Gross credit Tracy ShamSo, we’re in a chic, if somewhat anodyne, hotel room, somewhere in the Northeast, and it’s raining outside. Perfect setting for an interview.

If you say so.


Why so crabby? You should be happy. This is the kind of situation you live for: you’re exhausted, you’re far from home, and the weather is bad, but you’re warm and dry and have nothing to worry about.

You’re right, of course. But I’m in that right now—I don’t yet have your kind of perspective on the situation. Maybe later, tonight or tomorrow or next week, I’ll look back on today and think, I had it good. At this second, however, I just want to curl up. Except, of course, I’m happy to talk to you!

Gross_TurkWhoLoved_PB_mech.inddIn early 2005, after I’d finished an assignment for the New York Times in northern Thailand, I took a weekend trip to Myanmar. Myanmar, or Burma, as it’s also known, was under exceedingly tight military rule back then, but Americans could, for reasons I didn’t try to understand, cross the border without a prearranged visa, provided they stayed less than fourteen days and did not travel beyond eastern Shan State. Since I had just a couple of days free, and wanted only to see the unusual and fascinating hill tribes of the Golden Triangle, the famously lawless opium-and-gun-smuggling region, these were hardly onerous restrictions.