MontanaRon

An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Tag: world (page 2 of 3)

Korean Culture Deadly to Thais?

Here’s an article about the dangers of Korean culture for young Thailand imitators.

In the mascaraed eyes of Thai teenyboppers, South Korea is ground zero of hip.

So the writer of this article begins his story. Korean boy and girl bands, movies and soap operas are all the rage in the Land of Smiles and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Thai authorities, however, warn that the mascara, big eyelashes, and skin pigmentation used by Thai teenyboppers are dangerous to their health. They’re even blaming an outbreak of dengue fever on black hosiery, another Korean import, worn by women between the ages of 10-24, because “the mosquitoes are drawn to the leggings’ dark hues.” Weird response by Thai authorities, unless, of course, they’re more worried about the cultural inroads being made than by the unreal possibilities of physical harm. In the article, the writer touches on this likely reason for the warnings by the Thai administration. An interesting read. Check it out. (Disclaimer: No, I don’t wear dark hosiery nor wear big eyelashes. I am, however, quite envious of the dark, luxurious, thick hair of Korean kids. Is a toupee in my future?) 🙂

. . . Crazy Too Much

My Lao friend Nai, whose mother was born in Thailand and who dearly loves the country, comments on the latest turmoil there by saying “some Thai people crazy too much.” Indeed. The Land of Smiles (what a misnomer these days) seems to be on the verge of all-out civil war, at least in Bangkok, though the strife could easily spread to some of the other provinces. I watch the updates on CNN and see lots of videos and photos of places that I’m familiar with in the Big Mango. I dearly love the country and the people, but it appears that there are few options remaining that will keep total chaos and anarchy from descending.

Two possibilities that might end the current fighting, at least temporarily, are kind of like good news-bad news or good cop-bad cop scenarios. The positive situation would be that Thailand’s revered king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, would give some advice about what should be done. He’s considered to be almost like a deity to most Thai people, but his word is not law. Instead, it is above the law, so to speak. He intervenes very rarely in these types of situations, but when he does, everyone listens and takes heed. All he would have to say, in so many words, is “cool it,” and things would probably settle down.

The other possibility, a more likely scenario, perhaps, is a military coup, nothing unusual for Thailand. The last one, a precursor to current events, was in 2006. Including that one, there have been eighteen of them since 1932, when the country became a constitutional monarchy. I don’t think that’s desirable, but maybe it’s what is needed, for now, since cooler heads seem to be in short supply.

Nai and I have several good Thai friends who live in the area where the violence is occurring, so I just pray that they are safe and sound. (Hmmm, knowing those guys, they could be right in the middle of things.) My former supervisor in Morocco, John, is also in Bangkok, working at the U.S. Embassy, which is currently shut down. He told me that he and his wife are scheduled to depart the country on June 1st for a new assignment, which, as of yet, hasn’t been determined. He said that the reassignment couldn’t come too soon. The area of the city in which they live seems to be far enough away from the trouble spots, but if all hell breaks loose . . . ? I’m sure they’re out of harm’s way, but since I haven’t emailed him in a few weeks, I’m going to drop him a line to see how he’s doing.

I have an airplane ticket to Bangkok in the middle of June, and I’m not canceling unless things go completely south. The airport and large parts of the city aren’t caught up in the craziness so far, and my original plans were to just spend one night there and then take the train to Nong Khai in northern Thailand, across the Mekong from Laos; hopefully, I’ll be able to stick to that plan. Until then, I’ll be saying some prayers, burning incense to Buddha and keeping my fingers crossed that the people of Thailand can get out of this crisis without further bloodshed. More later.

Weather Woes

As I figured a few posts back, I jinxed Yeosu by talking about the nice spring-like weather. Sure enough, we had around an inch and a half of rain yesterday. Though it was warm while the rain was coming down, as soon as the front passed through, cold air followed. It was near freezing this morning and a vicious wind snapped at me as I walked to work this morning. The skies are clear and the sun is shining brightly right now, but the temperatures are still somewhat low and the wind is still whipping around. Sigh. In reality, spring doesn’t officially arrived until the 21st. Hopefully, we’ll see the permanent arrival of spring soon, but rain and cooler temperatures are forecast for the upcoming weekend.

Meanwhile, I’m sure the people in South-East Asia could use some of our rain. They’ve been experiencing one of their worst droughts in decades, with the Mekong River running (barely, in places) at its lowest levels in memory. You can read about it at the The Voice of America website: and in another article, Drought in the Mekong Basin. I talked to my friend Nai last night, and the drought is affecting him and his family. One the one hand, they have a water pump (courtesy of yours truly) to bring water to their crops; on the other, there is sometimes no water to pump. He tells me that the cost of drinking water and electricity has shot sky-high, and many Lao people are putting the blame on their government (for the prices) and on China (for all their dam-building upstream on the Mekong). Then there’s the heat: I check the Vientiane weather every day, and for the past several weeks, except for a few days last week, the daily high temperature has been in the mid-90s to low-100s. Hopefully, they’ll get some relief soon, and I’ll continue to help them out when I can.

Then, there were the series of snowstorms in the eastern and north-eastern areas of the United States this past winter. A lot of people who think that there’s no such thing as global warming going on, such as Sen. James Inhofe, seem to think that all the snow and cold disprove global warming. Yet, at the same time the east was being buried, Canada was experiencing it’s warmest winter ON RECORD. You can read about that here at Dr. Jeff Masters’ weather blog at Weather Underground. Not that either of these events proves or disproves anything–I’m just sayin’.

Moroccan Mosque

I forgot to offer my condolences to all of my Moroccan friends for the devastating loss of life in the collapse of the Bab Berdieyinne Mosque. I pray that those of you I know are all well, Insha’Allah.

For those who haven’t heard, the mosque disaster occurred in Meknes, where I worked for a year. At last count, 41 people have died and many more have been injured. My heart goes out to all of those who have been affected. Here’s a link to a photo I took of the old city of Meknes from a position across the wadi, where I lived in the new section of town. Although I don’t know where the Bab Berdieyinne Mosque might be in that photo, I’m sure it’s one of those pictured. If anyone views the shot, let me know if you see it. Again, my condolences to anyone affected by this disaster.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family in and from the U.S. Unfortunately, I won’t be among you this year, but I hope everyone has an enjoyable holiday.

It’s not so enjoyable for people living in various locations around the world. I’m sitting here watching CNN International’s non-stop coverage of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. There are some spectacular shots of the fire at the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, and the scene looks quite catastrophic.

I’m also keeping a close eye on the current unrest in Bangkok, Thailand, where protesters have shut down Suvarnabhumi Airport. I plan on taking a short vacation in December to that part of the world, but it looks like not everyone is happy in the Land of Smiles.

In other depressing news, the Korean won resumed its precipitous decline, breaking through the 1500 won/dollar psychological barrier a few days back. It has since strengthened a bit to 1470, but that is still a backbreaking rate. If it stays like this far into next year, I’ll be leaving the “Land of the Morning Calm” and heading for greener pastures. I’m already looking into positions in the Middle East, where the currency seems to be more stable.

I’ve just posted a bunch of Yeosu photos to the Photo Gallery, some of which I have posted on the blog and some of which are new. You can take a gander here.

Gotta go take my morning jog, but more later.

Something’s Burning

I mentioned in a previous post about the fires that are set in order to burn off the dead undergrowth this time of year. Here’s a couple of photos of the smoke from a few fires that were started just outside the camp. The first image was taken through my bathroom window, and, with the large cloud of smoke, it’s a good thing the wind was blowing away from us.

Camp_Smoke2

The second photo is from my balcony. Though the smoke is not as bad, the wind is blowing toward us, so the field was beginning to get a bit hazy.

Camp_Smoke1

You can see how dense the smoke can get, but in reality, the size and the intensity of the flames are quite small. I walked outside the fence and took a look at the area of one of the burns the day after, and most of the larger, living stalks (1-2 feet tall) of whatever kind of plant they are, were barely singed.

There’s sometimes so much smoke coming off these burns that you’d think the blazes must be huge. They’re not. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire–but not much.

Apparently, there was a small oil spill near Boca Chica last week, causing the closure of the beach for a short period. It wasn’t too serious, and the Weekend Office beach was open this past weekend. I read today that the shipper was fined 7 million pesos (about $210,000) for the cost of cleaning up the spill.

Also last week, the Dominican Republic was host to a summit of Latin American nations. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, as well as his counterparts from Ecuador and Colombia were present, and they shook hands and made up over the recent spat about Colombia’s incursion into Ecuador. A couple of the Venezuelan players told me that Chavez and some of the other leaders were staying at Hamaca Resort in Boca Chica. I looked around for some sign of them on Saturday to try to get some photos, but I saw nothing, so I assume they had already returned to their home countries.

Nai seems to be doing better, but he’s still weak. When I called him this morning (early evening in Laos), he was out walking around, albeit with the aid of Pui, his brother. I, however, am just now getting over a bug of some kind that I picked up last Monday or so. I even cancelled last Wednesday’s classes because I felt so badly, and I’m still not 100%. Thus, my running program has sure gone to heck, though I did manage to survive a 45-minute jog this morning. More later.

This ‘n That

The wireless signal that I can sometimes get from my apartment is becoming rather sketchy, so I’ve not been able to post as frequently as I’d like to, and sometimes I’m just too lazy to walk to the Internet cafe down the street. I’m usually able to check my email when it’s on, but it doesn’t stay on for too long. Oh, well. . .

I think I’m finally learning the difference between salsa and merengue music. Salsa is fast and merengue is faster. I really can’t tell the difference and my Dominican friends are surprised at my lack of discernment. As I jotted down notes for this post, I was sitting in La Parada listening to very fast music, so it must have been merengue.

La Parada, an open air bar/restaurant is a great place to while away some time. It sits right on the Malecon with a good view of the Caribbean and is great for people watching. There is also the occasional cargo or cruise ship coming or leaving. A few weeks ago I saw a HUGE cruise ship putting out to sea. I think I counted about 8 decks on this leviathan. Awesome.

The afternoon showers seem to be increasing in frequency and are making walking an adventure. Friday, I had to walk to UASD to meet another teacher. The threat of rain seemed small as I left the apartment, but several blocks away, a large, black cloud that had been hiding somewhere suddenly appeared and I was caught in a downpour. Santo Domingo is blessed with an abundance of leafy trees, so I ducked under a large one (sorry, I don’t know too much about tree names), and stayed somewhat dry. Usually I seek refuge in one of the numerous rain shelters dotting the city–Santo Domingans call them “bus stops,” but their covered benches make for a good place to stay out of the rain. After finishing up at UASD, I started walking to La Parada and, luckily, got there just as another torrent washed over the city.

Saturday, though, I wasn’t quite so lucky–I was caught in the open with only a few smaller trees anywhere nearby and I got drenched as I made my way to their somewhat ineffective shelter. I know what you’re thinking–buy an umbrella, dummy! I should, but I never remember to get one when I go to the market. Usually the warm tropical sun comes back out and dries me off very quickly.

Great, only a few more weeks left until I return to the Yankee campus–I can hardly wait. I’ve been working on lessons and materials to use in class, but I feel that I can never be prepared to my satisfaction. I’ll probably be doing a lot of things “on the fly,” master procrastinator that I am.

Geez, I keep reading about crappy things going on in Thailand. First, the coup, then the New Year’s Eve bombings, then a big train wreck, more beheadings in the southern provinces, and a new law limiting foreign ownership in businesses. Crikey (thanks, Steve Irwin), I hope they don’t ruin my retirement plans. That’s right, folks, many of you probably think I’ll eventually return to the USA to settle down in beautiful Montana, but I’ve got a news flash for you. At the present time, it ain’t a gonna happen. I can’t go into all the reasons why, except to say that’s where my heart lies. Of course, nothing is immutable, so things could change. More later.

New Year in Santo Domingo

I’m kind of at a loss for words. The scene here at midnight is incredible, and I have a very narrow view of the city from my apartment. Most cities in the U.S. have laws against setting off fireworks within the city limits, except for organized events. It’s far from organized here in Santo Domingo, and there are no restrictive laws. I don’t think there are any limits on the firepower of these things either, and a pall of smoke is drifting across my view. The place is like a war zone! These are world-class fireworks, and they’re in the hands of ordinary citizens. Because of the noise and concussion, many automobile alarms are going off. Also, meringue music is being played all around on huge loudspeakers, and to top it off, there are some large thunderheads over the Caribbean showing off their own firepower. Really, it’s one of those memorable lifetime events, something not to be missed or forgotten. Also of note is that most places are closed tonight, such as bars (!), pizza parlors and restaurants, whereas these same places were open on Christmas Eve. Seems to be just the reverse in the U.S.

It’s interesting, too, that the Muslim Hajj and Eid ul-Adha are also taking place at this time of year, and, of course, I send my best to all my Muslim friends, and may they have a blessed year, Inshallah.

On a more pessimistic note, several bombs exploded in Bangkok, Thailand today. My heart goes out to the beautiful people there. What a sad thing to happen to this wonderful part of the world. May Buddha heal the hearts of those affected by this crap.

Well, I’d better get to bed. I still have a bit of work to do tomorrow before leaving for Santiago on Tuesday for 3 or 4 days to conduct some workshops at the Instituto Superior de Agricultura. Happy New Year to all. More later.

May Day March

It’s obvious to me now–the march in Meknes, about which I wrote in the previous post, was related to May Day, the traditional Workers’ Day of May 1, except, of course, in the U.S., which celebrates Labor Day. Thus, workers around the world, from Indonesia to Cuba, celebrated and protested today in mostly peaceful marches.

Thailand Ticket

I got my Thailand airplane ticket from the travel agent the other day. I’m flying out of Casablanca on the 23rd of March at 10 a.m. on Qatar Airlines, so I’ll have to go up a day early or catch the 3 a.m. train out of Meknes, putting me in Casa around 7:30, close enough. I’m not too sure, though, about walking the deserted, silent streets of Meknes at that time of day. The railway station is about a 5 minute walk from my apartment, so it’s not too far away. Still . . .

From Casa I fly to Doha, the capital of Qatar. There I’ll stay overnight, being put up in a 5-star hotel, according to my travel agent, and furnished with 2 meals. But, I won’t get into Doha until around 10 that evening, and my flight to Bangkok leaves at 8 the next morning, so I won’t get much benefit out of the stay. I suppose it’s better than hanging around the airport for that length of time (more on that below).

The flight arrives in Bangkok at 6:50 p.m. The next evening I’ll hop on the overnight train to Nong Khai and meet Nai there the next morning. I haven’t really got anything concrete planned, but I’ll probably visit lovely Vang Vieng again and, hopefully, Luang Prabang. On the 14th of April I’ll take the train back to Bangkok, stay in the City of Angels for a day, then fly out of there on the 16th, with a long stay (12 hours!) in Doha on the 16th, but no hotel furnished this time. It’s a daytime stay, so I suppose I’ll wander around, read a book, eat and do whatever else I can find to stay out of trouble. I’ll get back to Casa on the morning of the 17th, jet-lagged and with classes to teach the next day. I’ll definitely have all my lesson plans finished before I leave!

We had a few nice days, but now the forecast calls for 2-3 days of rain. After that, though, Meknes is supposed to have sunny days with temperatures approaching 70. Fantastic!

Speaking of good weather, I got email notification about my Major League Baseball TV subscription today. I’ll be able to watch spring training and regular season games over the computer again this year, so I’m looking forward to the start of another baseball season. Go Yanks!! More later.

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