Myanmar and back, all in a day's work

Trip Start Sep 04, 2008
Trip End May 19, 2009

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

*Disclaimer - Sorry about the poor formatting of this and previous entries. It doesn't want to cooperate with me... it deletes carriage returns at will*

Apparently there are a whole lot of people who know about this blog. Frankly, I'm a little intimidated!

I hope you all enjoy my free-form stream-of-consciousness writing, because that seems to be the only way I can write these blogs.
It's been almost a month since my last update. Wow. I'll try to keep this one short and sweet.
First things first - I started posting my pictures on Flickr a few weeks ago. If you'd like to check them out, they're available at you need is a yahoo account to create a flickr, and then you can comment, if you feel so inclined.
Yesterday I went to Myanmar, by way of a van. It was quite the adventure - 5 hour drive to the boarder of Thailand, 1 hour walking around in Myanmar, and through boarder patrol, and then 5 hours back "home". I met a pretty interesting girl who was in the van with me. She works with a human rights organization and has been a teacher at schools all over the world, even though I don't think she's even 30 yet. I told her I was going to Oaxaca Mexico next, and her eyes grew wide. She said she loves Oaxaca, and is thinking about moving there permanently when her teaching gig here at Chiang Mai University is up in August. I'm excited to check it out!
Between Yesterday and my last post, I've been mostly working on organizing, synthesizing, and producing the pictures and video I gathered in Central Asia. I've also been planning for my trip to Phuket, but we'll get to that next. I've successfully completed two video projects so far. They are each about five minutes long, and they probably took over 10 hours each when you factor in all the time I spent capturing the source material, weeding through all the garbage, rendering, fixing, reviewing, sharing with Scott, making more changes - and the biggest challenge and time consumer - trying to match english subtitles to russian interviews (PS - I DON'T SPEAK RUSSIAN!) They're a little bit novice, and the equipment I used could have been better, but over all I'm pretty proud of them. I don't take the credit for them though, I didn't do much except organizing - it's really God whose responsible for the quality and impact of their messages. I'm still in awe of how awesome it was that I got to take that trip and see what I saw.
If you check out the Flickr, you'll notice some pictures from a holiday festival called Loy Krathong. I'm not really sure what it celebrates, but feel free to wikipedia it. They light big hot air balloon style lanterns, and float little rafts down the river. They also shoot off fireworks (unregulated fireworks. Didn't they invent gunpowder over here in the East? I almost wet myself more then once, because people will launch full size fireworks over the river, unscheduled, unannounced, and often, poorly aimed.)
The weather is starting too cool off, if only ever so slightly. It took a 10 degree dip, and I hit a record low in my apartment, 73 degrees fahrenheit. It went back up recently, and started raining again, but I think the cool/dry season is starting to peak it's way through :-)

I've, more or less, developed some form of a life vision. Here it is.
There have been two main things in the last month that have contributed to forming this vision. The first was my trip to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and the second was Thomas Friedman's book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Anyone who has spent some time with me probably knows that on the inside, I'm a little bit of an environmental activist - I often ride my bike instead of driving, I worked hard to garner enthusiasm for the recycle club to get it on its feet and off to a good start. Anyone who has spent five minutes with me, or even looked at my transcript knows that I like science. I love technology - gadgets, computers, cameras, ipods. I've always kind of thought that when I went to school I would study some form of engineering, because that's what I seem to be okay at, and that seems to have the most promising jobs for meeting my interests (although a lab research job sounds worse than an ice bath with loud country music). Enough with the background. Here's what I want to do, and WHY!
I want to study renewable energy technologies. I want to learn the ins and outs of solar photovoltaics, windmills, hydroelectric dams, geothermal plants, and solar thermal technologies. More importantly, and more interestingly, I know what I want to DO with the knowledge I gain. I want to act as a liaison (eventually starting my own company (maybe non-profit)) between cutting edge renewable energy science, and the developing nations that are furthest from it. I see myself totally enjoying a job that would allow me to travel to developing nations all over the world, be it Asia or Africa, Chili or Cambodia, Buenos Aires or Bishkek, and helping people to install, understand, maintain, and grow their own renewable energy systems. Hot, Flat and Crowded has convinced me that Mother Earth just can't sustain the rest of the world's 6 billion (soon to be 9 billion) people to develop with dirty energy the way we did in the US. Further more, dirty or not, many of these places don't have any electricity at all. That means they're dieing of poisoning trying to heat their homes with burnt wood, or cook over a wood fire in their homes. It means they can't have electronic medical equipment, and they can't keep their medicines, vaccines and blood samples cold. They can't read or write, (essentially they can't learn) after dark. They can't access the internet. Everyone in the world is striving towards these "basic" commodities, and they're going to go after them however they can get them. If it means relying on a (often corrupt, inefficient, inept, or monopolized) government power grid that's burning coal and cutting power for half the day - than so be it. It means that if the government want's to install a security check point at a tunnel on the top of a mountain, they're going to run a big, disgusting, and expensive power line all the way up the beautiful snowy banks of the mountain - rather than installing a solar panel and a windmill for the lights and a solar thermal array to heat the place.
There is so much need, and serving the world that way meets so many of my interests. I'm really hopeful that I can get to experience some of this during the latter half of my gap year trip, in Honduras or Costa Rica.
Now, about Phuket. Check it out - - then get jealous. It started to snow back home? I think the only snow I'll be seeing in Phuket is the snowy white beaches. I've got 8 books in my backpack, and 7 days on a tropical island to read them all. Expect some sweet sunrise pictures over the ocean.
P.S. I won't be bringing my computer to Phuket, but I'll update the blog after I get home, near the end of the month.
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