A Burmese field trip

This year, in an effort to fill up my far-too-long university holiday, I decided to stay with my father at post in Burma while I worked at Action Aid on an internship. This was firstly planned as a work experience trip, but of course visiting family was always the main priority. From London to Yangon I journeyed much like I had before, but this time after a jetlagged Saturday and a lazy Sunday I started work on a bright and early Monday. Being at university in England I felt that I had not got to know Burma like other countries, having lived and learned there full time, so this trip was another chance to get to know my new home, and get to know it more independently than on family Christmases and Easters. It’s important to embrace a new post, no matter how much time you spend there; otherwise it becomes a more like a holiday destination to which your parents seem intent on dragging you.

So off I went on a bright and early Monday to a downtown Yangon office in monsoon weather, full of bare feet and drying umbrellas, to gain experience in the work of aid organisations. Those two weeks in the office environment undoubtedly gave me valuable experience of work in this field (indeed work in general) and got me out of bed and thinking, much to the regret of my summertime brain. I even managed a week outside of Yangon, in the organisation’s delta office in the small town of Pyapon. Having done a little travelling around Burma with my family, this was a chance to explore the country myself, something I haven’t really managed to do in some of my father’s other postings.

I splashed into my field trip at the deep end: running shoeless through torrential downpours and swapping my soaked clothes for traditional longyi while rural Burmese women keeled over in hysterics. Waiting for repairs to our a worryingly loud Jeep with a mostly canine pit-crew I playing iPod games with young monks who had never seen a telephone, let alone Apple’s latest. And the photos. Oh the photos. Every man, woman and child wanted a picture with the token European man with the Burmese Action Aid gang. All this and more was what made my trip to my dad’s posting worth the jetlagged Saturday, even if I missed out on a few lazy Sundays.

Joe Mackenzie