What wakes you up with a big “Whoop! Whoop!” every morning?
While this might sound very much like the opening to one of those jokes they do, regular readers will know by now that I am a deeply serious and profound writer who will be remembered long after my death, and especially if this happens just after I’ve renewed the website hosting.
Admittedly, I am probably going a bit bonkers here in the jungles of Myanmar, surrounded by people whose language is incomprehensible- largely because I stopped learning it when I realized I couldn’t even pronounce the word for ‘five’ and therefore have to make a second trip to the shop after I drink the four cans of Beer Chang I can actually request.
They don’t make it easy and really that’s a shame because I’m sure they’d get more visitors (Myeik, I mean and not the nearby shop, which has a lively trade catering to the local drunks) if their language didn’t consist of verbs followed by one of 247 participles which make no sense if you get them even slightly wrong.
Early attempts to ask the question “It’s hot, isn’t it?” were met with bemusement because what I was actually saying was “It’s narrow, isn’t it?”
I had got the tone or inflection or something very slightly wrong and, rather than immediately grasp the true meaning of my words based on context and common sense like an English person would when confronted by Johnnie Foreigner mangling our vowels and syntax, the locals just remained stumped. They’re that stupid.
I mean, I can understand perfectly when someone passes me on motorbike, cheerfully shouting, “My flend, my flend!”
I used to smile back and cheerfully wave, something that generally made their day and gosh, why wouldn’t it. I am now more inclined to just go, “Oh fuck off with your ‘my flend’ bollocks,” which, depending on how many Beer Changs I have consumed at the time, can be quite loud.
Quite loud also is the “Whoop! Whoop!” which I started this entry with and, although this bit right here might seem like an awkward and forced segue designed to get things back on track, it really isn’t. It just isn’t at all. Far from it. I’ve got a joint honours Degree in Literature and Drama and know what I’m doing here (the writing that is; life has generally been a hopeless mess as a working knowledge of deconstructionism and postmodernist literature theory, together with the ability to do impressions of chickens, meant I was only ever likely to find work as a TEFLer or pushing trolleys round a supermarket car park).
“What goes ‘whoop whoop’?” I asked my Yangonese colleagues on my arrival at work today. They were initially taken aback because they’d rather ignore me than go much beyond a brief “Good morning”. They don’t understand the locals either, so I wasn’t being racist earlier, merely regionalist.
“Whoop! Whoop!” I repeated, louder this time so they couldn’t just go on ignoring me as they have done for the last four months.
They are all a lot younger than me and their Millennial taste in Western music is generally either Westlife for some reason or utterly dreadful auto-tuned songs like that one about only missing the sun when it snows (what about when it’s drizzly or any other kind of inclement weather? Oh yeah, right. Because it doesn’t rhyme. Eff Eff Ess).
One does, however, have at least a passing interest in rap music which is surprising as his favourite artist is Adele. “That’s the sound of da police! Whoop! Whoop! That’s the sound of da beast!” he started rapping, in a manner which I can only describe as Awkward Gangsta. Fortunately the bell then rang and he had to go teach History to P4, leaving me to google possible answers. I don’t actually use google as a search engine but ‘duckduckgo’ just sounds silly as a verb and casually sliding a “I need to duckduckgo that” into conversation usually confuses people.
What is the ‘Whoop Whoop’?
If I hadn’t already decided on ‘Junglist Missive’ as an overall title for these astonishingly vivid and informative pieces on Myeik, I could have gone with the above. It’s quite reminiscent of Dave Eggers’ ‘What is The What?’ although, while that turned out to be an overall theme, this is absolutely the last time I shall ask the question.
Turns out it’s either monkeys or birds. KRS One came up as the first result but I think it hardly likely that he has moved to the area, much as I enjoy the mental image of him perching up a nearby treetop.