October 30, 2015

love the US

i found this ad in a magazine on my flight to the US.  i can only assume that Americans are now so lazy that they can't be bothered to unwrap gum before they eat it. 

October 26, 2015

final thoughts on Myanmar

one guide book says, don't visit Myanmar if, 'you don't like to compromise on such things as food and hotel quality and/or have a low tolerance for last-minute changes of plan or being denied conveniences such as round-the-clock power, use of ATMs and credit cards, your mobile phone and the internet.' if that isn't enough to discourage you they add 'in Myanmar, like many developing countries, there are questions around travel safety and health'

to that i would add ... there are areas of restricted travel, constant planning around how to avoid paying the government fees, open sewers, flooded streets, drivers that will run your ass over in a heartbeat, opium warlords with armies, trains that run on tracks for which they haven't been designed, the money grab associated with new access to revenue streams, a nightly foot cleaning ritual and an excess of peanut oil used on all foods.  did I mention the heat, mud and humidity?

what's not to like?

in reality the people of Manmar are adjusting to the changes in their government and responding for the most part very well to the tsunami of tourists that have descended on them.  the people of Myanmar have much to be proud of .... the rich history of the Bagan kingdoms, the strong cultural identity they are striving to maintain, the resilience that is required to survive a military regime.  

there is much work to be done to provide sustainable economic, social and environmental progress in the country but it is a very exciting time to be in Myanmar and i am thrilled that i was able to spend so much time here.

October 20, 2015

thai healthcare

as i referenced in a recent post, the healthcare in Thailand is the best in Asia and on par with most western countries.  in part the development of the came from the American response of tightening visa controls after the horrific attacks of September 2001.  there was a demand for high quality healthcare for middle eastern clients and Thailand was willing to step up.

there is a hospital reception at the Bangkok airport that will process your admission and shuttle you to the hospital. so it's not so bad if you need to treatment since Bangkok is just an hour flight from Yangon.

the website is available in Thai, English, Japanese, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.  they offer all inclusive 'fixed priced fly in packages' and it's not just plastic surgery, it's dental, obgyn, heart surgeries at 10% - 20% what it would cost in the US.  

October 14, 2015

real posts on the Yangon expat board

there's a google group for expats in Yangon.  it's the go to information board for housing, buying and selling stuff, services, etc.  it's about 99% westerners so there's not a lot misunderstanding.  since facebook has hit the scene in Myanmar there's a page there that has gotten popular.  there are a lot more nationals posting there and some of the results are downright hysterical.

October 12, 2015

elevators aka lifts - scary stuff

my dad was a civil engineer and whenever i find myself navigating a poorly designed parking lot in the USA i find myself smiling at the memory of him in the same situation cursing the city engineer who would approve such a design.  god forbid it was planed incorrectly to drain after a rainstorm.

so i wish he was still around to explain what is going on with the elevators [lifts] in Asia - they are a nightmare for anyone with disabilities who is actually the group that most needs to use elevators.  for a reason unfathomable to me the elevator access is never on the ground level - it's always up a half flight of stairs.  then you get into the elevators which were clearly built for hobbits and travel at the speed of turtles.... okay...  i'll admit that i have mild claustrophobia but still .... i'm holding my breath every time i step into one of them.  karma must be on my side because i've yet to get stuck in one.  on the plus side there always seems to be an elevator attendant so maybe it's his job to pry open the doors if the elevators get stuck.

October 8, 2015

healthcare in Myanmar

Benjamin Shobert, a writer for Forbes did an excellent analysis of the healthcare in Myanmar but here's the short version.

don't get sick.  if you are a westerner and you do, head to Bangkok.  it would be a mild understatement to say that healthcare in Myanmar is suffering badly from fifty years of neglect.  the WHO [World Health Organization] ranked Myanmar dead last out of 190 countries for overall care.  malaria is the leading cause of mortality and TB rates are estimated to be three times the global rate.

i've already bitched about how you can't buy aspirin over the counter at a pharmacy, how 40% of the bottled water is still considered unsafe to drink and how the bandaids [plasters] only stick to your skin for about 5 minutes.  but that's nothing compared to what i stumbled across one day as i was in a building looking for an office.  it was a private pay clinic and there was an overwhelming sense of death and despair.  there were bunk beds with patients lined against the walls and nothing looked sanitized.  my heart sunk when i realized this is the healthcare system most citizens have to use.

here's the good news ... the military regime has started to give NGOs access to the country [which they previously did not because they didn't trust them] and they are making a real difference in the lives of the people.  i met the USA Director of World Child Cancer and was amazed with the work they are doing to provide diagnosis and treatment to children with cancer in developing countries.  READ about how they help and please consider a DONATION to support their efforts.

October 3, 2015

gangster capitalism

i get asked from time to time about the government in Myanmar.  is there progress being made?  will there be free and fair elections?  

Aung San Suu Kyi has long been a SHERO of mine and part of the reason i had such a fascination about Burma.  i'd read her books and followed her house arrest and the crazy stories like the uninvited american who swam across the lake to her house.  her house is clearly marked on University Avenue with signs for the NLD and the taxi drivers often point it out to me with pride.

she has and will continue to make a difference regardless of how the military regime tries to shut her down and is probably the one person in the country that can bring together all the factions outside the military to unite under one flag.  at the moment it remains a monumental task.  will the november elections be 'free and fair'? 

it doesn't matter.

in the end, the network of cronies are not going to give up power and money.  it will transition more like Russia has with the military elite controlling the economic development and riding the tide of money that will flood the country after the elections.  hopefully that tide will raise up everyone just enough that they can begin to transition into a better place.

October 1, 2015

typhoid is bad but dengue is really really bad

again i heard about someone sick with typhoid.  there's a immunization for that so i don't know why people skip it typhoid is bad.  there are a lot of other nasty tropical diseases that can't be prevented so you are still rolling the dice every time you walk out the door.  malaria is pretty common although somewhat preventable if you incorporate tonic and anti malarials into your diet.

dengue is a different kind of disease.  it's not preventable, it's really prevalent in Myanmar and extremely uncomfortable when you get it.  the misquitos that carry dengue roam during the day and suspect areas are sprayed every week with what is probably just as toxic as the disease.  anything but a mild case is untreatable with the standard of care available in Myanmar.  an early diagnosis generally gets you an immediate plane ticket to Bangkok and a more advanced case will get you an air ambulance to Bangkok.  it's amazing how incredibly different the healthcare systems have evolved.  shame on on the Military Generals who care so little for the people that they have never provided even basic healthcare.

i was ill enough one time to go to the clinic.  i woke up feeling miserable.  i immediately took a taxi to the international clinic, where as you can see they don't like to take any chances and just send you home with a whole pharmacy of drugs.

part of the reason for the overload of drugs is the international clinic [of which there are several in yangon] is they are the only place you reliably get western quality drugs.  

they have local pharmacies that have a few what we would call 'over the counter' drugs but they don't even sell asprin.  that's something you have to go to the hospital to get.  the local "hospitals" range from basic to really, really scary.