14 May 2007

Two months

I just had a Korean bbq for dinner which is my local favourite. For less than $4 AUD ($2.70 US) you can select raw meats and vegetables out of the fridge and cook them yourself. There is range of fried foods and noodles available, but I don’t like them very much because I know they have been sitting there a while. The dessert is good too, those icy chendol/ ice kachang type things. You mix your own grass jelly with strands of agar jelly, palm seeds, thin coconut cream, syrup and ice. I make these at home very occasionally- they’re quite refreshing. Actually, I think it’s palm seed season here, although I’m not sure whether they’re palm seeds because I haven’t eaten them yet. The palm seeds are from this thing that looks like a small purple coconut. It looks hard and fibrous like a coconut, and people use a sharp knife to hack it open. M said at work they took 15 minutes to split it open and get the seeds out. I’ve only ever eaten the tinned ones and they taste like the inside of a jelly bean and are about 6 times bigger but look a bit like a jelly bean come to think of it. There’s a tuk- tuk at the end of my street that has been selling them for the past week. I am fascinated because they’re only available in a tin at home and I can see the real thing! Same with straw mushrooms and baby corn- I’d only had them from a can before I came here and am excited that I can get them fresh here.

A bought an imitation Nintendo console so I played Supermario today. Cost just less than $10 AUD ($7 USD) including console, cable and controls. I played a few levels of Super Mario Brothers. I used to play it at my cousins house when I was young and its funny, I could still remember where most of the mushrooms and flowers were! I’m really bad though and give up too easily- I don’t think I got very far in the game- I’m just not good at gaming!

It’s nice that I’m going to have a few visitors during the year. I forget how much my friends travel- there are just quite a few coming to this area which is fantastic. It sounds like they are going to make some fun trips around here- I really wish I could join them for all of them. If I did though, I would be off for at least 6 weeks before October which unfortunately in excess of my 4 weeks leave.

There are a few Korean people in Vientiane working as volunteers. I haven’t met any yet, but I hear a few of them opt to do development work in lieu of compulsory military service. They have to spend two years here if they are doing it instead of being in the military. I’d like to find out more about how that system works.

My bike is working well despite me having a few troubles with it this morning due to my ignorance. When I was trying to pump up my tyre I completely deflated it instead. Luckily my housemate M came to my rescue and managed to operate the foot pump correctly and pumped up my tyre good. I can balance better on my bike now and can indicate without nearly having an accident. My next challenges include having good enough balance to have no hands when cycling straight, but what I really want to be able to do is have a running start with one foot on the pedal and swinging the other leg over.

I left home exactly 2 months ago today. It has gone fast when I glance back, but when I look back more closely, I really have done heaps in two months. It’s odd how established I’ve become here in this ‘least developed’ country that I had never visited before. I managed to find a house to rent with a mango tree, a cat with two new housemates. I have a new job, employ two staff, 1.6 full-time equivalent who speak little English. I have arranged language lessons, and get around on a bicycle. I have had good coffee and bad coffee. So many more adventures to come!

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