Tag Archives: usti nad labem

Twin-Event in Ústí

The ultimate benchmark for truly devoted Burma campaigners: getting up before dawn to catch the train to a day-long event in Northern Bohemia. You don’t even have time to sniff at your coffee before running out into the cold night.

Thanks to not less devoted partners on the Ústí side, at the Faculty of Science of the local University who integrated Burma into their Week of Geography, it all went well and our presentations on Burma, short films about the Cyclone Nargis and Burmese refugees in the Czech Republic and the classic “Burma VJ”, as well as the tasting of Burmese food, fair trade items and the exhibition of Harn Lay’s cartoons were well appreciated.

Once you spend a day for an event, it is really difficult to stop. So we came next day again to Ústí, but this time to the ZOO. Together with the bears Barma and Myanmar and many Burmese refugees – who brought traditional Chin and Kachin dishes – we enjoyed a great afternoon with food, a quizz, the opening of the exhibition, our campaign video, Burmese children reciting Czech rhymes, fair trade items produced by Burmese grassroots groups and, one of the highlights, the bears climbing around in their compound in search of fruits and cups of yogurt.

Many thanks to our partners, the refugees, the people from the Aněžka School in Ústí, the bears … and the visitors who not only filled the rooms but actively participated!

This probably has been our last bigger event for this year. We are now focusing on finalizing the “Indian” project and this year’s edition of our annual publication Focus on Burma. Stay tuned.

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What’s the difference between Myanmar and Burma?

Web statistics are a funny thing, and the most curious about them is certainly the list of search terms that bring visitors from search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing to a web site. If you run a site about Burma, you find search terms like myanmar, mranmar, nyanmar and so on, in all kinds of variations. But the most astonishing thing is the huge number of people who are confused about the two names for country, language, people and many places after the regime decided to change Burma’s history and identity.

Hundreds of people submit their confusion in form of a direct question: “are burma and myanmar the same?”, “what’s the difference between miranmar and burma?” or, in a variation that reveals a deeper familiarity with the issue, “difference rangoon yangon”. We are happy that we can offer to these poor searchers the liberating reading of Bertil Lintner’s analysis, who simply refutes the junta’s lame argument that the new name is more consistent in itself, that it does not discriminate against ethnic minorities, and that it avoids a colonialist point of view. Of course, what’s in a name? The question here is about the legitimization of rule and the accountability of rulers, rather than etymology. One day we all might say “Myanmar”. Or something else.

But: We have recently identified another difference between “Myanmar” and “Burma” (“Barma” in Czech language). On December 18, 2006, half a year after the foundation of Burma Center Prague, two sun bears arrived in the north Bohemian town of Ústí. They were from the zoo in Rangoon (or, yes, “Yangon”) and now the new Czech owners at the Ústí Zoo, who have probably saved them from being sold to a circus, faced the problem of finding good names for them. The solution probably points to a typical trait of Czech humor that helps people escape from any imaginable kind of mental trap: The male bear was called “Myanmar” and the female “Barma” – perfectly matching the Czech grammar that mainly uses consonants as the ending of masculine nouns and the concluding “A” as a marker for feminine gender.

Given this wise decision in Northern Bohemia, we sought to establish a cooperation with zoo and bears. The present result is a blog, “written” by the two bears, and two events on November 19 and 20. While the latter one will take place directly at the zoo, the former one is planned at the Faculty of Science of the Ústí University. The reason for their involvement lies in the fact that last year they adopted the bear Myanmar.

So, at the end of the day we can offer a second answer to the question that continues to give people sleepless nights: The difference between Myanmar and Burma is … well, check it out yourself at the Ústí Zoo. But don’t get too close.

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how to make ‘svačina’

a second group of burmese refugees arrived on august 17th, straight from a refugee camp in thailand. like the group that arrived in july, these new asylum seekers will spend 6 months in an integration centre in usti nad labem, while their applications are processed. during this time they will also receive czech lessons and try to adapt to their new home country.

this being september, around the world kids have started up at school again, and for the burmese children it’s no different. some of these kids, however, have lived their whole lives inside a refugee camp, and have no experience with formal education. likewise their parents aren’t necessarily aware of what is required for ‘back to school’. and so it was that sabe and i were at the integration center in usti, first to show this new group the documentary film that we showed to the previous arrivals, and also, perhaps more importantly, to show them how to make ‘svačina’ for school.

while showing the refugees how to make a sandwich, we taught such words as ‘rohlík’, ‘sýr’, and ‘šunka’. most were trying these foods for the first time. apples were a big hit. sabe made most of the sandwiches initially and then was slowly able to get the women up to try making one on their own. i thought our biggest achievement was at the end, when one lone man came up and made a sandwich. after we wrote down some of the czech food words for him on a piece of paper, he laughed and said “i’ll just serve my family bread!”.

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