riverside in laos

little girls i meet while riding my bike around the villages.

sunset from a restaurant in muang ngoi.

rice field near nong khiaw.

sunset at nong khiaw.

the rooftop of my little bungalow.

this little girl and her mom were on the bus with me to
non khiaw, a heavenly riverside town.

a few pics from my way into laos

a meal along the way. chicken cooked in a hollowed out coconut, sticky rice, local mushrooms, and a beerlao. great combo.

sunset over a hilltop wat in udomxay, loas.

caught in one laos' infamous mud slides. thankfully, my driver was very industrious
and found a way to get the farthest bus unstuck, making us the first to get through. only 45 minutes, not bad. the two other trucks though, there must've been there for a while. they were axle deep in drying mud and the drivers were using small shovels to try and dig them out.


oh my, he really does post on his blog!

okay, so i have spent the last 20 minutes waiting for a single picture to upload. nope, not gonna happen. blame the slow laos internet speed. anyway, i will give you a little update on me and then post pictures once i arrive in fast paced bangkok.

the last 10 days have more or less been spent lounging by the river. the mekong and nam oh rivers. a nice little bungalow with porch and hammock, all for about $5/day. i am midway through my second 500 page novel too. i've been busy sipping the famed beerlao, staring at the wondrous limestone mountains that form the buttresses of the river valley, and drinking syrupy thick laos coffee sweetened with condensed milk. a bit much even for me, a sugar fanatic. oh, and i have ambled my way through a few 'remote hill tribe' villages too.

i must say, it's been wonderful. all but for one thing. and every step of the way i am learning this more. i've seen a large amount of the world, but i've seen most of it alone. and that's just not that much fun at the end of the day. don't take this wrong, i am not depressed about it, but every day i become more aware of the value of a life shared. the most powerful moments of my travels are when i encounter some person and we move past the barrier of 'strangers' and act like we know each other. this world is about people, and as i travel it more and more, that is what i travel for, the people. now, if i long for the touch of another person, having the spirit within me, then imagine the pain and need within the lost for that touch. i see it everywhere. in watery eyes that follow another all night bender. in the worn backs of rural laborers. in the humiliated eyes of a beggar. they all need Him. perhaps that is what this whole trip is about. before i left it was all an idea for me, and an idealistic one at that. now i have seen the reality of the world's needs (as i can understand now). it's tangible if we are not too arrogant to see it. the world crumbles to pieces around them. and what i know now is that i will be broken and miserable if i just watch it happen and snap a few photos along the way. my own life has become wrapped up in the hopes and dreams of the lost. i want it this way too. i want to feel His heart. and it won't always feel like apple pie and ice cream.


highlight of my day

the highlight of my day so far is this: i am just out wandering the city when i come across a shopping street, famous in china for cheap knock-off goods and ear drum breaking music playing in entrance ways. so, i am walking down this street, minding my own business, when all of a sudden, to the delight of my ears i pick up a long forgot tune. milli vanilli's 'girl you know it's true' was pumping like invisible joy into the streets. i still remember when dillard's, et al. had tv's in their stores and i could watch music videos while mom shopped. i specifically remember watching a milli vanilli video after finding out that they were imposter's, not really singing at all. and i thought in that moment, i still like them, who cares. so there, i liked milli vanilli even after they were exposed, and i still enjoy listening again every once in a while.


ipod in hand i sit here in beijing international airport, an airport with no wireless (how can that be?!), passing the time sitting in front of a 20x10 ft tv with a horde of chinese fans. not a bad way to spend a rainy day. and I tell you, there are few, if any, countries that are as patriotic in their fandom as the chinese. they cheer every single point as though it’s the championship point in the gold medal match. it makes me think they have been starved of something to truly get behind a cheer for a long time. it’s good for these long starved people to finally have a cause to cheer. even if it means my own patriotic feelings are dashed every time i look at the medal count. how has america fallen from above elite to just elite in our athletic pursuits? it makes me a bit sad to realize how wrapped up i become in whether we are the best, especially meaning that we are better than china. i guess the soundtrack of my Olympic viewing must be lee greenwood’s ‘god bless america.’ in fact, i remember being a camper, about 12 years old, and singing that song with about 150 other kids while gazing in amazement at a painting of radioactive colored amber waves of grain and purple mountains majesty.

but alas, you did not come here to read about my childhood camp experiences, no matter how traumatically patriotic, and no matter how badly my cabin won the midnight pillow wars. you came to hear this. it’s silver. it’s 80 gigs. it cost 2300 yuan. it’s a classic. and now it’s mine. it is taking forever, as in about 3 hours, to load all 50 gigs of music that i own. i can’t wait to slide it into my pocket and stroll around like everyone agrees with me that i am as cool as i think. welcome back.


oh, and by the way

my ipod is officially deceased. a sad day. so, in an amazingly ridiculous move i am going to fly to beijing and buy a new before i head off for the second half to my research project. i know. it's obsessive. but i honestly need an ipod, and there are no authorized retailers anywhere that i will be going already. so, on to beijing my young soldier. i will buy a classic ipod, not the expensive ipod touch. there's no way i can spend $500 on that. the classic is half that price, minus a coolness factor of +20.

dubai, buy, buy

i am going to start at the end of my trip and work backward to the beginning. flying both to and fro europe i stopped through dubai. a 6 hour lay-over on the way to vienna, thanks to and early arrival in dubai. that's right, early, and an hour early at that. who's ever heard of that. and a 21 hour lay-over on the way back.

so, these are a few pictures from my time wandering around the city that seems dead set on straddling two worlds. after walking around in 120 degree (with heat index) temperatures, i sat down and wrote this: "i barely know what to write of dubai. the worst of the west melded with the worst of islam. although adroit in it's construction, it is just as dubious, or rather atrocious. i sat on a beach while rug chested arab men laid in the sun donning ill fitting speedos, bikini clad eastern european women danced around the beach without a care, and arab women strolled the beach in their cumbersome burkhas, their skin seeing no sun but surely knowing it's heat." this sums up my thoughts on the place as well as anything i could write now. except, it was hot, bloody hot.

a bicycle parked near a mosque

an iranian style wind tower in old dubai, used to cool houses

typical doorway in old dubai

two men responding to the call to prayer

a mosque in old dubai

dubai creek, full of antique work boats, and million dollar yachts

one final alleyway in old dubai

old dubai had quite a bit of character, thanks to some recent remodeling. i could certainly live in a cool little neighborhood like this, and i suppose that is why it is full of boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. except i was there on a friday, muslim holy day, so everything was closed. everything. i had to go back to the airport about 8 hours before my flight left to be able to eat. talk about an experience. i think dubai's next campaign slogan should be, 'the world meets in dubai.'

i also saw the newest world's tallest building. amazingly tall. and the burj al arab, self described as the world's only 7-star hotel. from the outside it looked iconic, yet not other worldly extravagant. everywhere in between these places i saw the rest of asia. immigrants from every nook and cranny of asia wander the streets. at times you could forget it was the middle east and would think it south asia.


here comes the recap, the recap

i had just arrived at the xining airport after catching the direct bus from town. i had arrived a little early to check in so the gate was not open yet, since we are a small city (1 million) so only one flight comes and goes at a time. that's right, a city the size of austin has one plane land, empty, then refill and take off at a time. then the next one comes in. so i was waiting for the counter to open so that i could check. bored as i was i pulled the handy ipod. it's a grey scale model, that if i am honest i am proud to own. no color. i would love a new ipod touch, but there is a little pride in me for having an old one. forgive me for my pride. this is the same reason i said i didn't like U2 until like 3 years ago. too popular. but it's not like i am not going to have an i pod. hypocritical i know. anyway, i pulled it out and went to listen to one of the 5 new albums i had saved for the trip, or one of the freshly minted play lists i had compiled the previous few days. but my ipod was empty. it turned on, i swirled to play lists, but nothing. just the option to make an on-the-go play list. so i backtracked and tried to find an album, but nothing. reset. the same thing. some how my ipod was erased in the hour it took to leave my apartment, get to the bus stop and travel to airport. for most of you this may seem like just a slight annoyance. but you see, i come to need music. it sounds silly, but trust me, since good ole casey started showing me ropes of indie music i've been addicted. (this is turning into a confession, sorry.)

so, there i sat. checked in and dismayed. there was about 45 minutes till take off. everyone had already boarded but me. you see, the chinese don't like to wait to do something. if the flight were not leaving for 3 days, but you could get on i swear it would be half full. it's the same for anything, they wait an hour for the local clothing store to open, and there's no sale. so, i am sitting there. and i am more distraught than i like to admit. looking back, i probably seemed like a kid after his parents finally decide it's time for the blankey to go and it get lost. running through my mind were 12 hours of flights, long layovers in unknown airports, and innumerable bus and train trips. not to mention the escape music brings while you walk through a new city. it's like a soundtrack, and i had written scores for several moods just for the occasion. for just about that entire 45 minutes i had a conversation with the Man upstairs. surely something like this had a purpose i thought, so the righteous thing to do would be understand why and submit to it. but i kept asking 'why?!' like i had lost something far more valuable than an ipod. (this feel shameful to write. but i guess that's what therapy is like.) honestly the only thing i could come to was that i was just too dependent on music, that i shut people out some of the time. but in the moment that didn't feel satisfactory. but i got on the plane sat down and tried to be okay without it. 4 hours waiting for a connection flight in beijing was the pits. but the one thing that made my trip to europe okay without an ipod was emirates airlines award winning entertainment package. (i am hoping that they see this and give me a free flight.) it really was amazing. more than 4000 channels. a personal wide screen tv. new releases. i kid you not. so, i disappeared into that for just about the 7 hours. i learn slowly. i did manage to pry myself away to talk to an emirati and his extremely excited 7 year old son. obviously wealthy, just not wealthy enough for $10,000 r/t tickets in first class with actual beds and full time servants, not attendants.

you know what, after a few days i was okay. music, well i still wanted it, but it was not bad without it. i guess in many ways just about everything we do in life is a habit, and can be unlearned. we must remember the wise words of yoda, 'you must unlearn what you have learned.' in the end that means that--often with considerable help--i can change in drastic ways. in fact, i just realized i wrote this blog without any music, only the ambient sounds of a market at dusk seeping in through an open window. the music of life. oh, so cheesy.