... and oh so true

Monday, October 01, 2007

On Burma, a joint statement by Karenni grassroots organisations

01 October 2007

A Joint Statement of Civic Grassroots Organizations of the Karenni (Kayah) State on the Protests of the Monks and People inside Burma

We, the civic grassroots organizations of Karenni (Kayah) State, express our strongest support for solidarity and unity with the movement of revered monks, students and fellow citizens of Burma and their peaceful expression of and protests over the hardships and myriad of problems in Burma. Decades of mismanagement of the country's economy by the military rulers caused Burma to be designated by the United Nations as among the poorest nations in the world, while Burmese people suffer oppression and egregious human rights violations under the military dictatorship.

The military regime has persistently suppressed revered monks, students and civilians alike, who peacefully demand an end to military dictatorship and emergence of a government democratically elected by the people, branding the latter as the enemies of the people. In the States of other ethnic nationalities, the military government has consistently committed arbitrary arrests and summary execution, killed innocent civilians, and burned their villages to deprive them of shelter.

Revered monks and civilians who have been staging peaceful protests since the past few weeks to demand the fall of fuel prices and a tripartite dialog are again suppressed brutally through the use of arms. Because of a handful of generals, intent on hanging onto power, the blood of innocent civilians and revered monks has been spilled. As long as the military dictators remain in power, Burma will continue to spiral into poverty and monastic communities and civilians will continue to suffer oppression and repression. Therefore, a change in Burma needs to be brought about as a matter of urgency and if not, the future generations of Burmese people will be destined to suffer the same fate as ours under a handful of generals.

Therefore, WE, the civic grassroots organizations of Karenni (Kayah) State would like to express our solidarity with, and admiration to, the courageous monks, students and fellow citizens of Burma who are putting their lives at risk to protest against the government to bring about change. We would, therefore, like to express our conviction in this Statement that the current movement of our revered monks and fellow citizens will lead us to the path toward a dialog that will truly foster national reconciliation and freedom from poverty, desired by the people of Burma.

On behalf of the People of Karenni (Kayah) State, WE further demand State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) that it:

  1. Immediately end the violent suppression of the peaceful demonstrations and allow freedom of expression for the people of Burma;
  1. Immediately and unconditionally release the monks and the people as well as the political prisoners who are arrested for exercising their freedom of expression;
  1. Make commodity prices affordable to the vast majority of the people;
  1. Find a political solution to the problems of Burma through a tripartite dialog as soon as possible;
  1. Immediately stop all efforts and cease all the operations to dam Than Lwin (Salween) River.

Civic grassroots organizations of Karenni (Kayah) State are:

Karenni Social Welfare and Development Center (KSWDC)

Karenni Document Center (KDC)

Karenni National Women Organization (KNWO)

Karenni Student Union (KSU)

Karenni National Youth Organization (KNYO)

Karenni Ever Green (KEG)

Karenni Computer Education Institute (KCEI)

Karenni Mobile Medical Team (KMMT)

Karenni Religion, Culture Development Committee (KRCDC)

Kayan Women Union-Thailand (KyWU-T)

Contact Information

Moe Moe Aung

089 957 1867

Friday, August 24, 2007

Die Schule's out

Today was our final German class.

We'd signed up for an intensive language course, which it certainly was, though it had the concurrent and inevitable 'free gift' of being an intensive socialisation process too.

The things we've learned about each other through daily exposure every weekday for the past month. Seemingly innocuous at first, in retrospect, it's quite incredible what our little exchanges in broken, unconjugated, ungrammatical and incoherent Deutsch have revealed about each person: our schedules, backgrounds, where we live, what we buy at the supermarket, etc.

A hodgepodge of photos from today's very relaxed session:

Manjit and Nicolas with 'der Ball' ...

... Daniel and Ramon during the number-guessing game ...

... Lino rising to the occasion as game moderator and scribe ...

... Daniel (the Younger) and Elma holding up the Young Persons' Front ...

... und Alles zusammen ...

Friday, August 17, 2007

10 steps to unsere gastfreundschaft

What do we do when friends come a-visiting?

1. Welcome them with open arms!

2. Bombard them with 100 questions first thing in the morning after their overnight train journey.

3. Talk non-stop the entire afternoon. Stuff them silly with Swiss Delight (Sprungli's Luxembourgeli).

4. Drive them to the countryside and set them to work in the kitchen. Chop chop, we're already running late for dinner!

5. Photograph them with a 40 day old baby. Again ... and again.

6. Force-feed them schwarzwaelder torte (blackforest cake).

7. Wish them a good night's sleep on a (single) camping mattress.

8. Rouse them for breakfast at the crack of dawn so Ste can enjoy some airtime too.

9. Make them buy us lunch at a superb vegetarian restaurant in the city centre.

10. Send them off at the airport/train station ... but only after confirming plans for our next pleasurable encounter.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Road trip to Appenzell

After a morning of toil for Deutschkurs and the reluctant but pragmatic acceptance of 'that's just how it is though it doesn't sound anything like the way I think it should', we set off on our short road trip to Appenzell.

Ste, determined that Wifey should see more of his beautiful country, particularly when it is sun-kissed and not snow-ridden, cleared the way for a perfect afternoon. Map? Check. Guide book? Check. Partner who nods off in moving vehicles? Check. Nothing would stand between us and the pristine, rolling Appenzellen countryside. Certainly not cloudy windscreens!

The town of Appenzell is a show-stopping Dulux dream. Historical facades the colour of sugary bon-bons: pastel pink, yellow, salmon ... and the grander ones with traditional motifs rendered in painstaking detail, a clear indication of the original owner's wealth and status.

Peeping out seductively from between the rows of houses was the region's famous undulating landscape - it's hilly ... hills. According to Ste, the locals say that you can't put down (and balance) a bowl of soup anywhere on Appenzell-land. We opted for a cake and pastry snack anyway.

We wandered past the outskirts of town, beyond the public swimming pool with a tangle of kindercarts parked outside and fellow walkers nodding, "Gruezi."

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The chapter which isn't written ... will never be written

August is upon us! This calls for a momentous monthly page-turning of the desktop calendar! Pa da dum ...

I bought the calendar in Stone Town, Zanzibar, in March. It wasn't so much the Javed Jafferji photography (Mzee J. is the Father of all coffee table books about Zanzibar) which called out to me, but rather the Kiswahili proverbs. One for every month of the year.

After all, I had it in my mind that the cadence of a foreign language often makes a person seem more knowledgeable. And worldly. Cultured. Well-traveled. Informed. Able to identify months and dates in a single bound.

So anyway, the thought-provoking proverb for this month (accompanied by an awesome photo of a dhow sailing into the sunset) is:

Nahodha wengi, chombo huenda mrama.
A ship with many captains does not sail properly.

The allusion seems fairly obvious, in a 'too many cooks spoil the broth' way. Though that pales in comparison to my favourite one, from April:

Nyani haoni kundule huona kundu la mwenziwe.
The ape does not see his own backside, he sees his companion's.

Indeed. And that is why I keep mine all covered up, out of sight and out of mind.

But seriously, there is much room for interpretation (and misinterpretation) of this particular proverb. My own sense of it is that it's far easier to figure out someone else's ... toosh, than one's own. Although ... that isn't necessarily the case if things unfold in the manner of Ste's phrase of doom - 'gone tits up'.

Looking ahead, I think November's is profound in its sheer simplicity:

Hakuna siri ya watu wawili. There is no secret between two people.

Now that is a winner.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Joy in many packages

This has been a regular weekend. At last! Exactly what we needed. Time to relax, catch up with friends and catch our breaths.

Saturday night we watched Gandhi (passed onto us by Daren) on our new telly and DVD player. That warranted a full TV dinner of crisps, pizza, cider and ice-cream. The film was compelling, daunting, tragic, stirring and inspiring all at once. There was anger, there were tears ... and heartened smiles. There was also plenty of action on screen.

Ste said I get too emotionally engrossed in epics. I was too emotionally engrossed to reply and jabbed him in the ribs - SHHH! Stop talking during the movie lah!

I contemplated having a bit of a lie-in on Sunday Morgen till I saw that the sun was out - it was an utterly beautiful day! We took a short walk to the Mobility car (a Swiss car sharing scheme) further up on Minervastrasse, then cruised slowly along the Gold Coast of the Lake of Zurich to Rapperswil. Lunch at Van and Wilfried's was a tasty Thai-Swiss affair: tangy veggie salads with rice and kartoffel gratin mit poulet.

Van and I met at Integrationkurs and have somehow managed to bridge the language barrier (our own Southeast Asian Roestigraben ... a Stickyreisgraben?) and foster enough friendly feelings to haul our spouses together for a group activity.

In the late afternoon, we made our way to Schindellegi, to visit the new little man of the Dhall-Mahan house, Siddarth. Or as Ste fondly refers to him, 'Sid the Kid'. Siddharth was on his best behavior most of the time, wanting to be where the action (and guests) were to show off his pacifier-sucking skills - very impressive for a 38 day old baby!

When he isn't exercising his lungs or refining internal bodily motions, the little Rocky Balboa subscribes to a vigorous regimen of push-ups, arching his head and body backwards when he's on his tummy, punching the air with sweeping uppercuts and hooks. We were extremely impressed ... though I couldn't get over just how tiny his training togs were.

Uncle Ste, with his nurturing side bubbling to the fore, couldn't resist carrying the adorable Baby Sid, impressing all present with his confident baby-handling technique. Not to be outdone, a markedly less self-assured Aunty Alicia posed next to Uncle Ste, artfully supporting his hand as it supported Baby's head.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Coming to terms at the start of term

German class started on Monday. It runs daily from 9.00am-12.50pm till end-August. And yes, that's the sound of my brain frying in the background. Ooh the heartwarming sizzle of gray matter. Leave off the salt, please.

My main motives for learning Deutsch (a.k.a why I show up every morning with homework done) are:

(i) to have a proper, un-aided conversation with Ste's Uncle Hansueli this Christmas. I think he's rather sick of hearing my jokes via proxy (or rather, Ste is sick of being the proxy) and I'm even putting some advance prep into it so none of the brilliant nuances get mired in translation.

(ii) to pressure Ste into bringing me for a karaoke session in Zuerich (my favourite hits at the moment are Herbert Groenemeyer's Ein Stueck vom Himmel and Du bist Die, plus Silbermond's Das Beste, all of which I've been struggling to croon to on YouTube (with lyrics palmed off the Net of course).

And now that we're at the end of the first week of Deutschkurs, I can add a third:

(iii) to figure out how it's statistically possible that nearly half the class is so unbelievably and embarrassingly good-looking (and I mean Calvin Klein photo ad model quality) while the rest of us mooch about like faceless extras on the set. As I look across the classroom at the beautiful and ebullient young 'uns, I'm floored by how much older I am ... than I actually feel.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Egad, an elephant in the post!

Forgetfulness is an excellent excuse for One's mindless trespasses. When administered with a helping of sheepish grin and two measures of edible peace offering (I don't mean arsenic ... or my home cookin'), the old 'forgive and forget' is an efficacious salve and is almost certain to mollify the offended party.

However, any salubrious kickbacks are entirely vaporised should One, ever-so-absentmindedly, be in the possession of a torrid past AND childhood friends with elephantine (=massive+long+thick-skinned) memory banks. Deadlier still if those school buddies have in their possession, collections of incriminating ephemera churned out during One's murky teenage years. The Past, when it comes back, generally means to haunt. And only after It has indulged in an attention-seeking ditty with over-exuberant jiggling and under-dressed jigglies.

I might have gone ahead and denied everything ... except that with kith AND kin checking in on this blog now (and no thanks to those of you goading my Mom on for more gory morsels ... bad, bad Rosh!), the past has come trick o' treating.

So here I am with the evidence - grinning ... and baring it.

P. S. Thanks Janelle, that was one heck of a slide down memory lane! ; )

Is it all about location, location, location?

DESTIN gals by the Zurichsee, May 2007

Claudia en route from NYC-Crete-Santiago (Chile), me en route from Dar es Salaam-Zurich-London, and Abhilasha en route from London-Zurich-Schindellegi ... into motherhood.

Bon voyage, all!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Doctor, doctor!

You know how in kindergarten when there's always that one kid who has to throw up during the national anthem, opting to cry helplessly rather than make a desperate dash to the toilet, that would have saved everyone a whiff of putrid kiddy breakfast ...

Or that weirdo perched silently on the floor next to his/her classmates, ne'er uttering a word till King Pong hits and Teacher makes everyone stand up, only to discover -lo and behold- a perfect little turd smeared on the music room carpet ...

There is, indeed, drama in real life even at that tender age.

Well, tonight I regress and join (note: NOT re-join) the less-than-illustrious ranks of juvenile classroom wimps. Taken hostage by an affliction that is dramatic as it is inconvenient. Whining and moaning as I bury my face in heaps of already speckled tissues, suffering inconsolably from what Ste has curtly declared a garden variety nosebleed. Right before he trotted off to bed.

Is there no compassion in this world?!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Duchamp raider

I actively try to simplify and minimise my collection of worldly possessions.

Ste, to the contrary, is an instinctive hoarder and -as if that weren't debilitating enough- takes perverse glee in promoting that distressing trait as a mark of sophistication. Imagine a squirrel in overdrive, building up its massive acorn arsenal for the coming winter. Yup.

Friends consistently ooh and aah -rather unhelpfully, in my opinion- at his sizeable personal collections of (i) loose leaf tea; (ii) books; and (iii) neckties. Keeping in mind the Lilliputian dimensions of our humble abode (ie. a tiny 2-bedroom flat), every bit of living space matters. Like the aforementioned bushy-tailed rodent, Ste too is awash with feelings of comfort and security whenever he surveys his vast accumulation. A wistful smile breaks as he contemplates further (i) blends; (ii) titles; and (iii) colours to be acquired.

There remains an important difference, though. Unlike the squirrel's carb-, protein- and fat-packed stores which will see it comfortably through till Spring, should Zurich ever be ravaged by a most brutal winter, Ste and I -the literate, tea-drinking homo sapiens sporting trendy psychadelic neck accessories- would starve.

Outlived, ironically enough, by the scampering, beady-eyed creature with an acorn-sized brain.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Singapore National Day Reception, Geneva

I've never wavered on my impression of home and what it holds for me.
But what does that same home mean to everyone else, those who are also away?

Got no answers, it's a process.
Me, I'm slowly getting re-acquainted with Singapore through overseas Singaporeans.

Photos from TCS website

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ba da bing ba da breakfast

So, you know what They say ...

Old Chinese cooks never die, they just wok away.

Old bankers never die, they just lose interest.

Old accountants never die, they just lose their balance.

Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.

Old upholsterers never die, they just never recover.

I don't have an oily knack with puns and such. But my 2 Rappen contribution is ...

Old friends
never die, they just meet for continental breakfast in a foreign city at bloody 8.30 in the morning because they have flights to catch.*

*Or shopping to do, as in Michelle's case. Scandalous, I tell you!

After 22 years (and counting) of friendship, there's no fresher way to say it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What big teeth you have ... so macho!

My placid, peace-loving parents recently welcomed a new addition to the household. Meet The New Dog - part bull terrier, part shark. Check out those jaws ("er, what big teeth you have ...") ... the sturdy frame ... the thick, muscular neck. Mindlessly named 'Boy' by its previous owners before they abandoned it at the SPCA, my well-meaning mother cheerfully took it upon herself to revive its sense of canine self-esteem with a more appropriate monicker.

Daren and I lobbied for 'Brutus' -indeed, from 'brute'- and in my brother's words, "That dog's body is rock hard". I also campaigned briefly and unfruitfully for 'T-bag', an allusion to its darjeeling/assam-stained coat (as an aside, the dog had coughing fits when my folks first brought it home, so I modified my bid to from 'T-bag' to 'TB' ... another non-starter).

In the end, Mom prevailed and 'Macho' it is.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Burger that, Burgher!

I say I'm vegetarian because I think it just simplifies things. What I really am though is pescatarian, though I've learned the hard way that what people tend to hear (right after they give me the evil eye for springing an unnecessarily foreign-sounding -and possibly new agey- word into my dietary preference) is episcopalian. Which, as everyone knows, is an entirely different basket of fish and loaves altogether. Go figure.

Being pescatarian implies that I don't get a lot of all-beef-patty -with or without the special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on the sesame seed bun- kind of action. Which is why the last fortnight has been somewhat unusual, for its recurring burger imagery.

i. Filet-o-Fish BURGER in Basel on a Friday night with newfound friends Danielle, Julie, Barbara and Nthatisi, the mellow conference crowd. I would not otherwise have entered the Golden Arches.

ii. Sprungli's LuxemBURGERli in Zurich with Janelle and Derek, who were visiting from Los Angeles. I believe they gave the exquisite melt-in-your-mouth macaroons four thumbs up (in all).

And finally, to no less acclaim, Stefan Altorfer-Ong in full graduation regalia, as if he'd just walked off the set of Auguste Rodin's real-life mock-up for ...

iii. the BURGHERS of Calais live -one night only, sold out!- performance in the Peacock Theater. He even got a standing ovation from his long-suffering, draft-editing, fellow student spouse.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

While in Brussels ... early July

Saturday afternoon with the DESTIN girls in Brussels was a real treat - my little hubby-sponsored holiday before the onset of conference season. Rosh and I had both visited the city before, so there was no mad scramble to photodocument major tourist sites.

Rosh, being the extreme foodie on a mission, suggested hitting the major chocolatiers. We needed no convincing. With Lizza and Charlotte's combined navigational acumen, the four of us darted through the crowded streets like bloodhounds sniffing a fox's trail. I purchased a few bars, only to taste of course, and stood my ground, bravely defending my newly procured white chocolate in the face of scorn and disdain. Oh the damnable colour bar!

On the way to dinner, we paid homage to the oft-bypassed and currently non-micturating Jannekin Pis (situated obscurely at the end of a rather forgettable alley), the demure sibling of the more-adored and gushing Mannekin Pis. I nodded somberly, noting that even national landmarks face gender discrimination.

The weekend went by all too quickly and Sunday afternoon came a-knocking before we had downed the last nectarine. David and Lizza delivered us safely to our respective points of departure (Bruxelles-Midi for me, Charleroi for Rosh), we said our farewells and 'see you agains', with the next meeting tentatively set in summer. These frequent catch-ups surely promote sustainability and social capital.

I boarded the train and 8 hours (2 wailing babies + 1 ill-behaved boy scout troupe) later, was back at Zurich HB. Hop, bunny, hop.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Scribbles made while captive on a stranded train, Thionville station

Cows are excellent for some things: dairy products and beef are prime (rib) examples. Entire national economies and gastronomic cultures have been built around them.

On a less laudatory note, cows are blooming useless beyond those specified boundaries. On railway tracks, for instance. They are infuriatingly massive, immovable obstructions. Right now, they are standing between me and my weekend in Brussels.

Received wisdom teaches that music moves even the savage beast ... but -alas- what will dislodge the stubbornly vacuous (undoubtedly derived from the root 'vaca') one? Temperatures are rising and pretty soon tempers will flare.

Forget the frites, gimme some ground beef ... hot off the rails.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

There was also that beautiful weekend in Sonthofen

Alfred, Ste's colleague, was in a pretty serious cycling accident 2 months ago. But he managed to get back on his feet (plus two crutches) for his wedding last weekend and was spectacular on the dance floor! Congratulations again to Alfred and Simone Lederhuber ;0)