left handed ဘယ်သန်

Burmese attitudes toward left-handed people

I was born with a left hand dominance. To this day, it’s simply instinct for me to reach for things, to brush my teeth, and to use utensils with my left hand. However, I write with my right. Why?

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Just a thought

I apologize for my lack of updates in the past three months or so.  Bogged down by schoolwork (21 units in a quarter is no fun), family drama and other nonsense, I haven’t had time to write anything here. Finally, winter break has come.

One of the classes I took this fall was History 9E: Southeast Asian Crossroads, to kill two birds with one stone (fulfill a GE requirement and Southeast Asian studies minor requirement). I think this class made me rethink a lot about my perceptions of Burma and Southeast Asia in general. To really understand Southeast Asia, one needs to understand its past. However, I felt that large swathes of Southeast Asia were completely omitted, especially Malaysia and Vietnam, but I can understand the impossible task of covering all of Southeast Asia in the matter of less than 10 weeks.

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Name troubles

It seems that I need to explain something to readers of this blog, especially since I have been contacted by the BBC World Service for an interview as Aung Htin Kyaw.

I have been blogging for the past year under my Burmese name “Aung Htin Kyaw,” which is neither official and is primarily used by my family (but is not my legal name). As a precaution, I opted not to use my English name, since the Burmese government has a habit of denying visas to those who criticize it (no matter how small my readership is). I believe in ensuring that nobody in my family, those who live in the States and those who are still Burmese citizens, is negatively affected by what I write. Also, I do not want to be denied a visa to Burma in the near future.

Some of those who have e-mailed me found out, perhaps because of my forgetfulness, what my English name is. For my sake, please do not refer to me by that name. I am willing to take no risks to endanger the lives of family and friends, no matter how trivial it seems.

Sorry for not being honest from the beginning, but I had my reasons for not disclosing my legal name.

Going to Asia (in three months)

This Christmas break, I will be going to Asia. It’s my first time going back in two years and I am excited. Since I was 13 when I last had my passport made, I had to go in person to renew it, and I will be expecting the new passport (chip-embedded and all) in two months. At least this time, the passport will expire in 10 years. Hopefully my passport will be renewed, since I forgot to bring my driver’s license/ID card as verification on the passport application (I know, I’m an idiot.)

Not sure whether I will go to Burma, since the political situation there is precarious. But I hope I will get to at least make a quick stop in Rangoon.

But if school keeps me bogged down during my Christmas break, I will most certainly have to delay my plans.

Went to Las Vegas

Las Vegas

The Las Vegas strip, from a pedestrian bridge between the Venetian and The Mirage hotels.

I have been absent from blogging for the past few days, because went on a road trip with my family to Nevada and beyond, staying three nights in Las Vegas. I never bring my laptop with me on vacations, so I was essentially disconnected from news in Burma and have been completely overwhelmed by the amount of developing news in Burma. Apparently, CNN only likes to cover Burma when a celebrity like Jim Carrey decides to voice his support for Aung San Suu Kyi on Youtube (I videotaped the news story with my camera, but the file size is too big for Youtube, so I can’t upload it.)

Las Vegas, in one word, is suffocating. Inside the casinos, passersby are suffocated by the overwhelming stench of cigarette smoke. Outside, pedestrians are choked by the desert heat combined with the smell of gasoline and cigarette smoke. I felt like I was being baked inside a parking garage at 11 p.m. after seeing the Cirque du Soleil show “Mystère.” At nearly $100 a ticket, the show was a bit disappointing, but nonetheless amazing (the acrobatics were stunning). I did not really understand the abstract ideas, though. Next time I visit Las Vegas, I hope to catch all 5 shows of Cirque du Soleil. Anyone who has been to a Cirque du Soleil show will agree that they are much more than fancy visuals.

Anyway, I’m back but may be a little delayed in terms of updates in Burma.

Rants on Burma

The one thing I regret about going to Burma is this: Burmese food in America no longer compares. The one-no-hkauk-swe (coconut milk noodles) aren’t as fragrant as the ones on the Rangoon streets. The hkauk-swe-thoke (noodle salad) doesn’t compare nor does the phaluda (falooda).

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At the Golden Triangle Restaurant

I forgot to mention that yesterday was my birthday. I am finally able to legally smoke cigarettes, not that I intend to.

My family celebrated by going to the Golden Triangle Restaurant, a moderately-priced Burmese and Thai restaurant in Uptown Whittier. (I have no idea why the restaurant is named after the major opium-producing area). Even though the restaurant was established over 20 years ago, it was surprisingly empty. The Thai waitress pronounced the names of the Burmese dishes with such fluency that my parents began speaking to her in Burmese, but she did not understand. The food was average, by my tastes. Although Burmese cuisine places an emphasis on taste and not appearance, every dish that came out of the kitchen was garnished with cilantro (coriander).

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Buddha in a bottle

My grandfather’s house has an immense collection of Buddha statues, extending throughout the entire length of the living room. The most interesting Buddha in the three altars is one in a bottle. It is amazing how the artisan managed to put the elaborate altar, details like the disciples and flower vases inside the bottle, but what is even more amazing is its history.

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Food from Burma

From Burma, with love

My aunt and uncle returned from Burma today, bringing with them pounds and pounds of Burmese delectables from friends and relatives living in Burma. My mother got her share of goods and letters from her friends and family. I cannot wait to enjoy all of this, including the la phet (pickled tea leaves) and zi cho (preserved fruit).

Boba and blogging


Boba, a tea beverage that originated in Taiwan, is made of milk tea and black tapioca “balls”. It is utterly addictive, even though I don’t really know why. It’s personally better-tasting than Starbucks coffee. Yesterday I went to the South Coast Plaza, which is a gigantic mall with uppercrust shops, too sophisticated and expensive for my tastes. The only item I bought in the entire mall was a venti cup o’ joe from Starbucks, peppermint-flavored. Actually, two, one peppermint and one double chocolate. Starbucks is overrated. Its coffee isn’t even that good-tasting–I prefer 7-Eleven coffee, which is far cheaper.

Then I came home. Since my aunt and uncle are going back to Burma tomorrow, my mom wanted to give ang-pao (red envelopes) to her friends and relatives in Rangoon, with $100 bills (probably 5 months of the average Burmese person’s wages) neatly packed inside greeting cards and letters. I had to laboriously type letters in Burmese on the computer, which took a while.  One of the letters is written to Hsaya (name withheld), who was a high school teacher to my mom. It’s amazing how much respect Burmese people give to their teachers. I’ve seen videos of hsaya gadaw, the worship of teachers to show one’s respect. My uncle participates in this annually, packing up and going back to Rangoon to do so. It’s such a stark contrast to typical Americans, who are ill-mannered towards teachers and rarely give them much respect. I guess it’s because the school system is based on the factory system, according to my European History teacher. Hmm…

And on one last note, I have a complaint to make to WordPress.com. Even though I deleted my other blog, whenever I leave comments, the deleted blog is still linked as my “website” automatically. And, for some strange reason, on Mozilla Firefox, I have to refesh once to see my new blog in the blue menu bar on WordPress pages. It’s an extra hassle that irritates me.