» Archive for the 'Travels' Category

Why I Love This Travel and Work

Thursday, December 4th, 2008 by rdm
John Stanturf

John Stanturf, exhausted in Korea

While in Bangkok I got an email from John Stanturf (USFS Scientist in Athens, GA).  It was a pleasant email just asking about my trip and saying that we can catch up later.  In the message John said that he was in Denmark eating at a Thai restaurant and thought of me.  I just chuckled and knew that John was getting much better Thai food in Denmark than I was in Bangkok!

International travel has a mystique and I suppose that it adventuresome and exotic when you are doing it on your own time but traveling for work, especially for USFS work, the experience is mostly grueling.  You spend lots of time in cramped airplanes along with long waits in airport terminals to arrive alone and sleep deprived in a foreign land in search of a reputable taxi to take you to the correct hotel.  The rooms are usually fine but not extraordinary and most of the meals you eat are from hotels and catered events – not the best quality of food.  Trust me.

Preparing for presentations, to me, require much more effort than for other venues because you need to strike the balance of presenting material on a high level for Ph.Ds but also keeping in mind that to most people in the audience, English is a second or even a third language.  Since I only speak English, conversations with people from other countries can be difficult and I sometimes resort to having to type things out on a computer so that people can see the words I am trying to say past my lazy southern tongue.  Of course, some people are experts at English and I often find myself wondering if I am speaking with good grammar. ;-)

There are “junkets” in the USFS but my experience with international travel is that is is time consuming, difficult, and underappreciated.

So why do it?  After a trip or two why do I go back for more?

Easy.  It’s the people.

One morning in Bangkok I stumbled down to breakfast and as I was eating my rice and cabbage I looked across the room and recognized a man I had met in Hanoi.  He is a forest restoration scientist from Mongolia and he was attending FORTROP conference.  It was great to see him again and we immediately struck up a conversation about what has been going on over the last few months along with his current work.  Of course I had to bring GFIS into the conversation and do my part to keep promoting the people who are paying for my trip.

Over the past two trips I have meet and started friendships with people from several countries.  The desire to cooperate and share information is amazing.  I see it from scientists, technicians, and everyone involved in making these events happen.  And more than just goodwill, I see tangible results of how these cooperations benefit developing nations and the world at large.  Real data sharing.  Real advancing of science.

When I get unmotivated (and dismotivated) at my job because of bureaucracy and general unpleasantness of how people don’t get along at work, I just think about these trips and how it is possible to find enthusiastic and intelligent people willing to work together to solve complex issues.  Then I remember, yeah, its worth it.

Plus, when all the work is done, when you physically and mentally exhausted – you can go ride an elephant! ;-)

Randy and the Elephant

Randy and the Elephant

Airplane Blogging

Sunday, November 16th, 2008 by rdm
Somewhere over Canada

After boarding the new plane to Tokyo I was exhausted and fell asleep.  This was a good thing because we spent another 1.5 hours on the tarmac before finally going wheels up at 4:30pm.  Ugh….

Soon after we were airborne it became likely that I would not make my connecting flight in Tokyo and I assumed that would have to spend a night, or at least a few hours, in Japan.  However after about 10 hours in the air I spoke with the cabin stewards and learned that the flight to BKK would be held at the gate because there so many of us on the plane wanting to make the connecting flight.  Since NWA only has one flight per day from NRI to BKK it seems worth delaying the other plane to make sure everyone makes their connection

Besides having to dash across NRI another downside of leaving so late is that we fell behind the shadow of the sun and we are flying in darkness.  As I write this post at 10pm I have just crossed the border between the Yukon and Alaska and just wish I could see the land and ice below.

Would seeing Alaska make me happy? You betcha! </sarah palin>

Since it is now noon in Tokyo I have decided to stay awake as long as I can to try to adjust to the new timezones.  Let’s hope this works better than my last trip to Asia!

Wating to Leave DTW

Saturday, November 15th, 2008 by rdm
Detroit Airport

Detroit Airport

My flight from Detroit to Tokyo is delayed as the maintenance crew tries to close a cargo door. I’m fine waiting, that seems important!
As I look at the sunlight patterns over Earth it appears that i’ll be in daylight for well over 24 hours until I see sunset in Japan.
Also, a young lady called “Magibon” is sitting behind me on the plane. I don’t know who she is but all the 20-somethings on the plane think that she is a big deal. Apparently she does a lot of things on YouTube and she is being flown to Japan for some sort of YouTube event. I’ll have to google this later.
Well, time to take a nap, more later.

Update: The plane was not able to be repaired so we are changing to a new aircraft.  Dunno when i am leaving (2:30-3:00pm?) and if I will be able to make my connecting flight in Tokyo.  Could be an interesting night!

Take me to the Pilot

Friday, November 14th, 2008 by rdm

Almost time to board my first flight of the day and so far so good.  I spent the night in Charlotte with David Ramsey and his family and had great night’s rest.  This morning David had made coffee for me and on the way to the airport the first song I heard on the radio was “Take me to the Pilot” by Elton John.  Nice.  :-)

Take me to the pilot
Lead me through the chamber
Take me to the pilot
I am but a stranger

Hopefully this is a sign of the start of a great trip!

I’ll blog in Detroit if I have time and able to hop on a free Wi-Fi.

Charlotte Airport

Charlotte Airport

Leaving AVL

Friday, November 14th, 2008 by rdm

Sunset at my back as I leave Asheville and make my way towards Charlotte to spend the night before catching my first flight on Friday morning. Yes, I’m blogging from my phone as I drive down I-40. :-)

I have lots to do in ordered to be prepared for the workshop on Monday, maybe the 30+ hours of travel will be productive. If not, I hope to get some much needed sleep!

Two Days ’til Departure

Sunday, November 9th, 2008 by admin
United States Passport

United States Passport

After a few years with the Forest Service you would think that I would be accustom to incomplete and vague travel arrangements.  However trying to get approval and work through the details of travel arrangements for this trip has been more “challenging” than anything previous.    It was less than a week before I was suppose to depart that I finally got my passport, visa, and clearance cable for this trip.  (Clearance cables are necessary when traveling on an official passport.)

Luckily everything seems to have worked out fine with travel to Bangkok.  One positive thing from this delay is that I was able to get a MUCH less expensive ticket by waiting so long to book my flights.  I will be traveling roundtrip from CLT to BKK for less than $1,200!

Now I just need to make sure that I have a hotel room reserved….  ;-)