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Born Under a Bad Sign

Well, my friend Nai has done it again or it’s been done to him or whatever. The guy just doesn’t have much luck at all, though I doubt luck has much to do with it. As you may recall, he was in a bad motorcycle accident a few months ago, and it has been only recently that he seemed fully-recovered. He had a bout with malaria recently, too. A week-and-a-half ago, he told me his mother was sick. She was in the small local hospital (woefully inadequate) next to his house, and he had been going over there to bring food to her and to sit with her. He had also been working in the Vientiane morning market, getting up at 2 a.m. to go there to sell rice, making a bit of money, becoming somewhat self-sufficient. (I gave him the money to get started in this.)

A few days ago I called him to say hello, but his brother Pui answered Nai’s cell phone and said he was at the hospital with his mother. “OK, I call back tomorrow,” I told him. The next day he was at the hospital and the day after that. Finally, it hit me that he wasn’t seeing his mother, but, instead he was IN the hospital himself. I confirmed that with Pui. “Nai have accident?” “Yes,” Pui said, “Nai accident. Hospital Vientiane.”

Then I got an email from his father yesterday, written with the help of one of Nai’s English-speaking Lao friends. Apparently, Nai had been getting more and more tired from working the market that time of day, and, when he got up to go to the toilet and get ready to go into work again, he fell (fainted? passed out?) and smashed his head on the concrete floor. It sounds like he suffered a concussion, at least. I talked to him this morning, finally, and he was pretty much out of it, groggy with the medicine he’s taking and his head in a lot of pain. He said he might have to go to the hospital in Nong Khai, across the river in Thailand, maybe for a couple of weeks. His mother is also still very ill, apparently, and, of course, the family has no money to cover hospital, doctor and medicinal expenses. Guess who does? Yes, I was asked by the father, who is a very dignified old gentleman and not one to beg, if I could send a few thousand dollars to help the family. My finances lately are really hurting, but I couldn’t say no and let them suffer without medical care and medicine. I can hardly wait to get back there in July to say hello and see in person what’s going on with Nai and his family. I’m always happy to see them and they make me feel like part of their family. I’ll spend most of my time in Laos staying with them and save money by staying out of Vientiane hotels and guest houses. I just pray they’re all in good health soon.

Talking about my faltering finances, my mother told me that I had been getting calls the last few days from one of my credit card companies, telling me to call them about possible fraudulent use of the card. I thought it was probably just a response to my using it to purchase my plane ticket to Thailand, but, no, someone had been using the credit card number in California, mainly for small purchases at Target and McDonalds. How they got the number (and then made a fake card out of it) I don’t know. I’m sure it was nothing they found online, since I’m very careful about covering my tracks online and keeping my anti-virus, anti-spyware programs up to date. I used that particular card in Santo Domingo the past several weeks, at FedEx and at D’Luis Restaurant, a respectable, somewhat upscale establishment. Could someone there have copied my cc info and sold it? Possibly, I suppose. Anyway, the card was canceled and a new one is on the way to my Montana address.

In addition, I am now waiting for the other shoe to drop on my income taxes. The IRS told me it would take about 6-8 weeks to render a judgment on the fees and penalties I owe, and that’s right . . . about . . . now.

On a brighter note, we had some sunshine today. Only a couple hours worth, so far, but sunshine nevertheless. Also, in a follow up to my last post in which I was somewhat skeptical about the current state of affairs in the U.S., here’s a speech given by Pulitzer Prize-Winning reporter Chris Hedges. It pretty much sums up my feelings. It’s long, but give it a go if you’re interested. (And I’m sure many of you are not. :) )
More later.

Nai Update (2)

It sounds like Nai’s out of the woods, so to speak. I talked to Pui this morning and he said “Nai ok. Nai stay hospital two weeks.” He sounded optimistic, so I hope everything will be ok. Once he gets back home, I’ve got to get him to swear off riding motorbikes. He was pretty leery about riding them after his previous accident, so I suppose he’ll be amenable to agreeing to stay off them as much as possible. You wouldn’t believe the number of accidents and deaths that occur from riding the things. It seems like every week he tells me about cousin so-and-so who had an accident and is in the hospital, or about a friend of a friend who died in an accident. Terrible things, terrible drivers, but ubiquitous in such a poor country where not many people can afford automobiles.

A Sad Time

I received some terrible news from Laos this morning. Nai told me yesterday that he was going to Vientiane today to send me email. He’s not very tech savvy, so this is always a big deal and a proud moment for him, to show off his internet skills. Sure enough, there was an email from him in my “In Box” this morning. I eagerly clicked it open, only to read that it was written by a friend of his who has some moderate English language skills. He wrote that Nai had been badly injured in a motorbike accident and was in the intensive care unit at a Vientiane hospital. The doctor thinks that he needs an operation and they’ll probably have to transport him to a Thailand hospital with better facilities than those in Laos. Because the family has no money to speak of, they need about $4,000 for the operation.

I am totally devastated; writing this is very difficult for me. This is my best friend in the world, someone whom I love as a brother–more, actually. The money doesn’t matter. Of course, I wired it to his bank account today. His mother has access to the account, so she’ll have enough to pay the hospital bill. I also called Nai’s brother, Pui, who speaks a little (very little) English to confirm that Nai is in the hospital, to make sure that the friend wasn’t scamming me. It’s confirmed–he’s in the hospital, though Pui couldn’t tell me much more than that, due to the language barrier. That’s tough, not being able to communicate. I have a couple of Lao language books, so I’m going to really work at learning the language, but in the short term I can at least put together a few phrases to find out what’s going on.

That’s about all I know now. I don’t know where he’s hurt or how badly. His friend wrote that he might have to stay in the hospital for a long time, so it doesn’t sound good. One positive note is that Nai had to be fairly lucid and coherent to give to his friend his Yahoo Mail username and password.

Damn those motorbikes! Nai had a serious accident a few years ago, doing a face plant in the middle of a road near his house. This one sounds much worse. I constantly ask him to be very careful if he’s going to ride his motorbike. I’m sure he was, but there are many others in Laos who just don’t pay attention to what they’re doing (or are too drunk while riding). I’ll keep you updated, but please remember Nai in your thoughts and prayers.

Nai_Eating

Time Flies, Accident, Doubleheaders and More!

Only a few more weeks remain until I leave the D.R. for a few months. I don’t have that many classes left to teach, so I’m kind of treading water, so to speak, with a few of the classes. I’ve been using a textbook with them, adapting it to be more relevant to young, Latin American baseball players and augmenting it with my own materials. We’re at the end of a chapter and I don’t want to start a new one, knowing that we wouldn’t finish it before I leave, so I have to come up with some other suitable material for a while. One of the universities, UNIBE, from Santo Domingo, is coming here to give a few workshops, such as communication skills, financial management, conflict resolution and others to the players, and the week of July 2-6 belongs to them. Effectively, then, I only have next week left to teach.

I witnessed a pretty bad motorcycle accident last Sunday. One guy pulled away from the curb and smacked into an oncoming ‘cyclist, who had the right of way. One fellow got up ok, but the other stayed down, holding his leg and obviously in quite a bit of pain. He was eventually transported away in an ambulance, which had to part the large crowd of onlookers to get to him. I was in a market across the street when it happened.

The Yankee and Bomber squads have seen an unbelievable amount of action this week. Remember I posted about all the rainouts? Well, they’ve been making them up this week. Monday through Thursday, the Yanks are playing 4 (!) doubleheaders in a row and the Bombers are playing 3, having only one game to play yesterday. The games are only 7 innings each, but with the early morning workout from about 7:30 to 9, that’s still a lot of time on the field. Yesterday, the Yanks, the away team, didn’t get back to the campus until 4 p.m. Obviously, getting them to come to classes is a chore, and they’ll be ready for a break this weekend.

I found out that there is also supposed to be another concert at the Boca Chica beach this weekend, along with the one I mentioned that is taking place just down the road east of here. So, the players will have plenty of opportunities to spend their recent paychecks and to let off a little steam. I hope they don’t go overboard. Most of the Dominican players will go to their various cities for the weekend, but the foreign guys will hang around the area.

I just submitted a few photos to the online international photography magazine Lens Culture. They’re doing a project to get 1000 photos of Buddha submitted to them and put online. I sent them 5 of my Thailand and Laos photos, but they won’t be able to get to them for a few months, since they’re swamped with submissions.

Also, if you’ll recall, I posted a while back that the Current cable network had filmed here and the show would air sometime around the middle of June. Unfortunately, someone didn’t pay the bill and we’ve been without cable television since June 1st, so I can’t tell you if the show has been on or not. More later.

5 Straight, Boca Chica Photos

Again, we had some heavy showers over night and again, for the 5th straight game, the team won’t be playing here today. It looks like the bus is fired up, so perhaps the away game might be played. Now, though, the skies are clear and sunny, so let’s hope good weather is here to stay.

As promised, I finally took some photos of Boca Chica, most of which I’ll post to the Photo Gallery. But, here are some for your perusal.

Here’s a scene along the main road in the town, Avenida Duarte. There’s lots of these places where you can buy a large variety of paintings. I don’t know how much of them are mass produced. I saw a guy painting one once and the canvas had all the outlines of the various elements already drawn in, much like a Paint-by-Number kit. Still, they’re pretty. The canvas rolls up easily for traveling, so if I have enough room in my baggage, I might bring a few back.

Boca_Chica_Paintings

Here’s a shot along the beach. It’s unusual in that there are very few people here, even though it’s a Saturday.

Boca_Beach_1

Maybe everyone was at the Harley-Davidson festival that day. Here’s one of the bikes–lots of nice looking ones.

Boca_Harley_1

Here’s a view from my usual hangout, under the palm trees. This is the best part of the beach, in my opinion. Everything here, food and drink, is a bit expensive, but you’re really paying for the ambience.

Boca_Beach_5

Finally, we haven’t had too many good sunrises or sunsets lately, but this one was kind of nice. The white dot in the upper middle of the photo is Venus.

Sunset-6-7-1

Also, I forgot to mention (and I hope I don’t jinx them) that the Big Club has now won 8 in a row and cut the Red Sox lead to 8 1/2 games.

Breaking News!

Ok, it’s not that breathtaking, but since I started writing this, the Diamondbacks bus came to the camp. At first I thought that they were going to try to play a game here, but, looking out my bathroom window, I see that the Yankee team is boarding the bus. Obviously, the Arizona club, which was supposed to play here today, sent their bus to pick up the Yanks and take them to the Diamondback field, which must have missed all the rain. Our bus, in the meantime, is transporting the Bombers to the regularly scheduled away field (haven’t looked to see who they are playing). Obviously, our camp lay right under the path of the bands of rain clouds that have been passing through the area, but some of the other camps were spared.

Football, CALL and Chinese New Year

Tonight might be the final match for the Moroccan team in the Africa Cup. They could only manage a 0-0 tie against host Egypt last Tuesday, but they needed to win. Only a miracle puts them in the quarterfinals. Cote d’Ivoire (already guaranteed a spot) must beat Egypt soundly and Morocco must trounce Libya. However, since Egypt is the host country, the chances of them not advancing are pretty slim, my students tell me. Politics, it seems. Both games are tonight, being played at the same time (5 p.m. local) in different stadiums. I assume the Morocco-Libya game will be shown here. (I wonder of Khadafy will be attending.)

Lots of rain and wind the last 3 days, chilly but not cold. Not a tropical monsoon type of rain, just a steady drizzle most of the time. The forecast calls for more of the same the next couple of days. I suppose that’s better than a foot of snow and 30 below. As Karen, my friend in Boston, reminds me, the start of baseball spring training is getting closer. It seems not that long ago that both her and I were down in our cups when both of our favorites were knocked out of the playoffs. Ahhh, but this year . . .

Mohammed wants me to teach a 10-week course at one of the local universities on the subject of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). It would be just one two-hour class per week, and I think it would be fun and interesting to do. I’ve already planned to do a CALL module at the CPR, so it’s not really an extra burden. I have to get John’s approval first. There are certain guidelines about where I can and can’t teach.

I talked to my friend Nai in Laos earlier today and found out that his brother Pui (pooey) got into a motorbike accident and had to go to the hospital. Geez, these guys and their motorbikes. Nai’s had a couple of accidents on his and he tells me about accidents that members of his extended family have had. A few of his relatives and friends have died riding these things. Fortunately, Pui will be ok. Right now they are celebrating the Chinese New Year (Year of the Dog), so there are probably a lot of folks riding around with more than a few Beer Laos under their belt. Even though Nai is not a big drinker, I told him to be careful, especially of other riders, who will swerve to avoid the numerous potholes found on most of the Laos roads. More later.

Sad News

Very bad news here at Andong National University. All of us foreign teachers lost a good friend last night when Rick Carrier was killed in a motorcycle accident in Cheongju, about 3 hours from here. Rick was a teacher at ANU for several years before moving on to Cheongju in February this year. He was a friend to all. He is survived by his wife, Kay, and our deepest condolences go out to her.

This underscores the extremely high rate of traffic fatalities in Korea, one of the highest rates in the world (see here and here, among other sources). [EDIT: 10/26/2013–The death rate seems to have gone down drastically, according to this site.] I was seriously considering buying a used motorcycle, but Rick’s death will definitely cause me to rethink any purchase plans.