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.

Oh Singapore

Where you can get beaten for gum, but they have a great airport: Heading to Borneo after a night at Singapore airport. The best place to have a holiday..Free films, free Starbucks breakfast ( not my fault they didnt ask for my money) and the Singapore police did not arrest me for sleeping on the seats in the terminal, though they did make movements towards their guns when they startled me awake and I was all in self-defence mode :% :$

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A slight of hand and look where you land

Leaving Ubud our plan was to tour around Bali towards the east. We bought bus tickets at the Ubud tourist office to our destination and we were off. Except when the bus stopped at small sea side port and we were asked to get out...It was the end of the line and we weer not at our planned destination. Looking at the tickets again the damn tourist "police" had written down this port not where we wanted to go. And of course here some taxi bus mafioso was demanding a months salary to take us 20 what ot do. This port, Padangbai is actually the port from which ferries leave for the next island to the east, Lombok. So for 4$ a piece we boarded an ancient metal barge and traveled the 70 Kms east took almost 7 hours but we didnt sink so thats good :)

So Lombok is the largely Muslim and less visited neighbour of largely Hindu Bali. Tourism hasnt really taken hold here other that reach the diving/ snorkeling/ partying paradise Gilli Islands off its coast. The Gilli Islands have no police...Something the Bali 9 should have thought about. They are building an "International Airport" here and all those clinging desperately to the tourist industry are very excited about. I think it might bring more evil than good with it. Lombok is poor and though life in the tropics may appear easy, men, women, children and small ponies toil daily through the movements of subsistence farming. No one has it easy, contrary to some opinions i have heard. The land is beautiful though and people are more genuinely happy to see you.

So I met a breed of entrepreneur I hadn't met before until now. Apparently they are quite common here on the islands, namely a guy ( 35 going on 17) in the business of fulfilling the tropical dreams of some rather desperate European woman and he living off the perks, food, drink, and even a house. He is happy to hustle tourists to hotels/ services etc and play reagee music, but these woman are determined to make some cultured responsible adult out of him ( maybe not so responsible). An interesting sociological observation. What I did learn through this whole experience is that Locally brewed palm wine tastes like liking some animal and Lombok Belly feels like digesting gravel. I can not imagine child birth being worse. You can tell, I did not enjoy Lombok as wished I would. I am glad to be back in Padangbai which is actually a great little fishing village with beautiful snorkeling, good food and baaadddd live bands. Think drunk frat boys singing, though they are neither drunk nor in a frat :@.

Ohhh Bali Bali

After the fianly great impression of Mount Cook, while sea kayaking on a glacier lake, a needed rest in Christ Church that included bungy tampolining ( one should not do this after age 10 as it induses nausia , blood circulation issues and internal posterier cramps for hours :O* ) and hellish traveling day that included 3 countries and no sleep for 24 hours, we are now in hot relaxed spicy Bali. After escaping fat drunk half naked anglo- saxon hell of Kuta, we are now in the island's cultural capital of Ubud. Here one finds the height if Balineese temple dacing accopanied by and orachstra of zylophone players chiming along with metal hammers...ots actually really impressive music. Ubud seems quite hectic and very tourist oriented but a mere 100 meters aways from the main streets one finds kilometers of rice palm grass patties. The Balinese live i large family compounds with up to 4 generations sharing what looks like a small temple with several buildings. And to supliment their income some families turn some of their space into rooms for tourists :) So A great way to get to know the people a bit better is to stay at such a homestay. We are staying with a lovely family with an even better puppy :) Friendliness and puppies make life good in Ubud.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Georgia you have been out did mmmhmmm

As it stands, I continue to have difficulties making peace with Georgia: with mud wrastlen', chitlins, hunten and thumping the "good book", however Saturday night Georgia, you were outdone, or out did...... In the ski resort/ hiking village of Wanaka. After many a day on the rough it is surprising that 15 $ can by you a shower and a sandfly free place to camp = happiness. After obtaining happiness we decided to see what the swanky town had to offer. Walking along the main street toward dinner we heard loud music and cheering coming from a big local pub, and what did we find....Complete with a grandstand, grannies and young boys in the front row an " Opening a beer bottle with a chain saw contest". Yes you read correctly, here in NZ they have no worries about mixing large amounts of alcohol and heavy motorized blades. It was actually an organized ,sponsored event. Anyone in any condition could line up , only needing to put on closed shoes and an apron and off they went...sawing off the cap and chugging a liter of the local brew. And yes some who broke the neck still chugged! A little boy was so excited to see his daddy and all the little ones ran around collecting the caps....It was a sight...unfortunately we didnt have the camera :%. I ran after 5 minutes... I couldnt stand to see the carnage that seemed so inevitable...but we never heard any ambulance...The police were actually there when we arrived and just left..... Oh a sad night for Georgia.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Never Listen to Over Zealous Dutch Travelers

So while in Karamea we met up with a young dutch couple spending months traveling around NZ. They seemed very knowledgeable and experienced and they said " Oh when you go to the glaciers you must stay at Gillespies Point" Oh ok we'll do that. WRONG. SO Gillespies POint is the end of a 30 min long dirt track. Usually these end in great spots..this ended in a parking lot full of other campers. Given it was nice that this two hut fishing village had been taken over by sheep... but we did not drive all that way to stay on a parking lot... SO off on a dirt track we go to find a quieter spot near the beach. In the bushes are ominous hand painted signed saying "Warning mining in progress" This is wierd as who mines on beach.. So we stop to set up camp and who arrives with in 5 minutes...the plague of this otherwise perfect land...Sandflies...Biting blood sucking make your limbs swell sandflies. Into the campervan we go for another long evening in a camper van made for actually one person of diminutive stature..... And in the morning....we are the soft sand with sandflies... and who can get us out? A "miner" driving a small bulldozer ... mining for gold dust in the sand.....And the money of stupid foreigners campers....Yes this country does hold some interesting people ...mining for gold dust in the sand...zealous


So one choice one makes on holiday in a campervan for two is between seeing everything or relative sanity with a marked lack of violence. Yeah....we went for the sanity, and in the end I think our trip was better for it. After our Chitty Chitty Bang Bang arrival in the northern village of KAramea we spent two great quiet days parked at the village oval and exploring the caves and rivers of the Oparara National Park. A beautiful and breathtaking place in this pristine country. With tears and soul wrenching we also had to help a rabbit find peace after a careless driver didnt... Im not so sure if Im cut out for country life after all...

With a FULL tank of gas we continued on down the west cost seeing pancake rocks and blow holes that didnt blow at high or low tide in the rain....and stopped off to see the astounding Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. Ive never seen a glacier before and certainly not in 25 degree weather. No, I didnt pay 300 dollar to climb on one..Though I must admit there was only one company doing it so it was quite sustainable..Perhaps if I was big into mountain climbing I would. It just seemed that letting people climb on them would not assist in hindering the melting process...Hmmm

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The finger at martimony!

So, a conversation that has been had for millenia was had......"um we are driving through the tropical alps. The guild book says we should fill up with petrol as there is no station for 95 KM..." We have a 1/4 of a tank, We'll be all right"..."Hmmm the road sign says we should fill up, I think we should fill up"...."We'll be all right". 20 Kms into the trip the needle is almost done to empty" What? Oh the choke wasnt pushed in. SO on a beautiful yet breakneck turning, climbing and dipping road with no shoulder we puffed our way to the top. There was no time for anger or I told you so...MInd you Jeremie was overly smiley and nice throughout....WE made it to the peak..Thank you middle earth...and then it was " You steer and shift and I'll man the hand-break all the way down to the little village of Karamea. We coasted into the only petrol station for many Kms....Jeremie promptly had a stiff drink and went to bed. I dont know if he was more stressed by the drive or my reaction if we hadnt made it hmmm.

We are now in the sleepy village of Karamea among cows and nice kiwis. We toured the beautiful rainforests and caves of the Oparara Basin.....Huge old dense trees covered with moss. Stone arches and waterfalls. ITs exactly the place where I imagined that all my childhood fairytales played out. Especially Ronja Raeubertochter and Die Brueder Loewenherz.

Before KAramea we stopped outside of Westport and saw a Fur Seal colony. It was amazing to see wild mammals in their habitat. There were many pups and mother. Its still birthing season and some of the pups looked only a few days old...tiny for a seal. This was all for free in a national park. NEw Zealand has an EXCELLENT park service. PArks are everywhere and beautifully maintained.....Well off down the west coast to the south....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

We have come so far to holiday in the Alps?

New Zealand....A land of very nice kiwis, fat happy cows IN FIELDS, fluffy sheep ...and evil sand flies. So Jeremie and I landed in the quiet, quiet town of Christchurch Wednesday night and made our way on the local bus from the airport ( with a prepaid ticket scanning system!!) at 11 pm to the city centre. Our friends in Atlanta and especially Sydney will be astounded by that last sentence as neither GREAT SUPERPOWER CITIES have anything close to that in public transport.....Anyway stayed at the Stonehurst hostel, which sadly Sydney friends is 10X cleaner and quieter then the Billabong (sadness). It was then up early to get our rolling mix of the Little Miss Sunshine Bus and my room in Dudweiler...on wheels. No, its actually quite great though it drives like a 3 horse trailer :$. From Christchurch we are making or way through the Alps to the west cost and are now on the one street village of Reefston (?) The kiwis are exceptionally friendly and country country. And yes we are in the Alps, ( though a bit smaller) just like back im Laendle: Very high hills with little vegetation, crystal clear mountain rivers which are very painful to swim in, and crazy frenchies ;)I saw my first snow in almost 4 years....while burning in the unfiltered sun. We are looking out for Hobbits and Lord of the Ring followers who have trouble with reality...Ill post some pictures soon and try to get Jeremie to participate in this venture ;) Hope you are well!

Its the end on the world as we know it...

Hello everyone,

After a long and sad goodbye all of our dear friends in Australia, Jeremie and I ahve begun our continuing life adventure on the south island of New Zealand....