamy) and it just synchronized well with my taste bud. Since then, whenever I go to tea shop, I order Pawt Saint. Yet, it took me quite some time to order teas other than Pone Hman.
During high school, as many of you know, teachers will just lecture continuously to us without setting time for questions and answers sessions. Discussions were not encouraged. The inquisitive ones asking insightful questions were even scorned as “Nerd (Sar Ja Poe)”. So, to avoid these remarks, I also usually remained silent in the class though I might sometimes be confused with some lessons. I had been conforming to Myanmar society norm of not asking questions during the class period. It was not until I studied abroad in the States that I became familiar with students’ habits of raising questions to professors. Their questions were really thought-provoking and discussions made among the colleagues sometimes answered the questions that I had during the lecture.
It was not until my sophomore year that I tried to raise my hand to ask my professor a question in an English class. Before I asked questions, my mind was overflowing with many thoughts such as, “Isn’t this question a stupid one? What if the classmates laugh at my question? Shouldn’t I just request the appointment with my professor after the class to ask the question?” Nonetheless, I really wanted to ask that question and I somehow built up enough courage to raise my hands. My professor, who may have been surprised to see a quiet student like me raising hands, gave her full attention to me and it came my time to shine (or die). 😛 After my questions, she answered it with a big smile, followed by other students sharing their opinions. I had never felt happier before for my action. It took me more than thirteen years (eleven years of schooling in Dagon 1 and two years of preparing for TOEFL and SAT exams) to simply ask one question that I am confused about. Oh yeah, it felt so good.
Introverts are usually shy, prefer to stay alone, and do not enjoy hanging out nor partying with friends. However, even among the introverts, I may just be one step above all of them, for I am more socially awkward and extremely shy compared to other introverts. I remembered that my face blushed immediately after my teacher teased me with one girl in the English class. These were just some confessions of an extremely shy and socially awkward introvert, but I do have fear of talking to girls, for which I may probably publish in another article.
Zaw Ye Naing