I know nuts about photography.

But below shots make me satisfied for possessing a DSLR.  Not because those are great but because they look okay to be my Facebook/Twitter Cover without any hassle of linking/captioning for attribution. I was a big fan of Creative Commons but I have frequently encountered situations where you can’t conveniently give credit by linking back , on Instagram for instance. Long story short, I become a fan of CC0 aka public domain photos and guess what, all these photos in this post are released under public domain. I posted some of them on Pixabay – a Flickr for public domain addicts and many on Open Myanmar Photo Project (Self reminder : I have to write a post about it.)

Fisherman at Inle Lake

Fisherman at Inle Lake, 2013

This was taken last December. Not edited. I have no idea how and when I clicked the camera but I think it looks nice. Of course, not on photographers’ standard but if you put that on the scale of what-on-earth-is-photography, I guess, this looks fabulous. Whatever.

international women day burma

Sunflower fileds in Aung Pan, Shan State. 2013

Thank to ribbet.com, I could tweak this photo into a more retro-ish one while I have no clue how to do that in Photoshop. I took this while I was on car during a road-trip from Inle to Taunggyi or around there. I did not know what the girl was doing but when I was browsing all the photos I had taken during that trip, this particular one caught my attention. I feel like it is screaming “HOPE”, no?

Fisherman at Inle Lake sunset

Another Fisherman at Inle Lake during sunset. 2013

This is something special (not edited). Pixabay editors thought it was great. And nearly 700 people downloaded it. Believe me, it is way more fun to see many people across Internet is happily using your photo than putting your name as watermark and upload it to Facebook. ;)

Cathedral Church

Cathedral Church, Yangon. 2012

I had never taken a pic by heavily shifting my body position before that. I didn’t know I should do that to capture something in a different aspect, too. But the glamour of this church unconsciously hit me and I got that. Nothing that fantastic. But, I like it a lot. This is also not retouched.

Bagan Museum

Bagan Museum, 2011

It is not a great-looking photo. The building is not even ancient, just intimating other buildings with Bagan style. But I like the crispiness of the cloudy blue sky. I think I did not edit this either.

That’s all for now. Remember, all of these photos are released in public domain so you can use it anywhere, with or without modification, be it for commercial purpose or personal use and without attribution to me. Again, let me repeat this though it might sound irritating, I made it public domain not because my shots were great but just because I like to fulfill people’s needs in case there is someone out there who need to use a not so ugly picture of Myanmar without giving the credit back. I would just secretly wish they would not use these pics for hateful/harmful purposes.

Image  —  Posted: 16/03/2014 in Fun, Myanmar, Trip
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Down to the point, I got married in exactly three months ago. *wink*

myanmar wedding

I haven’t blogged about it here although I keep a separate entity of my wedding blog somewhere else since I think it is too personal. On the other hand, I think I shouldn’t give a miss to blog about my honeymoon under travel list here.

I wanted to go to Myeik which is my hometown. Let’s just say it didn’t work out for various reasons. We settled our thoughts with Ngwe Saung and another charming place before we flied to Yangon. And our honeymoon started.

honeymoon

Ngwe Saung

Let Ngapali be most beautiful beach in Myanmar, Ngwe Saung has most beautiful staffs with biggest smile! Silence of sort of private beach, spacious yet cozy bungalow and scrumptious sea food are all harmonized with our new joy right after wedding.

Ngwe Saung Beach Myanmar

We left Yangon on 12th December in the early morning to catch the coach direct to Ngwe Saung. No one in love would complain about 5 hours ride to the beach. To hold my title of “complain queen”, I encountered something awful once our bus touched the sand of Ngwe Saung. That’s what I posted that time.

It was not quite clear if they assume only foreigners read English or they think there were other resources about it in Burmese elsewhere which apparently there weren’t any.

We took a trishaw to go to our bungalow from where the bus had stopped. If you could afford, please pay more than they ask since it is hard for them to survive. (We did.) We chatted a bit with tri-shaw driver and he told us the story of how palm tress there were cut off for hotels to be built. While I appreciated development of tourism business there, it was disheartening to hear that no one had been taking responsibility to replace locals’ original businesses. He said their coconut related business was good back then and after demolishing of many coconut trees, some people even commit suicide due to the struggle they had faced.

Trishaw Ngwe Saung Myanmar

Ngwe Saung Village

Trishaw drivers and their family live in such houses at the village near Ngwe Saung Beah

I was amused by the look and feel of our bungalow. It was quite spacious for two of us. As the hotel did not seem to have local food (weirdo, I know), we asked the reception to recommend some beach restaurant that sold yummy seafood. We called the restaurant, they delivered what we ordered within like 30 minutes and we tucked into it! I think I forgot everything when I ate lobster while gazing at the beach and feeling beach breeze.

Bay of Bengal Ngwe Saung

Bay of Bengal, Ngwe Saung

I forgot everything when I ate lobster while gazing at the beach and feeling beach breeze.

I forgot everything when I ate lobster while gazing at the beach and feeling beach breeze.

Even the bathroom was lovely. In the evening of first day, we tried to walk to the village market and get some more information and yacht competition that was part of SEAGames. Thank to whoever responsible for that, we had none and eventually we gave up and enjoy the rest of our honeymoon by eating, sleeping, chit-chatting and eating. What else honeymoons are for?

Ngwe Saung BOB Bathroom

Although lobster was spectacular, I preferred calm and crab. My other half is not a fan of sea we kept surfing comfortable waves minimal. On the second day, we enjoyed the sunset in the sea. The experience was spectacular. He was singing songs funnily while I was trying to capture how beautiful the world is. When I think about it now, I still could feel how pleasant the environment was and how awesome I was feeling. Too special. Too yummy.

Ngwe Saung Beach Myanmar

lobster Ngwe Saung

Supporting Myanmar Vs Thai football match of SEAGames 2014. Fried calm is in the box!

Supporting Myanmar Vs Thai football match of SEAGames 2014. Fried calm is in the box!

We brought a tripod with us so we could do some crazy stuff without the need to feel ashamed in front of a stranger who would be asked to record our moments. We took photos while we were eating, while we were in the sea, while we were walking and while we were talking. Such joyous three days could probably be the best part of 2013 for me.

Ngwe Saung

Ngwe Saung

On third day evening, my best friend and her husband joined us. We had lunch together and shopped around near the restaurant. It was the only day we dine-in instead of ordering delivery since we were addicted the coziness of eating in our bungalow a lot. Believe it or not, we had all lunch and dinner from exact same restaurant! We did ask around but ended up choosing the same restaurant even on the day dining out with my friend.

Pathain Htee Ngwe Saung

Pathain Htee | Traditional umbrella largely made in Pathain, a town near Ngwe Saung in Ayeyarwaddy Division. It’s taken at village market near Ngwe Saung Beach.

Dried Fish shop Ngwe Saung

Dried fish shop at village market near Ngwe Saung beach

Ngwe Saung Beach Myanmar

After relaxing three full nights at Ngwe Saung, we wrapped our first part of honeymoon and were back to Yangon. It was fun using USDs there because when a Myanmar uses USD instead of Kyats to pay, they think very highly of him/her. The only reason we used USD was because their exchange rate was much higher than average rate and we could spend less if we paid by USD.

Now, you get some hint why I named our honeymoon “watermoon”. Guess what is another famous place in Myanmar with “water”. I shall blog about second part of our honeymoon soon.

Image  —  Posted: 11/03/2014 in Myanmar, Myself, Trip

international women day burma

It’s already March 9 in Singapore. However, it is still International Woman Day in Myanmar. I am feeling daunting a whole day for the tragedy of Malaysia Airline and still hoping to witness some miracle for all people on board so I forgot to write something for International Women Day. Long story short, let me portray how majority of women in Myanmar are self-censored. 

If there was only one challenge to empower women in Myanmar, that would be their self-censorship instead of dominant men. Since we started to know how to interact with adults, we have been taught to give cream of the top to men. My mom would always keep the best part of chicken for my dad. If we were on menses, we wouldn’t be able to perform certain actions such as cleaning altar or taking Ngapi out from the pot. Another higher level of discrimination is rooted in an intangible quality called Hpon.

 Also, there is the concept of hpon (ဘုန်း; from Sanskrit bhaga), which translates to “power”. It is used as an explanation for the varying degrees of ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender differences between people in a society.[6]Hpon refers to the cumulative result of past deeds, an idea that power or social position comes from merit earned in previous lives.[6] This idea is used to justify the prevalent view that women are less equal than men, who are considered to have more hpon.

- Wikipedia, Culture of Burma

Basically, men has more Hpon power than women. Thus, they can’t touch inner wears of women as well as any kind of women clothes meant for lower body including longyi (traditional sarong), skirt, trousers, lingeries and you name it. (Yes, how do they take those off when they were in bed with their ladies!?!) To make it more sensible (be ware of sarcasm from now on), men couldn’t walk through if there are those women’s clothes hanging above them because it would make their Hpon level lower. international women day myanmarOn top of that, at many famous pagodas or Buddha stupas, women are not allowed to enter a “special area” that is closer to the Pagoda or Stupa. Only men could go and sit at such area even thought people would pray similar things and chant similar Dhamma. Upper level at Shwedagon pagoda and front areas at Mahar Myat Mu Ni Stupa and Inle Phaung Daw Oo pagoda are all meant only for men. Oh and we can’t offer gold leaf to certain pagodas in person – for e.g. Kyite Htee Yoe (Golden Rock) Pagoda. We have to pass it to someone who has men organs to offer it on behalf of us. But then, it is applicable only at certain pagodas especially at famous ones. Women can pour water above smaller Buddha statues in famous Pagoda compound. (Now, you get the point – how awesome logic of men in our country is!) Plus, polygamy is legal for Buddhist men which means it is criminal offence if a wife commits adultery while it is fine for a husband to sleep with someone else.

When you were raped, people would spare no time blaming on you how slutty you had been instead of wondering who the horrible culprit was. During Thingyan (water festival in April), it is absolutely fine for a man to vomit on pavement during hangover while it is considered disgraceful if a girl drinks. No man would ask permission to smoke around non-smoking people and it is stupid for a woman to smoke. Guys could run half-naked in public and they would call girls who wear mini-skirts slutty.

Growing up in such society, all girls, ladies and women are so used to the rituals of the society. They are always unconsciously prioritizing men just like healthy human beings effortlessly breath in oxygen. They believe that they are meant to live so. They believe that their daughters should follow the same way since their mothers followed so. They believe that men carried better karma than women thus they are always nobler than women.

The more disheartening thing is that when a man argues groundlessly or being narrow-minded, they criticize that man for “acting like a woman” မိန်းမလိုမိန်းမရ /mein: malou mein: maja/. When a man uses dirty tricks, women denounced him for “behaving like a woman”. When a man is cowardly, they suggest him to “wear a hta mane (Myanmar traditional sarong for women)”. I think nothing is sadder than to see the women who think women are creatures who debate groundlessly, who always play dirty tricks and who are cowardly.

When you urge some normal women to do something that society does not usually allow women to do, they would response with shocking reaction. The slogan “Women can’t do that!” or “This is a woman thing” has been nailed in their brains. When their husbands betrayed, they would think of best way to attract them back. Only few of them would take legal actions or further steps towards divorce because when you are divorced, all woman and men would blame on you. Married women also assume that they are the ones who have to do all household chores despite earning income together. Sisters always accept that doing the dish for their brothers is their duties from birth.

I have no clue how we could we get rid of women refraining from obtaining what they actually want. At the very least, I could teach my future daughters how to fight for their rights and more importantly, my future sons how to deal with women fairly.

 

**If you act inhumane towards LGBTQs, I warn you not to go ahead**

A gay couple recently celebrated their 10 years of love at a hotel in Myanmar. And everyone loses their mind on Facebook.

LGBTs Rights in Myanmar

After flipping through many nasty comments towards that couple who are also working for organisations fighting for LGBTs’ rights in Myanmar, I tend to realize a few points and I feel like jotting down.

Many Myanmar can’t differentiate between Gays and Transgenders

Every thing is all the same for them. Some people complain while both of the couple wore traditional groom suites instead of one came up as the bride. Some pointed out that gays in American movies do not act like women and others criticized a gay should only be acting as Khin San Win, a famous transgender make-up artist.

Confusing, I know. But most of them do not have slightest clue on LGBTs which is sad.

They believe as if Buddha taught that gays in this life have raped others in past lives

I have been trying to find reputable English source that shares the exact sentiment. I found none so far.

That is copy-catting western culture, they say.

I believe we cannot trace back who was first ever LGBTQ in this world. I am pretty sure there are mentioning about gays in Pali Canons. I wonder how did they form such opinion claiming acting as LGBTQ is westernization.

It is against law.

The infamous Section (377) in Myanmar restricts people from having “abnormal” sex. It can be punished up to 10 years of jail sentence or life imprisonment. The catch is that it is punishable only when there is proof that they did exactly what mentioned in the section which means polices can’t grab a random gay couple and jail them just because they live together. I guess many people forget this part. Plus, it restricts not only gays but also straight people from performing “abnormal” sex, too. Blame the British, seriously.

The rest of the accusations share more or less the same points with homophobes in other countries such as “It is unnatural!”, “Gays are disgusting!” or “It is disgrace!”. Here’s a bonus point.

It is where conservative people following either of three more dominant religions in Myanmar – Buddhists, Muslims and Christians agree!

I was running away from all kinds of writing for infinity reasons. But something that I feel like worth-recording happened – neither about politics nor Miss Universe Saga. It is just that we finally have a reality TV Show in Myanmar. *Woo Hoo*

A few months back, I saw Thandar Hlaing, Myanmar version of Tyra Banks, was working on a project called Myanmar Model Academy. I guessed it would be a local version of Asia’s/America’s Next Top Model.  Now that its premiere was aired on Channel 7 (and another channel I can’t recall), I just question myself – “Did we have any other reality TV show in Myanmar before that?” Hell, no, never!

What did we have?

Myanmar Army on TV

Image : Peerapat Wimolrungkarat/Wikimedia

We had very compelling news programs that documented where our former Senior General went with his very adorable grandsons that none of us watched unless it had got something to do with the lady or new currency note or something shocking. We also had some quiz shows where most important questions were “How many dams had our awesome military government built” or “When that beautiful bridge built by our awesome government was started to operate?”. And we had have been having singing competition where you could win only if you sing old Burmese songs no matter how good your voice or talent is.

But thank to Myawaddy and MRTV, I can now impress my Chinese friends with my extreme knowledge on Journey to the West, Princess Pearl, Justice Bao etc. And my affection on Japanese language must have based on Fly to Dream, Summer Story, Autumn Story and many other addictive J-dramas. 

As superficial changes, known as “reforms” elsewhere,  become to be rooted in Myanmar, we now have Burmese version of Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader, Minute to Win It, a mixture of The Voice and American Idol and that sort of thing. But NO reality show has been aired.

Thandar Hlaing Myanmar Model Academy

Image : Thanda Hlaing’s Facebook

A little Background of Thanda Hlaing (Christie Mackenzie) here. She was one of pioneer Model girls in Myanmar where her glorious days dated back till probably 1997/8. Besides possessing a very unique facial figure outshined from other average models, she is smart and well-educated. I reckon 99% of girls (now young ladies) of our generation would agree that she is most stylish Myanmar woman to date. She left Myanmar like around 2000 (I think) and resides in Australia with her husband and two kids. Enough about her. She probably initiated this program or program initiators might have invited her to be involved heavily. So we got to see the first every reality show in Myanmar!

My mom told me she enjoys the show a lot. Sometimes, I regret I underestimated her ability to absorb hot and trendy stuffs. Unfortunately for Ma Thandar Hlaing (not wrong spelling, she spells it as “Thanda”, we pronounce it as “Thandar”, very similar meaning), not everyone shares the same feeling with my mom. Many girls are frustrated that Zin Aung, one of the judges on the show, allegedly offended contestants which they said is totally opposite to Myanmar culture. (I know right!) They also strongly think that saying “Pack your bags and go home” in Burmese is highly offending.  Some said this is just a copy cat version of ANTM. It seems like reality shows are a bit too early for them. While I was reading their outrageous comments on Thanda Hlaing’s  Facebook page, I just felt like dragging Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsey to Myanmar and perhaps I might be assassinated for ruining Myanmar culture. Haiz. (Disclaimer: I have NEVER watched what Zin Aung said on the show yet so I am not approving him here. A sprinkle of reality check for Reality show judge here, though. )

They do not have official website, Facebook page or Youtube Channel. The only clips I got to watch is poor quality videos on youtube uploaded by someone who doesn’t seem to have affection on judging part in any show. (He uploaded a number of clips taken from Myanmar channels but it never includes what judges said.) Thus, I cannot weigh in on that. Here is my comment which I believe Ma Thandar Hlaing appreciated it by clicking “like”.

Myanmar Model Academy Reality TV Show

Image : Screenshot of a Myanmar Model Academy Youtube clip

Many countries copied format of ANTM since it started way too early than the rest. I haven’t watched Zin Aung part on Youtube so can’t weigh in on that. I would just love to see a sprinkle of Myanmar adorable culture or artistic aspect in the show (rather than modeling with htaing ma thane or apparent things like that) which would be challenging to incorporate.

Apart from that, I think whoever responsible to film the show and edit the clips sucks. You would know what I mean if you happen to click here to watch what the show is like. Oh well, again, this is the FIRST ever reality show in Myanmar. So, I have to rant less.

 

This is gonna be a pure rant. So please refrain from reading it if you could not handle my long-winded nonsense. And I don’t think I would discuss further about it in comments although I would love to read what do you think about it.

So, call me a racist, I certainly thought white people were smart human beings when I was under 16. I had never been abroad at that time and there were only very very few foreigners in Myanmar except some tourists occasionally strolling around with BIG smiles on roads of Yangon or some tourist spots in Mandalay. And although my assumption about westerners was absolute rubbish, it was FUN. It was fun thinking they came to my country to explore what kind of isolation existed. It was fun seeing them wearing longyis untidily. It was fun smiling at them and having a very short (and shy) conversation. Good ol’ days.

There was no Internet in my life which made me speak lousy English. There was Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest which made me feel very bad.  And there was (officially) Than Shwe which made us voiceless kids. But there was no popular infamous NGOs. There was no Rohingya Saga. There was no monk named as Terrorist. And the list will go on.

Of course, I do like to witness all the scenes of Myanmar opening up gradually. Who wouldn’t love it? Coca Cola, Google and Facebook in Burmese, less people who wouldn’t have a clue which continent Myanmar is in, DASSK in her action, Obama’s visit, cheaper SIM cards, voices demanding rights for gays and prostitutes along with uncountable protests, Myanmar nearly-porn movies without rating for children, newer tricks of military transformed civilian government and you name it.

As a normal human being with somewhat functioning brain, I do agree that all changes have its pros and cons. But one of those irritate me so much that I have to rant.

So, here’s a list of self-proclaimed Myanmar Experts whom I wish I would not need to deal with in near future or further future.

Disclaimer : Those people are based on those who have contacted me to do something about Myanmar or those I repeatedly heard about them from trusted friends. You have full rights to accept it or not. And I become friends with many foreigners who contacted me via Facebook Message, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. and I was very glad giving a small hand to what they wished to do in/with Myanmar. And because of those connections, I am sometimes requested for paid gigs. I would continue doing so for all foreigners with decent attitudes. And I also believe that there are many “good” foreigners out there who really wish to see Myanmar as a developed country. And people in the list below are those who are not in my “white” list.

1) Kind-hearted Life Savers (or so they say)

Most of them work in NGOs or new foreign invested businesses. In their eyes, every single Myanmar was grown up in lousy condition with worst education on earth so that they have no knowledge about history or business or even healthcare. They totally believe that unless they save them, whole country will be torn down worse than ever. They usually involve (or strategize in their preferred jargon) in some NGO’s projects. They live in landed houses or expensive condos where monthly rental fees might cost more than their funds used for their projects. They always underestimate any Myanmar they would see on road and would claim they have been watching Myanmar very closely that only they can predict the future of Myanmar with awesome charts and graphs using the data from year 2000 or so.

2) Poor Tourists

They are poor because actual Myanmar is pretty different from what they expected. For instance, they might have expected to enjoy sunrise and sunset at Bagan but it was raining all three days they lived there so they couldn’t catch any good scene. Or they under-counted the number of pagodas they would bump into in Myanmar by forgetting the fact that about 90% of population follow Buddhism despite of enormous research they did. Or they thought their almost naked bodies would excite people there and it didn’t turn out so well. Or they expected to be able to go to floor of Golden Rock Pagoda with a high-tech cable train. Or they they assumed every places in Myanmar would be squeaky clean as Singapore does despite being one of the least developed countries in the world. When things don’t work as they highly longed for, especially with vague visa processes and expensive air tickets and hotel fees, they just quickly decided Myanmar is an overrated travel spot.

I am totally fine to see somebody doesn’t enjoy travelling to certain countries for whatever reasons they could come up with. It is also fine to spread the news on how they didn’t enjoy being there spending their time and money. What annoys me is acting as Myanmar travel experts just because they have stayed there for a week or a month. You absolutely should not go there to have some comfy time there. And what’s the point to visit a lesser known country without doing some proper research!?

3) Another Type of Poor Tourists

They seem they love Myanmar. They assume themselves they know pretty much about Myanmar after travelling there for some time. They sometime think Myanmar is awesome. All are good until they gave out wrong imaginary information on Internet.

They would think typical Shan food is spicy. They would write Myanmar men wear skirts. (If you call Tut Tut instead of three-wheeled car from Thailand or Pho instead of Vietnamese noodle soup, you should also learn what do Myanmar men actually wear rather than generalizing it as skirt.) They would share that Buddhists do not eat Beef due to religion commitment. (I would write about this later but just take that it is not completely true for now.)

Again, I do not mind to see some mistakes among tons of travel articles. But when they spread wrong information, those who would believe in it have wrong expectations and many of them end up being 2).

4) Information Beggars 

They need to make something out of Myanmar – be it a paid assignment for news sites or a portfolio to show they are well educated about Myanmar. They have never been there so they would need to do more research and approach some Myanmar who can connect them up with locals they wish to meet. They do better research than anyone else, talk to different people and expect everyone should spend time for them as much as they want. And when they are in Myanmar, they would prefer to meet anyone they targeted and anywhere they would prefer.

I could confidently say that Myanmar people are pretty helpful and dependable especially when it comes to helping those who like to visit their homeland. But c’mon, Myanmar in 2013 also have their things to clear up. We might be able to refer them to someone who would know more about what they are looking for. We could introduce them with some nice people they might wish to talk. But when unnecessary demands such as forcing someone to meet at his confidential work place, buzzing someone repeatedly to explain them something which they might need to pay large sum of money elsewhere and all those annoying things you couldn’t imagine come up suddenly, well, Myanmar people are human beings, too.

I think I am going to stop here as I feel sick thinking about them and my time spent with such people. But I am really grateful that there are many other foreigners out there who love to see Myanmar growing up and helping to make better things happen there again and again.

First of, I’m not a very devoted Buddhist anymore. I do not pray daily like I did till half a year ago. I still lie at times although I don’t kill/steal/drink/cheat with one’s spouse. If I have to come out with an excuse to conceal my laziness, it has to be my lack of commitment on studying more about it and meditating. Buddhism in Myanmar, to be precise, traditional Buddhism in Myanmar is too vague. Since a couple of years ago, I become to have a strong feeling that I must learn Buddhism via English resources. Many Myanmar might bash me for saying so but who are they to judge me?

Leave that aside, from time to time, I have been developing my tolerance and impression on other religions, or rather people who follow different religions. I have lots of Muslim friends – my first every best friend was a lovely Muslim girl, my first neighbour in my entire life was a very friendly Muslim family, one of my my first colleagues is a funny Muslim girl and I have been asked if I was a Muslim at times because of my facial appearance. Long story short, I do not have any problem with them just because they follow a different religion apart from a need of reminding myself not to talk about/eat pork when they are around. Same thing goes for Christians. In fact, I even feel like Christians in Myanmar are really lovely and fun to hang out as they have open mindset comparing to average Buddhists, a little bit more westernized in a way. And that is very cool with me. Needless to mention for Hinduism as my great great grandpa is a Hindu and even my parents still believe in some parts of Hinduism.

Being said, I do not really like the idea of discussing about religion with friends. What’s the point of doing so unless you are in an interfaith dialogue section? I feel it way more peaceful, fun and enjoyable whenever we do not discuss about it with people with various beliefs. For me, religion is something to practice yourself, not to show off to everyone around you as if you own a genuine diamond ring while theirs are intimate ones.

Here’s the point of those long winded intro. Very recently, a friend of mine chatted with me. She is my childhood friend whom I know since like 16 years ago. She is the one who had introduced me with Christian for first time ever when she had given away Christian leaflets in our primary class on her birthday as gifts to classmates. So, recently we were talking about childhood and all these stuff. She seems to love me so much even now and I love her, too. She is super adorable. Finally, she asked me what should she pray for me at church next time. I was like “Wow, she loves me that much?”. Then she concluded our conversation with “May God bless you.”

I kind of felt uneasy. To make it very clear, I am very thankful to have such a friend who would spend time for me during her religious session. And that made me think of all those “May God bless you” things. As there are very few religions in our world which are not based upon “God”, many people are very used to say “May God bless you” as if it was a greeting phrase. I am really thankful to be greeted so but I can’t help thinking if we actually need it? Of course, you should definitely do it with those whoever believe in God. But for other people who are atheists and who follow religions with different nature, would it even make sense? Yes, I know. Whoever saying “May God bless you” to me really care for me and want me to see fine with everything. I totally understand they say it with good will. But shouldn’t there be a better way to show our “love” with something  that is not related to religion? Wouldn’t it be a bit more comfortable?  Why do we need to bring “religion” to stress that we care our loved ones? Just my thoughts, you can differ freely. And I would still appreciate whoever would say this to me in future like I thank to whoever tell me to eat more vegetables although they know I have lachanophobia. (At this point, I consider literally like 15 times should I publish this or not as I do not want to lose friendship with any of my friends. I was kind of scared people would think me immature or intolerant. But I still want to do it so that you are reading it now. :-)

And I still have no clue what should I reply apart from a boring “thanks” to “May God bless you” greeting. Should I reply something like

Impermanent are all created things, strive on with awareness.

ASEAN Blog Fest 2013

Posted: 21/05/2013 in Events, Indonesia, Travel

You gotta believe me. This blog fest is not only about blogging but also all about fun and friendship. Listing down what happened in chronological way is too mainstream, so here are the highlights that touched me.

Indonesians are super friendly

Tea Break at Pool Side, Solo Indonesia

Tea Break at Pool Side, Kusuma Sahid Prince Hotel, Solo.

Oh my goodness! I have no clue how to describe their friendliness. My roommate, for instance, was very kind and understandable. I did not need to pretend anything when she was around just because she was a stranger. In extremely short time, we had already shared pretty much about us. Same went for the rest. All of them are so kind and humble that it made me feel like I made a right decision to visit to Solo. Two ladies I met on one of the shuttle buses gave me three little chocolate boxes although we had not known each other and did not have much time to talk. Thanks for everyone who took photo with me and came and talked to me. That experience was really a warm touch.

SEAsia is beautiful

So as SEAsians. All the organisers and international bloggers who attended the event made me feel so. Everyone of them were so lovely that I did feel home when they were around. I have learnt various interesting things from them about different parts of Southeast Asia. Many of them inspired me and others had fun together with me. That part of 2013 will always be in my memory.I have soft spots when it comes to SEAsia as I believe our countries are more or less connected and cultures and traditions are similar. (I am not so keen to use ASEAN as I always feel like it is something related to governments.)  Instead of debating if Batik belongs to Malaysia or Indonesia or if Water Festival was originated from Myanmar or Thailand, we should promote those to rest of the world. And if all SEAsains are like this bunch of people I have met in Solo, I believe we could achieve it.

Indonesian Traditional Instruments

Indonesian Traditional Musical Instruments. The xylophones are very similar to Burmese traditional xylophones.

SEAsians waiting for taxi

SEAsians waiting for a taxi. I bet no westerner could tell who is from which country. ;)

Blogging is not dead

I thought it was dead, at least almost dead. May be because I abandoned my Burmese blog for years. Maybe because many Myanmar bloggers are writing notes on Facebook instead of their blogs. But I became to learn that there are lots of active bloggers who are blogging enthusiastically up until now. It was really encouraging to see different government ministries of Indonesia were supporting the event as well as blogging itself. And I wonder when could such thing happen in Myanmar where a blogger was at risk of getting sued for criticizing the parliament.

Singaporeans please!

I am not too sure if any Singaporeans would get mad if they found out that two people from Malaysia and Myanmar represented to talk about their wonderful country during the event. I was not too sure why, but there was no single Singaporeans in the event and that was sad.

Singapore Country Report in Solo Indonesia

Reporting about Tourism and Blogging Community in Singapore.

I do not want to accuse that Singaporeans have less interest on those community related meet ups and volunteering etc as they have less chances to do so in a very developed country. But I do believe that they could use their facilities and opportunities to help ASEAN community grows together. I would love to see them mingle with the rest of SEAsians. They should not be left out just because they are from most developed country in the region, should they?

I have written about Pho Kyar Natural Elephant Camp before in words only. And I was wondering if there might be people who would love to see “Elephants in Action”. When I googled (or searched on youtube), there are almost no footage of  lovely little dumbos at Pho Kyar. As I have ready clips that I recorded there last year, I decided to make a vlog out of it.

The elephants in the video were not in use for logging as they were still too young to work. Their ages range from 8 to 16 years old. They were so playful (you can see it during their bathing time) and pretty clever. During elephant football match, the goalkeeper elephant did not catch the ball at all if it thought it was not going to score, only took action when kicker elephant aimed at the target correctly. How cute!

Video  —  Posted: 17/05/2013 in Myanmar, Trip, Vlog
Tags: , , , , ,

A childhood friend of mine told me that she would die happily if her English could be as good as half of mine. I was like speechless. Not because I was happy to hear her compliment about me but because I knew where my English was and realized the gap among youths in Myanmar. Don’t get me wrong.

I think everybody who have read my pieces in English would definitely notice that my English is not better than an average non-native speaker with silly mistakes at times. Yet, many of my Myanmar friends consider I speak/write good English. Of course, there are a number of people out there in Myanmar whose English is way better than mine. Being said, if we were to rationalize, the percentage of those who speak good English might not be more than 5% (Or 10% if we guess very generously) of the total population. And that is sad.

It is even more shocking considering the fact that everyone who goes to public school in Myanmar starts learning English at 5. After 11 whole years we have learnt English “at school”, why on earth we could not speak English well? There you can see our awesome education system.

We have good text books with kind teachers, but no proper execution with good teachers. I cannot stress enough how execution at public schools in Myanmar fail. Syllabus are interesting (except awesome history textbooks which stopped around 1960s and were never updated), instructions and guidelines on lesson plans are fine, facilities are okay (at schools in cities and big towns, of course we are not talking about tiny huts where all students from different grades sit in one same hall under one teacher and was called as “schools” in some remote areas) and visions and missions of our ministry of education or whatsoever are inspiring.

Myanmar School Building

My School – No.(3) Basic Education High School Botataung. During colonial time, it was known as Ye Kyaw Methodist. All public schools in Myanmar are named in the format of “No.(x), Basic Education (Primary/Middle/High) School, (Township name). No fancy name at all. :\

Say a chapter in science at grade 8) comprised with explanation on theory and practical exercise, I bet 9 out of 10 teachers would instruct to skip the practical part because 1)the lab could be locked down by headmaster or whoever have power to control it or 2) it is not required to pass the exam or 3)the teacher was just bored to do it. Back to English, I remember there were some speaking lessons at the end of text books but no teacher seemed to have time to take a look at it, needless to mention for asking students to practice it. There were no official co-curricular activities. If teachers noticed that you were talented at something such as singing, writing or sports, they might send you to compete with other schools randomly.

Talking about schools, there were only two types of schools if we wanted to classify it – rich schools where children of generals, rich people and famous people went or poor schools where the rest went. (Mine was a poor one although my parents sent me to school with a car while it took only 10 minutes on foot.) And all those citywide or nationwide competitions favour those students from rich schools in many ways you cannot imagine or I cannot recall.

There was no such thing called scouts. (Thank god, it is now back in a pretty hilarious way since last year (or this year). Only those who pass exams with high marks and good at other several things such as sports etc. can join it or so I understand.) When education authorities instructed to set up and “use” multimedia classrooms where we had computers, projectors, cassettes, headphones, English books etc, we had had to practice only to show off on the day those authorities would visit us. Once they visited, assumed we were using it very effectively and efficiently and went back, that “multimedia” classrooms were shut down in dark. That is why I keep on saying execution failed. Instructions came

And can you believe that I had to go to headmistress office to beg her in order to let me use school library for few minutes as I needed some reference books for a nationwide essay competition? To my knowledge, almost every schools have decent libraries and nobody is allowed to use it freely. There were some sections where students were allowed to read there for few minutes but it lasted only for a semester or two. The more I think about it, the more I feel sad for all those precious dusty books in the library. There is no habit such as studying at libraries at all in our high schools. (or in Universities)

Myanmar School Classroom

Where I spent my grade 9) from 2002-2003. Photo taken in 2011.

Exam was the most important part. But, we did not need to be worried about it till we were grade 9) because everybody must pass exams till grade 8). If I think about it now, I have no clue why those smartest education system planners in Myanmar did it. But yes, till grade 8), even if a student could not answer to obtain enough marks to pass, he/she would somehow pass the exam. Remember, slogan of Myanmar is “Mystical Land”! (I believe this exam system has been changed a bit such as grade 5), grade 9) have “real” exams where student may fail. I am not too sure on it.) On top of that, we only required to study about 2 or 3 chapters if there were 5 chapters to study for the exam. As our teachers were very kind, they often even narrowed it down to few questions and answers so that we would need to study only a few to “pass” the exam with good marks.

Oh, did I forget to mention that we study everything (I repeat, everything) by heart including essays and sometimes maths?! If I liked to put a line or two of my own sentences to the English essay written by a teacher that was supposed to be memorized by students and write it out again in the exam, I had to take the risks of getting deducted some marks. (I was a cool kid back then not like in my uni time, most of the teachers loved me so much that they rarely did it to me. But it totally depended on their mood and emotion towards the students.) Even for maths, if you calculated by skipping a non-important step to calculate out the exact same result, you were at risk, too.

I may continue writing about what we do at a typical day at school. Brace yourself for more awesome things!