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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 3- My first impressions of Malaysia

I have embarked on my one month internship in Malaysia! I will be working with Malaysiakini, an independent news organization based in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is known for placing tight restrictions on local broadcast and print news, but Malaysiakini is able to circumvent these by posting its content online. The website is subscription based, but I will be working in the video department which streams it's videos free on youtube.

After two slow first days at the office, today I got all the action I wanted...and more. But before I get into that, I wanted to quickly reem off some of my first impressions of Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur in particular.

The first thing I noticed as the plane touched down were rows and rows of palm trees. Malaysia is a major exporter of palm oil, which they produce monoculturally.

The second, as I walked outside, was that it is hot. But I expected and welcomed that.

My third observation was that KL is a city of malls. They are simply everywhere, which is convenient for my needs, but not so much for my wallet. Shopaholics beware!

My fourth observation came when I was trying to shake the jet lag with a quick nap an hour or so after I had arrived at my home-stay. I was dozing in my lovely air conditioned room when I was jolted awake by the loudest thunderclap I have ever heard. I jumped out of bed and opened a window to find a literal downpour outside. Rain, rain and more rain can be expected throughout my stay here.

After a weekend of fighting a cold and sightseeing (The National Museum, Central Market, Chinatown), I was definitely ready to get on the job this Monday.

From my homestay it is about a ten minute walk to the Malaysiakini office. The past three mornings I have arrived and had tea with some of my coworkers at a little outdoor restaurant/cafe right next door.

My first day at Malaysiakini was spent meeting people and looking for a story. My second day was spent calling people for interviews for said story. While the atmosphere in the editorial/print office downstairs is tense and serious (which seems to work well for the journalists down there), the TV office is a creative and fun environment.

Today I tailed a videographer/video editor and a journalist to a press conference and a protest. The press conference started late (do they ever start on time?), so the journalists assembled had time to smoke in the hallway of the government office and watch an Indonesian soap on the TV in the tiny room where the podium was set up.

The protest was interesting, but not as interesting as one would hope. It was hot, and though the police had formed a barricade, nothing particularly special happened. All told the real part of the protest was done in about 10 minutes, and then the organizers posed for pictures. Some of the journalists there, however, seemed more interested in taking pictures of the foreigner (me) than the protest and police. I was asked if I was from CNBC or BBC, and seemed to let them down when they discovered I was a lowly intern.

On another note, lunch didn't come till 4pm- a good reason to pack water and granola bars when you are on assignment. Sunscreen and a extra batteries never hurt either.

Tomorrow I will be interviewing people from several NGOs about how they are dealing with baby dumping, which has become a major concern for Malaysians. Unwed mothers in this country are unaware of their options and often feel ostracized and shamed. Some of them are choosing to abandon their babies in public places. We will be investigating a new initiative called "baby hatches," where mothers can leave their babies in a safe and caring environment without having to reveal their identities.

That's all for now. It's getting late and tomorrow morning will come early.

Disclaimer: any and all views expressed on this blog are the opinions of me, the lowly journalism intern/student, and not my university, Malaysiakini or my supervisors.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds so awesome, Meg! For some unknowable reason I felt a bit nostalgic when you mentioned the downpours... weird. Keep it up, and I look forward to reading (and watching!) more from you in the coming weeks. Have fun!