December 29, 2008

Aloha Maui

I just wanted to let everyone know that if you never hear from me again, if you will never be bored to tears by my drivel again, if you will forever pine for the craziness that you all have come to expect from me... it is because tomorrow I am doing this.

Thats right, my first Kiting lesson will be on tomorrow at 11Am Maui Standard time (also known as PST - Paradise Standard Time) I am strapping on the harness, I am laying out the lines, and I am goint to wrestle that bitch of a kite into submission... or perish on the corrally rocks that are Hawaii. Its been nice knowing you all, and please, the Stamp Collection goes to my dear Cousin Marx Marxisimuss.

December 28, 2008

happy BD to me

Happy BEEEDAAAAI to me
Happy BEDAI dear me
Happy BD to me

Lang soll er leben,
lang soll er leben,
drei mal lang

kinder soll er ham

Kann man mit 35 noch sagen, dass man am ersten Drittel seines Lebens angelangt ist?

Sorry no other amazing nuggets of wisdom. Need a couple more years for that.

December 27, 2008

travel report 17: welcome to myanmar continued

That mysterious, uneradicable smile. We should be glad for it. In all of the places of hard and unforgiving societies one can see the tracks that a surveilled life leaves in people's faces. But here in Myanmar - which the Brits called Burma because as usual they were too thick-tongued to pronounce the thing right; you have the choice of calling this country by its Brit-Overlord name, or by the name the current Junta has picked: Burma and Myanmar, and isn't it typical that we are not afforded a choice that does not reflect one or another dictator - people just smile, go about their skinny lives, listen to Radio America, and talk to every white face they can find. To practice their English, to improve their knowledge of the world, to check if what they hear on foreign radio news channels about atrocities committed in their own backyards is truly true. To find out if the monks are coming back, and if 2010 is really the day of change. To see if you like Longis and have tried Mohinga. To give you some Betel Nuts to chew and gag on, and to share a Cheroot.

One of the things I noticed with my intercultural eagle eye when walking around Yangon on my first day was how organized the traffic seemed. And how open couples were with their affections. The traffic I soon realized was a product of no mopeds. That single missing link leads to sedate driving by all, apparently. Could also be that most of the cars only have one gear, usually 4th. makes getting going slow going. And when I walked along Inya Lake I saw these funny little park benches, with an umbrella on top for noon shade. And every one of them was, every time I walked past, occupied by a couple of lovebirds more or less knotted into those dear little shapes we all fondly (oops, sorry, my adjectives tend to abjectly slave themselves to whatever I am currently reading. This time it is Moorcock. No. Really. I know it must be a nome de plume. But then again, why? For a Sci-Fi, throwback kinda guy, that he is, a name like that?) know from springs past time. As I said those fondly remembered positions, I mean shapes, really are in contrast to other south east asian cultures which frown upon public displays of affections. So while in Thailand this sort of openness is just not done, here it seems quite alright. How did Thailand then come to selling its young and nubile to hordes of Asian Sextourists (majority) who seem to not get any at home? Are economics overriding cultural norms?

I promised no more than one incultural boredom inducing nerddom per post. So let me tell you how my car was pulled over right after we, the driver and I, get out of the airport. So here is little old silly Peter, learning the customs of the land by way of Driver, when suddenly this uniformed man is standing at the side of the road, waving at us with a notebook. My driver dutyfully pulls over. Right after I wonder which western driver would stop for a waving cop, I am amazed at the alacrity with which the Burmese authorities have identified their newest persona none grata – me. Why else would they pull this car over, other than that they think that some anarchic or at least asocial element is trying to enter their paradise. Driver gets out, mumbles something of tags expired, kowtows to waving cop, I sneak to side to pretend I am having a smoke, and to check escape routes, take the following picture.

As pictures of unsuspecting locals go, this is not so remarkable. Here is a nicer one.

Monks in Angkor Wat. And yes, they are tourists.

In any case, it wasn’t about me. The car thing. Although if they would only know. The tags really were expired, but I still kinda think they were just playing mess-with-the-white-boy. This is why I told them I am staying with a Portuguese Lady and her entourage of time traveling specimen. Sigh; more Moorcock. Honestly, I picked those books up at a store on Maui for 1 dollar for three books. I had no idea the guys name was that. What? He thinks he is sneaky about the Morlock thing? Pshh.

December 22, 2008

travel report 16: welcome to Myanmar

Before traveling to a place like Myanmar I, and most every other visitor probably does this, had to answer the question if I am comfortable being in a country that is being run like a bad version of a middle age fiefdom. Some people think that it is bad; some people think its good; only very few people travel to Myanmar these days who do not think about this question at all. In fact not many people travel there at the moment. I wonder what pissed the traveling masses off more, the response to Nagris or to the protesting monks. Obviously, I think that it is fine to travel the Golden Land. I’s here, ain’t I? These days it is easy to spread the wealth to those who need it (most all of them) and keep it away from those that should not get it. Of course, I and my uncle Volker were only too happy that the tourist hordes where kept away by their 15 minutes of disgust. Although this by all means does not mean that my 15 minutes were perceptibly any longer. This rather complicated unthought process strangely puts one in an unbiased situation on arrival, as opposed to a state of complete readiness to hand out fliers and start revolutions on behalf of the sodden downtrodden.

To drive into Yangon and be welcomed by the below sign, does put one in mind of certain Eastern European Shenanigans designed to keep the foreigners unsuspecting and the locals in awe. Remind me to show you that other one, that I saw at another time.

In any case, I felt welcome, not so much by the sign, but much more so by dear Natalie and her Nephew Jimmy, two friends of the family who live in Yangon to do business.

This is Jimmy. His business in Yangon is school. I can not emphasize enough how important it is to have friends in this lovely country. I mean who else would exchange my crappy, torn and smelly dollar bills? Certainly not the Burmese Govt Exchange. They only take the crispest and newest 50/100 USD bills. And not those with a C at the start of the serial number. In exchange for your amazingly clean 100 dollar bills, you get the Kyat equivalent of one hundred crappy, torn and smelly 1 dollar bills in return. Do this with 500 dollar and soon you feel rich , and not just because you are in a land where you can kill people by throwing supersized Avocados at them - everything grows here, the country is a benign fungus - but also because you are carrying a wad of money that Al Capone would have given to his muscle for lugging around. To mention any more about the incredible hospitality offered to Volker and I by Natalie and Jimmy would be to state the obvious, so I leave it at saying that it felt like home.

In Yangon I was as usual the only one, me and all the other white people, who was walking around the place. Asians do not walk. They ride their bicycles, they stack 4 on a moped and how graceful it is to see two girls perching on their seats, one with legs to right, one with legs to left, with no worries in the world that they might fall. Even though the rascal driving them around town thinks he is Schumacher on a Duccati these girls are a sight to behold. Maybe it is actually because of. But they never walk. They stack on backs of pickups, on Buses like sardines, on roofs of whatever is moving down the road. But walk, they do not. When they all get as developed as they seem to desire to be I fear for their little colesterolique hearts. Also, two little fatassed asian chicas won't fit on a moped anymore.

The Locals are completely, overwhelmingly interested in talking to you. For no other reason than that you are foreign. George Bush would do great here, really low expectations. Makes you wonder why everyone talks about that Obama has it so hard because everyone has high expectations. Hell yeah, we do, I have low expectations of my pet cockroach, figure the Prez deserves a little better. Yes, being foreign is plenty, and supposedly we are all rich as well, but that only applies to other people, not me. Some of the people that want to chat to you are very quickly and obviously interested in selling you some kind of service. But most of the people that will strike up a conversation do so out of pure interest. Some of them are probably spies and you will notice this when they ask you rather curious detail oriented questions, "So the Korean that you stay with, she is a woman right?" But even those guys are rather easy to spot, and to make some sport of.

Once you have surmounted all of these rather small hurdles, you will find a genuinely friendly, tourism uncorrupted - yes, yes, I am one of them, but I have far too little money and even fewer needs to be corrupting -, constantly laughing and smiling folk which makes it hard to believe the torture horror stories that are told on dark nights. You must either start to question the effectiveness of the burmese government's methods or you must wonder at the sanity of these people. How can they keep smiling like this? There are enough examples of ugly dictators with their ugly dogs of war. In all of these places one can see the sad fruit of their labors. If you ever visited any part of eastern europe behind their curtain, you would know what a sad supressed looking person looks like. But in the Golden Land, one is by default looked upon with a smile.

However our thoughts of Buddhism; However our conceptions of the Burmese work ethic; However wasted we, with our 2000 year old churches, think it is to goldplate another Stupa; However any of our opinions fall on any of these issues we must appreciate the smile that remains like Max Plank.

December 12, 2008

travel report 15: collage melange

A little photo thingy of me making my way from South of Cambodia to Bangkok and on to Yangon. Not so many amazing border pix, as I was thinking the Burmese are probably not happy if I take pictures of their borders. A lot of waiting around for shared taxis and buses and planes. And the usual tourist attractions. Here goes...

Waiting for ride and chilling in Sihanoukville.

Waiting for ride and chilling in little border town across from Thailand. Even my color blind eyes notice the color coordination here.

Waiting for plane and chilling with my lovely Bangkok Couchsurfing host Rose, and her balcony. This backyard contains a multitude of songbirds, as Rose contains a multitude of talents and surprises. I wish I would have known about the meditation knowledge. I have been told it would be good for my restless mind. Well, maybe I can learn to do it online, like I am learning how to play a flute online.

No more waiting and chilling. I know I have told you this before, but the rythm on this trip has been amazing. Whenever I needed to chill, I was forced to do so, and whenever I wanted to run around, or meet people, or see something amazing that happened as well. So I am running around Yangon and I run into this walked down church. A bunch of people sitting around, you can imagine a congregation in buddhist Burma is rather small. Meet Vincent, a rather funny member there. We go grab a cup of coffee and some sweets, and chat the afternoon away walking around town, hanging out. This will happen to you a lot here. That you run into locals who just start chatting to you. Do yourself a favor be open and look for it. He teaches English to locals who want to bail this sinker of a ship and go to Malaysia to work. I dont know why I look so crazy in this picture. Must be an Arnold thing, reminds me of Kindergarten Cop, when the kids drive him mad.

After hanging with Vincent all afternoon I went to his English class to chat with his students. Honestly, this guy is ridicolously irreverent. I mean, why would he write that on the white board? The way they teach English is rather useless unfortunately, and derived from the way they teach buddhist scripture in Monasteries. They have a little book, out of which he reads, and then the class repeats what he said in unison. Thats it. I guess its enough for laborer english in Malaysia. Next time I go back I will possibly, if I can find a polite way of doing it, suggest to the owner of the school - a rather slick business guy - a different curriculum.

A couple of hairs of the Buddha. A few thousand years of devotion. A few tons of gold. Voila, I give you Shwedagon.

On the craziest busride of my life. These buses are pre WWII. They hold about 40 People. In a country where such regulations as to bus occupancy will be followed. Scratch that, in a country where such regulations exist. I counted, there were at least, approximately way to many people on it. Just because they are short and dont get to eat much, doesnt mean its a good idea to put 250 of them in there. It was amazing anyway, especially because the ticket guy took pity on my poor lanky behind hitting my head on the ceiling all the time, and gave me some Betel to chew. Only problem with Betel is, chu gotta spit a lot, and how do you do that on a full bus unless you are a local and have been training for just that occasion all your life?

Seriously, why would you build this thing in the middle of a river? Just to prove that you can? So that the faithful have to swim across instead of being properly humbled by walking up a thousand stairs to pagoda as usual? So that tourists have to pay 8 times as much as locals to get there on a "special boat"(boat is same same different)? Its pretty cool though to go there on full moon festival, its like being at the vatican on christmas.

This is my own personal guide I had for the day. She was practicing her German for work, and I got the full tour. Good exchange. Yeah, they always look serious in pictures.

As soon as I am annoyed enough I will bitch to google about the photo upload function of this thing. It is a complete pain in the neck, and dont even ask about the formating. Sorry if some of these dont open up, but after the third upload I gave up. Hope you like them anyway.

December 9, 2008

travel report 14: Der Paradiesvernichter

Er war ein schwerer Mann. Dem das übermässige Schwitzen nicht zu halten schien, von der frühzeitigen Glatze, und von der Sucht nach neuen, noch nicht erschlossenen Resortlocations. Er war ein schleimiger Mann. Der den Sound eines nassen Sandsackes machte, als er im nicht weiß-genugen Sand des Paradieses niederkam - OOOMPH. Nur ein Mann wie er konnte so ein Geräusch verursachen, und von Beruf Paradiesvernichter sein.

Er haßte Natürlichkeit. Sie erinnerte ihn an seine Unzulässigkeit. Wenn er eine Gottheit sein nannte, dann sicherlich keine Göttin der Fruchtbarkeit, der Erde. Diese sanfte Feuchtigkeit, Dieses gezeitigte modrige Gefühl des Jetzt. Des Allumfassenden. Dieses finstere Unbekannte haßte er. Mit Inbrunst, unbewußt. Nein. Sein Gott war mehr Eroberer. Vielleicht Mars. Wie mit einem göttlichen Phallus wäre das, über die unbekannte und immer unbevölkerte Erde zu fahren. Furchtbar fruchtbare Furchen in den Boden drücken. In die dunkle sanfte saftige Erde. Und dabei die älteste Form der Fruchbarkeitshuldigung vollführen. Nur leider interessiert das den fetten Paradiesvernichter nicht. Er huldet nicht. Er duldet. Er betet nicht. Er setzt fundamentale Pfeiler in die Untiefen. Er vernichtet das Ritual und es bleibt kein Furchen, sondern nur ein gewaltsames Eindringen.

Der Trägheit gehört unser Malcontent. Der dekadenten Fettheit, die einen Pier benötigt. Ein Luxushotel auf jeder Insel, auf jedem Strand, in der letzten Ecke. Den weichen Krokodilledersohlen, die ohne Teppich nur schwer existieren. Nur wenn das letzte Stück Strand, die letzte Palme, der letzte NGO-trainiert, freundliche, kulturtreue, einheimische Artisane in einen glitzernden Plan des Betons und Profits integriert ist. Erst dann wird sich der schwitzende Paradiesvernichter in seinem glücklichen Wissen zurücklehnen, sein häßliches Gleichstellungswerk vollbracht zu haben.

December 8, 2008

travel report 13: Koh Tonsay

The gods surely must be beautiful. For I dined as ye kings of old. Good things come in three and the third night on Koh Tonsay will remain edged in the souvenirs of my mind. I was not supposed to stay this long, but realize now how foolish that thought was. The fresh pepper crab, pulled out of the ocean minutes ago, melts on tongues too taste-stunned to express the usual. You must at one point in your life partake of Kampot Pepper. Have it in Paris, as they used to during the Roaring 20s, but prefer it freshly whence it grows from.

This starry night I spend with souls well met. This idea, present in all our minds - floating in and on the waves of this soon to be moonless night. We are in the becalming waters of the bay, of the soft sand, of the moon setting distantly, of the spirals overhead. Of the luminescence underneath.

The gods surely must be merciful. For tonight I swam with the candles of the sea. Imagine, every movement, every moment a trail of glittering light. Enlightening us. Tiny, too small to see during the light of day, but glowing grandly, hundreds of times their real size in the light of the night of the falling moon. Mother nature's ephemeral blessings bestowed upon us all. A ballet of the sea on fire. A symphony of joy; and sing I must, softly, while floating in these milky waters of creation. Shine in this music, cleanse me thus. Melody in these lights, set me free.

The gods surely must be bountiful. For I dove among the floating stars of a million miles beneath the sea. My open eyes drink an orgy of riotous light streaming past as snowy flurries do on dark winter nights. I wish to remain, to stay in this place.
To be something else. A dolphin. With fins of light trailing joy.


December 5, 2008

Travel Report 12: Siem Reap – Angkor Wat II

A rusty pen is what I feel at this point. Or should I say rusty blogging thoughts. So let me just begin where I left off, and last wrote to you all and to my diary in disguise (Whatever will happen to that anyway when the servers of the world unite to form the machine overlord? Form a new consciousness? Disappear into human battery fed 0s and 1s?). I told you – RUSTY, forgive. Rustiness = rambling even more than usual.

Second try at beginning where I left off. At Siem Reap on the last day – planned – of my stay there. I decided on this day to take a TukTuk out to the River of the Thousand Lingas, on my way there I would see this, for Angkor Wat standards, smallish temple, which made up for its size disadvantage with incredibly detailed stone carvings and empty morning feelings. Again the stupid anthropologic-comparison thought moves; how this ancient culture produced this, and proceeded to disappear, while my silly St. Stephens Cathedral keeps hanging around. My Tuktuk is only 14 Dollar for the whole day on the night before, at the end of the day it was 40 - remember to spell better next time.

We arrive out at this outpost of no tourists at all, surrounded by the usual stalls of crap sellers, who seem desperate to the point of attacking me, the lone visitor, with “you buy Mr, cheap cheap, when come back, you promise.” The river of the Thousand Lingas is exactly that. A river, in a rocky bed, thousands of Lingas carved handsomely and obsessively.

It is about a mile up this jungle mountain. I feel like Rambo, except I am not chasing the bad guys, only bad penises. You laugh? That only shows you got no clue what a Linga is. JFGI (nubes to this, my most humble vehicle of informing my friends and family of wellbeing, mine that is, you must follow the link, to find out what JFGI is, and kindly leave a thumbs up to third in list – no, I will never give up this obsession with putting this Stamos-Illo word creation to its rightful place at top of silly list. See, we thought of it first, but didn't think to urbandictionary it).

The hike is lovely, if uneventful, no green mambas, scorpions, Khmer Rouge remnants lurking in the foliage. I do however see two locals sweeping (sweeping?!?!?) the dirt path that leads me into this jungle with their palmfronds brooms. I had noticed the exceptionally clean condition of this jungle path, and was puzzled by the neat patterns of lines across it as I hiked up. They resembled those that would be left by – a broom made of palmfronds, apparently. I must admit, first I was a little scared of the strange jungle monster that would leave tracks like that. But you don't know Peter, if you think THAT Kinkerlizchen - not Rumpelstilzchen - would divert him from rapture by a thousand penises carved into a river bed by fertility obsessed hindoo-rockcarve-wallahs. Nevertheless relieved that no centipede of enormous girth and even larger appetite was doing a jig across the path in recent history, I refocus my thoughts on the proper phallic objects, the carved ones instead of the creepy-crawly ones.

I reach my destination after about 30 minutes, the usual contingent of one guard against thieves of ancient penises, tourist guide + 1 couple of Euro Tourists and local woman hovering are present at the river bed. A bench invites me to sit and rest my weary soul; slightly rotten, holes in it, but good enough for me and this jungle. Sit down for a few minutes, drink water, wonder where the thousands of promised Lingas are hiding. An incredible stabbing pain in my left ass cheek. I jump up, hollering in pain and surprise, turn to stare at the rotten bench – Nothing. Under it – Nothing. My upper quad starts hurting burning, pain moves shoots all through it. Check around the bench on the ground – Nothing. Big artery leading on inside of leg up to belly starts pulsing something fierce. Try to gesticulate to bored guard, who did hear me yell, that something bit me. Reaction is a blank stare. Rather panicked at this point, I decide to go and ask the tour guide a couple of rocky defiles further down the river for local advice. Ignoring the two Euro Tourists I head over to him.
'Hey man, I was sitting on this bench up there’, he can tell I am freaked, ‘and something bit me’.
'Did you see what it was?'
'No, tried to look, but was gone.’
'Show it to me.’
I think: I can not possibly show this guy my ass.

'Uhm, it's in a rather sensitive location.’
He doesn’t get it. Really pulsing up my artery/leg now. So I, down pants and up shorts, point to where I think it happened, I can’t see the exact spot. He now gets the sensitivity of it. Bends over, examines the tender area, makes sounds of worry and faces of What should I tell this already freaked out white boy that won’t immediately put him in the ground with a heart attack?
'I don't think it's a snake', relief, 'there are only two puncture marks', faint. Well, not really, but only thing keeping me from fainting is remembering that calmness is primary now, so poison doesn't travel even faster to heart and immediate seizure. He bends over again, to look at my ass closely, gently probing with his fingers - never thought I would say these words.
'Maybe spider or what do you call that…?’ makes snaking movement with his index finger '...with many legs.’ You have got to be shitting me! You have centipedes the size of fingers that bite people in the ass? I look for my Rambo knife.
‘Yes’, but he can tell my weak little white heart is doing flips and wants to bounce out of my throat, so he refrains from further gory details.
‘Slowly go down mountain, home and rest, it will go away in two hours or so. Whatever you do, do not put menthol on it’ Why would I put menthol on it?
‘If you put menthol on it, you die’. Ohhhh-kayyyy!

So I dismiss his menthol phobia in my mind, thank him, and slowly, painfully, in a fear/emotion controlling manner I limp down the jungle mountain. Cursing Rambo, green mambas, dirt-path-with-broom-sweeping locals, lingas and my own stupid curiosity, which apparently did kill the cat and maybe also me.

Later, after an interminable hike down jungle of worst euro-tourist-nightmare, my pale face works wonders and none of the hawkers bother me, which is a good thing, because at this point I feel like puking my guts out, and what would they think of us round-eyed barbarians if we all start vomiting on their flipflops just because they are trying to make a meager living?

Go over to guide, tell him story, he looks freaked out at the possibility of a dying tourista – I guess it would be bad for business – runs over to stalls, jibberjabbers with sales girl, comes back with little jar.
‘Put this on.’
‘What is it?’ He already has it open, I smell it. It’s Menthol. How the heck did the guide know? I decline politely, he nearly insists, I refrain to repeat what the guide told me. He asks me to show the thing to some people who are sitting there. And I kid you not, Peter Illo exposes his not inconsiderable, rather hairy backside to a bunch of locals sitting around a table playing cards.
Lots of head shaking. Some laughing. They all seem to think I better head to a clinic pronto. So I walk back over to Tuktuk, really looking forward to the ride back on my broke-ass ass, riding out all those potholes in the 30 miles of dirt roads, which I now remember in advance detail. Suddenly my body wants to completely vacate. I can barely control this attack of a need to explode from two main and one minor orifice simultainously, in the middle of all the stalls selling crap. I do not want to add my load to the wares on display. So I supremely effort my bodily fluids under control. Would be somewhat undignified.

Long story short, we head back, and into the first clinic that we see in a small village. The nurse only looks on in consternation as my driver explains the situation. I don’t bother exposing the guilty party as she is completely clueless, which surprises me. Shouldn’t animal bite treatment be priority # 1 in these remote jungles? What does she do there, if not treat various bites? Cure Cancer? We get back in Tuktuk and decide to head all the way back to Siem Reap, good clinics there.

Suddenly huge rainstorm, Tuktuk guy comes to sit in back with me, waiting storm out, passing the time with a smoke and – detailed stories of what will happen to your body when poison-bitten, and the different ways of dying of snakebite.
‘Don’t worry, if it would be really bad snake, you would not have come down from mountain. You'd be dead already’ (thank you for sharing), and ‘There is this one snake, if it bites you, you must not go to sleep for 12 hours. If you do go to sleep, you will never wake up again. Thats how the poison works. ' I don’t know if I should smack him or thank him for this excursion into Cambodian poison lore.

Insidious, I tell you. After about 30 minutes of rainsoaked horror stories we go on. My ass doesn’t hurt so much anymore, but I can’t stay awake for the love of god. I keep passing out. Of course this is easy for you to read, knowing that if I am writing this, I obviously wasn’t bitten by that particular anti-insomniac-snake. But imagine my horror at comfortably slumbering away. A waking nightmare. He probably told me on purpose.

I wake up, back in Siem Reap at the red cross clinic, some quack Chinese doctor, examines me, comes to the conclusion that it was probably a centipede of gigantic proportions and that I should lie down and sleep it off. Gives me activated charcoal to eat (30 pills, try and swallow that in one go) makes a paste out of activated charcoal and smears it on my ass cheek. I go home and sleep it off, and actually feel well enough to board the bus to Phnom Pen on the next day.

I don’t have a moral from this story, only a picture of proof that it would seem better for little Peter to stay away from obsessive compulsive Linga-search-behavior.