Final Cover copy

This-Is-Not-A-Book-Review Review: A Burmese Heart

I met Vanessa at one of those Yangon’s networking sessions accompanying a report launch back in late 2013.

Little did I know then that she had been working on a manuscript, which recently became available to public on Amazon earlier this month.  Vanessa’s newly published book A Burmese Heart recounts a personal journey of one woman – Vanessa’s grand mother – born and married into a political family during turbulent times in modern Myanmar history.

Raised as the daughter of Myanmar’s first modern Prime Minister and wife of one of the Thirty Comrades, Tinsa Maw Naing shares her stories of adventuring in Rangoon as a child, exiling to Cambodia as a new mother and befriending socialite inmates in the infamous Ye Kyi Aing prison as a devoted wife linked to an underground movement.

Too often, history is viewed through men’s eyes both domestically and internationally.  It is often too easy to overlook the personal and political experience of women such as Ma Tinsa Maw Naing as mere props in historical accounts.  It takes agency to share stories and speak up in this fashion.

Vanessa did a reading of a few chapters from her work at TS1 Gallery last year, at an event full of personal memories, nostalgia and transitions.  I have yet to lay my hands on a copy of this book, but judging from this reading event, I would totally read this book.

Again, I make ZERO commission on this book – Become a Facebook fan of A Burmese Heart here, and download it to your Kindle here.  Myanmar Book Center will distribute the book locally soon.  Enjoy an excerpt below.

“There is a fable going back before the time of the Buddha, when the first kings ruled this country. We were a poor people then and there were other kings desiring to fight us for our land, so the Burmese prayed to the gods for a favor. They answered our prayers and granted us not swords, but the hearts of gods to conquer our enemies. The young king who ruled during that time decided to use his power in his first battle, his heart beating so loudly and fiercely that the earth split and mountains shattered, trapping the invading armies. He continued to conquer his wars but he also grew weaker each time, his young man’s body no match for the strength of a god’s heart. The king collapsed on the eve of his most important battle, not dying from an enemy’s blade but from exhaustion and misunderstanding his own power. Now what do you think this phrase means, a Burmese heart?”

“That the hearts of gods are not meant for mortals,” I whispered.

“Right. It also means that we as a people, and especially you, are blessed and cursed with great strength. You must be sure to use it wisely and sparingly, ” May May cautioned. She left me alone with this knowledge, the room silent except for my jumping pulse.

10531482_10102551036738755_6677319404154915506_o

Final Cover copy

IMG_8648

Meet Ko Nyan Lin Aung & Co. – A Family of Pathein Umbrella Makers

When you hit Pathein on your way to Ngwe Saung or Chaungtha beaches, make a slight detour to this umbrella maker to score the best deals and support a traditional handicraft maker directly.

This neighborhood of four or five umbrella-making households send their finished products to as far away as Bagan tourist markets, where a medium-sized umbrella will fetch a good $20, when you can get it at the source for a quarter of the price.  Make sure you bring extra cash.  Even better, call ahead, so Ko Nyan Lin Aung’s family could paint that extra layer of coating on their umbrellas before you arrive.

Aww… he won’t look at our camera. Photo Credit: May Thway

Craftswomanship at her best…

At family house turned umbrella workshop

Photo Credit: May Thway

Cell Phone: +959-422444601

Directions: Go along Mahabandoola Road after a roundabout. Take a right turn at the lane where a statue of senior citizens sits. There is a group of four or five umbrella making households at the end of the lane.

Happy shopping!

Image

No Women Here

In light of the recent rounds of news revealing Myanmar society’s attitude towards women and womanhood (see: umbrella story here and new legislation here), I am compiling a collection of all the places in Myanmar where I am not welcomed just because I am a woman (sometimes, even when dogs are).

In a country where men feel embarrassed to show respect to a senior female politician, I am sure that there will be more of these signs, and I will keep updating this entry for sure.

Hpaan

Hpaan

Pyin Oo Lwin

Pyin Oo Lwin

Inle Lake

Inle Lake

Do you think Buddha minded this? Sure, certain proximity towards someone vowed for celibacy may turn inappropriate or uncomfortable for the person. But in ordinary encounters, is it still relevant for women and men to sit in hierarchy at ceremonial places? Is spirituality reserved only for men? What is this? I do not understand.