by Rita Nguyen
Every time I go back to Canada, I have people asking me what it’s like to live in a place like Myanmar. While Yangon and Vancouver are worlds apart on about every measuring stick I could use, living here is not all that different on a daily basis. I work during the day, visit with friends at night and run errands on the weekend. Really, not that different from Vancouver. This surprises and probably disappoints them as their vague exposure to Myanmar centers around human rights and religious abuses, natural disasters and a lady who was stuck in a house for a very long time. It wasn’t until I moved to Myanmar that I understood what “life through a straw” meant.
While these stories are important and should not be disregarded, there’s also the other side – that of the Myanmar as a normal society with normal human problems and solutions. Governments introducing policy, entrepreneurs starting businesses, parents feeding their kids and teenagers forming their identities…the human aspirations, behaviours and challenges not different than anywhere else in the world. And yet, because of Myanmar’s recent history, there’s a unique flare to how it’s happening here.
Nowhere is this unique Myanmar flavour better highlighted than through the sixteen speakers featured at the TEDxInyaLake event last month. The curators did a stellar job of blending personal human stories and living and working here with a few featuring some of the rich history and art of this place. While they are all worth a watch, I wanted to feature a few of my favourite ones in no particular order.
The day started out with the theme of love. Nay Oke spoke about a famous poet who wrote nursery rhymes all the Burmese children would have grown up with. These were written by his late mother’s past lover and the story is beautiful.
Without a doubt my favourite one of the day. Thura uses humour to show how business works in Myanmar. For all the tire kickers who constantly ask me what doing business is like here, this is the one to watch.
Tim has an incredible business converting buses to mobile classrooms and rolling up in front of tea houses to teach children outside of the formal education system.
Mogok Pauk Pauk shares a powerful story of resilience. The first and probably most famous transgender person in Myanmar, her story is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.
The videos are all only 15-20 minutes each and are all worth a watch. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. Here’s the full playlist for your viewing pleasure.