The Myanmarican: A Memoir Of An American In Myanmar

An American to publish the first memoir about life before and after the reopening of Myanmar to the West. In this touching — and sometimes troubling — true-life story, Handley recounts his decade in Myanmar, his attempt to reconcile Buddhism with advertising, overseas US citizens requirements verses overseas US Multinational company behaviors and how he almost renounced his US citizenship to “become a native.”
The Personal And Public Journey Defined By The People And Culture Of Myanmar.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado – When the Twin Towers collapsed, John Handley’s life was already entering a rocky juncture. In the wake of the attacks and on the heels of a fresh divorce, he decided to take a leap of faith and join a woman he just met to travel across the world to her home country — Myanmar. 

Dr. Anna Khin Khin Kywat, it turned out, is much more than first encounters reveal. She founded the country’s adverting industry, having introduced the concept to Myanmar through major foreign clients.  

In this empathetic and candid memoir, Handley provides a rare glimpse into Myanmar life, utilizing his flare for interpreting cultural norms to develop savvy and transparent business filled with integrity – from creating Myanmar’s most successful HIV/AIDS campaign to being the first foreigner to pass government censors to launching American corporations during the country’s great reopening, a US foreign policy achievement trumpeted as Hillary Clinton’s greatest success. At the time, Handley welcomed the former Secretary of State with a full-page ad during her first visit in 2012. 

Throughout this decade-long journey, we start by witnessing Handley revitalize the country’s advertising industry through a campaign that the Financial Times called “clever, culturally sensitive marketing.” Whether he is scrambling to avoid an imminent banking collapse, parlaying in the “Burmese way of doing business” with politicians or traveling the country with his new-found friends to sell video CDs of his Burmese-inspired songs, Handley comes across as a man on the move. Only after he created a music persona — music being the only work not barred by US sanctions — was he able to break into the market like no foreigner ever has. 

Handley’s Myanmar is one of extreme joy and sacrifice, expressed through the people he meets and comes to love, including his employees who, Handley says, “became like my sons and daughters.”

“He really knows Myanmar,” MRTV-4 has said of him, regarding his best-selling VCD album. But for Handley, in spite the travails of Burmese business amid a crumbling economy, his wife, Dr. Anna Khin Khin Kyawt, was always there to provide moral support.  

Their wait finally paid off in 2011, when sanctions on Myanmar were widely eased. Handley and Anna would then go on to launch major American companies into the “last great frontier,” including P&G, PepsiCo and HP among many many others Such as Samsung and local companies such as CB Bank. But some of these stalwarts of American commerce and the Advertising Agencies he encountered proved to be more of a challenge than he expected. In a trip to the US early in 2014 to secure payments that were in some cases overdue for 9 months, it was then that he decided to do what he could to illustrate practices made by some of the world’s largest companies operating in Myanmar and the disadvantage US citizen’s may have abroad due to higher ethical and legal requirements. 

Prior to leaving Myanmar, Handley even called up a request from the minister of culture, a close friend who he had worked with to ink an agreement for the SEA games, asking if it would be possible to lobby for him to become the first foreigner to obtain Myanmar citizenship. This would allow him to no longer be bound by certain sanctions that otherwise restrict US businessmen abroad and then put him on even footing with the Asean business counterparts. Yet a short visit from his Mother, a US Navy Vet, convinced him to refocuss his sense on the value of being an American. 

But the real revelation transcended the business and political issues when Handley ultimately decides to take an introspective turn to beg the question, “Just how possible is it for Buddhism and advertising to work together?” With a phylosophy demanding not having attachements and the other, advertising, creating them.  Handley attributes it as the major reason for this memior at this time in his life with him funding the effort by tapping his 401k retirement fund to get started.

In a last-ditch attempt to resolve his cognitive dissonance, Handley finally finds solace in Theravada Buddhism with help from his Myanmar friends, who all take to the road in a pilgrimage as monks. Together, donning saffron robes, they confront the aftermath of sectarian violence, but also the conflicts within themselves. 

John Handley will be contributing a large portion of his books sales to his monastery in Yangon. A supporting campaign for The Myanmarican (Part I of II) e-book also launched on Kickstarter, which can be found here.  The Myanmarican (Part I of II) e-book can be supported through Kickstarter with a minimum donation of $5 USD. The nearly completed Myanmar version of part I is currently being translated in Myanmar for realease there in early 2016.

About the Author: John Handley 

John Handley a devotee of Theravada Buddhism, who was the former CEO of SAIL Group of Companies Yangon and previously was a program manager of global repair technology for General Electric. During his 25-year career in power generation, Handley was also the manager of strategic planning and new product development at Alstom.

In Myanmar he is also an singer/songwriter and director  and has won “Best Music Video” and “Audience Choice Award” from the Barebones film festival in Muskogee Oklahoma.

As a Myanmar marketing executive, living in and out of Myanmar since 2001, Handley has gathered a national following drawn to his unique perspective that blends the worlds of art, science and humanity. His first solo album, under the alias U Jon Gyi, sold over 80,000 VCDs nationwide in Myanmar. He is recognized by Myanmar clients as a virtuoso of contemporary Myanmar culture.

He re-established SAIL, Myanmar’s first advertising agency, by working in critical roles overviewing and implementing infrastructure logicstics as well as the strategic, creative and communication deliveries of companies at the forefront of the West’s return to Myanmar.

U Jon Gyi is currently working out of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. For more information about The Myanmarican, please visit or contact John Handley at (+1) 970-456-2387. 

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Media Contact
Company Name: “The Myanmarican”
Contact Person: John Handley, Author
Phone: (+1) 970-456-2387
Country: United States