Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Burma/Myanmar blogger

Here is a link to a blogger living in Yangon with a first-person account of the Cyclone.

On May 2nd, we got news that the storm was heading directly into Yangon, so the employees were released to go back home early at 2pm. Even at that time, I was planning to stay until office hour was over because looking outside, the sun was still shining. But later, after being urged by friends online to go back home early, I went back home. When I got home, electricity was still on, so we opened TV, and on MRTV 3, there was a news flash scrolling, saying that the storm had passed Hi-gyi Island and is on its way towards Ayeyarwaddy, Yangon, Bago, and Mon States. The radio station was also broadcasting warnings of this. Electricity was cut off at 6:30pm according to ration schedule, so we just sit around with emergency lights. It had started raining, but it was not very windy yet. So I went to bed around 9pm. I hardly ever wish anything whenever I prayed, but that night, I prayed that the storm will not cause many casualties. I wasn't able to fall asleep quickly, because of the noises of the rain falling on the roof, but I think I did nodded off.

When I woke up, it was around 2:30am, and the wind was howling now. I can hear noises on the roof, and I was afraid that the roof, even though it's one of those big one-piece roof that covers the whole house, will fly away with the wind. So I got my pillow and a blanket and went into the living room and found my mom and my cousin sitting on the seats with a candle lit. They couldn't sleep either, I guess. My father was praying in the shrine room, and my brother was awake too. It wasn't raining heavily at that time, but there was very strong wind. I can hear the next door house's windows slamming shut and open again (no one was at home) and hear shattering sounds - the charms and the decorative lamps on that house falling down on the ground, and some windows breaking. Even though I thought I had closed my room's window tightly, I guess it wasn't, cos it flew open and slammed the walls and back again, and 3 glass panes shattered. So we had to tie the windows with the ropes to be sure they were closed. We just sat on the chairs in the living room, wrapping our blankets around us to keep out the mosquitoes, and tried to get some sleep. I think I got some sleep for about an hour until I woke up again around 5am.

...and about the official name:

Wikipedia has a long page dedicated to the discussion of what the official name of the country should be. Either way makes little difference to me, but for a lot of people the way one says tuh-MAY-toe or tuh-MAH-toe is a big deal. Those arguments may bore me, but those involved take the matter seriously. Defensively, even...I'm thinking of the French language police as well as the Quebec separatist movement. (We in America are above such provincial thinking, you know, as long as no one tries to converse in another language. Spanish, for instance.)

I came across this line at Wikipedia that helped me understand the discussion better.

Within the Burmese language, Myanmar is the written, name of the country, while or (from which "Burma" derives) is the oral,colloquial name. In spoken Burmese, the distinction is less clear than the English transliteration suggests.

I imagine a spoken transmorgrification going something like...


Etc. You get the idea. As the article said, the distinction is not as clear in the language of the country as it becomes when transliterated into English. It is easier to hear how Rangoon (the old name of the capital) becomes Yangon.

I was in Korea long enough to learn to hear a few subtleties in that language. The formal greeting "An-yang ha-shem-ni-kah" normally shrinks to "An-yah-'say-yo." And Roman transliterations of Asian languages typically use the letter "L" when there is no equivalent in the language being described. The problem is a special non-English sound that falls between an "L" and an "R".

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