Stickers on the wall of a Myanmar internet cafe in Malay (right?), subtle indicators of the status, wealth, and cosmopolitan nature of a family fortunate enough to have been able to send one or more family members to work in Malaysia, from whence they bring back both money and Minnie Mouse stickers.More tasteful than the “My X went to Y, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”, plus the unfamiliar language evokes a lo-fi mystique – what are these familiar characters doing speaking an unfamiliar language?
The key is that you have to ask. Every context has little “insider” trinkets that show, to those in the know (or the want-to-know), on how many far corners of the earth you’ve tastefully trodden. They require a question, an initial inquiry, a curiosity on the part of the observer. Oh, that ol’ carving? Won it off a xxx witch doctor in a game of poker. Those flavored toothpicks? Just something I picked it up at a convenience store near the China-Kazakh border. Y’know.Implicit in all this is the status upgrade an object undergoes as it moves from an environment where comparable items are common (a stationery store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) to rare (Sagaing, Myanmar).