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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

I am in the process of triangulating the meanings of the daily specials, reading the menu glyphically to match combinations of letters to the list of partially-translated dishes. A man sitting at the table too-close next to me offers, in English, to help me order my lunch. He is probably in his late 40s, a bit ruddy in the face, with close-cropped, thinning blond hair. He is sitting with a couple, only slightly older in appearance, but apparently, as I would come to assume, his parents.

He is a car dealer, born here in Budapest and raised in Australia. He has been back for ten years, although business today under the ultra-corrupt oligarchy of contemporary Hungary is not what it used to be. He advises me to order what his father is eating, which appears to be a shredded potato covered in a mountain of fried meat. I decide to go for something that I think will be roast pork.

Coffee Time

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I wrote this over a year ago. It had been 14 days since I was in Asia, and it sums up many of my thoughts about this whole over-arching experience.

Asia is gone to me, snuffed out in a way I anticipated but didn’t fully acknowledge. And I feel a sense of loss. I miss having no preconceived notion of what I will find around the next corner. I miss the signs of life that are unavoidable on the street, in every window. I miss the interactivity that comes from being a curiosity.

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Employed by the bank of China she had fantastic benefits – shuttle service to work, shopping vouchers galore and a salary that allowed her to buy an apartment at age 26 – a mere dream for the majority of China’s workforce. And then she quit. SF and her husband are visibly agitated as they remember her regular 24 hour working days and tell of colleagues who sleep in the lobby at work. There is simply too little time to go home. As if emphasis is needed, they site this year’s ten stress related suicides at a Foxconn factory and assure me that this is not uncommon in China.


bar in Kunming, China (more…)

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Sucked into the swathes of mesmerizing beaches through Southeast Asia, each leaves its own impression. Some beaches are good for swimming, others for snorkeling, surfing or beach-combing. Varying shades of blue merge with white and crimson sand, soft or hard and sometimes dotted with pin-sized holes from small scurrying crabs. Cambodia’s southern hot-spot known as Serendipity Beach is no less beautiful, though displays a new, this time heart-wrenching tropical paradise. (more…)

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The unwanted city

 

Two years after the unification of Malaysia in 1963, the ideologies and social make-up of its two largest cities, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, clashed. In a rather bizarre twist of post-colonial reshuffling, the capital of Kuala Lumpur firmly suggested Singapore leave the federation. Soon after the decision was ceremoniously showered in Prime Ministerial tears live on Singapore television. Nearly fifty years later, my visual impression places Singapore far ahead of its former administrator and other Southeast Asian Nations. The economic data is no less impressive. Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei return a combined economic product little more than half that of Singapore (Studwell, xi). (more…)

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You have to understand the context. We are exploring the plain of jars, and about two meters to the left of my feet is a brick painted red and white. Along the white side – where I am standing – it is safe: de-mined and cleared of unexploded ordinance (UXO). A few meters to the right of me is a huge bomb crater (10 by 10 meters, maybe?). All of it, mines, unexploded ordinance, and bomb craters are the doing of Americans and the Secret War. (more…)

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Lao-lao trekking

Arriving in the first village on our Laos trek, we enter animal theater. The livestock is in continuous motion, each actor antagonizing the next. Pigs, dogs and chickens chase each other from trough to trough and fight for anything vaguely edible in the dust. With disbelief, we learn that there is no specific customary latrine place in this village — the animals eagerly consume all human waste wherever it falls with sickening zeal.

Drinking alcohol is central to our glimpse of life in the village. Upon our arrival in mid-afternoon, we are shuffled into a hut to share lao-lao shots poured out of a plastic jug, labeled “engine oil.” It goes around and around the circle, and the bug-eyed host keeps pouring. Our guide purchases a fifth of the clear, strong spirit and proceeds to dole it out until his bottle is empty as well. (more…)

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Mine detection kitty

Walking through the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) exhibit, the information I read takes me completely by surprise. Lao People Democratic Republic is the most bombed country in the world per capita.

Between 1961 and 1974, the Laotian Civil War becomes one of the many proxy wars of the Cold War and the country’s strategic importance to the overarching conflict in Vietnam makes it a prime bombing target.  Between 1965 and 1974, US  expenditures average $9 million per day releasing 1.36 metric tonnes of ordnance on Lao. I can’t find figures on ordnance used by other protagonists and ground forces. The legacy is tragic. Upper estimates suggest that some 30% of the ordnance did not detonate. Live bombs now litter the countryside, claiming casualties at an alarming rate – the 2008 estimate is 600 injured by UXO. (more…)

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Negotiable exchange rate

Caleb found this internet cafe. His theory is that some westerner said "you should name your internet cafe Virus Free," and this is what came out. It certainly represents the many contradictions evident in Burma.

As a traveler in Myanmar it is easy to have one’s expectations confirmed. Abysmal infrastructure, propaganda and censorship tells me people are oppressed. Nourishment, internet cafes, shining pagodas and endless smiles makes life not seem so bad. Indeed, a traveler cannot explain what life is like for the diverse people of Burma — so in any observation I must consider what I can and cannot see as a visitor. (more…)

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Ye Khin’s poem

Ye Khin* is a gentle and shy man. He is in his early thirties and ethnic Karen. Ryan and I meet him on our journey through Eastern Burma where our paths cross for a few days.  The last time we see Ye Khin, he waits with us for the bus and we end up talking about the internet. Out of the blue he asks us: “How can I say something so the whole world will hear it?”

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