Sanne van Oosten
A rose by any other name will still smell as sweet…?Well, Shakespeare, you might just be wrong about that one. The two names Myanmar and Burma are often used interchangeably but have incredibly different implications. Burma was the name that came into fashion during the British colonial period in the second half of the 19th century. Myanmar was the replacement of that name instated by the military junta in 1989. Opposition leader and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi prefers the name Burma because, as she has stated in various media: “the name was changed without any reference to the will of the people.” Even though I tend to side with Aung San Suu Kyi on just about any issue concerning the country’s politics, I think using the name Burma requires some rethinking. This name might just not smell as sweet to all of the people living in Burma/Myanmar. Read More…
Davey Meelker and Sanne van Oosten
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world and with less than 17 million inhabitants. It exists mostly out of empty steppe, but this doesn’t mean the country has no history or culture. On the contrary, with its culture of extreme hospitality and the woeful Soviet history there is no other country than Kazakhstan.
When walking in Chinese cities it seems to be undeniable that the sky is the limit. Literally. Everywhere are high-rise buildings, often with stunning architectural features. There is no stopping this huge development and at many places there are still new buildings built, both for apartments and offices. In the meantime it is estimated that there are more than 64 million vacant apartments in China. Isn’t that strange?
The white snowy landscapes are gone and the ice has melted in the Netherlands, and with that the hope of the revival of a part of Dutch culture has faded away. It started freezing two weeks ago and, with the prospect of more cold weather, the people soon started to say the magic words: De Elfstedentocht (The Eleven Cities Tour). This ice-skating contest can only be held when the 200 kilometres track consisting out of rivers and lakes are completely frozen. The last time this happened was in 1997 and since then everybody has been hoping for another tour every year and every year they have been disappointed.
“You and I don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are”
This quote has truly settled a dispute that has always been troubling a lot of people, however, I don’t think it is yet worked out. I don’t believe either it will be settled. Many people will always keep asking who or what is absolutely right? The second question is even more difficult, if I am absolutely right then the other person is undoubtedly wrong. There may never be an answer to such questions. What’s relative and what’s absolute?
A new year always allows for looking back and this could not be more true for Myanmar and 2012. Lots of things have been going on in the country formerly known as Burma. In March the government elected in 2010 in the first elections in 20 years, took office. On 1 April the so-called by-elections took place: in 48 constituencies new representatives were chosen to fill the places of those that had found a place in government and, as a consequence, had to give up their place in parliament. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) competed this time and won 44 of the 45 seats they contested. Sounds like quite a victory, but keep in mind that the (two) houses of national and the 14 sub-national parliaments count over 1000 seats, 25% of these are automatically reserved for the military.
In our trip through China we couldn’t help but notice the many security measurements. In our view this is greatly exaggerated, since China seems like such a safe country. Probably safer than many places in the West. So why are these severe security measures necessary? Many say it is needed to control the population, but is it also plausible that it is needed to justify Chinese repressive policies?
I wish I was more eloquent in the Thai language by now. Because I am not. I’ve been in Thailand a little over 2 months. As I used to be quite apt at learning foreign languages, I just assumed picking up basic Thai would come easier than it is. But maybe I’ve reached my limit with four (Western European) languages under my belt or maybe tonal languages are not for me. Luckily, although it is always fun to speak another language, there are other ways to communicate.
The people in Netherlands were shocked when they heared that the linesmen of an amateur football match died in a hospital two weeks ago after he was molested by kids of the visiting team. People were outraged and asked how fifteen and sixteen year olds could do this. A big debate on how to avoid is in the future is going on ever since. One point of view is expressed by Geert Wilders. Since the perpetrators were Moroccans, his anti-migrant Freedom Party sees opportunities to make up for his big loss in the last elections and claim that problem is an Moroccan problem not a football problem.