Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Life Worth Exploring: Reflections on my Asian Field Research in Thailand and Myanmar

As I sit at my computer with the impossible task of reflecting on my 6-week Asian Field Research trip in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), words fail me. If you read my last post at the beginning of my research, you know that I am a third-year doctoral student in the Graduate School for Education and Human Development at the George Washington University doing research on organizational development along the Thai-Myanmar border and inside Myanmar. I spent one week at four different organizations doing interviews, participant observation, and document review to see how leaders in these organizations are bringing about positive organizational change based on a certificate course they took in organizational development.

Despite being at a loss for words, I am not at a loss for stories, faces, and learning experiences. Here is a snapshot of my amazing time this summer:

At one of the organizations I visited, I volunteered teaching English in the evenings. They were so grateful and gave me a traditional ethnic shirt reserved for a teacher.

Teaching English in the evenings
This dog, which barked at everyone initially, warmed up to me and would run to me upon my return once it discovered I would rub its belly.

When traveling, the bus driver wrote “Toe” on my ticket because he couldn’t be bothered to write my name (or even finish the word “tourist”).

I was surprised that I boarded my domestic flight to Loikaw without anyone ever checking my ID.

I went running a lot in my free time as well. During one of my long runs, it began raining and an old man who saw me insisted that I come into his shop until the rain stopped. He gave me coffee and smiles that warmed me up. Here is a short video that shows me running with two of the people from one of the organizations I visited. I also got to play a unique sport called chinlone. 

I was challenged by many things as well. My first night in Myanmar I found a ¾ inch screw in my fried rice. In Loikaw, I stayed in a newly opened hotel far away from the organization I observed and they had no transportation, bicycles for rent, or anything! Walking to and from the organization allowed me to see more of the nearby community. The internet in Myanmar often only worked well in the mornings which was frustrating at first, but the fact that I could get a SIM card in my phone for a few dollars showed incredible development in the country from my first time visiting in 2011. 

The smell of betel nut has left an indelible (and not the good kind of indelible) mark on my olfactory system. This bus even had black trash bags for each person to spit in during the journey from Hpa An to Yangon.

Bags on the bus for betel nut spit

I am incredibly grateful to the Sigur Center for Asian Studies. I first heard of the Sigur Center through Dr. Christina Fink who lived in Chiang Mai for many years (where I also lived for four years) and am indebted to her and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliot School for International Affairs for allowing me to have such a remarkable opportunity. 

This grant has inspired me to continue a life of research and learning in Asia, specifically Thailand and Myanmar. I am confident this research will blossom into my dissertation work, and hopeful that it will be the beginning of a career in academia in these areas.


Oliver (Ozzie) Crocco
Doctoral student in Human and Organizational Learning, GSEHD
Sigur Center 2016 Asian Field Research Fellow
Thailand and Myanmar
Hpa An, Myanmar

No comments:

Post a Comment