Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Week 46: Myanmar / Burma

Myanmar or Burma?!?

Depends on where you are apparently.  This week's country has 2 names. Confusing.  I'm going to call it Myanmar, because that is what the government of the country is saying it should be called.  Now, the government of Myanmar is supposedly a corrupt military regime that is basically holding the country hostage, but that is what they want it to be called.  The U.S. doesn't recognize the name change due to the unlawful "election" of the government, and so we still call it Burma, but that seems rude to me, so you can just call it whatever you want.  I didn't expect this to be so confusing!!!

Located in Southeast Asia, and about the size of Texas, Myanmar is a country with many things going for it.  It is a major producer of gemstones, jade and teak wood.  It has a strong agricultural base as well, yet the life expectancy is only 57 and the vast majority of the people live in poverty.  Children are sold into the army for food to feed the family.  So, so sad.  But it wasn't always like that. 

The Burman ethnic group that are the majority of the population have lived in the area for centuries developing a culture based on the Buddhist religion.  In 1886, the British Empire took control of the country after 3 separate wars with the country.  They named it Burma after the Burman people.  They ruled until 1937, when the country was allowed to become a colony with Burmese officials in the role of government.  In 1948, the became an independent country, but, in 1962 a military coup overthrew the government and gained control. 

Over the years different military regimes have ruled.  Times are tough for this beautiful country.  Ok, that got pretty heavy and political. Let's lighten it up! 

Here are some fun facts about Myanmar:
  • There are 3 seasons in Myanmar- HOT, cool, and rainy.  The rainfall during Monsoon season is between 30 -200 inches annually.
  • The Shwe Dagon pagoda- is the most famous temple in Myanmar.  Shoes are NEVER worn when visiting a pagoda.
  • Men in Myanmar wear a traditional skirt called a longyi.
  • The head of a child should not be touched in Myanmar.
  • Pregnant women are especially superstitious.  They believe if they eat bananas the baby will grow too big and if they eat chilies the baby will have no hair.  I ate lots of bananas and my kids were both under 7 lbs. 
  • When the babies are born they are not given a name for 7 days and their hair is not washed for 1 month- both probably due to high infant mortality rates.

This country is going to be a tough one.  But, we can't only pick the happy ones, right?  I'm hoping I can find some interesting projects - stay tuned!!


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