May 28, 2005

Kept animals


Mr(s) Tang Hin Ching voices his/her opinion in THE paper:

"...Operating in the laissez faire environment, Hong Kong people are like wild animals looking after their own survival in the jungle. Leijonakaupungilaiset are like kept animals, always looking to the Government for solutions and protection.

This analogy is not meant to insult Leijonakupungilaiset, but to illustrate the apparent excessive government control resented by many.

Western culture romanticises the wild animals as the epitome of personal freedom. In real life, many species of wild animals are doomed for extinction.

Buddhists release kept animals into the wild as an act of mercy. Unfortunately many perish shortly after their "emancipation". An overly liberalised Liejonakaupunki society may well end up with the same fate.

Kept animals should be given generous accommodation and freedom as the keeper can afford, but they should never be left in the wild.

Good governance is an invaluable asset for any society. In the case of Leijonakaupunki, it is critical to its very survival. We should treassure it and refrain from making unrealistic demands."

Posted by gkligyte at 11:09 AM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2005

No holiday this summer.. :(

big_moth.jpg Everybody who got excited about me coming to Finland and Lithuania... Can't make it, lah... Got training, cannot lah. Holiday got got, but take cannot.. Too busyyyy... Boss no like holiday take take all the time. Have work say.. Training leh... (this is my attempt for Leijonakaupunginglish.. Now when I read, this, seems to be quite authentic.. :) Ok, this time in English: as the term break is supposed to be time free of teaching, everything else that we can't make is sqeezed into that one week.. Such as training sessions, graduation ceremony and what not.. So no holiday in July (the boss put it clearly - "please, don't apply leave on those dates".. bah..). I should have time off in September or later in the autum, the only problem is that the weather is getting horrible in Europe about that time.. Lets see how it goes.. Kaj still doesn't know how and when he'll arrange his holidays, but he could be traveling to Finland at some point this summer..

This big moth in the picture appeared in our kitchen last Sunday.. Don't know how it got in, but Kaj got rid of it heroically, just like the rest of cockroaches, geckos and other unpleasant living beings that venture into our apartment.. The moth was very beautiful at least...

I had 2 days of teaching now and its pretty intense, staying back late every night, still haven't sorted my papers and everything gets messier and messier.. How am I going to handle all the extra "projects" and work that we did besides teaching before the semester started?!?! The kids are nice and lectures was great fun, actually.. Just all the stuff besides teaching starts "killing me softly...."

Posted by gkligyte at 11:26 PM | Comments (3)

May 23, 2005

Waves are friendly in Phuket


Aaaaahhhh.. That was quite a trip... We came back from Phuket yesterday and I'm already checking for the flights back..

During our previous trips to Thailand we tried to avoid Phuket, because it was supposed to be too popular, overdeveloped, overpriced tourist ghetto. So we never really checked it out until now. And look what we found - AMAZING white sand beach with GREAT waves good enough for surfing!!! Because of the tsunami scare the business is still slow and many resorts try to sell out and put the prices significantly down. Plus, the hordes of tourists are not back yet, so most of the places are very empty and quiet.


I don't think we could have afforded (or wanted) to stay in the Andaman White Beach Resort if not for the slow business. Cheap skates as we are, we were horrified with the prices of water bottles in the minibar (140 baht! In town they would have costed 10-15 baht!!) and the price of the meals in the restaurants. Cleverly enough, this kind of resorts are usually built in secluded beaches, where its difficult to go "shopping" for better options. So at the end of the day, your bill is also "5 star" high.. Bah..


Anyway, you can't stay angry about outrageous pricing for long - the beach and the waves are sooo great!! (Plus you can rent a motorbike and go to the 7/11 in the village. And this is what we did one night.)

The same night we also went to Kamala and Patong beaches that are (were) famous tourist destinations. The Kamala beach is still devastated, quite unbelievable to see that kind of destruction.. Visiting that place somehow put things in perspective - it must have been a damn huge wave if you can see ruins of houses some 300m away from the beach. The plants and palm trees by the beach are dying, apparently poisoned by salty water.. So sad.. It won't be easy for business to pick up - we also didn't stay in Kamala beach for dinner.. Quite painful and sad to look at all that...


As Kaj's idea was that we need to explore things, we made a one day (expensive!) detour to Koh Yao island. Don't want to spoil the business for people there (if somebody planning to go there is reading the blog:), but it was not worth going there at all!!! The views are nice, the cottages quite beautiful, but the beach is very very shallow.. Basically not possible to swim at all (only to have a dip during the high tide). The Koh Yao Island resort is working hard to make the stay tolerable.. It is peaceful and quiet, but so damn boring that you wouldn't believe. cats.jpg The Koh Yao Island resort is also outrageously overpriced.. The best thing about the place were actually these playful and friendly cats that kept us company. At some point we had some 5 cats following us and messing around in our cottage. Beautiful creatures!

We were happy to be back to Phuket and to the beach that you can actually use, not just look and no touch.. :)

At night, when we were swimming in the beautiful waves and the moonlight and stars were shining upon us, Kaj noticed tens of floating fire dots in the sky. They seemed to be appearing from behind the hills and slowly continuing up in the sky. Our theories ranged from UFOs, military planes, burning air baloons as a homage to the tsunami victims or Vesak - Budha's birthday, enlightment and nirvana festival. It was so unreal and beautiful, as if taken straight from Myazaki animations.. However, the explanation appeared to be much less poetic - one of the resorts was having a company party, putting white garbage bags on fire and releasing them into the sky. I can tell you, the view for us was something out of this world... Very beautiful end of the weekend..


Today we're back to Leijonakaupunki and its a day off, because of Vesak holiday. One of the traditions on Vesak day is to release animals otherwise kept in captivity to the wilderness. Leijonakaupunki had a campaign against that this year. There were stories of hundreds of dead birds, frogs and turtles found in the reservoirs last year, because people bought and released animals that were born in captivity. These animals never had skills to survive in the nature, so they were dead very soon. Interesting how such a graceful traditional and symbolic gesture may turn into unwitting mass killing given different circumstances..

The school and new semester will start tomorrow. We are all freaking out, preparing for the classes, the students were back already last week when they had their orientation week. Poor kids were sleeeping in school and doing "team-building" for one week already! I'm sure they'll start the semester appropriately exhausted.. :) Wish me luck with my 18 hours teaching week!

Posted by gkligyte at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2005

Golfing and blogging


Yesterday we went walking around the McRitchie reservoir and as the path goes along one of the numerous golf clubs, Kaj was very upset by the golfers. To his opinion, there are too many golf clubs in this country (in fact they're lining many of the beach areas, and, of course, normal people cannot enter those). He says that golf represents everything that he hates and that the day he will start playing golf we can shoot him. Ok, noted..

It is quite a contrast with Finland (and to certain extent Lithuania) where we have "every man's right" to access forests and water... Everybody can tresspass everywhere, pick mushroom and berries.. Here it is not uncommon to see a huge piece of empty land or forest and a notice board: "State land. Enter at your own risk". Whatever risk they mean...


The path lead to the beautiful TreeTop walk and it was really nice! The walking bridge is hanging some 30m above the ground and only few trees have been chopped to give nice views to the visitors. Kaj got vertigo attack.. he he.. One more Leijonakaupunki attraction visited.. We're running out of ideas where to go and what to do!!!!

Out of pure nostalgy I was browsing through some Finnish websites and I came accross this one. Wooooow.... There's everything that I miss (I'm sure Kaj will second me..).


On the other hand we may need a reality check. Maybe we romanticise Finland and Lithuania too much (there was a reason why we left, wasn't there? :) This picture is taken in Lithuania on 15th July last summer (yeah, the middle of summer, can you imagine? It was about +15C then..) We're planning to come to Finland and Lithuania in the middle of July for couple of weeks, if we manage to organize our holidays. For me it will be in the middle of the school term, so I'd have to beg and plead and try to squeeze my teaching somehow.. Lets see if I succeed.

There have been a lot of discussions about blogging in Leijonakaupunki lately. There were few recent scandals of bloggers posting inappropriate comments and it seems that they're trying to figure out the legal framework for controlling blogs. One of the bloggers posted racist comments (in a site under password!) and had to take them out and apologise (fair enough, I think), while another one criticised the national agency that gives out scholarships for students to study abroad. This guy went very close to a "defamation" libel suit. There seems also to be attempts to formalize blogging, get rid of the "subculture" aspects of it and reinforce again that "topics like politics, race and religion" are a no no. So, yes, either you filter your rants and become very cautious and reflective about the consequences, or, as the PM suggests: "the most secure blog you have is the Microsoft Word in your C drive." Ok, lah.. :)

Posted by gkligyte at 12:48 PM | Comments (29)

May 11, 2005

Own set of social standard and order..


We're back to normal. Work and stuff. Really disturbed and upset about the construction next door, but as we read our tenancy contract through and through, we realized that we don't have any way to get out of the apartment before November. Why did we sign this super-restricting rental agreement?!?.. The agent and the landlord surely knew about the "redevelopment" project coming our way, when they rented the place out.. 6 more months of noisy weekends and hell knows what kind of monster and skyscraper is rising next door...


We went cycling last weekend and I realized that doing that on bumpy rocky steep slopes in the forest may be not quite my thing. I like cycling on a smooth asphalt road, watching the views, etc. When it becomes a matter of survival, I start thinking that I'd rather be knitting or singing or doing some other girl's-stuff.. I'll let Kaj to go to Bukit Timah with the boys from now on...


kahvikakkut.jpg We went for the mother's day kahvikakkut to the botanical gardens and it was nice. Meanwhile they're having discussions in THE paper about the death sentence in Leijonakaupunki again. Apparently the death sentence is mandatory. If a person is found guilty in the "capital offence" (murder, drug trafficking and firearms offences), the judge has no choice, but sentence the person to death. Some people are calling to review these rules as they consider the punishment to be "cruel and inhuman". But just today some "bright" person wrote to the readers forum in response: ".. the values underlying these (human) rights are heavily influenced by the ideals of victorious Western powers following World War II, rather than global consensus." "More broadly, which single society, or eclectic characteristics of a sample of societies, should be used to define human rights? It is a loose concept..." I cannot believe that people seriously can argue that killing another person is not a severe infringement of that person's right to be alive... By any standards.. Western or Eastern, anybody, who lives and breathes under this sun...

Since 1993, the president has granted 6 clemencies all together (Leijonakaupunki admits that some 140 were executed while AI gives quite different numbers - over 400). Out of the 6, 4 were murder cases.. 2 drug trafficking cases.. Here's the statement from Leijonakaupunki Medical Association

"The Leijonakaupunki Medical Association takes the ethical code of the medical profession very seriously. We have no difficulties adhering to the provisions in Leijonakaupunki laws concerning crime and punishment. These laws, which include caning and death penalty for certain criminal offences reflect Leijonakaupunki's own set of social standard and order. It is because of our tough laws that we are able to keep Leijonakaupunki orderly and relatively crime-free. As doctors, we are indeed glad that Leijonakaupunki's approach to crime and punishment helps to preserve life and quality of life for the majority of law-abiding citizens and residents, unlike the situation in many cities in the US, where people, including children, are injured, maimed or killed by criminals at an alarming rate. We believe that prevention is better than cure and that the interests and concern of the victim are more important than those of the criminals."

Another news item - Leijonakaupunki scored very well in the global survey of governments by the World Bank Institute. It is among the top 10% of governments in most of the categories (measures 90% achievement), such as political stability, control of corruption, etc. However when it comes to human rights + voice and accountability, Leijonakaupunki is at 40% achievement, but still "not far below the regional average of East Asia at 50%" (he he.. Considering that this region includes N. Korea, Myanmar, China.. Not bad, Leijonakaupunki! Quite an achievement! I applaud the results..)

Can you guess what organization I will join as soon as I move to a country that has a regional office? Guess what, this organization doesn't have a branch in this country.. Ever wondered why?

Posted by gkligyte at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2005

Happy happy joy joy


This is what I found, when I came back from Thailand. A happy pair of brats, enjoying their time in this happy city. Just heard news that the one on the left is practically a Master of Arts, congrats, Taku!


So I joined too.

botanical_smiles.gif botanical_smiles.gif butt.gif We found ourselves having so much fun in this clean and efficient city, there's something in the air that made us so creative.. Must be the x-factor. As we were definitely more into pop-culture that high culture, we decided to visit the zoo and the botanical gardens. It is a green garden city, you see.


Taku promised to come here again and again as it is a very exciting place to have a holiday. She spent 3 days and at least 18 dolars for the ticket for the zoo. In this way she made a valuable contribution for the economy of the country. We were happy to have her here. More people like this should be coming here. We have to show that the European face is a smiling face. We cannot afford to frown as it may create a negative image of Europeans..

PS. This is only for the initiated few that have an exclusive chance to read THE newspaper.

baboons.jpg cangaroo.jpg

Here's some pictures from the zoo taken by me earlier. See? The animals run almost free! The cangaroos were actually crossing the path right in front of my nose.

We couldn't take many pictures off the animals this time, because we had to take pictures of ourselves.

This city is quite a beautiful place afterall where animals seem to breed more than people. Why?

if you're puzzled by this, just ignore it. Peace!

Posted by gkligyte at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2005

My Thai


Hello again! After 10 days of being away, it feels like centuries have passed. Leijonakaupunki once again seems to be a true comedy, somehow I forgot how absurd it was.. Listing the papers was quite a shock again, not even amusing anymore.. But more on that later, I'm late with my stories from Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand.

Traveling alone was not the most fun way to travel, but otherwise, quite a bearable thing to do. Thailand is such an easy place to travel, so it was a bit tough maybe just the first day. There's lots of people, both men and women traveling alone in there, so there was no hassle, no trouble, nobody wondering why I'm alone.. However, towards the end of the trip, I changed my ticket to come back to Leijonakaupunki at an earlier date.. some 8-9 days of "being single" was quite enough for me... :)



I would definitely like to come to Northern Thailand again, but in another season. It is a beautiful and an easy going place, but it was quite impossible to appreciate all the nice things there, as it was about +40C all the time.


I am quite confused about the seasons here (and there, in Thailand), aparently its the hot season there that follows a cold season (temperatures could drop to OC degrees up in the hills). People call it "spring" and it looks a bit like spring in Europe, many trees are without leaves and the grass is brown. However, as it is about +40C, so I could imagine that the grass could be brown because it is burned, not because it was very cold some time ago. Besides all that, some trees are sprouting new fresh green leaves in that heat.. So I really don't know what to think about all this..


It was a bit sad to be there at this time - the hills must look so much more beautiful when they are green and lush..


Northern Thailand is a very interesting place. There is an amazing mix of Thai, Burmese, Laos people and at least 6 different types of hill tribes (+ all the varieties and crosses in between). Since centuries ago, it was (and aparently still is) an important opium growing and trading crossroad. The areas nominally belong to Thailand, but there's plenty of undercurrents going on. The warlords that controlled the areas around the borders were (and are) fighting with the Thai and Myanmar army from time to time and their families still hold a lot of power in these places. Current Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra comes from Northern Thailand and by "creatively" mixing business, politics and his family infulence, he continues with the feudal ways of ruling the country (and enriching his family). Here's more on Thaksin, if you're interested.


As a tourist you don't get to see or hear any of the stories about fighting. Mae Hong Son, was probably the most beautiful stop during my trip. It is right at the Burmese border and seems to be more popular among local Thai tourists than foreigners. It is in a beautiful river valley and feels very quiet and relaxed.

wats_maehongson.jpg longneckcar_poster.jpg

I knew that there are many refugee camps around Mae Hong Son and we actually went to see the famous "long-neck" Karen people in one of them. It felt very embarrasing and I don't think that I would do any of this "visiting hill tribes" again in my life. The whole place is set up like a zoo, people come, take pictures (just like I did) and possibly buy something of their handcrafts. I just couldn't wonder much about these people, because they're so very normal, they have a school and a church. Btw, they're roman catholics. Think about the new pope! He's the "spiritual leader" of these people too.. Is he even aware that these people exist?


But as I returned to Chiang Mai, I got to chat with a French photojournalist that was going to cross the Burmese border (illegally, of course) and make a report and take pictures of fighting going on between Shan state (the biggest ethnic minority in Myanmar) that announced their independence 15 days ago (and that I bet you haven't heard about from BBC or CNN) and some local warlord. It is so confusing, all these different sides and parties involved.. There's even a KMT village (KMT - the Chinese nationalist party, currently and opposition party in Taiwan) made out of pre-2nd world-war Chinese army (involved in some opium fights, of course) that couldn't come back to China because of communist revolution in mainland China. So part of them settled down and became farmers, while others kept fighting and trading opium, still keeping their Chinese identity and grip on opium business strong. All these places i visited and I didn't have a clue (I drank tea and bought some nice oolong tea in the KMT village!) You can just ride a bus across the country and never have any idea what is really going on (except that Thai army and police stops you at check points some 4-5 times in 1 hour). Later on I read more about all these things happening there and it was very very strange, because you don't see anything from the surface.


A beautiful place on the way was this buddhist-animist fish cave. I guess these fish are holy. When I asked at my lunch place if the fish they use is from the cave they cried "nooooo" and were staring at me quite hostile..


After spending some 20 hours in different modes of transportation while traveling along the burmese border (the picture on the right was taken before some 20 more people managed to squeeze in at the next bus stop..), I felt very ripe for some peace and quiet in the soothing embrace of civilization in Chiang Mai.


It is a very beautiful and "cultural" town with temples on every corner of the street. During the first days I was taking lots of pictures, then, I couldn't be bothered anymore.


However, during my visits to the temples I learned that my Buddah is the one with the 9-headed snake hovering over his head (see in the picture on the right?) as I was born on Saturday (my mother could correct me if I'm wrong). It is usually the biggest and the most beautiful Buddah.. (Others are in meditation or some other postures..) Check out which one is your Buddah. I wouldn't mind having the Tuesday one too.. he he..


There's lots of hill tribe-hippy style stuff in Chiang Mai + lots of tribes people trying to make a baht or two. Once again I saw children playing another game of our childhood with a string. In English it is called "cats cradle". Isn't it amazing, how truly global these games are?


I rode a bicycle around Chiang Mai, the trafic is crazy and it is real hell to cross the strees with all the dust and noise, so many of exclusively tourist-oriented activities offered a safe haven for me.


Such as this Thai cooking course.


I learned how to make a pad thai (fried thai noodles), green curry paste, tom yum (spicy soup), its so easy! and so fast! I'll definitely start cooking more!


There's more pictures available at the cooking school's website.

super_hieroja.jpg kaj_feet.jpg And the last days in Chiang Mai I spent learning Thai massage. It was a proper course, but sqeezed into 3 days, so one day I ended up doing (giving and receiving) Thai massage for 9 hours!! As I was walking home, I was ready to kick tires! I was so nervous tired, aching, well, I almost died... :) I said to myself that if I'd have to do this for a living, I'd ask them to shoot me first... But the teacher said that I have a good hand and that if I practice more, I could be a good masseuse. Kaj thinks that i have a "good hand" too.. :) Anybody willing to be my guinney pig? PS. Kaj wants me to write smth about him too, since he was not in Thailand, he asks to write at least that he went cycling today in Bukit Timah.. He he.. Here it is. + He wants to include this picture of his wounded feet to show how heroic he is.

Posted by gkligyte at 04:01 PM | Comments (5)