Yamo

yamo1

I had dinner at Yamo, a hole-in-the-wall Burmese place in the Mission tonight.  When I say hole-in-the-wall, I really mean it, it’s just 10 seats along a long, narrow counter looking on to the kitchen area with three Cantonese ladies engaging in a frantic ballet of taking orders, cooking, pouring water and collecting money.  I had the fish chowder noodles (above), which consist of rice noodles in a velvety turmeric-spiced broth with shredded fish, and topped with crunchy fried lentils.  The noodles, like most of Yamo’s entrees, were only $5.25.  CASH ONLY!

I also recommend the fried rice.  They don’t serve alcohol, but if you want more than water, I suggest the fresh young coconut, which is literally a whole coconut that they cut open with a cleaver in front of you.

As far as Burmese food goes, Yamo is not as good as Mandalay in the Richmond, but it’s much closer to home and the prices can’t be beat.

yamo2

Yamo
3406 18th St
(between Mission St & San Carlos St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
415.553.8911

The Global Handshake

I just got an email from Paul Hilder of Avaaz.org about a Global Handshake for the China Olympics:

As the Beijing Olympics begin, the world looks on with mixed emotions. It’s a moment which should bring us closer together, and Chinese citizens deserve their excitement — but the Chinese government still hasn’t opened meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama, or changed its stance on Burma, Darfur and other pressing issues.

Even worse, extremists in China are promoting the view that Olympic activism like ours is anti-Chinese. We can’t stay silent, but we also can’t let our efforts be abused to divide people. So what can we do? The answer comes from the Dalai Lama himself, in an unambiguous gesture of Olympic spirit and friendship: a handshake.

It began in London, passed hand to hand by thousands of us — now the handshake has gone online, and is criss-crossing the globe on its way to Beijing. All of us can join, Chinese and non-Chinese, and it comes with a promise: to hold ALL our governments accountable where they fall short, in Tibet, Iraq, Burma or beyond. We’ll deliver our message in a bold media campaign in Hong Kong and around the world: Click below to see how the Olympic handshake started, sign up to join in, and watch it circle the globe —

http://www.avaaz.org/en/handshake

The handshake idea is nice (with all of the banality of that word fully intended), but let’s not forget to extend the dialogue to the Uighurs or with Taiwan.  Ok, I concede, the “round-the-world” map animation showing virtual handshakes is pretty rad, but I digress.

There’s not a lot of hope for the kind of openness that allows for fruitful dialogue on the Chinese side when they beat up and harass foreign journalists trying to cover the attack in Kashgar.  Then there is the systematic internet censorship.  The guarantee of press freedoms for foreign journalists was part of the contract that the Chinese government agreed to in order to host the Games.  The Chinese government isn’t living up to their side of the bargain.

And those missiles aimed at Taiwan aren’t too friendly or conducive to dialogue either, are they?  Or how about that attempted Chinese weapon shipment to Zimbabwe?  Not very peaceful either.

And then there are those Beijingers who were forcefully and unlawfully evicted from their homes without proper compensation to make way for the Olympics.  And the peaceful Chinese civil society activists (and regular residents of Beijing) who are living under lockdown as a result of the games.  Their grievances can hardly be considered anti-Chinese; since they ARE Chinese.  Same goes for the repression of Falun Gong practitioners and other religious groups.

Ok, so I’ve given a handshake for peace, but what is the Chinese government going to give its own citizens and the international community in return?  Do Chinese leaders and hardline nationalists even want a handshake?  Or do they want the world to kowtow in reverence and awe at the “new” China’s coming-out party?  As much as we all wished that the Olympics were about sports and international goodwill, the truth is, they are also about state-sponsored political propaganda (and uncomfortable displays of nationalism if you ask me) as well as corporate bottom lines.

Burma Disaster Relief

From Avaaz.org:

In the wake of a massive cyclone, at least 22,000 Burmese are dead. More than 40,000 are missing. A million are homeless.

But what’s happening in Burma is not just a natural disaster–it’s also a catastrophe of bad leadership.

Burma’s brutal and corrupt military junta failed to warn the people, failed to evacuate any areas, and suppressed freedom of communication so that Burmese people didn’t know the storm was coming when the rest of the world did. Now the government is failing to respond to the disaster and obstructing international aid organizations.

Humanitarian relief is urgently needed, but Burma’s government could easily delay, divert or misuse any aid. Today the International Burmese Monks Organization, including many leaders of the democracy protests last fall, launched a new effort to provide relief through Burma’s powerful grass roots network of monasteries–the most trusted institutions in the country and currently the only source of housing and support in many devastated communities. Click below to help the Burmese people with a donation and see a video appeal to Avaaz from a leader of the monks:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/burma_cyclone/5.php?cl=86184609

Giving to the monks is a smart, fast way to get aid directly to Burma’s people. Governments and international aid organizations are important, but face cahllenges–they may not be allowed into Burma, or they may be forced to provide aid according to the junta’s rules. And most will have to spend large amounts of money just setting up operations in the country. The monks are already on the front lines of the aid effort–housing, feeding, and supporting the victims of the cyclone since the day it struck. The International Burmese Monks Organization will send money directly to each monastery through their own networks, bypassing regime controls.

Last year, more than 800,000 of us around the world stood with the Burmese people as they rose up against the military dictatorship. The government lost no time then in dispatching its armies to ruthlessly crush the nonviolent democracy movement–but now, as tens of thousands die, the junta’s response is slow and threatens to divert precious aid into the corrupt regime’s pockets.

The monks are unlikely to receive aid from governments or large humanitarian organizations, but they have a stronger presence and trust among the Burmese people than both. If we all chip in a little bit, we can help them to make a big difference.

Click here to donate:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/burma_cyclone/5.php?cl=86184609

With hope,

Ricken, Ben, Graziela, Paul, Iain, Veronique, Pascal, Galit and the whole Avaaz team

PS: Here are some links to more information:

For more information about Avaaz’s work to support the Burmese people, click here: http://www.avaaz.org/en/burma_report_back/

For more information about the cyclone, the humanitarian crisis, and the political dimension, see these articles:

New York Times: “A Challenge Getting Relief to Myanmar’s Remote Areas.” 7 May 2008.

BBC: “Will Burma’s leaders let aid in?” 6 May 2008.

India’s Economic Times: Indian meteorological department advised junta 48 hours in advance, 6 May 2008.

BBC: “Disaster tests Burma’s junta.” 5 May 2008

Times Online: “Aid workers fear Burma cyclone deaths will top 50,000.” 6 May 2008.

On “danger” tourism

What do you think?

Burma, China, North Korea – should travelers visit oppressive countries with bad human rights records?  I read this article this morning while I was waiting at the dentist’s office.

In her April 2008 article, “See Mo’ Evil,” Outside senior editor Stephanie Pearson rebuts Nobel Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for tourists to stop visiting Myanmar. What does Pearson think is the best way to respond to a travel boycott in a human-rights-violating country ruled by an oppressive regime? Go there and check it out.

Every country in the world, including the US, is guilty of human rights abuses to one extent or another, so if I wanted to be totally consistent, then I wouldn’t travel anywhere. With all the photos, video and reports of human rights abuses in Burma, I don’t think it is necessary to go and visit to “see for myself.” I find the whole idea of “disaster tourism” a little bit distasteful. I guess it is ultimately an individual choice. Personally, I would respect the wishes of Aung San Suu Kyi and avoid traveling to Burma until there is real substantive change.

Avaaz: Burma campaign update

This is an email I received today from Avaaz.org. They are on a staff retreat right now in the South of Spain, but it seems like they are keeping busy with this Burma campaign and trying to get ads placed in newspapers. I can’t wait to see what the ads look like. Hopefully, they will make a splash.

Dear friends,

Our emergency petition to stop the crackdown on peaceful protesters in Burma is exploding, with nearly 500,000 signers from every nation of the world. But the situation in Burma remains desperate, with reports of hundreds of monks being massacred and tortured. Burma’s rulers have also killed and expelled international journalists, cutting off global media coverage of their cruelty.

China is still the key – the country with the most power to halt the Burmese generals’ reign of terror. We’re delivering our message this week with a massive ad campaign in major newspapers, beginning Thursday with a full page ad in the Financial Times worldwide, and in the South China Morning Post. The strength of the ad comes from the number of petition signers listed – can we reach our goal of 1 million signatures this week? The link to sign the petition and view the ad is below, forward this email to all your friends and family!

http://www.avaaz.org/en/stand_with_burma/u.php

China continues to provide key economic and military support to Burma’s dictatorship, but it has been openly critical of the crackdown. Now we need the government to match words with actions. Our ad paints a powerful moment of choice for China in its relationship with the world – will it be a responsible and respected member of the global community, or will it be associated with tyranny and oppression?

People power, on the streets of Burma, and around the world, can triumph over tyranny. Our strength is in our numbers, spread the word!

With hope and determination,

Ricken, Paul, Ben, Graziela, Pascal, Galit and the whole Avaaz team.

For the best local reporting on the situation in Burma, try these links:

http://www.irrawaddy.org

http://www.mizzima.com