Wow, long time, no see! There are various reasons for that, as usual. The spring semester has started here at the university, and we’re using new textbooks for one of the classes. Writing lesson plans for that class seems to be consuming a huge amount of my free time. We’re also having some gorgeous spring weather, so I’ve been spending a lot of time outside.
A few weeks ago, a couple of other teachers and I hiked to the top of one of the nearby hills, a walk I’ve made before, which you can read about here. It’s about a 30- to 45-minute hike through dense trees and vegetation, so there’s not much of a view going up. At the top, however, the view of Yeosu is spectacular. I took this panoramic shot, stitching together 8 individual photos into this single view. Click on the photo below a couple of times to get the large view.
Panoramic View of Yeosu Ocean
Although it was a bit on the chilly side and somewhat breezy, there was abundant sunshine, and it felt like true spring was just around the corner. Here, Rob and Corrie ham it up at the summit.
Rob and Corrie
There were a few trails back down on the other side of the mountain, but we couldn’t decide whether to take a trail to the top of the next rise or a trail down to the valley and then on to the ocean. Rob and I played rock-paper-scissors to decide, and I was the valley route competitor. I won, so we hiked down to the valley floor. Scattered throughout the hills of Yeosu, and, I assume, the entirety of South Korea, are these little pagoda picnic/shelter areas. Rob and Corrie are enjoying the view from this one.
On the way down we got a great view of the bay, as did a busload of company employees enjoying the day.
Finally, at the ocean, we stopped at one of the local cafes and had a small lunch. All in all, it was a great early spring day.
The next post will be about my recent stroll through the Yeosu outdoor market. See you then!
Spring seems to be fully here, with the cherry blossoms beginning to bloom, and azaleas, camellias and other flowers brightening the landscape. As a matter of fact, there’s an annual azalea festival at Yeongchuisan (san = mountain) this coming weekend that I’m going to visit.
So, despite 3 inches of rain last Friday, I decided to take a bicycle trip Saturday down to Jang-deung beach here on the Yeosu Peninsula. My riding companions were a couple of the new teachers, Rob, a Scotsman, and Trevor, from Canada. Now, both of these guys are much younger than I (who isn’t?) and in much better shape (insert another rhetorical question here). Trevor, especially, is quite the athlete; he’s a dedicated football (soccer) player, rides his bicycle all over the place, jogs, plays tennis and who knows what else. Rob’s no slouch either. When they suggested the ride, I was all gung-ho. Even though it looked like a fairly long trek and that it would be my first time out on my bike in almost 6 months, I thought I’d be ok. Wrong! It turned out to be a 36-mile (60 km) round trip. I haven’t ridden that far in about 20 years. Plus, it was mostly up and down hills, hills which I mostly pushed my bike up (or maybe it was pushing me). I probably spent more time pushing than riding. And, as I said, it was the first time on the bike in quite a while, so my muscles were sorely taxed by the end of the ride. I’m still recuperating.
However, it was fun for the most part and the scenery was pretty nice. We made it to the beach and stopped at a small restaurant on the way back and had some delicious fish stew. By that time, though, anything would have tasted wonderful. I just wanna thank the young studs for waiting for me at the top of all those hills. At least they didn’t have to carry me back! Here are some photos of the ride.
First, here’s a map of the peninsula. The university, from where we started, is circled in red at the upper right and the beach is at the left center. Click for a larger image.
Here we’re getting prepared to start the trip from our dormitory. That’s Trevor on the left and Rob, already on his bike. My trusty steed is in the foreground.
Beginning the bike trip
There are many small fishing towns and harbors sprinkling the coast. We all thought that it would be great to live in one of them as long as we didn’t have far to commute to and from work.
There are, of course, many beautiful spots along the coast. Here’s a small sample.
South Coast View
South Coast Shoreline of Yeosu Peninsula
Yeosu Peninsula South Coast View
Yeosu Peninsula South Coast View
The above photo is actually the beginning of Jang-deung beach, which is out of sight at the bottom of the photo. Here’s a shot of the beach.
And, here’s a view from the end of the beach. As usual, it’s pretty hazy along the coast looking toward the sun.
Another view from Jang-deung Beach
Rob and Trevor, showing no ill effects of the ride, mock my exhaustion. I took this shot just before I was put into the ambulance.
Rob and Trevor
If you take a look at the map again, you can see that just to the east of Jang-deung there’s a small island called Baekyado (pronounced dough = island). Connecting the island to the mainland is this pretty little bridge. Quite a few of the islands are accessible by bridge, though many more require a ferry boat ride. Rob and Trevor are taking one of the ferries to another island this Saturday. I really wanted to go, but, like I stated earlier, I’m still recuperating and the rash I got on my, ummm, . . . well, you can guess where . . . is still bothering me, so no bike ride this weekend. The more sedate azalea festival beckons.
Baegya Island Bridge and Harbor
Our total trip time was about 7 hours, but that include dawdling on the way (the young guys waiting for the old guy to catch up) and stopping at the restaurant. I’m really looking forward to doing some other bike trips, especially later in the year when the bicycle muscles in my legs are in better shape. As always, then, more later.
If you know me well, you know that before I became a dashing, international English teacher, I was involved in ten-pin bowling for many, many years–25, to be exact. My main occupation was pin-spotting machine mechanic (and quite a good one, if I may so humbly say), and I also worked as manager (briefly) and co-owner of a 12-lane center in the small, but friendly town of Glendive, on the eastern prairie of Montana. Due to the circumstances of the occupation, I also became quite a good bowler, but I eventually tired of the job and decided to pursue what I’m doing now.
My Favorite All-time Bowler, Dick Weber
Although the only time I bowl nowadays is when I go back to Laos and Thailand (because I introduced my friend Nai to bowling), I still keep up an interest in the activity. So, I was quite attracted to the information that my friend and former bowling buddy, (let’s call him, umm, . . . Ken) from Great Falls, Montana, a member of the Montana Bowling Hall of Fame, (despite being left-handed) sent me this news about international bowling.
Go ahead and click on the link to get the details, but international bowling is coming to Daejeon, South Korea on June 16th this summer. “Ken” indicated that if I were interested in taking in the event, he might try to come to Korea (he’s been here before) to see it also (and to visit with me). Unfortunately, that’s the same day I start my summer vacation, and I’m flying back to Thailand on that very day. “Ken,” if it’s still gonna be here in 2013, I’ll definitely make arrangements to see it with you.
But, for everyone else, if you’re going to be attending the 2012 Expo here in Yeosu around that time, you might consider taking in the Daejeon international pro bowling tournament. More later.
After a year-long struggle, my friend Nai’s mother succumbed to an illness last Friday night. I posted last May that the doctor had given her just a few months to live, but she held on this long, although she was often in great pain.
I still don’t know what took her life, but I suspect cancer or emphysema. I visited them last June, and it was very apparent how much she had wasted away. I’m heartbroken for Nai and his family. He told me that today he would “make fire” for her, meaning a traditional Buddhist cremation. He was practically inconsolable when I talked to him Saturday afternoon, but yesterday he was so busy cooking food for all the friends and family that were paying their respects that I think his mind was temporarily taken off his sadness. I imagine today will be quite sorrowful.
Below is a photo of her that I took back in August of 2006. She’s on the right, of course, with her youngest son Pui, Nai’s brother, on the left and one of her daughter’s girls in the middle. Rest in peace, Mer.
I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t write about the loss of one of our good friends in Bangkok. When Nai and I go to the Big Mango, we always look up our friends Git and Goh. We can usually find out where they’re hanging out by checking in at a hole-in-the-wall (HITW) restaurant/bar/karaoke where Git has worked at times and where he can quite often be found. We went there in late June and Nai asked about Git. The folks who own the place, who always welcome us with open arms, spoke with Nai for a bit, and Nai turned to me and said “Git die.” “What?!” I said. We were both too stunned for words. What a complete shock. It seems that he was getting severe headaches, but didn’t go see a doctor until it was too late. He passed on just after Songkran, around the middle of April, from what, I don’t know–encephalitis, meningitis, an edema or tumor?
Git was such an extremely outgoing guy, enthusiastic, polite. He was the one who would fill your glass with beer or ice if you were running low on either, the one who would wipe off a wet or messy table, the guy who would go punch in your karaoke tune. Though he wasn’t that great of a singer, he loved karaoke. He always encouraged me to give it a go, though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. The night we found out about his death, Nai and I went to our favorite karaoke bar and I sang a Beatles tune, “In My Life,” dedicated to him. A lot of tears were shed. We’ll miss you, Git. Rest In Peace.
Here’s a shot of Goh (on the left) and Git enjoying a bit too much beer in one of our favorite karaokes.
Coincidentally, while Nai and I were there this past June, Goh, who is deeply broken-hearted by the loss of his friend, was recuperating from what I think was an appendectomy up in his hometown of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. Nai phoned him after getting his number from the people working in the HITW restaurant/bar/karaoke, and from the description Nai gave me of his medical problem, it sounded like appendicitis. Goh will be back in Bangkok by now. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t post a photo of our friends who own and work in the HITW place. Quintessential Thai–friendly, fun-loving and welcoming.
Today marks the beginning of the 3-month long Buddhist Lent period, known as Khao Pansa (or Phansa or Vassa). It occurs at the start of the rainy season, and it’s the time when Buddhist monks return to their home monasteries, there to remain for the remainder of Lent. It’s also a time when ordinary folks increase their spirtual activities and, perhaps, give up some of their luxuries (smoking, drinking, meat) for the period, much like the Christian Lent period. Click here and here for a couple of web sites that talk about this in more depth.
I talked to Nai last night, and he and his family were busy preparing an elaborate meal to serve today to the monks at the wat near his house. I was present several years back during this time, and below are a couple of photos from then.
Here’s the meal, with Nai and some friends who helped serve it.
Guess who got to wash the dishes afterwards?
This is merit making, doing good deeds, not because it’ll gain you spiritual favor, but because it’s the right thing to do. Another way of merit-making is to release animals, like birds, fish or turtles, that have been captured. Many of the animals can be purchased near the temples (a bit of a racket, it you ask me) and then released at the temple or elsewhere. While I was in Laos this summer, Nai made merit this way in the hopes that his fatally ill (according to Lao and Thai doctors) mother would gain favor. First, he purchased a couple of small turtles at one of the markets, then bought some birds at Wat Si Muang, where he prayed for about 10 minutes with one of the monks. Then we went to the Mekong, where he released the birds and the turtles.
Here are a few shots of the various statuary at Wat Si Muang.
Nai also told me that the local villagers have been warned that a repeat of the flooding of 2008 is once again a possibility. Many people blame it on the upstream dams built by the Chinese, but there’s certainly been a huge amount of rain in China that’s contributing to high water levels. Let’s hope they don’t get higher. More later.
I mentioned in my previous post that I could eat Mekong fish all day. New Year’s Day put that statement to a test. It seems that eating fish on that day is a Lao tradition, at least among Nai’s family and friends. About 20 good-sized fish were purchased, cooked and eaten, with friends and relatives dropping by from time to time to enjoy the feast. I kept nibbling, right along with everyone else, and by the time all the food was taken care of, I was stuffed. Here’s a sampling of the New Year fare, which also includes noodles, sticky rice, various greens, papaya salad, spicy bean paste dip, and, of course, the ever present bottles of Beer Lao.
But, what’s a holiday feast without friends and family? Below, from left to right, are a cousin (name unknown), Nui (Nai’s sister), a friend of the family (name unknown), and camera ham Nai.
Of course, many other people came and went, some staying to dance to the music blaring from loudspeakers set up outside by Pui, one of Nai’s brothers. Here’s Nui and her mother enjoying a dance together.
Here’s Nai with some friends and cousins enjoying the day.
Finally, this fellow was already two sheets to the wind and was pretty much out of it by the end of the festivities.
Next up: Christmas in Vang Vieng
As promised, I’m finally posting some photos and comments about my recent trip to Laos and Thailand. Some of the comments I made in earlier posts, so if I duplicate myself, forgive me. I’ll post these over a period of days (hopefully), so hang in there.
Here’s a photo of my former Andong University colleague, Tyra, with whom I rendezvoused in Bangkok. She’s a Canadian and is now basking in the sun on the beaches of Bali. We also hooked up with Eugene, another former colleague (American), but for some odd reason I didn’t get any photos of him nor did he get any of me. Strange. Perhaps we were focused in on the lovely Tyra. You can see more photos of her at the Photo Gallery. This is at Wat Pho in Bangkok, site of the Reclining Buddha.
So, it was up to Laos after the short stay in Bangkok. I met Nai at the train station in Nong Khai, Thailand, and we crossed the border into communist Laos. Believe me, unless you have to deal with the bureaucracy, you wouldn’t know it was a communist state. The people, for the most part, are not political. Many of them dislike the system, but they accept it with a nonchalance that reflects their easy-going lifestyle, or so it seems to me. If another system were in place, they would probably feel the same way.
Anyway, we hung out at Nai’s house and in Vientiane for several days before heading up to Vang Vieng. Before leaving, Nai introduce me to his wonderful friends, Say (pronounced “sigh”) and his wife Joi (“joy”). Great people, who welcomed me into their home like I was a long-lost brother. I would see more of them when we returned to Vientiane later. Here are Say and Joi sharing a tender moment.
Then it was off to Vang Vieng, about which I have written. Like I stated in an earlier post, the weather was beautiful. Compare the following picture with the one I took last June.
Here are some photos from the river float. I’m not sure I’d want to try this during the rainy part of the year when the river is high. Here are Nai, a lady whose name I forget, and Guy (the friend of the woman) putting in at the start point.
Here’s Nai in a death defying slide at one of the many stops along the river.
And here is Robert, a fellow who was along with Guy and his girlfriend and who works in Vientiane, and Nai with a cool Beer Lao at one of the many beverage stations lining the river. Actually, it looks like they’ve had more than a couple.
There’s not a whole lot to do in Vang Vieng besides float the river. You can explore some caves or do a little hiking in the mountains. Here, Nai sits on a quaint, little, orange suspension bridge that leads to one of the caves. (Notice the Morocco cap he’s wearing.)
After a busy day on the river, though, you can visit, if that’s your thing, one of the many bars along the main tourist drag where seemingly bored tourists lay on futons watching reruns of “Friends,” something I just don’t understand. Why come all the way to Laos and then lay around like zombies entranced by the boob tube? And that seems to be all that these bars show, and there are plenty of them, at least half a dozen, all showing “Friends” reruns, speakers turned up to the max. Idiotic. Vang Vieng is infamous, though, for catering to the “pot head” tourist, so maybe the folks watching TV are actually pretty much “zoned out,” unable to do much of anything else. Just my opinion. I won’t patronize these places; the gal who came tubing with us suggested that we go to one to eat before we went out to the river, but I refused.
Or, you can walk along some of the side streets and try out some of the local food at one of the numerous vendors. Here we found some delicious chicken, broiled over the standard charcoal fire.
Ok, that’s enough for now. I’ll continue the journey to Luang Prabang the next post. More later.
At the guesthouse, I got a note from Tyra. She said that she had stayed up as long as she could, waiting for me to get there, but finally had to get some sleep. Well, it was good to know that she had made it and I found her the next morning. We had breakfast together and then called Eugene on his cell phone. He’s working in Chanthaburi (spelling might be wrong), about 60 miles from Bangkok. Fortunately, he was able to get some time off and he was staying at a guesthouse near us. So, we hooked up for the day, visited some temples, rode around on the river boats and had dinner together, catching up on old times at Andong University and on what our plans were for the future.
As a side note, I might mention that it appears my Moroccan job is finished as of the middle/end of July. A new ruling by the State Dept. says that English Language Fellows can only renew once for an existing project. John wanted to put me in Rabat for a different project, so it looks like I’m out of a job. I’ve sent a few emails to Georgetown University (administrator for the ELF program) and to the State Dept., expressing my complaints about what seems like a mid-stream switch. I doubt it will do any good. As soon as I get back to Meknes, I’ll start sending out applications. Going back to work in Korea is a definite possibility, maybe even back to Andong. There are also numerous job opportunities in the Middle-East, and John mentioned he might also have a few contacts. I’m sure something will pop up.
I said my goodbyes to Tyra and Eugene and hopped aboard the overnight train to Nong Khai, an uneventful journey to the northeast and to Isan country, gateway to Laos.
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.