In December of 1997 I finished up my Peace Corps assignment in the Fiji Islands where I was an Aquaculture Extension Officer working in the eastern jungle area of Viti Levu, the main island.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Fiji: Peace Corps Fiji : Web Links for Fiji RPCVs: In December of 1997 I finished up my Peace Corps assignment in the Fiji Islands where I was an Aquaculture Extension Officer working in the eastern jungle area of Viti Levu, the main island.

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 15, 2001 - 9:50 pm: Edit Post

In December of 1997 I finished up my Peace Corps assignment in the Fiji Islands where I was an Aquaculture Extension Officer working in the eastern jungle area of Viti Levu, the main island and traveled to Nepal, Turkey, Lithuania, and Poland

In December of 1997 I finished up my Peace Corps assignment in the Fiji Islands where I was an Aquaculture Extension Officer working in the eastern jungle area of Viti Levu, the main island.



I know that you probably hate getting copies of documents, but there is a good reason for this and the ones that may follow. I realized that I was spending a lot of time (time=$) rewriting similar things to different people. Therefore, I formed this group so that I can quickly tell you what I am up to presently. If you do not want to get these updates, email me and I'll remove you from the list. I will continue to answer email from you, and if something strikes me as interesting particularly to you I will send that separately. This just gives me an opportunity to give you an idea what' s up!

The first one is a bit longer so that I can get everyone up to speed - after this they should be much shorter.


In December of 1997 I finished up my Peace Corps assignment in the Fiji Islands where I was an Aquaculture Extension Officer working in the eastern jungle area of Viti Levu, the main island. Aquaculture is the farming of fish, in this case in artificial ponds. I didn't think that my program was ready to go solo, so I ended up volunteering my time for an additional two months, after a trip home for Christmas and New Year's. That was a treat, going from 36C temperatures to -30C. My hometown, Pepperell, received a snowfall of 29 inches - they only predicted 3! It was nice to see what America' s been up to after over two years of my being away. The biggest shockers (besides the cold, electricity and white people) were a Duncan Donuts in my town and how much water there was in the toilet bowls. More like a lake!

Back in Fiji I worked on closing up my program the way I wanted it done. I did final inspections and improvements to fish pond sites, wrote a small handbook for the farmers I was working with and held a training for the farmers in all the latest fish farming techniques. I hope that at least some are still fish farming now. After finishing up this aspect of my time in Fiji I got a temporary job as a consultant for an environmental engineering firm (American) that was interested in starting a business in Fiji. This allowed a bit of luxury - I moved to the capital and got a nice apartment near the center of town. Also got some exposure to a side of Fiji I had never seen - the non-village life. I liked it!

All good things come to an end, and I headed off to start my world tour. I figured that this was the time to do some exploring, as I have no ties (other than financial) holding me down. Basically, I decided to visit all my friends who are presently scattered around the world - at convenient places. This included Tokyo, Bangkok, Nepal, Istanbul, Lithuania, France and the UK.

My first stop was Japan, where I visited a good friend (who had also been the only one to visit me in Fiji, with the exception of family). I was able to see Osaka, Kyoto, Visiting Kyoto and Tokyo. Timing was pretty good as well, I made it to see the Hanami festival, which is the cherry blossom time in Japan. I spent a lot of money, but it was definitely worth it. I saw a lot of neat stuff, hung out with cool people and got pampered by my friend (who shall remain anonymous because she doesn't want anyone to know that she actually cooked for me).

After Tokyo, it was a bit of a shock to come to Bangkok. First it was much warmer (Tokyo 0-14C, Bangkok 33-37C). The spectacular wealth and crushing poverty co-existed side-by-side, making for a strange mix. I had only planned to spend a maximum of 3-4 weeks in Thailand, but ended up there for 6 weeks. Luckily I had a very understanding and patient friend who lives in Bangkok, so costs weren't as high as they could have been. In the capital I saw most things of interest and had a great time - I can definitely see returning sometime in the future.

I toured the South, going as far as Malaysia, and Northwest, going as far as Myanmar (Burma). Thai-Burma The South gave me a taste of things to come, with parched fields and constant haze - a mixture of El Nino and the forest fires in Indonesia. But basically what global warming is supposed to bring us. Of the South the best times I had were diving off the Krabi coastline and sea kayaking through the mangrove forest and lagoons. Got to see a lot of monkeys as well.

The Northwest was much better, with Chiang Rai the absolute winner. While there I rode elephants, Chaing Mai Elephant rafted and visited Burma, the Golden Triangle (Laos, Burma and Thailand) and Mae Salong. Mae Salong was a very exciting trip as a friend and I rented motorcycles and motored into the hills. Lots of great scenery and excitement - I think I'll invest in a motorcycle when I get home! This area reminded me a lot of my jungle home in Fiji, and it was a nice break from the lowland heat.

I am now in Kathmandu, Nepal Kathmandu where I am getting ready to leave for a 5 day rafting trip down the Kali Gandaki River. I am lucky that I have the Peace Corps connection - I have used the resources of both the Thai and Nepalese branches. In Nepal, it also has a certain cachet, as in Fiji the Peace Corps is well known and generally liked. K'du is an interesting place in itself, a mix in a different way from Bangkok. Here very old and very new jostle in the streets, alleys and paths. I haven't had a chance to explore the area thoroughly (I am trying to rest up a bit after my trip in Thailand) but I have a favorable impression already. The people are friendly, speak a lot of English (in Thailand I learned quite a bit of Thai, as many Thais do not speak English at all) and there' s something new around every corner.

OK, that' s it! I' ll try to give you (shorter) updates as circumstances allow!






I'm sure all of you have been anxiously awaiting the second installment of my travel journal (of sorts). So here it is, I'll try to send the next one from Istanbul, where I hope to be as of this weekend. Time to move out of the Subcontinent!

Nepal is a very beautiful country, especially once you exit the haze and pollution of Kathmandu. I left for Pokara, Pokhara the jumping off point for my rafting and trekking excursions with a gift of a GI tract disorder from K'du. Just what you want for an eight hour plus bus side?

The next day I was on a raft in the kali Gandaki (or "black river) riding the rapids. The water was very silty (one reason for its name) and cold, but you certainly couldn't argue with the scenery! This river has been around a long time and has carved itself a nice track through the mountains. This meant that not only did we get some amazing rapids - up to class IV, that's 50/50 flip rate, but we also got a treat eyewise. Somehow I didn't expect that it would be so green, though not the jungle I was used to in Fiji it was full of vegetation. And not only that, there was plenty of wildlife, from monkeys to huge raptorlike birds. Some were scavengers, although I wasn't to learn that until later.

Adventure Travel I had been surprised by the places people were willing to live in Thailand, but this experience jolted me again. They say that humans are the most adaptable species, and certainly believe that now! I saw houses and settlements perched on slopes that had to be 70 degrees or more. The amount of terracing was amazing, you'd almost think it wasn't worthwhile to make all these narrow fields, but there they were. Not just the rice you'd expect in an Asian nation, but all corn as well - something a fellow American from Kansas found very comfortable.

By the second day my entire raft was ill in some way, and by the third we started losing personnel. This excursion was all-inclusive, which meant that we had tents, food etc. entirely provided for. Each night we camped on the shore in tents, although by the second night I found how pleasurable it was to sleep under the stars. The entire trip was 122Km, and dropped in altitude accordingly. The temperatures also varied as the days passed, but for someone used to Fiji, it was quite pleasant.

Some of the highlights? How about when we passed a dead body entangled in the debris on shore. In America this would mean calling the police and getting an investigation started, here the guide shrugged his shoulders and seemed unconcerned. After all this is a 'holy' river and bodies are strategically placed to be washed into the river during the monsoon - I mistakenly placed some gear on a pile of stones that wasn't just a pile of stones? Nepalese Palace After this I didn't look too closely what the scavengers were eating and tried not to think of the water I inadvertently swallowed. Like I said the views were amazing and ranged from mountains (to me, to Nepalis they were hills) to waterfalls and settlements accessible only by jungle tracks on foot or by donkey.

I finished up my rafting trip with a major flipping incident on the worst rapids of the trip. It was a case of going fine then feeling the raft com to a shuddering stop in the middle of the river and a slow slide backwards as the raft was sucked under and we were tossed everywhere. Thank God for lifejackets! This is the last run on this river, as they will be damming it at the end of the year. Obviously you don't run during the monsoon, I mean with all those bodies competing for space!

I spent some time after this trip in Pokhara, resting and learning how to control a motorcycle. Actually had my first accident trying to avoid the water buffalo that wandered into the road. Can you believe that if you hit a cow here that you can get 20 years in jail? That's because this is a Hindu nation for the most part. Keep in mind that these animals amble freely all over!

For my next trip I hired a guide/porter to trek into the Anapurna Mountain Range. I was following the advice of my friend Amrit, who said that it made sense to use a porter (no matter how wimpish it looked) because I was there to see the scenery and not strain under the weight of a pack. And a porter costs only around $ 3-4 a day anyway. It was a good choice, because the first day I pulled a muscle in the back of my leg, which had me limping for the next couple of days - climbing into the Himalayas! Muktinath

Now having seen the Himalayas I have to agree that all the mounds I saw before were only hills . At first I though that I was seeing clouds, the Himalayas rose so high into the sky and were covered in snow to boot! The trail was fairly clear and not in too bad a condition. Obviously, as it is the only way that people can get goods from the outside world they keep it in good shape, no easy task when the major users are pack donkeys and the trails mostly are built on rock. Rocks in general are a bumper crop in the area - I read that Bangladesh is interested in buying Nepali boulders. If that's true, it's too bad that Bangladesh is so poor or Nepal would be rich! There were points in the trail where I was climbing for hours and hours on stone "steps" placed or cut into the mountainsides.

Unlike the rafting trip I stayed in guesthouses and option that was extremely affordable - I usually spent 4-5 times in food than I did in lodging. I was in Nepal for the low season, and as a result I didn't see many other foreigners. That was OK, it let me enjoy the panoramic views without interruption. Something that really surprised me was the number of settlements that had electricity and, dare I say it?, satellite TV! I talked to a man that led a Red Cross working group resources - this explains the power (something I didn't have in Fiji, even though I was only 2.5 hours from the capital). The TV? During the high season the guesthouses are chock-a-block full and this means they can afford to pack all the technology in - and satellite TV is the only way to get any reception. I should mention that the short-wave reception was pretty amazing as well.

I finished up my trip by hiking up to Muktinath at 3800, (12467 feet). During the trip I had started in lowland jungles and temperate forests to glacial moraines that reminded me of Alaska. And so dry as well! But it was worth it - if I had more time on my permit I would've stayed for longer in Muktinath - the views weren't just incredible they were stunning. You just wanted to sit and look at the mountains and how the colors and textures changed with the sun's position. Snowtop

Sadly, I had to leave and what took me a week to reach by foot took only 20 minutes by plane to return to Pokhara. The wonders of modern technology!

Next, adventures in the Ottoman Empire!




I finally escaped from Nepal near the end of June, a touch and go thing that found me sitting at the airport praying for a ticket. An Air India ticket to Delhi made my day - and I'm not just saying that. I was in a foul mood (ready to rip those horn-tooting drivers out of their Nepalese seats) but the flight itself made my day much more pleasant, despite the fact that I would have to sit tin the Delhi airport for 18 hours. (Not your most modern transit lounge, I might add).

From my journal:

"After all the stress of getting on the flight I was treated to a very amusing time on the plane. Are Indians really acting the same way all over the world (as many did in Fiji)? I first noticed that something amiss (besides the water that poured down on my seatmate) when the attendant call buttons lit up. On any Western flight I can't think of more that 3-4 times that those are used, no matter how long the flight. But on this flight, Well! It was like they were all jack-in-the-boxes. As soon as the seatbelt light went off (or even before) they all started moving and punching the call buttons! Young and old, Bing Bing Bing! And not satisfied with just one push. If service wasn't forthcoming, well push it again goddammit! By now I was in a very relaxed mood and could laugh at the whole thing. Lunchtime started and the entertainment increased. Additionally to the passengers moving about and getting in the way, the call buttons and general nervous energy, each passenger started demanding mini-bottles of whiskey. Bing Bing Bing! They harassed the poor attendants so much that as landing time approached they hadn't finished clearing all the trays - leaving items scattered all over as they beat a retreat to their seats. Bing Bing Bing! Airsick people everywhere. A very rough landing, more like a controlled flop. As soon as the most violent rumbles had passed, Boing! Up jumps more than one man and grabbing his bags starts walking down the isle. The stewardess who had so patiently tolerated all the previous foolishness lost it?"

Eytan From Delhi I took Emirates Air, and I would recommend it to anyone, the economy class is first class everywhere else! I arrived in Istanbul with US$20 gripped in my hand to pay for my Turkish visa. Only to find that it had increased to US$45! I didn't have it and it was a fun time to get out of the airport.

What can I say about my time in Turkey? Most accurately that I lived in decadence, probably the only thing I could've wished for was more English speaking (or Lithuanian or Fijian) people. I met with my fraternity brother, who now owns the second largest internet company in Turkey. He grabbed me out of the tourist traps and spirited me away to an island on his family's yacht. There I spent a great deal of time unwinding after my trip while swimming in the Sea of Marma and tooling around in his powerboat.

After a couple of days a change of scenery was in order and we took a car down to Bordrum, stopping along the way at the Roman garrison town of Sirinje - quite picturesque, and a good place to relax after braving the Turkish roads, or more accurately the Turkish style of driving! Sirinje The next day we arrived in Bordrum, a resort town on the Agean and relaxed for a time. I learned to enjoy Turkish food and hospitality, both quite outstanding.

Then it was back to Istanbul and the island. My fraternity brother took me around to the clubs - in his Maserati (didn't I say I lived in decadence?) and introduced me to interesting people. For example a Turkish belly dancer. It was about this time that I managed to escape long enough to do some sightseeing around Istanbul. Blue Mosque Like Kathmandu, it is a city full of history. I sat in the Aya Sofya (St.Sofia's Church) and though about how 1500 years earlier other people might have looked over the same scene. And that was only the beginning of the things I looked at, although in the interest of saving you from falling asleep I won't elaborate. But not only the old was here, I saw the Blues Brothers in concert!

A final stay on the island for some swimming and sun and I was off to Warsaw. Next update, Live from Lithuania!





I finally made it out of Turkey in more or less one piece and arrived in a country where I speak the language and understand the culture - Lithuania, my homeland! Lith/Pole Border

During my travels I had visions of what the country I was travelling to was going to be like, only to have them blown away once I arrived and imagination met reality. Surely that couldn't be the case in Lithuania, a place I had been to twice before and spent a considerable amount of time. Er, it happened again? I had been away for six years and during that time Lithuania had undergone a dramatic change as things progressed after the occupation ended. Unbeknownst to me, it had turned into Western Europe!

Lets put it this way, if the actual buildings weren't still there (albeit refurbished) then I would have had a hard time navigating the capital city, Vilnius. The new stores, McDonald's, Western European cars and most importantly, the nightclubs! So many changes in such a short amount of time. I had once said that I really like Lithuania, but I didn't think I could live there. OK, I stand corrected, I could live there. Didn't hurt that the latest Lithuanian women's fashion was to wear VERY short skirts, and them being so tall with long legs?

My cousin had come back from his job in Norway to spend some time with me while I was in Lithuania, and the first night he arrived we went out to a club, called the Gelezinkelis Vilkas (or Iron Wolf). It is a club done in 'retro' style, which in Lithuania means that it was adorned with all sorts of Soviet memorabilia. We danced for a while and then went though an adjoining door which led to the? sauna and pool! Can you think of anything more relaxing after drinks and dancing? After some cooking in the sauna and swimming (all in the buff of course) we went back to dancing. I wasn't wearing a watch so when we left the club I was surprised to see sunlight. Clubs are open until 6am! God, I love that place!

Soon after I arrived my mother flew in. Mom, Dainius and I This was a bit of strongarming on my part, as although she had been the driving factor in my learning and retaining Lithuanian she had never been there. Her father was a major in the Lithuanian artillery during WWII and for obvious reasons was forced to leave when the country was occupied by the Red Army. Therefore my mother was born in Germany. So I had a great time showing her around the "old country". But this wasn't just a rehash of my previous two trips, the first alone and attending the University of Vilnius and the second with my father (in his first trip back in 50 years). This time I had the opportunity to visit the places of my mother's side of the family. I stood in the house that my grandfather had bought - it was a strange feeling to think that over 50 years before my grandfather had been in the exact place I now stood, overlooking the same view.

We also had a chance to visit the place where my mother's family had come from in NE Lithuania, which was even more moving that the prior experience. Lithuania is truly a fairy tale land to me. For so long it had existed to me only in stories I heard from my grandparents, and when I first arrived I felt like I had returned home. However, the actual countryside lends itself to fairy tale thoughts - as night approached on my grandfather's birthplace, mist stole out of the woods at the edge of the fields. It is an eerie effect, as the mist there comes out in layers and not just one amorphous mass. They have a saying that it starts when the rabbits come home to start their saunas! Of course the castles and old towns also help lend an air to medieval thoughts, as this isn't America where things aren't older than two centuries!

After touring and partying got old, I left Lithuania to help my cousin bring back some cars from Norway. The trip ended up taking us through six countries and quite a few extra unplanned days, not to mention the fact that we used many different forms of transport. In the end we made a big circle around the Baltic Sea, and I have to admit it was an interesting journey, although not one I'd care to repeat in the near future! I'd like to go back to visit some of the places I passed through, and revisit the ones I did stop in.

Brief notes, the Latvian language (for all those wags that say it is close to Lithuanian) was pretty nigh incomprehensible to me. Estonians refuse, under any circumstances, to speak Russian - it is simply not done, probably as a result of the extreme attempts of the Russians to Russianize the country. Sweden seems like a very happy country, we arrived in Stockholm during a festival - but on the bus I was a little surprised to see the number of people with extensive scarring on their arms, At first I thought it was from suicide attempts, but then I realized it formed patterns. This must be the new body ornamentation called "scarification" that I've heard about! Norway was much like the state of Maine, made me homesick for there as a matter of fact, but it is a strangely empty country - the villages and even the capital, Oslo, seemed devoid of people.

Or return trip was driving a VW Caravelle bus and Ford Transit van - and from the very first the problems started. The plan was to head to Stockholm and ferry direct to Lithuania in one day. Not to be!

The starter on the bus went and as it was an automatic we couldn't roll start it. This minor problem showed us the friendliness of the Swedish people, from the mechanic that worked on the starter for free to the lorry driver in Goteborg that came back a second time (after midnight) when he figured out a way to bypass the burned out solenoid. This got us to Poland.

Advice: NEVER DRIVE THROUGH POLAND. I think that the Poles live in fear of the Germans and Russians using their country as a highway to each other and therefore left the road system in shambles. We had to drive across the entire country, from the ferry landing by the German border to Lithuania (by this point two of the four cylinders on the van stopped working). The "highway" more often than not was single-laned, lined with massive trees on both sides (no sissy break down lanes, and good luck if you fall asleep at the wheel), full of the odd pedestrian, bicycle or mini-Polish Fiat (AKA go-cart). Did I mention that it was full of curves and every gas station had a bar attached? I still wonder how we made it! And it took four days, not just one!

All in all a very satisfying time in Lithuania. I finally had a chance to speak my first language after almost a three year hiatus, met with people and family I had not seen in a long time (if ever) and enjoyed the renaissance of a country that had been ground down by the Soviet Union's tender mercies. Hey, the clubbing was pretty excellent too! Maybe I won't wait six years to visit again. But it was time to leave, as I would like reach the States before the end of August, and still have two countries on the itinerary. So it was off to Western Europe to another first on my trip, a place where they speak my second language everywhere - England!

Now who said that England and America are two nations divided by a common language?




I left Lithuania a happy man. I had met many cool people and had a lot of fun, but time was working against me. Someone has to get back and pay those bills!

My first stop was to go to London, where I would finally be able to speak English to everyone OK, so the English say I speak American and I have to agree. Listening to the way they speak makes me feel like a Neanderthal when I come out with the "harsh" American accent, but the advantage is that I can speak to everyone, right?

London! Center of a worldwide empire that once stretched across two-thirds of the world. The empire may have gone by the wayside, but the imperial feeling is retained in the structures that remain. This was my first visit to a Western European country outside Scandinavia, and the difference was amazing. Such extravagance in the architecture, so many famous things to see!

The first thing I saw however was the bar scene. A bit of a surprise that, for a country, and especially a capital, that provides that source of the best music for the Western world you'd expect them to be rocking. On the contrary, you can't get any food at a bar after 7 pm and then it closes at 11 pm! What is going on here? To be fair I didn't make it to any clubs, but besides the good beer I was a bit disappointed with the bars in London. Not to say that they don't look great, cause they do!

The majority of my time was spent visiting the various museums, ranging from the Natural History museum to the Tower of London. Then I embarked on a trophy shot excursion, as in "here I am in front of Buckingham Palace" and " here I am by Big Ben". It was like stepping into a Dickens novel. All the names that I had unconsciously assimilated over the years - hey, I was now standing there! I kept seeing places that I had previously only seen in the movies - it was cool! The only downside was that things are kind of expensive there. I was happy to see the variety of people about - I suppose what you'd expect in a former colonial power, but I had just come out of the overwhelmingly white Baltic Sea area.

I even had a chance to visit the Fijian Embassy and see how much my Fijian had been corrupted. To my surprise, it came right back, despite previous worries that I had lost it. I was not greeted with the normal friendliness I am used to from Fijians, and they seemed not impressed at all of my mastery of Fijian. But this isn't Fiji of course, perhaps they were infected by the Western model. Oh well, can't be a star everywhere!

One of my goals in the UK was to visit Stirling University in Scotland to check out the aquaculture program. I set out by train, a very painful experience not so much due to the cost, but the fact that I had met with one of my friends the previous night and consumed a lot of wine and beer (Interesting fact, Budwiser is very popular in the UK, but does it have 5.5% in America?) Anyway, the next day I had a hangover that was not helped by the superfast train. When it went through a tunnel or passed another train the pressure change was immediate inside the cabin. My head obliged the pressure change by shooting my brains out my eye sockets! When I reached Scotland, I could barely understand the locals - I though it must be the aftereffects of my night. So much for understanding everyone! My first real meeting with Scots in their homeland, and let me tell you they were well nigh unintelligible! Scotland was another trophy shot area. I didn't get to see much, but I was able to glimpse the William Wallace Memorial (Braveheart anyone?), and visit St. Andrew's. What's in St. Andrew's? The R&A of course (if you are clueless like I was, it's where golf was invented). Of all the countries I visited, only Scotland lived up to the image I expected of it. I would like to return when I have more time to explore!

My final experience in London was linked to the Notting Hill Carnival, billed as Europe's biggest. Yes, it was great fun with drinking, parades, dancing and narrowly avoided mayhem at all times. Two days after the fun I pretty much collapsed in a rail station feeling like someone was jamming a rod through my right side. Just great, and my insurance had expired just the day before. I went to the hospital and they diagnosed kidney stones - after performing all sorts of tests and x-rays. How much did this extravaganza cost? NOTHING! Now I know why Europeans laugh at us not having a national health system.

All good things come to an end and it was about time for me to get home. But before I went I decided to meet with the person that I visited when I started my trip. Then in Tokyo, now in The Netherlands. I spent a couple of days in Holland near the Belgian border, praying that I could get tickets home (my flight was on NW, currently on strike). The atmosphere in Holland was extremely relaxing. Some people condone the permissivity there, but I think you need to see it in action to understand what it means. I saw one of the most relaxed societies around, lots of cross-cultural dating and a lot of happy people. It seemed too good to be true, and it was - they play Dutch polka type music in the bars! Well, each country does have its own deviant behavior.

Now I'm back in the States. Time to find a job and re-enter "real life", maybe write my memoirs and live off the royalties? This will probably be the last major general post from me, at least until I move out of my hometown again. So until then, keep me up to date on your lives!

Final tally: 20 countries (visited or transited) + over 5 months travel + mondo bill = one damn great time!


By sally askildson ( - on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 1:04 am: Edit Post


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