I found a way to blog again in the motherland. After a long absence, its rewarding to find a way to write again. Expect a real blog soon.


…freshly served for your consideration

Maniacally out to prove oneself

A failure of sorts occur

What makes us special

or unique in a way?

Here in lies the problem

A batch of panic served freshly for your consideration

Uncertainty spins the wheel of fortune

fortune glorified, life is extoled

For what?

An illusion of specialty

Lacking in its core the word “special”

A batch of panic is served freshly for your consideration

So go out there and try your best

Your best?

Yes, an illusion of specialty served freshly for your consideration

We stand here wishing to change this or that

What happens when it’s all wishes and nothing more?

Dreams freshly served for your consideration.


Tis the season

December 18, 2010

I am once again officially unemployed. This time around though it isn’t as bad as the summer. The summer was filled with a lack of direction, break up, and disillusionment with myself. Going to San Fransisco for a break certainly helped. I come back refreshed and active. Ironically, I have had more work that needs to be done as an unemployed person than when I was employed. Ironic don’t you think? Still, spirits are high. For one, I am over with moping about the past. After all, the situation is really out of my control. There isn’t much else that I can do to have fixed the past. Second, as much as I enjoyed my last job, I feel that without one I have the liberty to be more creative and expressive. Third, I found comfort in friends (you know who you are, give yourself a pat on the back).  Last, I realized that whatever promises you make in a relationship all seem as empty as the words that come out of a politicians mouth. One promises to stay friends, despite my efforts to do so; results have turned out to be as cold as last years blizzards. The only lament that I carry now is that I have lost a good friend and someone I cared for. But everyone is entitled to their lifestyle and the choices that they make. And what more can I do than to wish her luck and be on my way.

Things i need to get done before leaving the US of A

So here’s a list of things that I need to get done before going back to the motherland:

1. Finish up a syllabus/find teaching materials for my new teaching position in Burma starting March.

2. Finish the storm water management, green roofing, and rain barrel booklet that I am designing and helping to write: This one is particularly interesting. I might be designing a manual that will be mass produced and used in the DC area. Having been acknowledged in a scholarly journal, and a publication by CSIS I have had the passion to get my name out there!

3. Spend quality time with friends and family here in the US: having been tied up with work for the last few months this is a good time as any other to spend time with those that care for you. San Fransisco was a good first step, there are others out there that I would love to see and I promise to make a journey to fulfill such needs.

4. Get good scores on the GRE: come back and finish up graduate school. Hopefully I get into a good program later down the years.

For the Season

The holidays are a time to give thanks and celebrate. Also in a way it is a season for generosity. Since the summer I have been practicing what I’d like to call “do a good deed a day”. It isn’t something that is mandated through cultural or spiritual beliefs. A friend once jokingly said that it was a way to invest in a karma bank for a future life. An interesting approach to what I have been doing but nonetheless misguided. So what’s “do a good deed a day”? It isn’t much and doesn’t need to take up all your time. So far I am in my fifth month of practicing such behavior. A good deed is loosely defined in my book. It can be anything from giving up a seat on the bus to those who need it to helping someone through a hard time and taking up your whole day. Whatever it maybe, in the end it feels rewarding. If you are not in for personal gains then think about it as a way to improve civility.

Monday: Wrote a letter of recommendation that my professor had requested. He’s up for tenure and he wanted a student recommendation as part of the process.

Tuesday: Cooked brunch for sick roommate.

Wednesday: listened to a friend going through some hard times

Thursday: Offered to pay dinner for a friend (he turned it down, semi success)

Friday: Opened the door for a disabled lady having a hard time doing so.
I know that most of the people I know are generally courteous and are socially responsible. When needed I am sure they will assist anyone in need of help. But consciously doing it becomes a game. Something that one keeps in mind. If anything it keeps my mind occupied. So seasons greetings from me and I hope that you have a great holiday season.

Till next time.


Naivete and optimism?

December 1, 2010

Its almost been a year that I have had this blog. Time seems to go by faster than I would like. Before I can get a grasp of it, I am thrown away from the comforts of college, a relationship, and academia towards uncharted territories. Slowly but surely I have felt my way through the “real world”. Before I ramble on about my tumultuous life after college, I want my readers to know that I don’t often share much of my personal life beyond pedantically constructed blog entries concerning politics, philosophy, and college life.  Maybe for me its a sign of weakness; in some instances I have a staunch belief that feelings are only ephemeral hence something that should be kept to oneself. Regardless of my belief, there are always recurring emotions that tend to emerge.


I am an optimist. I once said as a joke that an optimistic Burmese is an oxymoron. Its true that the chronic poverty, dysfunctional government, and political problems give little room for optimism. Similarly, as an advocate for the environment, talks of global warming, mas extinction of wildlife, and scarce resources seem to give a bleak forecast of the future. However, despite bleak forecast of what’s to come I have always had a staunch, and at times misguided, belief that with the right mindset things will work out for the better.


In the center of this optimism lies a sense of naivete. Many of my peers have come to accept “reality” for what it means; getting a job, making a living, and eventually settling down with family and friends. In a sense that is what I would like ideally, yet my sense of naivete comes from the belief that I can make a huge impact and/or change the world. Did any of you ever have a feeling that you can change the world for the better? Improve lives? Lift people out of chronic poverty? Invent something that saves the environment? Become a leader of a mass movement? Slowly but surely as one moves outside the comforts of an educational career into the “real” world that passion to innovate and that invigorating sense of idealism also dies out. Yet, the naivete in me speaks out and says that I can break the mold and do something exceptional despite a disappointing summer of disillusionment proving to me that its not as easy as I have initially thought. While my peers are disgruntled at liberal arts education saying that they feel cheated, I feel a sense of optimism that flows in the opposite direction. My adviser once said that a “liberal arts education doesn’t help you find you first job, instead it helps you to achieve find yourself and ideal job based upon your interest.” Somehow despite my lack of evidence to support such a a claim, I believe it. Naivete? I suppose it is.


Passive positivism seems to be the mindset that I subscribe to when it comes to social interactions. The passivity in me seems to be a new development; an almost introverted reluctance to try and meet new people. Am I too steeply reverting to my comfort zone? Maybe in a sense I am. The funny thing is that I was a lot more sociable before graduating college. Nowadays, meeting new people besides those from my workplace or friends seem to be an arduous task that I consciously avoid. It seems to be a fruitless endeavor that only ends  up with knowing a few  people with little value to me.   Yet that recurring attitude is detrimental in the long run for I know that I have made my close friends through discovering and giving myself a sense of adventure. However, even at this point I can’t get over this pitfall as I size up new encounters with expectations of how they fare over those I love and trust. This occurs on all fronts of my interactions with new people whether its for potentially new relationships or friendship. My friend has a similar attitude towards life; lamenting in the good times and not wanting to move beyond that. I look at him and my answer to his problem is simple: meet new people. There’s plenty of fish in the sea and if one seems to slip away from you there’s always a possibility of finding another. But what if it so happens that you remember one particular instance (a fish that stands out among the others?). The hardest part for me at this moment is moving on.


“While you were stuck in la la land thinking everything is alright, she had her doubts you just never caught on to it” was the wise words of a friend that I confronted after an acrimonious break up. Again that sense of naivete had denied me to actually confront what was at hand. An over confident me had believed that things will workout when to the other it was all breaking apart. When one becomes a burden its time to let go. Yet I clung on to it believing the situation can be resolved. I allowed myself to believe that I wasn’t at fault when in reality she was more in touch with her feelings and thoughts. For me it was disillusionment that prevented me from taking it for what its worth. To me arguments were a battle ground to win. Maybe that’s why I became a philosopher. In reality I had a hard time considering her feelings and instead had a bullish attitude of taking the matter into my own hands. Foolish and naive I had lost a person I cared about immensely. To that I feel remorse, pain, and in its odd way a lesson to be learned.

The sobering reality of it all had left me persistently pursuing what she didn’t want. Immaturity and denial had given me a hard time letting go. As the saying goes “it takes two to tango”. And in a dance where one compromises with the other, I was performing a solo extravaganza of dancing alone. For that I remain remorseful, yet feel a sense of relief encountering something that we all do at one point in our lives: a heartbreak.

Brighter days ahead?

Despite all this lamenting, I remain (as I have mentioned several times already) a staunch optimist. Maybe after all that has been said and done my naivete and optimism will help me face new challenges. I have never been one to have planned meticulously on what I’d like to do with my future. In fact, coming to the United States, becoming a good student, and finding her were all out of sheer luck and encouragement from friends and family. I still believe in being in love, using one’s passion to change the world for the better, and understanding others. Writing this all out has been therapeutic; being in denial of what you feel is a toxic way to go about doing things. In a sense this is a new frontier, as I mentioned before I have never been one to get publicly emotionally yet here I am. Naivete? I suppose to be imprudent in foolishly believing without real evidence that things will be there for the better. Optimism? I certainly believe so. Understanding this part of me at least means that I can face the future with a foolhardy grin and hope for the best.

Till Next Time,


Democracy!… Now?

November 2, 2010

This article was written with very little revision. Certain views might not have been articulated as well as I would have wished, but in the interest of time I have decided to post it without much organization or revision. If required by the readers I will gladly answer questions/clarify my statements made in this article.

In an midterm election, an American citizen has the ability to choose who he/she wants to represent their beliefs from a variety of state candidates, mayors, governors, congressmen. Regardless of all the frustrations that Americans appear to have with their representatives in Congress, one thing can be certain; over time there is the ability for the people to shift, sway, or influence the political agenda. I have heard from my American friends of their annoyance and complaints of a “broken democracy”. Although I am sympathetic to their view,  I do believe that America still has a vibrant democracy so long as its citizens decide to vote and to actively participate in pressing issues of their concerns with their representatives.  The absence of alacrity  from some of my American peers to engage in politics have so far surprised me. There are countless ways and means for an American citizen to have their voices heard. Till today, I am shocked at the fact that there are some of my American friends that decide to abstain from voting for what I believe are superfluous reasons. After all, a democratic  society can only thrive if the public chooses to engage in determining who their political representatives are.

In conversations with my American peers I have often encouraged them to vote.  I try to remind my American peers that, as a Burmese citizen, the last real elections in Myanmar occurred when I was only three years old and that within their life times they will have the ability to choose countless number of people to represent their beliefs. On the other hand, as a Burmese citizen, I was to young to have participate in the first elections and I was abroad during the 2008 referendum on the Burmese constitution. November has arrived and with the cold settling in DC comes the commotion of elections both in Burma and in the United States. So what does the first ever elections since 1990 mean for the Burmese population?

Win Min, a Burmese Civil Society Advocate  stated that the elections are not an ends to a means but they are consequential. With two decades under the military government, the elections are a change towards the hard line stance that they have normally taken. At least some responsibility now rests in the hands of the people for the first time since the SPDC has been in power. I believe that in the media, too much attention has been given to the legality of this election and how it is a maneuver for the military to legitimize their rule in Burma. Many opponents also point the various articles written in the constitution that allow the army to have a considerable amount of influence over political decisions. Its true that a third of the seats are given to the army and that the outcome of this election will greatly favor the political actors favorable to the army.

With these conditions in mind, I believe that we as Burmese citizens should  greet this upcoming election with cautious optimism. I say this for three reasons that I find are important. Firstly, the military has shown time and time again that significant political change will have to come under their terms. During the SAIS conference on Burma Dr. David Williams stated that the “ball is very firmly in the junta’s court”. No change in Burma can be made without considering the role in which the political actors of the army are not considered. This election can be seen as way in which the army believes is strategically beneficial to them. Instead of letting the situation in Burma remain stagnant,  the elections give a platform-albeit a limited one- for political engagement that the people of Burma have not seen since the free and fair elections of 1990.  Secondly, when discussing with my Burmese peers who share similar views to those of opposition groups in exile there seems to be the notion that a quick removal of the military in politics will solve most of the problems in Burma. Needless to say, army has played a critical role in the economic mismanagement and the isolationist policies, and large scale offensives against the ethnic minorities. Yet, the army has also been the only existing political arm that has existed in Burma for over 25 years. Moreover, with around 400,000 members and extensive political clout that they have built over the years, the army is one political actor that cannot be ignored even if Burma were to return to genuine free and fair elections. Dr David Steinberg stated that the elections could possibly trigger the transformation to “soft authoritarianism“. The future of Burmese politics at this point in time is very much speculative yet I believe that an initiative for change by the army should be greeted with cautious optimism. Third, I strongly believe that it is hard to take the moral high ground and ask for change in Burma without compromise. As I have already mentioned, the ruling junta is not known for compromises. Yet, I believe that consistently calling for sanctions or a commission of inquiry on Burma at this moment is not conducive towards genuine economic and political change in Burma. At the risk of sounding like a government apologist, I feel as though tactics such as this draw upon a moral high ground that leaves very little room for political dialogue between the junta and the Western bloc. In an article written for the Washington Post titled Let’s talk Burma, China Sure Is Thant Myint U argues that the junta has time and time again shown how little the sanctions have affected their position in Burmese politics. With strong economic and political support from China, India, and the ASEAN members the sanctions will only act as a symbolic tool towards expressing discontent for the Burmese army. I believe that engagement with the West is necessary. As the title of the article suggest, China has huge influence in Burmese politics today. With the sanctions, the Western nations are slowly losing its influence in Burma. In the long run, there is a danger of Burma modeling China’s autocratic governance. As Joseph Nye once stated,America’s  soft power is its endearing strength. It easy to take the moral high ground and say that the Burmese junta has committed grave human rights abuses therefore we shall censure their actions through sanctions. However, twenty years of sanctions have shown this to be a failure. Thus, I believe that a revision of Burmese policies in the Western world is necessary. In the end, sanctions have hurt the Burmese citizen greater than it has the ruling junta.

So what are we to do with the current elections in Burma? In my humble opinion, I believe that we (as Burmese citizens) should vote.  Just as the polls suggest that the rise in popularity for the GOP will change the American political landscape, I believe that in some incremental ways the upcoming elections-with all its flaws- will steer Burma in a different path. Its hard to predict in both cases which way things will go in the next two years for both the United States and Burma. But either way, I believe that it is safe to say that November elections will be consequential but not pivotal in both countries.

Finally after weeks of flurry and chaotic scrambling at the office there is an eerie calm at the office. The senior fellow (my boss) has just left the office for two week tour of Western Europe to present his findings. The office has been busy with the bustling of trying to get a finalized report out. With mind numbing numbers to crunch and vigorous proof reading for the release of this report I have been bogged down with work from nearly 9-5 everyday. So what do I get out of this whole endeavor? My name in the acknowledgment section of a 134 page report. Although I recognize that the report itself would not reach outside the academic field of population demographics, its still great to know that something I have been part of is being read and evaluated by several scholars across the world.

I have grown comfortable with working at a think tank organization again (the first time was last summer at a environmental think tank organization). So what do I did I do for the last two weeks? I proof read, crunched statistics, and numbers regarding the population demographics of twenty countries. This is the first time that a population demographic study of aging has been prepared in regards to the geopolitical implications and preparedness of political actors on aging populations in twenty developed/developing countries. If you’re not familiar with world population demographics, its something worth looking into. The fluctuation of population growth effects a country’s economic,  resource consumption, and has immense implications on the geopolitical landscape.  Recently, France announced that it will have to raise the pension age from 60 to 62. Much to the dismay of the current working class, protest were staged at the government towards way to solve an oncoming economic crisis in most Western countries.

Why? When the generous pensions systems were created after World War II, there was a booming population that comfortably supplied pensioners a healthy sum to live off the rest of their lives. However, as the fertility rate dropped in many developed countries, the burden to supply such a comfortable social security system became much more taxing. Without a bulge of the youth to fuel industry in these countries, the “graying” of developed countries becomes a bigger issue. Pension systems that were once generous has to be reevaluated in order to prevent soaring debt. In the United States similar examples can be seen through the hotly contested health care debate where the bulge of health care goes to the retirement of the baby boomers.

As my senior fellow describes in the report “with the gloom of climate change and international terrorism, nothing is more certain that the problems that countries face through an aging population”. In developing countries the high fertility rates have so far increased economic activities. Therefore, it is no surprise that the BRIC (excluding China) nations have high fertility rates. However, as these nations go from lower income to middle/high income countries, the fertility rates drop as seen in China’s 4-2-1 problems with the one child policy. In fact, some experts have estimated that China will be a country that “grows old before it grows rich”. In an ideal economic model, the high fertility rate and bulging of young people in developing countries can satiate the demand for labor in developed countries that are lacking due to its low fertility rate. However, the world unlike simple economic principles is not all that black and white. Many conservative groups within developed countries have expressed an inherent fear of the surge of immigrants (the Romas, Arizona’s immigration laws are just a few examples). Hence, many living within developed countries grow frustrated with the lack of opportunities within their own countries and the denial of employment in developed countries. Its no surprise that many failed states, countries of extremism, and hot spots for terrorism correlate with many countries with high fertility rates. So even with the rise of resource scarcity, global terrorism, and other depressing news. We have population growth, aging, and the birth of billions into dollar-a-day economies to contend with. Solutions anybody?

What philosophers think…

September 30, 2010

What Philosophers Think is a book written by Julian Baginni. I happen to have stumbled upon in by chance when I was walking around the DuPont Circle area of D.C. and my friend proposed that we go and check out Second Story Books. The bookstore itself brings back nostalgia of old books at my grandfathers house. I flipped through rare collections and happened to stumble upon this book. So here’s my brief exposition of the book (or what I have read of it so far).
What philosophers think addresses typical issues that one might associate with philosophy. The title itself is misleading since there are authors such as Richard Dawkins- who by trade, isn’t considered a philosopher. In the book, Baginni’s introduction gets to the heart of what has been a confounding issue for philosophers. You don’t need to be in the realm of philosophy to know that we ourselves have a hard time defining what it is. In a sense this small issue of not knowing what your field entails is a bit confusing. After all, if one were to tell a physicist to define what physics is he/she will be able to give you a description of the boundaries, capabilities, and limits that the discipline encounters. Even if a physicist has a hard time explaining the scope of the discipline itself, many outside the field of physics can describe several things that the field of physics encompasses.

When discussing the realm of philosophy many conjure images of ethics, morality, theology, linguistics, or metaphysics. Some think that our trademark word is “why?”. As a person that has earned a degree in philosophy, I myself have a hard time pin pointing the scope of our studies. The question then arises: what is philosophy? There is an air of arrogance that I have found among my philosophical peers when they say that philosophy is a tool to solve problems. The statement itself lacks the alacrity and substantive meaning of the field that I have come to appreciate. The statement also gives an air of illusive grandeur that makes the field sound more like an arrogant club of snobs.

So what is philosophy to Baginni? The author argues that philosophy is the assessment of ideas through well structured arguments that are logically sound, and derive from defined evidence. In the lack of evidence, a priori discourse follows very structured thought that follows logical consistency and a sound argument. This then leads to the question: what is a well structured argument? In this case, thoughts are put through “tests” of whether or not its logically consistent, whether the premises entail the conclusion, or if any of the assumptions lead to logical fallacies. A helpful analogy, that Baginni mentions, is similar to that of business/economics and money (capital). Thoughts in philosophy are like money. We don’t study money itself. Instead like the field of economics and business, we study the implications that the ideas have on a variety of fields and whether or not the thoughts (ideas) itself corresponds to the phenomenon under observation. Like the way there are limitations to how capital is gained or loss in the world of economics, there are limitations to how thoughts are portrayed. A well structured argument has greater gravity than that of a poorly structured argument. If one were to read arguments made by Lewis, Quine, or Fodor, the analysis have been constructed in a logically sound arguments.

So then let’s go back to the what I have called the “weak description” of philosophy and see why its lacking. To say that “philosophy is a tool to solve problems” has to discerning effects. First, it suggestive that our field is the “true” marker of problem solving. In fact, that proves to be fallacious since most academics fields solve problems of their own without describing themselves as “philosophers’. If anything, there are age old problems in philosophy that have been left unresolved and hence it runs counter intuitive to the problem solving powers that is claimed through this statement. Second, it-as mentioned before- provides an air of arrogance that is neither warranted nor productive to the field.  Despite philosophy being a very old field of study, we are young in our ways to find what makes an argument sound and what arguments are weak. The study of logic is still prevalent in today’s realm and the use of it has grown to understand the implications of what thoughts make the mark while other fails. In a sense, thoughts are argued for, against, repealed, and then appealed again when stronger cases can be made. So are we really that different from any other field of study? I don’t think so.

The very first job that I got into after college lasted merely two weeks. I didn’t get fired; if anything they wanted me to be there. For the sake of the company, I will not describe it by name. In sad economic times, many told me that I was foolish to have turned down a job-even if it paid peanuts. If I learned anything out of my last relationship-despite all the heated arguments (again mostly from my part)-is that I should step outside of my comfort zone and not to burn bridges out of anger. Despite feeling uneasy about leaving my first job and letting people down, I decided to take a chance.

I decided that somehow, lady luck has a crush (or at she least thinks I am cute). She had turned her gracious fortune and good luck my way. I currently work at The Center for Strategic International Studies . It so happens that my previous job rents out an office in their building. In all honesty I had never heard of CSIS before. Apparently, the organization is a big think tank comparable to the Carnegie, PEW, and other big wig Washingtonian  organizations. So how was I lucky? Because I’ve followed my mother’s wise words: always be nice to people,even if you don’t know them all too well. I happen to always get into a conversation with a worker within the CSIS office. It turns out that he took a liking to me because we were from the same part of the world (him being Vietnamese, me being Burmese). Then he mentioned that there was a temporary job opening at CSIS. I asked how much they were paying and it happened that they paid twice as much for a part time position. I jumped onto to the offer and sent my resume to see if I can get an interview. The senior research fellow at CSIS happened to have majored in the classics and was entertained by the idea that I was a philosophy major. During my interview we ended up talking about the value of majoring in a field that doesn’t have immediate or tangible use in a skill based world. Two days later I was hired.

So what do I do at CSIS? In a way CSIS is very much like a college without the students. It has its own huge endowment and instead of that money going towards drunken college kids, it goes towards forums, discussions, papers, and books. In a sense it is an intellectual center for international issues ranging from security, energy, policies to population demographics. Like a college, there are the popular topics and the not so popular topics. Everyone knows the interns that work for national security, conflict resolution, and energy security. As for the 6th floor (where I work) are the “nerdier” workers. Right now I am working for the Population Demographics, Immigration, and Aging program. Not the most popular topic but certainly interesting. Recently I have been helping to compile information about again trends in developed/developing countries and study its impacts socio-politically till 2040. For a person that has never taken stats, economics, or population demographics before, the work at first felt like I was being thrown in the deep end of the water. I learned to swim through the hard part and now its just busy work most of the time.

Besides working at a notable institution, there are several perks that come with the work. The first of which is free coffee! The workplace provides starbucks coffee and my caffeine fix that I need greatly since college is being satisfied. The second is free food! Free food is usually uneaten food from different forums; CSIS has a forum nearly everyday from Latin American Economic round table discussion to use of contraceptive measures in Ghana. All the uneaten food is scoured by interns, part time employees, and anyone else that’s hungry and looking for a free eat. Last, and certainly not least, my work invites interesting speakers to the work place. Last Thursday, the film director of Our Summer in Tehran decided to do her debut showing in CSIS. After the show we each got a DVD and an information packet. Not too shabby for a part time position. Next time, (when I am not too lazy), I’ll tell you exactly what I do there.

Work related noms: curry chicken, wild rice, egg plant Parmesan, different assortments of bread and some fruit ( this was my second meal after a quiche in the morning).

This I believe…

August 22, 2010

While I was at my Uncle’s house, I stumbled upon a book. The title was plain and simple: This I believe. The subheading stated: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. My first thoughts were that this book is a documentation of thoughts by famous politicians, actors, and/or scientist. I looked through the list of names to see if I knew a significant name but to my surprise I found out that none of these names stood out. Thought to myself: Where were all the “remarkable” people?

As I flipped through the book looking at the various essays my aunt yelled out to me saying “there’s an article written by a Burmese person in there”. So I looked around for a familiar Burmese name in the book and stumbled upon an article called “Finding Prosperity by Feeding Monkeys” by Harold Taw. He tells a charming story about how, when he was born in Burma a monk told him that he will bring fortune to his family. In return he had to feed monkeys on his birthday. He describes how for 30 odd years he has done so without fail. Amusingly he describes how it might be easy to find a monkey in Burma to feed, but living in Seattle it has become a challenge every year. However, the moral of the story isn’t about superstitions. Taw explained that it was a way of honoring his faith, family, tradition, and to keep in touch with something charming and endearing to him. In the back of the description about Harold it read:

Trained as an attorney, Harold Taw is taking a break from legal work to complete his first novel…He and his wife live in Seattle, where Taw has a special arrangement with a local zoo to feed their Goeldi’s monkey on his birthday this year.

What I realized after reading the introduction of the book was that these people featured in the book were average people who go about their lives. One contributor sells books door to door; another is a housewife while the other writer is a doctor. I was taken aback by the brevity and depth of their reasoning and how they chose to share their ideas. One story told us about how her life’s principle is to be kind to the pizza dude. Because to her, a person delivering pizza represents hard work and reminds us of honesty that we often forget (I am not doing full justice to her story by summarizing). Some talk about faith, others about sexuality. The list is endless and the plethora of ideas struck a chord in me. I was deeply touched by the intention of the book.

After all, we all have heard great philosophies that ordinary people live by. Sometimes they are told by our parents, some by friends during a drunken visit to 19th street. Sometimes, it can be what you heard about a guy or a girl. None of them had been recorded and stored the way the book had portrayed it to me. It is true that famous people, intellects, and social movers all have an important philosophy in their lives worth emulating. Yet, there’s also truth in commoners that is often ignored. For me, the book gave a wonderful insight of the lives of many from diverse backgrounds. The stories are no more than 2 pages. Some of the stories have been used at weddings. While on other more somber occasions they are used to mark the loss of a loved one.

For those that want to read more about people’s lives there’s a website dedicated to thousands of stories contributed by writers from various backgrounds: http://thisibelieve.org/. The guidelines are simple. For what its worth, no one might listen, no one might read thousands of these stories. Yet one might touch you deeply and I think its worth learning from others. As Jay Allison- a radio dj- states “listen” or in this case read a person’s story. It could be mundane, intriguing, challenging, or down right disagreeable. Whatever emotion it causes at least we learn something out of it.

As for me and the events of the last few months have taught me: listening makes all the difference, so does being less selfish, and wanting everything for yourself. But of course that is a whole other story about my downfalls that I won’t bore my dear readers with. If I find it in me, I might muster up the courage to write a story about what I believe in.

A friend of mine in the United States once asked me why I am so passionate in supporting Manchester United. His words went something along the lines of “you’re a Burmese person, what’s with the English football?” My quick witted response had always been “because I am a British loyalist”. But in reality, the English Premier League is as common in Burma as morning mohinga and a late night kya seint at the teashop.

In Burma, daily newspapers on politics and social matters come out once every week. Football journals on the latest transfers, injuries, and results are published daily. While stuck in traffic, don’t be surprised to see that you might have more than one journal to choose from paper boys selling sports journals, cigarettes, and betel nut. Usually they come with well decorated covers with photoshopped pictures of footballers or their managers and some catchy title saying “Man United and Liverpool: rivals meet again!” or something along those lines.

So why am I a Manchester United supporter? I’d like to say that its because they play attractive football, they have a great ethos, and an inspiring leader. But in reality, I have come to support Man United because back then those were one of the few games that showed on television. I remembered my enduring fascination for football started with the EPL in 1998. In 1999, the treble winners had captivated my attention and further fueled  my passion of playing football as a youngster. Back in the 90s television (as I remember it) wasn’t that great. They had two official Burmese channels in the country. The only excitement came on these channels were when they showed either Chinese/Korean soap operas or the EPL. I fell for the latter and I fell in love with English Football. Later, as foreign television channels became more accessible I watched the game more regularly following the game with a keen interest.

But I wasn’t the only one to have experience this appeal of football. When I visit my parents’ companies. The employees on their down time will be flipping through football journals discussing the betting odds and the talented few that they would like to see this week. They might be recalling a great game that they watched last night or bickering about how a dumb goal had cost them to lose 1500 kyats! “Kyare See” or “Mann Youu” are the teams usually most discussed. Its not uncommon to hear someone say “you hear about tonight game? Its one goal 40 pyars lost to Chelsea, not bad for the odds!”. The betting odds are placed on a scale of one Kyat and the percentage of loss based on the results are based on how much pyars you would lose (one kyat= 100 pyars). Yet betting isn’t the only thing that keeps the game interesting. On a Saturday night, its not uncommon to go on  a joyous outing to a teashop with friends to watch the game. If you have more money to spend its a plate of “ga zun plain” and beer at your favorite beer garden.

Although, this is very much a boys club in Burma. There are members of the opposite sex that are just as passionate about football as some of my male friends. The two prominent women fans of EPL that I know are none other than my mother and aunt. My aunt would adorn her room with pictures of Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo (when he still played for Man United). At times I could swear that their passion for watching Man United play are much greater than my own.

Despite the bitter past of being colonized by the British. We seem to have an affection for English footballers. Rooney is a household name. You can see street side football where young boys kicking in the dust wearing the number 10 Rooney shirt. When the Burmese national team crashes out of the South East Asian cup the reaction from us is muted. People would say “its quite expected” or “what do you expect? We’re not that great”. But I remember when England failed to qualify for the Euro 2008 games. There was genuine disappointment among the Burmese affectionate wanting to see the EPL players in action. A cab driver once said: “We weep when the English team loses”. I think that such a comment is too far from the truth. English football for what is worth has become part of Burmese culture.