Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Eating Crickets

In my 5+ years living in SE Asia, I've seen all kinds of critters and parts of critters being sold as food that would take the average Westerner by surprise or even disgust. Asian cockroaches, for example (not their disgusting American cousins mind you), grasshoppers, scorpions and tarantulas. I've never had sufficient reason to overcome the cultural aversions I've had for these bugs to go ahead and eat them (scorpion, one time, being an exception)

Well, I'm in the midst of a road trip with my girlfriend, and she was very excited to tell me at the outset that she'd ordered the perfect road food: crickets! 100 of them, in fact.  

One of the first ones I ate taught me an important lesson: don't talk with your mouth full of invertebrates. They've got nasty spines on their exoskeleton that can end up in sensitive parts of the mouth. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Blessing in Disguise? Discovering Northwest Myanmar Finale

The Botanical Gardens at Pyin Oo Lwin

As you might have noticed by the output rate on this blog, I’ve been rather unmotivated lately in regards to my productive leisure pursuits. This summer, I’ve made an occasional ukulele vid, a single beach excursion video and written practically nothing. It seems like every time I sit down to make a video, I quickly lose focus and the mouse wanders over to click on my favorite video game instead. 

I dunno exactly what’s caused this unmotivated malaise in my video-making hobby as of late, but I suspect I’m getting tired of making the same style of video over and over with just different footage and music in the background. Yeah, that’s it. 

Last April/May, I went on a long motorcycle journey through the northwest part of Myanmar. That was five months ago, and only today have I finished making the final video of the series, Part 21.  And even then, I didn’t capture the best part of the last day: my argument with the golf course people who at first would not allow me to play because I was wearing a button-down shirt, and after I had gone and bought a sport shirt, then objected to my track pants. I was angered, and left, but I still want to play the links at Pyin Oo Lwin, purportedly the best golf course in all of Burma. 
We’re nearing the end of the long slough of English teaching here at my school. From May to October, we get lots of students. Big classes are normal, and every teacher is needed, so there’s no vacation time available for any of us. As that’s coming to an end, I get 8 weeks off out of the next 2. The first week of which is next week.  I can’t wait, but unless I can think of a new way of making the videos, I may not share anything but pictures. 

I dunno. I dunno.
We’ll see, but I think the funk I’ve been in is best characterized in the last clip of the video below in which I say “So finishing up three weeks of vacation and I feel… I dunno. I dunno”


I wrote that a week ago and it’s taken me that long to work through the computer problems I’ve been having to fix it. In the end, it came down to removing almost all the time manipulation I used on the motorbike footage. Nearly none of the fast-mo and slow-mo which have sort of defined my travel videos over the last couple years. 

Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise.  

Enjoy what might be the last of this style video from me...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Winding Down Discovering Northwest Myanmar

It's taken me ages to make these last few videos, nearing the end of the chronicle of my long journey through Chin, Sagain, Kachin and Mandalay. 

In Episode 17, the tour was over and I had a few days to kill in Mandalay. Whereas Mandalay is a nice enough town, it was brutally hot, and the cool air of Pyin Oo Lwin were but a spectacular motorcycle ride away. 

Pyin Oo Lwin (formerly known as May Myo) is a wonderful town. If I could choose to live anywhere in Myanmar full time (other than Yangon) it would be "POL". No place in the country is more amenable. And in POL, the most famous attraction is the Kandawgyi botanical gardens. 

The heavy rains resulted in an amazing event you only get here in the tropics. There are several species of insects that have a remarkable life cycle. They spend most of their lives as grubs, cocooning themselves late in the dry season. Come the rain, they all emerge on the same day, live one day as a flying insect, fuck, lay eggs and then die. I got to witness one of these events. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

To Ngwesaung with Nicki

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here on my blog. I’ve decided that I’ll take a break from telling the end of the story of my last motorcycle journey, which has got kinda stale in my mind, and which has showed in my enthusiasm and effort in making compelling videos. Instead, I’ll share some from my most recent exploits 

A little more than 3 months ago, I met Nicki. Although I’ve mentioned her before on this blog, I think this video is the first time you’ll see her on my camera. We’ve been dating, and as there was a holiday this week, I asked her to come with me to Ngwesaung, which is a nearby (5 hour bus ride) beach destination on the Bay of Bengal. 

It’s said that you don’t really get to know how well you get along with someone until you travel with them. It’s only when you’re on the road together that you learn how you work as a team. I totally agree with this thought. I’ve travelled tens of thousands of kilometers on my own because I like to do what I want to do. If that freedom is impinged upon, no matter how young and nubile the impinger, I’m not likely to react well. Outwardly, I may enjoy travelling with you, but inwardly, I know I’ll never do it again. 

Well, Nicki and I have passed the travelling test. At least from my perspective, I think we got along well, and that bodes well for future travel. 

What I noticed most about how we played together was that there was a lot of just that, play

I’d like to think that at 48 years old, I’ve still maintained a youthful mindset. My attitudes are young and I enjoy playing around in the mental and verbal spheres. But actual play? As defined by what kids do? It’s been a long time since I’ve played that way. In the pool with Nicki, she reintroduced me to a kind of play I love, but have somewhat forgotten: imagination. 


Oh, Poseidon! I’m your mermaid! 

[two bodies chasing each other through the water…more role playing ensues]

I guess what I’m getting at is that I really enjoyed how she made me feel like a kid again. The unbridled imagination and play that we feel as children is something we can still easily access in our 20’s, but in later years, it fades. I can do it in my head, but that combined imaginative and physical kidlike play… I want to thank my new gf for bringing me back to where I can play imagination games in the pool.

On the other hand, using every muscle to its most trying to chase around someone half my age in the pool, all while trying to impress her physically – ouch, are my muscles sore. 

Enjoy the video and feel free to comment… 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Discovering Northwest Myanmar 16: Kataung to Mandalay

I call them "Burmese Doughnuts".
They've got another name, but
essentially, it's fried bread.
The three-week adventure was nearing it's end. I was ahead of schedule, but after visiting all the sights available in the ancient city of Kataung, it was time to move on. I continued my way south along the Irrawaddy River back to where it all started, Mandalay.

From the 4-faces pagoda.An ancient pagoda inside a newer one!
I was also under budget. I had set aside a certain amount of money I was thinking to spend on this vacation, and when I got back to Mandalay, I was well under that. So, time to splurge a bit.

Once again Zach, my patron, the guy I'd rented the motorbike from in the first place - mandalaymotorbike.com - was helpful in suggesting accommodations there in Mandalay that were somewhat luxurious, but without breaking the bank. The Apex Hotel. Nice place.

It's taking me some time to finish up this adventure which ended 7 weeks ago now.As i mentioned in the last blog, a new love interest.
We're still together.  Sure, she's 20 years young than me. We're from  different cultures. But she spent some time living in America and we get along great.

Enjoy the video. 


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Discovering Northwest Myanmar 15 - Katha to Takaung

Crossing the mighty Ayeyarwaddy River once again

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve last posted here on my blog, and so much has happened in that time!

I’ve got a new love interest. More on that later depending on how it goes.

I had to spend a week in Bangkok when I’d meant to spend a night.  I’d gone for my regular visa run thing, and whllst in Bangkok I managed to lose my passport. Again, more on that story later. 

Back in Yangon. I’m very excited in that today, my company held a press conference announcing a new partnership with the University of Wollongong College (Australia) wherein our campus will be the site of their 1st trimester foundation course; it’s a type of college before college thing. 

UoW is one of the top universities in the world, and this foundation program is a way in for Myanmar students who might not be qualified to enter otherwise. Their first experience in tertiary education will come through Edulink, my company. They’ll be learning mathematics, environmental studies, academic English and sociology, the last being my area speciality and teaching subject.

Yes, I’m going to teach sociology. 

I remember vividly 35 years ago, at the family dinner table, when I said I was interested in studying sociology, how strongly my parents objected to this idea. What could one do with a sociology degree? Completely pointless! I think the words “no child of ours is going to study sociology  were actually uttered. 

They were much more mooted when I actually got to university and completed my BA in sociology with an emphasis on comparative cultures. I also got, while studying in Indonesia, a specialized minor in Southwest Pacific studies which combined courses in Indonesian and Australian topics.Who would have thunk these topics would actually be useful someday? 

Water fun in the Ayeyarwaddy
It’s taken 25 years, and not following any particular plan, but these qualifications (what’re  ya gonna do with a degree in sociology?) are finally paying off. Starting in August, I’m going to be a lecturer in Edulink’s collaboration with the University of Wollongong. I’ll be teaching a course in sociology. It’s going to be what in America would be considered to be a “community college” course, so my lack of an advanced degree isn’t an impediment. I can’t really call myself
“Professor Joko”, but Lecturer Joko? Well, career wise, I feel a bit of pride today.

In the video, we continue our journey south towards Mandalay, to the old town of Takaung, where my hotelier was an 11-year-old boy.

Yeah, I dunno where all the adults had gone, but this kid was my sole interaction with the guesthouse there in Kataung. And it wasn't because he was the only one who spoke English because he didn't. 

When you're paying 5000 Kyats ($4) for the night, ya can't complain. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Discovering Northwest Myanmar 14 - Burmese Days in Katha

Time again for a rest day. I was on the west bank of the Ayeyarwaddy River, in the northernmost part of Upper Burma. I had never heard of the town of Katha before I began researching this journey, but I learned that it was important in colonial times as the last outpost of civilization before the hinterlands of interior Asia.

Young Orwell spouting a moustache style that
has for some reason, gone out of favor.
In the early nineteen twenties, a young Englishman came to Katha in the service of the Indian Imperial Police. His name was George Orwell. He served in Katha until 1927, and seven years later, in 1934, he published his first book in what would become an important literary career. Orwell's first book, Burmese Days, is a tale of impotence, intolerance and imperialism. It's the story of a man who is beset by physical deformations, without a wife at an age which he should be married and beset by the cheap alcohol and easy living of the tropics.
I visited this tea shop on consecutive mornings. This old lady was there on both days. I suspect she's there every day.

I've said in earlier blogs that Orwell's protagonist is someone you want to sympathize with, but can't because he lets the reader down in one or another in every chapter, particularly in the last. Anyways, the protagonist and I have several things in common.
Which did you see first? Fish or butt?
First of all, we both suffer from a cosmetically disturbing condition. For him, it was a birthmark on his face, He was constantly compensating for it, turning his face unnaturally so that others couldn't see his deformation. For me, it's my psoriasis. My legs immediately draw people's eyes because of how disgusting they are. Furthermore, John Flory, the protagonist, likes to wake up and add alcohol to his coffee. He engages in carnal relations with the natives, but marriage doesn't enter his mind. Yeah, I've done that too. 

I'm not horsing around
Flory eventually undertakes some heroic acts, and I think my journeys might be called that, but his past acts catch up with him. I hope my current girlfriend doesn't come into church yelling what I've done... 

Enjoy my Burmese day in "Kyauktada" 

Eating Crickets

In my 5+ years living in SE Asia, I've seen all kinds of critters and parts of critters being sold as food that would take the average ...