Friday, December 31, 2004
I am so, so sorry for not posting sooner. I've had some major trouble with my modem and had to take the old one back the computer shop, which had to be sent to Bangkok for repair. Finally I'm back on-line with a "loaner" modem that works pretty good.
Yes! I am okay!
I live at least 140 kilometers inland from the devastation that occured in Krabi province, Koh Phi Phi Don island and Phuket. The news casters say that Phuket and Phi Phi islands were the worst hit.
Such a weird situation....as many of you know, I had just traveled to Koh Phi Phi Don for a vacation in October and spend a glorious five days there, living in a small bungalow at the Cabana Hotel on the beach.
Today, the Cabana Hotel is non-existent...and the bungalow's are all gone....washed out to sea along with their residents. The tidal wave hit at peak tourist season....a day after Christmas, when people were lounging around on the beach or just leisurely taking in the day.
Suddenly, forty foot waves hit the beach and took everything with them...cars, bodies, huts, buildings, brush, trees, you-name-it. Bodies are still being discovered. It was so strange for me to see the recognizable remnants of the Cabana Hotel where I stayed on Koh Phi Phi Don and see the flattened structure where I had enjoyed breakfast in the morning hours of my vacation.
Here in the south, although peaceful and dry, the tremors made their mark. The buildings at Lee Gardens in Hatyai were damaged by the 9.0 tremors and aftershocks and the street was strewn with glass and debri. Luckily, nobody was hurt.
So, once again I've escaped major harm, dancing away from danger only months ahead of time. Perhaps my life is one that is touched in some way? I'd like to think of it like that.
The death toll in Asia minor has reached beyond 70,000 now and is expected to continue to rise rapidly as the missing become accounted for....
So sad. My heart goes out to those who are missing relatives or have discovered their deceased family members or friends.
Posted by Hell
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Well, it's Christmas Day here in southern Thailand, a hot, sunny and breezy day. While most of you are tucked in your beds asleep, visions of sugar plums dancing through your heads, awaiting Santa and his reindeer to alight atop your roof, I'm just enjoying the day as if it were any other regular day here in Thailand.
Being that the area I'm living in is predominately Muslim and/or Buddhist, there isn't much happening here, except people gearing for the end-of-year celebration to rock-in the New Year.
Most of my er, uh...Christmas cheer, was obtained from the happy smiles on my students faces throughout the week as they colored and prepared Christmas cards for their parents. Most brought me Christmas cards, and I received a pretty, little heart shaped sachet from one of my first grade girls and also a "Winnie the Pooh - Tiger tree ornament," both of which I will undoubtedly hang on to for life.
It was so much fun watching the children's faces as they gazed at our classroom Christmas tree and intently sketched snowmen, Santa Claus, Christmas trees and presents on their cards, crayons and colored pencils flying through their little hands as they completed their little works of art, finally bringing them to me with serious looks on their faces, for my final scrutiny.
I'd take each card in hand, study it for a while, pointing out what they had drawn and finally exclaim, "Beautiful!" or "Wonderful!" which of course caused a huge smile to break out on their face.
The remaining part of my Christmas cheer came from an unexpected package I received in the mail from Lansing, Michigan and a very unexpected e-mail in my Yahoo box.
The package I received was from my big Cyber-sis, Shirl-the-Pearl, and contained two books. One, "The Dive from Clausen's Pier" and the other, "Ladder of Years," both of which I had been wanting to read.
I'm already done with Clausen's Pier, finishing it in a record two days. It truly was one of the best books I've read in a long time. It really made my holiday season!
The unexpected e-mail was from one of my childhood friends, Raul Herrera, a.k.a., "Camel" who's brother Jesse, I've been trying to hunt down over the internet. The irony of this is that Raul and I used to discuss traveling to Asia, as kids in high school will dream about far off places.
Only thing about that was that both of us DID end up in Asia. Raul has been living in Japan for the last 20 some-odd years and here I am in southern Thailand after a year in China.
He supplied the information I'd need to contact his brother, who' s living in Missouri now. Funny how we all seem linked somehow.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Posted by Hello
Sunday, December 12, 2004
It's Christmas time again!
I wouldn't even know about it, had it not been for others mentioning the fact and my Thai assistant at the school where I teach mentioning setting up the Christmas tree for the kids.
So, today I'm going into work (a Sunday) to set up the tree and some Christmasy decorations. I'm actually looking forward to it. I've never been much one for holiday celebrations, but I think I can put aside the "Bah Humbug" attitude long enough to focus on making our classroom look cool for the kids.
After so many winters spent in New England, it seems funny celebrating Christmas here in southeast Asia. Last Christmas was spent in Guangzhou and although I didn't celebrate the holiday per se, Phoenix City, Guangzhou and Xintang all did it up with decorations, fireworks and the like.
We'll be handing out little presents for the kids, small gifts of chocolate or candies, which will be as much fun for me just seeing their smiling little faces as it will be for them receiving them. There will also be some Christmasy music, sing-alongs and possibly a Christmas movie for the kids to watch.
P.S., Happy birthday to my mom, who would have been 85 today.
Posted by Hello
Thursday, December 02, 2004
And you wonder why I teach Thai children?...
Don't cry because it's over;
smile because it happened....
Posted by Hello
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
LOI KRATONG is the festival I celebrated last Friday night.
Every year in Thailand, on the full-moon of the 12th lunar month, Thailand celebrates Loy Krathong, which is also known as the “festival of lights."
On this evening, the country's waterways - rivers, canals, even hotel swimming pools - turn into a sea of dazzling lights. The lights come from small floats that carry people's cares downstream. This year Loy Krathong fell on November 26th. "Loy" means "to float," and 'krathong" means a “leaf cup." Hence, most floating objects you see during the Loy Krathong night are flowers formed like cups, or artificial lotus petals shaped like cups.
The one I floated down river was made by my friend "Wut," who lives near my home. It was a simple structure, made of palm stalk, banana leaves and flowers, with candles and incense burners in the middle.
While walking down the river bank to deposit our "Krathong," I tripped on loose leaves and dumped the whole thing onto the ground. We managed to piece it back together, but I couldn't help but wonder if bad luck had dropped it's dark shroud upon us. (Me and my uncoordination may have cost us our lives in the next world).
Loy Krathong is a colorful event, and many people call it Thailand's loveliest festival. To mark the occasion, Thai women wear resplendent, colorful traditional attire, (this I can attest to and I must say I was quite impressed!) and festoon their hair with flowers. (not to mention tight, tight jeans!).
Explanation of the festival's significance varies. There are those who say that as the floats embark on their journey, they take with them the owner's misfortunes and believe this is a way of sloughing off one's sins as well. (Good deal for the Jeeemeister!)
On a lighter note, it is also believed that lovers can tell their romantic fortunes by watching their krathong float together downstream. As far as lovers are concerned, a pair of krathong sticking together into the darkness promises lifelong partnership... You don't need to believe the myth and philosophy behind it.
Posted by Hello
Friday, November 19, 2004
I want to thank everybody for the warm e-mails and concern during my recent absence, however, I am fine.....it was my laptop that was sick. The computer tech said the mother board was toast, and then presented me with several options. One option was to replace the mother board, an expensive endeavor as Dell parts from the U.S. don't come cheap. The next option was to buy a used Dell and exchange the hard drive. Final option was naturally to buy a new computer.
Well, I took option "B" and purchased a Dell Latitude (which I affectionately call my "Dell Attitude) Pentium 3, which easily accepted my old hard drive and after some parts exchanges (RAM chips, etc.) I was in business!
Price? 19,000 Baht (about $473.00 U.S.)
Not too shabby overall. Anyways, I'm finally B-A-C-K like a bad case of indigestion.
My trip to Koh Phi Phi Don was.....well.......okay. Not really my cup of tea actually. More for the jet set and the very wealthy. Extremely hot, crowded, too commercialized and too expensive, although I did manage to have a good time. Spent 6000 baht for the trip and spent 8000 baht on the island.
Not to get into too much detail here, if you're interested, check out my review on Virtual Tourist dot com. Will get pictures posted as soon as I can, although I must admit that I really didn't take all that many.
I'm back to work again and loving it. The kids are wonderful and the classes are going well. Our rainy season here seems to have petered out and we are left with sunny, hot and humid days. I'm managing to get out and about around the village more and I really hope to begin taking some more pictures as soon as I can, for all to see.
Enough for now....I've got to get back to answering all my e-mails that have piled up during my absence. I'll post again soon.
Friday, October 22, 2004
I'm sitting here at an internet cafe on Tonsai Bay beach sweating like a stuck pig and frantically trying to let the world out there in cyberland know that it is not official....
MY LAPTOP COMPUTER IS FRIED.
I tried firing it up one day before I left for Krabi and it is toast. Won't even power up. So, needless to say, I'll be off-line until I can either get it repaired or (gulp) buy a new one. So, until then, expect few posts from me if any....I will try to get to as many internet cafe's as I can and keep you updated as to my trials and tribulations.
Meanwhile, I had a long, painful ride to Krabi yesterday in a crowded van and we ran late because we ran into two accidents (one fairly serious) along the way. Once in Krabi I finally got to meet a couple of cool folks who were in the back of the van, both from Argentina. We ended up all going to Phi Phi islands, so we got to chat a bit. Haven't seen them since we got on the island though, but I'm hoping I'll run into them before I leave.
Funny, but I can't remember the last time I saw someone from the U.S. All the people here are either from England, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Canada or elsewhere.
I'm going to try to book either an island tour or a snorkeling trip tomorrow, to top off my trip. Last night I got to eat some good seafood and enjoy a quiet evening watching some local kids play on the beach, while the sun went down. I didn't manage to see the fireshow at Carlito's because It's at 11:00 p.m. and I was just too tired to make it. Maybe tonight.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
This, by-the-way, is a fairly decent picture of a Songtaew.
They are typically different colors, red being the color of the ones that travel up and down route 4 from Hatyai to Sadao and beyond.
A major form of transportation around here and very reliable. Only 10 baht to go from my place to Hatyai.
Posted by Hello
This is a photo of Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol.
I went for yet another interesting songthaew ride yesterday, into Hatyai, to meet my boss and go to immigration to get my visa extension.
Nope, no babies in my lap or anything like that...just tons of traffic as Thai's from many different provinces descended on the city of Hatyai to attend the graduation ceremony at one of the local universities.
It seems the Princess was in town to attend the graduation ceremony and hand out diplomas, which is why I ended up having a pretty eventful afternoon.
The streets in Hatyai were absolutely clogged with traffic. Truely unbelievable. I was once stuck in South Philly traffic after the Rolling Stones concert of three days duration let out at JFK stadium (circa 1982 or 1983) and even that didn't come close to what I experienced yesterday afternoon.
My boss Craig dropped me off at Tesco Lotus at around 5:00 p.m., and I ducked inside to quickly pick up a couple of things for dinner. I've got this thing for their deli's Chinese red roasted pork with sweet sauce and their rolled chicken baguettes...yum, yum....just slice em' thin, drown them in sweet hot sauce and enjoy! Ummm...ummm!
Anyway, I got out of there quickly as Lotus was packed to the hilt with people and the impending clouds outside were signaling another good soaking on the way. So, about fifteen minutes later I emerged, zipped across the walkover and picked up the first red songthaew bound for Thunglung.
Police were everwhere! I'd never seen so many of them. They were standing in the middle island in the street, one ever few meters yakking into their walkie talkies. Really, there were hordes of them....you would have had to seen it. Traffic was bad enough, when suddenly I heard police traffic whistles going off like crazy. Suddenly the songthaew made a detour across the intersection we were at and I could see uniformed police, wearing white gloves, frantically blowing their whistles and directing traffic away from a section of roadway that had been deserted.
Putting two and two together, I figured the royal brigade was somewhere in that area, probably visiting some local businesses or picking up some eats at one of the local restaurants, so police had thoroughly blocked off traffic to this huge section of route 4.
The detour my songthaew took, into the bowels of Hatyai, was actually kind of fun. I got to do plenty of sightseeing of areas I had never been through. But, that pleasure got progressively old when it became evident that all the huge tour busses, songthaews, tuk tuk's and passenger vehicles alike, were crowding into these smaller, narrower streets....all making for a major traffic jam.
Then it began raining.
Ahhh...let me rephrase that...it doesn't "rain" here, it pours buckets and buckets. So here we were, at a dead standstill on some distant Hatyai Soi, in the pouring rain, breathing exhaust fumes and gawking at store fronts that were now beginning to close.
I began my songthaew ride home at around 5:25 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. and we finally reached Thunglung at 8:40 p.m. Three hours or so, jammed into a crowded songthaew in the pouring rain. Alas, I didn't have to be anywhere.....nobody waiting for me at home (besides Howard) and no appointments to keep, so I just settled in and enjoyed the ride to the best of my ability.
The dark Thai kid across from me, however, looked horrified. Made me wonder what he was missing out on....a date? His mum? Hummm...guess I'll never know. He pressed the buzzer and got off somewhere short of my stop and disappeared....running like a banshee, into the downpouring darkness.
A truly interesting afternoon/evening in southern Thailand!
Posted by Hello
Thursday, October 14, 2004
Okay search engines....do your duty!
I'm looking for this woman, my sweetheart in high school, who wrote to me via "Classmates.com" but for some reason...DUMPED me, after a couple of e-mails.
Come on Laura, we spent too many years together for you to give me THAT sort of treatment.
Was it something I said? Did your computer blow up? What the heck???
I've reached out by sending all sorts of mail to all sorts of businesses in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and various websites that vaguely mention the name LAURA CURRY or LAURA BALTZELL.
Laura was last seen somewhere in Albuquerque, New Mexico, working in a bank and bowling in her spare time. She lived in El Paso, Texas on Filmore street, and graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School in El Paso, Texas.....before marrying Joe Curry, having children and moving to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
So, hopefully you'll get the message and drop me a line! I really hope so, cause I'd really like to be able to keep in contact with you.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Well, it's official!
I'm going to Koh Phi Phi Don next Wednesday!
I'll leave Hatyai around 9:00 a.m. and will travel by van to Krabi, where I'll take a boat to the Phi Phi islands!
Posted by Hello
Word has it that the seas can be a bit rough during rainy season, during the boat trip from Krabi to Koh Phi Phi Don, so I'll be prepared with my Dramamine because I get seasick standing in a mudpuddle.
I'll be staying at the Cabana Hotel for four days and three nights and enjoying as many of the activities available as possible - depending on both time and pocketbook.
Tonsai Bay seems to be where most of the action is, so you'll find me there, wearing some flashy tourist shirt and hat and chowing down on some fresh seafood. The fire dances, Thai boxing and other entertainments can evidently be found at the Reggae Bar, Carlito's and Apache...so meet me there!
Posted by Hello
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
You know, that "invisible bubble" of space a person has that is their so-called comfort zone in relation to other people around them. We studied the possible reasons why people have "big" or "little" bubbles and the differences in comfort zones involving different cultures, religions and mores.
Yada, yada, yada...
Well, as you can probably guess....Asian people, in relation to interacting with westerners, are supposed to have pretty small bubbles.
Not so today, on my songthaew ride to Hatyai!
Here I sat in this crowded songthaew, people pressed against one another...but the skinny-yet-goodlooking woman to my right, although she had plenty of space, was practically in my lap. She had a young child on her knee, maybe one - two years of age and she was trying to balance baby-on-knee as she was also trying to change cell phone batteries between two different mobile phones in her carry-on bag,
She kept losing her balance, grasping at the baby on her knee, while trying to juggle these two cell phones in her other hand. Her husband sat across from us, but he had his hands full with a rambuctious three year old.
Finally, (and much to my surprise) she simply grabbed baby and plopped him into my lap, thus freeing herself of her burden so she could attend to more important matters.
Naturally (instinctively?) I held the baby, who seemed perfectly happy to be on my lap. He cooed and cawed (ahhhh, you know what I mean!) at me and gripped my shirt with both hands while looking into my eyes.
I looked up and caught the eye of an elderly Thai lady across from me, who just smiled knowingly, like she knew that life, as it was at that moment, was perfect in it's own sense. I, however, did not share this feeling, and only looked at her emploringly as if saying, "Would you PLEASE offer to take this kid?" But, she didn't seem to catch the telepathic message.
Suddenly, the skinny mother, now finished with her task, turned to me, smiled, and took her baby back into her arms, kissing him on the head and plopping him back onto her knee in one smooth swoop.
Minutes later we arrived at her and her husbands departure point and once they disembarked, she turned around once and gave me this quick, almost imperceptible wink.....
Which of course totally made my day.
Well, I found out it wasn't a fan error on my laptop.....
...and it wasn't errant "piss ants" scouring my USB port.
It was/is a computer virus!
I've spent two days researching the internet and downloading fixes to get rid of it, but lately I've found that "it" is in fact "them"....
So, although I'm back online with a bit more frequency, I'm still at battle with more than one of these nasty little mechanical codes, that some "dork" who has no life, has so skillfully seeded into my computer.
I'd love to get ahold of one of these little jerks who send these viruses out and cause so much havoc. I could think of a lot of little "torture" tasks to set upon them that would make Rumsfeld proud!
Posted by Hello
In this online media world of hate, bombing, terrorism and the like, today I found an article that disturbed me more than any of the other negative news media reports....
The death of Christopher Reeve.
This man, to me, represented strength, purity, health, persistence, and just plain awesomeness. I can't remember a sadder day than today, upon hearing of his death.
To me and countless others, he will be sorely missed.
Posted by Hello
My pals Ernest and Dwayne...
Just what is ugly?
Aimee is wrestling with this subject as I speak...My opinion? Ugly is as ugly feels (or something like that)....
Ernest describes himself as:
"Better looking than most, however I don't broadcast this"
whereas Dwayne states:
"I'd describe myself as 'irresistible' but I keep em' at bay cause of my dirty shirt."
You see, both these guys see themselves as "a touch above the rest" so....no matter what "society" says, they are at one (and above) with their looks!
I mentioned to them that "society" considered them "UGLY" and this is their response:
Ernest: "Well, Society can just *iss my *oyal *ss!"
Dwayne: "Snivelling *sswipes...what the hell do they know? They can *uck my *ick."
Posted by Hello
Monday, October 11, 2004
I was out surfing for new and interesting blogs today and randomly, over the period of about ten minutes, this is what I found:
"The Emotional Wastebasket"
"Flirting With Suicide"
"Kill Your Boyfriend"
Upon investigating these scary blogs, which were from all over the world, I found all of them to be authored by "bored, miserable" people, mostly in their teens to early twenties.
They spoke of boredom, hate, misery and depression.
Really depressed the hell out of me to read that crap....ten minutes was too long.
Posted by Hello
Sunday, October 10, 2004
One of my favorites has been "Our Man In Hanoi" which is a site that not only has some beautiful pictures, but is really a very interesting read too. While reading his blog, I was surprised to see yet another "Mooncake" article. OMIH writes:
"Another feature of this time of the year is the Moon Cake. It appears to be a real favourite with everyone and something of a treat but to western tastes it’s a little bizarre. You know those pork pies with the egg inside. Well imagine if the pork bit was replaced with chocolate but with the egg left intact. In addition the whole thing has a vaguely marzipan-like taste plus an unmistakeable hint of fried rice. All in all – not good."
I had to chuckle at this and quickly jot this information down for Aimee, who is collecting sensitive MoonCake information for some sort of sinister Halloween plan, no doubt.
OMIH also writes about a subject that I'd been thinking of blogging about, but couldn't seem to find the right angle. He writes:
"PS Slightly concerned. There’s a trail of ants leading to a USB port on my laptop. I have a feeling that my back home habit of eating lunch while using my computer has left a legacy of crumbs under my keyboard. Hopefully no serious damage will be caused. I’m hoping they’ll just clean up for me."
What a laid back dude! Heck, I've been hopelessly squishing the little pests as I see them, or fumigating them (and myself) with my handy-dandy can of KINCHO red (a water-based Aerosol insecticide).
These little ants seem to come from nowhere and they have totally infested my spotlessly clean house (NOT). They're the little red ones, or amber ones, which my ancient grandmother (god rest her soul) used to call....
As a kid I used to giggle to beat the band when she'd say piss ants, because I knew that "piss" was a so-called "bad" word (according to my mother).
"Piss ants" is one of those old sayings that seem to flourish in the southern U.S. I never really understood why they were called piss ants until one day when I was haplessly smashing them with my hand and finally noticed the awful smell my hand had undertook from said smashing. Although the smell was far from what "piss" is supposed to smell like, it was bad enough for me to learn my lesson...or so I'd thought.
So here I am, at my laptop computer, "haplessly smashing" once again, as the little piss ants begin to advance upon my USB port, also uttering another old saying my grandmother used....
"Well shit fire to save matches!"
This is undoubtedly the oddest thing I have ever seen once arriving in southern Thailand.
Kids, teens and adults alike....all adorned with a facefull of white powder. The boy pictured here is only minimally covered. I've seen some of my kids come into my class (especially after lunch, when they have had a chance to shower and put on some fresh powder) looking like mimes. It really sets you back on your heels if you've never seen it before.
Naturally, I had to ask about it and was told that Thai's strive to be "White, white, white," because in Thai culture...
"White is right and Brown is wrong."
I notice it mostly in the early morning while walking to school, right after lunch and in the late evening. It's comical to me, but perfectly natural to the Thai people. You even see Thai's on local T.V. program's adorned with powdered faces. Really odd!
But, not so odd when you think about it....my travels to the Philippines, although not as strange as the white powdered face thing, saw many of the middle and upper class Filipino women walking about in the bright sunny day with an umbrella. My old flame Celerina (or Cely to her friends) told me once, "It is important to us not to become too dark skinned as dark skinned people are associated with the labor class and islanders."
So too is the reason here in Thailand, or so it seems. The funny thing is being a Westerner and coming from a land that "promotes" darker skin to look beautiful....Products on the shelves like "Quick Tan" and other commercial skin darkening products....whereas here in Thailand, you see just the opposite on T.V., commercials promoting skin whitening products and underlying themes that the girl with the whiter skin seems to get the guys.
I never saw this when I was in Bangkok, but then Bangkok is a bit more upscale and westernized than southern Thailand. But, I'm assured by my friends here in the south who have more Thailand travel time under their belts, that the white powdery faces are everywhere in Thailand and certainly not restricted to the less civilized south.
Posted by Hello
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
- Do not eat natural foods. I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.
- When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.
- The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.
- Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.
- There are two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead (this is REALLY true in southeast Asia).
- Life is sexually transmitted.
- An unbreakable toy is useful for breaking other toys.
- If quitters never win, and winners never quit, then who is the fool who said, "Quit while you're ahead?"
- Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
- The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
- Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach that person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for months.
- Some people are like Slinkies: not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs.
- Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.
- Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder, no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?
- All of us could take a lesson from the weather: It pays no attention to criticism.
- Why does a slight tax increase cost you $2500 while a substantial tax cut saves you $25?
- In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.
- How is it one careless match can start a forest fire but it takes the whole box to start a campfire?
[Thanks to Deb, aka: Midnight lace]
Friday, October 01, 2004
Posted by Hello
Thursday, September 30, 2004
See that? That's me way out there, knee deep in the Straits of Malacca!
Yep, I did it! Heh, heh....I REALLY did it!
By "Really" I mean I was S-T-U-C-K in the mud.
Minutes after Annie so graciously snapped this picture, I became stuck even worse....hip deep. Finally, after my pleading, Annie came to rescue me and ended up falling in the mud herself. Eventually some Portuguese restaurant owners ended up rescuing the "Stupid White Guy."
Annie and I lived to tell about it (although I think her version is less comical) and the two of us spent the rest of the afternoon hosing the mud off ourselves.
Posted by Hello
This is me and "Big Ben" one of the Portuguese guys who lent a hand to rescue the "Stupid White Guy." Ben made a good point, saying I was lucky they were nearby, as the tide was coming in rapidly.
Posted by Hello
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
This is my pal. His name is Mr. Soamboon Chlomusig. He speaks some pretty good English and operates one of the local stores here in our village, with his wife Wontip and daughter Watsanan.
Posted by Hello
This is a picture of me and some of the local kids in my neighborhood. A good number of the kids around here are my students.
Posted by Hello
Monday, September 27, 2004
First off, I am still sick. Ended up in the hospital last week and was finally seen by a doctor at Bangkok/Hatyai hospital, who said I had a severe case of bronchitis. The good news is: I don't have pneumonia. The bad news is: It's a virus and can only be treated symptomatically. So, I'm at home resting and trying to ride out this nasty illness that has plagued me for the past month and a half.
Secondly, although I have been able to log-on to the internet a few times and have successfully done a trial-run of the awesome "Hello" program by Picasa, my laptop is sh*tting the bed on me and I'll eventually have to take it in for repair or replacement (like I've got the money for that). I'm getting a continual "Operating System Not Found" on power-up, which I believe is a fan error.
So, if you don't see any posts from me for awhile again, that is the reason.
The nearest Dell repair station is in Penang, Malaysia....so I won't be taking it there. I'm hoping to find a local repair shop who knows how to work on Dell laptops and won't end up costing me an arm and a leg.
"When it rains, it pours...."
Sunday, September 26, 2004
One of my ever-present pets
Posted by Hello
Friday, September 24, 2004
"FLORIDA TOURISM SUFFERS AFTER HURRICANES..."
Sunday, September 19, 2004
Jeeez....That was a pretty long absence huh? Well, sorry for that but I just couldn't tolerate that internet cafe in town anymore and had to wait until I had a phoneline installed in the house, which in itself ended up becoming a major production. But, now it's installed and I'm buying up "Internet Cards" at the local 7-11 for $178 Thai baht apiece - giving 12 hours of internet usage a whack.
Life here in Thunglung is quiet to say the least. This village is small and relatively calm. But there are always the little surprises....
Yesterday, after a long day teaching at the school, I was walking on my usual route home when I spotted an elephant in the road. Not a very tough item to spot I must say, since despite this guy's size, he was drawing quite the crowd. I wormed my way through the crowd of mostly Thai students dressed in uniform and heading home, to get a closer look at this massive beast.
Once I was close, a tall, dark and thin Thai guy approached me, speaking rather good English, and saying, "You want to buy some banana stalk to feed him?"
Elephants have quite literally always been my thing and one of the things I've always dreamt of doing in life is riding one. Well, I didn't get to ride this fellow, but I quickly shelled out the $20 baht for a small bag of banana stalk and started approaching this massive creature.
I had hardly gotten the banana stalk out of the bag when a very big, rather firm elephant snout began worming it's way towards me. The old boy (yes, BELIEVE me, it was a BOY) was rather persistent and didn't seem to have the patience for me to wrestle with the plastic bag holding his treat, but finally I managed to get his small snack out of the bag, and he took care of the rest.
The whole ordeal took about ten seconds and then the stalks were gone. Soon afterwards this great elephant took a "bow," his form of a Thailand wai, to say thank you.
Just TOO cool! It really made my day.
It seems there is some sort of Elephant "farm" nearby and supposedly this public exposure is used to supplement the cost of feeding these huge guys and assisting their caretakers with their upkeep. I'm hoping to see another one soon.
Monday, August 02, 2004
Sorry I haven't been online lately, but I DO have an excuse and a rather good one.
First off, I'm sick. Like clockwork, every damn year I end up catching a cold, which ends up turning into pneumonia. But, lucky for me the pharmacy here doesn't require doctor's prescriptions and they have access to Zithromax, the miracle drug which always pulls me out of a hole.
Currently I'm sitting in the (painfully, painfully slow) internet cafe in town (slash drug store) and having been here almost two hours (also waiting on my medicine) have managed to read about twenty e-mails, respond to one and write this. But, hopefully my troubles will end soon when (and if) I get a phoneline put in my house.
This is gonna be brief as I'm getting bombarded by flying ants while I'm sitting here sweating as my fever has broken and while half the town leans over my shoulder to see what I'm doing. I should be feeling much better (and be lots more tolerant)in about a week. Meanwhile, please bear with me and I promise to have some pictures posted after a while, God (and Chris Allen) willing.
Ciao for now,
Friday, July 23, 2004
A quick post to let you all know I'm in Penang, Malaysia now, applying for my non-immigrant B visa, which will last me a good three months.
Yet another noisy internet cafe, in a huge mall....so I'm gonna scoot and find a quiet spot somewhere. Penang is AWESOME!
Still having some problems getting a phone line hooked up at my home in Thunglung, so may be a while yet before I get wired back into the internet.
Ciao for now!
Monday, July 05, 2004
Some of these posts may seem a bit out of order, mainly because I’ve somehow lost my pal Chris Allen from Belfast, Northern Ireland who's been posting for me. I’ve most probably lost him to the Euro 2004 games, which (try as I might) although I try to avoid, Anne Charmaine keeps dragging me into….so now I’m an addicted fan.
So, bear with me because there are still more Malaysian posts to come. (Annie, I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me Krishna).
I’m finally semi-settled and happy…very, very happy. I’m living in a small southern Thai community called Thung Lung, which is about twenty or thirty minutes outside (south) of Hatyai. My boss Craig Hanks, originally from Australia, took part of a day to drive me about, looking for accommodations and we lucked upon a beautiful two storey house, which is semi-furnished. Things are much easier with Craig around because he speaks fluent Thai.
My landlord(s) are an interesting couple. The husband is a police officer in town and his wife is a furniture store proprietress. So, I get discounted furniture! What a deal! This house I'm renting is really too huge for me, but the price is right and we even made a deal, reducing the rent by 1000 Thai Baht, if hubby is allowed to park his vehicles here at the house. Hell, for a thousand Baht rent reduction, he can park his damn airplane here if he wants!
I’ve got two bedrooms (upstairs), two bathrooms (one upstairs, one down), a spacious living room, enclosed porch, spacious kitchen, and the most gorgeous patio upstairs that you’ve ever seen. It’ll be barbecue time as soon as I can afford to purchase one (first on my list is a washing machine). I promise to post some pics as soon as I can.
The neighborhood here is something else. By “something else” I mean just this side of fantastic. The people are very warm and friendly and the kids here are just as wonderful as my kids back in China. I’m quite the prodigy here, as I was in China, but it’s different here. People don’t seem to have noxious or rude intentions (at least the Thai people). They stare, but when my eyes meet theirs, they smile a huge, genuine smile. Many of the kids I teach, live in this community of Thung Lung.
The area here is lush, and lush is an understatement. The jungle here is thick and right out my front door is thick foliage of coconut trees, papaya, mango (got one right next to my house), various varieties of mango, jackfruit trees, pomegranate, bamboo, and hordes of wild exotic flowers like bird-of-paradise and others. Basically, it is a tropical paradise here and I love it.
Language is a problem….naturally. This is a small village, far removed even from the larger city of Hatyai to the north. Not much English is spoken, however, upon arriving (to much alarm and surprise) at one of the local eateries around the corner, the villagers quickly dispatched a local woman, who is a beautician from a nearby shop, who speaks a smattering of English. We had a wonderful conversation filled with sign language, broken English, some Thai dialect (which I’m told is an ancient dialect in this community) and a lot of Ah’s and oh’s. A wonderful time really.
I teach at a nearby school, which is (ironically) a Chinese based school. They just took on two new Chinese teachers who I’ve yet to meet, but will be fun to practice my Chinese on them. The school is rather large by Thai standards and expanding constantly. We teach grades one through six (Prathom) and will soon be teaching grades seven through nine (Matayom).
I found a baby snake in my living room today, have located the neighborhood internet caf?e, and have had my esophagus burned to a crisp at the local food stands in town. I’ve identified a flowering plant that I haven’t seen since I was a kid in El Paso, that we kids used to call “The Popper Plant” because if you coat the brown, banana shaped seed pods with your saliva, they “POP” open and spew out the seeds. Actually I discovered the plant while visiting Annie, while on our jaunt through Malacca, Malaysia and (I think) she was quite impressed. Ha! Today, I found yet another flower color variety and hope to have them growing in my mini-garden here on my terrace soon.
Well, enough for now. It’s about time for me to pay a visit to one of the (many) local restaurants here. I’ve got a small book that I kept while in China, that has not only Chinese translations in it, but now some Thai terms for various types of food. It’s fun actually, because most catch on quickly and want me to try one of their “best” dishes, begging me to experiment a little, but luckily I have the translation written down for “not too hot please!”
Sunday, June 13, 2004
Here I sit in the local Cantonese restaurant that I've affectionately dubbed, "The Housefly Restaurant." The flies in this place are truly unbelievable and I'd swear they hire staff exclusively to swat flies.
I've finally accepted a job in Thailand. Craig Hanks of Stairway English in Hatyai, Thailand called me this afternoon and offered me the teaching position. I had four job offers on the table, three from southern Thailand and one on Cebu island in the Philippines. But, I readily accepted Craig's offer, given the working conditions, the support and the beautiful area that I'll be teaching in.
Things here in China are better after an extended meeting with the infamous Ms. Fang. Some heated deliberations, baring of teeth, raised voices and finally smiles, an agreement and a handshake. I think both of us were sick and tired of fighting. She knows and I know that I'm working illegally here because of this school's lies and deceptions. Although I don't really detect any sign of remorse, Ms. Fang seemed to at least appreciate the law and the position that the school's higher-ups have placed both of us in.
I've got fourteen days remaining here. I'll be flying out on the 26th of June. I'm not going to miss Guangzhou, or China for that matter, but I will miss these wonderful students and some of the friends I've acquired here.
Stay tuned for my new posts as I enter another teaching year in the, "Land of Smiles."
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
Better known as Kuala Lumpur City Center. It's a city within a city. The highlight of KLCC are the Petronas Towers, a landmark of Kuala Lumpur and at 452 meters tall (one thousand four hundred eighty three feet), until this year, the tallest buildings in the world.
Now, the newly built Taipei 101, a rather ugly building boasting a daunting 508 meters (one thousand six hundred and sixty six feet), has captured the title.
Maybe they've lost the title of the tallest buildings in the world, but I assure you, the beauty of these 88 story buildings, even at night, cannot be surpassed by the Taipei 101 (sounds like a language course).
These majestic buildings are surrounded by Suria KLCC mall, a six-level, crescent-shaped shopping mall that boasts one million square feet (93,000 square meters) of which over 80 percent is actively leased. 'Suria' means sunshine in Bahasa Malaysia language. This awesome place is filled to the brim with specialty shops, clothing shops, food courts, cafés, landscaped walkways, skylights, 864 seat concert hall and ample parking. I damn near got lost in the place, looking for Annie's workplace: The California Pizza Kitchen, where I ordered a delicious Cheese steak pizza.
Here's a good shot of the sky bridge. This awesome structure hangs a daunting 170 meters (558 feet) above ground and I was lucky enough to secure a free ticket for a tour of the bridge, which offers some great views of the KLCC 50 acre park and surrounding city suburbs. This structure, which connects the two towers, was built in South Korea. It is 58.4 meters in length (192 feet) and weighs 750 tonnes (826 short tons).
This is a good view from the sky bridge, of the fifty acre park surrounding Suria KLCC and the Petronas Towers. Actually, I saw very little of the fifty-acre park, mainly because I chose to stay inside the wonderfully climate-controlled Suria KLCC mall, as it was damn hot and humid in Malaysia that particular Thursday when I visited Annie at her workplace. I did follow her suggestion and walk out to the small bridge in the park to get a good picture of the towers.
I shopped around for awhile, ate at a couple little food stands and then nestled myself into a comfortable corner at Chili's, ate some tortilla chips and salsa and bought a Kuala Lumpur Chili's polo shirt. I wasn't there an hour when the sky literally opened up and the torrential downpours famous in Southeast Asia, took over. Later that evening, Annie and I went out to eat at the Hard Rock Café in Kuala Lumpur, where you can't get real bacon on your hamburger. Actually, in KL, you're hard pressed to find pork anywhere.
Those pesky Muslims?
All-in-all, I loved my experience in Kuala Lumpur and my trip to Malacca. I can't wait to return! Stay tuned for my next posting, which shall reveal the truth about the mysterious Straits of Malacca's mud-sucking, human-eating shorelines. (I know you're grinning Annie!)
(Sorry 'bout posting this a fortnight late, y'all, I was in Poland raising hell. Leastways, that's *my* excuse...Chris.)
Thursday, June 03, 2004
I'm back in Hong Kong for (hopefully) my last visa run. I've got less than one month at the godforsaken Phoenix City Bilingual School and they are really raking me through the coals as far as my contract is concerned. Suffice it to say that I am beginning to believe that they are in some sort of contest to see how badly they can breach my contract.
Anyway, I'm at least trying to enjoy my time here in Hong Kong and just got back from eating at my favorite restaurant on Causeway Bay, the Yin Chang Vietnamese restaurant. The food there is truly delicious!
So, in the a.m. I'll grab some breakfast and then I'll be off to Wan Chai for yet another visa run. I was smart this time and purchased my return ticket ahead of time so I can be guaranteed that I will be in Guangzhou at a decent hour tomorrow night so I can catch the bus back home instead of having to spend $100.00 Yuan on a taxi ride.
I've got a new job prospect in the wings, possibly at a school in Beijing, but not totally sure yet. I'd much rather travel to Thailand, but beggars can't be choosers at this point.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
This is a picture of my good friend Annie, taken in her car during my visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Sorry Annie, but you knew I'd do this!) I spent a glorious seven days in Kuala Lumpur and also got to visit Malacca, which is a three hour bus ride to the south of Kuala Lumpur.
The "Cat Eye" soup was wonderful!
It's not really cat eyes. The Malay name is Mata Kucing, which means cat eyes, because the fruit, which is also called Mata Kucing, looks a lot like cats eyes. (Annie was none too quick at mentioning this, no doubt reveling at my reaction) This "drink" is a mixture of the Mata Kucing fruit and winter melon. It's really not too bad, but not something I'd make a habit of sampling.
My hair was painfully short during this trip, the shortest it's been since Navy boot camp in 1979. I attribute this to Tanka's lack of fluency in Mandarin, when he accompanied me to Xintang to get my hair cut. From now on I will remain alert while I'm getting my hair cut! Thanks a lot Tanka!
This is Central Market in downtown Kuala Lumpur. My stomach was pretty tender during this trip, after Annie took me to an authentic Indian restaurant in the city. My poor tummy wasn't used to such an assault, although my taste buds thought it a treat! So, we went looking for a lighter fare while shopping about the market, which was filled with interesting souvenirs, clothing shops, restaurants etc.
We finally settled on Ahmad's Restaurant, a tiny Egyptian restaurant located in a small alcove. We ordered the chicken shawerma, which was a delicate and delicious tasting chicken wrapped in a piece of flat bread with other, unknown condiments that only added to the delightful flavor. Just thinking of this meal makes my mouth water. It was truly delicious.
There was really so much Annie and I did, day-after-day, that it's hard to remember the course of events. This is a picture of the outdoor market in Chinatown. Felt funny to visit here, as it almost seemed ridiculous to come all the way from China and visit a Chinatown, but still it was fun.
This is Masjid Jamek, the Muslim area of Kuala Lumpur. I loved this place. Annie and I came here looking for some aftershave lotion for my pal Tanka, a treat you can't find in China very easily. The people in Majid Jamek were all so friendly and the sheer culture of the place was enough to keep me there for days.
I remember that Annie and I had some packages with us, an umbrella and a newspaper. When we approached the store, they had a package check window where you put your stuff before entering the store. The gentleman at the window took the umbrella and the newspaper, allowing us to enter the store with our packages.
Annie and I looked at each other like, "What the heck?" Annie turned to me and said, "Perhaps there are many items in the store that can be smuggled out in a newspaper or an umbrella!" We got a good laugh out of that one!
The "covers" that the Muslim women wear, called "tudong" in Malay and "hijab" in Arabic, are as diverse as any other article of clothing. Some of them are stunningly beautiful silk adornments. A sign of the times, many women simply wear their hijab with jeans and tee-shirt underneath, while others wear the more traditional long silk robes, called Baju Kurung, also very colorful. Still other Muslim women dress in black or white with face covered except for their eyes. This is mysteriously captivating to behold.
Annie and I took a three-hour bus ride south, to Malacca, the oldest city in Malaysia, which was a wonderful experience. These colorful tri-shaws are everywhere and reminded me of the ornate and ostentatious jeepneys in the Philippines. For a mere 20 Ringgit, Annie and I were transported to the small Portuguese settlement of Malacca.
Crammed tightly into this garish three-wheeled bike, we got a slow tour of Malacca, without having to budge. At some point, Annie's mobile phone went off and after a brief pause I asked her, "Well, aren't you going to get that?" We both got a good laugh out of that one, because we scarcely had room to breathe, let alone fish something out of one of our pockets.
Malacca, founded in 1400, has a rich history, one that I am not prepared to tackle here on this blog, but suffice it to say I was able to visit the Malacca Fort, the Dutch church (with a wonderful view of the Straits of Malacca), Padang Pahlawan Square, the Red Square (with a brief stop at Annie's favorite Chicken rice ball restaurant), the suburb of Bandar Hilir and not to be missed...The Straits of Malacca themselves, where I got UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL with the Strait, a personal story for another blog?
Monuments and historical places are okay, but give me a Monitor lizard any old day! This rather scaly fellow was on lease to me for three Ringgit, while Annie snapped away with the camera. The owner of this cheerful fellow had two other, rather large snakes, which he offered to place on loan for a picture or two, but I gently declined as I am not really partial to snakes, especially ones bigger than me.
I couldn't wrap up this blog without mentioning Simone, who is Annie's sister. This is a rare photograph of her hugging her evil counterpart, who tortured her through the better part of her young life. We finally got to meet on Wednesday, after she returned from Singapore. Simone was a delightful person to get to know and it still amazes me that she remained intact, through all these years at the hands of her villainous sister Anne Charmaine!
Well, enough for now. I hope to publish more pictures in the future and please, please stay tuned for my...confession, er, uh, excuse? In regards to the truth about my (and poor Annie's) experience upon (in?) the Straits of Malacca.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
I'm in an internet cafe in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia checking out my blog site again. It's funny how I have to leave China to do that.
I'm gonna be posting some very interesting photos of my Malaysia trip, so stay tuned! So far, Annie and I have taken a trip to Melaka, Malaysia where not only was I able to see the strait of Melaka, I got stuck in it!
I can't tell you more now because my time here at the cafe is running out. But please stay tuned!
Sunday, May 02, 2004
Just a short posting to let everybody know that I am safely in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - staying with my longtime friend Anne. I arrived late last night at KLIA airport, which interestingly enough is nowhere near Kuala Lumpur. They announced during my flight on China Southern airlines that it was a balmy 27 degrees Celsius in KL, but after walking outside the airport with Anne to get into the taxi, I'm SURE they got that information wrong. Thirty degrees celsius MAYBE, but surely not 27.
I'll be vacationing here in Kuala Lumpur for a week and will be returning to China on Friday the 7th with plenty of pictures to post! This place is really, really awesome!
Sunday, April 25, 2004
This is a picture of the famous Bank of China building in downtown Wan Chai, Hong Kong Island.
I'm back home from Hong Kong, wishing my stay would have been longer. I was just starting to get comfortable with the city and then had to leave.
This is what the night life is like in Hong Kong, reputedly the city that never sleeps.
Nightlife in Hong Kong is simply amazing. Bright lights from signs hanging out into the road from both sides of the street, steam rising from bamboo baskets bearing Dim Sum delights, fleshy carcasses of chicken, duck, goose, monkey, dog, and whatnot hanging from hooks in large paned shop front windows, money exchange counters sandwiched between large restaurants or cell phone stores, bubbling crock pots filled with octopus shish kebabs, restaurant hackers out in the streets announcing their specials and trying to drag hungry night revelers off the street and into their places of business, brightly flashing barroom beer signs, massage parlors, reflexology centers and busy news stands.
It seems that there are more taxi's and buses in Hong Kong than there are passenger vehicles. This picture shows one of the typical scenes of taxi's lined up waiting for fares.
My accommodations at the Wang Fat Hostel in Causeway Bay were modest to say the least, but at least comfortable and affordable.
Hong Kong Island was an awesome experience, if not a bit intimidating. But, in looking back over the last couple of years and all my travels, traveling only gets easier. You just have to forge ahead and not get rattled by new scenery, loud noises, fast traffic and total chaos. I found most of the taxi drivers in Hong Kong spoke English, but if I had to sum them up, I would have to say they are rather impatient.
Several times, I opened the door of a taxi, only to be curtly told to go to the other side of the street (a system I never figured out). It seems certain areas are for taxi's only going to certain locations but damned if I could figure it out. Also, I noticed that they sit idle in one place for long periods, but when they have you as a fare, they want to get you where you have to go and they don't want you dawdling in the vehicle once they get you where you're going.
One guy was so impatient with me fishing money out of my pockets (I was trying to get rid of the heavy one, two, five and ten Hong Kong dollar coins I was amassing) that he just grabbed what I had in my hand (about fifteen Hong Kong dollars) and accepted that as a fare, when the total fare was twenty-two Hong Kong dollars. It seemed he couldn't wait to get me out of that cab.
I could have walked the streets all night long, but alas, I returned to my small, cozy, modest room at the Wang Fat Hostel on Patterson road in Causeway Bay and turned on the T.V. American Idol was on the tube with a scrolling announcement that voting was closed to Asia (no doubt, because we're a day ahead of everybody else). I watched that non-sense for a bit before finally retiring in order to make the consulate in Wan Chai in the early morning for my China visa.
Wan Chai is a different (and more expensive) world than Causeway Bay. My taxi got me there quickly, in about ten minutes and I set about trying to find the China Resources Building. It wasn't any different from other consulates I've been to. Armed guards, metal detectors, etc., until I got up to the seventh floor and saw the mob (I was only five minutes late of the opening). I was told that my downloaded visa application form wouldn't do, and was handed out another (which wasn't much different than mine).
I was given a ticket number (A60) and told to have a seat.
Looking about, I felt like I was at the United Nations or something. Looking at their passports, I identified Moroccans, Algerians, Indians, Argentineans, Brazilians, British, Germans, Nepalese, South Africans, Filipinos, Indonesians, you name it, and they were all there, waiting to get their Chinese visas. Surprisingly enough, I only saw two Americans.
I waited from 9:15 a.m. until 11:25 a.m. before finally being seen, told I could not apply for a multi-entry visa if I was claiming I was a tourist, and instructed to come back at 3:30 p.m. with $840.00 Hong Kong dollars in my hand to pick up my passport. I wiled away the hours at, embarrassingly enough, a local McDonalds, reading the South China Morning Post, strictly out of convenience.
So now, back in Guangzhou, today is a beautiful day after two weeks of monsoon rains. I would have loved to get out in the sun today but I desperately needed to spruce up my apartment a bit, open the sliding glass doors and airing the place out. I've got a new respect for mildew.
Tanka, Bala and I will be going out tonight, once again, to explore the back recesses of Xintang for its shops and exotic restaurants. I'm still not burnt out on roasted oysters and mussels, so maybe I can talk them into hitting our favorite oyster haunt. I managed to pick up Tanka's highly coveted chickpeas (which I call Garbanzo beans) while in Hong Kong, so maybe I can bribe him to stop for a dozen oysters.
I've already started the slow process of consolidating my possessions here, which isn't too difficult because I didn't bring much with me when I arrived in China and I haven't really purchased many solid goods while here. I'll be giving away my printer, my lion head goldfish Lester, and some of my books, but the rest will go in the trash or in my luggage.
Annie sent me a text message last night, telling me she's been trying to reach me since she was in Lisbon, wondering if I was screening my calls. I get a lot of complaints from friends that I never answer my home phone or my cell phone calls, which doesn't surprise me because I usually don't. I really don't like the phone much, but it is a necessity and comes in handy when I run into language barriers here, which is just about every day.
For an example, I recently found myself without the aid of my little pocket notebook, which has several needful things scribbled in Chinese, to show to taxi drivers and the like. So, I just sent a message to my faithful friend Derek and asked him to send me a text message in Chinese, telling the driver where I want to go. Simple, yet a bit complicated, no? Ha! But it works! After a brisk "Ni hao!" I hand over my mobile phone, show the driver the Chinese text and I'm on my way.
Although I've only been abroad for eight months, I know in my heart that I belong here in Asia. Maybe not China, mainly because of it's pollution and language barriers, but surely southeast Asia, where I can just fold into the beautiful landscape, get dark skin like the natives and watch the awesome sunrises and sunsets over the ocean. I've found my niche and I'm happy, although I do wish I'd done this a long time ago.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
It's me again! The jeeemeister is BAAAAAAAACK! And I'm in Hong Kong. It's so awesome to actually see my blog after eight months in the dark.
Yep, I've been to Hong Kong several times, but only to Launtau Island, to the airport. This time I'm on Hong Kong Island, trying desperately to renew my passport. My school (which is less than one year old) doesn't have any more authorization to get me an "F" visa, so they had to send me to Hong Kong for a multiple entry visa.
I just arrived here at around 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, after leaving from the China Hotel in Guangzhou by bus at 9:00 a.m. I don't care what the hell they say or advertise about three hour bus rides to Hong Kong.....it ain't true! Hell, it takes a good hour in-and-of-itself just to get through customs in Shenzhen/Hong Kong.
I've been in a light panic to get my business sewn up with the Thailand ESL agency in Bangkok, and my latest venture has been to wire 2,500 Thai Baht to the agency to take care of my work permit fees. Going to Western Union in Guangzhou is a harrowing experience to say the least and they don't speak English....what a hassle! So, I decided to do my business here in Hong Kong.
I'm on Hong Kong island, in Causeway Bay, at the Wang Fat Hostel which is widely advertised in the China Lonely Planet guide. Nice place and right in the heart of things. This city is AWESOME! So much to see that it is just mind boggling.
Anyway, my trip to the Western Union proved fruitful. I hopped into a taxi (they actually speak English here) and showed the driver where I wanted to go. Much to my surprise, he said to me, "It's close....real close," then showed me how to get there and let me out. I was dumbfounded. In Guangzhou they would have just taken me there and then charged me the 7.00 Yuan to get there.
Taxi's here are a bit more expensive, at 15.8 Hong Kong dollars for the first click and 1.40 HK thereafter. So, I'm going to enjoy doing some walking around this awesome city with it's never ending tall buildings.
It was a snap at the Western Union. Easy as pie and in ENGLISH!!! Awesome. I had a nice walk from there, rubbernecking around and exploring some of the nifty sights. Hunger pangs hitting me, I ducked into a Vietnamese restaurant and had a wonderful meal of mixed vegetable soup, rice and lemongrass porkchop.
Still used to my China experience, I spoke Mandarin to the waitress at the restaurant, who was very pleased, proceeding with a flurry of Chinese, thinking that I spoke fluently. Ha! I'm very limited, and hell, I threw over half of my twenty-six some-odd words at her!
Well, gotta run folks. I'm gonna go out on the town and check out the nightlife here. Then it's to bed early and up early in the morning so I can hit the consulate at opening time. Then I'll be heading back to Guangzhou, in time to rest up before my private lessons on Saturday in Guangzhou.
Friday, April 09, 2004
Once again I've caught the Great Firewall of China with it's guard down. So, I'll catch you up on all my current happenings here, while I've got the chance.
I don't want to jump the gun here and tell all of you out there in Bloggerland that I am going to be moving to Thailand, but it sure looks that way at present. I've signed a contract with a school in southern Thailand, near the Malaysian border, which was the most lucrative one to cross my computer screen lately.
Yesterday I mailed out a package containing my signed contract, copies of my degrees, my passport photos, TEFL certificate and other documents, to arrive in Bangkok (where the hiring agency is located) in ten days. I had to act on this opportunity quickly because this position is a good one, offering 48,000 Baht to start and offering many bonuses besides the regular salary.
So, hopefully things will progress smoothly and I will be moving to southern Thailand in July.
I kicked my current girlfriend, the Cantonese doctor from Guangzhou, to the curb. She turned out to be yet another "unfaithful" one, having a French boyfriend on the side. I don't know what it is about me, having this affinity for unfaithful women. Looking back, probably the best woman I had a hold of, was Alison in New Hampshire, but my wanderlust and stupidity got in the way of that relationship.
So, my search goes on....
Presently I'm in a mild panic over my visa situation here. My visa will expire in about sixteen days and the school says they cannot provide the visa service anymore. So, I will have to travel to Hong Kong soon to do a "visa run" which involves hopping on a bus to Hong Kong at 4:30 p.m. here at the transportation center, arriving in Hong Kong around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., getting a hotel and then heading to the Consulate Department Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (what a mouthful) the next morning, to obtain my (rather expensive) multi-entry visa via one-day processing and then traveling back to Guangzhou.
Sounds like quite the hassle, but I plan on using it as a nice opportunity to explore the night life in Hong Kong for at least one evening. I've been to Hong Kong at least three times, but only to the airport on Lantau Island. This time I'll be exploring Wan Chai. So, I'll update all of you, as to my progress, in a later blog.
My old acquaintance Sebastien, whose visa was allowed to expire by the Phoenix City Hotel where he worked, went on a visa run to Hong Kong about two weeks ago and he's been detained ever since. My Nepalese friends Tanka and Bala have informed me that Sebastien is not allowed back in China and his situation looks pretty grave. So, I'm hoping that I won't end up in a similar situation and end up deported to the U.S. It seems Sebastien will eventually be allowed to re-enter China, but only to pack his things and return to Canada.
So today I'm doing some research on visa requirements in Hong Kong. Tonight Tanka and I will be heading out to Xintang to go out to eat and maybe do a little shopping. Tomorrow I head back to Guangzhou for my private English class and then I'll meet up with the father of one of my students. Kenan is Genwa's father and a native of Syria. His English is good and he's been inviting me to the Maedah Muslim Restaurant in West Guangzhou, a place I really love.
Just walking towards the Maedah restaurant is a cultural experience. Although in China, this particular neighborhood is a resting place for many Africans, Indians, Nepalese and Middle Easterners. Once inside, the Chinese waitresses wear traditional Muslim attire and the clientelle scattered about at different tables gives the impression you're visiting some Middle Eastern country for a few hours.
The Africans often show up in brightly colored dresses and scarfs and the muslims sport various styled and colored skullcaps, which adds to the flavor of this exciting place. The conversation is a mixture of several languages, which is interesting to listen to. The food is delicious and I especially like the Lebanese flatbreads that I use to sop up the very last droppings of my flavorful plate.
Enough for now. I'm gonna be taking a closer look at this strange and harsh land in the next couple of months while I prepare for my move to the "Land of Smiles."
Friday, April 02, 2004
First on the agenda is a hail and salute to Meg, from Mandarin Design, for doing all the wonderful work she did for me in the last six or so months. Also, a hearty welcome to Chris Allen from Belfast, Northern Ireland (alias Zebulon Mysterioso) who is now doing my posting for me.
The wonderful and mysterious Great Firewall of China is very unpredictable! I still can't read any of your wonderful blogs out there, but occasionally (like now) I can sneak in here and actually do some blogging on my own, even if I can't ever even see my own blog site.
As you can see, I'm currently reading (voraciously) "Looking At America - Memoirs of a Chinese Girl" by Kelly Cha. It's interesting to see a Chinese person's view of America when I (having grown up in America), am now living in China. Stay tuned for my comments and arguments towards Kelly's views. She's evidently living in Los Angeles now and commuting between the U.S. and China, so hopefully I can shine some current light on her interesting subjects.
The weather here is still cool. We've gone into the rainy season and the thunderstorms here make any idea I've ever had about thunderstorms, seem pitiful. The clouds move in here quickly and quite literally turn daylight into nighttime. It gets so dark here (at ten in the morning) that we have to turn on the office lights to be able to see what we're doing. The rumbling and crashing goes on for hours, not minutes, and it is other-worldly here!
I've purchased my round trip ticket for Malaysia in May, but received my passport back today from the school with a stamp that expires in just a few weeks. So, in a slight panic, I e-mailed the school Know-it-all, Ms. Fang, who handles (rather poorly) all the foreign business here, and asked her to please assure me that my visa will not exprire on the twenty-fifth of this month.
I'm still in the air as to where I'm going for next year. I've got emergency resume's out in Thailand, Singapore, Borneo, Cambodia, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and other areas of China but no news yet. So, stay tuned and I'll try like hell to update you folks as often as is humanly possible from here!
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Since my last posting, I've added to my repertoire of restaurant hopping by visiting a Korean, Vietnamese and Chaozhou restaurant. The Vietnamese one was delicious but so expensive that my wallet is severely bruised after dabbling in duck. So, I've returned once again to my experiment-in-progress...the local Cantonese restaurant.
Here I sit at this relatively fancy Cantonese restaurant, chowing down on the simmering mutton dish, which is relatively delicious. It comes out in a clay pot, "simmering" as the name suggests, and very rich tasting. Then came the flies.
By "flies", I mean the housefly variety. Literally hundreds of them, as if summoned to my plate of food by some olfactory signal, which arose from my mutton dish.
Annoying as it was, I was on-guard with my chopsticks, waving them to and fro, cautioning any winged adversary against certain death, should they venture near my dish. But wait! Hark! While dining in this fancy establishment, I was suddenly graced with the ever-astute waitress, armed with a flyswatter. Having noticed my frantic chopstick waving, she came to my rescue.
While nibbling on my mutton, this beautiful and slim-yet highly skilled Diptera murderess whacked a fly on the window near my table, splattering fly guts in a ten-centimeter circumference on the clear windowpane, leaving a red smear on the once clean surface.
She was so proud of herself when she murdered one, that she stood right near my table, guarding the area and smashing, squashing, squishing and generally mauling the little bodies until she was squealing with delight...A wonderful appetite suppressant to say the least.
It's not the restaurants, the low prices, or the cheap travel that keeps me here. It's the kids. I'm their English teacher and for the thirty-five minutes that I have with them, twice a week, we have fun. I try my damndest to make learning a new language a fun process and the kids appreciate it.
This picture is of Sandy and I. She's one of my fourth grade kids and a good student. Last semester we opened, "Jenny's Coffee Shop" (named after the winner of a poster drawing contest for the restaurant sign), and the kids had a blast taking various "jobs" at the restaurant and practicing typical restaurant jargon. Sandy was the cashier and she took her job very seriously.
Chinese kids are awesome. They don't possess the hatefulness that I saw in children in the U.S. Sure, they tease one another and they fight, but the discipline here is the key. Problems here are dealt with swiftly and instead of punishment, they are lectured on the proper decorum expected of a proper lady or gentleman.
These children are not just smart, they are polite and they share things rather than fight over possession of something. It's a pleasure to observe. In this picture, Becky purchased a bucket of instant noodles from the food stand while we were on an outing in Shenzhen, visiting an aircraft carrier museum. She shared the bucket with four other girls. From left is: Genwa (who speaks English, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Arabic), Amy, Becky, Chloe and Sandy. Jack is in the background and wanted to know why I always take pictures of the girls and not the boys.
Well Jack, although I admittedly favor the girls, I do take pictures of the boys too! This is little Ben. He is one of the happiest kids I've ever met in my life. This little boy is so glad to see me everyday that he literally chases me down when he catches a glimpse of me. He loves video games and I've armed my computer with several of them, just for him. In-between classes he visits me in the office and says quite clearly, "Let's play a video game!"
Yep, I've always been the ladies man. This is my fifth grade troupe. From left is Rose, Milly, Me, Olina, Connie and Aviva. It's interesting that not only the girls here are affectionate. Many of the Chinese boys love to hug me and cling to me. I show these kids a lot of love and affection, things that a teacher would end up in court over in the U.S. Affection is not only used here in China, it is encouraged, which I think makes a tremendous difference with the kids.
I'm heading to Malaysia! Finally, after over four years, tons of e-mail, numerous telephone conversations, recipe swapping and postal letters, Annie and I will finally meet. I am purchasing a round-trip ticket to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - leaving Guangzhou on May 1st and returning on May 7th. Annie and I will spend five days and two wake-ups together in KL and she'll be my Malaysian tour guide during that time, putting all those experiences she told me about over the years, into reality!
Annie's in Spain right now, enjoying the rewards of yet another contest she has won. She'll be in Spain for about a week and then will return to KL and face her decision to take a big job offered to her in Singapore. She's an interesting woman and one whose personality alone will take her to higher and higher places.
Well cowboys and cowgirls, it's time to sign off again. Hope you enjoy the pics! Thanks again to Meg and her blogging expertise!
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Lately my friends Tanka, Bala, Sebastien and I have been on a literal food binge. We have been eating out at numerous restaurants in Xintang, Phoenix City, Guangzhou and surrounding areas, sampling some true Chinese delights.
This picture is one of our favorite roasted oyster restaurants in Xintang. These two guys cook up oysters on the half shell roasted over an open fire with garlic and green onion and they know us well because we hit this place at least twice a week.
The food here in Guangzhou and its outlying areas is simply delicious. Cantonese, Hunan, Szechuan, Mongolian, Thai, you name it, it's all here. I've gobbled up mutton, ox, frog, eel, duck tongue, pig intestine, turtle, taro, beef heart, dog, goat, pigeon, snake, about fifty different types of mushroom, vegetables that only have Chinese names, tofu, octopus and too many other things to list here.
It is true what they say about Chinese food: They eat everything on land with four legs except a table, everything in the sky except a plane and everything in the sea except for a submarine. Some pretty weird stuff, but delicious all the same.
Yeah, yeah, yeah….you say! Okay Jeeem, enough about food! How's your love life? Well, it is finally doing rather good. After a long period of searching, I've found the (near) perfect woman. Shaoping Liang is a doctor in Guangzhou and we've been dating seriously for some time now. Shaoping is Cantonese, a long time resident of Guangzhou and a lovely woman.
I'm teaching privately in Guangzhou now, on the weekends, so Shaoping and I see each other fairly often. Right now its dinner and a movie, shopping in Tianhe district, a brisk walk along the Pearl River on Shamian Dao or catching the subway to different parts of the city. But, this coming May we're going to take a trip to Beijing to walk the Great Wall, tour the Forbidden City and take in the Beijing opera, a first for her and a repeat for me.
Here are my two Nepalese pals Tanka (the big guy) and Bala, who I see quite often here and who work at the local five-star hotel. Both are from Kathmandu, Nepal and working here due to the Maoist rebel problems in their home city. Being Hindu, these guys make it interesting, going out to eat with them. They don't eat pork or beef and with the local chicken flu scare, there isn't much left to the imagination.
Well, enough for now I suppose. Not too much else happening here with me but I do promise to keep the info updated and the pictures coming. Take care all of you….until next time!
Monday, February 23, 2004
My latest news is the purchase of a cell phone. I was one of those stalwarts who swore I'd never purchase one of the things for a variety of reasons, but life here almost demands the use of one, so I purchased a used one. Equipped with text messaging and voice capabilities, I can be reached wherever I am and can reach out and touch anyone I want.
Of late, I've picked up some extra work around Phoenix City and Guangzhou. I now do some private editing of documents, brochures, menus, price lists etcetera at the local five-star hotel here and I am also teaching privately in downtown Guangzhou on Saturdays. All this is bringing in a sizeable amount of money, which allows me a little bit more of a luxury lifestyle.
Friday night I ate at the Vienna restaurant inside the Phoenix City Hotel. Very, very plush, but not so expensive and really not all that good by Western standards. I ordered a salad with lettuce, watercress, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, almonds and Thousand Island dressing, which was probably the highlight of my meal. My entrée was called, "The Vienna Mix," and included a pork chop, steak, veal and sausage with a mushroom gravy sauce and rice. The rice was cold, dry and lumpy. The steak was quite literally raw when cut and the "sausage" consisted of two tiny hotdogs cut in a rosette pattern. All told, dessert included (honeydew melon ice cream in a glass with watermelon and cherry tomatoes), came to 138 RMB.
"So what?" you say. Well, in my six months here in China, having eaten out at least three times a week at many varied restaurants, sidewalk cafes, barbecues and holes in the wall, I could have eaten three really delicious meals for that price and thoroughly enjoyed myself. So, although I occasionally enjoy eating out at the really fancy places, I find I much prefer eating at the little crappy, run-down, scary looking places because the food is consistently wonderful.
Yesterday, after teaching my class in Guangzhou, I met my friend Derek and we went shopping. I had my shorts repaired by a local seamstress who sewed my shorts so perfectly we almost couldn't find where they had been torn. The cost? Five RMB, which is roughly about 75 cents U.S.
We ended up eating at KFC, which was enjoyable and an interesting time just people watching. Guangzhou is like New York City on steroids. You have never seen so many people in one place in your life, I guarantee you. The first thing you do when you enter either a McDonalds or KFC is go to the counter and decide what you want to order. Then you go try and find a table. This may take you anywhere from a couple of minutes if you are lucky to upwards of half an hour. Then, your partner plants themselves in the selected spot and you go order the food. In China, you get used to eating whilst crammed next to somebody else. Privacy does not exist, as Westerners know it.
Also worthy of mention here are "lines." Here in China, the buzzword is "queue." But, just because China has a special word for getting in a line, doesn't mean they actually get in lines. They don't. When you walk into a McDonalds or KFC, it's every man, woman and child for themselves. If you are polite by Western standards, you will never get served in China. You have to learn the expertise of "politely" shoving and pushing your way to the counter to get what you want. After six months here, I am slowly becoming acclimated to this method and I'm actually less annoyed by it now.
Well, that's all for now. I promise to try and get more postings on here as soon as I can but things are a bit hectic right now. Thanks for your patience.
Thursday, February 05, 2004
Hello to all, from Guangzhou, Guangdong – China.
Thanks for visiting my site and helping to keep it alive. I especially want to thank my moderators too, for helping me to post here as the Great Firewall of China won’t even allow me to view my own blog, let alone see any of yours.
This is my friend Tanka. He is from Katmandu, Nepal and works at the five star Phoenix City hotel here. Tanka came to Guangzhou looking for better work opportunities, with his sidekick Bala, whom I will post about in another bloggy.
No, he doesn’t dress like this normally. This is the garb he has to wear while working at the hotel. Unfortunately the picture doesn’t show the curly pointed shoes he has to wear, which I always make fun of.
Tanka is a fun guy. We often go to Xingtang together with Sebastien and Bala to hit the sidewalk barbecues, shop the markets or just go sightseeing. Recently we went out for barbecue amidst the fireworks and hoopla of Chinese New Year and this is the funny scenario that transpired….
Tanka is Hindu so he is seriously limited in what he eats. At the barbecue stands are also an area where you can design your own noodle/soup bowl. The table is filled with bowl full of raw vegetables, several types of mushrooms, potatoes, bean sprouts, fried tofu…you name it. You gather what you’d like and give it to the woman to fill with water, noodles, spices and boil.
I’m up to the table gathering raw vegetables, mushrooms, fried tofu and the like for my dish, when Tanka looms over me and points to a bowl full of something that looks like congealed blood squares.
“Try these, they are good!” he says.
“They are good?” I ask.
“Yes, they are good!” he repeats.
“What do they taste like?” I ask.
“I don’t know!” Tanka says.
“Have you ever tried them?” I ask.
“No!” he says.
So I crack up laughing, looking at him with tears in my eyes and saying, “You’ve never tried them but you want ME to try them and say they are good…!!!”
Tanka just grinned his big dopey grin and laughed at me.
What a pal.