the 27th Southeast Asian Games just started in Myanmar and you’ll likely (hopefully?) hear more and more about it over the coming days — and more and more about the country as a whole as it uses the Games as a vehicle to reemerge onto the world stage. the last time it hosted the games? 1969.
i happened to visit in the month leading up to the Games and there were already decorations festooning Yangon — and many included this cartoon couple, the mascots of the games:
and then i started noticing little owl statues and dolls everywhere — hanging in store windows, sitting on windowsills, in cars. do they have an obsession with owls? is it the country’s official animal? (no, that would be a peacock.)
i finally learned (while visiting the village pictured below) that they are a symbol of good luck — but only in pairs. you can’t just have one owl, you must have two for it to be a lucky charm, explaining why i never saw just one alone.
the organizers of the Games go on to say:
The owl as official mascot of Myanmar SEA Games 2013 has a personality: wise, calm, lucky, loyal, and friendly.The personality of an owl is expected to bring forth cooperation, friendship, and better understanding among the participating countries.
here are a pair of owls in a village in Bagan:
if you’re wondering what was going on underneath the owls, an old lady…
was spinning thread for some textiles she was selling.
i admit i kind of regret not getting a pair of owls to take home with me! 🙁