World AIDS DAY: Remembering AIDS victims of Burma (Myanmar)

AIDS Ribbon by Sully Pixel
I lost two cousins back-to-back to AIDS a couple of years ago. One was a famous rock star in Myanmar (Burma) Ba Din -- most people of my generation would remember him. He's one of those rare musicians that actually composed his own music. Most music in Burma are just the western music in Burmese. (Try listening to "My Heart Will Go On" in Burmese it's horrible, though Eminem is not bad.) The other cousin was his brother -- one of the first generation Burmese programmers. Ko Ba Din, ("Ko" is a title of respect and love that the Burmese endow upon older brothers.) left behind a wife and a son. Ko Kwa's wife disappeared shortly after his death and many suspect her to be dead.

My (upper middle class, highly educated, world traveling) family still does not talk about their loss to "that disease". We talk about how crazy they were and what they did when they were drunk or delirious from "the illness". Ko Kwa was sent to the mad house where they keep "those who will not return". My dad picked him up and brought him home. He died after a couple of months of suffering. Of course I didn't witness all this, I was away on the other side of the world. It's only because of my mother, who wants me to know what goes on in the family that I know about this.

Incidentally, probably that same year, 2000, I had called my father to tell him that a report came out from the World Health Organization (WHO) that said that Myanmar had the highest HIV infection rate. Our health care system was ranked 190 when there's only 191 countries. Read the SF Chronicle article here. My father denied the facts, of course, as any good career diplomat would over the tapped phone lines. I understood something was up. And sure enough a couple of months down the line, my other cousin who was studying in Illinois emails me to tell me that Ko Kwa passed away from some sort of illness. I don't even know if he himself knew that it was AIDS related then.

Fast forward eight years to 2008 -- there's a ton of orphans in Myanmar right now because a lot of people from my cousins' generation are dead. Still to this day, nobody really knows how many Burmese are HIV-positive but the recent press release from UNAIDS estimates that about 240,000 people in Myanmar are infected. According to the Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF or Doctors Without Borders) 76,000 Burmese are in urgent need to antiretroviral treatment or else they will die needlessly (Most likely producing more orphans). Apparently, Myanmar receives the lowest humanitarian aid -- USD $3.00 per person only. Probably the lowest in the region compared to her neighboring countries.

This is not surprising to me, I went to Myanmar right after the Cyclone Nargis. Literally, I landed right after the skies were cleared. I wasn't used to living without electricity or proper water, but my family and neighbors managed. My mom cooked me my favorite dishes, they found stuff even when prices where going through the roof. My aunt even got me some frog curry (Ya I have weird taste in food, I can be Anthony Bourdain's apprentice). My dad put me back on the plane as fast as he could. When I came back to India, I saw that Myanmar made New York Times headlines for a couple days. As I ask myself: why do we make headlines only when monks or students get shot or a major cyclone disaster hits? Then, I check another email from the New York Times, this is a sad one: Myanmar didn't make it on the "most emailed" articles list of that week. People were more concerned about the Emmy nominations.

So this World AIDS Day, are people really concerned about AIDS or are they more concerned about Cyber Mondays and Mobile Tuesdays? Are they concerned about who to invite to their Christmas party, or their jobs, Britney Spears's new documentary on MTV, or world peace? What are folks really worried about? If you're really concerned about AIDS and the dying children in Burma, you can go ahead and send some cash to Doctors Without Borders by clicking here.

Because if you really care, saving a life is only a couple of clicks away.

Photo by Sully Pixel

Sonnet for Yu Yu...

My colleague wrote a poem about me, which I find really amusing. This is what happens when writers get bored. Check out the sonnet here: Yu Yu for You

it's been a while

the embrace by jennifer buehrerit's been a while that i felt
this good
it's been a while that i felt
this safe
it's been a while that
i let things go

it's been a long while that
i cared
it's been a long time since
i dared
it's been too long since
i loved

it was long ago that i stopped looking

What should I name my new pup?

Puppy asleep on the floor. ©2008 YU YU DIN
Just a quick post because EVERYONE'S asking me about the name of the pup. I don't want to rush this. I want it to be done right. First off, did I tell ya, I got a puppy! I still can't believe it. I can't really decide on her name so I picked 16 names and did a small poll among a selective group of office colleagues -- call it my own little 'focus group' if you will. Here are the original 16 names I picked and the amount of votes they got.

3 for Samantha (Sam)
3 for Faith

2 for Keira
2 for Skye
2 for Trinity
2 for Phoebe
2 for Lexie

1 for Leah
1 for Maxie
1 for Erin
1 for Caitlin
1 for Ava

NONE for Amelie
NONE for Kim (Kimberly)
NONE for Alex (Alexa)
NONE for Layla

Arings, my friend and colleague is also consulting the numerology charts to come up with other names. But I'm sticking to these ones below. Leave a vote and help me decide. I got the pup from Aringsburg Kennel -- check out the back story on the mom here!

Stay tuned!

Drunks and Damsels I

Alcohol is a substance I was introduced to early in life. There's a famous story that my parents told over and over to people on how I first got drunk. I was only two years old. It happened in Beigining -- where I was born. We were the only Christian family at the embassy; naturally my father threw a Christmas party for his colleagues. After a night of drinking and merry conversation, it was time for the guests to leave.

My parents, being gracious hosts, walked the guests to the elevator -- afterall, they lived in the same building. This was Beijing in the early '80s--before the economic liberalization. Movements for foreigners were strict. Diplomats lived in the diplomatic quarters, shopped in super markets designated for diplomats.

Since my parents walked off with the guests, I helped myself to whatever that was leftover in their glasses. When my parents returned, I was fast asleep and all the glasses were empty. And that ladies and gents was the first time I drank.

To be continued...

My Best Friend Zyed

Zyed Avatar Smile ©2008 YU YU DIN

I've retouched some of my photos and slowly getting them up online. It's a change from just writing. I need to back up my photos and get them retouched any way, so finally getting started on that project. This avatar for my friend Zyed is part of that project. Zyed's photos are part of a series of portrait studies I did of just him. ^_^

They were mostly shot on black and white Fuji ASA 200 on my Nikon F75. (Don't ask me about F-Stops, I didn't make note, or if I did, I forgot.)

Let me know what ya think! More to come later...


I found this poem in my Writers Cafe account...
Traffic at Night - Public Domain Pictures
Stare into the void,
Into the darkness
Of all past and present

Blind as a bat
Deaf as a snake


“The center cannot hold…”

Do things really fall apart?