By Lesley-Anne van Wyk My grade 12 English teacher told me, “You sound like you are on an LSD trip!” when we were asked to do a small writing exercise. I described the surface of a big foam-bath bubble. Even then I still had that painful shyness that makes my cheeks swell with red insecurity. While the class laughed it out, I realized that she meant well, and that she wasn’t too far from the truth. Focusing on the small details is what I spend a good deal of my time on. How many of us are guilty of that? Ever find yourself focusing on the oddest thing in the most serious of situations? The corner of a picture frame on the wall opposite to the table where you’re being broken up with. Maybe it’s the terrible tie knot of the keynote speaker at some swanky dinner function. Or maybe you’re just looking for the right thumb of the person sitting next to you to see their polio-koki mark. I’ve found it is that zooming-in that makes a moment a memory. You see, that picture frame will remind you of the fumbling shock and embarrassment you felt when he/she decided you’re actually replaceable. And that strange knob of a knot will summarize the whole speech for you the next time you think about it and then wonder why you can’t remember what that guy said. And the right thumb of almost every Namibian in June tells its own story of long queues and funny bitter-tasting facial expressions. And that’s what its been like as an intern reporter for New Era for the last three weeks – a series of peculiar, colourful, sobering and informative moments. For example: there are 286 pupils at Five Rand Primary School just outside of Okahandja, young children in Otjiperongo run at the speed of light from white-looking people, that piece of three-day old chocolate cake in my mom’s fridge is more than enough motivation to get to the end of a working day and the different types of music you hear when those tired receptionist puts your call on hold, can be entertaining. But of course there are the more career-focused aspects to these moments, like seeing how stories are born from a vague invitation, growing into a general idea and eventually boiling down to creatively making sense of something that was not there just a few hours ago. I’ve also seen the magic of writing at work when a deadline is “20 minutes ago” and the clackity-clack of a veteran journalist’s keyboard produces 800 words just in time. The more I worked the more I realized that the work of the average journo is grossly unappreciated by the stereotypical ideas floating around in most people’s minds. These ideas amount to media workers’ only satisfaction being to pig out on the numerous spreads of pastry-finger foods and shrimp-on-a-stick that catering companies supply after yawn-a-minute business or government functions. Only to learn that those very same people who jeered at your job will hunt you down to do a story about their up and coming whatever. And all those earlier lessons about how to handle criticism came in handy. As one of my lecturers tells us, “As a journalist you are more of an architect than an artist because you have a specific brief to meet.” And after all, this article will probably end up cleaning someone’s car window on Sunday in any case. But some of the best learning came from being thrown into the deep end with a notebook, a battered but faithful camera and my wits. The newsroom team is understanding and offered plenty of freedom, which is exactly why this newspaper is appreciated so much. Its cogs are oiled with true writers, whether they fit the romantic profile of an old, scruffy, cigarette-smoke encrusted and gruff-voiced opinionated but not inconsiderate man, or the more realistic one of a quiet, observant and well-spoken woman with many talents and even more unrecognized achievements. There were many adventures, the greatest of which was having each day completely different and walking away with the memory of the small space reserved for perpetually shy and detail-fixated people in the newspaper world. Eewa!
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