It was pouring on the way to my new home. Everything outside the window seemed blurry and unclear. The taxi driver sometimes had to open the window, just to wipe off rain and dirt on the outside mirror, with his bare hands.
It was my first day in Myanmar – beginning of a journey full of uncertainties.
As an intern at Frontier Myanmar, I am having a ten-week stay in Yangon to write feature stories for its bi-weekly magazine. Topics could be on anything in Myanmar as long as they mean something to the readers.
In our first editorial meeting, my editors asked me what are the topics I am interested in.
“Anything is interesting to me.” Uh that was such a bad, cliché answer from me, though it’s quite true in the eyes of a newcomer.
Eventually I started off by doing a story about Myanmar names, in hopes of helping myself to recognise my colleagues’ names. Later on I also worked on stories about arts, education and health in Myanmar. To write up a new story every time feels like understanding the country a bit more. The best thing is that I never run out of ideas here, because to me, lots and lots are yet to be discovered.
Journalists know everything (well at least a bit of everything). Only by doing enough research and preparation could journalists write an in-depth piece with quality information. This is particularly challenging for me as a foreigner. I could often spend half a day only to identify the source where I may find the information I need, or to understand something the locals consider as common sense. Yet, the need of doing research kind of pushes me to read and learn more every day.
Another big challenge is the language. Much information on the net is written only in Burmese and not many interviewees speak fluent English. In some press events I am allowed to wear an interpretation device, in other cases I have to ask for help from my local colleagues. Being inconvenient and time-consuming though, I realised the importance of English language in communicating with the world, that also became the reason I value my effort working in an English-medium magazine. This is definitely something hard to experience in Hong Kong where I was used to being bilingual.
There were times when I couldn’t find my way to the destination, mostly because of the inaccuracy of GPS plus my illiteracy to Burmese signages. I had no choice but to actually talk to people. Sometimes they didn’t know the way either, so they asked their neighbours, and their neighbours asked other friends. No one I have encountered so far would refuse to help no matter how much time and effort it takes them. They wouldn’t let you go without making sure that their foreign “guest” is safe and sound.
Most of my friends were pretty worried when told that I am travelling to Myanmar alone. To convince them that the journey is not as dangerous as they thought, I had been telling them all the plans that are confirmed (to be safe). But I knew from the beginning that some uncertainties are unavoidable and that’s exactly the reason why I wanted to come here.
Now I have been here for a month, the rain continues. Wiping off the unclearness keeps my internship days alive. How exciting, how lovely.