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.