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

Category: Montana (page 2 of 3)

Next Stop–Land of Smiles

After having to do much paperwork, getting a physical and going on numerous shopping expeditions, I’m finally getting packed to leave for Thailand tomorrow. I’ve had a great time in Montana, short as it’s been, hanging out with relatives and friends and visiting some old haunts. The temperatures in the state are comparable to those found in tropical locales, but without the accompanying humidity, so the heat is not unbearable. Here in Missoula yesterday, though, the skies were extremely hazy, due, perhaps, to the forest fires that have popped up around the state. Despite that, my friend Randy, who lives in Arlee, Montana, and I drove 67 miles up to Elmo, on Flathead Lake, to take in the Elmo Powwow and then drove back down to Missoula to watch the Missoula Osprey baseball team lose to the Casper Rockies, 6 to 3. Missoula has an almost-new ballpark on the banks of the Clark’s Fork River, a very nice location to watch a game, though the seating is a bit tight on the legs. We had box seats right behind home plate, thanks to our friend Susan, who gets complimentary tickets from the bank where she works.

Today, I’m going into Missoula to have lunch with Susan and another friend, then it’s back to Arlee to finish packing and doing some last-minute laundry, and finally, a short trip to a nearby Raspberry Festival. Sounds interesting, eh? It’s been fun, but I can hardly wait to arrive in the Big Mango, Bangkok. I hope to post as often as possible in the next few months and I may try to upload some photos. I’m leaving my Digital Rebel behind and taking my new, more portable Canon SD800 IS along. Everyone have a great summer! More later.

Back in the USA

Yes, I’m back in very hot Montana. The temperatures here in Great Falls and elsewhere in Big Sky Country have been over or near 100 degrees for a week now and the long range forecast isn’t calling for much relief. Global warming? Is there any doubt?

Still, it’s pretty nice. I was worried about the effect of the higher altitude on my jogging efforts, but actually, I’ve been able to jog longer with less effort, knocking off 52 minutes at a stretch with ease. I think it has a lot to do with the much lower humidity. Maybe I weigh less farther from the earth’s core. 🙂

I’ll get my medical results back this Wednesday, and then I’m hitching a ride to Missoula with my mother. The plane for the Land of Smiles leaves there on the morning of the 23rd. I’ll get into Bangkok early in the morning of the 25th, a time that suits me better than my usual 11 p.m. arrival time. Unfortunately, in order to catch that particular flight on Thai Airways, I have a 7-hour layover at Los Angeles International (LAX). Doubly unfortunate is that in order to arrive back in Missoula in September at a decent hour, I’ll have a 9-hour layover there on the way back. To top it off, almost all of the reviews I’ve read about LAX give it very low scores as an airport to be spending any time in. (Some representative reviews can be found here, and here). In other words, most posters at some of the relevant websites write that it should be avoided at all costs! Yuck. Well, I think I’ll manage. More later.

End of Session, Dreamy Life

We’re almost at the end of the current session–practice wraps up on Tuesday, with the players leaving in the afternoon. As I mentioned, the Yanks are putting a few of us up at a hotel for several days. It’s just down the road in Juan Dolio at the Barcelo Talanquera Hotel, right on the beach. Should be fun. We’ll be going there on the 27th and returning to the campus on March 4th.

I was talking to Rex about the supposed trip to Samana on the 1st and 2nd, but his office has had no reply from the Samana mayor’s office. So, I don’t know if we’ll be going there at this time or not. The next time that I’ll be available, as far as I know, will be when I return to the DR next fall (assuming that the contract is renewed).

I was browsing around on the Internet early this morning, surfing through some websites based in my old hometown of Great Falls. I was looking at some of the local bowling websites, looking for familiar names, pictures and whatnot. Then I stepped onto the balcony outside my room to watch another tropical sunrise, and I was struck at how far-removed I am from my former life in Montana. I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing now and have been doing the past few years for anything, dream-like as it seems at times.

Speaking of Great Falls, someone there recently deposited some money into my checking account. I suspect it was either my mother or my brother or an anonymous benefactor. Whoever it was, thanks! and keep it up!

Well, it’s almost time to go over to the exercise room and work out on the weight machines, ride the stationary bike and do a little jogging, a routine that I’ve been regularly adhering to lately. As high class an organization that the Yankees are, I would think they could afford to buy some scales that actually work. It’s amazing that both the scales in the workout area show me as being 10-15 pounds heavier than I actually am. 😉 (What was that about a “dream-like” existence?) More later.

Various Ramblings

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, those of you who celebrate it. Now, go out and spend all your money shopping! Well, we didn’t have turkey yesterday; we had the usual beans and rice with pork chops for lunch, a twice weekly (at least) fare. In fact, we had rice and leftover meat from the pork chops for dinner last night, too. I must confess that I don’t miss a whole lot about living in the U.S., but I do miss turkey dinner on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Next week the complex closes and I move back into Santo Domingo Dec. 1st or 2nd for about 6 weeks. I’ll be working with UASD there, as I’ve posted before. It’ll be fun to be back in SD, but after a few weeks I’m sure I’ll miss the tranquility of the Yankee campus. I have a ton of ideas for teaching English to the players when I return from Feb. to July, so I’ll be working on those while I’m in the big city. I’ll have plenty to do to keep me busy.

I see that Montana is bracing for a very cold Arctic front moving in next week, when temperatures will get below zero. You know, I was really feeling the cold here the other night and even had to wear long pants the following morning. I swear it must have got down into the high 60s. 😛

I revamped the Photo Gallery a bit, rearranging the order of the categories to make recent photos easier to find, I hope. Give it a look-see. More later.

Farewell, U.S.A.

It’s my last night in Montana, just in time. There’s snow in the mountains, and it’s been cold and rainy in the valley of Missoula and the high plains of Great Falls. Winter’s coming. I, however, will be back in the tropics. I leave for the Dominican Republic tomorrow morning, the 19th, at 7:30 a.m. It’s been a quick trip back to the U.S. I arrived on Sept. 3 after a grueling, 26-hour trip from Bangkok. Then, on Tuesday the 5th, I traveled to Washington, D.C. Then it was back to Montana on Thursday, the 7th. Friday was my physical. I only just recovered from extreme jet lag near the end of last week, when I traveled to Missoula for a few days.

Tomorrow night I’m supposed to be driven to a hotel in Santo Domingo by Demetrio, who will be wearing a Yankee cap. So will I. Thus, another year in another country begins soon. More later.

More Praise for Big Sky Country

This is just a few minutes after the last post. I’m on the computer, doing other things, but I’m also tuned into the Yankee spring training game against Florida. Paul O’Neill, former star right fielder for the Yanks and now a broadcaster, was talking about his minor league career and he noted that he played for Missoula in the Pioneer League many years ago. He said that “it’s (Montana) extremely beautiful in the summer, a great place.” Not a big deal, but it’s always interesting to hear what other people think of Montana. Thanks, Paul.

Griz Basketball??!!

In Missoula, at the University of Montana, football is King. However, the Crown Prince, at least for now, is the UM basketball team, participating in the NCAA Tournament. For the first time since 1975 a Montana team won a game in the tourney. The Griz, seeded 12th in their division, upset #5 seed Nevada this past Thursday. I tried to watch the game on CBS Sportsline, which is showing the first 3 rounds (I think) online. When I logged in to watch the game, I was informed that because I lived in the Montana viewing area, I had to watch the game over the local CBS affiliate. Hmmm, I live in Morocco, so that would have been difficult. I settled for watching live updates on the Yahoo Sports site. Today, I went into my profile on Sportsline and changed my address to my Moroccan one. Hopefully, I’ll be able to watch the game later. It’s on at 8:40 p.m. here. Fans can only hope that the Griz put up a fight against their opponent, Boston College, a much higher ranked university. If they should happen to knock off the Eagles, pandemonium will reign in Montana.

Update: I was just looking for the Yahoo site so that I could copy its URL address for the above link. I found out something that I missed on Thursday–I can listen to the game live. So, if I can’t see it, I can at least hear it. Cool.

I did a practice pack for Thailand last night and it looks like I’ll have plenty of room in my luggage. I’m taking my rugged old Columbia 300 double bowling ball bag, given to me years ago by some of my former Glen Bowl Lanes employees. It’s proven to be great for toting around something other than bowling equipment. It’s got my name on it in big white letters, which makes it easy to pick out on the luggage carousels.

Rain and More Rain

I went out to get some handouts for my students photocopied and to buy a rotisserie-broiled chicken, and it was raining cats and dogs. It was coming down hard enough that the drainage system couldn’t handle all the water, so crossing some of the street intersections was quite the aquatic adventure. Yesterday morning we even got a bit of sleet/snow, which melted as soon as it touched the ground. Ah, well, I could be in Montana enjoying a winter snow advisory–2-4 more inches of snow expected in Great Falls and Glendive and 8-14 inches in the Missoula area. Fun! I wonder how much they got already. I’m sure someone who reads this will let me know. More later.

Catching Up

Whew! Lots of stuff going on to write about.

First, John did come to Meknes last Saturday and we went to Ifrane and Azrou, located in the foothills of the Middle Atlas Mountains, in a quest for snow. We found some, but not enough to remind me of a Montana winter.

However, it was a gorgeous day, making for a memorable drive through the foothills of the Middle Atlas range. We drove through Ifrane, a Swiss-style village near the Mischliffen ski area, about 60 kilometers south-east of Meknes. Then it was on to Le Cedre Gouraud, a forest of ancient cedar trees, quite beautiful, inhabited by a pack of Barbary Apes. Different from Thai monkeys, they were very amiable and non-aggressive, but I was surprised that they lived this far north in Africa. Of course, Gibraltar, not all that far away, is overrun with the critters.

This is pastoral country, calming and soothing, and shepherding is still a prominent way of life, as it is in much of Morocco. So, while hiking one of the dirt roads, we weren’t surprised to wander into one of the ubiquitous flocks. Thankfully, the protecting dogs weren’t too concerned with us.

Just outside of Ifrane is the Moroccan national sports training center. John is quite a runner and is very knowledgeable about the subject. So, when we drove past a few guys jogging down the road, he pointed out their style, that this or that runner used his arms too much, etc. But then he was surprised at the sight of one of the runners, who, he thought, looked exactly like Hicham El Guerrouj (aka El G.), a double gold-medal winner in the 2004 Summer Olympics and a Moroccan national hero. The fellow, lank and wiry, was zooming along at a fair pace and hardly breaking a sweat, making me envious of his abilities. My maximum jogging pace would appear as walking in comparison to his graceful strides.

We then drove to Azrou, a very picturesque Berber village of about 50,000, nestled in the forested hills, about 20 kms from Ifrane. We stopped and bought a few beautiful, handcrafted wood products at the local municipal-run bazaar, some excellent deals for bowls, dishes, jewelry boxes and chess boards. The wonderful thing about this place, for me, is that all the prices are fixed, which means NO HAGGLING. I hate haggling because 1) I’m bad at it and because 2) I don’t speak good French (or Arabic or Berber).

The view from just outside Azrou:

On the way back we stopped at Boufekrane, about 12 kms from Meknes, a village reknowned throughout Morocco for the quality of its meat, a Guy’s Lolo Creek Steakhouse of North Africa, more or less. We ate at one of the small restaurants and, as advertised, the beef and lamb were great. We had brochettes (bbq beef chunks), lamb chops, and superb spiced ground beef. All in all, it was an excellent outing.

Since Monday, though, I’ve been hassling with getting my Moroccan national identity card. Mohammed and I have been running around in circles gathering all the relevant documents and signatures. This was supposed to have been taken care of by someone, whose name I won’t mention, at the U.S. Consulate in Rabat. Just a day before my visa was to expire, he phoned me and said that I was to take care of it. Not good. There was some concern about the possibility that I might be told to leave the country. However, after much footwork and driving around, it seems the situation has turned out ok. I’m to go to the authorities tomorrow and give them the required documents (5 altogether, in duplicate, notarized, with 9 passport-sized photos) and the identity card will be taken care of. Despite the hassle, the local Moroccan authorities have been most accomodating.

Because of all the time required in my quest to avoid prison time (just joking), I had to reschedule some classes. One I lectured at today from 4 to 5:30 p.m. So, I rode my bicycle home at night. It’s very exhilirating to ride a bike at night in Meknes; it gets ones blood flowing. You just have to make sure that it doesn’t flow in the cold, hard streets. It’s almost as much fun as riding on the back of Bangkok motor bikes. But riding a bike here, you’re in control of your own fate, so to speak. You need 5 eyes to keep a look out for all that is going on around you. Not only is the motor traffic bad, but worse are the pedestrians, who walk willy-nilly everywhere and are just as likely to pop out in front of you as is a taxi.

In Bangkok I was most surprised to see elephants wandering around on the main thoroughfares. In Morocco different obstacles present themselves. So tonight I’m riding home and I’m almost at my apartment building. My attention wanders a bit. All of a sudden I look up and looming before me in the shadows is a camel! A large one, too, with its handlers. Luckily, I saw it in time enough to avoid it, otherwise I would have rear-ended it. Wow! Elephants in Bangkok and camels in Meknes, on or near the main drag, right in front of you, reach out and touch them but don’t get run over by the traffic. What do you have to compare, Montana? Yes, bison and griz, sure, but meandering down the main streets of Great Falls or Glendive, majestic traffic hazards just waiting to snap up the unwary pedestrian or bicyclist? (I do, of course, exclude the deer herds of residential Missoula.)

What a wonderful world. Check it out. More later.

Lucky (Sled) Dogs

My brother emailed me from Great Falls, Montana, my former hometown, with news that they’ve received 23 inches of snow since Saturday. Whoa! Lots of fun for commuters, unless all the roads are shut down. Looking at the Great Falls Tribune Photo Gallery [EDIT: the newspaper pulled the photos off their website.] of the event, it appears that the city plowed the roads in pretty good order, so I don’t supposed too many people in the city were stranded, but I dare say more than a few ranchers and farmers have had their hands full.

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