The More Sibyl Podcast Presents: The One with Nathan - My Burmese Friend
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is the second largest country in Southeast Asia with a population of more than 50 million people. Chances are Myanmar is one of those countries that has never crossed your radar. It used to be this way for me too until I met my dear friend, Nathan, in 2014. Nathan is from Myanmar and is ethnically Chinese. He left Myanmar in his teens to live in Singapore. He holds a Masters in computer science and software development but switched his career by bagging an MBA with a focus on public health, so people won’t think he is the IT guy (*insert Asian joke here*).
In this episode, we explored the shadows of our countries, post-British colonization. If I learned anything from this episode, it is that poor countries (as measured by absolute poverty) have similar presentations, no matter what part of the world they are located in. This is because poor countries are poor because they have extractive economic and political institutions, where a culture of monopoly, corruption, and lack of political rights are the norm. (Recommended text: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (2013) by D. Acemoglu and J.A. Robinson). As a result, Nigeria and Myanmar as so much alike in more ways than I thought, and not just due to our common colonizer – the British.
I gauged his opinion on Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, who is making headline news over her alleged inaction to the persecution of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State and refusal to accept that Burma's military has committed massacres.
We also talked about his hobbies – reading and traveling, as well as our mothers and WhatsApp broadcast messages.
PS: Nathan and I met in 2014 while interning at the same biotech company in Boston. During that time, we hung out a lot and explored a lot of the Boston scenes.. This episode was shot at his house in Somerville while I revisited Boston in July.
Fun facts about Nathan:
He loves to dance and is exceptionally adept at it. I have gone dancing with him a couple of times, so trust me on this.
He is a polymath; a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning.
He is not good at Math (Shocking! Insert yet another Asian joke here).
We both have a dark sense of humor, haha.
Similarities between Myanmar and Nigeria:
The income gap in Myanmar is among the widest in the world, with supporters of the former military government controlling a larger share of the wealth.
A lot of people move out to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Think push and pull factors, with Singapore being the top destination. With the UK, USA, or Canada being top destinations in Nigeria.
June 12 is to Nigeria as August 8 is to Myanmar #8888.
Self-censoring was rampant throughout the 80s under the military era.
While there is a huge importance placed on education, both countries experience corruption in educational equality mostly due to poor government infrastructure.
Both countries ‘run’ on US dollars, with hundred dollar bills being the most preferred.
Inflation rates are off the roof and highly unpredictable.
Mothers in both countries have a special thing with sending cringe-inducing WhatsApp broadcast messages.
Due to outdated power grids, dating back to the British colonization era, blackouts are frequent.
The people are really about the best thing about these countries.
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