revenge of the monkeys

Oh, I believe it. As some of you know, my wife has an, ahem, interesting history with monkeys. The non-explicit chapter of her saga took place when we were at the Monkey Temple, near Jaipur, India. The temple area, straddling a spring and nestled in a narrow chasm, is full of monkeys. This particular day there were even more monkeys because (according to a local we met there) either a tiger or a leopard was on the prowl nearby. I imagine the monkeys thought it would be safer to mingle among creatures that are both more filling and less aware of their surroundings - namely, humans.

The same type of monkey assasin that sent the Indian official plummeting to his death also liked to have my wife feed him, as encouraged by the previously-mentioned local. One particular monkey, however, was a little problematic. He liked to hold my wife's hand as she fed him (not unlike myself), so my wife tried to reach out and pet him back. Mistake. Right when she touched his fur, his little hand darted out, grabbed her hair, and pulled her in as he stood there and stared this intense killer-monkey-stare right into her eyes. It took the local running over and prying my wife's hair out of the monkey's hands before the beast would back down. Apparently he's a bit of a control freak.

And for the record, the reason I didn't fend off the monkey ninja was because I was standing farther away than the local was. And the monkey better be glad for that, because if I had gotten ahold of him there would have been Rhesus pieces all over the place. Oh, I kill myself.


with love, from nigeria

The wife and I have been trying to sell her car (anyone want a Ford Probe? Comes with snow tires and an upgraded stereo!), and I recently received an email from a friendly chap named James. His English isn't very good, but I have been able to make out that he's very excited about buying the car. So excited, in fact, that he doesn't even want to look at it before making the purchase. All I need to do is give him some of my personal information, then he'll send me a check and have his shipper come pick the car up. I will need to pay the shipper, so James is just going to send me a really big check and have me take out the cost of the car and the shipper, then send the rest back to him. What a nice and trusting guy!

A scam? Well, yeah. Still, I thought I'd write the guy back. Told him I was really excited he was buying the car, because my little sister is sick and we need money so that she can get her medical treatments. Then I just sent him an email a few minutes ago saying that some other nice person who wants to send me a check and have his shipper pick the car up has contacted me and wants to offer more money, so if James still wants the car he'll have to pony up more cash. That doesn't matter to him, of course, since he doesn't plan on giving me any money at all, but it might make him a little worried about the competition.

My wife told me I'm being mean. What is your opinion, dear blog reader? Do I keep playing along, do I fess up, or do I just stop returning his emails? I'm starting to feel a little bad about all this, but at the same time he is trying to scam me and my sick little (non-existent) sister.

I await your decision.


oh my(anmar)!

Weeks away from my blog, and I return with the simultaneously cheesy and tacky subject line offered above. Plus, the title only works if you mispronounce the country's name. I apologize.

I've been trying to avoid a multi-project-induced nervous breakdown the past few weeks, and while I make no guarantees, the end is nearly in sight and I hopefully will not be taking hostages any time soon.

The whole Myanmar (a.k.a. Burma) protest and crackdown has prompted me to come out from hiding and make a post, be it ever so unwitty. Basically, all I have to say is, "You suck, Gen. Than Shwe." Sorry I'm not much more eloquent at one thirty in the morning. While living in Thailand, I got to spend a little time working with and learning about the Karen, an ethnic hill tribe that straddles the Thai-Burmese border. They have been fighting successive Burmese military regimes for over 50 years, trying to set up the same kind of semi-autonomous region that other ethnic tribes were promised when Burma gained independence from Britain.

As a result of the fighting, tens of thousands of Karen refugees have fled to refugee camps in Thailand. Since they are unable to leave the camps, however, they make good targets for the Burmese military, which sometimes crosses the border in dry season and shells the camps with phosphorous shells, which easily catch the dried-leave roofs on fire, sometimes destroying entire camps. At the school I was at while in the camp, the teachers remove all the books and records during the summer, so as to not lose them in fire should the Burmese burn the camp during dry season. Since Thailand would prefer that the refugees go back to Burma, the Thai military, which runs the camps, sometimes coordinates the attacks with the Burmese military by doing such things as drawing down troop levels before Burmese attacks, or simply leaving key gates unguarded when they know the Burmese are coming.

Students in the camp

The wife and I spent a couple days in Rangoon (a.k.a. Yangon), where a lot of the current situation is/was centered, and one of the most striking things was how "country" the populace is even in the nation's most urbanized city. It was like being with some of the most rural people in Thailand, with most the men still wearing wraps around their waists and many of the women still putting paste on themselves and their kids as a sort of sunblock. Whereas in Thailand or even Cambodia or Laos a lot of the street vendors will be selling trinkets, snacks, etc., in Rangoon the most common thing sold on the street was random metal objects, be they wrenches, screws, or the occasional alms bowl.

The economic policies and general oppression by the military regime has had such a negative impact on even the more-favored ethnic Burmese, not to mention the various disfavored ethnic minorities, that when you go there you can imagine that it hasn't changed much at all since the British moved out in the late 40s. In some ways that can be good, I suppose, but the people should at least be allowed to make that decision on their own. Instead, for instance, when they elected Aung San Suu Kyi as their president the military simply put her under house arrest, where she is even today.

Burmese mother and child

I guess that's my two cents. I try to stay away from rants, since they generally just make people look angry and crazy (hopefully neither of which apply to me), but today I suppose I'll make an exception.