Monday, January 30, 2012

Foreign Policy: Myanmar Update 3

Another update from Michael in Yangon, where all is still well.  

We had an interesting chat with one of the young (21) receptionists at our hotel, a very nice, friendly, good English speaker.  On the subject of food I mentioned that Joanna and I were both fond of Japanese food, and she kind of frowned and said that, well, they had a lot of trouble with Japanese people.  I asked, "you mean Japanese tourists who stay at the hotel".  "No," she said, "the Japanese people who invaded my country and did very bad things!"   She then went on to list a variety of hideous tortures, hardly exclusive to the Japanese but certainly used by their thugs when they ran amok in China and SouthEast Asia in the 1940's.  I did let her know that we've had some wonderful experiences touring in Japan and have some very lovely friends who are Japanese, and, well, after all that was several generations ago.  She was not swayed in her opinion. Just one of those reality checks concerning foreign policy: some people just don't forgive and forget.   BUT... we did a check with a number of other locals, and it seems that this kind of thinking not so prevalent. Most everybody else either likes the Japanese or is indifferent.

Actually, most of the public buses here are Japanese made, with the steering wheel on the right side, like in England/Japan, but they drive on the right side, like in the US.  Which means they have to modify the doors, sealing the ones on the left and cutting new ones in on the right (the sidewalk side).  The buses look like hell, not just from that but being driven hard and fast.  Why? Because the buses are rented by the driver and the ticket taker, much like a taxi is rented from a cab company.  The passengers they pick up that day is their take (after the rental fee) which means the buses race each other to get to bus stops first.  It's pretty crazy.  It's not the kind of free market economy conducive to safety, but it's what they have at the moment.

Follow up Tid-Bit:
I mentioned in a previous email that the locals are happy that internet restrictions have lifted somewhat and they can now get You Tube.  I should add, however, that mostly all they can get is the opening page, not the actual videos which take far to long to download due to the slow connections.  But still, it's a start.

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