Showing posts from January, 2008

Travelogue Slovakia (4)

Written August 17, 2006

This travelogue's a little early as I wanted to get it out before the weekend. I know I'm probably overwhelming everyone with all the pictures and stories. I promise to cut back on them to once every few weeks which was my original intent anyway. I've just been so excited about being here and wanted to share this excitement with my friends. Please try to tolerate this weakness of mine!

Well, I've been training my students for two weeks now and all I can say is that it's been wonderful. They are so motivated!! They do anything you ask of them. I caught myself whistling at 5am this morning while thinking about going to work. I don't think that's ever happened before. I sometimes go into the classroom during breaks just to talk to them. It's insane. They are good students and very interesting people.

By now, I thought the novelty of knowing an American would have worn off and I would have had fewer social obligations. It se…

Travelogue Japan (3)

Written April 8, 2007

It's time for another installment describing my travels. I have to admit to being tired and forcing myself to write this. I went out with some students/teachers Friday night and then another group Saturday afternoon. The latter was especially difficult due to a lack of sleep from the previous night. I'll describe that outing since it includes pictures.

In Japan, there is a custom called 'Hanami.' Literally translated, it means 'cherry-blossom viewing.' In practice, it means going to a public place in the late morning/early afternoon, eating, drinking, and enjoying the blossoms. It's especially beautiful when the wind blows and blossoms fall like snow sometimes getting caught in your hair. 'Dream-like' might be how I would describe it.

So, the plan was to meet at Komaki station at 1030 and walk over to the park together. Upon arrival, we laid out some kind of tarp and sat down for food and drink. One of the students offer…

Travelogue Djibouti (2)

Written on November 15, 2007. Please see link below for pictures.

Hi, Everyone!

Here is another entry from Djibouti, the country you've always wanted to know more about but were afraid to ask!

This time, I've enclosed some pictures and I'll explain these in the end. Right now, I just want to note some observations I've made in my first few weeks here. This may seem like stream of consciousness because I just finished a one hour walk in the blazing, afternoon sun. And, this is supposed to be winter time!

One thing unusual I've noticed is how the locals alternate between different languages. In some countries where more than one language is prevalent, you'll often hear vocabulary from different languages peppered into the speech. But, in Djibouti, you may hear Arabic exclusively for a period of time and then French and then some incomprehensible language that I assume is Somali and/or another tribal language. All of these are used between two people in convers…

Weekend Plans

Let's see, what do I plan on posting this weekend? I think I'm going to post one each of my travelogues for Slovakia, Japan, and Djibouti. I'm also going to change my slideshow to a country that hasn't been featured on the site before. Be sure to check in on Thursday or Friday for the new content.

A new RSS icon has been added to the top of the page for subscriptions! If you click this, you can subscribe to my site on your homepage (for example) and be notified automatically when this site has been updated. This will save you the trouble of checking back so often.

Check out the Poll!!

Be sure to vote for your favorite country based on my totally objective posts.

'View by Topic'

You'll notice in the right margin, I've added categories by topic. So, in addition to reading posts by month/year, you can read by topic simply by clicking the subject matter that you prefer. For example, if you want to read exclusively about Japan, just click on the Japan link and all the relevant articles will appear. I've configured the site to only show three articles at one time on the intro page so you will need to check the topics often as articles will migrate off the intro page rather quickly.

Be on the lookout for a 'poll' as I would like to make this site more interactive.

Thanks for reading!

Travelogue Slovakia (3)

August 11, 2006 (Click link to see accompanying pictures)

Hey one and all!

You'll see from this letter that I still haven't lost my enthusiasm for Slovakia. Last weekend was great as the pictures should attest. So, let me start at the beginning.

On Friday, some friends of mine invited me out. First, we climbed the hill where 'Calvary' is located. Calvary is a church with surrounding structures that represent the 12 stations of Christ's crucifiction. I didn't take any pictures of these as I felt a little strange about doing so. I did, however, take some pictures of the surrounding area. Picture #1 is one of me with the city of Presov in the background. Can you tell I'm happy?

Next, we went back down into the city and by chance, ran into a college professor that my friends knew. His name is Jaro and he's actually a professor in the English department at the University of Presov. His English was fluent a…

Keep Checking Back . . .

I still have three more Djibouti TLs to post in order to catch up to the present. I also have A LOT more Slovak and Japanese TLs from the past. Please keep checking back to see new postings.

Travelogue Djibouti (1)

This TL was written November 1, 2007.

Hi, all! Well this time, I'm writing you from Djibouti on the horn of Africa. I arrived here last Saturday and will be here a total of six months. I won't be enclosing any pictures in this letter just because I forgot to buy batteries for my camera. I will definitely include a couple in the next letter though.

First, I want to talk about my trip over. I was scheduled to fly out of San Antonio last Thursday evening at 630pm. Of course, the flight was delayed by one hour, but it didn't matter because my connection to Paris via Houston was delayed by the exact amount of time. I do believe that the airlines know what they're doing. Anyway, I arrived in Paris on Friday at two in the afternoon. As I was waiting for transport to the hotel, I heard some fellow Americans complaining they had been delayed a few days due to an ongoing Air France strike. I was shocked to say the least as I've never known the French to go on strike! I was als…

Three Month Anniversary

Well, there comes a time when you realize you have fewer days left than you've already finished. I'm not talking about old age; I'm talking about my time overseas. On January 19, I hit the three month mark of my six month TDY in Djibouti. Now, the rest of the way is downhill. I wonder what new assignment I'll get at the end of this one or will I be in the US for a while? As they say in Djibouti, "Insha'allah."

Travelogue Japan (2)

This TL was written on March 25, 2007. Please see the link for accompanying picture.

Well, it's been an interesting few weeks in Japan and I continue to enjoy. I can't believe that on Monday I will have been here for one month. Where did the time go? I'm already lamenting the end of this tour.

Now, let me tell you about two outings I had in the last week. Last Sunday, I went to the Tokugawa Art Museum here in Nagoya. When I hear 'art museum,' my eyes start to get heavy because looking at paintings all afternoon can be a little boring. But, when I went to this museum, I had a pleasant surprise. It holds an art collection from the Tokugawa family who reigned in this part of Japan. They are an ancient Samurai family whose ancestor unified Japan as Shogun in the late 16th century. Essentially, he is the historical equivalent of Toronaga in James Clavell's 'Shogun.' Anyway, during the tour, we saw so many interesting things. For example, we saw Samurai armor, …

Coincidence or Not??

A reader from Slovakia contacted me and suggested that the mountain in the recently posted Slovak travelogue bears a striking resemblance to the mountain in my Djibouti travelogue. That is eerie and my only explanation is, on some subconscious level, I snapped the picture of that particular mountain because it reminded me of the one in Slovakia.

Take a look and see if you agree . . .

Travelogue Slovakia (2)

Written in fall '06 . . .

Hi, all!

I hope everyone is well back there. I continue to enjoy myself here. Actually, I love everything about this place. I love the people, my job, the weather, etc. I think I'll address those in the order given.


The Slovak people are wonderful and oh so helpful! If I had any complaint at all, it would be that they are too helpful. By that I mean I can't learn how to do anything by myself. At the bus stops, people help me with the ticket machines if I hesitate one moment to read something. I can't mention any needs to my coworkers or they'll spend the whole evening trying to help me. For example, I wanted to sign up at a gym the other day. The next thing I know my supervisor picks me up after work and we walk for two hours around town looking for one. After that walk, I didn't need to go to a gym! I can't even ask about bus numbers and their destinations. A typical response would be "Where are you going? I'll go …

"The Kite Runner"

Recently, based on a friend's recommendation, I started reading the book "The Kite Runner." I had heard a lot about this book and also the movie which was released in the US just a few weeks ago. Mainly, I had heard that the two young stars were under threat in their native Afghanistan because of perceived insults to the culture as portrayed in the movie. Apparently, fearing for their safety, the movie company whisked them away to the UAE. This episode probably did more to publicize the story than anything else.

Well, I don't want to turn this blog into a forum for book reviews (albeit a book about a fascinating country). Let me just say that I have enjoyed it so far and highly recommend it as a wonderful story and a way to become familiar with Afghani culture. You'll find yourself not only condemning one of the character's actions (or should I say inaction) and, at the same time, trying to convince yourself that you would have been nobler at such a young age.…

Travelogue Japan (1)

Confused? I can certainly understand that. Well, what I'm trying to do is catch up with posting all the travelogues that I've written the last few years. So, you'll see TLs from Slovakia (from 2006), Japan (2007), and Djibouti where I am now. Although I may bounce back and forth between countries, the order of when they were sent (within each country) will be the same. You just have to keep checking back for new TLs.

Oh, and for those of you who have received TLs from me in the past, I plan a few surprises with new pictures and stories so don't take this blog for granted. You need to check in quite often!! Anyway, below is the first TL from Japan. Hope you enjoy it.

Hello, All! This is my first submission from Japan.

Well, let's get right to it. I arrived in Japan almost two weeks ago. Surprisingly, I got over the jetlag within the first few days and was pretty much back to normal by the first weekend. I attribute this to having upgraded to business class using my Uni…

Travelogue Djibouti (5)

Hello to everyone! This is the fifth installment of my travelogue for Djibouti. I think you'll enjoy the pictures and the story of how I got them this morning. Here is the link for the pictures:

Now, on with the story. I woke up this morning and felt unusually energetic. Therefore, I decided to take a drive outside of the city where things can get really interesting. I figured that the traffic wouldn't be so bad early in the morning and I could make better time. For the most part this was true although there were also a lot of truckers on the road. They take the East-West highway to deliver goods back and forth to Ethiopia. Anyway, I drove on this road for about 50 kilometers until I reached a fork in the road. To the right, you will go to Arta where I've already been twice. To the left, you will head to Al-Sabieh and ultimately, the Ethiopian border although that would be quite a drive further. I decided to go left a…

Holiday Weekend

Whew! It's been a long week. Fortunately, I'm off for the next three days so I should be able to write a few posts including a new travelogue for Djibouti. I just need to make another foray into the wilds for some pictures. Tomorrow, is the Muslim New Year which arrived about eight days after the Western one. I've learned a lot more about the Muslim holidays by living here. In Saudi Arabia, people are aware of all the holidays, but only Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha are celebrated with days off.

Anyway, keep checking back for the new posts.

Basketball Today!

One thing different about my assignment here from those in Slovakia and Japan is the proximity to the embassy. In both those countries, I never went to the embassy because they were too far away. But, in Djibouti, I can visit the embassy anytime I want. I play basketball every Monday and Friday with embassy personnel and military from Camp Le Monier. As a matter of fact, I just got back from playing. I did pretty well for an old guy and I discovered something. Just because you're a Marine, it doesn't mean you can play basketball well. They were athletic but they couldn't put the ball in the hoop!

So, time to get psyched up for work tomorrow. My weekend is Thursday/Friday unfortunately. I hope you all enjoy your weekend.

I'm Euphoric!!

The internet's back up and I'm surfing at high speed! I will do my best to post a new Djiboutian travelogue tomorrow. If not, it should come out no later than Sunday. I'm going to change the usual theme, i.e., encountering dangerous animals, to something a little tamer. Hope you enjoy it.

I had a 'Seinfeld' moment this evening. I've mentioned the street vendors before but I haven't talked about the taxi drivers. They can be even worse, but I wonder; what do they hope to achieve by getting you to change your mind and buy their service? If you're selling sunglasses, persistence can pay off by selling me the glasses. But, if a taxi driver convinces me to get in his cab, where are we going? I didn't need a cab, so, do I make up a destination? I just don't get it!

Really, I should be thankful and just laugh at these cultural experiences. I am so lucky to have a job that not only allows me to travel but also to live overseas for extended periods of time…

Slow Internet!!

I may not be posting as much today as I originally intended because the internet has slowed to a crawl. I don't know if it's a provider problem or a problem with the router in the hotel. I couldn't ask the receptionist this morning because he was sleeping on the sofa in the lobby. I tried to wake him, but he mumbled something and then rolled over on his stomach. I felt sorry for him so I picked up his socks and shoes and put them away from the lobby door. I was afraid someone would trip on them and damage them. Anyway, I've done my good deed for the day. Hope to post more later!

Is that spelled 'Ghat' or 'Khat?'

You may or may not have heard of 'Khat.' I first heard of it when I was living in Saudi Arabia. Some of my Saudi friends would talk about it in hushed tones and say that it was 'haram' (forbidden). I eventually pieced together that Khat is a kind of plant usually chewed in the Middle East and East Africa and has addictive qualities. Unlike Saudi Arabia, in Djibouti it is legal and most men will chew it on a regular basis. Having never used it myself, I can't describe the feeling, but I can describe the effect it has on the downtown area. Basically, from early to late afternoon, downtown is virtually devoid of people. Apparently, after purchasing their Khat, everyone retires to secluded areas and enjoys the Khat experience. I really should go no further because there's no way I could describe the phenomonem better than this article by Esquire magazine published last year. Please check it out: