Sunday, July 25, 2010

Of Grasshoppers, Mezcal and Horses

Hello Everyone,

So I am writting today from Oaxaca, Mexico where people are friendly, patient and you should not get frustrated, but get a dictionary as these lovely Mexicans make an effort (unlike some other ramnce language speakers :@) What am I doing here? What I do here is spanish. 7- 8 hours a day.  Mon- Friday. Its alot of work but I am really enjoying it. I still have a long way to go, but I am improving all the time. Lets see, so last weekend we went on a riding weekend, stationed at Teotitlan in a beautiful hacienda, owned and run by a english speaking woman. The house, food and hospitality were great, but the horses were not in the best of shape. She had a mexican husband and now has a mexican boyfriend and I think she plays the roll of passive woman with all the cowboys to much and lets them be rough. Ass-holes with balls. The first day was fine as we rode with 2 other experienced riders. But the second day was not. They "used us' to move all the horses from one ranch to the other, including a father and son pair who just sat on a horse for the first time that week. They put the totally inexperienced father on a stallion, who are very hard to control. THis stallion had also viciously attacked my horse Zeb in the pasture a few days before and he still had bite marks all over him. So I spent the whole ride maneuvering as far away from him as possible and scared shitless that we would both be attacked in the middle of no where by this beast. I didnt help that the very beginning of the ride began on a very steep and rocking hill, where Zeb lost his footing and actually fell down in the front. I jumped/ rolled off on the rocks as a horse that falls down is super dangerous. They get very scared and can thrash and roll around trying to get up and especially in between rocks they can break a leg so I wanted to get off his back and away from him. He was fine, but a horse falling down is really scary so I started the ride in some shock and then the evil uncontrolled stallion kept me afraid for most of the ride. I am telling you, its all about the ball culture here.

This last week I went to the Mezcal festival with my language exchange partner. We were there for 5 hours and on top of trying a thousand different types of mezcal I also tries a worm, chile fried grasshoppers, and roasted ants. All gross- to disgusting but at least I didnt vomit, and I at least experienced the festival the "mexican way".

I also went on a tour to Teotitlan with a girl from my school who has, with a mexican, started a micro-financing and tourism project, where 100% of our tour fees goes to the project and the lenders pay o% interest. ( En Via Tours) The woman begin small, must work in groups of threes and must open their workspace up to two tours are part of their application process. We saw some beautiful tapetry work, a gifted woman who is turning small tapestries into great handbags, a woman beginning a tamale business and a woman improving her little store. They are 85 woman in total with the program. it was definitely worth the 50 dollars as these woman often begin in abject poverty and have to live with "large tourist houses" at the beginning of the village where to tour buses stop, who buy the woman's work for less than its worth and then sell it for 4X + that price :(

I must now run to an open air concert in front of the Santo Doming Cathedral: OK how many of you thought that mexico was only filled with dirt poor field workers and drug cartels? Oh how wrong you are. "Drug Infested" Oaxaca beats Atlanta and all of Georgia in cultur anyday.
Hasta luego, Chicos!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I am still alive and a quick recap

So it was brought to my attention by a good friend that I left all of my readers hanging in suspense in the Mae Tang Valley of northern Thailand, for about two months now. This was not due to political violence, but rather to me traveling to far less adventurous places. I left Thailand just before things got really bad there and spent the first 2 weeks of May with family in MecklenburgVorpommern, Germany. Not that 4 kids between 12 and 2 aren't an existential challenge, there was just no threat of Dengue Fever or massive pachyderms involved. Then it was on to France to Jeremie and a big ass. Literally. His name was Pinnochio and we had spent a great week trekking and camping with him through the Auveregne region of central France. The best birthday present ever. I am now in the US, where the featured animals are dogs and children have been replaced by "adults" who are children at heart. In July its off to Mexico with one of my best friends, so never fear more detailed adventures are to come!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Vet assistant at your service

I have just come into the town of Chaing Mai from the hills for our "big Sunday night out". I am a fully, hardworking valuable vet assistant... The baby ellie is not here yet, but Mama seems much bigger than 2 weeks ago and her milk production is hopefully soon. I work hard all day but i really enjoy it and I am in my "dirty country but very interesting" element. So... we have 2 old ladies at the clinic that have abscesses on their feet that we have to disinfect, clean and medicate 2X per day, then from the herds one with cuts from horny teenage male elephant attacks, one with an infected vulva, and one with an abscess on her shoulder, which is like a really big blister that I have to pump out/ clean, old brocken hip madame with cuts on her hips where she rubs and a baby with cracked feet....All except baby get treated 2X per day...I also learned how to give an elephant an injection. Because the old ladies have abscesses on the soles of their feet and they are hard to treat really well, we have to give them antibiotics to protect from further infection. This takes 3 people at last. One mahut to keep them still, one to old the needle and the syringe together and one to push the injection with both hands because the muscle and antibiotics are so thick. One oldie HATES THIS and we all have to do this running around the shelter trying not to get hurt and trying to get it in :@.( Only every other day)...Then all the dogs have got a very contagious cough/ pneumonia because someone brought out a non- vaccinated puppy who gave it to all 40 dogs. So after the ellies morning treatment we have to run around the park trying to find all the dogs and feed them food with medicine. Thank god thats done today..But apparently some have a blood parasite so next week we have to catch those and give them an injection without getting bitten equals one holds a certain way and one injecting and let go quickly. Its all great fun! :)

The vet nurse is great to work with. Already I am part of the team and see alot of the dramas, gossip and politics. Its good that I am usually quiet and listen alot. I am certainly not getting involved in all the crazy drama :)...

I work very closely with the elephant's "mahouts" or care takers. As the burmese are traditionally such trainers/ carers all these are Burmese refugees. They seem to appreciate my work, so I think I am doing well, I just now need to also learn Burmese as most only speak their mother tongue.

Apparently things are heating up in Bangkok with violent protests. I heard a report of 15 dead today. There are no protests here in the north but everyone is a proud "redshirt"- So supporting the exiled prime minister Taksin Chinawat (sp?)who is the hero of the poor and rural Thai. When I arrived this week, my taxi driver had the protests on full blast and talked about things very passionately for the ride. At the park everyone is tuned in on their little handheld radios all the time... As long as the king stays alive I think we will be alright.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Quieting the unquiet soul

So in the middle of our time in Cambodia, we traveled to my favorite place in the world, the Elephant Nature Park, a conservation sanctuary for distressed elephants in northern Thailand It was great, as it was 4 years ago. Unfortunately one ellie, who had been brocken by a lifetime of trauma died while we were there. Though I think this was the best for her it emphasizes how disgusting humans can be. But there are also two babies, two young bulls on the edge of adulthood and a baby on the way. Currently they have a full time Thai vet on staff, and a vet nurse volunteer from Melbourne, but both only have small animal as I’ve got time and years of at least horse experience I will be returning to the park tomorrow to assist the team for a month. I am verrryyy excited, as being a vet is my second life dream, if I had a second life right now. No, I won’t be operating, but I can hold instruments at the ready and I will be learning, learning, learning....god I miss learning. While I am quieting my soul and learning again, Jeremie will be returning to France to see a back specialist before heading to Chile. SO dear readers, I am sorry to inform you that our adventures will not include China on a budget and no Chinese and Siberia by train, but will include the birth of an elephant and all that Chile has to hold. Keep reading. There is always something. And I will keep writing, though not sop frequently as there in no internet in the Thai jungle, but in Chaing Mai where one must go 1 time per week so one doesn’t turn to darkly "natural". Until then ...

Sort of quiet on the eastern front

Yes, I know. I haven’t written in quite a while now. Difficult internet connection is an "excuse", but truly I find it very difficult to write about Cambodia. My time here has brought many deeply gripping experiences. The reality of Cambodia remains deeply troubling. Much if not all of society still deals with the deep seeded trauma of their genocide and all the effects of loosing a huge percentage of generations. The Khmer Rouge campaign to cleanse intellectual society was successful and the scars of that still remain. On a large scale the Khmer lost the ability to learn from their pre- rouge cultural history as well as the ability to learn from their elders. 50% of the population is under 20 and it is rare to meet someone over the age of 50. And there is anger. No where in south East Asia have I experienced such a disregard to "keeping face" as here. Anger at me not wanting to pay hugely inflated "tourist price" for a juice on the street. To a tuk tuk driver who threatened to beat my brother in law for not paying more than the fair price to another so massively on drugs that after we jumped out and got into another one, he tried to run us down, nearly causing several accidents to the point that our new driver stopped at a police station....when a Khmer stops at the police by choice you know its bad. What happened next is a symptom of the deprivation of Cambodia. The police ordered the drugged driver off his bike, which he could hardly do, took some money off of him and sent him on his way. Cambodia is not a democracy but dictatorship ruled by massive corruption and "previously" Khmer Rouge cadres. On every level, in every village they are still here. If I were Cambodian I would be angry too.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ok, Ok to be fair

Ok, I wasnt so fair to Malaysian Borneo in my last post. There are some beautiful things to see just need more time and planning than 10 days and hoping to find a guild book at the backpackers AFTER you arrive :%. After another looong bike ride across the state of Sabah we spent 1.5 days at the Poring ( Bamboo) Hot Springs in Kinabalu National Park. Bath tubs and pools are feed directly from a volcanic spring...Actually very relaxing and as the temps can get into the teens ( Celsius) at night not too hot. We also enjoyed some nature walks and bio tours around Mt Kianbalu park, though we didnt climb...too much effort physically and emotionally as again it require booking and guides and an overnight stay, though its a straight path up with a summit you can reach in 5 hours..hassle, hassle, hassle...anyway back in Kota Kinabalu and interestingly enough a real cultural high light here is the night market where all things edible are sold and prepared form the fresh section to the nasi goreng section on to the fried and then the BBQ section. Absolutely great!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Malaysian Borneo

At the moment we are in northern Malaysian Borneo and will fly to Cambodia in a few days. Borneo has been a bit of a disappointment, though much cleaner and "advanced" than Indonesia they are not at all clued into independent tourists. Most tourists that come through are part of tour groups and the whole system is designed around that. So they look at you stupidly and tell you everything has been booked out by the tour groups. We did spend a few days at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary, which was great but other things to see are few and far between. Alot of that has to do with the fact that at least 75 % of the territory is covered in Palm Oil Plantations, which is very, very sad...

We rented a motorbike to travel independently across the state of Sabah. Very much Motorcycle Diaries, but with a better bike. And in the film they dont talk about how painful it is to sit perfectly still on the back of a bike for 8 hours :%. And though this young entropenuer ( much better than the one on Lombok) has a great idea to get travelers to be more independent, he is way ahead of the rest of the country which doesnt really like free movers and thinkers.

And a moment on religion: On Lombok there are huge ornate, glass windowed, tiled mosques every 2 kms in every tiny village between the rice paddies that are still tilled by water buffalo by individuals who will likely starve if one crop fails. Glass windowed mosques dont feed people. Here in Borneo there are catholic churches like there are McDonalds in the US one every 1/2 km. Yet the poverty of those not profiting from Oil and palm oil is close to that on Lombok and the AIDS rate is high. I am silently angry.