Sunday, March 31

The road to Mandalay

Burma is in the news again and for all the wrong reasons. Fighting between Buddhists and Moslems in central Burma has left over 40 people dead, with shops, houses and mosques set on fire and thousands of people fleeing their homes. Gangs of Buddhists, including monks, have been roaming the streets attacking Moslems. This sounds like horrifying behaviour but all Buddhist boys are sent to a monastery at the age of about seven for three months or more. Then at the age of about twenty many return to the monastery for a longer period. Some, but not all, of these men will become fully fledged monks and may remain monks for life. Well, there are good and bad people everywhere and clearly some monks are just thugs in maroon robes.
According to Wikipedia Burma “… is the most religious Buddhist country in terms of the proportion of monks in the population and proportion of income spent on religion.” But with 500,000 monks in the country it’s not surprising there are some bad ones.
The latest round of communal violence started in Meiktila, a town about 90km south of Mandalay.
This video was filmed in November 2013. At that time the violence was taking place in Rakhine division in the west of Burma. Most other places were peaceful. I hope they soon become that way again. I loved Burma; I loved the Pandaw cruise down the Ayeyarwaddy River, the people and places we saw. With both tourism and violence now increasing I guess we were there at a good time but I’d like to go back. There is so much more to see.
Many people have heard the song “The Road to Mandalay” – there’s a short excerpt from a version sung by Australian baritone Peter Dawson. The words are a poem by Rudyard Kipling who never went to the town!
It was the capital of the last Burmese kingdom but that was very short-lived. Mandalay was founded in 1857 and the British captured it in1885.
It is now a city home to close to a million people.

Friday, March 15

Public health carnival on Rarotonga

Pacific islands, including the Cooks, have a real problem with obesity.
More than 80% of Cook Islanders are overweight and this can lead to non-communicable diseases – NCDs - like diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes.
To push home a healthy living message, public health staff recently organised an NCD Awareness Carnival in the middle of Avarua.
The road through the centre of town was blocked off with a number of free activities available.
There was plenty of fresh food available and and vegetable seedlings and fruit trees were being sold by both the agriculture department and Tereora college students.
People queued up for free health checks checking height, weight, blood sugar and blood pressure. The health department will be following up anyone showing danger signs.
On the exercise front, school kids took part in football and rugby related activities.
But the highlight was a mass zumba street party with hundreds, young and old, local and tourist, joining in despite the heat.
The carnival was part of an awareness campaign challenging Cook Islanders to “Live 5:30” – eat 5 servings of fruit and veges and do 30 minutes of exercise each day.