My Top 5 Photos in the first half of 2015

Since the first half of 2015 is over, I’ve gone though all the posted photos from the last 6 months and selected my personal top 5.

From top to bottom: Singapore Skyline, Marina Bay (Singapore), Maha Wizaya Pagoda (Myanmar), Fukuoka Cityscape (Japan), Marina Bay (Singapore).

Follow Me for More Dusky Cityscape Photos from Southeast Asia and Beyond.

P.S. I’ve just switched to this new grid layout theme. FYI, all my text posts have now moved to blog section of my main website. Feel free to subscribe to my RSS feed by email.

Myanmar monastery teaches critical thinking to poor students

The troubled backgrounds of children at Phaung Daw Oo Monastic Education High School read like a checklist of problems Myanmar faces—extreme poverty, natural disasters, sectarian violence.  Yet when I arrive I feel so much positive energy—everyone’s laughing and warm.

The school is special that way. Education is offered at no cost, which is unusual in Myanmar, where schooling is only compulsory for five years and many kids can’t afford to continue beyond that.

(via Myanmar monastery teaches critical thinking to poor students - Earshot - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation))

#REUNITED: Burmese fisherman finally goes home after 22 terrifying years as a slave.

“All he did was ask to go home. The last time the Burmese slave made the same request, he was beaten almost to death.” Myint’s story is surreal, but true. And the worse part is that his labor is tied to the products we use every day.

REBLOG Myint’s tragic personal story: here.

And DEMAND that your favorite companies become Made In A Free World:!


Images: Source

As Burma shakes its decades-long isolation from the outside world and unleashes the forces of globalization and modernity, one artist says he fears for the resilience of the country’s traditional cultural mores.

“Although our country is moving forward to the modern world, we need to preserve our tradition and culture,” says Aye Myint, a respected Burmese designer.

Aye Myint, once responsible crafting the images on Burma’s currency, is now widely known for his traditional art designs, inspired largely by styles found in ancient stone carvings and murals in the country that date back to the sixth century.

Drawing on ancient artwork found around much of Mandalay and on the pagodas and stupas of the ancient Burmese capital Bagan, the 84-year-old told The Irrawaddy that his love for traditional Burmese wood and stone carving, blacksmithing, goldsmithing, and painting motivated him to become a designer himself.

“All of these traditional arts have their own designs,” Aye Myint said. “I first fell in love with the floral pattern wood carvings on the pagodas and temples of Ava and Sagaing. During a trip with veteran artists and my mentor U Khin Maung to Pagan [Bagan], I decided to be a traditional designer as I witnessed many beautiful traditional artworks there.”

In 1954, he began his career as a traditional art designer, joining the Saung Dar traditional weaving academy in Amarapura, Mandalay Division, where he studied screen printing. His artistic talents were eventually noticed by government officials, who enlisted him to design the country’s currency.

“It was around 1970 that I was appointed to draw the designs of the Burmese currency, notes and coins. Firstly, I had to go to Japan and England to learn about the designing of money. I had to draw the designs for one kyat notes, five kyats notes and 10 kyats notes with General Aung San’s face on them,” he said.

“Being a currency designer is full of secrets. You can’t even discuss the business with your family or colleagues for security reasons. I had to designs stamps, lottery tickets as well.”

Wazi, site of the national mint in Magwe Division, was a facility built with technological assistance from Germany under the former military government.

But Aye Myint’s gig as the country’s currency designer was not to last.

“I was forced to resign because of some misunderstandings with the generals of the time. They thought that I was too proud and assumed that I was a political activist,” he said. “Some of my colleagues urged me to submit an appeal, but I didn’t want to do that because I had done nothing wrong.”

With nothing left for him in Wazi, Aye Myint traveled to Rangoon, where he struggled to make a living but managed to secure steady work drawing cover designs for Buddhist literary magazines. After 11 years in Rangoon, he decided to settle down at Amarapura, located 11 km north of Mandalay city.

“I just wanted to live a simple life free from greed, stress and pride. The rise in the cost of living in Rangoon was another reason,” he said as he offered a tour of his modest home on the west bank of the famous Taungthaman Lake.

Starting in 1990, his design skills began appearing in the traditional ornamentation of some of Burma’s sacred Buddhist sites. One of his more prominent designs is the southern stairway of Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon. The new golden umbrella of Mandalay’s Maha Myat Muni Buddha image is also his work.

Aye Myint is currently preparing to issue a collection of his magazine cover designs over the years, under the title “A Hundred Images and a Hundred Notes.”

“I always wanted to produce this book so the younger generation could learn to love the tradition and to hand over the heritage,” he said. “There have been some delays with the censorship board. There is no other problem at the board but just a delay due to their working style, as everyone knows. … But hopefully, I can get this book to readers very soon.”

Now a consultant for the preservation of Mandalay’s ancient Shwe Nan Daw Kyaung Monastery, Aye Myint said Burma’s heritage must be preserved with care and attention to history.

“Although every country is moving forward with development in every sector, it is essential to preserve the culture and heritage. Some may think that culture needs no preservation, but that is a bad idea for future generations,” he said.

He points to Mandalay, which has seen rapid change and development over the last decade.

“Mandalay has developed to the point where you can’t find traditional attire and customs among some youth,” Aye Myint said.

“On the other hand, there are youth who love the modern world but still maintain the culture and there are many areas that still maintain the tradition. For example, an industry such as stone carving is not going to fade away because we see orders from abroad for huge Buddha statues as the country now opens to international relations.”

Aye Myint urged young people to study their heritage, and called on government to encourage the preservation of Burma’s traditional arts and culture.

“As the country moves on amid globalization, youth must learn modern lessons but must not forget and must maintain what we have, and not regard our ancient heritage as rubbish,” he said.

“I would like to urge professionals to write books and theses as well. Our country needs many books on the culture and traditional arts. The lack of books with professional input is one of the weaknesses; it’s why we struggle to foster young generations’ interest.”

Text: Source

Burma Boys - Britain’s African soldiers who served on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and in the swamps of Arakan.
Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Phillips has written a book tracing the steps of one Nigerian soldier who fought in Myanmar during WWII called Isaac Fadoyebo. Isaac was part of a forgotten army of 100,000 African men. In a jungle ambush in 1944, he was injured and his officers were killed. He survived because of the kindness of strangers; a family of farmers hid him from the Japanese. Isaac never forgot his debt of gratitude to this family, and 67 years later Phillips travelled to Burma (now Myanmar) and managed to find them, and discovered that they treasured the memory of Isaac. After being so moved by his story, Phillips decided to write a book about it. ‘Another Man’s War: The Story of a Burma Boy In Britain’s Forgotten African Army’. I learned about this fascinating story at today’s conference which has been looking at 'Minorities in Armies’ during a paper by David Killingray. Isaacs memoir was published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999. I can’t wait to get my hands on both books! #africa #africanhistory #militaryhistory #army #armylife #ww2 #remembrance #Nigeria #Burma #Myanmar (at University of Warwick)
The end of exile
Myanmar’s returning diaspora are anticipated yet still hesitant.

Since Myanmar opened up under the semi-civilian government in 2011, the diaspora have been encouraged to return.

As persecution on the basis of political activity or ethnicity is often the reason they left, many are reluctant to return permanently to what is an unclear political situation. As a result, brief stays are common. After so many years away from home, family and friends, it is difficult to image the experience of returning.

Twenty-four years after leaving his home for a new life in Australia, Saya Nai Tin Aye, my Burmese teacher, applied for a tourist visa to return to Myanmar. The process took longer than it does for regular tourists, as the Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and Immigration ministries must approve the application. It so happened that my trip to Myanmar would coincide with his. He invited me to visit his home village.

Nai Tin Aye, once president of the Australia Mon Association, is a softly spoken man, with a keen interest and knowledge of history. He has an inspiringly fastidious memory for dates. He left his home in Kawkareik Township, Kayin State in 1991. Formally a star volleyball player and school principal, he was well known and liked in the area. He also spent eight years in the armed resistance, living in the jungle and resisting theTatmadaw (Burma Army).

In the 1990 elections, Nai Tin Aye worked for a local Mon politician. A warrant was issued for his arrest after authorities alleged irregularities in the campaign accounts. He fled to Thailand, registered with the UNHCR and was resettled in Australia in 1996. Between living in the jungle, Thailand and Australia, he has been away from his wife and three children for over 30 years.

Arriving in Nai Tin Aye’s village I was at somewhat of a loss; the place was considerably larger than I had expected, and I did not know the address. I hadn’t been able to make a telephone connection from Yangon. The motorcycle taxi driver who had reluctantly driven me out here suggested retiringly that I spend the night in a nearby town instead. We approached a group of men in a teashop, and our concerns eased. They had no doubt it was the Sayar Gyi (“principal” or “great teacher”) who we were looking for, and escorted us to his home.

Nai Tin Aye emerged from the house, happy that I had accepted his invitation, and relieved I had arrived despite not calling earlier in the week. He had been there two weeks already, and was evidently comfortable back home. In his longyi and shirt he switched between Mon, Burmese and English as he greeted us all. The house was concrete, with floorboards, a change from the bamboo huts he had left there.

Touring the village, an old friend approached for a chat, held hands with Nai Tin Aye and walked with us. They had been classmates in the village some 60 years ago. In the evening we ate soup and chicken curry, before retiring to watch the television, with Nai Tin Aye seated central to the scene. Before long, a blackout brought complete darkness to the neighbourhood, a regular occurrence. In a candle-lit discussion it was clear that Nai Tin Aye felt no discomfort, despite the differences from Canberra.

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