MontanaRon

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

Category: Laos (page 16 of 16)

Thailand Ticket

I got my Thailand airplane ticket from the travel agent the other day. I’m flying out of Casablanca on the 23rd of March at 10 a.m. on Qatar Airlines, so I’ll have to go up a day early or catch the 3 a.m. train out of Meknes, putting me in Casa around 7:30, close enough. I’m not too sure, though, about walking the deserted, silent streets of Meknes at that time of day. The railway station is about a 5 minute walk from my apartment, so it’s not too far away. Still . . .

From Casa I fly to Doha, the capital of Qatar. There I’ll stay overnight, being put up in a 5-star hotel, according to my travel agent, and furnished with 2 meals. But, I won’t get into Doha until around 10 that evening, and my flight to Bangkok leaves at 8 the next morning, so I won’t get much benefit out of the stay. I suppose it’s better than hanging around the airport for that length of time (more on that below).

The flight arrives in Bangkok at 6:50 p.m. The next evening I’ll hop on the overnight train to Nong Khai and meet Nai there the next morning. I haven’t really got anything concrete planned, but I’ll probably visit lovely Vang Vieng again and, hopefully, Luang Prabang. On the 14th of April I’ll take the train back to Bangkok, stay in the City of Angels for a day, then fly out of there on the 16th, with a long stay (12 hours!) in Doha on the 16th, but no hotel furnished this time. It’s a daytime stay, so I suppose I’ll wander around, read a book, eat and do whatever else I can find to stay out of trouble. I’ll get back to Casa on the morning of the 17th, jet-lagged and with classes to teach the next day. I’ll definitely have all my lesson plans finished before I leave!

We had a few nice days, but now the forecast calls for 2-3 days of rain. After that, though, Meknes is supposed to have sunny days with temperatures approaching 70. Fantastic!

Speaking of good weather, I got email notification about my Major League Baseball TV subscription today. I’ll be able to watch spring training and regular season games over the computer again this year, so I’m looking forward to the start of another baseball season. Go Yanks!! More later.

Water Heater, Thailand

Finally, I got the new hot water heater in today. It’s not actually installed yet; that will be done tomorrow afternoon. The heater itself cost about $145, which I paid for, but I’ll deduct that from the 3-month rent money due in the middle of March. Now I’ll have to retire my primitive living skills, meaning I don’t have to heat water on the gas range anymore. I know that for the past week I’ve been saving on my utility bill because I love to take a nice, long, hot baths, something I’ve been unable to do recently. Maybe I’ll cut back on those; my electricity bill for December is HUGE–close to $180!!! I’m not real sure what the main problem is, but I suspect it’s the ‘fridge–it seems to run 24/7. I’ve tried turning down the thermostat, but it still runs all the time. Hmmm, I didn’t have any refrigeration in Benin and I managed ok, sort of. Maybe I shouldn’t retire those skills after all. 🙄

Speaking of cold, spring has given way to winter. Cold with lots of rain today and yesterday, and the forecast is calling for more of the same into the weekend. Lucky me, though, I’m pretty sure I’m going to take three weeks off at the end of March and head on over to Thailand and Laos. The plane ticket is quite expensive, but well worth it. Those of you who know me, know how much I love that area of the world. If I’m approved for the position in Morocco for next year, I’ll have plenty of time to travel around here, but for the time being, I’ve got Southeast Asia on my mind. I’ll probably spend most of my time in Laos with my friend Nai. Right now the poor guy’s fighting a bout of diarrhea–at least that’s what it sounds like according to the description (I promise, no details) he gave me when I talked to him yesterday. Hopefully, we’ll get the opportunity to visit Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

But that’s a ways off. For now, I have to get busy and prepare for a new class I’ll be teaching at Moulay Ismail University here in Meknes starting Friday. It’s a 10-week course on Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). It should be interesting, fun and, I hope, informative for the students there. Though Internet access is provided by cyber cafes in many of the neighborhoods, I get the feeling that most people can’t afford to spend too much time and money developing their computer skills. Despite the omnipresence of computers elsewhere, there are still many places in the world, like Morocco and Laos, where they are not taken for granted. Some of my students at the CPR don’t have email addresses and, perhaps, don’t even use computers. There are times I wish I didn’t, either. More later.

Football, CALL and Chinese New Year

Tonight might be the final match for the Moroccan team in the Africa Cup. They could only manage a 0-0 tie against host Egypt last Tuesday, but they needed to win. Only a miracle puts them in the quarterfinals. Cote d’Ivoire (already guaranteed a spot) must beat Egypt soundly and Morocco must trounce Libya. However, since Egypt is the host country, the chances of them not advancing are pretty slim, my students tell me. Politics, it seems. Both games are tonight, being played at the same time (5 p.m. local) in different stadiums. I assume the Morocco-Libya game will be shown here. (I wonder of Khadafy will be attending.)

Lots of rain and wind the last 3 days, chilly but not cold. Not a tropical monsoon type of rain, just a steady drizzle most of the time. The forecast calls for more of the same the next couple of days. I suppose that’s better than a foot of snow and 30 below. As Karen, my friend in Boston, reminds me, the start of baseball spring training is getting closer. It seems not that long ago that both her and I were down in our cups when both of our favorites were knocked out of the playoffs. Ahhh, but this year . . .

Mohammed wants me to teach a 10-week course at one of the local universities on the subject of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). It would be just one two-hour class per week, and I think it would be fun and interesting to do. I’ve already planned to do a CALL module at the CPR, so it’s not really an extra burden. I have to get John’s approval first. There are certain guidelines about where I can and can’t teach.

I talked to my friend Nai in Laos earlier today and found out that his brother Pui (pooey) got into a motorbike accident and had to go to the hospital. Geez, these guys and their motorbikes. Nai’s had a couple of accidents on his and he tells me about accidents that members of his extended family have had. A few of his relatives and friends have died riding these things. Fortunately, Pui will be ok. Right now they are celebrating the Chinese New Year (Year of the Dog), so there are probably a lot of folks riding around with more than a few Beer Laos under their belt. Even though Nai is not a big drinker, I told him to be careful, especially of other riders, who will swerve to avoid the numerous potholes found on most of the Laos roads. More later.

Griz-Cats; Foreign Policy

The annual rivalry continues, Univ. of Montana (my alma mater) vs. Montana State. I’m watching it on internet TV, which you can see here (well, maybe next year, since this is the last game of the regular season). [EDIT: Link not available] So far, with a few minutes left in the first half, it is an UGLY game for the Griz. The current score is 10-0 ‘Cats. The connection is not great, nor is the video feed, but it’s not all that crappy. It’s watchable, but if the video gets that bad, I’ll just link over to the radio feed. I dare say that I could find some Griz fans here in Meknes, and, with a good satellite connection, some 3 inch-thick Montana steaks and a few coolers of beer (or whatever), I could use tailgate parties to teach U.S. culture (Montana culture?) to my Moroccan friends.

If you’re regular readers of my musings in this blog, you know that I don’t inject my personal politics into here too much. (If you know me, you know my worldview.) But I must crow a little about U.S. policy from time to time (not much, mind you). I have more than a few good friends in Laos, so I worry about the threat of bird flu in that country. Because it is one of the few communist-ruled nations remaining in the world, the government is not that transparent about health (or other) issues. So, when I read that the U.S. has given $3.4 million to Laos to help them stop Avian Bird Flu (isn’t that redundant?), then I feel a little more optimistic about my country’s policy toward the rest of the world, especially given its past, needless persecution of some small, inconsequential communist countries. Laos is one of those. If you ever get the opportunity to visit there, please do so. Like me, I think you’ll fall in love with the people and the culture. The funds provided may be miniscule and may have little impact; I don’t know. Hopefully, though, it will make a difference. (Ok, I’m off the soap box now, and done with the politickin’, enough to last me for at least several dozen posts.)

More later.

Laos-July 4

Just a short note to say the journey in Laos has been interesting, fascinating, enjoyable, etc. Reminds me a lot of Africa–very Third World, underdeveloped, poverty-stricken, extremely friendly people. I leave for Thailand tomorrow, hopefully to Ko Samui and perhaps Phuket.

So far in Laos I’ve been to a Lao wedding ceremony, eaten water buffalo and boiled crickets (bland tasting except for the sauce, not bad except for the IDEA of eating crickets), danced in a steamy, sweaty Vientiane disco, and ridden on a public bus for 4 hours from Vang Vieng. This posting is way too short to tell of everything, so I’ll save it for when I’m back in Thailand and have more time to spare for writing longer tales. More later.

Laos

I’m off in an hour to begin my vacation to Laos and Thailand. I’m taking the bus to Seoul today, since the plane leaves at 10:30 tomorrow morning. It’s a 3 1/2 hour trip to Seoul, meaning I have to spend the night there to catch the flight on time. No problem–Seoul is always fun, though expensive. I’m meeting my Korean friend, Charlie Shin, for lunch. I also have to buy a good, time-wasting book for reading while lazing the hot summer afternoons away along the banks of the Mekong River. It’s been raining a lot in Laos, my friend Nai tells me, but I hope the rainy season is not too rainy.

I get into Bangkok airport about 4 tomorrow afternoon, then I take the 9pm overnight train to Nongkhai. It arrives at 9am and Nai will meet me there. Then we will cross the Friendship Bridge into Laos, where I have to get a two-week visa. Nai lives about 20 kilometers outside Vientiane. I hope we’ll be able to take in some of the beautiful sights of Laos, including Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. At any rate, I should have good internet access, so I’ll be making frequent posts to the blog. More later.

Dokdo Island Controversy

A recent legislative decision by Japan’s Shimane Prefecture has raised the blood level of most Koreans. (Read an article about the controversy here) A member of my adult class asked if we could discuss “Takeshima Day,” as the Japanese are calling it. I said yes, not knowing if it would interest too many of the learners, but it turned into a big discussion hit. All of the students, being Korean, despised this attempt on the part of the Japanese to try to legitimate their claims to Dokdo Island and its surrounding rich fisheries. Quite the controversy in the “Land of the Morning Calm.”

One of the other big South East Asian stories, and one that concerns me more than the Dokdo sparring, is the continuing drought in Thailand, Laos and other countries in that area of the world. Because my good friend Nai lives near the drought-stricken Mekong River and his farming family depends on the rain, I worry about his livelihood. I keep meaning to ask him how his family’s farm has been affected, but I’m not sure he would understand the concept in English. I’ve got a Lao phrase book and I ordered a Lao language book and cd package yesterday, so perhaps in a month or so I’ll be able to communicate with him more effectively.

As a further sign of impending spring, some of the ANU shrubbery is turning green. Now, as long as the “jealous spirit of winter,” as one of my Korean history professor friends puts it, does not blast us again, warm weather is imminent (I hope). This weekend is supposed to be nice, so I hope to haul the bicycle out of the apartment and give it a workout around town.

Update

Well, there is really nothing to update. One day flows into the next: we’re already into week 3 of the new semester. The weather is finally beginning to become more springlike, with temperatures climbing into the 50’s and occasional rain wetting the ground. Everything is relative, though. I occasionally talk to my friend Nai in Laos. He sometimes complains that it’s cold; when I check the weather for Vientiane on the Internet, I find that the low temperature is in the mid-60’s or low 70’s. That would be quite balmy here, but I suppose that seems cold to Nai. I have an international calling card that, for about $14 for 180 minutes, is pretty cheap to use, so I call him frequently.

The students in my classes are, for the most part, well-behaved and enjoyable to teach. I’m teaching 7 freshman English classes 3 times each per week, so, for the math-challenged, that’s a total of 21 classes. I also teach evening adult classes 3 nights per week. It’s keeping me busy and, again relatively speaking, out of trouble. I dream of the Tropics. More later.

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