Life on the Mekong and Other Rivers

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog, including strong statements in support of weinerdog-riding monkeys, are our own, and not those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. government.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Hello from Koh Chang

Just checking in.

Rough day today. Breakfast, swim, shopping for some essentials, swim, scrabble on the beach, lunch, swim, nap, now here, massage next, then dinner.

Kim, Matt and Astri are all napping. Katherine and I are going for a massage on the beach.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

On our way to Koh Chang

Sitting in the Don Muang Airport in BKK right now after two nights at the lovely Peninsula Hotel with Kim and Matt.

We are heading to Trat in about 20 minutes, followed by a 40 minute ferry ride to Koh Chang. We've just been joined by Astri, who flew in this morning.

Our friend Michael from Jakarta arrives Saturday AM.

All good fun.

Matt and I explored the seedier side of Bangkok that is well known around the world last night. Katherine and Kim opted to go back to the hotel.

Anyway, maybe we'll check in from Koh Chang, but if not, happy new year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Spending an entire day preparing dinner for twelve takes it out of a woman.

Marybeth and Doug, in foreground, were our visitors for the weekend from Surabaya, Indonesia and Canberra, Australia respectively. Marybeth and we are now talking about an April jaunt to Burma. Could be nice.

Christmas? Dinner for twelve? No problem...for Katherine, that is. I, of course, slept in, went for a bike ride, took a nap, got a massage, bought some carrots, and voila, dinner was ready. I don't know how I do it. Katherine did spill gravy on me, so she's not totally perfect.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A monkey stole my glasses


Thieving monkey. He stole my glasses in a split second, and even gifts of emory boards and chocolate eclairs didn't warm his heart enough to make him give them back. We tried hard for a time, until another monkey stole them from the first one and destroyed them.

Stupid monkeys.

Thankfully we found my old pair, which are kind of broken, but work well enough for the time being.

Stupid monkeys.

Did you know that monkeys can grab with their feet too? This is the 2nd monkey to have my glasses, having snatched them from the first. The bar he was sitting on also became a tool for him. He immediately took my glasses and bent them all to hell on the bar. At that point, we gave up trying to get them back. But of course, as we were leaving, one of the monks came running up and presented me with my now destroyed glasses.

The end result. Broken, monkey-chewed, lensless glasses. Glad I was thinking about getting new glasses in Bangkok next week anyway.

Jak, back by popular demand. You know you were wondering why we hadn't continued to incessantly post pictures and stories about our cat. Anyway, he's into the Christmas spirit.

Katherine and Vone put up and decorated our Christmas tree while I was in the US. Katherine and I added a few last bits and pieces the other night. Now we are in full Christmas mode.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Never too old to have a baby in Laos

I knew that Lao people, especially Hmong, have large families. What I didn't know is that the secret is that their fertile years extend far beyond that which we mere mortals previously thought possible.

Case in point.

Two people came to apply for visas today.

Person #1, Male, born 1968.

Person #2, Female, born 1942.

Person #1 was going to his sister's funeral. Person #2 was going to her mother's funeral. The deceased in both cases was the same person.

So let's assume person #1's deceased sister is person #2's mother (which is what they said. I confirmed it twice) and do a little math.

Assume that person #2 was the deceased's eldest child, and that the deceased gave birth to person #2 when she was 12 years old (not out of the realm of possibility by any means). Therefore, the deceased would have been born in 1930, making her 38 years older than person #1, her supposed sibling.

Person #1 had the answer to that 38 year difference. He was the youngest child in the family. Okay, fine. Let's do another supposition and some math again. Assume again that person #1 and the deceased's mother had her first baby, the deceased, when she was 12. Then 38 years later, at age 50, she had person #1, her youngest. Okay, could be. Unlikely, but could be.

Then person #2 offered what was the coup de grace in this little interview. The deceased was 120 years old when she died. This means that the deceased was born in 1885, and was in actuality about 83 years older than person #1. This means that, assuming the deceased was the oldest child and person #1 was the youngest, their mother would have been at least 95 years old when she gave birth to person #1 (assuming the mother was 12 when she gave birth to the deceased). Now THAT is unlikely.

Follow all that?

Me neither.

On top of this, the people were not generally qualified for a visa anyway, I just thought it important to sort out the fact that the oldest living woman died recently in MN, and even more impressive, the oldest living woman's mother had given birth to a child when she was 95 years old. Someone call Alec Guinness, I hear he writes books about such things when he's not going to Star Wars fanfests*.

*yes, I know he's dead (I think he's dead).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Home sweet home

I'm back. It seems like just yesterday I was frolicking around New York, brunching, spending quality time at the dive bar, buying tennis shoes. But it wasn't yesterday, it was two days ago. And a big thank you to the NY subway people for postponing their strike a few days so as not to inconvenience me.

So after about 24 hours of flight time, including 3 quality hours in the Tokyo transit lounge, I arrived in BKK last night and got to my hotel room at about 12:45 am, and was drifting off to sleep about 2:30 am when I was rudely interrupted by a fight next door which I figured out was probably a disagreement over money, or something, between a working girl and her client. Yelling and screaming, banging around, etc. Called security, then peeked outside to make sure noone was being killed right outside my room, which is what it started to sound like. Anyway, I'm glad I looked outside, because I got to see a purse thrown out into the hallway, followed by a woman (thrown out into the hallway). Security showed up and I retired to my room, excited about my 5:45 am wake up call.

And now, here I am, comfortably ensconced in our little house here in Vientiane. It's 8:00 pm, and I'm staying up until 9:00 or 10:00 if I can make it. So very tired.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

New York, New York

Training over, DC behind me, I'm now sitting in Vinny's apartment in New York, with a brunch, tennis shoe shopping, visiting little babies created by Greg and Claudine, and the Dive Bar on the schedule.

Tomorrow back to Vientiane.

We got other good news recently too. Our friend Michael from Jakarta will be joining us on Koh Chang for New Year's, so that is very cool.

Gotta go run watch yet more episodes of South Park. So very busy.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

For those of you interested in giving a tax-deductable donation to help build a bathroom in at a primary school in Vientiane, Laos, please check out, "a non-profit organization that was established in 2003 to raise funds for small projects around the world. The projects request small amounts of funding for specific items. This enables adults and children an opportunity to contribute a small amount of funds and see that their funds really make a difference in someone's life. "

Project #50: $100.00 provides a tank for water collection and a trough for washing hands for 300 students at the Pakthong Primary School in Vientiane. $120.00 will buy a septic tank, $200.00 provides one stall with a water-sealed toilet. This project is being overseen by the Women's International Group I am involved with.

Should you be interested, checks should be sent to:
Lantern Projects
51 Glen Alpine Rd.
Piedmont, CA 94611

Please indicate that funds are for Lantern Project #50 or indicate the project in Laos. 100% of the funds collected will go to the project. A thank you note will be sent to each donor that will indicate the amount of their contribution and provide a tax id number of LanternProjects so that they can have a tax benefit. Please include an email address (preferable) or a home address so that the acknowledgement letter can be sent. The letter generally is sent within 24 hours of the receipt of the funds.

If you do make a donation, please let me know so I can notify the Women's International Group executive committee how wonderfully generous my family and friends are.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Katherine, certain she is on the 'nice' list, checks under the tree again

But to no avail. Katherine has been decidedly naughty this year.

As such, no presents for her. Also, because a) she is a heathen and b) we live in a country populated by 'gasp' non-christians, Katherine probably does not realize that Christmas is still 2 weeks away, and santa hasn't even come to present the baby Jesus to the manager yet (or something like that, I get confused).

Although I really don't know what use she has for a lump of coal, so she probably won't be too excited when the real Christmas comes anyway.

Okay, so Katherine is planning a party, and does know that Christmas is indeed 14 (or so) away.

But she's still on the naughty list, and should expect naught but coal (and no, this isn't a sly way of hinting that you are getting a diamond, honey)


Made it to MN, by the way, no thanks to the snowstorm in Chicago that delayed me quite considerably. And the worst thing was, during our 90 minute delay on the tarmac, the hoi polloi in coach wouldn't shut up about how 'uncomfortable' they were.

It was enough to make me not enjoy my glass of sherry as I listened to Brahms and warmed my hands by the individual fireplaces we were all given in First Class.

The nerve of those jackals. To say nothing of the stench emanating from the rabble. As everyone knows, fine cheeses and wines of the world, such as the kinds I was served during our delay, are enjoyed as much by the nose as by the taste buds.

But who can do so when Joe lunchpail in coach takes off his steel-toed Sorels not 15 feet from my extra plush chair (complete with built in lumbar support, footrest and slippers, to 'rest his dogs'? Honestly, what does that even mean?

I'm still scandalized by the horror.

Christmas come girly to Laos

Katherine in her winning outfit for the 2005 Little Miss Lao Santa pageant in Vientiane.

God I miss that sexy woman.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dateline -- United Lounge -- Narita

Made it to japan, flying on the upper level of a 747 and watching charlie and the chocolate factory and the fantastic 4. The Japanese keyboard is a little different, thus the e.e. cummings feel. every time i try to capitalize this / comes out instead.

anyway, now i have 3 hours with which to amuse myself with the automatic beer dispenser in the united lounge that actually tips the glass for you so you get just the right amount of foam. hours of entertainment.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

USA bound

I'm leaving tonight for training in DC for a week, bookended by a long weekend in MN and a short stop in NY.

Katherine is staying behind, meaning I have to beat feet back to Laos before Christmas or she'll beat me.

Anyway, I leave you with this heartfelt invitation letter an applicant presented at my window today while interviewing for a visitor visa to go to a wedding.


"I would like to invite you to attend my daughter wedding party on Dec. 25 2005 at noon in ---- in USA. I really need you to help me set up the party on that day. Please come and join me."


Now, surely I've been asked to do things at weddings I was invited to; groomsmen, reader, maybe play the harp or something, but I think a party setup request along with the invite would make me feel as if my ability to move chairs was more important to the bridal party than my presence. Although, maybe that's why I've been invited to many weddings in the past and I'm just too dense to notice.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

vegetables for sale. Organic, at no extra cost.

Eggs for sale

Fresh fish for sale

Sorry, a few more. Brown goop for sale.

But what meal in Laos would be complete without rice...for sale...lots and lots of rice. And that's a little tour of Tongkhankham Market, where Vone does all our shopping. Thankfully she hasn't come home with live eels or a pig head.

And last, but not least, pork (and pig heads, it seems), for sale

Green, leafy vegetables for sale

Live eels for sale

Meat for sale

Baby on Board

Baskets, and such, for sale.

Silk for sale.

And once, Matt got sleepy. Maybe more than one, I can't remember.

We also ate other times too, including this one, at the Bamboo Restaurant on the Mekong.

And for her last night, we had a going away party on the porch. A long, drunken going away party where we decided that we're all going back to Vieques in March 2007. Okay, maybe I decided that. Katherine has yet to sign on to the plan.

Last day in Laos with Ford. She left today for Bangkok, and flies back to merry ol' England tomorrow. Stens, meanwhile, flies out of BKK on the 11th, so he's going to hang out here and/or head to the beach in Thailand for a few days. And, it's official. I'm heading to DC sometime this week for some training. Don't have the airline ticket yet, so I don't really know when I'll get there or when I'll leave.