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Spring, At Last (I Hope)

Finally, we had a nice Saturday in Yeosu, one that saw me walk for several hours in the morning and early afternoon around Odongdo and the downtown area near that part of Yeosu. I took quite a few photos near the Expo 2012 site, up in Jasan Park and at the new walkway on the harbor, Jongno Ocean Park. I have to go through all the shots and process them, but I hope to have some of them posted soon.

In the meantime, because I think (hope, pray, beg) that spring is here at last, I’ve changed the banner photos at the top of the blog, from the wintry scenes to a few spring photos I took around campus last April and a few spring-like shots from Meknes, Morocco. The banner photo should change every time you reload or revisit the blog. Now that I’ve jinxed myself, we’ll probably see the return of cold, freezing weather. 😕

Yanks-Sox

How the Yankees are maintaining their pace with many of their top-flight players being injured at one time or another or being out for the season is beyond me. I guess we Yankee fans can thank the “Baby Bombers” for coming of age at the right time. Like in last night’s 13-5 shellacking of Boston. Sweeeeeeet!

I took a short bike ride Sunday morning, when it’s quieter than usual. I felt in a “colorful” mood and took a few photos, some of which follow. More later.

Here is some detail of a lime-colored nursery school I thought was interesting.

Lime_Bldg

And then there is this pink apartment building.

Pink_Apt

It’s a bit past spring, but there are still many blooming flowers on bushes and trees. (Actually, this is true pretty much year round.) Here are a few examples.

Blue_Tree

Here’s one of the areas I go jogging. The building in the background is going to be the new city library, I’m told, when it’s finished.

Meknes_Trees-01

Nearing the End

Thought I’d better post something, just to let everyone know I’m still kickin’. This starts the last week of formal classes at the CPR, and I’m giving my students an exam on Thursday. Next week they have off, ostensibly so they can study for final exams the week after. Then, we’ll start grading on the 22nd or so and finish off the final week in June. On the 30th, I’m outta here! I fly to Bangkok, via Doha and Qatar Airlines again. I found that they are one of the top five airlines in the world, according to this website.

I’ll spend about 6 weeks in Thailand and Laos before heading over to Korea around the middle of August. Hopefully, I’ll have a job at Woosong University in Daejeon (day-juhn). I’m waiting for the contract to arrive. Once it gets here, I’m sure I’ll sign it and send back all the other documentation they need. It’ll be a good feeling to officially have a job!

In the meantime, I’ve been practice packing, scanning my books onto my hard drive so I don’t have to send heavy, EXPENSIVE boxes all the way to Korea, and doing all the little chores that need to be done before leaving. Like jogging. I’ve increased my time to 45 minutes in my so-far futile attempt to lose some weight. (Maybe I should lay off the buttered popcorn.) I don’t go running until about 8 p.m. due to the hot, sunny days we’ve been having–temperatures in the mid 90s (that’s mid 30s for you celsius folks). Tonight, though, I felt very tired (sleepy) and my legs were pretty sore, so I decided that I’d only do about 30 minutes. I ended up doing 46! I’ll probably feel it tomorrow.

Strike!

At least I think it was a strike. There was a BIG march today in Meknes, right in front of my apartment–people chanting, carrying banners, and escorted by police, with all vehicle traffic closed off. The apartment concierge told me that it was a strike of government offices, schools, etc. nation-wide, though I couldn’t understand the reason. I’ll have to check the newspapers to see what was going on. It was very peaceful, if noisy. Here’s one photo of it.

March_1

Now, look carefully at this second photo. Notice the yellow arrow in the middle on the extreme right hand side? What’s it pointing at? Yes, a Yankee logo on a baseball cap! Though it’s not an official-looking Yankee hat, it does have the MLB logo on it also. Again, another Yankee hat, and I didn’t see any other baseball team represented on any hat. Truly, the World’s Baseball Team!

March_2

So, what will I be doing tonight? Since my students, who were probably out there marching today, are out on practicum for two weeks, I’m going to stay up to watch the first game of the Red Sox-Yankee series. It doesn’t get started until 7:05 p.m. Eastern Time, which means 11:05 p.m. in Morocco at MLB.com. I’ll be interested to see the reaction Johnny Damon gets from his old team’s fans.

I’ve been busy today sending out applications for jobs in Korea. I sent out 4, with more to come as the month goes by. Most of the major universities will post their job needs on Dave’s ESL Cafe beginning the middle of May on toward the end of the month and into June. I should be able to find something, and the ones I applied to today look pretty good. More later (including the Luang Prabang photos).

The Return of the King

No, not me, though I am back safe and sound in Meknes, though desperately missing Southeast Asia. As I pedaled to work yesterday morning, I noticed an unusually large amount of police at most of the intersections. I asked my students what was going on and they told me that an International Agricultural Conference was meeting in Meknes for the next week. The King of Morocco would be in town today to open the proceedings. There are cops everywhere today! And soldiers. So, yes, the King is back in town. He’ll be here until Monday, staying at his palace (he has one in all the major cities), so maybe I’ll stake out a discreet position and try to get a photo.

Speaking of photos, I finally have a little breathing room to start going through my vacation shots. Hopefully, I’ll post them, along with commentary, to the blog and to the photo gallery sometime this weekend. (Or, I’ll watch my downloaded episodes of “Lost” that I missed watching while I was away.)

It’s a beautiful day–almost hot and very clear. I walked back from my university gig, about 40 minutes, and was sweating pretty good by the time I got home. A nice, juicy orange (for which Morocco is justifiably famous) sure hit the spot. Also, you’ve heard me complain of my cold, sunless apartment in winter. But, the flip side of that coin is that it should stay reasonably mild in the summer. More later.

Bangkok

Well, I’m back in Bangkok, trying to avoid getting soaked by participants in the Songkran Festival. I went to one such water throwing ceremony in Vientiane at the home of Suwon, one of Nai’s friends. Everybody there got drenched by small pails of water being tossed around and got either a face blackened by soot from one of the cooking pots or got “lipsticked” with colorful patterns. Most of us opted for the lipstick, since the soot looked very difficult to remove. Quite a lot of fun, really. Yesterday, though, I went back to Nongkhai with the intention of staying dry. The only clean clothes I had were the ones I was wearing, plus I had my baggage, including my digitial camera bag. Unfortunately, and somewhat to my anger, we got doused quite heavily by the mostly well-meaning Thais. I think some people carry this ceremony to the extreme and there have been calls for moderation. I’ve read, and Nai has told me, that quite a number of accidents happen, and deaths occur, when motorbike riders get whapped with waves of water coming at them. It’s all in good fun, but, unfortunately, many people get carried away. Hence, I’m avoiding the water in Bangkok by riding the subway, skytrain or taxi, instead of taking a motorbike.

My flight back to Africa leaves on the morning of the 16th, but I don’t land in Casablanca until the morning of the 17th. I’ve got a 13-hour layover in Doha, something I’m not looking forward to. Knowing beforehand that I’d have this long wait, I brought along some texts with me to work on a few lesson plans for the classes I have in the week of my return. Amazingly, it seems, I’ll have two weeks of lessons when I get back, then the students go into the schools for 2 weeks, then come back for the final two weeks of lessons with me, if my memory of the schedule is correct. I’ll be finished in Morocco about the middle of June. I’ll be plenty busy looking for a new job, and if I get one in Korea (very possible), I’m going to try to get my return flight back to the States changed to go back to Thailand instead, spending time on the beach, which I didn’t do this time around. Hopefully, if I can get it changed, it might mean a free flight to Thailand and then a short and fairly cheap journey on to Korea, if that’s what pans out. But, everything is subject to change, so I don’t really know where I’ll be in a few months.

Meanwhile, after I return, I’ll write a more extensive journal of my travels recently, including photos. More later.

P.S. I wrote earlier that my webhost service was going to shut down my photo gallery until I could get it updated, but I just noticed that I can still access it, so perhaps I won’t have to upgrade after all, at least not right away.

Off to Thailand/Laos

This may be my last entry for awhile. Tomorrow I’m going to Casablanca and then, the day after, my flight leaves for Bangkok. I’m quite excited to be going back to the Land of Smiles, Thailand, and the Land of a Million Elephants, Laos (though there are very few elephants remaining in Laos). I’m just about packed and ready to go.

It’s a good time to leave for warmer climes. It’s been blustery, cool and rainy the last few days. Last night we had a real rip-snorter of a storm, with thunder and lightning, high winds and enough hail to turn the streets white for a brief while. I’ll be glad to soak up the heat of Southeast Asia, though I’m sure I’ll be hankering for cooler temperatures after a few weeks in the simmering tropics. More later.

Summer

It sure seemed like it today, anyway, though I’m sure the high temperature was probably only a tad over 70. So, I thought I’d get out and let the bicycle take me for a ride, and I was sweating quite a bit and may have gotten a small sunburn. Love it! I wasn’t sure where my trusty transport would take me, but we ended up riding around the medina, across the wadi from my side of town. This is the first occasion that I’ve spent any amount of time there, and I ended up in places I haven’t been before.

What’s behind the door?

Doorway_1

Sunday is great for riding around, as the traffic is usually very light, compared to weekdays. Many of the pedestrians are tourists, mostly French from the conversations I overheard. I think sightseeing in the medina is more properly done by walking. There are a lot of things to see, and stopping every 5 minutes on the bike to take a photo gets old. It’s not that far from my apartment, though a complete walk around the old city would take a while. I want to get some souvenir shopping done before I leave for Thailand and Laos, so I’m sure I’ll make that walk soon.

Now, I’ve been in the upper reaches of the atmosphere while backpacking in the mountains of Montana, where the sky can be as blue as imaginable, but I have to admit the skies here can be as deeply azure as those in Big Sky Country. The color lends a good contrast to the beige of the old walls found in the medina. Below is one of the old gates (“bab” in Arabic) leading into or out of the medina. I didn’t have my guide book with me, so I don’t know its name, but there are many more, some of which are very impressive; I’ll get photos of them eventually.

Gate_1

One of the favorite resting spots in Meknes is a small, man-made lake. It’s lined with benches and quite a few people (I’m told) pass the time here, though it was very quiet today. Joggers, mothers with baby strollers and older children in tow, and couples talking in the shade populate this quiet area. Ducks and golden fish inhabit the lake. At one end is this crenellated wall, part of the old fortifications built by Moulay Ismail dating back to the 17th century.

Wall_1

All in all, it was an enjoyable couple of hours under the Moroccan sun. Montanans, with your low temperatures dipping into the teens today, are you envious? 😎 More later.

Itching to Travel

Time flies. Though I started March with a flurry of posts, it’s almost a week later that I write this next one. There are people I’ve talked with who think I lead an exotic life, being able to visit and live and work in countries that they can only dream of. That’s true for much of the time, but there are moments that I feel that I live a rather boring existence, and one day seems to flow into the next. So, the sometimes long intervals between postings do not seem that far apart to me. Still, living in Morocco usually provides me with enough interesting events to keep me writing, but lately I’ve settled into a rather monotonous routine. I guess I get lazy at times, but, for the most part, I feel like I lead a rather dull life. It’s all relative, I suppose, but sometimes there’s just nothing to say.

At any rate, I leave for Thailand and Laos in a few weeks, a three-week sojourn to my favorite part of the world, so far. Nothing dull about that. Cliched as it sounds, it IS a small world in which we (well, some of us) live. Just the other evening, Wednesday, I was fortunate enough to be part of a cultural presentation class for the students at the American Language Center here. One fellow, a Moroccan, had visited Texas a while back, so he gave a talk on the Lone Star State. Another, a young man from South Carolina who teaches at the ALC, spoke about his life and family heritage in the deep south. I gave a short presentation on Cajuns, an ethnic, cultural aspect of my father’s side of my family. It’s been years and years since I’ve been exposed to the people famous for jambalaya, gumbo and zydeco music, but it was a lot of fun talking about them. I think the 50 or so kids and adults who attended enjoyed hearing about our experiences in American culture.

Seriously, there’s not much to relate, from my point of view. I’m kind of bored. (I guess I should get out more) Perhaps I’m looking forward to my upcoming trip. But, the weather has been gorgeous; tomorrow and Sunday’s forecast is calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the 75-80 degrees F. range. Looks like a bike ride is in the forecast, too. I’ll probably also go shopping in the medinah for souvenirs for my friends in Thailand and Laos. Tyra and Eugene, former colleagues from Andong Univ. in Korea, are meeting me in Bangkok, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again. Eugene, an American, is working in Chanthaburi, a few hours from Bangkok and Tyra, Canadian, is slacking off (as Canadians tend to do) 😛 in Southeast Asia after teaching in Korea for several years. Wow! Only a few more weeks and I’ll be in the “Land of Smiles” again. Hope I can wait that long. More later.

Bike Ride to Boufekrane

Since tomorrow’s forecast calls for a bit of rain, I thought I’d take a bike ride today. I didn’t really have a particular destination in mind, so I meandered out to Boufekrane, famed throughout Morocco for its quality beef. I’ve been through the small village a number of times as an automobile passenger, but I’ve never biked there. It’s about 10 miles out through rolling hills, and I’ve always thought doing a bike ride might be a bit tough. Actually, it wasn’t that bad; the most difficult stretch is just getting out of Meknes. It’s a pretty country, very green right now, dotted with vineyards (not yet in bloom) and fields devoted to growing onions and potatoes. Many of the farmers sell their produce along the road; on the way back I stopped and bought a couple of oranges from a couple of guys selling them out of their car. Very juicy and tart!

Flower_Field_2

I’ve had a few people ask why I don’t feature more people in my photos. Today’s ride provides a good portion of the answer. I stopped along the way to take a photo and there was a fellow sitting well out of the shot I took. He was sitting under a tree and I didn’t even see him until he came wandering over. Then he demanded money. I asked why. He said because I took his photo. (We’re talking in French, of course.) I told him he wasn’t in my photo. He still wanted money. I refused. He was a bit of a rough looking character, so maybe I just should have given him a few dirham and let it go. However, I get tired of people asking for money whenever I take a photo of something that has nothing to do with them. If I want to take a shot with someone featured as the subject, I always ask first and give them a little money afterwards if they ask for it. Not much money, the equivalent of 10-20 cents. But I get more than a few people who figure they own the landscape or the sunset or whatever. I always refuse. This guy finally got the message that he wasn’t getting anything out of me, so he wandered away to go back to sitting under his tree. I should have snapped a quick shot of him and taken off on the bike. 😀

Small_Bridge

Anyway, it was still a pleasant ride, but the round trip total of 20 miles has me a tad tired–makes it easy to daydream about the upcoming trip to Thailand. Bwahahahahahah! 😎 More later.