Wednesday, March 30, 2005

I'm officially a convert

Wednesday March 30th, 2005 1:48PM - Chicago, IL

I've been loading this ipod now since the 15th of March. I'm probably a good week away from finally completing the task and now have 3,333 songs loaded. That's about 9+ days of music. I'm not sure how that's calculated; I'm assuming its if you listened to the ipod 24 hours a day, but I'm really looking forward to when this is completed. I'll have my entire cd library with me now whenever I travel and won't have to bother with deciding which cds to take, because I'll have them all with me.

I'll need to back-up the entire library sometime this weekend. I plan on buying a portable 80G hard drive to use for backup, but then could conceivably sell all of my cds. Even if I were to get $1 each, that would be around $300. Granted, I spent a hell of a lot more than $300 on them, I just don't want the clutter. Trying to streamline a bit I guess.

I'm completely screwed on finding a job with my company in Thailand. I received a letter from the Managing Director of the Bangkok office and they are not looking to hire and have even reduced a few staff members. He was kind enough to forward my resume (CV) to a couple people in Bangkok and I'll hopefully be able to get their e-mail addresses to contact them directly.

I'm a little disheartened by the whole process, but not discouraged. I know what I want and unfortunately will not stop until my goal is achieved. I don't know that I can continue doing the job I do any further. Its no knock to what I do, I just want to look toward other options at this time. Still though, what I thought was going to be a slam dunk has developed currently into an air ball. Sorry for the basketball analogy, too much basketball talk around these days.

I'm mildly toying with the idea of just chucking it all and making the move. Common sense I guess keeps me from doing it, but days like today in the office really make me consider it. I guess not having enough saved up and a credit card bill are enough to prevent it right now.

I think for now, I want to start on getting vacation set for the end of the year. I need to go for a month in order to make it worth while, but will need to take time off unpaid. That should be an interesting conversation. I guess its time to start with that dialogue now.

The weather has broke a bit and its brightened my spirits a bit, but its supposed to get cold this weekend. Typical.

Tonle Sap

The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. During the dry season, the lake reduces in size due to evaporation. During the rainy season, the lake reaches its highest levels. These photos were taken at the beginning of the dry season (End of November 2004). After being templed out from the Angokr temples, I decided to go out to the Tonle Sap which is about a twenty minute ride from Siem Reap. It was nice and hot out the day I took these photos and the breeze coming from the lake was quite nice.

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This is the view from the boat as we pushed away from shore. There isn't any official boat dock. You just walk over the decks of the other boats until you get to the one you hired for the afternoon. I'm glad that I at least had my sea legs and didn't get soaked.

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Most of the residents of the floating village on the Tonle Sap are Vietnamese. Here is a woman with a boat full of wares to sell. I don't exactly know how I would have ordered a coke, but it was certainly possible.

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Outboard motor? Not a chance. 100% people powered here and with the wake from the speed boats, none too easy.

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One of my favorite photos from the trip. Just two women out on the boat.

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When the lake starts to dry out, the homes of the floating village are just moved further into the lake.

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Being that it was the middle of the day, most people were actually heading home and resting from the heat of the day or emptying their nets from fishing.

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Yes, that is a styrofoam cooler.

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Can the weather change any time soon?

Thursday March 17th, 2005 - Happy St. Patrick's Day

As I sat at my home computer checking to see if a cd had been properly ripped, I looked out the window and saw...yes, wait for it...snow. Again. F$^%ing snow. Its mid-March and I know that it can still snow in the Midwest, buy I'm tired of it.

It reminds me of a line from a Buffet song: "This morning, I shot six holes in my freezer, I think I've got cabin fever..."

I guess I'm lucky that I don't own a pistol or the refrigerator would be getting it.

I decided to let the cd player go the way of the dodo. I purchased an Ipod to try and streamline my cd collection and get them out of the 2' X 2' box in my bedroom.

I've only had a limited time ripping and putting cds on the thing (I had to upgrade my operating system to XP first, what a 2 hour pain in the ass!), but right now have 10 whole cds on there. I only have about 190+ cds to go through. I think tonight I'll go through the cds where I bought them for just one song (which I think is quite a few). I'm already embracing the technology. On my last trip, I went with my cd player and a book of 30 to 40 cds in a book (I double up the cds to fit more in the book). I like to listen to music on the plane and when I'm not doing anything, but it becomes a bit bulky. I now already have 10 cds in the Ipod and the thing is about the size of a deck of cards.

With 30G of storage (holds approximately 7,500 songs or 25,000 photos), I should be able to get my entire cd collection on the Ipod with room to spare. Now I have to get portable storage to hold the contents of the Ipod when I finish this upload. Should be fun.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sunset in Cambodia

I don't know that I need to really describe these too much. I took these photos from the causeway of Angkor Wat. The clouds that rolled in made a phenomenal sunset on my first day in Cambodia.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

Not a good day

Monday March 14th,2005

I promise that later in the week I'll be back to something more positive, but today I need to focus on a bit of bad news that I received. My friend Trevor was pronounced dead last night. He had gone in for a gastric bypass operation, but due to complications, he was never able to fully recover. Trevor was a fighter and it came as a shock to me that he didn't make it.

Trevor was a guy who certainly lived life to its fullest, so I'm sure that he would want us to celebrate his life, but we will all grieve at his passing.

Since this blog is primarily about my travels, I will recount a travel story about a trip I took with Trevor. A few years ago I had agreed to go with Trev on a trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. There were four of us on the trip and we drove leaving around 10:30 or 11:00 PM on a Thursday night. The drive down took roughly 19 or so hours and we got to New Orleans around 4:00 PM. We had pretty fun times in the bars checking out the sites and sounds of the Mardi Gras weekend. The bar we went to Trev was a regular and all the staff just loved him (I think that this was the case everywhere he went). The only issue that arose during the trip was Trev's infamous snoring. Anyone that had ever shared a room with Trev knew that he was a loud snorer. Very loud. Driving back was hell as I was exhausted and the drive really takes a toll (Trev was in the back snoring and even that couldn't keep me awake).

I'll remember that trip too from a trip to Cafe du Monde. Cafe du Monde is famous for chicory coffee and benginets, one of the photos that I have from the trip (At least one of the photos that I could publish), is Trev wearing one of those paper hats and holding a cup of coffee. Trev was a big guy, so the cup of coffee looks like a thimble and the paper hat just sat on the top of his head. Just a silly image, but was great for a laugh.

It had been a while since I had seen Trev. I really wasn't going to the same bars where we all used to hang out, but remember sitting and laughing with him the last time that I saw him. I'm going to miss that. Rest in peace my friend, you will truly be missed.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Learning Thai

Wednesday, March 9th, 2005 Chicago, IL

Since my first trip to Thailand in 2004, I've been interested in learning the Thai language. I always feel that if you can communicate in someone's native language, it makes it easier to be understood and to get around during your travels.

I started probably the way most people do with languages when they travel by memorizing as much of the travel related phrases in the guidebook. Most of the phrases do help with very general situations like "How much is this?" "Help", "Where is...?"

It just doesn't help in everyday situations.

About a year ago, I purchased a copy of Thai for Beginners by Benjawan Poomsan Becker. It really has provided a good start, but without being able to practice everyday and the other b.s. that happens in life away from Thailand, I really didn't get past Chapter 3 in the book. I did however put as much effort as I could into learning the consonants and vowels of the alphabet. My thinking was that if I could at least identify the characters, I could sound out the word even if I didn't know what the word actually meant.

On my last trip out, I purchased the Thai for Beginners computer software. I'm thoroughly impressed with the software as it provides repetition and the ability to go over phrases endlessly until its understood. I've been pretty good on the first three chapters, but decided to try another chapter, chapter 6. Wow, I could phonetically pronounce the words, but had no clue what the word's meaning was.

If I really want to make this move, I better start studying a lot more.

Just bought a guidebook for Vietnam. I'm planning on taking a bit of an extended trip to Southeast Asia at the end of the year if the job search turns up nothing. I figure that if I have enough time, I'd like to spend at least a week plus there and then tour Northern Thailand.

Lagaan (good bye)

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Sunday 1:00 AM - Back at the hotel. Have to leave for the port in 3 hours.

There's no use sleeping. Just want to spend my last few hours in country having fun. We decide to play cards for the next three hours and then head out to the airport.

For once I don't get screwed over by the taxi mafia outside of the hotel. The driver uses the meter, I pay the tolls for the tollway. There's no traffic on the tollway, ever really. Its the fastest way to the airport although there is a new international airport being constructed and should be open this year. That will be interesting when I return at the end of the year.

I do kind of love the ride on the tollway, the only traffic you see are cars going to the airport and everyone is driving like they are on the autobahn.

This is actually the first time that I've contemplated telling the taxi driver to take me back to the hotel. I really did, but I guess there were too many loose ends to tie up back home before pulling this kind of move.

There are no stories of any tearful goodbyes or anything because that didn't happen. We sat, laughed, and said our goodbyes. I was a bit sad leaving, but like I've said before, the world is a lot smaller these days. I'm 8,000 miles away, but never feel that I'm that far with e-mail and relatively inexpensive international long distance rates and text messaging. All I'm doing now is counting down to Cubs Opening Day and my return trip. 261 days to go...

TIme to get out...

Thursday, March 3rd, 2005 Chicago, IL 257 days to go.

I did it, finally did it. I sent an e-mail to my bosses indicating my desire to go to Bangkok, permanently. This has been a decision that I've agonized over my entire time in Thailand. Several times I asked myself "Why exactly am I going back?"

Well, I'm now decicated to getting out and that's it. I'm tired of cold, corrupt Chicago and would rather be in hot, corrupt Bangkok. Its the decision of a lifetime. My initial plan is to get a transfer with my current company and stay there a couple years. I'm excited about going because if it does come to fruition I'll be able to travel throughout Asia for vacations.

What do I need to do in the mean time is study, study, and study Thai. I was lucky to get a software program for Thai when I was in Bangkok, now I just have to spend the time studying. Whenever I can find the time that is...

Ok, I owe a lot from the last trip. I wasn't realy near a computer except for two days and thus the lack of updates. I'll start working on that this weekend. I don't have any photos, but still have my impressions of someone now more familiar with Thailand.