Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Dagon Center Shopping Mall

Today, I went to the Dagon Center Shopping Mall to use the Internet. I have
been helping a friend who just got hired as a photographer for AFP news
agency. He doesn’t know much about computers and so I have been helping
him download his digital pictures from his camera and sending them to his boss
in Thailand. This is his probation period and it’s kind of important for
him to become permanent. I am afraid that it is going to have impact on me
because of his involvement in taking political pictures. But if I am of help
to changing somebody’s life because he wanted this job very much, I
think it’s worth helping him. Besides, jobs are scarce here, especially
jobs that pay about $ 300 a month.

At the Internet Café, they took users' fingerprint scans and I don’t understand why. It seemed strange. Burma is a strange place anyways.



Oh, good news is that we now have the rules changed from our ISP, BaganNet. Every dial-up user can access the censored Internet. Free web mail such as Yahoo and Hotmail, free web hosting, political sites and pornography are banned. But the rest are opened now. Burma is changing slowly.

I am so tired helping him all day today and I guess I am going to doze off.


Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Here is what I wrote for BARS (Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies) Newsletter

The darkness, eerie silence, twinkling stars and cool air on the Lisu Theological Seminary campus in Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin) literally took my breath away. It was a night for a lonely soul to let his imagination wander to an unknown world beyond the stars. A tall, unfinished building on the campus sat there like a giant ghost eyeing its little prey on a dark and eerie night.

It was totally different in the living room of the vice-principal’s house. The living room was full. Everybody’s eyes were fixed on a TV screen. Lwin Moe and Saya Waw Lay (M.Th) were sitting in the back row sipping green tea, and relaxing. Dr. Ah Li, the vice-principal, was sitting on the floor, her eyes staring at the screen. The kids were sitting around her, their eyes also on the screen. Some were lying on the floor without blinking their eyes for a second. Everybody was tense and it was at the climax when the disappointment came — the commercial.

We were all watching Jackie Chan’s movie on an Indonesian TV station transmitted through a satellite. It was funny, thrilling and exciting with one exception. The exception was that all the Chinese characters in the movie were speaking Indonesian. People who were watching the movie were Lisus, a Palaung and me, a Mon. None of us understands Indonesian, let alone speak and read it. Yet we were all enjoying the movie, guessing what the characters were saying. It was like 'Chinese characters speaking Indonesian, being watched by Lisu, Palaung and Mon audience.' The communication medium was a satellite above the sky, linking all these people together.

With the advance of technology, the world is getting smaller and smaller. Everybody is talking about 'Globalization' and 'Global village.' Enough of those trash talks and let me get to the point. English, in spite of its weaknesses, has been the de facto International language. Therefore, dear friends from BARS, please master English so the doors will be open, and the windows to tap into the pool of knowledge will become wider.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Ode to Insein

Insein. Insane?
Your fighter jets keep ripping up the sky above my head!
Insein. Insane?
Your Buddhist monks start chanting chants when I am still in bed!
Insein. Insane?
Your Hindus drum and drum on drums and keep me up all night!
Insein. Insane?
To hear my students speak in class I must put up a fight!
Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayin. Help me! Please! I'm so confused!
Reading off the list of names, I hear their "Ha Ha Ha's" and "Hoo's."
Hmmmmmm. Uh huh. I get it now. You're not the one to blame.
It's me, not you, who's losing it. Insein is just your name.
OJ from Canada, Lwin Moe and Bob Winter, fine professors at MIT :-) ----- in front of MIT library

Note: This is the poem Bob Winter, an English teacher from BARS, wrote. Insein is the name of the place where our school, MIT, is.

Bob and Lwin Moe




OJ and Lwin Moe at Ashee teashop, MIT campus (OJ teaches linguistics at BARS)




Sunday, October 26, 2003

Min Aung Soe, my roommate in the university

Today is my former roommate's wedding. I had a reunion with my old friends
from medical school. It was a happy moment. The mixed feeling is I had sensed
that it would be getting harder and harder for all of us to get together
again. All of them are working.


Saturday, October 25, 2003

Development of my home town

I am back in Mudon, a small town south of Moulmein. There was electricity
for about 10 hours today. It was like a miracle. Here is how Mudon has
developed. When I was young back in the late 70s, we had electricity all day
and all night. In early 80s, when I was in Kindergarten and primary school, we
had electricity every other night and all day. In the late 80s, we had
electricity all day, no electricity at night. In the early 90s, when I was in
high school, there was no regular electricity. I had to study with a kerosene
lamp. I don't know about the late 90s because I was in Rangoon (Yangon). When
I came back from the States in 2002, there was electricity for about 2 hours
in 10 days. These are the development stages of a small town in the Southern
part of Burma, about 90 miles from Thailand border.

I was amazed at the development of our town into the 21st century. :-)


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Today is the first day of BARS

Today is the first day of BARS. There were a lot of students for this
semester. We have 543 students now.



Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Maymyo

I am in Maymyo (Pyin Oo Lwin) and I visited several places there. Dr. Sikhia from MIT is also in Maymyo and we went sight-seeing together.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Teachers Honoring Ceremony

One of nice things about Burma compared to the States is we have teachers' honoring ceremony. Students show their appreciation to the teachers with a small token of love gift and nice songs.

Bob, Tony and O.J. singing a humorous song about BARS

Saya G3 from BARS (Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies) program from the Myanamr Institute of Theology singing at the Teachers' Honoring ceremony.




Paw Heh Khu, a BARS business student, pinning a rose to a teacher




A BARS student pinning a rose to Bob Winter, a visiting English professor





Friday, June 27, 2003

Torn pages from Newsweek

The following is a picture of newsweek whose pages were torn because those were an article about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Newsweek magazine




With torn pages on an article about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi






Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Bagan Net

BaganNet is quite improving these days in terms of speed and access phone number. We now have toll free numbers so we don't have to pay 15 Kyats a minute to Myanmar Post and Telecommunication.


I applied for the Internet access because I need it to study for my online Master degree program from Colorado State University in the USA.


Customer Service
Bagan Cybertech Co. Ltd.
Hlaing University Campus Road
Hlaing, Yangon


June 12, 2003


Dear Sir/Madam:


I have been admitted to Colorado State University's online graduate program for Computer Science specializing in Networking. I will have to start my studies this coming Fall semester.


I am a professor of Computer Science at the Myanmar Institute of Theology and to keep up with the new developments in the field of Computer Science, I need the full Internet access.


Therefore, I would like to request the full Internet access so I can do my research and Graduate studies. I would like to have telnet and ftp access so I can log into the university Unix server in the States to do my assignment. My customer ID from BaganNet is 03000781.


I attached the notice of admission from Colorado State University.


Thanks,



Lwin Moe
Myanmar Institute of Theology
Seminary Hill, Insein
Yangon


I don't know what I am going to do if I don't get the Internet access. I might have to give up the idea of going to graduate school online. BaganNet said they give the Internet access to professionals. I don't understand why I don't count as a professional. Right now I am a computer scientist without the Internet access.



Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Teaching at MIT

Teaching entrepreneurship to third year students was really fun. They were asking me all sorts of questions after the class about how it was to be a student in the States. I think we were able to put them in the mood to do self-study. I was happy to be able to accomplish one of our objectives.

Neil, Lwin Moe and BARS seniors



Neil, Lwin Moe and BARS juniors







Monday, May 19, 2003

Toll free number from Bagan Net

I have been enjoying teaching lately. It's been a busy week fixing computers at the Myanmar Institute of Theology Library and teaching a lot of classes.


BaganNet finally has a toll free number for its users. We can call free of charge to log into the server. Otherwise, it's 15 Kyats a minute from one of my uncle's house or 15 cents a minute from the other uncle. MPT is ripping us off, I guess. The toll free number that the BaganNet gave us is 146. I have no idea what the long term plan is but sooner or later, that number will be jammed. It's a very smart solution they provide. Otherwise, nobody will be able to go online because of the phone charges from MPT. I wish I could go into the communication business here.



Sunday, May 11, 2003

Teaching in Burma

I started teaching last week. It was fun with all these kids. I feel my life is useful here. Diana and I teach English at Mon Baptist Church and it's so satisfying to learn that the kids all appreciate it. BARS students are all excited to be back to school. Some of them went on internship trips to several parts of the country and it's so exciting to learn about their experiences. I hope that they all have some interesting experiences. It's been very hot these days. But lucky enough, the place where Neil, Diana and I live has air-conditioning. So it helps.

I went to Nyaung Ywa today and learned about the poor living conditions of those people there. Oh, today is Mother's day and I wish Happy Mother's day to all mothers of the world!!!!!


Sunday, May 04, 2003

A beautiful evening in Rangoon (Yangon), Burma




Fort Wayne folks talking and relaxing at Say Plah's house. Left-right: Say Plah, Neil Sowards, Diana Sowards, Jim, and Lwin Moe




Friday, April 25, 2003

A Letter from America

I received a letter from my Alma Mater, Indiana-Purdue University, asking me an alumni survey to evaluate my former professor for his tenure. The address says:
Mr. Lwin Moe
Bars-Mit
Seminary Hill
Insein 11011
BURMA
The word "BURMA" was crossed out by the Post Office people. They prefer the name "Myanmar." But I had experiences before in which I used the name Myanmar without Burma and the letters were sent to Saigon, Congo, Cameroon, etc. Sometimes even to Manila. I started to use the term Burma since then with Myanmar in parenthesis. But the post office still doesn't like it. But I can't help it. I had to use the term Burma in some parts of the world where nobody has heard of Myanmar. Otherwise my mails will be mis-sent to Saigon. My formula now is using like this: Burma (Myanmar)


Monday, April 21, 2003

Dagon University

I went to Dagon University with some friends. They had to take some lectures for their Distance Learning classes before their finals. On our way, we stopped by a gas station, he was supposed to get 6 gals for his car and I noticed that the guys from the gas station shorted him at 5.9 gals. Guess how much the gas station is making by stealing 0.1 gals from each car? The situation is if you own a car, you are entitled to 6 gals a week from gas stations owned by the government with a price quite a bit cheaper than the market price. There are vendors selling gasoline illegally with a market price, which is more expensive than the government price.

I sat in the lecture room with my friends. The professor was explaining some functions from economics. I am wondering about the teaching style. He was explaining the definitions word for word (translating from English to Burmese.) Students are not taught how to do self-study, how to observe and learn, apply those in life. They are not trained how to read and learn. Most students don't ask any questions to the professor. Bo Hein, my friend, did raise a question, though.

There were also people laughing and talking outside of the classroom. Those kinds of behaviors are also found in some students of BARS at our Myanmar Institute of Theology. I think the root of the problem comes from students studying subjects they are not interested in. They have no electives to choose from. Their class schedule is determined by the department. I have been trying to fix that at BARS. But lack of full-time faculty and staff has forced us to use a compromise between the US system and Burmese system.

The lecture in economics was followed by a Math class. The teacher was very good at explaining. A tall, thin teacher wearing a Kachin longyi, he looked experienced and kind. He had my respect. In my personal opinion, no system will work unless the mentality of students can be changed. Curiosity, observations and self-study need to be promoted among students. Our BARS program is still struggling and has a lot of problems such as faculty resources, equipment resources, etc.


Friday, April 11, 2003

Rumors

It was 910 Kyats a dollar yesterday. I was thinking about spending around $500 for a desktop computer.

There is a rumor around town that a few cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) have been reported at a private clinic in Burma. I don't know how reliable the source of the rumor is. It's the cost we have to pay for the lack of freedom of press. Nothing is mentioned in the newspaper about any bad things. Rumors can't be ignored here in Burma because they have proved to be true in the past.


Thursday, March 27, 2003

Mudon and misc.

It was very depressing to be in Mudon seeing economically helpless people and knowing that I can't help them. Many people who are economically doing fine are those who work in Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore illegally. Our town, Mudon, is very close to the Thailand border and it is very convenient to go to Malaysia and Penang by motorboat. I will write more about my trip and my town later if I have time. Being back in Rangoon (Yangon), I have been very busy lately teaching a youth class at the Summer Bible School from Mon Baptist Church and computer classes at Nant Tha Gone Karen Baptist Church.

I read an article from the Myanmar Times. It was about housing project in Rangoon  (Yangon). Asia Express is a local company doing housing project. U Maung Maung, the  chairman of Asia Express said that the 60x80 square feet land plot ranges in price from Kyats 80 million (approximately equal to U.S. $ 80,000) to Kyats 100 million, depending on how close they are to the main road. He also said that the company charged about Kyats 45 million (U.S. $ 45,000) to build a two-storey house with a floor area of about 3,000 square feet. Zaykabar is also a local company, which is working on a condominium project. According to the article, the company sold 21 of the 150 units available in two days of advance sales earlier this month. According to Daw Mi Mi Thein Tan, the general marketing manager at Zaykabar, the company had received hundreds of telephone calls, faxes and emails from potential buyers. She added that most of the inquiries were from Burmese working abroad.

-- Detached housing attracts buyers (2003, March 10-16). The Myanmar Times, Volume 8, No. 157, p 9.

Honestly speaking, I can't afford to buy The Myanmar Times because it costs Kyats 500 (50 cents) for an issue and I make only about Kyats 15,000 ($ 15) a month. I am reading the issue that I borrowed from Dr. Chit Maung Library.

According to what I saw and read, it is sad that our country is facing the most serious brain drain ever in history. Educated people feel no hope and freedom being in this country and only those who have no way of going out and those who came back from abroad remains here.

The following is the social stratification as I have seen so far.
  1. Working-class families who make about Kyats. 1,500 ($ 1.5)a day (lives from pay-check to pay-check). The cost of living is quite a burden for these people.
  2. Middle-class families who own shops or small businesses. The cost of living is about the same as or a little bit below their income. Even if their income is above the cost of living, the inflation is killing them.
  3. Educated people whose income is in Kyats. They are also struggling but they are similar to category 2.
  4. Families whose income is in U.S. Dollars. The cost of living is not a burden for them. They can live decently.
  5. People who are getting foreign aid. For example, one of their relatives works in a foreign country. They can live decently.
  6. People who are in power.
  7. People who are extremely rich with their inheritance. They usually own companies.

Monday, March 10, 2003

MIT Retreat

I got up late at about 7:15 AM. I quickly washed up and walked to the bus stop to take a crowded bus to MIT. We had breakfast in honor of the 25th wedding anniversary of Dr. Maung Maung Yin and his wife. The bus took all of us to Kan Daw Gyi Hotel for our retreat.

This is my first time to be in Kan Daw Gyi Hotel, which is very grand and beautiful (at least for me :) on Kan Daw Gyi Lake. We were guided to the conference room. Following the morning devotion as a nice coffee break during which we had a chance to know each other. It was really fun playing games before the break.

Following the game, it was very interesting to have a lecture and discussions on Conflict Transformation from Dr. Sang Awr from MIT and Dr. Ron Kraybill from Virginia, USA. Dr. Kraybill said that the Book of Acts had full of examples about different natures of human beings. It strengthens us to honor the diversities among us at MIT.

Dr. Cung Lian Hup had the MIT calendar for the year 2003-2004. After that, three small groups were formed to discuss the MIT's curriculum, BARS (Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies) curriculum and staff's agenda. Being a BARS faculty, I was in the BARS group. We discussed several issues on the problems of BARS. We have come to the conclusion that shortage of full time faculty and staff has made it impossible to use the U.S. education system. After all, this is Burma and we will still use the system of taking finals and centralized control of the whole program. A typical program in the U.S would be students could pick classes he or she wants in a semester and take those classes until he/she fulfills the degree requirements. It would be impossible to use that system here, at least for the time being. We also decided that students can fail up to 3 courses in a year to retake the  supplementary exams and if they fail the supplementary exams, they will have to repeat the whole year studying the same subjects, which would be painful. Hey, we do our best with what we have and what is right in America doesn't mean it's also right here. It reminded me of cultural relativism. We are still in the transition stage so what can I complain, right?

In addition, the evaluation, feedback and open discussions were followed after the small groups' meetings. Consecutively, Dr. L. Zau Lat led the consecration and we had a very nice dinner there. Returning to MIT was at 6:30 PM. What a long day!!

Saturday, March 08, 2003

MIT Commencement

The annual Commencement of Myanmar Institute of Theology was this morning. The weather was good enough for the beautiful morning, being cool and not very hot in favor of graduates and us with all those thick gowns and caps. I caught cold the last few days and I was still sick this morning. Beautiful morning for everybody wasn't a beautiful one for me because of my sickness. I took a bus from my house to the school to get there a little bit late. I had my cap and gown on in front of the hall just before the ceremony. All faculties and graduates led by Dr. Anna May Say Pa walked in a procession into the hall while the audience sang 'O Worship the King'. The procession was very nice and for the first time in my life, I had to sit on the stage with a bunch of Ph.Ds being the youngest faculty among the old sages.

The commencement went well and so did the dedication of new faculty. Nixon and I were dedicated to be new faculties for BARS. Here is an excerpt from the commencement program:
Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies

This is a season of firsts for BARS. For the first time all the classes of BARS could be held on one campus. For the first time, there is a full time English lecturer, Mr. Robert Winter. And for the first time two nationals have joined the BARS Faculty after their studies abroad: Mr. Lwin Moe (Bachelor of Science, Purdue University) and Mr. Nixon Eway (M.Sc. Information Management, Asian Institute of Technology). This program is under the leadership of Daw Tin Hla Kyi, Chairperson, Thra Pawlu, Dean, Thra Augurlion, Assistant Dean, and Saya Mang Tung Thang, Administrative Secretary.
Robert Winter, by the way, is from Chicago, IL and has been teaching English to Master of Divinity and BARS students. He has a Master degree in English from University of Illinois. He is a nice guy to be friends with.


Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Busy preparing certificates for MIT graduation

I was busy preparing certificates for this Saturday graduation of Myanmar Institute of Theology. I have become a typist for today :-), which shows the shortage of computer literates in our human resource pool. Helping the registrar, I had to type certificates for Doctor of Divinity degree, certificates for Distinguished Services, etc.


Friday, February 28, 2003

Articles from Computer Journal

I read two articles from Computer Journal and I wanted to share some excerpts here.


Professor Dr. Kochiro Ochimizu from Hankuk Aviation University, who took part in the First International Conference on Compuer Applications in Yangon, said, in an interview by Myanmar Computer Journal, that Burmese students are hardworking and motivated to learn. For Computer PhD students, only one thing is lacking in Burma -- a condusive environment. ..... A PhD candidate (Computer Science University here in Burma now has Ph.D. candidates) will need to have full access to the Internet for his professional research so he can see and interact with the real world out there. (sic.)


-- International Conference on Computer Applications (2003, February). Computer Journal, No. 108, pp. 50-56.


The following is another one.


Computer Journal also contains news on BaganNet. According to the report, BaganNet currently has 8000 subscribers and 300 broadband users. The reporter said that the BaganNet service is still slow and difficult to dial up if many users are on-line. There is also a problem of receiving no response from the server. In addition it is difficult to dial up on Saturday and Sunday nights especially when there are football (soccer) matches around Europe.


-- Slow Internet (2003, February). Computer Journal, No. 108, p 56.


It's been difficult to get connected to BaganNet dial-up server lately. It took me 15 tries (redials) to get connected.



Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Auntie June

I stopped by to see Auntie June who is visiting from Los Angeles. It was very exciting to see her because I met her in Fort Wayne, IN late November. I met her again in L.A in December and now in Burma in February. It's so wonderful to see somebody three times in three months in three different places that are thousand miles apart.



Monday, February 10, 2003

Surfing the Internet in Burma

I was able to borrow PCMCIA modem to use with my laptop. Therefore, I
surfed the web for the very first time from Burma. It seems very nice. Many
useful sites are open. I was surprised, to be honest. I didn't expect them to
open this much. Anyway, they use Squid proxy server and DansGuardian content
filtering software to control our access.

http://dansguardian.org/?page=dgflow

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Seminar

I went to a seminar this morning. The seminar was about teaching English. Louis Young from Cetana Foundation led the workshop. Louis then led the discussion on teaching English.