Tearsheets and snapshots from the shortest month of the year.
Just like that another year ends, and another one begins. 2017 ended quietly, with my sneaking one last big work trip in before falling off the map and into secret coves of the Pacific. I'm skipping the retrospective post about the year, instead looking at what lies ahead.
This month I penned my first article for the Washington Post's foreign desk, taking a look at the Rohingya reparation deal. The deal lacks foresight and further jeopardizes the lives of over half a million people.
In December I found myself in central Bangladesh, working for the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) to photograph and write about their Kit 8 project, which helps women seeking menstrual regulation procedures have access to necessary healthcare.
I may have been detained by immigration on my way in, and there might have been a giant spider in my room for a straight week, but it was a trip I felt grateful to be on and a subject I feel needs as much attention as it can get. A full edit will be available on IPPF's website in the coming weeks.
My latest piece for National Public Radio took a look at who is- or isn't- sitting in Myanmar's tea shops these days. Hint: it's not young people or women.
Radio France International interview had me go live for their morning news program, discussing the mass grave confessed to by Burmese authorities, the current plight for the jailed Reuters journalists, as well as the current state of press freedom and reporting in the country. I also went live on television for TRT World discussing some of the same topics- but I'll spare you that bleary-eyed video footage.
A few weeks before I was interviewed by Mumbrella Asia editor Eleanor Dickinson about how the government is cracking down on journalists and press freedom. I usually shy away from giving interviews, but with the state of things in Myanmar I figured it's time to set my shyness aside and use the voice I'm fortunate to have.
Doh Athan, Frontier Myanmar's weekly human rights podcast, also had me voice the English version of their episode discussing press freedom in Myanmar. It was my first time in front of the mic rather than being the silent producer on the other side of the recording booth.
And of course I'm still wandering around Yangon, snapping photos of everything from nurseries, to postal offices, to side streets filled with fried-food stalls. I've got a new apartment that needs a lot of work, but looks like it'll be home as long as I'm allowed to stay in Myanmar.
I'm off to the deep south of Myanmar this week, the Irrawaddy delta after that, and already have a few projects in the works that will keep my camera clicking and my fingers typing.
2018, let's go.
On the first day of November I woke up in the medical ward of a refugee camp in Thailand, watching the mist from the mountains roll into the room's open window. I had spend the week along the Thai-Burmese border, reporting on the food shortages facing over 6,000 people living in Shan IDP and refugee camps.
After coming home for a few days I went up to Myanmar's capital city of Nay Pyi Taw, where I covered United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit.
The following day was the trial of three journalists and a driver who are charged with flying a drone over Myanmar's capital. To say the charges and trials have been an absolute farce would be an understatement.
And then back to Yangon again, where I met famous Myanmar 35mm film editor Zaw Min in his studio, where he talked about not being able to keep up with the changing pace of technology in Myanmar's film industry.
And, as always, I spent countless hours in tea shop- except this time for a slightly more concentrated reason that I'll be sharing next in the next few weeks.
Flipping through the pages of my notebook, November was filled with nothing but matters of the heart. Whether it was 40+ friends from around the world gathering around a table to have Thanksgiving with me, eating fried rice at 2AM on the street corner with loved ones, or sleeping in with a kitten I rescued from a local tea shop- November was a good one.
December's line-up includes Bangladesh, Thailand, Micronesia, and a heavy dose of nostalgia and contemplation for what what 2017 brought.
Home to home.
From Yangon to D.C. and a few places between.
Home and back again. September and October, 2017.
A look back at work done in August.
I've been sitting in a lot of different places, mic in hand, the past few months: IDP homes, government offices, interfaith community centers, recording studios, temples, market stalls... you get the idea. But perhaps most important thing I've been sitting on is the thought, "How did it get to this?"
This month I produced a four-part series looking into the situation in Myanmar's Rakhine Satte, five years since violence flared between the Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine communities.
The full series is listed, in order, below.
My fellow newsroom member from Frontier Myanmar, Oliver Slow, has been with me along the way asking questions, writing scripts, buying me Pop Tarts, and overall making this a true team effort. My hat also goes off to Frontier Myanmar reporter Su Myat Mon for helping us with translations and interviews while we were in Rakhine.
June and July were some of the busiest yet.
A fun one for back home- I wrote a story for the Washington Post Express about Lobsang Dorjee Tsering. Tsering is a refugee Tibetan monk living in Washington, D.C. and working to start his own restaurant. Take a peek at the
I spent the past week in Hong Kong wandering the streets in search of food, neon lighting, and air-conditioned public transportation. But I also spent an evening at the Society of Publishers in Asia awards ceremony where, much to my surprise and delight, I was awarded an Honourable Mention for Excellent in Photography for the cockfighting story published in Frontier Myanmar last year.
It was an honor and a pleasure to be awarded for work that I had done while interning for Frontier Myanmar, but perhaps what I was most proud of was the fact that there could be at least one woman on stage, accepting an award for photography in an ever male-domianted field.
Yet what I am continuously most grateful for is the incredible team at Frontier Myanmar that works against the odds to provide in-depth and fair coverage of the plethora of issues that face Myanmar, as well as the patience, support, and kindness they show me ever day.
I have a feeling that not every editor would let their intern run off to illegal gambling rings and then decide to later hire her back as an editor a few months later, but I'm grateful every day that I found the people who would. Here's to another year of early morning, long days, and late nights of chasing stories across the country.
And just like that it's June, nearly half the year behind us. April and May brought everything from trips to Sinai, to Society of Publishers of Asia (SOPA) nominations, to Ma Ba Tha, to market vendors and countless other stories in-between.
April 1st marked Burma's by-election, which brought an incredibly low turnout to several polling stations in Yangon. I covered western Yangon, lending to Frontier's coverage of the weekend.
That same weekend I was diagnosed with salmonella, which means there is a week of my life where I don't remember anything besides sweating and thinking back to every morsel of food/liquid I'd ingested in the past three days.
April also marked Thingyan- the Burmese New Year. I took this as an opportunity to run away to Egypt. Upon landing it was announced that the country was declaring a state of emergency, prompted by the bombing of a Coptic church in the north. I spent two weeks criss-crossing the country, visiting loved ones and doing as little work as I possibly could.
Two plane rides and the blink of an eye brought me right back to Burma, walking around the vacant halls of the old Secretariat Building of downtown Yangon.
The building is undergoing renovations, and Frontier was provided an opportunity to get a peek of how construction and planning is going. I'dbeen in the building once before, but this particular trip provided an unparalleled opportunity to explore parts of the building the public hasn't had access to in decades.
I began hanging out with Myanmar's bboy crew as well. Watching them walk through the city, full of talent and rhythem, has to have been one of my favorite parts of Spring. Every sound the city has becomes a beat to move to, and they do it with grace and ease.
But have you ever tried organizing shoots and interviews with 12-24 year old boys? It's like herding cats, and I'll be continuing to try and herd these ones for the next month.
Yangon also held its second TEDx talk. My boss, Sonny Swe, gave a talk about his experience in political prison, as well as his experience with freedom since getting out. I was prowling around backstage and around, doing video and taking some photos.
And then Mandalay, where I wandered into Ma Ba Tha's headquarters, poked around a thanaka factory, and sat with street vendors talking about the new market opening in the city.
And what kind of month in Yangon would be complete without doing something involving animals? I spent the morning with Yangon's Bomb Squad, including their current and trainee bomb-dog members.
It was a good wind-down to the hot season, and is already turning into a break-neck rainy season. Last week was spent reporting in Rakhine, and next week I fly to Hong Kong next month to attend the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) award ceremony, as I was nominated for the Excellence in Photography category.
But in the meantime, this is where you can find me...