Do you like smoothies? (May 2005)

In one hot summer night, all our family members were sitting in the living room in the dark in my hometown, Myitkyina. Suddenly, our four foot light tubes were turned on with bright light. All of us were cheering and clapping our hands. “Way hay hay……..” I heard some cheerful noise from my neighbors as well. When the light is on, we can continue watching TV and video tape.

It was about 20 years ago and it was the real situation of our electricity problem. As far as I know, I don’t remember any single day when we had full 24 hours electricity in my hometown. We will get the electricity in rotation: sometimes every other day or once in day time and the next day in night time or sometimes we had no light for a few days or weeks. So, no wonder, white petroleum candles and generators are some of must-have items in every household. When we were young, we used candle light to study, and we put flying insect coils under the chair to keep mosquitoes away.

Still, today in the year two thousand five, I was told Myitkyina’s electricity problem is the same as 20 years ago. I don’t know how long we still have to rely on candles and generators.

On the other hand, having been living abroad for several years, I have experienced only 2 or 3 times of power outage. But it took only the most a couple hours or so at each incident. I don’t even notice or concern about whether light is on or not since we have almost 24/7 electricity. Electricity is not a problem at all and I don’t have any candle or emergency light at home.

Transportation in my hometown Myitkyina is in bad shape as well. Even though we have both railway and airway system, getting air ticket is not easy for an ordinary people. Therefore, most people have to rely on train for traveling to other cities: Mandalay, Yangon, etc. Even that, getting a train ticket becomes a time consuming job unless you pay the black market price. If you want the ticket with the official price, you need to get in the line at the ticket booth. You need at least 3 to 6 hours ahead of ticket selling time to get in the line in order to get the limited sale of tickets. I remember several times, I had to wake up at midnight, and went to the station to line in. The tickets weren’t sold until 6 am in the morning.

There is no need to mention how convenient it is to travel to anywhere in the states. You don’t have to worry about the time or the ticket. All you need is a phone, or a computer and a credit card. The only time when people spend longer times for something is when the debut of the new Star War movie (Revenge of the Sith), Microsoft window software, PSP (Play Station Portable), and etc.

How about the communication system in Myitkyina, it is getting F grade for a long time. I don’t know how many households in Myitkyina have home phone. Let’s say, you have a phone line, but it is very difficult to make an oversea call as well. You have to call the operator first, give the number you want to call, and wait for hours. You might need to call back the operator several times and let them know you are still waiting. Usually, the answer you will get is “lines are still busy” unless you know someone whose name is “ah kaung”. Anyway, after waiting for hours, you will get connected to the one you want to talk oversea. But don’t forget to say the most important thing first because you will get only 3 minutes and the line is cut.

Having home phone is not very useful and convenient these days. Cell phone is a must-have sidekick now. But, have you heard the most expensive cell phone can be found in Myanmar?

In other part of the world, cell phone companies are competing fiercely. As the result, consumers get the benefits: free camera phone, family share plans, unlimited night and weekends calls, free roaming charge, free long distance call, free activation and more free stuffs. There is more. Internet telephone is getting quite popular in many countries. SKYPE, and DIALPAD are two popular internet phone service providers.

To be healthy is the most important thing. Yes. Health in Myitkyina should be examined. I wonder how many people become victims in my hometown because of unsafe practice of blood injection, flu shot, drug injection, dental care, selling foods, drinking water, and etc. There are many people got hepatitis disease, TB, and etc. Life expectancy in Myanmar is low compared to some neighbor countries: Myanmar (60.7), China (72.3), India (64.4), Thailand (72), and Vietnam (70.6) [Source: US Census Bureau, 2005]

Still remember back in hometown, when we are eating foods at the market, many flies (we call helicopters) are flying around the shops. We do not care at all. All we do is waving our hands so let the flies go away, and then continue eating our delicious foods. In the worst scenario, sometimes we find a fly or a small insect in our foods; we either ask for an exchange of foods or simply just pick up the fly and throw away. (We don’t sue in Myanmar. We are very “Ah Nar Dae”)

After watching “Fear Factor” in the USA, I realize my worst scenario becomes nothing. Also, I don’t like the word “sue”. People in the US are suing everything. McDonalds got sued for “Super Size” menu, Phillip Morris got sued for causing cancer with their cigarettes, and finally Wendy restaurant recently got sued for serving chili soup comes with “FINGER”. (It turns out it is a scam by the same lady and she was put in jail now.)

That is how I see things in Myitkyina. Of course, Myitkyina has many beautiful things: people, cultures, weather, land, and river. But, we have problems which have to be fixed. How do we fix? We have to find ways. How? To find the cure, first, we need to be ready to learn and to experience many different things with open mind: different cultures, foods, religions, histories, systems, and etc. It is not good just stick on one thing and ignore all others. It is not good to be alone or lonely. We need to work and solve the problems together.

In order to change to better condition, and transform to the best in the future, we have to preserve certain things, bad things have to be get rid of, and substitute with good stuffs. At the same time, instead of fighting or biting each other, we need to look outside the box and find anything useful for our future. We also need friends, technologies, systems, and knowledge.

I believe there are many hometown people who have many talents, skills, and knowledge. The problem is many talented people are scattering individually within the country and outside the country. They are like many subsets within a universal set (U). If we can find the intersection (n) of those subsets and work together, I am sure we will get a tremendous good result.

Do you like smoothies? In a cup of smoothies or Jumba Juice, different kinds of fruits are used. After all the ingredients are mixed well and balanced, you will get a wonderful delicious juice.
Have a sip and taste it, you will fall in love with smoothies.