Tag Archives: Christmas

Holiday Greetings from Lao Rugby

Happy holidays from Lao Rugby!

Check out the latest video I made for Lao Rugby highlighting all of their great events from this year.  I’ve loved being a part of lots of these events and taking photos of them, and am looking forward to their 2013 schedule.  In order to make all of this, and more, happen again next year (including more hilarious music videos) they need your support!

A little money will go a long way, so even if you can’t give a lot every bit counts:
$10 is enough to pay for a new rugby ball
$20 can provide new rugby boots for a Lao player
$30 can provide transportation to a training session for 25 kids
$50 can provide pitch rental and set up for a club game
$75 can sponsor one youth player’s full participation for one year
…and even more generous donations can help with admin costs, staff salaries, participation in international competitions, and more!  Donate and find out more information here.

And it’s not just about rugby…Lao Rugby’s programming also helps develop healthy living, leadership, and local capacity building.  It provides its players with access to new opportunities through their participation in sport.

Hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season!

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Filed under Laos, Vientiane

2012: Back from Borneo

January is halfway over, and I’m long overdue to refresh my blog.  Two weeks ago, I said goodbye to my dad at the Suvarnibhumi airport, and since then, life has been a whirlwind of nametags and icebreaker games.  Has it only been two weeks back at school?  Has it already been two weeks?  Both are surprising.

Though we have four terms per year, and so four “term beginnings” of workshops and new classes, none is quite as busy as the real beginning of the year.  The weather might feel like it’s perpetually June, but there is a distinct sense of new beginning at work that reminds me it’s January.  Almost 100 new daytime scholarship students have come to begin their studies for the year, many of which will end in Australia or New Zealand, and the first weeks of getting to know each other, tone-setting, and orientations are reminiscent  of making group new year’s resolutions.  Many of our overarching messages to the students for the year–about reflection, active learning, goal-setting, and changing–are equally relevant to me in my role as a teacher.

This term I’m teaching two daytime classes, one on a year-long program that prepares Master’s candidates for their postgraduate study in Australia, in which I’m teaching Information Literacy (in other words, research skills), and the second on a six-month program that prepares government officials to better qualify to be accepted to the previous program.  I’m teaching them Learning Strategies (in other words, effective study skills).  In the evening, I’m teaching the second half of the Creative Writing course that I taught last term, and a children’s class (I like being able to have deeper conversations with most of my students…but what would I do with all of my stickers if I didn’t continue to teach some kids?!).

Toward the end of last year, I made the decision to stay on in Vientiane through the end of 2012 (at least), and so the new beginning of the school year has been a good time for me to renew my excitement about the 11 months ahead.  One of my personal resolutions has been to DO something more with all of the photos that have been accumulating by the thousands in my iPhoto for the past 16 months.  En masse, they are overwhelming, more than could be properly examined or posted on Facebook or on a blog.  So instead, each day, for the 350 remaining this year, I’ll be posting a single photograph I’ve taken somewhere in Asia, in no particular order, as a simple visual impression (unaccompanied by my ramblings).  The first 15 photos for the month of January are up, so feel free to peruse my Impressions, ทุกวัน (thuk wan means daily).

But before all of this, I was in the jungle with my dad.  Where were we?

Borneo.  The world’s third largest island, after Greenland and New Guinea (Australia doesn’t count…it’s the world’s smallest continent).  The island is split between Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, and we visited just the northern Malaysian parts, which includes the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

In our “fourteen days of Christmas” spent in Malaysia, we saw 14+ wild pygmy elephants, 13 (thousand) feet of mountain, 12 meals of noodles, 11 proboscis monkeys, 10 story malls, 9 early mornings, 8 giant hornbills, 7 different flights, 6 hour bus rides, 5 Mulu caves, 4 orangutans, 3 million bats, 2 Petronas towers, and an epic sunrise over the clouds.  Whew!  Try singing that to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Before flying to Borneo, we spent a day and a half in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, a mall-filled, multicultural, sprawling city, with the former tallest buildings in the world, the Petronas twin towers.  If I thought there would be no signs of Christmas in this majority Muslim capital, one look into the nearest ten-story mall proved me wrong.  But we were all too happy to escape the craziness of KL for a different type of chaos–the noisy, humid, chaos of the jungle, of nights echoing with the sounds of bats and giant frogs.  The first stop: Mt. Kinabalu…

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Filed under Borneo, Laos, Malaysia, Vientiane

Fort Cochin and Allepey: Southern Comfort

December 23-27: Delhi–>Fort Cochin–>Allepey

I saw Delhi during daylight for all of the 10 minutes it took for me to stumble, miserable and bleary-eyed, from the train station to the hotel.  The rest of my time in Delhi, while my friends were visiting sights, I slept the day away with the curtains drawn.

The next day, Christmas Eve, I had to emerge from hibernation to catch a flight south to Kerala, where we were to spend the last week of the trip.  Kerala is a state on the far southwest corner of India, bordering Tamil Nadu, which is the state where I was originally supposed to be teaching.  Arriving here from Delhi almost felt like arriving in a different country–a warm, sunny, place where men wore lunghis (a sarong-style skirt), people spoke a different language (Malayam), and the pace of life seemed much more relaxed.  Before we could enjoy this new laidback lifestyle, however, we had to leave the airport.  When our flight arrived, late at night, all of the taxi stands at the airport were swarmed with people, and one endlessly long line was arbitrarily diverted to a different long line.  Then a new line would open, and somehow we would still end up at the back of it.  It was over an hour before we managed to get a taxi.  In the meantime, Mark was feeling increasingly ill.  While in the cab, hurtling through the warm southern night, he suddenly yelled for the car to pull over, and reenacted my roadside sickness of a few days earlier, except on a bridge.  Points for style.

We were staying in Fort Cochin, the old colonial town that is part of the city of Kochi.  Many places in India have two names–a colonial version and a national, local-language version–and they are used interchangeably.  So Cochin, Kochi–it depends on who you ask.  Once we finally arrived, the relief was instant.  We were staying in the Taj Mahal Homestay, and were welcomed by such a friendly family that we immediately felt comfortable and at home.  We arrived thinking we might only stay one night, and ended up staying for three just because it was so pleasant.  That first night, we left to walk to find somewhere for dinner, and the night felt so different from northern India.  It felt very safe, the weather was pleasant, and even though my stomach wasn’t ready for Indian food again yet, I felt much better.  As we were walking to dinner, a man called out to us.  “Excuse me?”  We walked faster, sick of all of the attention from people trying to sell us things.  He approached us anyway.  “Excuse me?  Mass is in English at 10am tomorrow morning,” he pointed to the cathedral we were walking past. “Merry Christmas!”  The small downtown streets were strung with paper star lights, whose colorful glow reminded us for the first time that it was the holiday season.

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On Christmas Day, we went on a relaxed walk around Fort Cochin.  Mark was feeling very sick, and I was still feeling weak from my own food poisoning experience, so we took it slow, enjoying the warm weather and the feeling of walking down the streets without an overwhelming amount of attention.  Not to say that we didn’t get any.  A few tenacious autorickshaw drivers did laps around the small downtown, asking us each time they passed us if we had changed our mind about getting a ride.  Fort Cochin used to be a Portuguese, then a Dutch, colony, which was still evident from the colonial architecture and Christianity that remain in the area.  All of the sights were in walking distance: the old Dutch Cemetary, several basilicas, old Chinese-style fishing nets, which are still operational, the Dutch Palace (now a museum), and the Paradesi Synagogue (located off of “Jew-Town Road”), which is the oldest synagogue in India (and in fact in the whole Commonwealth).  The highlight of food in the south is the ubiquitous thali, a banana leaf with dollops various sauces and curry dishes that are absorbed with bread.  Unfortunately, I didn’t taste the best thalis in Kochi, since my stomach was still in a toast and jam phase, but they certainly looked good.  One of the highlights of Christmas was seeing a snakecharmer who was entertaining passersby outside a church with his four dancing cobras.

The day after Christmas, we got a car to take us to Allepey, a nearby city that is best known as the entrance to the backwaters of Kerala, described by some as the “Venice of India.”  We hired a slow-moving, covered motorboat for 5 hours to take us around the surrounding backwaters, which are basically villages connected by thin and tranquil waterways.  Once we got out of town and into the network of canals, there was nothing more peaceful.  We passed charming houses that hugged the canals, with women out washing their laundry, and children playing and bathing in the water.

On our final day in Kochi the group parted ways.  Lisa was on her way back to the US and Mark had to return to work in Singapore, leaving just Andrew and I to continue the exploration of Kerala.  After saying our goodbyes, we boarded a local bus to take us five hours inland to Munnar.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

The three of us arrived in Milan this morning after a long but uneventful plane ride, and set off almost immediately to beat jet lag by tackling the city on foot.  I was shocked to discover how freezing it was as we walked (not sure why this surprised me, since we flew in over snow-capped mountain peaks), but the weather was bone-chilling, especially because I’ve packed primarily for the more temperate Sardinian climate.  The holiday decorations around town were cheery though, even on this dull and foggy day.  Colored lights adorned many of the trees, and hung over the streets, and twinkled on the ceiling of the Galleria shopping area, where oversized mistletoe hung.  In the fashion district, posh store windows displayed holiday cheer, and little fabic-covered Fiats served as planters for light-covered trees.  Inside the famous and spectacular Duomo were several small nativity scenes, and in front an enormous Christmas tree decorated by Tiffany’s.

holiday cheer

holiday cheer on a foggy day in Milan

Aside from admiring these typical Milan sights–the Duomo, La Scala, the fashion district, Castello Sforzesco–we also happened upon some fun holiday street markets.  Not far from the Duomo were the Mercatini di Natale, where traditional candies, pastries, meats, and cheeses, were sold alongside jewelry, pottery, dolls and cold-weather clothing for unprepared travelers.
merry, merry!

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Filed under Italy, Milan