“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blogger blocked

Tried to sign on yesterday but got blocked... I can no longer legally sign in to Blogger, which is a real pain, but now at least have gotten through. Don't have time right now to post more pictures, but look forward to them! Booked a ticket to Cambodia for my October break, which is exciting. I will finally see Angkor Wat. Unfortunately the beach trip fell through, so we're looking for something else for next weekend. I'm not allowed to spend money! I'm now saving for my teaching certificate from Oz through UNE. My USA trip to Clore's wedding is making it a bit tight, but am happy to break the rules. Congrats to Amanda and Nick who also got engaged! Yay!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Pictures from rest of Romania: Part I

Here are some more pictures from Romania. These ones are from the time I spent with my folks while they were visiting, and their friends from Dubai.

Driving through the amazing Transylvanian mountains.

A little village's idea of tourist souvenirs!
This is the little Devin church. It was constructed out of a Roman soldiers tomb, and is filled with gorgeous paintings and reused Roman building materials.
The Dacians were the first real civilization in Romania, during and before the time of the Romans. The Romans eventually conquered them and took over their jewelry-making technology and gold mines. This is in a view of the hilltop Dacian city which was one of the guard cities of the main capital, Sarmezegetusa. They had stone circles there but it was a 7 hour walk to the capital, so we didn't go.

This is of Corvin Castle, one of the most picturesque castles I've ever seen that's in the middle of a city.
This is the inside courtyard of the castle. Count how many different shapes of arches there are! It's an architecture study if ever I saw one.

This is a Roman garrison site and frontier-post city in the north of Romania.

This is the ampitheatre, which remarkably, despite not really having high walls, still produces an echo of good acoustics when standing in the center.

On our first day in the north, we drove through the charming Maramures area, which had this famous village with unique (and humorous) cemetary crosses. Each one was a cartoon with a short poem of the person, usually outlining troubles or vices! One particular one had a picture of a hit and run, for example!

This is the souvenir shop across the road from the church, which had beautiful embroidery, cross-stiching and lacy doilies, etc.

One reason to head to this part of Romania is for the picturesque wooden churches.

Here is everyone standing outside one.

This is a picture of the rooftops, with their amazing wooden tiles.
Here's the monastery that's been built there.

The landscape surrounding the churches is beautiful rolling green countryside, with the typical haystack, often nicely in a row, but usually just a ramshackle pile of hay over the garden fence.
They make these haystacks like a tent, and it's similar to a stile that a horse jumps over. Then it's simply a matter of piling it on.

This is one of the pot trees that the villagers use. This particular one is decorative, but others still use similar trees for their functional enamel pots.






Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hashing

Went on a hash run this past weekend (Hash House Harriers for the uninitiated--drinkers with a running problem, runners with a drinking problem). I have been meaning to do this for a while, but just don't seem to get there! Kathy inspired me, but what a bad day to pick! It was clearish downtown, but by the time we got to the site (40mins drive outside--one reason why the hash is unpredictable, and so I don't go!) it was absolutely pouring with rain. Now, I go with the group that walks the hash. It's normally a charming stroll through the countryside, seeing some of Myanmar, and enjoying the "fresh" air (when it isn't downtown), but this time, we clutched our umbrellas desperately, shivering in the slightly cold rain.

Off we marched through the puddles and slippery mud. I was just getting to enjoy it (even catching the hand of an adorable child down one narrow path) when shreiks erupted not only from the child whose hand I'd been holding, but every other child under the age of 10, and many adults too. Everyone was madly batting at their ankles (still holding the umbrellas), and I stopped to look for what I had feared: leeches.

I'd never seen a leech before this day, having only heard stories of others' peril. Most are large, but these ones were smaller than the average garden worm, about an inch long. I had five or six around my sock line, and I swatted them away frantically, craning my neck and back every which way to look for more. The children's shreiks and cries continued, especially from the younger ones who were sobbing into their parents shoulders with their now bare legs tucked as high as possible underneath them.

We all walked a bit further to get clear of the grass. Apparently the leeches only come out (fall off?) when it rains, and if it had been dry, we would have seen nothing but green flakes from the same grass. We all did another search, up our shirts, down our pants as far as we could reach. I found a horrid one sucking contentedly on my knee that just wouldn't come off! I pulled at him, shuddering in disgust, swiped at him as I had the others, picked at him, etc, etc, but he would not budge. I became agitated, although normally I'm not squeamish when it comes to bugs, but simply the unknown was enough to unnerve me. Finally someone calmer pulled him off, but I now have a 5mm red mark on my knee.

Because I found him, and he'd crawled up my pant leg, I now batted and swiped at every stray brush on my legs. I rolled up my pants as far as they could go, and tried to forget about it (but honestly, does one ever in such situations?). We trudged on, and mostly forgot about it. That's it really... rather anticlimatic! The hash heads thought we'd gotten lost.

The correct cure, in such situations, is to put salt on the wriggler so he fizzles up (enormously satisfying, I'm sure!), but of course, we had none--you can count me weird, but I shall carry some from now on in a little pocket stash (and probably get pulled up for drugs somewhere). The macho men suggested the cigarette remedy, but since I've heard that makes the damn things regurgitate their sucked blood back into you, I'd rather not!

However, I will impound a story of an unfortunate co-worker, who in Putao (northern Myanmar) last year met with many leeches (some scratched and got awful scars), and one managed to crawl high into a guy's pants. The have some kind of anasthetic so you don't feel them there, and they suck away happily until they get so full they fall off! So this one sucked all the blood from his butt cheeks, and fell into his undies. He sat down later and SQUISH, had a nice red mark of the messy blood all over his trousers. He was proud of his first menstruation, and it was a good joke.

Needless to say, last night when I dreamed of leeches, I did not sleep peacefully, although that one had morphed into something huge and terrifying, something like a foot long that slithered across the floor, though of course, because its me and my dreams are weird, it was randomly mixed in with the rest of my life so I slept on.

Frustration

Am sitting here at 11:09pm, frustrated as hell because I seem to hit brick walls every time I try something on the internet! Everything is banned here now. Gmail is banned, so we use glite. MSN photos is banned, so we use proxies. Geocities, and every other website engine is banned too. Friendster messages are banned. Gmail is the most annoying... the biggest question is WHY? Webmail is a nearly impossible thing to ban, yet they perpetuate doing it!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Back in Myanmar

Being back in Myanmar is quite strange. I live in such an amazing country—it is full of rich culture and heritage, not to mention its particularly sensitive political situation. When I landed, some things had changed. The renovations on the airport are a little further along, so now, instead of the arrivals hall looking like a moldy ballroom, half has majestic white marble (the rest still has antique looking decoration and tables that were probably installed in the 1970s). The land is lush again, unlike the brown it was before, but like it was this time last year. They’ve had quite a wet time here, but that sounds unremarkable considering it is the monsoon.

The taxi prices are the same, which is reassuring considering the tumulus time just before I left, the City Mart supermarket is still open (though its competitor, Asia Light is not), school hasn’t changed in the slightest (both good and bad), and my apartment is safe and clean. But the weird part is me and how I feel. What an amazing country, and yet it’s ordinary and familiar. I walked to Boyjoke market and it was rather unremarkable in its familiarity. Nothing is exotic anymore. Am I so completely jaded that I feel no response? Or is it still exotic to me, but I’m so preoccupied with being back, life in general, and the world as a whole that I just am not noticing at the moment?

I hate Spam

So I opened my email today, and there ere 21 messages. I got excited until I realised 50 % were spam comments on my blog. I hate them. I hate their bad English, I hate their bad sites, I hate their uselessness, I hate their invasion into my space. So if you're wondering why I now have word verification, that's why.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Orkney pictures 2

Am back in Myanmar and now have my own internet connection, which is a true miracle! I can finish putting all the pictures online now. Here are the rest from the Orkneys.

When we walked out to the island Brough of Birsay, I just had to stop and take a picture of the beautiful rock formations.

Also on the Brough of Birsay, this was one of the amazing cliff holes that had been carved out of the rock face.
Dad on the top of the cliffs near the lighthouse on the Brough of Birsay.

Here's my cute bird chick photo. This is a pretty fat old chick though, so the cuteness factor is much reduced. I wished I'd brought my big 200mm lens so I could take some really neat photos, but alas it was in London. Just imagine how close I had to be to take this one, though, and also imagine how mad the mum bird was... am very glad it didn't chase me!

Overall, the most famous thing on the Orkneys: Skara Brae. This is a completely intact neolithic village, the most complete ever found in Europe. It came to the surface after a really bad storm in the 19th Century.

This is a postcard of Skara Brae from the air--isn't it amazing!

The Broch of Gurness is another village of ruins. Mum was amazed by its similarity to the stone age, despite it being nearly 2000 years older!

This is on Hoy Island at the beach on the Western side near Rackwick (which was really just a village of 2 or 3 houses!).

Another picture on Hoy - look at the majestic windswept mountains with moor plants. The peat digs were pretty amazing too.

On Hoy, there is also a stone tomb carved out of rock. Here we are standing in front of it. One of the interesting things about this one, though, is that it had grafiti in Arabic by some showoff Englishman in the 19th C.

Downtown Kirkwall on our last night, when we had a truly spectacular sunset and such calm waters that the mirror effect was incredible. That's the lovely Kirkwall Hotel in the center--a super restaurant, though completely filled with a grey-haired tour group that M&D said made them feel quite young!