- Sunday, January 16, 2005. On this day: BBC, Wikipedia, HowTo
- The Day Keeps Getting Better
Meant to add that I had a good chat online with Landon as well (sorry Landon) which was really nice.
After I wrote my last blog post I went outside to look for a tuk-tuk home and heard some drums playing and decided to investigate. It turns out there was a South Korean drumming team just playing in the square next to the fountain. They were really good and it was the perfect end to a really good day.
# Posted 9:41 PM (0) comments
- A Good Day
A big advantage to realizing that I only have 2 months left is that it's pushing me more to get out and see places that I've been meaning to visit. I remember when I was staying in Russia I alwasy felt that I had plenty of time to visit museums or other towns and I kept putting it off. Suddenly, I only had 2 weeks left and there were tons of things I hadn't done.
I've gotten around a bit more in Vientiane but I've still let myself fall into this habit. Today though, I slept in a bit then got up and rode my bike downtown. I ate a late breakfast at the Scandanavian Bakery then struck up a conversation with 2 Dutch girls who are biking through Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China. After leaving the bakery I rode my bike around downtown and took pictures of some of the buildings. I wanted to visit 2 temples downtown. I knew that both were closed at lunch time so I put that off until after lunch. In the meantime I stopped to walk along the promenade on the banks of the Mekong. I stopped to grab a drink and ended up talking to an interesting Lao person who's studying in Vientiane. He has a background in working as a tour guide in Phongsali province and is very interested in eco-tourism so he was very interested in hearing about CUSO and that they have 2 eco-tourism placements starting next month.
I left there and biked back to the fountain area to grab lunch. I did my usual weekend treat of a baguette sandwich at PVO and a fruit smoothie from the juice lady up the street. This is one of the best lunch deals in Vientiane (possibly of all time). I got the vegetarian sandwich today so with a pineapple mango smoothie the total cost was only 10,000 kip (or aproximately $1 US).
From there I rode back to Wat Si Saket and took a lot of photos there. It's the oldest wat still standing in Vientiane. It's fairly recent, being built around the beginning of the 19th century but it was the only wat that wasn't destroyed when the siamese razed Vientiane. All of the other wats that were older were destroyed and had to be rebuilt later. It's a really interesting site. I've found all the wats I've visited to feel realy peaceful which is nice. I find going out to take photos pretty calming to begin with so this is a nice combination (note, I always ask for permission before taking pictures on the grounds of a wat).
I biked around a bit more after leaving the wat. I had finished 2 rolls of colour so I dropped them off to be developed. I shot a few more things after that before biking home.
This evening I tried eating somewhere new for me, I had seen a Japanese place downtown that I'd been curious about and today I tried it. It was okay but I didn't find it filling enough so I don't think I'll go back.
For next weekend, I think I'm going to make a trip to "Budha Park" which isn't far from town and from some of the photos I've seen, it looks pretty strange. Hamid is going away for 9 days starting next weekend but he's talking about going to Luang Prebang the weekend after he's back so I'll probably go with him. Plus there's also the up-coming end of service meeting that will likely be in Savanakhet so there's a few things going on. Should be an interesting 2 months.
# Posted 9:17 AM (0) comments
- Friday, January 14, 2005. On this day: BBC, Wikipedia, HowTo
- 2 Months Left?!
Today I suddenly realized that I've been here for 4 months. That wasn't too shocking but what was shocking was that means that I only have 2 months left to go.
I'm somewhat ambivalent about this. On the one hand I'm really excited about going home in around 2 months (depending on travel after my contract ends). On the other hand, I'm really worried about going home. While I've had this great chance to live and work overseas I've realized that it hasn't solved any of the fundamental problems I need to deal with in my life.
I still have essentially no social life. Living here has really helped me learn that no matter where I choose to live I need to make sure to make more efforts to meet people and engage in social activities outside of work. When I was working at Eastlink my big excuse was the schedule. Here my excuse has been the language barrier. The bottom line is that I just need to be willing to put in more effort. I had a bad schedule before but I still had free time when I could have done things with people. Now I may have a problem with the language barrier but there are Lao people who speak English very well and there are foreigners living in the city, I just need to make more effort to meet these people.
The bigger issue though is that I still need to figure out more of a long-term employment plan and start working on it. I'm still faced with the fact that when I go home I will still have a hard time finding a job in IT that's not a call center. I have experience but call center experience isn't valued very highly and without a degree or diploma in IT it's pretty hard to get your foot in the door.
The possibility of extending my stay here has been thrown around. In some ways I really like this option. I feel like I could accomplish more at work if I had more time and I'd like to have the opportunity to see more of Laos as well. On the other hand, I don't want to stay if it's just to postpone dealing with the same decision. I would at least get some more experience with hands on technical work which is valued more than call center work but I'm not sure how much this would help. The other option I've considered is to look for other work here. There seems to be a pretty high demand for IT people so I could probably find a salary position. The main thing though is I'm worried about becoming complacent and stagnating because I got into a cushy lifestyle. If I stay then I'll really need to look for ways to keep pushing myself.
# Posted 10:00 AM (1) comments
- Saturday, January 08, 2005. On this day: BBC, Wikipedia, HowTo
- What is wrong with the world?
On 9/11 a terrorist attack killed nearly 3,000 people. This was definitely a horrible tragedy that should have been prevented. Since then it's been used as a justification for massive impositions on personal freedoms in the US and in various other countries. It has also been one of the main justifications for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While there were potentially some ties with Afghanistan the attempts to link Saddam Hussein with Al Qaida were pretty laughable and pretty much ammounted to taking advantage of the fact that most Americans would just lump all arabs together and not ask too many questions (and unfortunately this was mostly true). The US has used 9/11 as a justification to spend well over 100 billion dollars in war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. All in the name of "making the world safe".
On December 26, 2004 an earthquake off the coast of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia caused a tsunami which has already had a death toll of close to 150,000 and WHO officials are saying that total could double if aid efforts do not effectively help stop the spread of disease and starvation that is following the disaster. How much has the US contributed to this effort? $350 million. Do the math, assuming $150 billion spent on war efforts and 3,000 dead in 9/11, the US has spent $50 million per person killed on 9/11. 150,000 dead in a Tsunami and the US has spent only around $2300 per person killed.
I can't help but wonder how much better off the world would be if that $150 billion were spent differently. A Tsunami warning system in the Indian ocean would have helped warn many of the people and saved countless lives. Apparently, even 10 minutes of warning can have a huge impact on the number of lives lost. Spending some of the money on foreign aid would likely have improved the infrastructure in many of the affected areas. The lack of infrastructure has created numerous problems with sending relief to some countries and is contributing to the rising death toll. As well, medical facilities and staff could have been better equiped and trained which would make responding to a disaster like this much better.
Besides just helping reduce the number of lives lost in this disaster, $150 billion could make the US a leader in international aid. Reducing poverty and improving education around the world is a far better way to spread democracy than dropping tons of bombs on a group of people who already feel marginalised by the west.
# Posted 1:55 AM (0) comments
- Thursday, January 06, 2005. On this day: BBC, Wikipedia, HowTo
- Geeking in Laos
This week has been a little geekier than normal. It's the last week of the term break so I've been madly trying to get all the computers working as well as they can.
Since most of them haven't been well maintained for ages and have been in the lab for at least 4 years or more, this has meant formatting all of the old computers. I've got 14 of 19 done now so I should be able to wrap it up tomorrow. Along side formatting everything I've also been "upgrading" everything to Windows ME. The machines are really too old to run XP so it's the only feasible option.
The big pain has been that there's so many little extras that I have to do to get the computers really setup nicely. First, I make sure to do a custom install of ME to make sure that some of the garbage that's put on by default isn't there. Then of course, I have to install some drivers for devices that ME doesn't have drivers for (Video, Sound, Modem and LAN) then restart. Then I have to configure the network (IP addresses, add file and printer sharing) and another restart. Then I set up the shared drive and install AVG, another restart. Then install the updates for AVG that I've downloaded and do a full scan (there's been a lot of viruses on the PCs in the past so I like to make sure they're clean and it's quickest to do it at this point before more stuff gets loaded on).
Then it's time to install Office which is another custom install. Then I have to go into Word to set the default units to centimeters and the default paper size to A4 (why it can't do this automatically when I told Windows I'm in a metric country is beyond me) plus I need to switch macro security to medium because the install for Lao language support needs me to open a file with macros. Then I install Lao language support. That's the "barebones" setup. I'm to the point where I can get 3 machines going at once in some process of this setup. After this I'll still need to go back and install some extra software but it's not as much of a priority.
# Posted 10:32 AM (0) comments
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