Monday, January 15, 2018

Joko Goes to New Zealand: Coromandel

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with my rental motorcycle. This video begins  with me on the outskirts if Auckland, making my way towards the Coromandel Peninsula.. The ride, the scenery and the coastline made me fall in love. These were the traits that lead me to become infatuated by the bright green 250cc machine between my thighs. 
Not currently having a wife, I suppose I can call the parents of my sister’s husband my mother and father-in-laws. I meet them in their home country in this video. Well, at least my mother-in-law, and then not really that because she’s Australian by birth.

Of note is my journey on  the Coromandel peninsula northern loop. I made the whole northern loop in this video, Pauanui to  to Whitianga to Coromadel Town to Thames… a 190 km loop that will live in my memory for all times. I didn’t think anything would stand up to my last trip in Laos when it comes to being scenic; the Coromandel stood up to the best places I’ve ever been.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Joko Goes to New Zealand - One Tree Hill

My wonderful layover in Rarotonga at an end, I arrived in Auckland early on the morning of the 26th of December. I had left 3 hours earlier on the 24th. 2017 will be remembered by me as the year when the Dateline stole Christmas. 

At my overpriced, airport hotel I got my first glimpse of an actual kiwi. These birds were a lot bigger than I expected! 

There were a few things I needed to pick up before I went to meet my sister and her family. A convenience store near the hotel had what I wanted.
Just as one would likely find in the USA, the store was staffed by Southern Asians, and they had that distinctive New Zealander drawl. 

Once I had my awesome Ninja 250 motorcycle rented, my goal was the Coramandel Peninsula, which would have only taken a couple hours to get to on the main highway.
The view from atop One Tree Hill
But I had the whole day, so I took in some of Auckland's sights (One Tree Hill) and took the scenic route along the coast. I had to get directions along the way. 

I was quick to appreciate the motorbike. I'm ruined for scooters forever, I think. Having the power of a bigger bike under one while swerving along mountain roads, yeah, a little bike may never do it for me again. 


Monday, January 8, 2018

January Rain in Yangon

Two things to understand about this post. 
Waterfalls... We ain't got rain gutters in my neighborhood.

Sparrows taking shelter from the storm
First, it doesn’t rain in Yangon in January. Maybe a sprinkle here or there, but nothing like the downpour we had today that lasted all afternoon. It knocked out my power. 
A man protecting his head from the rain. Both of them

Second, I live in a poor neighborhood where most houses don’t have running water. This means that rain represents an opportunity for a free shower!
From my balcony.

Music by Kevin Baiko. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Joko Goes to New Zealand - Rarotonga

So, in the last blog, we had me leaving America and going to my stopover in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. Well, it's time to repeat the same. See, at this point in the journey, I'd gotten a 2nd camera and the downloading got all confused.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Leaving Amerika Again - Part 8 of the 2017 Holiday Trip: Rarotonga

I'll be quite hosest. The awkward, poorly filmed moments at the beginning of this video may be the last time I'll see one or more of my parents on this planet. They brought me into this world. Raised me. And this could be the last time I see them. A sobering moment.
Bye Mom and Dad!

Okay, one could say that about anyone close to you the minute they walk out the door. We all might die at any moment. Whereas I expect my parents to live well into their 80's and 90's, if you only see them every five years, well, there we are. 

You'll note the change in the name of the vlog. Here begins part 3 of the holiday, leaving the USA and off to New Zealand for a week in the Land of the Long White Cloud. 

But, before I get there, Air New Zealand dropped me off on a little island in the heart of the South Pacific, Rarotonga. 


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Return to America 7: America's Finest City

No visit to the mall is complete without a
My recent holiday can be easily divided into three parts. First was the time I spent with my parents in their RV in Death Valley. Second, condensed into a single video on this blog, was a week at my sister's house in San Diego. Finally, you're going to see the last week in New Zealand. 

San Diego calls itself "America's Finest City", which my sound like a boast. I lived there from 1988 to 1997, and I really can't argue with this claim. When you consider everything: climate, economy, cuisine, traffic, crime, diversity, culture, etc.,
I can't think of another major American city that has it all. In some areas, like climate and cuisine, I'd put San Diego at the top of any list. If I ever do go back to America permanently, I'd make San Diego my home. 

Feel free to comment below on your favorite American city. 

In this video, you'll see me taking Sandy, my sister's 9-year-old golden retriever, for a walk, shopping at COSTCO, visiting Balboa Park and enjoying a holiday dinner. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Returning to America 6: On Being Home

Sunset in San Diego

I write this now back at my place in Yangon having arrived here yesterday on the first day of 2018. Now, I can write about the vacation in the past tense. 

My emotions were all scrambled during my time back in America. It was so easy and comfortable being with my family. Hanging out with my parents, however much they may squabble with each other, however bad Mom’s driving may be, however much I’m restrained by the propriety of being a guest, it still feels completely natural. Nothing feels more normal than being home.  

Mom driving badly
And then there was my interactions with other Americans, people I didn’t know. If you haven’t been an expat living in a foreign country for years and years, I don’t think you could understand the profundity of being able to interact and communicate with everyone you meet.. Whereas Californians have a reputation of being somewhat standoffish, the wonderful meetings I had with random strangers  were delightful.  It felt great being in a place where everyone else was to some extent like me. 

It makes me reconsider a question that frequently comes up. It’s a question every long-term overseas teacher faces. When and under what circumstances would you return home? Most of us in my new career travel from country to country, exploring the world with no thought about going back to our home countries. The longer one is away from home, the less one misses it. Having been home, I realize I do miss it. 

On the other hand, life in the USA for me was difficult. I wouldn’t expect it to be otherwise if I returned. I say in the video “Payday loans. I remember those.” Yeah because it was a struggle living paycheck to paycheck, unable to save money and that financial struggle being the cause of so much stress and uncertainty. Here overseas, the living is easy and I’m saving money. At 47
years of age, these are things I need to think about.

More reflections on the video you’re about to watch: I got my folks to take a detour from the direct path from Temecula to San Diego in order to visit the northernmost manifestation of San Diego Mexican food: the Roberto’s in Oceanside. I was so looking forward to consuming food from one of the –Berto’s, and the carne asada burrito and 3 rolled with guac did not disappoint. 

In the video, you’ll see glimpses of my mother, sister, one of my nephews and my brother-in-law. The song in the background is that of a former partner of mine. 

Joko Goes to New Zealand: Coromandel

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with my rental motorcycle. This video begins  with me on the outskirts if Auckland, making...