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Made a quick travelog of my trip to India, starting in Delhi, seeing India’s first Formula 1 race, then heading for a quick tour in Rajasthan, during which I was lucky enough to see the yearly camel fair in Pushkar.

again, watch the 1080 if you can.

Winter is Coming

It’s been a long time without a post, I’ll write more, etc.

Last tuesday, Jon and I started our first batch of mead, adapting a recipe from Storm the Castle. Comprised of ingredients guaranteed to make perhaps the most delicious and Christmasy-smelling concoction ever, the brew should be ready just in time for season 2 of Game of Thrones. Incidentally, the GoT set design and I share the same drinking horn supplier: Jelldragon.

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"They never tell you how they all shit them selves, They don't put that part in the songs... stupid boy. Now the Tarlys bend there knee like everyone else. He could have lingered on the edge of the battle with the smart boys and today his wife would be making him miserable his sons would be ingrates and he'd be waking three times in the night to piss into a bowl. Wine! "

The recipe includes:

  • cinnamon
  • raisins
  • oranges
  • allspice
  • nutmeg
  • honey
  • cloves

With plenty of time left before we sample it, I’ve been doing some work on both labels and names.

1.

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2.Image

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Keeping in mind font, titles, and color are subject to change,vote for your favorite design (1-4) in the poll at the bottom of this post.


Also, this just in from Noah Feder: Encyclopedia Britannica Stops the Presses.

Welcome to the 21st Century, bitches

Noah Feder

Finally, I just watched The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, which is a great documentary about a great isolated subculture of tap-dancing, murderous rednecks in west VA. Props for Electric Wizard on the soundtrack, as well.

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The Tiger's Nest, a precariously nestled monastery at 3,120 meters.

Back from my 2.5 year stint in Asia/Thailand, which was capped with a fantastic family trip to Bhutan. Can’t wait to go back.

Here’s a video I made chronicling our 11-day culture/religion/trekking tour:

Land of the Thunder Dragon HD link

Be sure to watch in 1080 HD. Expect an India video soon.

BONUS CONTENT —

here’s a video I took in Bangkok of a snake biting a handler in the face:

Billiam ‘Wartime Consigliere’ Clary and I have a sort of love-hate relationship with bugs: we hate them, and they love how messy we keep our house. Of course, in Thailand, bugs are scarier, faster, and more widespread than anything I’ve seen before. Coming from a brown recluse-infested city (whose bites can result in this), I was relieved to hear that at least the spiders aren’t dangerous here — only everything else. The first time Bill and I came to notice this bug problem was during our first few weeks here — we were marveling at how much faster the ants are here — moments before Will almost took a big gulp of ant coffee that he had placed on the table  for mere seconds. Our old apartment was plagued by maggots. Not everywhere or all the time, but they certainly came in waves, and we became pretty familiar with their life cycle. I realize this sort of infestation might bother most people, but determined as ever, Billy and I took it in stride, only finally cleaning house when we realized that all the little bites over our bodies must be from these constantly-hatching flies.

ignoring the problem eventually results in very necessary epic cleaning days

We didn’t have an ant problem, and our roaches were cute translucent things that visited for only a season. Sure, we had ‘horror bathroom,’ a flickering-light bathroom so filthy it depressed me to linger in there for more than a few seconds, but by our standards, our bug problem was ‘under control.’ Since Will and I seem to be embroiled in what might be considered a perverted form of ‘cleanliness chicken,’ a battle of wills that probably originated from college laziness, we tend to let these hygiene problems really get away from us before we go about doing anything. It’s a miracle neither of us have gotten sick. At college, after breaking the thermostat in a temperature battle, we endured sub-zero temperatures in our rooms for days rather than call to get it fixed. Letting trash or dirty dishes pile up in America (especially a cold environment like Vermont) isn’t such a big deal, but in tropical Thailand, it’s a big no-no.

Of old was an age when was emptiness

Moving to a house became a whole-new ballgame. Our beautiful 2-story house and garden has but few faults — the more egregious of which include lack of sealing, awkward low points (with resulting stagnant water pooling), and neighboring swamp. We keep all our windows open all the time, but even if we closed them, there are gaps so big you could drive a truck through on every warped doorframe or cracked windowframe. Prior to some home-improvement, our house even had an outdoor kitchen (!). And we have ants. Not just a few western-style, steal-your-picnic, military-marching ants that I’m used to. We have a lot of ants, and they’re small and fast. Ant highways and biways divide our house, they cover any open food after only a few minutes, and they diligently and rapidly skeletonize every other dead insect or animal in our house — nothing is left but the wings of dead roaches after only a half-hour. 

dust to dust

The ants are aren’t our only problem — spiders, roaches, geckos, maggots, the occasional rat or giant centipede…we have lots of pests, all of whom are seemingly constantly at war over what must be very valuable turf – our kitchen. Bill and I have a decent amount of fun keeping track of the rise and fall of all of these warring creatures — a dangerous Game of Thrones, if you will, with Will and I acting as checker and balancer, buying the appropriate pesticide if one faction gains such a powerful advantage that they threaten our wellbeing. Therefore, I’d like to think I’ve been pragmatically acclimated to the presence of two or three roaches when I enter my kitchen at night. I welcome them as old friends, lament the encroachement and irreverance for the dead these new ants have, or discuss the constantly-changing politics and intrigue governing their petty wars (“Where did those big ants go? Their armies disappeared almost overnight.”).

You wanna live forever?

Bill and I met unexpected resistance upon our return to Bangkok

Our ‘laziness machismo’ forced us to ignore this for the time being. It was only when Will witnessed the miracle of life – a slew of baby cockroaches bursting from a dead adult’s carcass – did we decide to crack down and do something about it. It was time to go to war, so we set a date.

Going to War                                                                                                                                            …and the uncounted legions of the Orcs perished like straw in a great fire, or were swept like shriveled leaves before a burning wind

We knew we had a coackroach problem, but even we were surprised by what came next. We were armed to the teeth with smoke bombs, mega-strength bug spray, plastic gloves, and traps. Assaulting one of the more suspicious cracks in our kitchen tile, we weren’t surprised to see a cockroach or two flee from under the tile. Easy kills — we drew first blood. Unfortunately, these scouts were followed by more roaches (adults, adolescents, and nymphs) than I’ve ever seen in my life. Will and I hopped around spraying these charging bugs in shifts, finally getting into a routine that ensured us certain victory. Fortunately, we noticed a large number of them flanking us before it was too late, so we split up and fought on two fronts — Will at bathroom drain detail, while I continued to cover the crack in the tile. For the better part of an hour, we stood, head on a swivel, killing a constant stream of bugs from what must be an expansive underground network on our respective fronts, occasionally sliding to cover each other’s flanks or rears for runners. 

Last of all Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an axe two-handed; and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered, and each time that he slew Húrin cried ‘Aurë entuluva! Day shall come again!’ Seventy times he uttered that cry; but they took him at last alive…” -The Silmarillion

Tensions were high — the room reeked of bug spray, sweat, and pasión, but it was becoming all-too apparant the tables had turned — our assault was turning into a last stand. Their numbers were too many and our cans (and heads) were feeling decidedly too light — we had to revert to melee (stomping) in order to conserve ammo. After what seemed an eternity, the stream seemed to be slowing down, so we made the call – detonated a 3-hour bomb, and didn’t come back to the room until much later that night.

someone set us up the bomb

“If the radiance of a thousand suns / Were to burst at once into the sky / That would be like the splendor of the Mighty one… / I am become Death, The shatterer of Worlds.”                    -Bhagavad Gita

Our blitz proved successful, and our subsequent clean and trap-setting is a shock ‘n’ awe campaign  of unparalled military genius. It’s funny, because a few days prior, Will and I discussed going into the pest control business together.

It was the best Easter ever.

“We must meet this threat with our courage, our valor, indeed with our very lives to ensure that human civilization, not insect, dominates this galaxy! Now and always!” -Starship Troopers

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Commute

Wow. One year in Thailand already. Also, this blog inexplicably has 70,000 hits? Anyways, teaching has been a great experience for me thus far. It’s done wonders for my confidence in public speaking, ability to think on my feet, and understanding of some basic epistemological/developmental learning concepts (since I get to see the immediate results of my various modifications and tweaks to my teaching style). My Thai language (since deciding to take my study more seriously by attending Sumaa) is progressing at a pretty steady pace (especially my reading/writing), but my shortcomings in pronunciation are a constant source of frustration. My language is such that a normal thai person, without knowledge of common western mispronunciations, will only figure out what I was saying hours after communication, after mulling it over while making dinner, discussing it with friends, and finally discovering what I meant to say whilst brushing his teeth before bed.

One thing I like about my company is the opportunity to see 5 different schools a week. It makes it more interesting in terms of seeing all ages, discipline styles, religions/cultures, and varying ability levels. My schools range from relatively wealthy Bangkok private schools (one in Chinatown, one that’s significantly Muslim) to less well-off schools an hour out of town in the country. As I’ve mentioned, Fun Language is a logistically-impressive, well-oiled company and I’ve enjoyed working there. A downside is the sheer amount of time I spend en route either to the company or my various schools. Although it’s true that Bangkok commutes are often fraught with peril, excitement, and absurdity at every turn, it’s equally possible to be stuck in the most grinding, unending gridlock you’ve ever seen, all because someone thought it’d be ok to park their truck in the middle of a 2-lane road.

"Thai time," a euphemism for arriving as many as several hours late, has certainly taught me some patience. But believe it or not, there's very little honking.

Curious about the numbers, because the traffic here muddies my concept of distance and time, I decided to record some data by GPS to satisfy both my own curiosity and your utmost reading enjoyment. The number of different forms of transportation (walking, motorcycles, cars, vans, the skytrain, the underground, canal boats, tuk tuks) in Bangkok is amazing, and it’s difficult to accurately judge just how long and far a trip may be. It’s common to spend most of a day making a trek with some shopping or visiting goal in mind only to be foiled by severe rain or hope-crushing traffic. Will and I do it more often than we should, returning home with nothing to show for our day but an indescribably drained, empty feeling.  Keep in mind these numbers are rounded, and for convenience’s sake, re-used if the trip is a daily one. In other words, these stats have pretty low reliability. So, here’s the breakdown for my 5-day work week. Only commutes to and from work were recorded.

Never a dull moment in Bangkok Traffic (if you keep your eyes open, have a sense of humor, and don't mind being hours late)

You can skip the boring dailies for the total at the end. Click the school names for class pictures from that school.

Monday (Malakhit) – 25 miles (41 km)

1 hr 43 minutes (1:23 moving/0:20 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
Taxi 5.84 19:40 9:00
Taxi 5.84 19:40 9:00
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00

Tuesday (Kasem) – 13 miles (21 km)

51 minutes (0:43 moving/0:08 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 2.1 7:45 0:30
BTS Skytrain 4.9 7:27 1:02
Motorcycle taxi 1.4 5:20 0:12
Taxi 4.55 22:15 6:01

Wednesday (Prasatwut) – 29 miles (47 km)

2 hr 26 minutes (2:01 moving/0:25 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
Taxi 7.54 38:20 12:45
Taxi 7.54 38:20 12:45
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00

Thursday (Kantawan) – 78 miles (125 km)

3 hr 2 minutes (2:32 moving/0:30 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
Office Car 32.2 54:10 14:19
Office Car 32.2 54:10 14:19
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00

Friday (St. Mary and Ake Ayuthaya) – 100 miles (161 km)

3 hr 16 minutes (2:44 moving/0:32 stopped)

Distance in Miles (ระยะทาง ไมล์) Time Moving Time Stopped (เวลาติด)
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
Office Van 43.5 59:03 15:14
Office Van 43.5 59:03 15:14
Walk .25 4:03 0:00
BTS Skytrain 5.1 12:20 2:01
Motorcycle Taxi 1.4 5:41 0:00

Total

Distance Time Time Moving/Time Stopped
245 miles (394 kilometers) 9 hours 18 minutes 8 hours 23 minutes/1 hour 55 minutes

Wow – 9 hours a week in traffic just for my work commute. Since I’ve taught almost 30 weeks in Thailand, these stats work out to quite an impressive number of days spent in traffic. Then again they don’t even compare to the days wasted in WoW and other such games, but it’s certainly not a small portion of my day. I should probably write some sort of cohesive summary or explain why this data is valid, but whatever.

Chatroulette

I feel compelled to make a blog post, partially because I have something to write about, partially because I haven’t written in a long time, and partially because my long-time adversary (and only person I’ve truly considered my peer), Ronny Khuri, has begun to blog, and we haven’t competed in months.

Ronny's straight-up a better artist than I am.

I’m unsure of when Ronny and I initiated our friendship of convenience, cooperation, and competition, but it’s certainly the subject of its own blog post (if not entire book, complete with Instant Message conversations, supplemental photographs, and predictions for the future). All I know is that I was definitely losing until 6th grade, in which we both opted to draw the same girl (Metal Gear Solid’s Meryl), and our homeroom teacher (the lovable and knowledgeable Mrs. Nabers) told us, definitively, that Ronny’s art-piece was superior. At which point I buckled under, pulled myself together, and have been winning ever since (with one minor blip involving Dota’s Lycanthrope). Also, here’s a link to Hunter Swain’s blog. It seems we’re all becoming amateur pundits, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

So I figured I’d talk about Chatroulette. Well, I intended to introduce and describe Chatroulette to my less internet-savvy audience in my first real paragraph, but since there is no Wikipedia page for Chatroulette (this is very perplexing???), I guess I’m going to have to resort to writing some original content… which means it will be brief, but by no means cogent or complete.

Chatroulette is a website that automatically pairs its anonymous users in one-on-one text and webcam conversations. You only need an internet connection and a webcam (if you’d like to videochat). This idea has been tried in the past unsuccessfully, but I think where Chatroullete succeeds is its ease-of-use and “cam required” tickbox which guarantees your chat partner also has a webcam.

It’s called Chatroulette because the second you’re finished, bored, or horrified by your partner, you can simply click “Next” and be paired with another searching participant from the thousands online. An equally descriptive name would be “RandomChat” or “anorandomchat,” or “chrandonomoust,” but “roulette” carries certain exciting connotations, and just like its namesake, Chatroulette is simultaneously exciting, stupid, and a great way to waste a lot of time.

Like I had to ask...

It’s possible to both cycle through hundreds of users or simply talk to an individual for the entirety of a session. It’s a simple concept that took too long to implement fluidly on the internet, and is what I consider the logical progression of this media trend towards reality TV and “bottom-up” media production and communication…a sort of casual voyeurism in which you can experience every sort of of interaction, from the most shallow form of voyeurism to artsy or subversive productions, to a particularly in-depth interaction.

So, instead of writing a well-researched and developed article, I’ll make a blog post, just touching briefly on thoughts that initially come to mind without any sort of editorial process or attempt to link them together into a more cohesive work.

First, I should probably write some Henry Jenkins shit about whether the mechanics and design of a medium itself or the userbase determines the manner in which an interactive medium is used. Maybe add something about semiotics, messages, and sender-receiver relationships (encoding, interpretation, interpolation, etc.). So bear with me—my essays about this sort of stuff were garbled and nonsequiter in the first place (maybe because I often resorted to reading summaries, or summaries of summaries, of the concepts). Being out of college and in Thailand for 5 months hasn’t done my English any favors. So…like I said, it’s possible to use Chatroulette in a multitude of ways—is this by design or a product of the diverse mindsets that employ the site? Does anyone care?

Thailand...puts a lot of academic drivel in perspective.

Now, this post (like most journalism) is already heading towards idealizing an institution…experiencing a subject for a brief period, ignoring the facets that would turn off a fanbase, and writing an artsy, whimsical piece is a job that should be reserved for NPR segments. Make no mistake—Chatroulette is exactly what you would expect from anonymous human interaction and dialogues. Consider the negative effect anonymity has on internet boards like 4chan, then apply it to direct communication. I don’t want to lie and say something like “of course, there’s the occasional nudity, racism, and aggressive/antisocial behavior,” because of course these behaviors constitute the vast majority of interactions on a site like this. Left to their own devices, people express themselves in distasteful ways, especially when they’re given the opportunity to do so anonymously. This blog post should be categorized under “marginally insightful, predominantly self-serving.”

"Anonymous," perhaps less thought-provoking than many of its supporters believe.

Nor do I want to call something like this “a revolutionary and enlightening social/human experiment, representative of the nature of human interactions and chillingly elucidative of our underlying psyche” because any behavior you come across shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the aforementioned nature of anonymous interactions and general makeup of the internet-using population.

But there are occasions that make this site worth it, and it’s during these that Chatroulette becomes beautiful. I find gems in every session…like two under-educated (to put it lightly) US soldiers, lounging in their barracks in full military gear making fun of me for being a hippie until we realized we’re both in Bangkok. Or white-collar-looking guys you can let your hair down with and make fun of each other for being metalheads, then bun it back up and click “next.” Or coming face-to-face with your doppelganger/long-lost brother (“It’s like looking in a mirror.”), and telling him to keep up the good work. There are people I give a compliment to, then disconnect as soon as I see the first hint of their smiling response, and there are people that have done this to me. Some people find doing this just as satisfying as insulting someone then disconnecting…I certainly do.

  • Some people turn Chatroulette on ready to give you a show (however mundane)—letting you watch them order pizza, brush their teeth, or unpack their luggage after a vacation. And a portion of the userbase loves to watch these little productions, appreciates the absurdity of watching everyday narratives, or is genuinely interested in experimental voyeurism. In this sense, Chatroulette is a tool that renders all of its users amateur filmmakers, with total creative control over how they choose to present themselves (framing, lighting, action, tone). They direct the action on their own small-screen show.  It’s a great outlet for shameless physical humor. Many people masturbate–literally, artistically, or academically (as I’ve been known to do on this site). And there’s an audience for all three.
  • There’s an additional layer of media production/consumption when peoples start making anticipating and making videos about their interactions on chatroulette. They premeditate and design a live comedy, based on their actions and assumed reactions. This is more likely to be an unintentional nested product of the design of this sort of medium. You’ll have people evoking a particular response for the sake of a different audience’s entertainment.
  • Some people turn it on and forget it’s there–they browse the internet and write and game at their computer, unwittingly transmitting every twitch, insight, personal moment, nose-pick they commit. And some people watch this until they see something they feel they shouldn’t, and click “Next” out of respect. Others just cycle through the list, deliberately pausing only long enough for their partner to witness their reaction to their first impression.

As it turns out, people aren't nearly as impressed by their first impression of me as I would like to believe.

  • Often, for me, Chatroulette is like a 30-second detective show. You’re given clues and must work quickly to determine the identity of the individual. It’s the type of interaction Sherlock Holmes lives for. Sports pendants, those stack-able college beds, hoodie? You got yourself a college student. Look out their window (weather, light/dark?), determine what’s on their posters, tshirts, and paintings, listen to their accent, notice the small details in their dress…or just start guessing aloud and verify your hunches by watching their subtle reactions closely without the fear of committing a social faux-pas by actively staring/scrutinizing. If you’re successful, maybe you’ve found a common ground on which to reminisce/debate/attack/anything else that qualifies as interesting conversation. This is just one way to enjoy yourself on Chatroulette.
  • And there are those who keep hitting “next” until they find someone they consider worthy of a deep conversation. Anonymity has proven useful in in the past in terms of seeking out advice. Forums designed to help people cope with any number of problems are appealing because sometimes, questions are too personal to be attached to one’s identity. People can speak freely, fearlessly, and often, intelligently. If they happen to be wearing a gold masquerade mask and white curly wig while you and he argue eloquently, politely, and respectfully, then so be it. This, too, is a great way to enjoy yourself on this site – develop an argument, attack an opponents, speak freely, or be converted. Maybe help someone with something you’ve had experience with in in the past.

M"m"M- "You got a little something under your nose there, Sig." SF-"Actually, most of the insults you direct towards yourself on this site are thinly-disguised attempts to fish for compliments...and you're totally oblivious when you do it. It's a textbook plea for insecure individuals. " M"m"M-Actually, every discovery you came up with turned out to be a fanciful, coke-induced rant and no-one in the field takes you seriously.

  • Another thought that came to mind was the use of a client like Chatroulette as a powerful tool for Social Psychology research. It’s not a perfect model, but one similar could be used in order to collect lots of data on first impressions—one could manipulate how a subject presented themselves (clothing, expression, smile,  camera angle, lighting, etc.) and record how long an average conversation lasted before the partner opted to click “next.” What are the rates of rejection for individuals that choose to smoke on video? This sort of data is valid in both same-sex and intersex interactions because the factor of anonymity and the lack of repercussions for shunning a partner. Or there could be research on how long it takes for individuals engaged in a face-to-face conversation before they feel guilty about clicking “next,” without saying goodbye. A study comes to mind about how the manner in which avatars interact online (turning a back to a teammate, running away, killing, etc.) has real-world implications on their controller’s feelings. But I can’t find it, so you have to take my word for it.

Nope, not this “Avatar.” Well…sort of.

Anyways. I can’t tell you what it’s like. Try it for yourself. Find someone with similar interests, find someone with different ones. Enjoy anonymous interaction. It’s good fun.

Question of the Post (QOtP): What is the optimum order in which to drink two light beers and one full-flavored beer?

PS. For those of you who were reduced to shambles when my PictureBag went down…It’s back up!

PPS. Watch Training Day again.

Laos Visa Run

Since my company is still in the process of securing me a work permit, I had to go to Laos to get a new Visa (have I already been here 3 months?). Luckily, not only do they reimburse the cost of the trip and the 6-month Visa, but I also get paid days off for the days I miss. So… getting paid somewhere between $70 and $100 (depending on the quickly crashing dollar) for a Laos trip and 6 more months of Thailand. Sweet.

Laos, my first exposure to red rule.

Laos (which was described to me by a Thai as Thailand 20 years ago, before the people  started getting “mean”) is a pretty interesting place. The first Communist country I’ve visited, Laos’ capital, Vientiane, seems like a 50-yard town with a pretty mellow population. Not to say there aren’t pretty women there, they’re just farther between, don’t care to dress up like Thai girls, and more often than not wearing military drab or camouflage fatigues. When it rains, their internet doesn’t work. Beer Lao is great and cheap. Cartons of cigarettes are silly, unhealthy cheap (200 cigarettes for a few dollars?)…maybe one reason for their 50-year life expectancy or 18-19 median age? Even though a number of vendors speak French, it’s hardly a touristy place—I don’t think we saw more than 10 white people during our 3 days there. It’s also really hot.

Bustling Downtown Vietiane

Like I said, Vientiane is a dramatically underdeveloped capital- I’m talking dirt roads and grazing animals in their populated areas. I think their GDP is measured in ladyboy handjobs and magic mushrooms (and their ladyboys are really sort of half-assed…just some nails and a girl tshirt, and they’re done trying); really, there are literally no banks or ATMs to be found. When I finally found a private company to exchange some dollars for some 200,000 Kip, we decided to see a few of their tourist attractions. We first ate at a restaurant and picked a meal at random (since their menu was written on the wall in Laotian, which is roughly upside-down Thai, with a few differences), and for about a dollar, we got a pretty tremendous buffet, complete with snake and other mystery meat, spicy sauces, and sticky rice. It was actually very good. The lady even gave us a card with a number to call in Bangkok for….actually I have no idea what for, but I’m going to call it if I need help in a hurry…or some Laotian food.

The first real attraction was Pha That Luang, the Golden Stupa and Laotian national symbol. It was really fantastic and totally empty. I think we were the only tourists there. When we were circling the grounds, we saw nobody but a few monks and vendors. It was a great time to visit and a beautiful national treasure.

Totally empty Stupa grounds.

Next was the morning market, in which we saw no other foreigners. Much more manageable size than Bangkok’s Chatuchak’s 15,000 vendors, but very interesting nonetheless. Muddy, dirty aisles lined with clothing, toy, and textiles vendors were expected, but the food section was the most interesting for me.

The famous morning market, near the food court.

Meat vendors, who are in the habit of standing or squatting shoeless on their tables (sometimes with infant in arm), mincing, chopping and otherwise tenderizing various sorts of meat which are loosely separated and more often than not overlapping each other with no ice or fans or anything. Live fish, turtles, frogs, chickens, etc. squirm, strain, or just dawdle oblivious, waiting for the inevitable doom. I wanted to take a picture, but I always feel bad photographing people’s eating or living conditions, moreso than other pictures I take. I ended up buying a few metal cups and plates for our kitchen.

Anyways, great country, great trip, and after 2 days, 1 night in Laos, a totally unguarded and uneventful border-crossing, 12-hour bus ride home, and 5 hours of sleep later, it’s back to work.