MontanaRon

Just another ordinary English teacher eclectic expat blog about nothing in particular.

Month: April 2010

Laos Drought Ending

My friend Nai said that “we have rain a lot last night,” so, hopefully, the drought over there will be ending soon, with the monsoon season approaching. I check the Vientiane weather report every day at Weather Underground, and I can’t begin to tell you how many days the temperature has been over 95 degrees F. the last month or two, with no rain. Recently, Nai said that there have been days when there’s not been enough water to take showers (they buy all their drinking water in bulk), and the crops are hurting. The Weather Underground site also reports that March was the hottest or 2nd hottest month on record globally (depending on which agency–NOAA or NASA–reported it). To top it all off, Nai’s mother has been ill for about 3 weeks now, so the recent Songkran Festival (Thai and Lao New Year Celebration) was dampened quite a bit, due to the weather and the sickness. If you’re interested, there’s a very cute animated music video on Youtube about Songkran. Check it out here; I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

As long as I’m on a Laos kick tonight, here’s an article about the French influence that’s still present in the former colony. Among other things, the author writes about the delicious baguettes, croissants and muffins, to which I’ll attest. It’s quite odd, but somehow satisfying, to see and smell the culinary relics of the French colonial era in this Communist relic.

Thankfully, I have the next week off, our usual mid-semester break. I’ll try to get out and hunt down some interesting photo opportunites–I have a few in mind, including some night shots and photos of the western coastline of Yeosu. Unfortunately, the weather service is predicting rain through next Thursday and we’ve had a bit today. More later.

Springtime in Yeosu

Oops, it’s been awhile since I posted; time flies when you’re having fun (or are very busy or spending too much time watching your favorite baseball team). Spring, though it took it’s time getting here, has arrived in all its splendor. The cherry blossoms, azaleas, camellias, and magnolias are all in full bloom, so, in places, the campus and Yeosu are a riot of colors. Here’s a few shots taken on campus.

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This one’s along the main road up to the university.

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Here’s another along the main road. I thought the mirror showing oncoming cars what’s around the corner of the road made for an interesting shot. I had to stand in the middle of the road to get the photo–luckily, it was early in the morning and not too many vehicles were out. Right around this time, there were large numbers of people walking around campus (and stopping their cars and standing in the road to take photos), enjoying all the blossoms. The campus really is quite beautiful this time of year.

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Some azaleas in bloom and a few camellias in the one after.

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Another sprig of cherry blossoms.

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We had a pretty foggy morning a while back. Here a few azaleas struggle to pierce the mist along the walkway to the top of the hill on which the main campus is located, a walk I have to take a couple of times a day.

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At the top, the admin building with its garish neon sign looms sinisterly, like a castle. What goes on behind those walls? Actually, I’ve met a few of the university VIPs and they’re very nice folks. The neon sign, muted by the fog, throws quite a bit of light on our apartments. I’ve heard more than one person complain about the difficulty of sleeping at night unless their curtains are closed. Doesn’t bother me, though–makes for a nice night light.

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Ok, that’s probably more than enough photos. I’ll add these and a few more to the Photo Gallery, so take a look when you get a chance. I’ll leave you with one more, though.

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More later.

Bike Shop and Baseball Season

My former colleague, Stewart, who sold me my “new” used (fantastic, wonderful, superb) bike told me about a good bike shop, MTB Plaza, here in Yeosu, and where to find it. A few weekends ago, I took the bus to buy groceries at Lotte Mart and decided to get off the bus short of the store to go look for the bike shop. I found it; all the lights were on and there was an “Open” sign (in English) in the window. However, the door was locked. Hmmm, maybe everyone’s out for lunch (it was about that time). The next weekend, while riding the bike around, I stopped by the shop again. Same results–lights on, “Open” sign, door locked. Different day (Sunday) and different time. What the heck? Did the guy die in there and nobody’s checked on him in a while? I tried again today, around 11:30 a.m. I got there, walking, because I was going grocery shopping again, and, sure enough, all the lights were on. This time, though, there was a “Closed” sign in the window. I pushed on the door anyway, just to be sure, and . . . voila . . . it was open! Guess I’ll have to rethink what open and closed means. Unfortunately, the place didn’t have what I was looking for. 😕

Ok, I haven’t written much about the new baseball season, but it’s upon us. Seems like yesterday that the Yanks won the World Series, and I’m looking forward to another championship season. I was debating whether or not to subscribe to MLB TV again this year ($24.95 a month), but I guess there’s actually no debate, since the Pinstripers open the season in Boston against the rival Red Sox. Despite my awesomefully (new word) time-eating work schedule, I’m sure I’ll be able to work the Yankee games in somewhere. 😉

More later.

Jongpo Ocean Park and Bizarre Architecture

Jongpo Ocean Park is still being built, but much of the walkway along the harbor is complete. It’s quite popular with locals; you can see families having picnics, children playing or rollerblading, older folks sitting on the benches enjoying the warm sun, and fishermen trying for the catch of the day. Being close to the ocean, though, there’s usually a gusty wind to dampen the early spring warmth.

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Here are a couple of shots of the walkway, looking toward the mountains and back toward the bridge. There are lights inside the obelisk-like structures (they remind me of whale bones), so this area is probably lit up splendidly at night. I’ll have to come here some Friday or Saturday evening when the weather is warmer.

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Ok, now it’s time to make the trek to the odd building I pointed out in a previous post. I walked around in the general area where it’s located, but, first, I spotted a church across the street. Since I take quite a few photos of Buddhist temples, I might as well give equal time to Christian churches (I’d do mosques, too, if we had any here). This one looked interesting enough to include. There’s even a driving range directly next door, the green screening of the range practically touching the church. No need to feel guilty while you’re trying out that new graphite driver–just pop over to services, then back to the range later.

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Then, looking back across the street, I caught sight of my original quarry. It’s another church! 😯 Not just any old boring church, but one of the most bizarre-looking I’ve ever seen.

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I walked over to it and took a few more photos from close up. What the heck is it supposed to represent? What’s the theme? To me, it kind of looks like a boat, if not a spaceship, with the porthole style windows. Is that supposed to be a stylized hand holding the cross? Give me your ideas. What do YOU think it’s supposed to look like or represent? By the way, I asked someone in my office to translate the Korean writing, and it’s a Reformed Presbyterian church.

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That was the end of my somewhat long walk. I was pooped and took a bus back to the university. In the same general area of Yeosu, there is a large Buddhist temple that I want to explore someday. Hopefully, then, I’ll have more of this area of Yeosu later.

New Dolsan Bridge and Hamel Light

Continuing from the previous post, I walked down out of the park and toward the harbor, to the new Jongpo Ocean Park Walkway, also being built for Expo 2012. At the far end of the walkway stands one of the massive towers of the new Dolsan Bridge.

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Here’s another shot of the other part of the bridge under construction, reaching out from Dolsan Island.

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Have you ever heard of the 17th century Dutch explorer Hendrick Hamel? Neither had I. In this area is a small red lighthouse named, appropriately, Hamel Light.

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Walking a bit further, you can see this statue of Hamel.

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Engraved on a marble memorial near the statue is Hamel’s story. It reads:

Hamel and Yeosu

In January 1653, a Netherlands merchant ship, De Sperwer, set out from Texel and headed for its final destination of Nagasaki, Japan, after passing Batavia (Jakarta) in July. However, on August 16, 1653, they encountered a storm off Jeju Island and arrived on the shore of Jeju.

There were 36 survivors out of 64 crew members after the storm, and one of them was Hendrick Hamel. In May, 1654, the survivors were sent to Seoul for custody under the royal decree of the king (King HyoJong). In 1656 they were sent to the barracks of Gangjin, Jeonnam Province, and they spent seven years in captivity. Due to a food shortage caused by draught (sic), in February, 1663, 22 survivors were separately placed under custody: 12 people to Yeosu, 5 people to Suncheon, and 5 people to Namwon.

Among the 12 men sent to Yeosu, Hamel was one of the men. And they were given the duty of gate guards for Yeosu Jeolla Fortress. In early 1664, a commanding officer, Lee Do-bin, of the naval forces, was inaugurated, and he was a man of generosity. He allowed Hamel and others to live comfortably with limited freedom, and the survivors earned money by selling wool in the market to buy a ship to escape from Korea. However, in 1666, the successor of Lee, Jeong Yeong, came to command the fortress and he made it hard for the survivors to live, so the survivors decided to escape.

On September 4, 1666, they mingled with the inhabitants as every thing was going as usual. At night, they made their escape by crawling over the wall of the fortress and went to the pier. They gathered drinking water and ran toward the southern tip after passing the military vessel as the low tide started. Around the next evening, the saw the tip of Busan and finally escaped from the territory of Korea.

This is the starting place of Hamel and others for navigating toward their freedom.

An interesting story, and Hamel pops up in other sites in Korea. If you do a Google search, you can find out more about him. Here’s a close up of the light.

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Next post: Jongpo Ocean Park Walkway.

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