Archive for October, 2007
I heard a remarkable man speak the other night. Dr Thein Lwin used to be a teacher in Burma, now he trains other Burmese teachers in exile in Thailand. They are striving to meet the needs of thousands of children living in refugee camps in Thailand where they have no rights to attend the schools of their host country.
Dr Lwin was in Edinburgh to raise awareness of what is happening in Burma and to the two million Burmese refugees in Thailand. He had made this same speech seven times already in an exhausting round of visits that included the Scottish Parliament and Edinburgh City Council, and each time I imagine even the most cynical listeners were humbled into silence.
While Burma has disappeared from our headline news (today, ironically,we are fretting about the impact of immigrants), places like Forthview Primary School in Edinburgh are in almost daily contact with their partner school on the Burmese border. The headteacher, Sheila Laing visited the school in July and now Dr Lwin was paying a return visit. Between them they want to develop a joint curriculum for the two schools.
All of this is remarkable – not least the efforts of the Edinburgh schoolchildren to raise money for their Burmese partners by selling gold ribbons (£1 a time). But what really got me was the gentle idealism of this quiet man as he explained that they want to create a curriculum which enables students to develop critical thinking.
They don’t know when they will gain democracy in Burma, the refugee schools struggle with little or no resources, but Dr Lwin and his teachers want to be sure that their children develop the kind of open, questioning minds a truly democratic nation needs.
If you want to buy a ribbon email Sheila Laing firstname.lastname@example.org who will pass your orders on to P5, P6, P7.
October 29th, 2007
This wasn’t intended but every autumn the Virginia Creeper makes beautiful outside curtains for our windows and every year it creeps a little higher. A few years ago this was the view from the kitchen, now it’s at the top of the house.
The birds like it too. All summer you can hear sparrows bickering among the leaves, showering the bench down below with grit – luckily nothing else has landed in my coffee yet. This is a kind of vertical garden, full of stuff that’s been erased from the horizontal by all those bloody parking plots for cars growing where plants used to be.
Vertical gardening: when the wind blows the ground is covered in a red carpet.
October 20th, 2007
This is what my farming aunt Betty would call a popular apple. That’s what she says when you cut into the windfalls she has brought in for breakfast to find there’s something slimey and squishy already in there.
We’ve had our best apple harvest ever at Pond Cottage but picking the fruit is dangerous. What looks like a lovely rosy ball on one side turns out to be full of burrowing wasps on the other. We must have lost a quarter of the crop on the most productive tree.
So I had to break the rules Betty taught me about picking fruit. She says you know the apple is ready if it comes away easily when you cup and lift with a gentle twisting motion. Those pesky wasps don’t bother to wait till the fruit reaches that stage, they just buzz in whenever they feel like it.
Here’s one of three full baskets picked from one tree. There must be at least another basketfull rotting wasp-corrupted on the ground and the tree. I wish I knew what this variety of apple is called but our horticultural efficiency doesn’t rise to keeping notes of the trees we planted! I used to think it was a Pink Lady, now I’m not sure, does anyone out there know?
October 10th, 2007
One picture worth a thousand words: you can never tell when an advertising slogan will turn sour. I snapped it waiting for the train home after a great weekend in Newcastle – great for us Baltic party goers, not so great for Northern Rock. The run on the bank has stopped but the future is uncertain. Especially for borrowers. Is this really such a good time for a general election?
October 4th, 2007
“It’s just a really special experience…I would say to any musician of any rank, to apply for it because it really teaches you a lot about other people and their cultures and music.” Ben Westbeech (definitely not Westwood!) on Trocabrahma Podcast Episode 2.
This is interesting stuff, so far the Trocabrahma series is the only download I have managed from the online Channel 4 Radio (though I intend to try their Unreported World series too). I like being a fly on the wall as Ben Westbeech sorts through his discoveries in a record store, “like a kid in a sweet shop” with sound so clear you can hear him unzipping his record bag (well, I think that’s what he was doing).
It’s very clever, understated marketing by Brahma beers; what really comes through is that everyone on the 30 minute show (including the velvety voiced Diplo and the very assured Gilles Peterson) seem to be doing it for the love of the music. It is a genuine cultural exchange. Between Brazilian and UK musicians backstage in rehearsal, out on the town and in live performances. Learning about each other through music – we can do with a lot more of that!
I subscribed to the Trocabrahma podcast via iTunes but you can do it through Feedburner too.
October 1st, 2007
We create this blog to share our genuine feelings about Burma and its path to freedom. http://bbwob.blogspot.com/
I feel there’s a kind of mockery in the UK media excitement of a possible (and unnecessary) snap election in Britain where so few will turn out to vote. At the same time newspapers carry words and pictures from Burma where people are risking death, and dying, in a fight to reclaim democracy.
Although internet access is being choked in Burma, there are still remarkable efforts to get the message out to the rest of the world. And at home there are ways of showing support. Here are a few websites to pass on:
Forthview School in Edinburgh is selling saffron ribbons to raise money for their partner school, Hi Bee, on the border of Thailand and Burma.
BEST (the Burma Educational Scholarship Trust) is fundraising for Burmese Refugees. Murray Forgie, a trustee of BEST is now in Burma and will be blogging on the Forthview blogspot during his two week visit.
The Democratic Voice of Burma, the radio and television station broadcasting in exile from Norway, is also collecting donations and asking for people to upload messages and images of support.
Burmese bloggers without borders – whatever the Burmese regime may do this website shows people are still blogging from and about Burma. Here is the declaration on their home page:
When certain significant events unfold unexpectedly, we can no longer sing only melodious tunes. Instead, we find ourselves gathering whatever strength we can find, to survive in the turbulence of historical flame. Regardless of where we may be, we are bounded by our love for Burma. Freedom is our sky. Justice is our life. Peace is our nature. We create this blog to share our genuine feelings about Burma and its path to freedom.
October 1st, 2007