Monday, April 1, 2019

The Parents Visit (Part 2)

On returning to Yangon from the journey around Myanmar with my parents, my free time has been taken up by a new avenue of pursuit. 

In my role as an English teacher, I have found that my favorite aspect of my new career is teaching IELTS preparation classes. For those unfamiliar, the
International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is the fastest growing English language test in the world. Over 3.5 million tests were given last year, and it's used by tens of thousands of institutions worldwide to gauge an individual's English reading, listening, speaking and writing levels. I think I enjoy it so much because the students really have something to gain by performing well, and I feel like I'm helping to get them there. 

Because of the stakes involved, the IELTS-prep industry is similarly growing. There's tons of advice online for test preparation, and a lot of it is bogus. I've had my own ideas for an IELTS prep blog and service, and so much of my time in 2019 has been taken up on my new endeavor: The IELTS Temple. Feel free to check it out. It's growing daily.

Consequently, there's lots and lots of video footage I haven't had time to edit.

I can rely on my software's "Smart Movie" creator...

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Mom and Dad Visit Myanmar - 1

I think anybody who lives far away from their home town has imagined how they would show off their new city to friends or family visiting from afar. Over the recent holidays, my chance came to guide not just visitors, but the people who brought me into this world: Mom and Dad.

I wasn't alone in chaperoning their Myanmar tour. My partner Nicki has, amongst her many talents, professional training and is a licensed tour guide. She knows all about Yangon and it's interesting history. It was great having her along. 

Mom took this picture of Yangon's Wiring.
Go read her blog to see how a first-time
visitor experiences Myanmar. Link
When deciding where to take my parents in Yangon, I wanted to see the few places of interest that I hadn't been to yet. So, in this first video, you'll see short clips of visiting the National Museum and The All-Races National Park. Of course, we visited Shwedagon Pagoda, the most significant structure in the city in the minds of the Burmese. 

By bad luck, Shwedagon was under maintenance when my parents were visiting, so they didn't get to see it at its shiny best. 

After Yangon, I drove the SUV we'd rented up to Naypyitaw, the strange created-capital I've visited many times. Then, on to the Irrawady River, and Bagan: the center of an empire that ruled much of this part of the world from the 11th to 15th century. 

Over the first two centuries of the Bagan Age, the industrious rulers competed with their ancestors and future descendants to build as many pagodas as they could. 

Consequently, the best way to see it is from above. The video ends with MacKenna's in the sky as we floated in a hot-air balloon over the peaceful and breathtaking sites of one of the most remarkable places in the world.  

Be sure to check out Merikay's Dream, Mom's blog, a place to see their pictures and stories from visiting their son.

Enjoy the video. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Robert Mac Kinnon's 60th birthday bash.

Robert is my colleague. A delightful man whose last name is very similar to my own. Unlike me, he's full on Scottish. So much so that he had haggis imported for his 60th birthday party.

Monday, December 10, 2018

2018 Year in Review

It's not over yet, but here it is, a video review compilation of 2018 as seen through the eyes of Joko's videos. Part one.

Mid-year, I met someone. I've now got a girlfriend. Part Two. 2019 will start with my parents visiting Asia. That's going to be fun.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Myawaddy Final - New Built Old

So on my last full day of my week off, up in the town of Taungoo, I wasn't quite sure what to do. 

I had seen on the Google Earth images of stuff that Google Maps didn't show. Namely, the amazing lake at Pakaung. I saw that. Similarly, there was a golf course in the military extension of Taungoo, a few miles north. 

Knowing how protective the military is here of their facilities, I didn't even attempt to go there. Instead, it was off into the countryside east of Taungoo to  visit a couple of remarkable pagodas.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Myawaddy 6: Kabaung Lake

The mystery behind the secret lake has been solved. It exists. It is not in some secret military zone. It is a jewel of blue in the otherwise brown and arid Bago Hills. It has a name - Lake Kabaung. How did this place come to my interest? Jimmy Grant noticed it first.

Here's what the start of the road from Taungoo to Pyay (a road I've traversed before) looks like on Google maps. Not much detail, befitting the rural, featureless road that it is.

Look now at the same are on Google Earth


Wow. What is up with this extensive lake that otherwise isn't recognized? This isn't the first lake I've encountered heree in Myanmar that doesn't exist in  Google Maps.  There be a communication breakdown somewhere along the line. See, it's not that Kabaung Lake is secret or restricted or anything.
Sure, there was a gate, but I could have gone through the village and avoided it.  Kabaung is completely unspoiled. It's a nugget of Yoma Hills that is beautiful, but entirely unvisited. 

This beautiful mountain lake is but a mere 100 miles from Yangon - a few hours by car. Might this be the undeveloped place I build my retirement job of expat guesthouse owner? I may be the first to have made a video of the place. Music by Matisyahu.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Myawaddy 5 - Taungoo the Fifth!

I said goodbye to my girlfriend, got on a late night train and ended up in Taungoo. What is it about Taungoo? This was my fifth time visiting this small city, by far the most frequent visitation spot outside Yangon.

Well, on this instance, my purpose was clear: I wanted to visit my motorbike. As much as I enjoyed Myawaddy, I was frustrated by having to rely on taxis and such. I wanted to go where MY Kenbo 125 was located. I say my, but I’ve somewhat sold it to Barbara, a fellow teacher in Yangon who makes a couple visits a month to Taungoo, 175 km north of Yangon, as a volunteer English teacher to students at the Taungoo Education College. I’ve agreed to sell it to her, but we’ve never agreed on a price or anything, so it’s still mine. 

Again, this was my FIFTH time in Taungoo, but the first time I’d be spending more than one night there. This meant I could dig into themes I hadn’t before. Namely, I wanted to see the walls of ancient Taungoo. See, for a while, from about 1700 to 1780, Taungoo was the Rome of Southeast Asia. The  biggest of many Burmese empires over the centuries was the Taungoo Empire, reigning over all of Thailand and parts of India, Malaysia and Laos, and Taungoo was the capital. This little getaway from Yangon had an old history… 

Along with the old city walls, I also wanted to look for a new lake up in the Bago Hills. This lake is not on Google Maps, but it is on Google Earth… I wanted to go find it. Gosh… I found it. But the lake deserves its own blog and video…   

The Parents Visit (Part 2)

On returning to Yangon from the journey around Myanmar with my parents, my free time has been taken up by a new avenue of pursuit.  In...