Christmas on the beach!

We had a lovely christmas picnic on the beach.

Emma drove!
Emma drove!
Claire opening presents on the beach...
Claire opening presents on the beach...
Emma and her Christmas scarf!
Emma and her Christmas scarf!
Christmas antlers on the beach
Christmas antlers on the beach
Me and the girls at Manly beach on christmas - there were people playing cricket!
Me and the girls at Manly beach on christmas - there were people playing cricket!
Emma on our Boxing Day walk
Emma on our Boxing Day walk
Then we ended up in Botany Bay...
Then we ended up in Botany Bay...
Where Captain Cook first made landfall on the East Coast of Australia in the 17th ?? century
Where Captain Cook first made landfall on the East Coast of Australia in the 17th ?? century
We caught some salmon and ate fresh sashimi right there on the beach! Good thing I happen to carry a fishing pole with me everywhere I go.
We caught some salmon and ate fresh sashimi right there on the beach! Good thing I happen to carry a fishing pole with me everywhere I go.

Ok, actually, after our touristic drive, we went back to Flinder’s street, and ate a delicious feast thanks to Claire!  I contributed absolutely nothing to the meal except a healthy appetite.  Then, after gorging on turkey, we fell asleep before even finishing a bottle of wine.

The next day we went to the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours NW of Sydney.
The next day we went to the Blue Mountains, about 2 hours NW of Sydney.
And we hiked around some more...
And we hiked around some more...
and I (pictured in the foreground) saw "The Three Sisters" (pictures in the background)
and I (pictured in the foreground) saw "The Three Sisters" (pictured in the background)
rarely do I not look ugly in photographs so I am posting these somewhat flattering shots.  Thanks to my official photographer, K. E. Knowland.
rarely do I not look ugly in photographs so I am posting these somewhat flattering shots. Thanks to my official photographer, K. E. Knowland.
If you choose to go hiking in the Blue Mountains, be sure to remember your walking stick (for gentlemen) or hair kercheif (for ladies).  Attempting to hike without these items could result in you doing the side-splits off the top of a cliff.
If you choose to go hiking in the Blue Mountains, be sure to remember your walking stick (for gentlemen) or hair kercheif (for ladies). Attempting to hike without these items could result in you doing the side-splits off the top of a cliff.

We returned to Sydney sometime in the evening, and I made some guacamole and a salad, which we all ate for dinner, with left-over turkey.  Then, we tried to watch TV, but, we realized that only nerds stay at home and watch TV on a Saturday night, which explained why there were only weir science fiction movies on.  So, instead, we went to sleep at some ridiculously early hour.

This morning we got up, and did some shopping at the Rocks Market, and Paddy’s market.  I plan to go back to Paddy’s to try to find some gifts for my colleagues at UCL… I’m considering buying 20 pairs of Australian flag underwear.  It’s just the sort of bawdy gift a Lao person would enjoy!

Any other suggestions?

As the year 2008 draws to a close… HOLY SHIT!!!! is all I can say.

AUSTRALIA!!

Merry Christmas from Sydney!

I just got back from a 5-day excursion to the desert of the Northern Territory, and a visit to Uluru.  It was hot, and dirty.

Here are some pictures I have taken so far!

outback34

outback32

After hiking up “heart attack hill” in 40 C heat, I took this picture.

outback31

some of my fellow tourists

outback30

Signage in King’s Canyon

outback291

Some sheer cliff faces in Kings Canyon, which apparently, is a real canyon, as opposed to the Grand Canyon, which is actually a gorge? I don’t really know the difference, but the guy pictures below, our all-knowing guide, Mr. Dan, told me that.

outback28

Headless Dan holding a “Thorny Devil”.  They don’t actually hurt you, they just look menacing.

outback27

A Korean dude, a Dutch dude, and a thorny devil.

outback25

Mr. Dan, the Outback Survival Expert Man, with our campfire.

outback261

That big blurry thing in the back is Ayer’s rock aka Uluru.

outback24

Sunrise in the Northern Territory, somewhere south of Alice Springs.

outback23

On of my fellow tourists Bumjo, and the Olgas, aka the Kata Tjuja, which play some significant role in aboriginal creation stories.

outback22

A view from the first lookout in the Kata Tjuja, only 9 am and already in the upper 30’s C.

outback21

Those are big rocks.

outback20

I wish I was a better photographer, then you might have some idea of the scale of these things.

outback19

This is me and… I’m not sure what.

outback18

Mr. Dan, looking rugged.

outback17

He’s like a younger, sexier Crocodile Dundee.

outback16

Aboriginal rock art paintings at Uluru (Ayer’s Rock).

outback14

Same same as above, but this drawing indicates that this spot makes an ideal location for cooking up some emu meat.

outback13

The big rock I have wanted to see since watching “The Rescuers Down Under” as a child.

rescuersduposter

outback12

More rock.

outback11

I really went there!

outback10

Another S. Korean pal from the trip.

outback9

Me and Bumjo

outback8

This is at sunrise, I look like some kind of hobo hippie sheep herder.

outback7

There are lots of tourists at Ayer’s Rock.

outback6

It’s really big.  This is part of if.

outback5

Here’s another part that goes along with some aboriginal story about the dreamtime.

outback4

Wild camels in the outback.

outback2

My pal Sung.outback1

My pal Bumjo!

sydney1-2

Me and Jamie, my old neighbor from Vientiane, with the Sydney harbour in the background.

sydney1-3

Me and the girls at Watson’s Bay!

sydney1-8

The cutest busker I have ever seen.

sydney2-1

The ghost of Nicole past can be spotted haunting the Sydney harbour bridge area on warm nights in December.

sydney2-2

Opera house !!!  I was really there!!!

more surprising lao food

Evan after 6 months, the Lao culinary delights never cease to amaze me.

On Saturday I went to have lunch at my friend Noi’s house.  She is the secretary at the English School I teach at.

We had duck laap, which was delicious, and duck foot soup:

yum!
yum!

I did eat a bit of this soup – mostly just the broth and the vegetables.  I didn’t gnaw on the feet at all.

And then, they brought out this:

new7

A plate of Duck’s blood.

With some herbs and peanuts sprinkled on top.

I have to admit, even having this dish on the table, made me completely lose my appetite.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable party, but since I am getting ready to go to Australia for Christmas, I couldn’t stay long, since I had a million things to do.

Speaking of which, I must be off to do some of those million things i didn’t finish yesterday.

more from cambodia.

Sorry,  I have been busy and now am updating erratically and in a non-chronological order.  Please forgive me!

I think I ended my last story with my sunset visit to Angkor.

vietnamcambodia21

I rode my bike back to my guesthouse, went and ate a really delicious burrito, since I knew I wouldn’t find Mexican food for months to come, and then went to sleep.

The next day I woke up early, went to try to print out some documents with pretty complete descriptions of the monuments, and then found some guy with a motorcycle who agreed to take me to see everything for $8.

I recommend this mini-guide:

http://www.theangkorguide.com/download.htm

The author has rated all of the principal sites using a 1-3 * system.  The ***’s are essential, even for a one-day visit.  You can do it all in one day, but you will be exhausted for the following few days.

It was the day following the big Cambodia Water Festival full-moon party.  Visiting the temples at Angkor, I would say hello to the people checking tickets, and ask how they were.  “Not well” several of them said.  “Why?” I asked.

“I drank too much beer last night.” they all replied.

Anyway, I did a combination of the big loop and the small loop, hitting most of the ***’s except Banteay Srei, because it was too far out.  However, after spending an hour getting lost inside Angkor Wat, when I went back to find my driver, he told me he was grieviously ill and had to return home immediately.  He called a friend, who came to meet me, however, the 2nd driver could not speak a word of English.  Anyway, I think he was also hung over, and that’s why he suddenly was so ill he had to go home, because later that night I saw him on a corner drinking beer with his friends.

The whole visit to Angkor was pretty amazing.  I arrived at 8 am and spent all day wandering around 1,000 year old temples.  It was unbelievable.  I took a lot of pictures.  Unfortunately, there is no where in Laos where you can get black and white film developed.  “Go to Thailand” I have been told.  So, we’ll have to wait for more pictures.

The next day I woke up early and took a plane from Siem Reap back to Vientiane.  It felt really good to be home again.  That same day I had to go to ACL and teach for 2 hours, and then go to my friend’s wedding.

It was an exciting 2 weeks.

laos national holiday

Tomorrow, 2nd December, is the Laos National Holiday.  In preparation for the holiday, they have draped Lao flags everywhere, and also hammer and sickle “go communism!” flags adorn every official building in town.

The library organized a day of “clean up the library” gardening, in which Mr. Somephone climbed to the top of the trees outside and cut off the tops.

mrsomephoneI helped sweep the sidewalk!  Then I got attacked by red ants.  After the yardwork was done, Mrs. Bounsalong and Mrs. Phaiwaddy made some Tom Maheun (papaya salad).  Mrs. Bounsalong LOVEs chilis.  She put so much chili in that all of the library staff were crying, literally.  They had tears streaming down their faces, and they kept saying “phet lai !” (very hot!), but they kept eating it anyway.  I only had a few bites, and my face almost melted off.

Then Mr. Somxay, Mrs. Bounsalong, and I were sitting at a table, and Mr. Vaykhoun came up to us, and said “oh I’m sooo tired”.  and Mrs. Bounsalong said “Oh!  because he just got married!  Now he doesn’t sleep at night!” and then Mr. Somxay said “Yes, 5 times a night, he works with his wife”. And Vaykhoun blushed, and Mr. Somxay said “For me, one time per month only!”  and we all laughed, and then I said “You would never have this kind of conversation in an office in America.”  and Mr. Somxay, the vice-director of the library, said “Yes, you know, when the people from France first came to work at the French Language Center, they were shocked.  But now they like to talk like that!”.

I also made a joke with Mrs. Bounsalong that revolves around the Lao word for map : “Panti”.  I told her what “Panties” are in English, and now we always make jokes about the “Panti”.  The other day I rode my bike to the University, in a skirt, and Mrs. Bounsalong said “Oh!  It’s not good, you should wear trousers to ride your bicycle.”  And I said “No, it’s ok, I want the Monks to see my Panties!” and she laughed at me.

Ok, I have to go teach now. I am making my students do presentations about Laos today in honor of the National Holiday tomorrow.