MontanaRon

An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Month: February 2015

Freakish Storm

Downed trees that dragged and snapped power lines, collapsed buildings and homes, crushed billboards and damaged transmission towers were the results of a freak storm that passed through a small section of the Vientiane area this past Wednesday morning. The Vientiane Times reported that

The rain and wind blew down trees and felled utility lines creating traffic difficulties in the morning commute.

Roofs of houses and buildings and advertising signboards along the roads were blown over.

The cost of damage bill is estimated over 10 billion kip, Mr Bountham said.

[Note: $1 US = 8,000 Laos kip]

The storm just missed our small village, but the power was out from about 5 a.m. until 6 that evening. We only had a small amount of rain and moderate winds that morning, so, as I rode my motorbike to work on Thursday morning, I didn’t realize what had happened until I was a couple of kilometers outside the village. Then I started to see large trees snapped off near their bases and power lines down. Once out on Thadeua Road, the main road that runs from the border into Vientiane, I noticed more debris on the road, a few buildings that had been knocked to the ground, many trees swept over, and a main transmission tower that had been damaged by a large billboard smacking into it (this was probably why we lost our power). Crews were working on getting the power lines back up, and they were still going at it yesterday morning (Friday).

It was a frightening and disastrous storm for many people, but, luckily, there were no reports of deaths. The storm path was about 5 miles long and it ended near the new American embassy, after which I saw no damage as I made my way into the capital. As I said, our village was spared, but it does illustrate the randomness and localized nature of these sudden storms, much like tornadoes in the U.S. Midwest. Where’s the next one going to hit?

Going Coconuts

I was working on lesson plans at my computer about eleven o’clock a few mornings ago when I heard several voices and thumping noises just outside one of the south-facing windows of the house. The windows are opaque, so I walked upstairs to the open-air window to see what the commotion was about. About 50 feet from the house, a palm tree was holding the interest of a few family members. I followed their gaze up, and at the top of the tree was a man hacking away with a machete at a bundle of coconuts. He was about 40 feet up without any safety rope and looked to be confidently experienced. Beneath the tree a few of the family were holding ropes to slow the descent of the coconut bundles as they were parted from the tree. Eventually, a couple of dozen would be harvested and distributed among the family. (There are six husks stashed away in our house right now.)

One of the advantages of living in the countryside is that you can live off the land, if necessary. There are also papaya, banana, and mango trees on the property, and green onions, cabbage, chilis, cilantro and basil are grown in the fields. These crops are sold at the Morning Market (Talat Sao) in Vientiane, but the coconuts, bananas, papaya and mangos are mostly consumed here. The coconuts are a real treat on the hot days of March, April and May, especially if you stick them in the fridge awhile before drinking the water inside the husks. Just a few whacks with a machete off the top opens up the husk to expose the sweet liquid inside.

Here are a few photos of coconut harvesting time.

spectators of coconut harvesting

Here are a few of the family looking up at the tree climber hacking off bundles of coconuts. The rooster in the cage was a bit miffed by the goings-on.

Coconut harvester

Noy, the local coconut harvester, is partially hidden behind the palm leaves. He was up there for almost 30 minutes.

Waiting for coconuts

Everyone’s waiting to get a few of the coconuts. I would guess that a couple of dozen were brought down from the tree.

Kim lowers coconuts to ground.

Kim, Nai’s nephew, helps to lower a bundle to the ground.

Sun gets a coconut.

Sun, the husband of one of Nai’s nieces, gets one of the goodies, top hacked off already.

Meow and friend.

Meow, a niece, and her friend seem to enjoy the affair.

Sitting on a coconut.

Nyeow, another cousin, finds another use for a coconut.

Baby Leo

Baby Leo seems entirely disinterested in the proceedings. He’s being held by Goh, Sun’s wife.

Coconut tree climber.

Noy descends the tree the same way he went up–hand over hand, and one foot at a time.

Noy, coconut tree climber

This is the intrepid climber, Noy, who seemed to enjoy his task.

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