11 November 2009:
Today is a public holiday in Myanmar.
This is my first time celebrating Myanmar National Day. Whats so special about this day? National Day stems from Dec. 5, 1920 when students of Yangon University staged a strike protesting new regulations set by education authorities of then British government. The strike spread to all high schools in the country. The British then changed the regulations. This student rebellion inspired Myanmar’s independence movement. You see students or I prefer to call them ‘educated teenagers’ are very powerful group of people in any society or organzation. They are change agents. They are many. They have info. Therefore they are powerful. Similar like Taliban movement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The root word is Arabic Tholibun which means a person who seeks out knowledge.
Imternational School of Yangon is business as usual today. Americans do not respect most of local holidays. They created their own rules even when they are at other people’s country, just like what happened in Iraq or other places they have invaded. Let us not talk about Americans in this posting, not my intention anyway.
So the house is quiet without kids. Ummi is at swimmimg pool with her friends. I heard they had good time lately, swimmimg for health, covering 30 lapses everyday. So I was left alone at home today. I am supposed to meet Ustaz Rashid to hand over korbani money but he called yesterday that he is busy today. I should have planned a trip to visit my friend’s hometown near Pathein to survey korbani area but I did not.
Myanmar is heaven for IT-inclined in particular gamers and software developers. You could find the latest games, movies or latest software versions, sold in CD or DVD format by street paddlers at incredibly rock bottom price. A DVD with about 60 war movies is available at 1500 kyats (=USD 1.5). The other day I got myself a CD containing all world best-selling antivirus software for 650kyats. And hello my friends, they are not limited trial copies. It was so surreal that it came complete with license code valid for 66 years. I did not know how they managed to crack this code. I am wondering how Mr Kaspersky or Dr Norton or Mr Gates be able to sell their original softwares in this country. You cannot blame Myanmar people. They simply cannot afford it. An original Vista or XP is equivalent to 2-3 months salary of a policeman. We heard an old adage “great inventions are created out of necessity”, and that statement is very true in Myanmar. This military-run country is under economic sanctions by US and UN. They don’t have many imported goods on CityMart’s shelves. They have to find ways to survive. They must make do with bare essentials that they have so that they can can continue to eat, dress, communicate and travel. You still can find a 30-year old car Mazda 808 or 20-year old Toyota KE on the city road. And I traveled in them sometimes.
You may label Myanmar a land of contrabands or counterfeits (thats what Lonely Planets said, and even they have a special chapter on their Myanmar travel guide book, whether or not to visit Myanmar), but I beg to disagree. I call it survival and innovation. A tribute to all innovative and creative people in Myanmar, from motor mechanics to software developers, who help run this country, in some way.