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Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

Antonio Graceffo on Samantha Brown’s Asia

In Uncategorized on April 28, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Samantha Brown and Antonio Graceffo filming Muay Thai at Fairtex

Samantha Brown has been traveling the world for years on are various Travel Channel Series. In this episode, she comes to Fairtex Bangkok, where she learns some basic Muay Thai from Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo. Next, Antonio translates while Samantha gets a lesson from Kru Apidae, the living legend of Muay Thai. Now you’ll know the origin of those snazzy blue gloves and the Fairtex Muay Thai outfits that Antonio often wears on his show.

Watch it for free on youtube.

Antonio Graceffo on Samantha Brown’s Asia

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUK9LHbZvsU

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

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Shan Refugees in Malaysia (Part 1)

In Uncategorized on April 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm

By Antonio Graceffo

For seven days, they were locked in a container, traveling in the back of a truck,. With no idea where they were going, they may just as well have been sold into slavery or prostitution at the end. But their situation in Burma was so dire that even taking such a risk seemed worthwhile.

In an anonymous housing block in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a Shan refugee, 29 year-old Hsai Yisep (Not his real name) told me the story of his desperate escape from a dictatorial regime.

(Most of this text is a transcription from a recorded interview I conducted with Hsai Yisep and other Shan refugees. In some places, I have corrected their grammar, just to make it more readable. But to the extent that I was able, I left the text in their exact words. I have omitted all of their names and been vague about location, for the sake of their safety.) Antonio Graceffo

“The Burmese took our farm, so we didn’t have any way to grow food. Everyday they would come to our village and ask for forced laborers. If we didn’t go, they would just take us and make us work. One day, we couldn’t provide enough people, so they took us. We told them we were sick from working for them every day, and that we didn’t have food for our families. So, they beat us. Our friends came that night and helped us escape.

Then we went to Malaysia.

I went to Tachilek (on the Thai border, across from Mae Sai). Then an agent came and took me in a container in the back of a car. We didn’t know where we were going or anything. Seven days. Sometimes at night, we would run or walk through the forest, south, all of the way through Thailand to Malaysia.

When I first came to Malaysia it was so difficult. We didn’t have any ID card and we couldn’t speak Malay or English. I learned a little English here.” Concluded Hsai Yisep

We were seated on the floor, sharing bowls of fresh fruit. At first, the refugees were understandably nervous about talking to me. These are people whose lives hang by tiny threads and blow with the political wind. One of the refugees suddenly said that he recognized me from the videos I had made with the Shan State Army in 2007 and 2008. He smiled broadly. “I saw you on youtube, and now you are here.” He began telling the other men about me, and several of them turned out to be fans of Martial Arts Odyssey. Suddenly, my job got a lot easier.

The Youtube fan sat next to me and opened up, telling me about the arduous life of the refugee. Little by little, other refugees joined us, and began adding information of their own.

The youtube fan told me, “Most of the Shan in Malaysia try to find work in restaurants. Some of them can speak Chinese, so they are lucky. They can work in restaurant or as sales promoters. A few of my friends can work in a workshop. They can get better pay if they know how to fix motorcycles and cars. It depends on your experience. If you can speak Chinese, maybe you can get 800 or 1,000 Ringit (About $260-$330 USD). Some people get 1,200 Ringit per month.” He himself, was working in a restaurant.

Most of the Shan refugees in Malaysia do not posses a Burmese passport or ID card. Inside of Burma, it is extremely difficult for the ethnic peoples to obtain these types of documents. For this reason, their only means of leaving the country is to travel, crossing borders illegally. When they arrive in their destination country, whether it be Thailand or Malaysia, it is impossible to obtain a work permit or residency visa, because they don’t have a passport. This relegates the refugees to working illegally, and for the lowest wages.

A few of the Shan men I spoke to on this day were university graduates, but they were happy to get work as bus boys in restaurants, earning a few hundred dollars per month.

Although very few of the refugees had any clear plan upon their arrival in Malaysia, with the benefit of hindsight and experience, they explained to me that, after arriving in Malaysia, the Shan refugees should register with the Shan community office. The community will then issue them an ID card. The community card is not a legal residency permit, but at least they have something in their pocket when and if they get arrested. Next, the community will help them to register with the UNHCR (United Nations High Council for Refugees). The final step is that they get in a long cue, awaiting resettlement in a third country.

The line ahead of them moves very slowly, as less than 3% of the Shan in Malaysia will be resettled in a given year. But the line behind them grows longer and longer, as more Shan are driven from their homes by the military junta (SPDC).

But, what would happen if they were caught by the police? I asked a leader of the Shan community office.

“Get caught by the police, if you have the UNHCR card it is not a big problem. But if you have only the Shan community ID card, this is a problem. Sometimes they have combined raids with police and RELA.” Replied the leader.

RELA is a volunteer police organization which enforces immigration law. Many international observers, and even the bar association of Malaysia, have petitioned the government to close this force down. Instead, RELA numbers increase each year. Members are often paid bounties for each refugee they capture.

As the government doesn’t recognize the UNHCR card as a legal residency permit in Malaysia, sometimes, even UN registered refugees can be arrested.

“Every Sunday, the police wait by the lift and ask for your documents. If you don’t have any, they arrest you. They take you to the police station and ask for money. Sometimes our members come here to do their member card and the police catch them. They are scared to come here.”

“When people get arrested they have to call the center and we go to get them out of jail. It costs a lot of money. Luckily, the government and the UNHCR together, have said that the police will not arrest our people who have UNHCR card.”

With about 4,000 completely undocumented Shan refugees wandering around, it is just a roll of the dice to see who will get picked up.

“We have about two to three times per week, someone is arrested and we have to go get them out of jail.” said the leader.

“When a Shan refugee is arrested, after two or three days, the authorities will report to the Shan Community office that they have some of our Shan in jail. If it is too far, we cannot go there.”

The Shan community office has almost no money. So, even purchasing petrol or train tickets to go bail people out of jail can be problematic.

“If it is close by, we can go there. The police tell us to bring a letter from the police officer who arrested them, and we must go to meet them. Some of the officers are nice, and they will help. Some cases we can negotiate, and some cases we cannot.”

“If we cannot get the refugees out, then they stay fourteen days in lockup. After that, they are sentenced to jail. Some people serve four or five months in jail. After the jail, they are sent to the camp. The camp means ready to deport. Some have been sent back to Burma. But some have been in the camp for a long time.”

When I did similar stories on other Burmese ethnics, I was told that there are refugees stuck in the detention camp for years, with no end in sight. Burma often will not accept them and certainly won’t pay for their deportation. This leaves them in legal limbo.

“If they are in the camp, we report to UNHCR. Then, later, UNHCR will go interview them and maybe UNHCR will bail them out of the camp.”

“UNHCR helps us a lot.” Said the Shan leader.

He explained that the Shan community office has no real power. “We also cannot do anything. The Malaysian government says the UNHCR card is not a legal document to remain in Malaysia. They say passports only. If we have the card, they will check to make sure it is a real one because there are a lot of fake ones around.”

“Unfortunately our members think we have more power than we have. If they get arrested, or have a car accident or pregnancy, they come to us for help. But actually, we can do nothing. We are also dependent on UNHCR.”

“Last month, we had ten people arrested. Some we could bail out, some we couldn’t. Every month, it depends on the raid operations. Most of the Shan don’t have a passport. Very few come as students, with passport. But very few.”

I asked why they didn’t just go to Thailand.

“In Thailand it is easier to hide because Shan look like Thai and speak like Thai. But in Malaysia, Shan can get recognized by the UNHCR.” One refugee explained.

Victims of genocide can often become official refugees, registered with UNHCR, and possibly be resettled in a third country. To prove an allegation of genocide, the victims must all be of a recognized ethnic group. The most well-known example, of course, was Hitler’s genocide against the Jews in the Second World War. The Jews are a well-defined group, and it was clear that Hitler was trying to exterminate them. For some of Burma’s other ethnics, such as Chin and Padaung (The Long Neck Karen) getting recognized as a distinct ethnic group was no problem.

It is a well known fact to cross-border aid workers and refugees alike, that the UNHCR, at least in Thailand, does not recognize the Shan as a distinct ethnic group. The Shan are one of several Tai peoples, who migrated down from Sipsong Panna, China, millennia ago. Other members of the Tai race include the Thais and the Lao. One of the greatest hurdles for people working on Shan aid projects is getting UNHCR to recognize that the Shan are a distinct group of people, with their own religion, language, and culture, which, although related to Thai, is not Thai.

This is one of the main reasons why four times as many Chin refugees are resettled from Malaysia, than Shan.

Where it is difficult for the Shan to be recognized by UNHCR in Malaysia, it is nearly impossible in Thailand. So, coming to Malaysia, while more risky from a security standpoint, was a more attractive choice to people who would rather face any hardship than be returned to Burma.

One of the Shan men told me had done basically all that he could, and now his case was in the hands of God. He had been in Malaysia since 2009 and managed to register with the UNHCR. At this point, he and his wife and child could only stand, feebly by, awaiting resettlement.

“I don’t know if I will get resettled. I hope so.” He said. “But it depends on UNHCR. No one can say what they will do or when.”

The men were all quick to praise the help they did receive from UNHCR. At least there seems to be some hope, but the road to freedom is still a long way off for these people who have already suffered so much.

Coming soon: Shan Refugees in Malaysia (Part 2)

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Now I’m Talking Vietnamese

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm

The end of the Silent period

By Antonio Graceffo

After an exceptionally long and frustrating “silent period”, I am finally speaking real Vietnamese. Many people who have been following my blog posts told me that I should already have been speaking or mixing more with native speakers, rather than continuing my intensive book learning. As hard as it was to resist the temptation to speak earlier, and as depressing as it was to be studying up to 70 hours per week and not being able to order off a menu, now that I am talking, I know I made the right decision. Remember! When the silent period ends, you can only activate language which you have already studied. And I have studied a lot.

While I was working the heavy bag, my new Muay Thai teacher entered the gym. In Thailand, we call the teacher “Kru,” here, we just say “Thay,” as we would for a male school teacher.

This was the moment I had been waiting for. I was finally going to be training Muay Thai on a completely Vietnamese team, with a Vietnamese teacher, and everyone would be speaking to me in Vietnamese. In other countries, Taiwan, Thailand, and Cambodia, for example, it only took me three or four months of language studies to get to that point. In Vietnam, however, it took more than eight.

Being in a Muay Thai gym, it is hard to suppress the urge to “wy” (placing hands in prayer position as a sign of greeting and respect). But, after having visited other Muay Thai gyms in Vietnam, I found out that they simply don’t do this. Instead, I walked up to the teacher, who was at least fifteen years older than me, and introduced myself. I began a rather long speech, in Vietnamese, hitting all of the high points of who I am. “My name is Antonio. I come from America. I study Vietnamese at the university in Saigon. I have studied Muay Thai in Cambodia and Thailand, and I want to learn from you.”

The coach was a polite enough guy that he just let me run on. But, from the expression on his face, it was clear that he had no idea what I was saying.

For the last several months, my problem in Vietnamese has been that I can read, write, speak, and listen at a fairly high level, but almost no Vietnamese people could understand me when I spoke. Part of this, I am sure, is because of my own, faulty pronunciation. But part is also due to the fact that most Vietnamese people have never heard a foreigner speak Vietnamese. Often, just seeing a white face makes them tune out, thinking you are speaking English.

The previous day, I had gone to a university to apply for a job. I walked up to a security guard, and told him, in Vietnamese, who I was, why I was there, and asked, if he could help me find the administration office. He nodded and waved his hand, indicating I should wait a moment. Then, he turned to the other three guards, right in front of me, and asked, “Do any of you speak English?”

I shouted, “Em oi!” to get his attention. Then I pointed at my lips and said, “Listen to me speak, I speak Vietnamese.”

It got through to him. I almost heard an audible click in his brain, when he understood that I was speaking Vietnamese. Then, he understood everything I was saying. He directed me to the administration office, and we became friends along the way.

Many Vietnamese people have the same difficulty as the security guard, simply not believing that we are speaking Vietnamese. For other people, including my Muay Thai teacher, however, the problem is that they can’t understand Vietnamese which is less than perfect or which has a foreign accent. Vietnam is not an immigrant country, like the US or Canada. For Americans, particularly in big cities, it is a given that people of all shapes, sizes, colors and races not only speak English, but are US citizens. We are used to and can even identify the accents of various countries. But Vietnamese language, on the other hand, is generally spoken only by Vietnamese.

I had trained with the team the previous day, while the teacher was away. So, the guys on the team already knew me. That first day, they were reticent to talk to me. They actually ignored my Vietnamese, trying instead, to communicate using their extremely limited school-English. Most couldn’t even ask simple questions, such as “How long have you studied Muay Thai?” or “Where did you study?”

It took a few minutes, but once they understood that I could speak Vietnamese, then we began having real conversations. They asked me about training in Thailand and in China. We talked about the differences in the various martial arts and the cultures, all in Vietnamese. Often, they didn’t understand what I said, so I had to repeat it or use body language to get them back on course. Once they regained the subject, they understood my spoken words again.

As I said earlier, this was probably the first conversation most of them had ever had with a foreigner and almost definitely the first time they ever heard a foreigner speak Vietnamese. The longer we spent together, the more they began to learn, subconsciously, which consistent mistakes I make. Sort of the way all English native speakers know that Japanese often confuse the letters “r” and “l”. So, when we hear “reary” we know he is saying “really.” But it takes exposure to Japanese people for us to realize that when we hear “or” they may very well be saying “all.”

The same was true for me, talking to my new Vietnamese friends. Some of them gave up quickly, and walked away. Some relied on friends to translate my flawed Vietnamese into better Vietnamese. But some, seemed to possess the mental intuition to slowly, learn how to understand me.

One young guy, in particular, Tran, a 20 year-old college student, repeatedly came to me, during my training breaks and asked me more and more involved questions. He was very curious about the outside world and he was fun to talk to. He was also very patient. The second day, the day I met the teacher, Tran came up to me and said in Vietnamese, “You speak Vietnamese very clearly.” Of course, I didn’t quite understand the first time and he had to repeat it several times. When I finally realized what he was saying, I burst out laughing. I wished I knew the Vietnamese word for “irony.”

I wish I could have thought of a way of saying, “Yes, I am speak very goodly Vietnamese.” But instead, I went with, “I only speak a little.”

My brother once asked me if I was funny in Chinese. And the answer is, at the risk of sounding arrogant, yes, I am the class clown when I speak Chinese, Khmer, or Thai. And now, in Vietnamese, to the extent that I could, I made everyone laugh.

Part of my approach to language is that people are doing the same stuff in Spanish or Korean that you normally do in English. So, when you learn Spanish or Korean, use it to do your normal stuff. Some of my classmates, and a lot of people on the internet, suggested that I go to karaoke lounges, or hang out in bars or parks chit-chatting with people in Vietnamese. Part of the reason why I refused, apart from observing the silent period, was that I don’t hang out in karaoke lounges, parks or bars in English. And I certainly don’t have time for chit-chat. I work a lot of hours, training, studying, writing, and filming. When I take time out to spend with people, I want to have meaningful conversations, which broaden my scope and increase my knowledge. To me, a conversation is an exchange of ideas that I care about.

As a result, I had to wait, about eight months, to start talking. Now, I am far from perfect, but if someone really wants to, they can understand what I’m saying. And what I’m saying, is something which has meaning for them and for me.

For the time being, I have withdrawn from group classes at the university, opting instead to continue with my private lessons, which afford me the opportunity to speak Vietnamese several hours per day. In addition to speaking together, my tutor and I continue with my academic studies, proceeding into book four of the university textbook series: “VSL: Giao Trinh Tieng Viet”. I recognize that, apart from my flawed pronunciation, the reason I can have meaningful conversations is because of all of the months of countless hours of book work that I have done. Parallel to my course books from the university, I have also completed through book three of the Australian University series, “Tieng Viet” by Buu Khai and Phan Van Giuong.

If you want to speak a foreign language, you have to have something to talk about. You also need the grammar and vocabulary to express your ideas and opinions. Without first doing the book learning, you can never reach that level.

It is extremely boring to sit in Highland Coffee with your Vietnamese language partner saying, “What color do you like?” and “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” Why not just keep studying, and hold off on the talking till you can ask, “How will the Japanese earthquake affect the economy of Vietnam.” That’s what my tutor and I have been discussing the last few days, and I find it very interesting.

Now I’m Talking Vietnamese (Part 2)

Coming soon

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Martial Arts Odyssey: Silat Kalam PDRM 2

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2011 at 5:15 am

Antonio Graceffo and Muneer, the two American students of Guru Mazlan Man prepare for a large scale public demonstration and awards night. The training is held at PDRM (Polis Diraja Malaysia), the Royal Police, and includes teams from the police as well as from far away place like Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.

Watch it for free on youtube.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Silat Kalam PDRM 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3fO2RhAh2E

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com or by direct transfer into his bank account.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

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Burmese Intellect in Exile (Part 2)

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Will Democracy ever come to Burma?

By Antonio Graceffo

“In Burma, the uprising could happen any time, and form anywhere.  All of the people are angry. Now, we are afraid. But like a volcano, it could explode at any time.” Burmese intellect in exile.

Antonio: Why did SPDC release Aung San Suu Kyi?

They did everything they wanted. Everything is under control. What happened after they released her? Yes, she has some public support. She made a speech, but after release…one little speech. In the current atmosphere, what can she do? Everything is gone already: the constitution, the election, even the existence of the NLD (National League for Democracy). Everyone wanted to hear what she had to say about sanctions and about what her next political step would be. In my opinion, she can do nothing now. She told us to resist peacefully.

Many of us believe we must fight. But the army has the guns. We have no guns. But she still says “peacefully.” She also supports the sanctions. So the military regime is very angry. Now they attack her regularly with their newspaper. But I think if they arrest her again, her political activity will be dead. She is now already 65 years old. If they put her in house arrest for five or ten years again…

The situation is very dangerous for her. Now, every one of her activities could be called political. And if she engages in political activity she is breaking the law.

She has told the people to start social, political networks. How can we do that? There is no facebook and limited internet in Burma? And we cannot trust anyone. How can we do it? Maybe she has more clear ideas, but she can’t speak out right now. Every move every word could be the cause of her arrest. So, there is only a little room for her to move. For example, she is not allowed to travel around Burma. If she does, they will say she is campaigning.

Years ago she was attacked by government forces and many of her followers were killed.

From Amnesty International: “On 9 November, 1996, the motorcade that she was traveling in with other National League for Democracy leaders Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung, was attacked in Rangoon.

About 200 men swooped on the motorcade, wielding metal chains, metal batons, stones and other weapons. The car that Aung San Suu Kyi was in had its rear window smashed, and the car with Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung had its rear window and two backdoor windows shattered. It is believed the offenders were members of the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA) who were allegedly paid 500 kyats (USD $5) each to participate. The NLD lodged an official complaint with the police, and according to reports the government launched an investigation, but no action was taken.” (Amnesty International 120297)[33]

Intellect: If she does anything, they can call it a destabilizing activity.

Many of the youth are disappointed in her. They say, “We want to fight,” but she tells us to act peacefully.

The people-power revolutions in Islamic countries of the last several weeks have been an inspiration to people living under dictatorships around the world.

Than Schwe and his people are afraid of this. They have blocked the coverage in Burma. The journalists are told not to write about it. Some Burmese youth started a campaign on facebook telling their friends to do the same.

Yes, I am sure to say this Middle East uprising will have an impact on Burmese people. But you can’t expect that we will have a revolution like that in Burma. Every revolution needs a spark.

In Burma if we want to make a business we have to have a close relationship with a general. Last month one banker in Burma had a close relationship with a general. People heard that there was a problem with the currency and people ran to the bank to withdraw all of their money and

Many of the generals were forced to become civilians but they don’t want that. In Burma, the uniform is power and money. If you have a uniform you have soldiers. You have power. You can give orders. They weren’t satisfied with being in civilian government leaders. They feel safer in the army. They have soldiers and guns and powers. But as government they are not sure of their future. So there is a conflict among the top generals.

It could happen from any point and there could be a revolution. Or if not we will go along in this situation for ever.

In The Middle East they are having a domino effect; in Asia not. It is difficult for this to happen. Look at the end of communism across Europe. But not here in Asia. I think it is because of different social situations and religions. Also, in Europe they are mostly the same religion and ethnicity. But here, we are all different.

Lao, Burma, Cambodia… Can you say this is democracy?

They have different interests.

Now we have a new government, but only on paper. They changed the faces but not the policies. They moved from a military regime to civilian, but we still have hope. Maybe there will be an uprising. We have hope. On the surface, Burma looks stable, but behind the scenes every single camp has problems among army, academics, civilians, government, and so on. So, in Burma the uprising could happen any time, and form anywhere.  All of the people are angry. Now, we are afraid. But like a volcano, it could explode at any time. Every situation leads to that revolt.

In the 2007 revolution, we had no leader, Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest. Maybe if she was free, she could have done something. I don’t think the revolt will come first from the army. Maybe it will start from the people, if the commodities get too expensive or the banking system collapses.

Right now, Than Schwe has the power. He is the state strongman. So that means, maybe someone will kill him, or he dies… Maybe another general will take charge. Or, if he dies, maybe there will be fighting inside of the army.

“We still have hope. Maybe there will be an uprising. We have hope.”

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com or by direct transfer into his bank account.

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

PRESS RELEASE: Pahlawan Silat Kalam

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm

 

PRESS RELEASE

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

Beofore an audience of nearly 500 dignitaries, martial arts author Antonio Graceffo has been awarded the prestigious title of Pahlawan Silat Kalam, or Silat Kalam Warrior, in the Malaysian art of Silat Kalam.

 

Graceffo is the first non-Muslim student to achieve this award, having commenced training in 2009 as the first non-Muslim, non-Malay student.

 

In paying tribute to his instructor, Grand Master Guru Dr. Mazlan Man, Graceffo said that learning Silat Kalam under Guru Mazlan was “one of the most important experiences of my life in martial arts.” He described Guru Mazlan’s public declaration of him as being “the most important Kalam student ever” as a significant honour.

 

Graceffo said that he is a proud beneficiary of Satu Malaysia, or One Malaysia, a government program that encourages openness through celebrating and enhancing the country’s multicultural diversity.  Satu Malaysia is promoted by Grand Master Guru Dr. Mazlan Man and the Silat Kalam Association.

 

In addition to training with local students, Graceffo studied Bahasa Malay daily and gained a deeper understanding of Silat Kalam’s relationship with Islam.

 

Determined to live up to the responsibilities associated with his new title, Graceffo is relishing his new role as an ambassador for Silat Kalam. He has vowed to help Guru Mazlan promote the art across Malaysia and abroad.

Requests for seminars in Silat Kalam have been received from the United States, the Middle East and Europe, Graceffo said.

The award ceremony, sponsored by the Malaysian government and Satu Malaysia, took place on April 3.

END

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Contact person: David Calleja     Tel: +61 407 920 492        Email: davidcalleja1973@yahoo.com.au

 

 

“Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” Book review, by Antonio Graceffo

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2011 at 1:34 pm

“Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” a tale of courage and adventure, a glimpse into a culture few outsiders have ever seen.

Book review, by Antonio Graceffo

Freelance writer and book author

 

It’s about horses. It’s about medicine men. It’s about radiation poisoning. Kathy Helm’s new book, “Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” has something for everyone.

 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to leave your stable career, move to a Navajo Indian reservation, live in a wooden hut, heated by fire, and learn to adopt your horse as both, best friend and best means of transportation?

 

Author Kathy Helms doesn’t need to wonder. She did it.

 

Children dream and wish on stars. Little girls all want a pony. But most people believe that we are meant to outgrow these childhood fantasies when we become adults. “Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” is the memoir of newspaper reporter Kathy Helms, a single mother, who, at an age when she should have known better, left her familiar world behind, to accept a position as a reporter on a Navajo Indian reservation.

 

In this lighthearted, although significant, read, Kathy shares with us the trials and tribulations of learning to ride a horse. To become “one of the guys” and be properly accepted by the tribe, she had to make long distance council rides, to attend meetings with the tribal elders. In spite of the pain and discomfort she experiences, her detailed description of riding a horse, through picturesque canyons across a landscape, few people have seen outside of a John Wayne movie, makes you wish you were there along side her.

 

And you are.

 

The book is not just a tale of saddle sores and blisters. It is also about radiation poisoning. One of the reasons Kathy was chosen for this job was that she is an expert on nuclear power related contamination and illnesses. Back in her home state of Tennessee, she had been a constant thorn in the side of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, lending her voice to the victims of radiation poisoning. The Navajo reservation where Kathy is living was once a government uranium mine. Now, years later, Ms. Helms tells us that generations of Native Americans are suffering from radiation related illnesses. Many children, she reports, are born with birth defects.

 

While many of the Native Americans eventually accepted Kathy, some clearly didn’t want her there. For this reason, she was often the victim of witchcraft. As surreal as the story already is, imagine finding witchcraft bundles hidden inside of your house or your truck, as Kathy did. Even if you don’t believe in the supernatural, this would probably creep you out and make you seek a cure.

 

Kathy tells about her relationship with the medicine man who treats both, her medical conditions, as well as witch craft attacks. When he teaches her to look into the coals of the fire as he does, she says that she no longer needs a TV.

 

 

Kathy Helms is a brave woman whose incredibly well-written and easy-to-read book is an inspiration for both following your dreams and helping those who have no one to turn to. Her book also sheds a light on the inner-workings of the Navajo tribe, helping us, outsiders, to understand a world we may never see with our own eyes.

 

See it through Kathy’s eyes. Pick up a copy of “Cowgirl Days, Frybread Nights” and let this tale of a white woman in Navajoland cast a spell on you.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Urban Warrior (Part 1)

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2011 at 4:11 am

 

Antonio Graceffo visits Muay Fit, in PJ, Selangor, Malyasia, where Yew Jin Wong schools the Monk in knife fighting. Yew Jin teaches Urban Warrior, a weapon based self-defense form, designed for the violence of a modern world where the bad guys are often packing.

 

Watch it for free on youtube.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Urban Warrior (Part 1)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YIHkl6wApY&feature=channel_video_title

 

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

 

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

 

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

 

website

www.speakingadventure.com

 

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

 

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

 

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

 

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

 

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

 

 

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

 

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

What Makes a Polyglot? (Part 4)

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2011 at 9:40 am

 

 

 

 

And What do Polyglots think

By Antonio Graceffo

 

Polyglot Interviews welcomes Hal Medrano, a Cuban American who has been living in Hanoi, studying Vietnamese intensively. Hal is one of the three best Vietnamese speakers I have encountered in over a year of living in Vietnam. He also has an extensive background in ESL teaching.

 

1. Were you born into a multilingual family? (Were you raised bi-lingual?)

 

I’m a native Spanish/English bilingual, raised in NYC within a Cuban family. Growing

up, I spoke exclusively Spanish with my grandmother, and mostly English with my

mother, with Spanish being the language when we were all together.

 

2. When did you start studying languages seriously?

 

Traveling in Europe at the age of 16 I simply transferred much of my Spanish into

French. Not always exact, but I was able to have bar-stool conversations by the end

of my 6 weeks in French-speaking countries. Similarly, I picked up a lot of

Portuguese by hanging out with Brazilians for the two years I studied capoeira in

the late 1980s. I also studied Khmer 3 days/wk for most of the 9 months I was in

Cambodia in the early 1990s.

 

Overall, however, I have had surprisingly little formal study, and have mainly

picked up the languages I’ve spoken over the years.

 

3. Did you do any of your language study in a formal setting? If so, where and

which languages?

 

Vietnamese is the first language I’ve ever really studied in a formal school setting

(my Cambodian study was one-on-one), with a formal syllabus, and so on. I studied

between 6-9 hrs/wk for about 15 months after first arriving in Hanoi. I stopped

studying a few months ago but have continued to read and listen to TV, and of

course, I live in Vietnam so acquisition is constant.

 

4. How much of your knowledge is the result of self-study?

 

Typical pattern for me is often to pick up a phrasebook and some listening materials

before traveling to a new country, drill myself on numbers, greetings, and a few

basic phrases, and then go an butcher the hell out of a language. I’ve done this

with Thai, Korean, Portuguese, French, and incidentally, Vietnamese as well. Little

remains of the other languages – Vietnamese has pretty much taken over my brain.

 

 

6. How many hours do you believe one needs to master a language?

 

It depends on the individual, the difference between L1 and L2, and a host of other

factors. I think a person’s belief system is self-fulfilling; people who believe they

learn languages quickly probably do, while people who don’t believe they have any

language “ability” probably don’t. However, I do think even that latter group of

people will eventually learn, if exposed to enough input – but time is difficult to

quantify.

 

After a year and a half in Vietnam, I’m at a CEFR B1 level – fully functional and

often conversant, but with huge holes in my vocabulary, continued pronunciation

problems, and listening skills that depend a great deal on context. I am nowhere

near having mastered this language – but I have developed some automaticity. It’s

coming, man.

 

7. Do you have any goal in learning languages? Are you training to be a

professor, teacher, translator…or do you just study for love?

 

As a language teacher I consider it a professional responsibility to put myself in

the role of my students, and test out the mostly-silly methods I’m often expected to

employ, but mostly I am intellectually curious and I like making friends who are

different from me.

 

8. What is your occupation?

 

Instructional designer, with a specialty in English language instruction.

 

9. Do you learn more than one language at a time?

 

No.

 

11. Do you believe children learn languages faster than adults?

 

Absolutely not. Children have affective benefits – they’re less afraid of making

mistakes – and probably have a more pliable phonetic system, able to adjust to

foreign phonemes.  But adults are far better able to employ meta-cognitive skills –

knowledge of themselves as learners – and are better able to focus their efforts.

Both groups fundamentally learn through exposure to comprehensible input, but adults

are better able to apply themselves to the learning process, and this, I believe,

gives adults an advantage.

 

12. Do you, or most polyglots, have some type of mental disorder, such as autism

or obsessive compulsive disorder?

 

I’m weird as shit, but nothing clinical.

 

13. Did you do well in school?

 

I dropped out of high school because it was interrupting my education, inhaled the

Harvard Classics, and then was runner-up valedictorian at college. I also excelled

in grad school, so I suppose the answer is “yes”. But you wouldn’t have seen it in

my childhood.

 

15. Do you feel that polyglots are qualified to work as translators and

interpreters or must one do formal studies first?

 

I did some Spanish-English interpreting for the Seattle medical system many years

ago without any formal training, and did fine. I brushed up on some medical

terminology, and that was about it. I’ve never done professional translation, but

hold to the belief that interpreters do better going from L2 into their L1. I doubt

training has anything to do with it, but I’d be willing to be convinced otherwise.

 

16. Why do the vast majority of people who begin a language fail to learn it?

 

Lack of knowledge about how language is acquired, and lack of persistence.

 

To the first point, you see people wasting enormous efforts on vocabulary drills,

grammar, and so on, when in reality those activities should take a back seat to

passive acquisition – listening and reading.

 

To the second point: we tend to forget that language learning is emotional. Once the

thrill of communicating basic concepts passes, there’s often a period of frustration

– the pre-intermediate blues – where a person feels ashamed at being unable to

communicate the full extent of their emotional/intellectual being. I think a lot of

people give up rather than persevere through this long, long period when one feels

“stupid” in the target language.

 

17. Any comments on language learning or polyglot life you would like to share

with the world would be great.

 

Here, Hal comments on ALG Automatic Language Growth Theory, which I support and have written about extensively.

ALG is more right than wrong – people fundamentally acquire language more than

they acquire it. This ability is practically wired into our DNA; given enough input,

humans will eventually spontaneously begin to produce language. People should

understand and trust this process.

 

Where I differ from ALG is in my belief that a person – especially a self-reflective

adult – CAN apply some intellectual resources to accelerate the learning process.

For me, a certain amount of formal study – even grammar – can help me to answer

questions that come up naturally as I’m exposed to the language I’m trying to learn.

I also think there is a valid role for production – negotiating meaning in the

target language – even early in the learning process, although I agree that too much

early production can lead to fossilized errors.

 

Fundamentally, I think a person should remain catholic in their approach, and do

whatever feels natural. An attitude of play is very helpful. And remember that the

real reason to learn a language is to form relationships, so a language learner

should endeavor to immerse him or herself in the lives and culture of the people who

speak the language her or she is trying to learn.

 

18. Do you have any dream languages, I mean, a language or languages you are

dreaming of learning but haven’t started yet? And why?

 

There are some languages whose music appeals to me – Russian and Arabic come to mind

– but I have no desire to live in the areas where those languages are spoken, and no

plans to learn them.

 

Hal Medrano

http://hanoiscratchpad.blogspot.com/

 

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

 

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

 

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

 

website

www.speakingadventure.com

 

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

 

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

 

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

 

 

Martial Arts Odyssey: Silat Kalam, PDRM (Part 1)

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2011 at 2:30 am

 

Muneer assists Guru Mazlan in preparing the PDRM (Polis Diraja Malaysia), the Royal Police and Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo for their up-coming demonstration and ward ceremony.

 

Martial Arts Odyssey: Silat Kalam, PDRM (Part 1)

Watch it for free on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krBz8D06Fzs

 

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com or by direct transfer into his bank account.

 

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

 

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

 

website

www.speakingadventure.com

 

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

 

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

 

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

 

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

 

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

 

 

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

 

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/