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Should having a cleaning lady make me feel awkward?

Kitchen Burma Sook_BloggersWithoutBorders

Sook

We like to take trips to far-flung places for encounters with the new-and-different. We love to take in natural wonders and stare in amazement at architectural feats, while we shudder at the thought of fried insects as a delicacy or the amount of chillis that smile at you when food is served. You don’t even have to go far. On the other side of your country’s border you can already stumble upon the most unexpected situations.

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Myanmar or Burma, what’s in a name?

Sanne van Oosten A rose by any other name will still smell as sweet…? Well, Shakespeare, you might just be wrong about that one. The two names Myanmar and Burma are often used interchangeably but have incredibly different implications. Burma was the name that came into fashion during the British colonial period in the second half of the 19th century. Myanmar was the replacement of that name instated by the military junta in 1989. Opposition leader and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi prefers the name Burma because, as she has stated in various media: “the name was changed without any reference to the will of the people.” Even though I tend to side with Aung San Suu Kyi on just about any issue concerning the country’s politics, I think using the  name Burma requires some rethinking. This name might just not smell as sweet to all of the people living in Burma/Myanmar. Read More…

Myanmar’s first census in 30-odd years

bloggers 6

Sook

29 March 2014 will mark an important date in Myanmar’s post-2010 history. All the people who were in the country on that day were to be included in the data of the first Population & Household census held in over 30 years. In the 12 days following the 29th 120,000 enumerators went around the country to collect the data. A census is a systematic exercise aiming to provide the government with data about the population on which it can base its policies and service delivery. As such, it is a common and indispensable instrument. And generally, it is not given much thought.

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We must all be earthworms before we can be lions: Myanmar’s struggle for transition.

Sook

“… And then you have to tell us what animal you’d like to be and why.” This question is part of the opening exercise of today’s class “Communication for change”. It is in part an icebreaker and an exercise in speaking English – but the real aim is to get to know each other better from the choice of animal.

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What’s the difference between a bank and a black market money changer?

Sanne van Oosten

Well, for one thing, trading your money from one currency to the next is a much less strenuous exercise when one gets their money at a bank. Quite different from changing your money with a black market money changer, and we can know, we have experienced both. Still, without all the stress while changing the money, we don’t see all that much difference between the two. Both are cheaters, the only difference being that bankers get away with it, while black market money traders do not.

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The long and windy road of Myanmar

The way to reconciliation is long in Burma

Sook

How long and windy the road to national reconciliation is, is perhaps most visible in Shan State. National reconciliation refers to the quest of finding a way for all the people within the borders of Myanmar to live together. Shan’s roads are windy. Travel takes a long time because of that. The Shan are also a proud people who are not giving up on their dream to again one day have a say over their own destiny.

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The diversity of Asian drinking cultures

Drinking culture_BloggersWithoutBorders

Sanne van Oosten

Yes, drinking cultures, plural. There is no way to speak of one typical way of drinking alcohol throughout Asia. Some just don’t drink, some drink obsessively, others only drink obsessively on special occasions and then there’s the ones that use drunkenness as a way to make important decisions.  Please allow me to explain with some drunken examples.

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2012: a new beginning for Myanmar?

Suu Kyi and Clinton

Sook

A new year always allows for looking back and this could not be more true for Myanmar and 2012. Lots of things have been going on in the country formerly known as Burma. In March the government elected in 2010 in the first elections in 20 years, took office. On 1 April the so-called by-elections took place: in 48 constituencies new representatives were chosen to fill the places of those that had found a place in government and, as a consequence, had to give up their place in parliament. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) competed this time and won 44 of the 45 seats they contested. Sounds like quite a victory, but keep in mind that the (two) houses of national and the 14 sub-national parliaments count over 1000 seats, 25% of these are automatically reserved for the military.

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Why it is really so special that Aung San Suu Kyi is traveling abroad

Sanne van Oosten

Don’t opposition leaders go to neighboring countries all the time? Think again, in the case of Aung San Suu Kyi this is very special. Not only has she not left the country for 24 years, she hasn’t left the country at the highest imaginable personal cost.

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12 things you’ll only see in Myanmar

Sanne van Oosten and Davey Meelker

Because of years of isolation and economic sanctions from the West, Myanmar is a distinctively unique travel destination. For years it was even impossible to travel there as a tourist, making it a country that hasn’t been run down by tourists… yet. At the end of April 2012, the West started to lift the economic sanctions for Myanmar. We visited right before that, during April 2012. Take a look at what we saw here, but nowhere else.

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