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Pi Mai Lao 2017 Photos

The Lao New Year celebration (Pi Mai Lao) finished last week. It was a five-day observance this year due to the weekend, so that gave people more chances to party, and most Lao folks DO party! Compared to celebrations in Vientiane, where water gets thrown with abandon and parties are raucous, the countryside festivities are a bit more subdued. Here are a few photos of some of the goings-on.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Just up the road a bit at one of the small markets, children are having some light-hearted fun dousing passing motorbikes. Most of the riders didn’t seem to mind getting wet, and, unlike in some places, the water wasn’t ice-cold. I didn’t ride my ‘bike, so I was able to stay dry, if I wanted to. But, after setting my camera aside, I submitted to the water-tossing ritual.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Here water is being tossed at a couple of youngsters. Notice the red hair of the driver. The style is . . . how do I describe it? . . . mutton, I think, with the sides cut very short, but the top left alone and dyed. This is the current most popular style among Lao boys. I don’t know what the more conservative older folks think about it, but mom and dad apparently don’t care. Did the water get to these guys? See below.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Yeah, they got pretty soaked.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

The kids seemed to have tossed their water a little early at these two blondies (orangies?). Oh, well, hit a few, miss a few.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

These are two things that shouldn’t go together–beer and motorbikes. Most people who drink (and get drunk) aren’t too concerned about the danger of riding their motorbikes or driving their cars while intoxicated. It’s the number one cause of traffic accidents and deaths on the roads, most of which involve motorbikes. As an aside, I was in Vientiane this past Saturday, the 22nd, and I saw the results of four accidents, FOUR, in the span of about 30 minutes, all of them in, more or less, the same area of town, and all of them involving motorbikes. Just amazing.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

At the Pi Mai party at Nai’s sister’s house, Go, Nai’s niece, pours a bit of water down the back of Guay, one of Nai’s brothers. She got me wet (wetter, really) also, and the water WAS ice-cold. Quite a shock if you’re not expecting it!

Pi Mai Lao 2017

A few of the neighbor ladies, cousins, enjoying the party.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

And a few more celebrants. That’s Guay’s wife, Vee, on the far right. There were three different parties going on at the same time, all withing walking distance of each other, so people would go from party to party. Most of the people in this area are related–cousins, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Noy and Nui enjoy each other’s company. Nui is Nai’s sister and Noy is her husband.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Noy holds Namo, the young daughter of Lot, one of Nai’s sisters. Noy always gets along very well with the children in the area and they enjoy teasing and playing with him.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

This is Meow, Guay and Vee’s daughter. She’s quite the sweetheart and she seems to always have a nice smile ready for the camera. In this shot, I couldn’t get her to give me an open-mouth smile. Why?

Pi Mai Lao 2017

I finally got her to laugh, and, aha, her shyness is caused by the loss of a couple of baby teeth. Very cute.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

OK, so we’ve got people and beer, but what’s a party without lots of delicious food? Guay is working on that. Here, he’s stir-frying a panful of . . . what? Beetles, of course. What a treat! Uh, no thanks; I’m feeling kind of full.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Here’s the finished dish. Just dig in . . . use your hands . . . dip them in chili sauce.

Pi Mai Lao

Notice that the grilled fish is just below where I’m sitting. Guess who’s been chowing down on that.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Surely, there has to be something else to eat. How about some soup? Is there any soup? Of course there is. How about some awesome frog soup? Here’s some. Dig in. Looks like one of the little critters is trying to climb out of the bowl.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

No thanks on the frog soup. Anything else? Sure. Still hungry? Try some of this snake meat soup. Uh, I’ll pass on that, too. Thanks anyway. I’ll just finish this fish and have some rice. No problem.

Pi Mai Lao 2017

Well, that finishes this year’s Pi Mai Lao celebration. One more photo to show. Here are a few friends posing for the camera. Nai’s on the left and a friend, name unknown, is on the right, but who’s the old fart in the middle? Got his face and clothes powdered, I see. He looks fairly full from eating all that fish and rice. Guess he had a good time. See ya next year, sport.

Bangkok Trip December 2016

Here, finally, are some photos from my December vacation in Bangkok and Phuket. Below are some I made in Bangkok, and in the next post I’ll feature some Phuket photos.

My friend Nai and I stayed at the Silom City Hotel, which is about a three-star facility, so the price per night is fairly modest, about $40-45, depending on if you want to have the buffet breakfast, which is not that great, but it’s ample. The hotel is in a great location and the staff are wonderful, so it’s become our go-to place when we stay in Bangkok.

We were there for four nights, enough time to do a bit of shopping, walk around at night and wander through Lumphini Park, Bangkok’s version of New York City’s Central Park. I highly recommend Lumphini for some serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Here are the photos. If you’re interested in other scenes of Bangkok from previous trips, just do a search in the search box on this page.

(Please note that my Photo Gallery link on the right side of the page isn’t working at this time. I’ll try to get it back up soon.)

Bangkok Skyline

Here’s the view outside our hotel window up on the ninth floor (out of 10). If you stay at the Silom City Hotel, be sure to get a room that’s 8th floor or higher for a great view.

Ron at fountain at Lumphini Park

Here’s a fellow that looks suspiciously like me, posing at the fountain at the entrance to Lumphini Park. Nai took this picture, but he made everything in the photo look older than it is.

Lao man at fountain at Lumphini Park

This is my friend Nai at the fountain. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll recognize him from innumerable previous posts. What a ham!

Silom Skyline from Lumphini Park

This is near the entrance to Lumphini Park, looking toward the Silom section of Bangkok in the late afternoon. Around this time of day, many urbanites use the park for jogging, strolling, bicycyling and relaxing on the luxuriant grounds.

Nai at lake at Lumphini Park

Here Nai stares across the pond (lake) at Lumphini Park, watching the boaters enjoying the afternoon coolness.

Lumphini Park skyscrapers

Looking across the lake at Lumphini Park with the late afternoon sun highlighting some of the skyscrapers that surround the park. Perfect time to go boating.

Lumphini Park Lake

More skyscrapers around the lake, and one of the fountains is gushing, sending spray on some of the boaters. This is a great place to relax in Bangkok.

Dusit Thani Hotel spire

This is the spire atop the main building of the Dusit Thani Hotel in the Silom Area of Bangkok. I’ve never stayed there (too expensive), but I’ve heard it’s pretty nice. I took this photo at the entrance of Lumphini Park at dusk.

GPF Building in Bangkok.

This is the top of the GPF building in the Silom area. I took this one also from the entrance of Lumphini. The building is not far from the Dusit Thani, but I have no idea what the GPF stands for. I’m fairly certain it’s not a hotel, but it could be a bank or investment firm.

SantaRon

Today, Saturday, we had to work several hours to fulfill with our contractual obligations, so we had a fun day with our special Vision English classes. As happened last year at this time, I was asked to be Santa Claus in one of the activities we did. Huh!? Well, our students had to go around to various places on campus in a scavenger hunt activity, find the relevant teacher, and complete the English language tasks that were assigned. For SantaRon (yours truly), the students had to tell me two presents they wanted for Christmas and one present they didn’t want, and they had to give me reasons for wanting and not wanting the gifts. We also had some sports activities in the afternoon, which were interrupted by rain.

Not withstanding the fact that a normal day off was taken away, everyone seemed to have a good time, including me. But Santa wasn’t impressed.

Santa Ron

Where’s the Action

Anyway, it was all kinda fun, despite the rain and Santa’s boredom. It’s still raining quite heavy right now with more to come later, but Santa’s kind of happy to be high and dry in his apartment, wondering where Rudolph is hangin’ out, and dreading another Christmas run. Ho-ho-ho. More later.

Self Portrait-The Yeosu Menace

Finally, after a month or so delay, I got my new camera tripod that I ordered from Amazon.com. It gathered dust up in Seoul for about 5 weeks before I finally decided to track it down. After several phone calls, the delivery company got it here in good shape. Although it’s a cheapie, it has some good reviews, and it seems to be a pretty stable piece of equipment. It’s a Dolica Proline AX680P104 and you can read reviews at Amazon and elsewhere.

So, what does one do with a new tripod when one is hibernating because he hates the winter cold and wind? Simple. Take some photos of oneself in his cave (apartment) using the new tripod.

Here are a few shots I took last night using various colors reflected from the background screen on my laptop, which is to my right, to add a bit of mood. What shall I title these? Creepy Old Man? Portrait in Blue? Old Man’s Last Stand? They were fun to do, but the moody look on my part doesn’t reflect my true, innate, bubbly outlook on life. :smile:

This was interesting to play around with, so I’m sure I’ll post more self portraits at times. Stay tuned.

The Red Menace of Yeosu

Myself in red

Red Ron

The Blue Phantom of University Hill

Myself in blue

Blue Ron

Two Sides of the Mekong

I stayed a few short days in both Nong Khai, Thailand, and Vientiane, Laos. I mainly hung out along the Mekong River, and both cities have built up their respective riverbanks.

Nong Khai hasn’t changed all that much in the year since I’d last been there. It’s a pleasant walk along the river, where you can duck into one of the small shelters, out of the hot sun, and take a nap if you’d like.

There are also any number of small, open-air restaurants. Go in, sit by a fan and grab a snack or a meal. Here, Nai and I prepare to chow down. I’m the fella without glasses. Oh, sorry about that. You’ll just have to guess which one of the handsome guys is yours truly.

I forget what Nai ordered, but I got shrimp pad thai (first photo below) and spring rolls. Yummmmm.

You can also eat dinner ON the river by taking the dinner cruise boat, located at the end of the river walkway. It’s not too expensive and it’s worth it, in my opinion. Nong Khai is very colorful from the middle of the Mekong. One of my favorite sights is the Big Buddha that sits on top of one of the temples, contemplating the river and gazing into Laos.

This particular evening, the sun was close to setting and the golden light it cast really bought out the colors along the river bank.

Let’s take a look into Laos, shall we?

Not too much to see except temples and lots of vegetation. But, then again, it’s not Vientiane. You have to go about 20 kilometers upstream, as the river flows, to get to the capital city. In the past, the river was lined with small restaurants, merely chairs and grills set up to serve diners, but it was a nice spot to watch the sun go down over Thailand. Here’s a shot of one of our favorite spots from days gone by (actually, from December, 2009).

Here’s another one from the same time from the fourth floor location of the Bor Pen Nyang bar. However, this one shows some of the dramatic changes that would be made to the riverside. The image below it gives a broader look at the construction that was still ongoing in June of 2010.

The result of all that work is a very pleasant riverside park, one that Laotians can be very proud of. Gone from that area are all the old dining areas (they’ve moved farther down the river), but there’s a very nice walkway, play areas for the kids and lots of greenery. Here’s another view from almost exactly the same location from the Bor Pen Nyang. The park stretches nearly to the large, white Don Chan Palace hotel in the background, and I believe work is still being done on the section near there.

The two shots below were taken around 6 p.m. on a Saturday, so the place was fairly crowded with families, couples, singles and even a few monks, all out enjoying a stroll or riding their bicycles in the cooling evening breeze.

So, yeah, it’s a nice park and a welcome addition to Vientiane. I kinda miss the small eateries, but they can still be found if you look for them. Sitting on the river, sipping an ice-cold Beer Lao or another beverage of your choice and watching the sun go down over the Mekong is also still possible and a memorable experience.

That’s it for now. I’ll get some more photos up later of Bangkok and Phuket, so stay tuned.

Field Trip Revisited

As I mentioned before, we had a full-day field trip this past Saturday, so here are a few of the supposedly funny pictures my students and I took for entry into the English festival tomorrow. While they may not be all that hilarious, we had a great time taking them and visiting the various sites in Yeosu. With the new blogging software, just click on the photo to get a larger picture and click again for the maximum size. You’ll have to click the back button on your browser to return to the main page.

Here’s a shot of the four of us in the parking lot at Hyangiram Temple. From the left, the students are Kyung-hoon (kyuhng-hoon), Sun-tak (soon-tahk) in the middle at the bottom and Jong-cheon (Johng-chuhn) on the right. Yours truly is wearing the hat.

Funny_Picture1W

This one is at the Odong Island lighthouse, where we’re attempting to mimic the light house logo. There was too much contrast for my small digital camera to handle, so I played around with the shot in Photoshop to try to cut down on the glare from the upper right portion. Not entirely successful, but better than the original.

Funny_Picture5w

I suppose everyone’s heard about the altercation between the South and North Korean navies. Not really a big deal, as it’s happened before, but I hope things don’t escalate into something more serious. Most Koreans that I talk to are ho-hum about the event. Business as usual. The article states that Pres. Obama is visiting South Korea soon as part of a trip to Asia, beginning Thursday. As much as I browse the news daily, that’s one thing I didn’t know. Wonder if he’s coming to Yeosu? :-)

Weather, Wreck and a Few Photos

The weather has certainly changed. Gone are the cool, low-humidity mornings and the moderate afternoons. The sweat that pours out of me on my sunrise jogs has me feeling like I’ve just run through a rain shower. I’ve been wearing long pants to my classes in the afternoon, but I’ll be switching to shorts soon. And my room air-con, which I’ve not had on a whole lot, will now be put to ever more increasing use.

We hadn’t had much rain until last weekend. We had some gentle showers on Friday and Saturday, but Boca Chica had much more, so they told me at the Weekend Office. I think I knew that before I got there. As the Yankee bus to Santo Domingo slowed to let me off in Boca Chica, we noticed a logjam of traffic ahead of us. Skid marks in the watery mud led to a concrete power pole. Here’s what was at the end of those marks:

Boca_Chica_Wreck

This had to have happened not much more than 30 minutes before, since an ambulance arrived as I took the photo. Unbelievably, someone survived the single-vehicle wreck. I glimpsed a guy laid out on the ground, bloody arm and hand outstretched, propped on his elbow. I wasn’t about to get closer to take a photo–very inappropriate, and he was surrounded by a few dozen people as he was loaded into the ambulance. Not a pretty scene.

As promised, here are some photos of the April 24th visit to the camp by the U.S. Military baseball team. I thought it was the Army team, but the guys represent all branches of the military. They practiced with the Yankee players about 4 hours, then returned with some of the Yankee coaches to Santo Domingo, where they gave a baseball clinic to some youngsters. It was an interesting visit, something to break up the daily routine.

Infield practice at first base. The Yankee kid on the left is Reymond Nunez, from the D.R. He’s a top prospect who can crush the ball a mile. He’s got a great attitude and he’s an all-round good guy. Let’s hope he can hit a curve. If so, he could be a big star at the major league level. I wrote about him in an earlier post.

Army_Team1

Here, Coach Mota (in the shorts) gives baserunning instructions. Mota, coincidentally, coached with the Missoula minor league team for a few years in the early ’90s. I kid him that the cops are still looking for him.

Army_Team2

Military team members get ready for practice.

Army_Team3

Stretching before the practice session.

Army_Team4

Here’s one more photo: me with two of the smaller guys on the team. :)

Guillen_Ron_Manuel

If you can’t figure it out, that’s me in the middle. To the left is Luis Guillen, a pitcher, and the other fellow is Manual, the new strength coach. Both are from Venezuela. More later.

Lazy, Lazy, Lazy

Well, at least it seems that way as far as the length of time between posts lately, but I have been fairly busy writing lesson plans and teaching the classes. I finally have a few classes where all the students will be staying here throughout the summer, rather than shuttling between here and Tampa. Thus, I can plan a systematic progression of lessons for them. Come the first part of April, whoever is remaining and whoever returns from Tampa of the earlier group will also be staying here for the summer, so I can plan for them also. It’s keeping me busy. But, for the next couple of weeks, most of my classes will contain players who are going to Tampa the first part of April.

Then comes the good part. The first week in April is Semana Santa, or Holy Week, the week before Easter. The Yanks are putting us up again at Juan Dolio, this time for 10 days, so the rumors say. More beach time! As promised, below are some photos from the previous visit to Juan Dolio at the Decameron Resort Hotel.

Here I am piloting our catamaran back from Saona Island, steering my way easily through the calm waters. Nothing to fear, fellow passengers–the captain knew what he was doing when he entrusted your well-being to Cap’n Ron. Hey, where did those rocks come fr. . . .

Capn_Ron

A shot of the beautiful Saona, which, unfortunately, is no longer as pristine as it once might have been, what with the dozens of tourists (myself included) who visit there every day. A power boat took us out to the island, where we played volleyball or lounged in the sun. Included in the price of the trip ($50) were a barbecue and beverages, but the most fun was partying on the slow catamaran back. A group of American doctors and nurses, most of whom are from the Flint, Michigan area, was doing volunteer work in nearby San Pedro de Macoris. They were staying at the Decameron, so they made the tour also, and were quite prone to whooping it up in their offtime–a lot of fun to be around.

Saona_Island_1

Surprisingly, except for Saturday and Sunday, the beach at hotel was not that crowded. Here’s the view from one of the thatched-roof cabanas.

Cabana

The lack of crowds also made for good walking down the beach. Here are a couple of “washed up” boats, lonely in their demise, about a mile-long stroll from the Decameron.

Boats

Hope you enjoy these; I certainly enjoyed taking them. 😛 I’ll put them in the Photo Gallery, along with a few others I took. More later.

BIG Television

I went up to the big conference room/player rec room yesterday to begin my classes. A few players were watching TV (if they’re not in the particular class that day, I have to ask them to leave), but next to the 21″ television, on the floor, is this very large (50+”?) High-Def television. Wow! It’s not new and I was told it’s been in the shop for repairs. I suppose I might be watching a few more movies with the players at night! Hopefully, I’ll get the old 21″ set, since I don’t have one in my room yet. I’m also hoping the internet in my room will be hooked up some time next week. Aniuska has to check with Abel, who has returned to the campus. Unfortunately, the projector he bought is back-ordered until the first part of March.

The English Language Fellow program coordinators at Georgetown have asked any of us who keep blogs if we’d care to share with everyone else. I might do so, and if I do, I’ll be adding quite a bit more academic information about what I’m doing here, since that is what they want to focus on. However, I’m sure there are quite a few folks who would be interested in everyday news about working here at the Yankee campus.

I’m hoping to get a good turnout for a new beginner’s class on Monday. This one will be geared to those who don’t speak any English, including the tryout players who are in camp until the end of the month, coaches and members of the staff (cleaning ladies, for example). Since it’s Saturday, I’ll have a good excuse to run into Boca Chica for a while to make copies of the lessons for next week for all the classes. Oh, and I might soak up a little sun on the beach while I’m at it. 😎

Here’s a photo of the position players (outfielders, infielders and catchers) in class posing for the camera (along with Yours Truly–I think you shouldn’t have too much trouble picking me out). I’ll have to get one of the players to help me with some of the names, since I don’t remember all of them. I can remember them in class, when I have my list in front of me. I’ll post them below the picture when I get them all. I haven’t taken a photo of the pitchers, yet. I’ll try to get one soon. More later.

groupphoto2

Back Row, Left to Right: Ron, Kelvin Castro, Melky Mesa, Jimmy Paredes, Zoilo Almonte (somewhat below the others), Wangel Baez, Geraldo Rodriguez, Andreas Dionicio, Elvis Rodriguez, Josue Calzado
Seated, Left to Right: Julian Herrera, Alexis Arosemena, Alex Ramirez, Carlos Hernandez