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Posts Tagged ‘ethics’

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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This is just a quick sketch of one out of countless weird situations we have experienced on our trip. From tribal Shillong, Meghalaya, we crossed into Bangladesh via Dawki, a small border town that is rarely visited by foreign travelers. To my chagrin, there were a couple moments along the way in which I thought it would be suggested, for convenience sake, that we become part of the problem — that is to say: pay a bribe.

Indian coal trucks waiting to cross into Bangladesh.

As we dropped into the local police station with our packs, in the dark, we were asked to take a seat. We needed to be there in order to procure permission to stay the night in the “Inspector’s Bungalow,” the only accommodation available for guests in Dawki, and we were unsure of what this process would require. (more…)

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This advent, I have been thinking about light. Light allows me to see more detail, but I have found that sometimes darkness helps me look calmly at only a few things. I also feel less exposed in the dark and feel like I can watch without exposing others. With warm, soft light, we find the courage to see each other.

First Advent: Bodhgaya

At the Bangladeshi Vihara, devotees have lit thousands of butter lamps to remind of the Buddha’s enlightenment. (more…)

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On our long bus trip to Shillong, Meghalaya, I watched a group of four or five children comfortably squatting around the backside of a goat, curiously studying its butt. The goat had some sort of enormous growth hanging from its belly and it was profusely bleeding from its anus.

What does it mean to watch another’s suffering? What would it mean to look away? “I feel like I don’t have good defenses. I feel really exposed to all these raw impressions.” I wrote in an email to my Mom about this disturbing scene, only one of many, observed for a few moments out of the bus window. (more…)

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The photos in this post were taken on our last day in DC. Caleb and I wanted to spend our last day doing what we loved doing during almost three years of living in DC. We took a long walk of exploration. We steered into Northeast, behind the farmer’s market close to Gallaudet University, and there along the train tracks we committed home invasion: freshly washed clothes lying on a wall in the sun, a bag of groceries, a cooking station. I remember thinking: In what ways could this person’s life possibly be anything like mine? What do we share?

Traveling in India feels like a constant act of home invasion. Vulnerable aspects of peoples’ lives are laid bare. I am witness to intimacies that should be reserved for lovers and families, not strangers like myself. It feels both wrong and sacred. Discretion is an unaffordable luxury for most. Unlike the person whose home we observed by the traintracks in DC, there is not much I can do to protect the privacy of people in many places in India that we visit.
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