Archive for the ‘Interesting Stuffs’ Category

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.

 

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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.

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!