A Trip to Burma with “Bamboo People”

July 1st, 2010 by

Bamboo People by Mitali PerkinsIf you read Nancy’s post about her experience at Book Expo America, then you know that I snatched up her copy of Mitali Perkins’ Bamboo People before you can say, “Excuse me, where are you taking my book? Hey, I wanted to read that!”

Part of the reason I wanted to check out the book (which comes out today) is because I knew it had been getting lots of good reviews. But the bigger reason is because Bamboo People takes place in Burma (also known as Myanmar), and as you might recall from my posts about traveling to Burma last winter, that’s where my mom grew up.

My mom pointing to the address of the house in Rangoon (the former capital of Burma) where she was born and grew up.

There aren’t many books set in Burma — let alone kids’ books — so I was pumped to get my hands on a copy of Bamboo People. And as soon as I got ahold of the book, I was hooked.

The story is broken up into two parts:

Part 1 is told from the perspective of 15-year-old Chiko, the educated son of a doctor. But he’s not leading a comfortable life at all. The military government has imprisoned Chiko’s father, and he and his mother live in fear that Chiko will be forced into army service at any minute. Then their nightmare comes true, and Chiko’s off to the jungle for training — forced to serve a government that oppresses its people, and to fight a native group that Chiko doesn’t believe is the enemy.

Part 2 is narrated by Tu Reh, also 15 years old. He is a member of the native group defending themselves from the Burmese government. As a child, he watched Burmese soldiers burning his village — so unlike Chiko, he believes in his cause. But what will he do when everything he thinks he knows is challenged?

As you can see, the story is totally gripping. I couldn’t want to see what would happen next and read a few pages whenever I had a spare moment — to the point where I would pull out the book in the elevator, on a 5-minute bus ride, even while I waited by the photocopier. Yes, the story is THAT suspenseful.

My mom chatted with these girls from the Pa-Oh tribe in Burma. They're a different tribe than in the book, but the two groups have some cultural similarities.

But beyond that, I also enjoyed getting a view into the situation in Burma, which doesn’t get a lot of attention in the United States. And even though I visited Burma not too long ago, a lot of what I read in the book was new to me!

So I lent Bamboo People to my mom (sorry, Nancy, you’re never getting your book back!), and I asked her what she thought, as a former Burmese citizen.

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From Myanmar to Mount Eskel

December 19th, 2009 by

In my last post, I told you a little about my recent trip to the country of Myanmar in Southeast Asia. Well, I have plenty more to share, but it’s going to take me a while to go through all the photos (I took over 1,000 pictures during my trip!). So I’m going to hold off on the full 411 for now, and instead I’ll just focus on one part of my vacation — and of course it relates back to a book!

During my time in Myanmar, we traveled to a bunch of different regions in the country. One stop was at Kyaiktiyo, which means “Golden Rock.” It’s a big boulder covered in gold leaf, perched on the edge of a cliff high up on Mount Kyaikto. Unfortunately, it was covered up while we were there because they were retouching the gold leaf, but I found this photo where you can see it in all its glory:

From Boonlong1's Flickr

From Boonlong1's Flickr

Pretty awesome, huh? You can get a sense of how big the rock is by looking at all the tiny people on the right side. Like little ants!

According to legend, the Golden Rock is balanced on the tip of the cliff because it sits on top of the spot where a hermit once placed a hair belonging to the Buddha. Whether you believe that’s true or not, you still have to admit it’s an amazing sight!

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Twilight Travels to Asia

December 17th, 2009 by

Thanks to New Moon, now we all know to be on the look-out for vampires in Italy. But on my recent vacation in Asia, I also found that those darn blood-suckers were everywhere!

My destination was Myanmar (a country in Southeast Asia that was formerly called Burma). To get there, I had to stop over in Thailand, and that’s where I had my first undead encounter of the trip — front and center in a bookstore at the Bangkok airport:

Vampires probably take red-eye flights.

Vampires probably take red-eye flights.

I already had plenty to read, so I didn’t buy the book. Plus, what I really wanted to do on the plane was sleep. By the time I finally made it to Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, I was about ready to lie down right there at the baggage claim and take a nap while I waited for my luggage. But then I ended up staying awake for another hour and a half after getting to the hotel. Guess why — because when I turned on the TV, I found Twilight playing! Like Bella, I just couldn’t resist Edward’s sparkly allure…

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