Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

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!

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.

 

I’ve once written about it here. And in above clip, you might be able to visualize it more. 🙂

You might have read DOs and DON’Ts in Myanmar somewhere on Internet. But those are for the convinience of tourists and only very few visitors care for what locals would think for their acts during their stay in Myanmar.

This video is just to let you know what you should not do in Myanmar not to make locals feel that you are not paying respect to their culture.

DISCLAIMER : These are my own thoughts based on my experience as an average Myanmar citizen who come from a mixed Bamar family. The habits and perceptions of Myanmar people may vary from time to time and people from different states and divisions may have different cultural habit and society values.

Or should I have titled it as “Tolerance and Respect” instead to make myself sounds like a optimistic stuffed with positive imagination where no sun sets?

I have been asking a question to myself.

I have to admit that my mindset on racism and discrimination is being changed from time to time. Being said, I am not one of those easy pickings to change my hypothesis with a note or two on Facebook. But then again, I could not answer the above question….. yet.

This starts from a personal feeling – an unpleasant mood when I read the headlines saying my people are not tolerant at all – which I wish to deny. Concurrently, I have been reading many hatred comments regarding almost everything on Facebook and I can’t even read some of those till the end as those are too much for my eyes to swallow. Then I think, rethink and rethink. Where on earth those hatred comments came from!?

Intolerant people. Yes, I agree. It obviously seems that at least half of people in Myanmar online community are intolerant. They are not fond of things that are against with their religion, thoughts that are in common with their belief and news that they believe affecting  the sustainability of their culture. For instance, you would see their Facebook flooding with screams and shouts after a news about shoes with Buddha images or a foreign couple acting weird at Shwedagon Pagoda. They think those are insults to the religion they believe in, threats to what they value and humiliation to their culture that they have been grown up with. When it hurts their feelings, they couldn’t shut their mouth. They become to believe that silence could kill their culture and religion. They think they should act before things are getting worse.

On the other hand, apparently, other people take them as intolerant people. For those who think Buddha’s face is just a decoration item, putting it on shoes or even on bikini is nothing harmful. It’s not even a question. They may use it for fun as they are not intending to insult anyone. They would think in a way that why Buddhists seem so angry if Buddhism is a peaceful religion. And they start to define those Buddhists as intolerant people because they cannot tolerate what people did to the symbols of their religion. Talking about Shwedagon, it is an incredible place. People who do not follow Myanmar cultural aspects closely might even take it as a picnic spot. They might question “What’s so wrong with lying down with revealing clothes, hugging each other with this stunning view of giant pile of gold?” Again, whoever criticize them become just intolerant people who do not have knowledge of other cultures and forms of freedom.

My own thoughts are mixed.

  • If people do not do any acts that could be an insult to another group of people in anyway, there would be no intolerance.
  • If people do not bother what others do to their culture and religion and ignore all the disrespect, there would be no intolerance.

6-2 is 4 while 2+2 is also 4. I am nowhere near to let people know what should be the way to go. For me personally, as long as I am a devoted Buddhist in my own opinion, I would ignore all those stuffs what people do to Buddha or Myanmar. I have seen a little kid on Instagram who names himself as “Shwedagon1”. When I pointed out that what would he feel if I name my Instagram account as “Catholic Church1”, he replied that those were two different things which left me speechless. I finally become to understand that west cultures is way too different from that of east that it would take a century or two to make them understand the way we think on religion or cultural related stuffs. If so, why should we bother to blame others for doing things that we have no control over?

I tweeted yesterday.

And a tweeversation had begun. I somehow mentioned that “not only govt but also public aren’t very willing to accept female political leaders. DASSK is exception.” And T replied that “it’s hard to believe that people in mm are not willing to elect a woman.” It is kind of sophisticated issue if we were to talk about gender discrimination in Myanmar and I would not be explain it all in 140 characters.  So I swang  to wordpress to express the things that I have been wanting to talk about.

Religion

Nearly 90% of population follow Buddhism thus almost all society values and cultural habits are based on Theravada Buddhism. To be fair, rather than religion itself, the social norms which they believe related to religion define what woman can or cannot do in Myanmar.

If you are a woman, you are not allowed to

  • go into closest area near the stupas/statues at the pagodas
  • partake gold to Buddha stupas/statues

When you want to offer gold leaf to Buddha, you have to request a man instead which always makes me annoyed. Such pointless notions were nowhere stated in Buddhism and some outspoken Buddhist monks have voiced out that prohibiting females from taking such actions are not as per what Buddha taught.

Buddhist nuns always have to take lower rank than monks. While it would be relatively easy to be offered alms for monks, nuns have difficulties to get offered cash and have to cook lunch themselves. Although a man who decided to join mankhood for his entire life is usually praised as a noble man, people believe those joined nunhoods are due to hardship of their lives most of the times and pay less respect than they give to monks.

Culture

We do not need to change our name after getting married not because women are treated very well but because we do not have surname or family name. Some men stated this is as the proof of treating women well in Myanmar which I totally disagree as there are a number of superstitions which discriminate women against men.

Majority of people

  • do not wash clothes of men and women together either in a washing machine or by hand.
  • believe man should not walk through wherever the sarongs, skirts, pants or anything that girls use to wear for their lower part of the bodies are being hung above.

Almost all Buddhists in Myanmar tend to believe that there is something called ဘုန်း /hpoun:/ which could be assumed as some kind of glory and influence of oneself or cumulative result of past meritorious deeds. If you have higher level of /hpoun:/, you are less likely to be able to be defamed and/or to live in hardship of life. Furthermore, many believe that men have higher level of /hpoun:/ thus they shouldn’t be in touch with Myanmar sarongs or any female clothes especially bras, underwears and others that are meant for lower part of the body which could ruin the /hpoun:/.

Some people do not allow woman in her menstruation cycle

  • to prepare pickles/Burmese fish paste etc. 
  • to touch Buddha statues at home

I know that kind of superstition is ridiculous. And strictly speaking, it has nothing to do with Buddhism. However, since it is an important belief that has being carried for centuries (?), we cannot possibly change it within a twist. And this /hpoun:/ thing is the very basic part of why men are regarded higher than women in Myanmar.

It is not commonly accepted that women should be allowed to smoke or drink as per their wish. Some men who enjoy doing those think it is against Myanmar tradition to see the women drunk or smoking in public. The way women dress is also a good topic to be hugely criticized by pointing out that the revealing clothes attract men to commit raping which makes no sense for me. The worst thing is when a girl was raped, people would finger to the victim girl for being slutty instead of supporting her and criticizing the rapist.

Society

Quite a while ago, husband was the only person who earn money to support the whole family. In modern days, almost everyone in families have to work to survive unless they were born from millionaire families. Years ago, while the husbands’ income was the only source of family’s earning, housewives do all the household chores. Cooking, Cleaning, Washing etc. were supposed to be done only by women which was quite reasonable to balance the workload between husband and wife.

But nowadays, while almost every women have to work full time, the whole society still suppose that household chores should be done only by women! It has been like an unwritten rule. Future mother-in-laws prefer to have daughter-in-laws who love and are skillful at those household chores. Only very few respectful husbands would like to help their wives on this and most of the times such husbands are teased among his colleagues and friends for paying too much respect on wives.

Not only in husband-wife relationship but also in a family, daughters are supposed to help with household stuffs, not sons. This might be a general thing everywhere especially in Asia countries. But my point here is that it is NOT true to say there is almost no gender discrimination in Myanmar than any other countries.

Education

When it comes to education, especially in rural areas, parents support sons over daughters to finish high school or to continue study at universities. Even in cities, some people believe that boys should learn more practical science subjects than girls. The ironic thing here is that girl students have to have higher marks in final high-school exam than boys to enter into top universities. For instance, if you are a boy, you have to have 459 marks to study Medicine while girls have to get 498 marks since girls in high-schools tend to get more marks than boys. But it becomes to be changed and I have read that there is not much difference for them in 2013 which I welcome eagerly!

Work

Some of male employees are not happy to work under female leadership which could be a general thing at every corner of the globe. But when a woman is leading a big organisation on her own feet in Myanmar, it is very easy to get criticized for the relationship with her male counterparts. If she was a single and dined out or travelled with a work partner, people might label as if they were in a relationship. If she was a married and did the same thing, perhaps she would receive a ton of criticism.

Due to military ruling, we did not have any female cabinet members for years. Thus, we are not used to have female leaders in widest part – the political industry. Women have once allowed to be part of army but it was revoked. And according to current constitution, president “shall be well acquainted with military affairs” which clearly states that a woman cannot be a president unless the constitution is modified. In addition, there are less than 5% of female member of parliaments.

As we all know, the ironic thing is that the only reliable leader in the country is the lady. While I have no doubt that many want her as a president though there are a few who would prefer current president over her, still, majority think men are capable than women especially for leadership. If there was someone similar to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the sense of knowledge, attitude and experience, I guess people would vote him. At the very least, that is what I believe.

Self-discrimination

Unfortunately, that is the worst part. Just like self-censorship in journalism industry in some countries, a number of women in Myanmar seem to be self-discriminated. They always honestly believe that those unwritten rules are must-follows. They always prioritize fathers, husbands and sons in the family. During a meal, they would put the best part of the best dish to father’s plate. They usually help with their brothers’ laundry and do their dishes. I have even read a Facebook comment given by a girl saying “Laundary is a girl thing”. Even when girls are arguing with boys and if some boys are being persistent on what he think is right with one-sided opinion, they would say “Don’t act as if you were a woman!”. When they found a boy who they think is cowardly, they would say “Wear a hta mein(a sarong like clothes that is commonly worn by Myanmar women.) !”

[This is a backdated post.]

I grew up with some sense of disliking Muslims just because I thought that is not a delicate religion like Christians. I used to read all Christianity related booklets that were delivered to our houses without our own will so I kind of understood what their main goal was since I was around 12/13 but didn’t have a chance to read similar things of Islam. And the five main principles that every Buddhists try to follow include “not to kill any living things” which is directly contradictory to Muslims’ Eid celebration. Believe me, that is the #1 reason why some foreigners think Myanmar people have intolerance to Islam or as some of you label, Islamophobia?

I will not deny the fact that many Myanmar Buddhists prefer Christians/Hinduism over Islam but that does NOT mean that they are intolerable. We always have Muslim friends in any kind of environment, we would even spend more time to go to halah shops if we were dining together with Muslim friends just for their convenience and we would try not to talk about pork or pig if they were in the group. My first ever best friend is a Muslim girl and my family enjoy having many Muslim neighbours. Though we don’t like killing animals (don’t ask me if it is not contradictory while we are not vegetarians, it takes a genius to answer, I might be able to explain to you if you speak Burmese!), we enjoy the tradition snacks sent by our Muslim friends during Eid. During recent Eid period, even township welfare offices allowed people to submit Guest List (I’ll write about it later) only once per two weeks for the convenience of those who were on feasting. Yet, our parents are used to guide as not to get married with a Muslim just because we have seen many scenarios where girls were forcefully converted to Islam when they had gotten married with a Muslim. Those are the general situations how Buddhists deal with Muslims in Myanmar.

Let’s deal with reality. I’m not quite sure about Buddhists in other countries but very very rare, if at all, Buddhist in Myanmar would entice you to convert to be a Buddhist. On the other hand, Buddhists are easily attracted by other religions as Buddhism has no such culture of Sunday school nor Friday prayer. It is NOT a must to learn religion related stuffs for every Buddhist kids who might grow up with less knowledge on what they think they believe. So, it is very apparent that it is not too difficult to convince a Myanmar Buddhist to believe in other religion if you are a good speaker. That is why parents are worried about their children getting too familiar with other religious stuffs. Freedom of religion? C’mon, you should have freedom to choose which religion you want to follow (or not to give a damn about the religion) when you are old enough but when you are too young, shouldn’t parents be the one to teach about their religions? How about Muslim families in Myanmar? Do they even let their children convert religion peacefully when they become adults? That’s it.

And for above reasons, we have been taught to stay away from “Islam” but not from “Muslims” which we practically cannot . And as Muslims’ fertility rate is higher than that of others (At least, it seems so. No, I did not do a research that cost thousands of dollars so it may or may not be accurate. But if you have some spare time, you can compare the number of children in Muslim families and Buddhists families in Yangon or anywhere else you have been.), Myanmar Buddhists are worried about their growing influence and some like to defend for cultures that are based on Buddhism. And for some people who are not familiar with Myanmar’s culture, they want to generalize it as “Islamophobia”. Such voices become louder and louder since last June when the you-know-what happened. Unfortunately, as a group of people claimed themselves as Rohingyas share their faith with Muslims, headliners are shouting as if there is HUGE degree of Islamophobia in Myanmar. Let me assure you that if Rohingyas were Buddhists and if locals believed that they immigrated from another country (let’s say Buddhists immigrants from Thailand), they would definitely still argue that not all of them should be entitled to citizenship. Yes, Myanmar Buddhists are afraid of “growing population” of Muslims in Myanmar but I do not believe it is fair to label as if they have Islamophobia. They are just scared to lose something they have been cherished.

Without Last Name!

Posted: 15/10/2010 in Culture
Tags: , , ,

If you are an Asian, you might have felt weird when westerners called your first name last & last name first. Yes, it’s sometimes unlikely but at least, you have last name or family name to be addressed. But for us, Myanmar, last name is just a word in stories written in English. Believe it or not! We don’t have family name at all. And it’s apparently no space for another box beside the column of Name in any form to fill up IN MYANMAR.

But whenever we try to fill up the online forms, we have no choice except filling the family name space as they make it mandatory. And, what do we fill? For me, I put first two words of my name as first name and last word as last name. So random? Well, at that point, you may wanna know how many words are there in each name? My wise answer is “it depends”. Yes, it totally depends of how creative the parents or whoever give the names are. They have  the chance to grab any words to form a beautiful or cute or brave or weird name according to their taste. Usually, they make it three. Mine has three, my b.f & brother also own three-words name while my both parents possess two-words name. Some of my friends’ names are made up of four and I’ve seen few of those with the names of five words. And I seldom find eight or seven words named person in newspapers and journals. Now, you know that we have no particular or standardized way to divide our names just to fill up the form.

Some of my foreign friends have questioned me back when I explained about it. “How do you differentiate who is whose children when you don’t have common name with your parents?” Hmm, my answer is “Why do you need to differentiate? Yes, for us, we’ve never thought that we need to be differentiated according to parents. If you know me & I know you, do you still need to know my parents’ names?

On the other hand, I laughed out loud when my friends called  me the middle word of my name. As language is arbitrary, that word “Myae” means “Nearly to be torn” when it stands alone though it becomes “pleasant & cool” when it is combined with the first word “Chan” whose meaning is “Cold”. So I requested them not to call me “Myae”. But that rule implies only for me and there must have several ways to call different people with various style of names.

No one can’t remember how many forms they have filled in & either me. But I’m counting the days when those forms set last name boxes as optional. It may be possible if Myanmar is a powerful country. But when will it be? In my next life?