Fifty Viss

a collection of thoughts and writings on Burma

The state of Burmese Unicode

This past week, I switched over to a new Android phone, the much touted Google Nexus 5, a Google-branded smartphone bearing the latest version of the Android OS, version 4.4 … Continue reading

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New project: Zagabon, a compilation of Burmese proverbs

New project: Zagabon, a compilation of Burmese proverbs

I’ve begun a small side project on Tumblr, called Zagabon, to collect and publish Burmese proverbs and sayings of all kinds, along with English translations and context if necessary. There’s a pretty extensive Burmese proverb website up (, but unfortunately, much of the content is locked out to English speakers. That’s saddening.

The collection can be found at

My mom inspired my own attempt to collect all these sayings. I was raised in a bilingual household–my dad used only English with the children, while my mom used only Burmese, even though they communicate to each other in Burmese. Growing up, I became familiar with a plethora of Burmese sayings, perhaps the one thing I associate most with my mother. During the early years of their marriage, my father started his own form of documentation: Burmese scribbles onto notebooks and memo pads here and there, on the sayings my mom had to offer. So much so, that she began to say “Write it down” after reciting a proverb. This is just (hopefully) a more systematic approach and a continuation of his work.

Also, I’ve taken note at many folks who have an interest in these sayings, both Burmese speakers and non-speakers alike.

I think proverbs truly highlight the beauty of the Burmese language, with its earthy fluid sounds, regular vowel rhymes and mostly monosyllabic vocabulary. But it’s exceedingly difficult to translate the nuances of the Burmese language, so I’ll try my best to render the proverbs as well as I can in English.

I could use some help though–if anybody wants to chip in a proverb or two, feel free to do so in my submit box! (

In the mean time, enjoy.

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A taste of what’s ahead?

The other day, I watched a fascinating documentary, No place like home, on Al Jazeera’s 101 East about Cambodia’s growing pains, as development speeds up, often at the expense of the … Continue reading

15 July 2012 · 1 Comment

Some thoughts on the construct of race

The Burmese government has been very successful at propagating the myth of the 135 ethnic groups in Burma, or the myth of the 8 “national races.” Anybody who delved into … Continue reading

8 July 2012 · 2 Comments

Some thoughts on Arakan State’s bloodshed

This past week, my Facebook newsfeed has been bombarded by photos, pictures, slogans and status updates all centered around the Buddhist-Muslim killings in Burma’s Arakan State. To be sure, I’ve … Continue reading

12 June 2012 · 4 Comments

Immigrant Buddhists in a resolutely non-Buddhist America

I think it’s difficult to raise children Buddhist in the United States. In college, one of the major shared experiences among a lot of my Buddhist friends was that we … Continue reading

11 May 2012 · 5 Comments

A touchy subject: Burma’s sex tourism industry

Lately, I’ve noticed a crop of news articles and opinion pieces pop up about Burma’s sex tourism industry. It’s no surprise that Burma has a burgeoning sex tourism industry, targeted … Continue reading

10 April 2012 · 13 Comments

101 East program on Burma’s recent changes

25 minutes long, titled “Myanmar’s reforms.” More info on Al Jazeera’s website. The program basically reiterates what’s been said in the news these days. But it features a rare short … Continue reading

6 April 2012 · Leave a comment

Burma’s by-elections are overhyped

First off, it’s really breathtaking to see so many enthused Burmese, so many people anticipating a future of opportunity. It fills me with emotion, too. This sense of yearning, reconstruction … Continue reading

6 April 2012 · 3 Comments

PBS NewsHour segment featuring Weekly Eleven

An 8:30 interview from PBS NewsHour on the situation of politics and media in Burma. It features interviews with a variety of subjects rarely covered in international media, including Eleven … Continue reading

6 April 2012 · Leave a comment

English translation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s official campaign speech

I took the liberty of adding English subtitles (and Burmese, for the curious) to Aung San Suu Kyi’s 15 minute official campaign speech for the 2012 by-elections, run on Burmese … Continue reading

16 March 2012 · Leave a comment

News Roundup – Week 11, 2012

“Pass the Books. Hold the Oil.” (New York Times) An interesting observation on the negative correlation between a country’s natural resources and the educational achievement of its students. The countries … Continue reading

14 March 2012 · Leave a comment




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