Ko Pha and I

Outside the rain is coming down in torrents, and it doesn’t look as if it will stop for a while. The lights have just blown, and outside it is dark. It is 2pm and we are sitting in the front room of the apartment by candlelight, listening to the Weather Girls singing “It’s Raining Men” (what else are we to do?). All of this is a mild inconvenience for all of us in the house, with the exception of Ko Pha, the kitchen frog – who is presumably relishing this as a change for the better. But not all is bad. My laptop is charged, I have my books open in front of me, and so – unless the downpour lets up and we can go out for a cup of thick, sweet Burmese tea – today looks like it will mainly be a day for writing and learning Burmese.

After a few weeks in Indonesia – where I speak the language well enough to generally chat, make myself understood, get around and read the odd poem or two – it has been a bit of a shock to plunge back into studying Burmese. I’m slowly working my way through book two of John Okell’s excellent Burmese: An Introduction to the Spoken Language, and although my spoken language has declined since I was here last time (from a very low starting point to an even lower point now), I’ve made some gains whilst I’ve been away when it comes to reading and writing, and I’m hoping that this will help speed things along in the coming months.

I’m planning to track down a teacher in the next week or two who can give me some bespoke guidance and – most important of all – cajole me into speaking more (at the moment, I’m awkward about speaking to pretty much anybody except Ko Pha).And I’m also planning to start reading more, so I’m beginning with the books from the excellent Third Story Project (a truly impressive initiative). And in honour of my friend Ko Pha, I can’t think of a better place to begin than with Snake and Frog (မြွေနဲ့ဖား). I’ll let you all know how I get on.

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