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.