Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time out for a commercial break

Okay -

I know I said I would catch up here but I just got a new video program and have been messing with it for a couple days. My next post will be getting back to our trip to SE Asia and be about Vietnam but here’s a video I created yesterday around a recoding of me reading one of my poems last year at Lix n Kix.

Friday, April 22, 2011

More Borneo

Heading out to the island for snorkeling - the water is so muddy because this is where the river empties into the ocean.
The second day of our visit to Kota Kinabalu Sara and I took a snorkeling excursion to an island off the coast about three hours away. We jumped in a van driving into the countryside swerving around cattle as they meandered on the roadway then hopped a motorboat for the Mantanani Islands.

We floated about looking at the tropical fish swimming amongst the coral below and then had a nice lunch at one of the stilted houses offshore from the Island. This was both our first attempts at snorkeling and we both enjoyed it. (So much so that I even purchased a prescription mask a couple days later to use on our final day out and about before we got to work at the conference.)

Now true to form we started out with a sunny morning but by three in the afternoon the skies had turned ugly and we raced a thunderstorm back to the shore just in the nick of time. This was pretty much the weather pattern for our whole visit to Borneo and we learned to get out and about on the motorbike very early in the morning (it was already well into the 80s by 6qm) and to be headed back to our room or within a short driving distance of it by two in the afternoon. Riding the bike in the rain wasn't the worse thing one could do though as it was warm - but the raindrops did sting a bit.

Notice the change of water color once we have got a bit offshore.
Later when we moved to the more posh environs of the conference hotel we found that the resort had its own set of islands that one could boat twenty minutes out to for some snorkeling. This is what prompted me to buy the prescription lens masks (which I got for less than half the price it would have been here in the states.)

It was during this little outing that two pretty amazing things happened. First off while we were lounging on the beach after an early morning swim about the reef Sara looks across the beach which was starting to fill up with visitors and says," Hey, isn't that Fiona?"

Sure enough we had run into the Australian couple again - this was starting to get a bit freaky. Here we were three or four days past running into them at the Sunday market and now they ended up on this same island (one of a half dozen or so they could have stopped at a short boat ride from the city) at exactly the same time we were there. I started to wonder if maybe this couple were a member of one of our karasses.

This small island had a sheltered picnic kind of area with a half dozen 55 gallon drum BBQ grills and just past noon they fired up those grills and started throwing some chicken onto them sizzling and wafting the aroma of cooked meat over the beach and into the jungle that started where the beach left off.

This is when the second amazing thing happened - as the aroma of the cooking chicken made its way into the jungle it enticed a dozen or so monitor lizard ranging in size from four to six feet long to come side-winding out of the lush green undergrowth and meander around the grills hoping for a handout. It was pretty boss to see these guys in a relatively wild state (the begging for BBQ chicken notwithstanding) when my only other chances to see lizards this big before this had been a couple specimens behind tempered glass in a zoo situation. I could have kicked myself for not bringing a camera that morning - but, that gives me reason to head back someday in order to record the monitor lizard BBQ chicken migration.

Well, Nick and Fiona treated Sara and me to some ginger iced tea at a Tiki hut and then we were back on the speedboat to get ready for our conference - play time was over and we needed to be ready for our sessions. After all - the whole reason we had the opportunity to see and do the swinging stuff we were up to was because EARCOS had been kind enough to invite us there.

Next up: Vietnam.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Borneo to be wild!

It may be a small world but it still takes a helluva long time to fly to the other side of it.

Off the coast of Kota Kinabalu
Okay - I am way behind in my blog posts. April - being National Poetry Month - is always busy but this year has been especially cruel. Good in that we have been a whole bunch of cool places and worked with scores of super duper folks - cruel in it has been go go go with little time to sit back and reflect on where and what we've been and doing. So I am going to attempt to catch up in the next couple days.

Sara and I attended the EARCOS conference which was held in Borneo, Malaysia this year in a city called Kota Kinabalu. This was right after our visit to Tasmania. Our midnight flight leaving Australia was delayed by around 3 hours or so because of - get this - the co-pilot having a kidney stone attack.  Fortunately for us Malaysian Air handled the situation grandly - giving us vouchers for food and having people waiting at the gate when we arrived in Borneo to shepherd us directly on to a couple re-booked connecting flight. It was all pretty smooth. It was on these connecting flights that we met a cheery young Australian couple Nick and Fiona who were headed to Kota Kinabalu for a holiday. More about these two later.

We arrived several days before our conference so we had some time to kill. In order to save a bit of money we booked ourselves into a hotel on the outskirts of town which was attached to a rather large mall. Definitely not a usual tourist destination. So we rented ourselves a motor scooter and set out on exploring the island. We drove into the Sunday market which was packed with people selling every googaw under the sun.  You can see the throng of shoppers over there to the right.
So, Sara and I decide to escape the early morning crush of humanity a bit and grab a strong cup of coffee and something to eat. While we are eating our breakfast Sara looks into the crowd and says, "There's Fiona and Nick!" Sure enough there they were and they came by and joined us. Now Kota Kinabalu is not some tiny little town it is a city of almost a million inhabitants so the chance of running into these two was pretty slim. We took this to be an auspicious start of our visit.

Saying goodbye to Fiona and Nick we jumped on our motor bike and headed to the Borneo Zoo where Sara and i both got up close and personal with an eight year old orangutan named Mowgli. During the animal show held in an outdoor pavilion the ringleader of the event asked for a volunteer to interact with the orangutan. One thing Sara and I have learned over the years of our travel is to always volunteer for everything - you never know what will happen and it usually is gong to be memorable so we both raised our hands. The master of ceremonies came up to us and picked Sara - promising me that he had something in store for me later.

Sara's task was to race Mowgli removing a piece of sweet potato from a box with a couple holes on top just big enough to insert a stick so that the piece of tuber could be pushed along the bottom and out a slot on the side. The two tied - Mowgli winning the first round and Sara the second - there was no tie breaker round thus allowing Sara to claim that she was at least equal to a eight year old ape. I didn't fare as well.

Here's some shots of the zoo to round off this post - I'll keep posting one a day 'til I am all caught up with April.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hanoi Traffic

I've got some blog catching up to do. 

We've been to a great EARCOS conference and visiting the United Nations International School in Hanoi, snorkeling in Borneo and buying thread on zipper street and a whole bunch of other cool stuff - but today I have to drive to Connecticut. So in the meantime here is a short video from a ride with Mr. Houng in Hanoi.