One of the many naive questions I asked when I started learning about the atrocities of the Burmese military regime was, “Why hasn’t the UN stepped in and done anything about this?”
I later learned that the UN’s relative silence on Burma was actually the result of one of the more brilliant moves made by the junta. Apparently to placate its citizens after throwing out the results of the 1990 election, the SLORC announced that it would be opening up the country to foreign investment. Soon money started pouring in from several countries, like Japan, India, and especially China, mostly to fund resource extraction and energy projects. As China’s ties with Burma have gotten stronger, China has threatened to use its veto power on the UN Security Council to block any resolutions that would censure or discipline the Burmese regime.
Fast forward almost 20 years, the SPDC has recently announced the laws that will govern the country’s first election since 1990. Nobody I know around here was surprised when the first peek at the rules revealed that the election would be a farce, without much semblance of an attempt at fairness or openness. However, there is one common hope that I’ve heard expressed, which is that at least this election will force the international community to finally start paying attention. There are numerous signs that this is starting to happen, with bold statements from Canada, the UK, and the Philippines. And now a group of 150 dissident groups from around the world has called for action by the UN, which has prompted a meeting today of the Group of Friends of Burma to be followed by a report to the UN Security Council. Hopefully China will do the right thing.
Last year was certainly not Tiger’s year (in fact, it was the year of the Ox). Happy Chinese New Year everyone!
We had a request for more pictures including the two of us, so here are a few from the past few weeks:
Eating delicious Hunanese food in Suzhou
Having breakfast on the roof of Helena’s in Kathmandu
In Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square
Our way to the airport involved my fastest ever land-travel experience. We took the Maglev “demonstration line” that covers 30km nonstop in about 6 minutes:
Our original rough plans are still intact; we’re heading to Delhi for Yom Kippur and a few days of sightseeing. Then we’re off to Nepal for two weeks of R&R.
Seen on a storefront in Suzhou, China:
Let me know if you can explain this one. As far as I can tell, it has something to do with counterfeit pearls.
I know Seema would be so proud:
Lauren, in the Humble Administrator’s Garden, explaining why bridges in Chinese gardens are zig-zag shaped
For our last day in China, we took a day trip to Suzhou, famous for its numerous gardens and its historical status as a center of the Chinese silk industry. Kenny’s co-worker Yun kindly agreed to come along and serve as translator, in exchange for us serving as tour guides (armed with our TimeOut Shanghai guide).
We visited the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Suzhou Museum (designed by I. M. Pei), with a stop for lunch at a delicious Hunan restaurant in between. Suzhou is small and quite touristy, but it made a nice peaceful day trip away from bustling Shanghai.
Translator and tour guide posing for a shot in the Humble Administrator’s Garden
I. M. Pei’s beautiful museum is a modern building, but it pays homage to the simple lines and structures of the Chinese gardens that surround it.
As some of you already know, Kenny and I have a travel companion who lives in our camera bag – Little Vid, a stand-in for our dear friend Vidya (who unfortunately chose not to take a year off from her job to join us on sabbatical). Here are a couple of photos we took of Little Vid in Shanghai. There will be many more to come as we continue our journey.
You can follow all of her adventures on our Flickr page via the Little Vid tag.
The real Vid loves karaoke. Here’s Little Vid enjoying a duet with Kenny in Shanghai.
The real Vid doesn’t like beer, but Little Vid enjoys an Asian lager from time to time.
For my last night in Shanghai, a bunch of my co-workers took us to Party World for karaoke. Karaoke in China is a much different experience than the states. You rent a karaoke room, which has couches and your own personal KTV with Chinese and English songs to choose from. Finding your room is an experience in and of itself, as there are many different sections spiraling out from a central hub that includes an all-you-can-eat buffet as well as specialty food and drink stations.
It was a blast. The MS-Shanghai crew have amazing voices, and everyone got into the action.
I’m looking forward to another KTV night the next time I’m in Shanghai!
Seen on East Nanjing Road, Shanghai:
We theorized that a cash recycling machine is likely an ATM that accepts deposits.
Also on East Nanjing Road, we saw a “Reverse Vending Machine”: a machine that accepts empty cans and bottles, and dispenses cash. If you think about it, this translation actually makes perfect sense. Unfortunately we didn’t get a photo of this one.