Thursday, 28 July 2005

The war on terror in my living room

Today, I received some unwelcome news. My younger brother has decided to apply to join the RAF. This came as a shock. Before today he's dropped the odd comment and as a family we would joke at his inability to get up in the morning, but now he has actually gone ahead and done it. Ok he hasn't quite made it there yet, he still has various stringent fitness/ IQ tests to do e.t.c but it's one step closer and I'm already worried sick. Of course, whatever decision he makes is up to him and I'll support him whatever, but the thought of a family member becoming tangled up in the web of lies surrounding the war on terror is unsettling.

My reasons for this are many but I shall name a few.

1. My greatest worry about military forces is that when you join you sacrifice your opinions, control over your life and your freedom of speech. By entering such an institution you in effect offer your body, your mind and your soul to be used for military purposes. You can no longer refuse an order on moral grounds. As an example, you may be ordered to bomb a school which your commanding officer believes is a store house for WMD, you may disagree and believe that it is in fact filled with innocent civilians. In warfare however, you surrender your judgment to the decision of another, whether it be your commander or the likes of Monsieur Blair. As we have seen in the recent Iraq war, decisions can be flawed.

2. You are most likely to be killed by friendly fire. Namely by our wonderfully inept American counterparts

3. You are continuously suffocated by propaganda and rhetoric from Bush and Blair. When over a million people marched against the Iraq war do you think the soldiers in Iraq were fully aware of the anger over here? Absolutely not. I was writing to a soldier based in Iraq and he was given the low down by his commander that everything was hunky-dorey over here. The power of propaganda for keeping up morale in the forces shouldn't be underestimated.

4. Joining the military forces means that you trust and believe in your government and you support their dealings in foreign affairs. Whether it be Bush or Blair, they have both lied publicly and they have both fought a war to further their own interests despite public opposition.

5. You live in barracks at arms length from the outside world. This creates insular communities that run the risk of developing a very narrow world view.

6. You have to have a multitude of vaccinations. The Anthrax vaccine has been linked to Gulf War Syndrome. There have been a number of concerns (i.e MMR) about whether having too many vaccines can be detrimental to your health. The case remains open.

7. A 5am wake up call every day

8. Having a family is twice as hard as it would be normally. Children often move from one country to the next which can be unsettling or they only rarely see their father if he is posted abroad.

ok well it's just worrying me writing this so I'm going to stop. The pay might be good, the pension might be great but I personally feel there is more to the RAF than flying planes. It is about feeling 100% comfortable with the governance of your country. I for one am not.

What's with computer programmers?

umm ok maybe I am being overly finickity but surely if you design a spell-check for a blogging programme, the words 'blog' and 'blogging' should be recognised as legitimate? The alternative offered is 'flogging'. hmmm I wonder.....

Happy punters

Today I was reprimanded for not blogging since the 25th. I shall respond with a multitude of blogs to rectify the situation. First the good news. My vaguely schizophrenic frenzy of work over the last few days (14 hour day on the craziest) I seem to have got the CD from a menial limp on to a full blown roll. My boss, who returned to work today after two days working at home, seemed extremely pleased with my design work, commenting on its professionalism.

I must admit that I did fall foul to a slightly smug glow for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, I can get too excited yet as the Big Cheese (a very friendly but extremely astute Australian businessman who appears to have my CV imprinted in his brain) will be back from a two week vacation on Monday, so fingers crossed he'll like it. He didn't seem all that impressed with me at the start as I fumbled around trying to master three new computer programmes, so hopefully what I've done to date shall prove my worth.

Not only that but it looks like the CD is on track to be completed by the deadline of next week. If so, I shall have an entire product which I designed and in effect sold (I'm being paid to do this) and so begins my career in communications. It will certainly be a great product to show people at interview, if I do say so myself.

I do worry myself at times. When I get involved in a project I become obsessively focused and barely eat or sleep...ok that may be a slight exaggeration, but I do seem to have a slightly obsessive-compulsive tendency when it comes to work. I call it perfectionism. Not all work, only that which I feel passionate about. It seems that this time round I'm passionate about fish ...a step up from parasites I suppose.

So apart from being an obsessive computer geek for the week, what have I been up to? Saturday night I went out with my American friend Shane. We had freshly grilled fish by the river and chilled out there for a couple of hours. We then met up with his friend and his Lao girlfriend. I'm not one for judgments :), but she had the air of an empty-your-wallet break-your-heart type. Apparently Shane's mate had already bought her a motorbike. Hmmm. I reserve judgment. Hopefully I am wrong and they will live a happy life.

On Sunday I met up with Shane and got picked up by Tim a Son (I really should find out if her name is spelt like this) and went to their house. It's Son's family house actually, a beautiful old, wooden and surprisingly large Lao house on stilts. It is absolutely stunning. At the moment there are three generations of Son's family living under the same roof. Her mum, her, her sisters and her nieces and nephews. Son and her sisters cooked us a superb Lao meal. We had delicious little pancakes filled with coconut to start, then fish laap ( a spicy fish dish) and grilled fish which we ate with sticky rice, noodles and veg. Sticky rice is seriously sticky...nothing like the rice we have in the UK. You roll it into balls and scoop up sauce with it, no cutlery allowed. We spent the entire afternoon there amongst family and about 6 dogs. It was great.

Last night, I gave up on work. I was supposed to meet up with Shane but we managed to miss each other so I sat by the river, watched the sun go down and read for three hours. It was an extremely chilled out evening. Unfortunately, 'Stories of Sickness' is not the most exciting read, but I'm sure it will be of great use when I finally put pen to paper and write my dissertation.

Today I'm working late, but tomorrow night, it'll be Friday night drinks with the expats I imagine!

Monday, 25 July 2005

The little things of Laos...

Just a few things that I've noticed

1. Extraordinarily clean public/restaurant toilets (both here and Thailand)-possibly related to number 2
2. If you go to a restaurant you are most likely to be sat in someone's living room. To make a little cash, people open up the front of their house, draw up a menu and serve food whilst keeping a beady on the latest Thai soap blaring out of the TV at the back of the room. It is quite normal to be sat in the same room as an entire three generation family watching TV.
3. The length of the menu doesn't necessarily correlate with diversity of food. It is likely that only one or two items on a menu are available.
4. In a restaurant, you will be given a menu and the waiter/waitress will hover about your shoulder whilst you decide. Extremely disconcerting for an indecisive Librian.
5. Pavements are an extension of the road and it is perfectly normal to ride a motorbike along them as needs demand
6. It takes at least three police officers to sit and watch traffic go by at junctions
7. Dried squid impaled on a kebab stick IS a i've been told
8. Delicacies also include fertilised eggs (beak and feathers included) eaten raw
9.When a Tuk Tuk driver says 5,000 kip...he actually means 10,000
10. whatever anyone tells mud stains
11. sitting on your moped and staring at the Mekong is a local daily must-do
12. Laughing Cow....yep you have to just grin and bare it
13. Coffee and condensed milk...likewise
14. Papaya salad is hot, let this be a warning
15. No matter how sunny it is, there will be a tropical storm at 5pm, just as you're about to leave work
16. A meal for 3 quid is expensive
17. It is perfectly normal to turn up to the bank with a 70 litre rucksack full of cash (I witnessed this today)