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Another Year Goes By

Yes, Happy Birthday to me again, as another year passes by all too swiftly. It’s my ??th birthday, but I couldn’t really celebrate it today, since I had to go to the school for a bit this afternoon, and I have to get up around 5 a.m. tomorrow to get ready to go to classes, so it’s early to bed tonight. I’ll probably do a later party tomorrow.

We did do up a birthday cake. Here it is.

My ??th birthday cake.

My ??th birthday cake.

Now, if you really want to know how old I am, try to count the candles. I tell ya, it was horrid. Before I finished lighting all the candles, my fingers got stiff and I went through several books of matches. To top it off, wax was everywhere, which made the cake almost inedible. Though it’s been decently mild here lately, the build up of heat from the candles forced us to turn on a couple of fans to cool us down. As a matter of fact, we needed three fans set very close to the cake and turned up high to get the candles blown out. Well, at least it didn’t start a fire. (See previous birthday posts here and here.)

All in all though, I’m happy I made it through another year. It’s certainly better than the alternative! Thanks everyone for your well wishes.

That Time of Year, Again

Yup, it’s the time of year for a couple of things. First, Happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends in the States and to all Americans wherever you happen to be. For me, it’s just another day, a regular working day, no less. I won’t be cooking up anything special; I’m having pork cutlets, mashed potatoes and some baked beans (cooked on the stove). I don’t have an oven, so roasting a turkey or chicken is out of the question; I content myself with memories of past Thanksgivings. I can smell the turkey roasting in the kitchen right now, and I remember the smell of the pumpkin pie being baked the evening before. Mmmmm, are you all enjoying the aromas, too? Getting ready to sit down to a nice feast, and watch a football game afterward? Maybe later playing some board games with the kids? Whatever you do, have a great day!

Let’s see, what am I thankful for? I guess I’m thankful for making it through another year. By that I mean my ??th birthday, coincidentally, falls on Thanksgiving this year (or vice-versa), as it does every 7 years or so. Whoopee! Party time! Break out the good Scotch and light the cake! Well, I was gonna light the candles, but I’m afraid of starting another out-of-control conflagration. (See here and here.) I had to quit adding candles about here and was afraid to light them up.

birthday cake candles

Also, taking all of the candles back out so that I could eat a thousand or so calories of goo just wasn’t worth it, so I threw the whole mess out. Happy Birthday, MontanaRon and Happy Thanksgiving to all. More later.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass . . .

Yes, it’s that unremarkable time of the year again at which I experience another birthday. How many? Who’s counting! Let’s just say that there are enough candles on the cake to create a fire hazard. So, this year I thought I’d have the cake outside. Well, quite a crowd showed up to keep warm after I lit the candles! A few folks even brought some marshmallows to toast. Here’s a shot I took of the crowd gathered around the cake.

My Birthday Cake

My Birthday Cake

We’re up to our eyeballs here with final exams and paperwork and reports to wrestle with. Luckily, all the teachers begin a 3-week vacation after next week. I’m going to hang around in Yeosu this winter; I just can’t afford to go anywhere else. I’m sure I’ll find plenty to do, including trying to keep this blog more up to date. So, stay tuned for more later. I’ve got quite a backlog of photos to post.

Laos Kids

One of the fun subjects of travel photos is taking shots of kids. Children everywhere are ingenuous and innocent, and don’t seem to mind when some strange, old foreigner sticks a camera in their face. Most of the time, I’ve found, they like to ham it up for the lens. As usual when visiting Nai and his family in Laos, I had plenty of opportunities to take some shots of all the kids in the family area–sons and daughters of Nai’s brothers and sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews, as well as assorted neighborhood children.

While I was there, a couple of the families had birthday parties for their young daughters. Some of the photos, then, are from the parties.

Here, everyone’s getting ready for one of the parties, blowing up the balloons, preparing some of the food, with the bamboo baskets filled with sticky rice.

Children's Birthday Party

Laos Birthday Party

Earlier, the wife of Won (Wahn), one of Nai’s brothers, prepared the sticky rice. Sticky rice is eaten with your hands, generally out of a bamboo basket, and can be dipped into a hot (spicy) sauce, or can be used to grab a handful of really hot papaya salad.

Preparing Sticky Rice

Preparing the Sticky Rice

Some of the kids chowed down on a few appetizers.

Lao Kids Birthday Party

Chowing Down on a Few Appetizers

So, what exactly are they eating? Deep fried chicken feet, of course. (Never tried ’em myself)

Deep Fried Chicken Feet

Deep Fried Chicken Feet

Here’s one of the birthday girls, Took, who was 8 year old, if I’m not mistaken. Notice the money wrapped around her wrists with string–birthday gifts from the people attending the party. Most of it will probably go to her parents, to help with the party expenses, but she’ll get some of it, I’m sure.

Laos Birthday Girl

Birthday Girl, Took

Here’s Nai with his brother Guay’s (Gway) daughter.

Nai with baby

Nai with baby

Here’s a few shots of one of Won’s kids, just a cute, adorable little guy. I’d guess he’s about 4.

Lao Child

Cute Guy

Cute Lao Kid

Cute Young Guy

Hey, let’s see what those shades look like on you. Cool!

Young Lao boy with sunglasses

Cool Kid

And a few more shots. Looks like somebody got banged up. Guay’s daughter with Nui, one of Nai’s sisters.

Lao baby with slight injury.

Banged Up

Nap time?

Nap time for young girl

Nap Time

And finally, here’s Kim, never camera shy, the son of Nai’s sister Lot.

Lao Boy

Kim

I’ll try to get the final photos of my trip posted soon, so, as always, more later.

Happy Birthday to Me, Part ??

Clinging precariously by my fingertips, I survived another year, but it’s just another day around here–work, work, work. No time to celebrate. However, I did buy a large cake and several boxes of candles. Now, I’m not sayin’ that I’m gettin’ old, but below is a photo of me as I’m preparing to light the candles. I’ve also got a fire extinguisher handy to forestall anything like last year’s catastrophe. Wish me luck!

Another Year, Another Fire

Yup, I lucked out and made it to another birthday celebration. I don’t know how, but I’m thankful that I did. Unfortunately, I’m writing this from my office. Here’s what happened.

I bought a smallish cake, since I observed my big day alone (no party, because I have to work tomorrow). Unfortunately, I put a candle for each year into the cake and attempted to light them all and make the obligatory wish. I don’t know what the hell happened, but one minute I was enjoying the almost tropical heat of the candles and the next I was being dragged out of my apartment. Thank goodness the Yeosu Fire Department was on the ball. One of the other English teachers managed to capture the conflagration with his cell phone, the only thing he was able to save. (See photo below.) Luckily, only the first two floors of the dorm were gutted. They’re going to move us all to the 6th floor for now. I’ll probably not mess around with any candles next year.

Hope

Hopefully, this isn’t my last post for a while. War games involving South Korea and the United States will begin tomorrow in the Yellow Sea (West Sea to South Koreans) near the line demarcating the North and South, and Crazy Uncle Kim in the North says that this will bring the peninsula to the brink of war. The U.S. has deployed an aircraft carrier to be part of the exercise, so if the nut jobs want to start something, I’m sure they’ll have their hands full.

Hopefully, nothing will happen. Hopefully, North Korea will get an earful from its only ally, China. China has a big stake in all of this. Many analyses that I’ve read state that it can’t afford to let the North Korean regime get involved in a full-scale war for a couple of reasons. It would likely mean the collapse of the N. Korean government, which would mean that hundreds of thousands of refugees would cross the northern border into China. More dire for the Chinese is the possibility of a new pro-American government coming into power, something they certainly don’t want to see.

However, many South Koreans are calling for blood, and CNN is reporting that protests by members of the military are spreading in Seoul. The protestors are demanding that a strong response to the recent shelling is necessary.

Hopefully, the situation won’t escalate any further, and, hopefully, I’ll be posting tomorrow. After all, it’ll be my ??th birthday. :smile:

Vientiane Celebrates 450th Birthday

This weekend, the capital city of Laos is marking its 450th year since its founding in 1560, when the capital was moved from Luang Prabang out of fear of Burmese invaders. There have been lots of celebrations, and when I phoned Nai on Friday night, it sounded like the party had moved to his house. He told me that a lot of the neighbors were whooping it up, and I think he had his somewhat loud TV tuned in to the goings on at the National Stadium. So, Happy Birthday, Vientiane!

Having Fun On My Birthday

Yup, I’m celebrating (?) another year. How many now? Let me think . . . ummm . . . lemme see, where the heck is that calendar . . . better figure out where I put down my glasses first . . . no, not there . . . maybe over here . . . ouch, hit my toe against the couch leg . . . ahh, there they are . . . now what the heck was I doing? . . . and where the HELL are my teeth?

Ok, not that bad. As a matter of fact, I jogged 6 miles this morning, lifted weights, did 80 situps and 100 pushups and only after THEN did I fumble around for my oxygen tank and mask. I invited a bunch of friends over to celebrate, but they said they would rather go out and have some “fun.” I took a photo of me celebrating. Here it is.

old_birthday

More later. (I hope)

Fire and Ice

I managed to get through another birthday last week, and my mother sent me an e-card which featured animated fireworks. Coincidentally, Yeosu held a Fireworks Festival the evening before, featuring a contest between teams from 4 countries–Korea, China, the Netherlands and France. (I don’t know who won.) Unfortunately, I had a night class to teach. Afterwards, however, I was able to see some of the higher bursts arcing above the mountain across from my apartment. Here’s one of them.

Fireworks1

Nai has been voicing his annual complaint about how chilly it is at night in Laos (mid-fifties fahrenheit). His family doesn’t have running hot water and he says that when he takes a bucket shower “water is same-same eye.” (Most Lao people have difficulty pronouncing the “s” sound at the end of English words, so here he is saying the water is like ice.) Well, it’s about to get even colder. The weather forecast is predicting temperatures in the mid-forties next week, which is VERY cold for Laos. Luckily, it is also forecast that the low temperatures won’t last for very long. Good thing, because I’m heading there on the 14th.

I got quite paranoid about the recent problems in Thailand, with protesters closing Suvarnabhumi Airport. I was afraid it might still be shut down or closed for safety checks after the protesters abandoned their siege. So, I had my travel agent in Seoul change my itinerary. Instead of flying from Seoul to Hong Kong to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific Airlines, I’m now flying from Seoul to Hanoi, Vietnam on Vietnam Airlines and from there to Vientiane on a rickety old Laos Airline plane. Naturally, the airport authority in Thailand is now saying that the airport will reopen for normal business in just a few days. Bad timing on my part. Wish me luck.

My Transportation to Vientiane

Airplane1