Day 15: Colonialism in Myanmar

9/11/19:

Today is my last day to research a specific aspect of Burmese history and culture. Today I will be researching Myanmar’s history of colonialism. You simply cannot walk around the fact that Myanmar has been colonized. I heard about the British and Japanese rule the first day I arrived, I read about it while researching, and we discussed it at school. My goal for today is to learn about Myanmar’s history of colonialism. Not only am I fascinated by this topic, but I also feel like learning about colonialism in Myanmar is necessary if I want to understand the country.

British rule in Myanmar lasted from 1824 to 1948. British rule was the result of the Anglo-Burmese wars that would then create Burma as a province of British India and then to an independent colony.

Myanmar before British rule:

Even before British rule Myanmar was very important. Myanmar is at a very useful location as trade routes between China and India passed directly through the country. This resulted in Myanmar being very wealthy through trade. Indian merchants would travel along the coasts and rivers in Myanmar. Indian culture was brought into Myanmar because of trade. Indian culture is still very prominent in Myanmar today. Myanmar was also one of the first countries in Southeast-Asia to adopt Buddhism. Before British colonization Konbaung Dynasty ruled. Konbaung Dynasty was their form of government ruled by a king. The king had all the power and got the final say,however, he could not make new laws. The British invasion: Conflict first began when the Konbaung Dynasty decided to expand to the state of Assam, close to British ruled Chittagong in India. The Burmese and British fought over the Kingdom of Arakan from 1784-1785. The Burmese were defeated, however in 1823 Burmese forces again crossed into British territory, causing the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826). In 1824 the British took Rangoon (Yangon) with ease. The Treaty of Yandabo was created in 1826 and ended the First Anglo-Burmese War. The First Anglo-Burmese War was the longest and most expensive war in British India’s history. In 1852 the British provoked the Second Anglo-Burmese War by invading Lower Burma for it’s teak forests. This ruined 25 years of peace, and soon the British would occupy all of Lower Burma. The British gained access to the teak, oil, and rubies all rich in Lower Burma. The British initiated the Third Anglo-Burmese War, which lasted two weeks in 1885. After three wars that gained various parts of the country, the British finally occupied all of present day Myanmar. In 1886 Myanmar was deemed a Province of British India.

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Map of Myanmar

British Rule:

Although the war was over, resistance continued in northern Myanmar until 1890. In response to this, the British resorted to systematically destroying villages in northern Myanmar and appointing a new official to stop all guerrilla activity. Due to the fall of the monarchy and the separation of religion and state, traditional Burmese society was drastically changed. Intermarrige between Europeans and Burmese created a new class of Eurasians who were ranked above Burmese but blow British. The separation of church and state was particularly harmful because Buddhist monks depended on the sponsorship of the monarchy. This was also harmful because the monarchy legitimized the Buddhist religion. Another thing the British changed was the education system. They had schools teach in both English and Burmese. They also encouraged Christian missionaries to visit and fund schools. At school Buddhism and traditional Burmese culture was frowned upon. The British did not want the Burmese to have a cultural identity that was different from theirs. After the arrival of the British Myanmar was now tied to the global market and was forced to be a part of the colonial export economy. The British exploited Myanmar’s rich soil, dense forests, and rice, which was in high demand in Europe. Because of Myanmar’s quickly growing economy, the country did experience industrialization to a certain degree. The country used steamboats and railways so they could export goods.

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Anglo-Burmese War
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Colonialism in Myanmar
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Colonialism in Myanmar

Nationalism:

A nationalist movement called Young Men’s Buddhist Association was created after religious associations were allowed by colonial authorities. Educated Burmese leaders rose after they went to London to study law. These leaders believed that the situation in Myanmar could be improved through reform. In 1920 the first university student strike had taken place. Students protested the University Act, which students believed would only benefit the elite. National schools popped up all over the country to protest colonial education. In 1930, a local tax protest led by Saya San grew into a regional, then national protest against the government. This resulted in the government promising reform, however, Saya San was trialed and then executed. In 1937 Myanmar was separated from British India, allowing the colony to create their own constitution, which allowed many Burmese people to be a part of the elected assembly.

Japanese Invasion:

The Japanese invaded Myanmar is 1942 with help from the Japanese-trained Burma Independence Army. The army was Japanese trained because the Burmese hoped to gain support from the Japanese in order to expel British rule, so that Myanmar could be independent. When the Japanese invaded, they installed a puppet government led by Ba Maw. The Burmese began to realize that the Japanese had no intention to give them independence. The Burma Independence Army would later become the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League that would resist Japanese rule. By 1945 British led troops from the British Indian Army had taken back most of the colony. The British liberated the Burmese from Japanese rule with help from the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League. The league’s leader, Aung San, established a political and military power base so he could negotiate Myanmar’s independence with Great Britain. In 1948 Myanmar was granted independence and Aung San took office.

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Aung San
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Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League
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Japanese in Myanmar

Although I am finishing my research on Myanmar in kind of a sad note, it was necessary. Myanmar experienced 60 long years of colonialism that will impact the country and culture forever. I definitely gained an understanding of colonialism because my research was extensive. This is a very complex topic, so it took more work than my other two topics. Again I am blown away by how strong Burmese people are when it comes to fighting for their freedom. Although Myanmar has had a dreadful history of violence, invasion, and colonialism; their culture is their own, and vibratant. After doing this research, I definitely feel like I understand the country better. I only wish that I could go back and stand in the same places that I now know have so much significance.

References:

Day 14: Burmese Politics

9/10/19:
Today is my second day of researching a specific topic. Today I will be focusing on Burmese politics and current events. I will focus on topics like recent elections and the Rohingya Crisis. For the most part, Myanmar is a very peaceful country, however, I know from my classmates and my international relations teacher that there is more to scratch off the surface. My goal for today is that through researching current and past events I get an understanding of Burmese politics. Another goal I have for today is that I finish the titles for my triboard and start to brainstorm more ideas for my presentation.

Myanmar’s political history:

Myanmar describes itself as a unitary parliamentary republic, although it is rated as a “hybrid regime”. The military of Myanmar holds a lot of power in the government. After gaining independence in 1948, the Burmese Constitution was signed.

A brief history lesson:

1962 – The military junta takes over in the form of a single-party socialist system

1990 – The democratic party wins by a landslide, but the military ignores the result

2011 – The military hands over to a new formed civilian government

2015 – The democratic party wins enough seats in the parliament to form a legitimate government

2018 – UN accuses Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya Muslims.

Ethnic based political parties are not a new concept in Myanmar. They are actually widespread, as the ethnic divisions in Myanmar have caused many ethnic groups to form political parties to fight for their own rights and for autonomy over their own region in some cases. In fact, many of the ethnic, political parties ran in the previous elections too, but did not win many seats. The military junta was also responsible for fuelling the many ethnic conflicts that have plagued the country’s history since. Therefore, in 2015, it was only natural that the party historically known for espousing its opposition to Myanmar’s military rule while fighting for democratic rights was elected into power. Even before the Rohingya Crisis ethnic minorities in Myanmar have been denied Constitutional rights, access to land, and participation in the government. Many conflicts are caused by warlords, regional ethnic alliances, and religious differences. Ethnic groups like the Karen, Karennu, Mon, Wa, and Shan have all been forced to seek refuge in neighboring countries. There are reportedly 600,000 Internally Displaced People living in Myanmar today. The culprits of these ethnic struggles include, but are not limited to the Government of Myanmar (junta), the Karen National Union and the Mong Tai Army.

1988 Uprising:

Although Myanmar is rich in resources, the country has had long periods of economic stagnation. One of these economic crises resulted in a military takeover in 1962. This takeover turned into a dictatorship led by Ne Win. The government ruled through fear until 1988. In the summer of 1988 students began to voice their resentment over the government and economy. Thousands of people marched the streets of Yangon and other cities and towns around the country in protest. On August 8th troops opened fire on protesters in Yangon. Despite the violence protests and demonstrations continued to grow and spread. As the protests turned into a nationwide phenomenon people began to look for leadership. Student activists convinced Aung San Suu Kyi to join the movement. On August 26th, she made her first major speech at the Shwedagon Pagoda. The crowd at the Shwedagon consisted of half-million people, and all were convinced. The democracy movement had chosen Suu Kyi as their leader. Ne Win stepped down in July, however, most people understood that he still held power in the regime. As the protests continued, rulers promised multiparty elections. The government announced a new military leader who would ban all public demonstrations. The military cracked down on protests across the country using violence to kill protesters and cause them to flee the country. In 1990 free and fair elections were held as promised. Aung San Suu Kyi won by a landslide.

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1988 Uprising
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Military Crackdown
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Aung San Suu Kyi

Rohingya Crisis:

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority in Myanmar. At the start of 2017, there were around 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar. The majority live in Rakhine State. The Rohingya have their own language and culture, they are descendants of Arab traders and other groups in the region. Myanmar has denied Rohingyas citizenship and refuse to recognize them as a people. Myanmar sees the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Sine 2017 more than 700,00 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine State to escape the military led ethnic cleansing. The atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military include: mass killings, sexual violence, and widespread arson. Military and civilian officials have repeatedly denied that these crimes despite extensive evidence. Evidence included videos, photographs, documents and satellite images that show the destruction of Rohingya villages over several months in 2017. There are about 392 villages that were partially or totally destroyed in northern Rakhine state. Investigators have come to the understanding that the military is tightly controlled by the government that there is no way that this has gone unnoticed by officials. The people who gave the orders have been identified and accused, investigators are still trying to find more members of the military who have committed crimes.

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Rohingya Crisis
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Rohingya Crisis

I had briefly read up on the Rohingya crisis, maybe a year ago, I would sometimes hear it on NPR or see it pop up on google. I am glad that I did an in depth search to learn about the Rohigya crisis. Parts of my research I can personally attest to, like the fact that the government and civilians in Myanmar tend to deny what is going on. In school, teachers were not aloud to talk about the Rohigya crisis. I also remember that students would get mad if you referred to it as a genocide. My research showed me the bigger picture of this situation. I would also retract my statement that “Myanmar is a very peaceful country”. Myanmar is a peaceful country, but not to all. I was surprised of Myanmar’s history of ethnic cleansing. My friend Mwe is Shan and to me she appeared 100% Burmese, however, the Shan people were run out of Myanmar at one point. What I have learned about Burmese politics is that they have come a long way, and still have a long way to go. I learned that these people had to truly fight for their freedom, and have only in recent years been able to reap the benefits. I had previously assumed that people didn’t care about politics because they didn’t talk about it, but I know realize why it is uncomfortable to talk about politics. I do believe these people care about politics more than most because they have come a long way and will continue to fight for themselves and their country.

References:

Day 13: Burmese Entertainment

9/9/19:

Today is my first day back. I miss Myanmar, but it feels good to be home. My goals for today are that I finalize some older blog posts, start working on my presentation, and lastly I would like to research Bumese entertainment media. Since I am home the best thing for me to do is research. Today I would like to focus on entertainment because that is important to any culture. In Myanmar I had heard of some movies, books, or social media platforms, but I had never fully looked into them. I hope to gain a good understanding of what/who is popular and may even watch some movies or TV shows that have significance.

I started my day by finalizing and uploading some blog posts. I now feel more satisfied with how my blog looks. I worked on my presentation by working on my triboard. For my presentation I plan on using a triboard to display all that I did in Myanmar. I also plan on showing souvenirs that are significant to Burmese culture and providing snacks for people to try. Today I wrote out the different titles that will go on my triboard. It is simple work but took me a while because I want it to be neat. I devoted the rest of my day to research.

I have divided my research into sections so it is more organized. My first section is TV. All broadcasted media is owned by the Burmese government except for one station, MM. MM is the only private TV station in Myanmar. There are still a lot of restrictions on what can and cannot be broadcasted on TV. The Video Act of 1985 outlined what media could be taped. There are 7 stations in Myanmar. MTV1 and MTV2 are the main channels. MRTV-3 is broadcasted in English to appeal to Myanmar’s international audience. Netflix was just recently made available in Myanmar, before, students would use a British or American VPN to download Netflix. Mwe explained to me that Korean dramas are very popular in Myanmar. TV is mostly used to broadcast the news or movies, TV series aren’t common.

Radio: Radio broadcasting began in 1936. The Burma Broadcasting Service began 10 years later, in 1946. There are several FM stations. Most radio stations are operated by MRTV or the military. The main radio station is Radio Myanmar. Radio Myanmar usually begins with daily readings from the government. The readings consists of the “Seven Point Road to Democracy”, “Twelve Political, Economic, and Social Objectives”, and the “Three Main National Causes”. Foreign music is permitted, although traditional Burmese classics are played the most. It is common for radio stations to play foreign songs that have been re recorded in Burmese.

Internet: In 2011, internet censorship in Myanmar was significantly reduced. International new sites like Voice of America, BBC, and Radio Free Asia had become accessible overnight. Burmese sites who were highly critical of Myanmar’s ruling regime like Democratic Voice of Burma and Irrawaddy had also become accessible. Thit Htoo Lwin, 7 Day Daily, and the Democratic Voice of Burma are the top three most popular new sites in Myanmar. Internet access varies. It is uncommon to use the internet in rural areas because of electricity shortages. According to statistics, the internet has yet to make a significant impact on Myanmar. As of 2010 only 400,000 people used the internet (0.8% of the population). This increased in 2016 when there were 1.3 million internet users. Social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are used in Myanmar, but Facebook and Viber (messaging app) are the most popular. There is still media censorship in Myanmar. The government screens and censors media coverage regarding officials and the military. Myanmar does not fully have freedom of speech.

Movies: In Myanmar foreign films from America, India, and the UK are very popular. Myanmar produces about 50 pictures per year. Unfortunately, most of the producing companies do not have financial or technical resources to make impressive films. Scripts are usually heavily inspired by foreign films. Documentaries have recently become popular in Myanmar. Mwe said these movies were both very popular:

  • Lat Pan, a story of a father reuniting with his long lost daughter.
  • The Gemini, a story about how a widow comes to suspect that not only is her husband still alive, but he’s in a gay relationship.
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Lat Pan
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The Gemini

Celebrities: I asked Mwe for a list of Burmese celebrities, this is what she came up with:

  • Nay Chi Oo, an actress
  • DeDe, Burmese YouTuber
  • Nay toe, an actor
  • Eaindra Kyaw Zin, an actress
  • Wut Hmone Shwee Yee, an actress
  • Phwe Phwe, an actress and model
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Nay Toe
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Nay Chi Oo

I notice that most of the celebrities are actresses or actors. This is probably because watching movies is a popular pastime in Myanmar. Another celebrity is Nay Shwe Thway Aung. Nay Shwe Thway Aung is a Burmese business tycoon. He is the grandson of Senior General Than Shwe, Myanmar’s dictator and former head of a military junta. Nay Shwe Thway Aung is the face of wealth in Myanmar. My friend showed me a video that was directed by Nay Shwe Thway, it stars himself and two famous Burmese models. The video is a cover to Enrique Iglesias’s “Tonight I’m Lovin You”. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO-GnA3XPxY)

Music: Although traditional Burmese music is very common, more and more Burmese pop artists are becoming popular. Mwe provided me this list of popular artists:

  • Bunny Phyo, R&B and pop
  • Htet Yan, R&B
  • Sai Sai Kham Hlaing, hip hop
  • Phyo Phyu Kyaw Thein, pop
  • Pan Yaung Chel, pop
  • Oak Soe Khant, pop
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Bunny Phyoe
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Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein

After looking up each artist, I found that R&B and pop are the most liked musical genres among Burmese people.

I believe I researched successfully because I learned a lot of new things I wasn’t expecting. For instance, I was surprised by the themes in popular Burmese films. The films include controversial topics like abortion and homosexuality. Although Myanmar is a very traditional country, issues like abortion and homosexuality are not seen as controversial and can be openly talked about. I was also surprised by the fact that the military would make announcements every morning on the radio. This seems odd to me, but I feel that in a way it is equivalent to students saying the pledge of allegiance every morning. Today is my second day of researching a specific topic. Today I will be focusing on Burmese politics and current events. I will focus on topics like recent elections and the Rohingya Crisis. For the most part, Myanmar is a very peaceful country. But I know from my classmates and my international relations teacher that there is more to scratch off the surface. My goal for today is that through researching current and past events I get an understanding of Burmese politics. Another goal I have for today is that I finish the titles for my triboard and start to brainstorm more ideas for my presentation. It was also interesting to learn about how little of the population in Myanmar uses the internet. While I was in Yangon I always saw students on social media. I guess I kind of neglected the fact that rural parts of Myanmar simply do not have the resources and are not exposed to things like the internet. Perhaps this is also just a cultural difference where they do not prioritize the internet. Overall I had a lot of fun researching this topic and I’m glad I did not neglect something as simple as entertainment.

References:

  1. “Media of Myanmar.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Sept. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_of_Myanmar.
  2. “Top 21 Myanmar Newspapers & News Media.” AllYouCanRead.com, http://www.allyoucanread.com/myanmar-newspapers/.
  3. Min, U Myo. “Burmese Entertainment.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 1 Feb. 1958, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1958/02/burmese-entertainment/306826/.
  4. “Myanmar Profile – Media.” BBC News, BBC, 2 May 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-12991727

Day 12: Shwedagon at Night

9/6/19:

Today is my last day in Myanmar, tomorrow I fly home. Since it is my last day, Aunty Amy, Phyu Phyu, Zin Zin, my dad, and I plan on going out to dinner and then going to the Shwedagon at night. Although we have already been to the Shwedagon, people say it is a completely different experience at night. My goal for today is for me to learn more about Phyu Phyu, Zin Zin, and Aunty Amy and for me to take nice photos at the Shwedagon. These goals aren’t as ambitious, but I would like to just breath in Myanmar one last time before I leave.

Shwedagon

When I came home today I was surprised to find out that Zin Zin, Phyu Phyu, and Aunty Amy had gotten me a traditional Burmese outfit. A traditional Burmese outfit consists of a longyi, a formal top, and sandals. They wanted me to wear this traditional outfit to Shwedagon for photos. When visiting the Shwedagon almost everyone except for tourists wear traditional outfits. I am excited to wear the outfit, I feel like this will be my grand finale to my immersion experience. The four of us went to a restaurant called Jeff’s Place. Jeff’s Place sells both Western and Asian cuisine. I noticed that I got a lot of looks while I was wearing the traditional outfit, but they were looks of curiosity and admiration which was nice. Aunty Amy, Phyu Phyu, and Zin Zin were also wearing traditional outfits. At the restaurant we ordered both Western and Asian cuisine. I got some of my favorites like fried rice, spring rolls, and grilled chicken. Just like last time, we all shared our food. At dinner Aunty Amy surprised me with a bunch of gifts. She wanted to get me gifts that represented Burmese culture. She got me a mini Saung, which is a harp used in traditional Burmese music. She also got me a Pyit Taing Htaung. A Pyit Taing Htaung is made from paper mache, it is in the shape of an egg and has a smiling face painted on it. The egg has a small weight on the bottom so when you roll it over it will come upright again. Aunty Amy told me that the egg represents the saying: “even if you fall, you will always get back up.” She also got me a Zee Kwet. Zee Kwet means owls in Burmese. In Myanmar stories, similar to the rest of the world, owls are seen as wise animals. Zee Kwets are meant to bring luck and prosperity to the family that owns them. Aunty Amy also got me some jade jewelry. Myanmar is known for its jade, jade is a gemstone that can come in a variety of colors. Aunty Amy spoiled me as if I was her grandchild. She does remind me a lot of my own grandmother. Just like my grandmother, Aunty Amy was born in 1941. After dinner, we headed to the Shwedagon. As we went through security I got some compliments from the workers about my traditional outfit. At the Shwedagon there are two entrances, one for locals and one for foreigners. Foreigners have to pay more to enter the Shwedagon, they actually thought Zin Zin was a foreigner which we found funny. The Shwedagon at night is very beautiful. There are lights all over which compliments the gold and marble. The biggest difference I noticed is that the Shwedagon at night is much calmer. It is less crowded and much quieter. I saw a lot more people pray and pay their respects. At the Shwedagon we took a lot of group photos since we were all dressed in traditional clothes. We also got a lot of nice photos of the Pagoda and shrines. We mostly strolled around a talked. Zin Zin and I were both born on a Tuesday, so we are represented by the lion. We went to the Tuesday shrine, I prayed and poured water on the Buddah to purify my thoughts. Another fun fact about the Shwedagon is that there are ancient trees that are giant. Each tree tells a different story. At the Shwedagon you enter through one of the four entrances, you always walk counter clockwise and exit at whatever side you want. Once we reached our exit, we said our goodbyes. I am overwhelmed with all the gifts Aunty Amy, Phyu Phyu, and Zin Zin got me. They were all so helpful and I am so grateful I got to meet them.

Saung
Pyit Taing Htaung
Zee Kwet
Jade Jewlery
Aunty Amy and I
Me in front of the Shwedagon
Aunty Amy, Phyu Phyu, Zin Zin, & I
Man praying

Overall I had a great time. I wish I had asked Zin Zin, Phyu Phyu, and Aunty Amy more questions because I feel like I could get to know more about them. I was able to learn about Aunty Amy’s kids, both of which live in Thailand and speak fluent Thai. For the most part we enjoyed each other’s company. My dad and I were able to get some great photos. I did learn a lot about Burmese toys and instruments as Aunty Amy explained the significance of all her gifts. I had seen these things in shops, but had no clue of the meanings behind each object. I am glad I learned about them, because they did spark my curiosity. I am also glad I got to try out the traditional Burmese outfit. People here rarely ever wear sneakers so Aunty Amy, Phyu Phyu, and Zin Zin were teasing me about wearing converse with my traditional outfit. Tonight was such a perfect display of Burmese culture through food, clothing, and religion. This was the perfect ending to a great trip.

Day 11: Interviewing Mwe

9/5/19:

Today I will be hanging out with Mwe again. We plan on going ice skating and going to Bogyoke Aung San Market. Bogyoke is a very popular shopping bazaar known for its colonial architecture, jewelry, art, and antiques. I am hoping to find gifts for my family and friends there. My goal for today is to conduct a successful interview with Mwe. I believe Mwe is very much capable of answering my questions about Burmese culture. 

Mwe
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Aung San Market

After ice skating and Bogyoke Market, Mwe and I sat down at a Burmese restaurant. I recorded her answers on my phone, the following is a transcript:

T: How would you describe Myanmar?

M: I would describe Myanmar as diverse, beautiful, and the perfect mix of old and new. 

T: Would you want to stay here, or live somewhere else?

M: Well i’m going to the UK for university where I will be studying law. I might practice in the UK for a couple of years, but eventually I would like to come back to Yangon. I want to help people here, and I would also like to stay close to family.

T: Are there any stigmas here?

M: Yes, the one that comes to mind for me is modesty. It is weird because we have all these stores selling flashy and revealing clothes which people buy, yet our country is very conservative. For example, there was a woman who was a doctor and she lost her job because she posted bikini pictures. Of course I feel like this wrong, so I would say that is a stigma we have even though it doesn’t make sense. 

T: What is family life like in Myanmar?

M: Family is very important here. A lot of couples will have their parents move in, and having children is encouraged. I notice that Catholics and Christians will have a lot more children compared to Hindus or Buddhists. 

T: What is your daily life like?

M: Well I used to wake up at 5am to meditate and study. Now that I am out of school, I don’t have much to do. I just eat a lot and get fat (she’s joking). I will help my mom or ride the busses to malls to get food. 

T: What are your favorite Burmese dishes?

M: I enjoy Indian curries, I really like the cold vegetable dish I had you try, I like Falooda (a dessert with milk, gummies, and corn).  My favorite is probably stir fried rice cakes. 

T: What is the attitude about politics here?

M: I think me and other people my age tend to be more outspoken about politics. Older generations will just vote and that’s all they do in regards to politics. Here we don’t really have freedom of speech, we say we do, but you can’t talk or publish certain things about the government. 

T: What do students do for fun here? 

M: I feel like I’m not the person to ask because I usually just like to stay home. I know a lot of students enjoy going to bars to play pool or darts. Shopping of course is big too. A lot of students also like to go to raves and clubs. Personally, that stuff doesn’t interest me. 

T: What are some social issues in Myanmar that you would like to see change?

M: I think that there is a lot of colorism here. You see advertisements all over for skin bleaching which causes a lot of young people to feel insecure about themselves and their race. Although Myanmar is diverse, a lot of Chinese-Burmese people will treat those who are from India, or Bangladesh differently. I also would like for men to stop cat calling here. I think it is very disrespectful and makes a lot of women and girls uncomfortable. 

T: What do you want me to know about Myanmar?

M: Even though I just described some negative aspects of Myanmar it is a really great country. The people here are very nice and very hardworking. My favorite thing about Myanmar is that we are home to so many sacred monuments and that there is so much vibrant culture here. 

This interview was successful because Mwe did a good job of explaining everything I was curious about. It is hard for me to write down everything she has taught me from the time I have spent time with her because I’ve learned so much. I wanted to try a different approach to learning about Burmese culture. I wanted a more direct and professional method than just forming conclusions from my own personal experiences and thoughts. I really enjoyed this interview, and I plan on doing this again before I leave Myanmar.

Day 10: Bangkok Pt. 2

9/4/19:

Today is our second day in Bangkok. Yesterday entailed tourist attractions, today we will do some exploring of our own. We plan on visiting the Golden Buddha and exploring Chinatown. Although I am in Thailand, I think my goal for today should be to learn more about Chinese culture. A lot of Burmese and Thai people have Chinese ancestry, so Chinese culture is intertwined in both Myanmar and Thailand. I already have some knowledge on Chinese culture because I take a Chinese language class, but I am looking to expand my perspective and learn new things.

Golden Buddah

My dad and I traveled directly to the Golden Buddha. The Golden Buddha’s official name is Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon. It is located in the temple of Wat Traimit. A fun fact is that the Golden Buddha is the world’s largest solid-gold statue. It is 3 meters tall and weighs about 5.5 tonnes. I read that it is worth $300 million USD. The Golden Buddha is also very old as historians have estimated that it was built in the 13th-14th centuries. One thing I noticed is that the dress code is still the same as other pagodas and temples, except less people follow it. People are respectful enough to take their shoes off, but I noticed people would be in tank tops or dresses. I found this very different from Yangon, so I was a bit shocked to see people not follow the rules. After the Golden Buddha my dad saw a Tuk Tuk. I then rode a Tuk Tuk for the first time and it was a lot of fun. It was what I’d imagine riding a motorcycle would be like, but a lot safer. We took the Tuk Tuk to Chinatown. Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. This Chinatown was established in 1782 and was home to mostly a Teochew immigrant Chinese population. Now the Teochew population is the city’s dominant ethnic group. My dad and I mostly walked around and took photos. My dad got a nice photo of a grandmother, mother, and daughter. It was cool to see the three generations together. My dad and I stopped by an antique store that was very crowded. My dad and I did a lot of looking, the woman who owned the shop was very friendly. I was caught off guard by the personal questions she would ask me. She asked if I had a boyfriend and asked my dad how much money he made. I didn’t mind answering them, nor did I think the questions were rude, I just wasn’t used to it. All the people I encountered in Chinatown were very friendly, even when they would say no to my dad’s bargaining. In Chinatown I bought an old cigar case that had Chinese writing all over it. My dad bought my sister some vintage posters, and an old photograph. Chinatown was very lively, if we didn’t need to go to the airport, I would love to spend more time there.

First tuk tuk experience
Pagoda
Chinatown
Chinatown
Students
Women sowing
Street food
Architecture in Chinatown
Daughter, mother, & grandmother

Even though my time in Chinatown was only for two hours, I think I learned a lot. The first thing I learned is that Chinese people are very family orientated. Most of the time I saw groups of families instead of individuals. I also noticed that a lot of the businesses were family run. The second thing I learned is that it is normal for people to ask you personal questions. I didn’t see a lot of Chinese people hug or slap each other on the back, so I feel like asking these questions is a way for people to show friendliness and provide a sense of comfort and intimacy. The last thing I learned is that it is uncommon for people to tell you “no” outright. It is never “no”, it is “I can’t do that at this time” or “this is not convenient.” I believe “no” is seen as rude. Being polite is very important to Chinese people. I notice that being polite, family orientated ect is also important to Thai and Burmese people. I am glad I made this connection, and I hope to learn more.

Day 9: Bangkok

9/3/19:

Today my dad and I will be traveling to Bangkok, Thailand. My goal is for me to experience Bangkok in all its glory. I know this seems unrelated to Burmese culture, however, traveling to Bangkok is very normal to those who can afford it. A lot of the students I went to school with tell me how often they will travel to Bangkok to shop and relax with their families. I also think this trip will expand my global confidence.

Bangkok

Thailand is very close to Myanmar, the plane ride was only an hour long and cost only 100 dollars. My dad told me that Bangkok is the Las Vegas of Asia. One of the best examples of Bangkok’s significance is its new airport. The airport has over 20 check in locations because it is so big and busy. Unlike Yangon, I saw foreigners everywhere. I found it interesting that Thailand still has a royal family. The royal family is all over billboards, buildings, and posters. The first night my dad and I walked to a night market close to our hotel. I was immediately overwhelmed but excited by all that was going on. There were countless restaurants, shops, and shows all busy and thriving. On the walk back to our hotel my dad stopped by a bar that had a live band. He told me how awesome it would be if they let him play the drums. I encouraged him to ask. There were four middle aged Thai men playing classic rock. They did, in fact, let my dad play the drums. They seemed to be delighted with him and how big he was in comparison to them. My dad played so hard he broke one of the drum sticks. He later kept the broken drum stick as a souvenir. This was definitely the highlight of my dad’s trip. He may have taken the cake in cultural immersion this time. The next day my dad and I went to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. This market is the largest in Thailand with over 15,000 stalls, 11,500 venders, and 27 sections. My favorite part of this experience was probably the pet market. I saw Meerkats, Bengal cats, all kinds of birds, puppies, kittens, snakes, and monkeys to name a few. My dad and I found lots of items for ourselves as well as friends and family. We both bought hats that we wore for the rest of the day. After resting, my dad and I went to Patpong Night Market. This market was essentially the same as Chatuchak but smaller and at night. One thing I noticed, that both my dad and I found funny is that venders would frantically hide their merchandise when the police were coming. I believe this is because most of the stuff is illegal and knock offs. My dad and I did a lot of shopping today, which I think is a big part of the Bangkok experience.

Dad playing drums
Motorcycles at the Weekend Market
Bengal cat
Meerkats
Hedgehogs
Flea Market

In comparison to Yangon, Bangkok is very different. My dad told me he likes Yangon because it is like a hidden gem. In Bangkok you see tourists everywhere and it seems like the city is catered to them. In Yangon I have only seen a handful of tourists, and to be here as a tourist you have to find your way on your own. Although it was interesting to see people from all over the globe, and to hear all kinds of languages, I have a newfound appreciation for the uniqueness of Yangon.