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Monday, December 31, 2007

New Content

Okay, I've added some new content to the site. Specifically, I've added:

*The first Slovak Travelogue--Some of you have seen this before but most of you haven't. I plan to post one of these every week until they run out. Then, I will post my Japanese travelogues and after that, the Djiboutian ones that I've written so far. Eventually, the collection will be complete! Of course, I will post the current Djiboutian TLs as I write them.

*Djiboutian Links--Or should I say 'link' . . . There really isn't a lot out there about Djibouti so I was only able to post the official tourism link. Let me know if you find others.

I want to reiterate that you're welcome to comment on anything I've written. I have invited some of you I know to initiate new posts and I will permit others who contact me my e-mail.

Enjoy your holidays!

Travelogue Slovakia (1)

Here is the initial 'travelogue' I wrote when I went on my first overseas assignment for my current job. I wrote this on July 29, 2006 so it's a little out of date. Keep that in mind when reading it.

Also, here is the link with the accompanying pictures to the descriptions in the body of the letter. Let me know if you're not able to view them.

http://picasaweb.google.com/mccoy4984/TravelogueSlovakia1

Hi, all!


Well, this is the first official edition of my 'Travelogue.' If you don't like my writing style, just remember two things. It's free and no one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to read it!! Ha, ha, ha!

I think I'll start with the trip down to my city. As most of you know, I came to Slovakia with Judith and Brian (last names omitted). We spent the first three days in Bratislava (where Judith will remain permanently) and traveled to our respective cities on Friday. The MOD picked us up in a van on Friday morning at 0730. At first, I thought Brian was lucky because he only had to ride for one hour to get to his city, Trencin. After a few more hours, I realized that I was the lucky one. The scenery on the way down was just amazing. Fields and fields of sunflowers were moving to and fro in the breeze. It was as if the ground were shifting continuously. Then, we began to pass the Vysoke Tatry (High Tatra mountains). What a sight! It felt like we were driving through Alpine villages. You could actually see the snow on the peaks. Anyway, the six hours it took to get to my city passed very quickly.

Just when I thought it couldn't get better, we arrived in Presov. Presov is approximately six hours to the east of Bratislava and one hour from the Ukraine. I had prepared myself for a letdown because I knew it couldn't compare. However, I was wrong. It was every bit as nice as Bratislava only on a smaller scale. The joy began after seeing my hotel room. I won't go into detail about it's quality for fear of having my future political career ruined. Let's just say it was more than adequate. After getting checked in and settled, I decided to explore the immediate area. Next to the hotel is a theatre for opera, plays, etc. Across the street, is a TESCO (a British hypermarket). On down the street is the University of Presov. But, I was most impressed with the architecture in the main square. I won't attempt to describe what only a picture can convey. I'll just say that it looked like something out of a painting.

How about the people? Well, I met my supervisor as soon as I arrived. Her English was excellent and she seemed very understanding and considerate. I'm sure it will be easy to work with her. Also, she invited me to a birthday party tonight. Should be fun. As I was exploring the downtown area, all the people I encountered seemed so healthy and vibrant. Although the temperature was a little high, it seemed cool because of the breeze. It reminded me of the three years that I lived in Bavaria. Very European!

Well, I think I'll stop for this week. There is so much more to tell but I have a lot of time to do so. Below, I've enclosed a link about my city and some pictures. Let me know if you have trouble viewing anything.

Picture #1

This is a picture of the High Tatra mountains. Forgive the quality, but I had to take this through the window of a moving van. The driver seemed to be on a mission and I was too scared to ask him to stop!

Picture #2

A Roma settlement. I think it looks quite nice even though it's public housing.

Picture #3

A castle about 20km from Presov. This castle was built to defend against invading armies from the Ottoman Empire.

And, here is the link about Presov. The picture was taken about 100 meters from where I live.

http://www.spectacularslovakia.sk/ss2003/12_northeast.html

I hope you enjoyed this. Feedback is truly appreciated!

All the best to you. Russ

Happy New Year!!!

I want to wish a happy new year to all my friends and all those reading this blog. May you have good fortune in the coming year and continue to live life to the fullest.

I will be off tomorrow (New Years's is also a holiday in Djibouti) and will try to add some more content to this site.

Until then, be safe tonight and don't celebrate too much!

Russ

Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Resolution

I thought and thought about this and my resolution this year is to try to spend more time in the US once my tour ends here in April. Does anyone believe I can keep this resolution this time around?

Some More Information

Do you see the little 'envelope' icons at the end of each post? Click one of these and you can forward my entry to a friend. Not that I would be so arrogant as to assume my writing is worth forwarding, but I hope to catch you in a weak/inebriated moment!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Clarification!!

You can tell I'm new to blogging. In earlier posts, I encouraged people to comment and/or start new posts. Well, anyone can comment on a post I've written. But, I just found out that you need special permission to start a new post. I've already sent a few of you invitations to join my blog as members and this will allow you to initiate a new post. If you're just scanning this blog and you want to add new posts to it, let me know via the e-mail address listed in my profile. I will then add you as a member after asking you a few questions.

Thanks

A Stroll Downtown . . .

Well, I seem to be in the mood for writing a lot today. I just took a stroll downtown and it was quite enjoyable. The downtown area in Djibouti is probably like nothing you've seen before. It's sort of a combination between a US urban area and a Middle Eastern souk. You can smell the various aromas and incense as you're walking down back alleys. You can see the hawkers in front of their respective shops. I particularly enjoyed this evening's stroll because I believe it's the first time the temperature has been below 80 since I've been here. It was 78 at 7pm.

The best time to be downtown is definitely at night. Not only is it cooler, but you can see all the shops. It's amazing how many shops exist that you weren't aware of walking around during the day. But, at night, all the lights come on and everything is so active. I swear, there is definitely a charm to this place. I know I'm going to have mixed feelings about leaving when the time comes.

Travelogues

For those of you who don't know me in person, I have written some travelogues over the last few years and sent them to many of my friends via e-mail. I plan to continue this, only now, I will include the write-ups on this site and post a link to the pictures so everyone can see them. I also plan to add gradually the travelogues that I wrote in the past after some editing, etc. so I can bring everyone up to date on what I've been doing the last few years. I hope this makes for some enjoyable reading.

Let me know what you think.

Oh those Street Vendors!!

I think one of the most difficult things about living in Djibouti is dealing with the vendors on the street. You can't leave your hotel without being solicited by one or the other offering items that you wouldn't accept for free. "Hey, Mister!" I have some good sunglasses for you." When I show him my Ray-Bans, he claims that his are of higher quality. Or, would you like to buy a Rolex watch? Yeah, I haven't heard that one before.

But, I guess it's not really that bad. It's just when you're in the mood to take a leisurely stroll, you'd prefer to be left alone. The constant soliciting has a cumulative effect I guess.

I can still find some humor in the situation however. This afternoon, I was walking to the supermarket and a shepard had his flock herded together while offering them for sale. I walked up to where he was, he looked at me, I looked at him and we both laughed!! I believe we both knew what each of us was thinking. He knew I was thinking, "Oh, God! Please don't try to sell me a sheep." I knew he was thinking how ludicrous it would be to try to sell the sheep to me. So much so, that it made him laugh. It doesn't sound like much, but that situation made my day.

My only regret was I didn't have my camera with me!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Search Engine

Yes, I will use any excuse to post to this site!! I just added a Google search engine at the top of the site. You can search the WWW using google or only search my website. For example, type in 'Slovakia' and you'll get a page with all the links for Slovakia only on my website assuming you've clicked the little 'travel the world' button.

Let's see, you've got a search engine, pictures, good literature . . . I don't see why you'd ever have to go to another page on the internet. Agreed?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Posting

I just want to reiterate that you can start new posts and/or add comments at your leisure. You shouldn't have any problems doing this although you may have to open a google account with a user name and password. You would only have to do this once though. Also, you can post with your user name or anonymously. Hopefully, as this site gains audience, we can have multiple threads going at the same time.

Speaking of which, I know for a fact that several of my friends from Slovakia and Japan are reading this blog. If you have specific questions about those two countries/cultures, you could direct those questions to them and hopefully, they will respond. It would be great if we can get some interaction between people interested in a particular country and those on the ground there.

Anyway, people keep hitting the site. 180 hits in essentially two and a half days! Unfortunately, I return to work tomorrow. Yes, my week is Saturday through Wednesday with Thursday/Friday as the weekend. I do get New Year's off though because it is also celebrated in Djibouti. The week after is supposed to be the Muslim New Year. It will be interesting to see what festivities are planned for that day.

Thanks again to everyone.

Big Plans for the Blog!!

Hi, Everyone!!



First of all, I want to give a big thanks to all of you who have read this blog in the first few days. I only created it on the 23d and installed the stat counter yesterday morning. Since yesterday morning, I have had over 120 'hits.' Most of the visitors have come from Japan with the US and Djibouti running second and third (no surprise there). Some people indicated that it's difficult to post because they have to open a google account. Let me know if that's the case. If it is, you would only have to do this once and then post anytime after that. I really want to see everyone's comments. Oh, you don't have to use your real name either.



Plans



*For those of you receiving them in the past, I will continue to send the 'travelogues' to your e-mail accounts. However, I will also post them on this site with links in the body of the text to my google photo album. This way, you can access them in perpetuity. I'm planning on sending the next one out sometime next week. I'm trying to locate some animals more dangerous than the last one!



*Once I start getting more posts, I plan on organizing them by topic. Should I do this by country/area of the world or by topics such as culture, travel tips, etc? Give me your suggestions and will see how it develops.



*And, I will continue to post a different slideshow every week.



As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Pictures of Slovakia

I have decided to add new pictures every week for everyone to see. These pictures will be in a slideshow format, but if you click on one, it should open up into a bigger window. I'm including pictures of Slovakia first as this was the first place I traveled with my current job. Below is a description of each picture.

#1 I flew into Bratislava and stayed there for three days. Then, the Slovak military transported me to Presov the third largest city in Slovakia. I saw the 'Tatra' mountains on the way there and snapped this picture.

#2 A castle near the town of Levoca. It's supposed to be the biggest castle in this part of Europe.

#3 The main street of Presov after a rain shower. I'll have more pictures of the downtown area in later postings.

#4 A beautiful arch leading to another street.

#5 A 700 year old church at dusk. It was difficult having to see this sight every evening from my hotel room. Ha, ha!

Please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in Djibouti

Just checking in for those who are already reading my blog. Well, today was Christmas, but I had to work. Actually, I didn't mind it so much because it didn't really feel like Christmas. The temperature was in the mid-80s and most businesses were open. Still, I was a little surprised because there were some references to Christmas downtown. In the Semiramis supermarket, there was actually someone dressed as Santa Claus and ringing a bell. Also, several people I met today wished me a Merry Christmas. I felt a little self conscious about that because acknowledgement of Christmas was forbidden in Saudi Arabia, another muslim country I've lived in.

I hope you all enjoyed the holiday and time off.

Talk to you soon.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Japan Links Added

There are so many wonderful websites out there that deal with all aspects of Japanese travel and culture. Still, I found these to be the most useful.

*Japan Times

The number one English language newspaper in Japan.

*Japan-Guide

Basically, it covers everything in Japan and another great forum.

*Nagoya International Center

I lived in Nagoya and this website was invaluable for questions about daily survival.

New Links Added

I've added some of my favorite links for Slovakia in the right margin.

*Presov

This website provides info on the city I lived in for five months last year. I especially love the photo section. It brings back wonderful memories of the strolls I used to take in the cool autumn evenings with the ancient architecture looming in the background.

*Slovak Language

A website that has a little of everything pertaining to Slovakia but I especially like the language section. Check it out if you want to see the subtle differences between Czech and Slovak.

*Slovak Spectator

This is a subscription site but they do have some free articles.

*Slovensko.com

Once again, a little of everything with a great discussion forum on all things Slovak!

Enjoy.

Merry Christmas!!

Wow! I can see how having a blog might become addictive. I'm enjoying just thinking about what I'm going to add to it. Please check in occasionally as I plan to work on it a little every day.

As for my plans for Christmas, I have to work. The embassy is having an event out at the American camp, but I will be slaving away during that time. Still, it doesn't really bother me because it's 90F and I just can't seem to get into the holiday spirit because of it. Oh well, I have to sacrifice something in order to live this jetsetter life.

Merry Christmas to all!!

Russ (The Moderator)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Introduction

Hi to everyone! My name is Russ and I just created this blog so don't expect too much right away. I'm not a creative person by nature so any suggestions for improving the 'look' of the blog would be most welcome.

Why did I start this? Well, I'm sure it has a lot to do with ego and a desire to contribute something to posterity. But, I think the main reason is I have a job that allows me to travel extensively and I want to share my travel experiences with as many people as possible. Ideally, those of you who read the blog can live vicariously through me and/or share similar experiences/comments related to your travels.

So, hopefully this is the beginning of a wonderful project!!