tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
So, I'm finally home-- a little older, and perhaps even a little wiser. (And as of right now, quite jetlagged indeed.) I don't want to post specifically about each of the places we visited, since I feel it's a bit pointless to describe the superficial characteristics of somewhere without understanding it properly as a place, so instead here are four decidedly unartistic photos of things I found interesting.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the country and city (or region) in which the photo was taken.

Two-storey colonial building on cobbled street; three wheeled tuk-tuk in foreground

I like this photo because in it you can see evidence of some of the various cultural influences that have, for better or worse, made this city what it is today: the three-wheeler in the foreground, made by Italian company Piaggio (makers of the Vespa); the white, blue and orange stripes of the Bank of India to the left; the colonial-era building in the centre (and if you know where Jinja is, you have a clue as to region); the English-language advertising; the cars driving on the left. The answer is actually written in the photo, but don't zoom in and cheat!

Three more behind the cut )
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Can't embed due to technology limitations, but this is where I spent the New Year:

Ethiopia's ancient rock-hewn churches in Lalibela.

Breath-taking in person, prettier than a postcard through the camera viewfinder... and I'll tell you about the megaphone-amplified all-night chanting some other time.

Hope you all have a good start to 2011!
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Just booked tickets today for our ten-week summer holiday to Africa (Zambia, Kenya, Ethiopia) and India! I've never been to either region before, so I'm ridiculously excited. It's also been a while since I've travelled for more than two weeks at a time, which will be fun. Hit me up with your tips and recommendations! (Kilimanjaro will have to be on our next visit, since we don't want to have to lug our cold weather gear around. Also not massively into safaris.)

I must say I've never loved Lonely Planets (I find their maps annoying and their restaurant recommendations hit-or-miss), but this line from the 2010 Zambia/Malawi edition really takes the cake: Zambia's people are known for being docile.

Along with every second page containing some line about the 'authentic African experience', the 'real Africa' and 'the Africa of your dreams', it also uncritically recommends books by Mark and Delia Owens. Which... I dunno. It's worth reading in its entirety Jeffrey Goldberg's controversial New Yorker article about the pair and their anti-poaching work in Zambia, because it highlights a lot of difficult intersectionalities between conservation, (neo-)colonialism, indigenous livelihoods and human rights.

Good thing I just borrowed it from the library, rather than buying it.
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Well, you always know when you're home after a trip overseas:

"All passengers in single file off the plane!"
"Do not touch the dog."
"Did I tell you to stop walking? KEEP WALKING."

Has someone upstairs confused 'Australia: Land of Oz' with 'Oz: HBO Maximum Security Prison Drama'? If so, I'd like some more Beecher and Keller with my orange jumpsuit, please.

So, huh, it occurs to me that I've returned to Australia, gone overseas again -- then returned again! -- all without posting once. All this reading for class is messing with my writing mojo.

Update regarding travels to Toraja, South Sulawesi (aka Land of the Epic Buffalo Slaughtering Ritual) to follow.

Rice fields above Rantepao, Toraja Utara
Rice fields above Rantepao, Toraja Utara
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
You know another way Darwin is peculiar?

Yesterday I was walking from the Territory Library through a city park when I heard this strange whooo whooo sound emanating from the undergrowth to the side of the path. I just figured it was some kind of bird; Darwin at the start of the wet season is lush and moist, and even urban shrubs seem full of exotic-seeming wildlife.

After I'd taken a few more steps, a rustle directed my attention to a gap between two large bushes. Oddly, the first body part I managed to identify from the scene was a pair of oversized pink testicles. During the following split-second I involuntarily discerned the shape of a man, facing away from me, bent over at the waist into some kind of naked and wildly inappropriate yoga pose that presented me with his spread buttocks and the vaguely horrifying suggestion of a hairy arsehole.

I wish I'd had more of a hip reaction, but instead I just gave a classic Candid Camera gasp of horrified embarrasssment-- "Oh my god!"-- and made the sharpest 90-degree turn a person can make while wearing flip-flops and hightailed it out of that park at speed.

I don't know what it is about indecent exposure and travel. I'm fairly sure I didn't see a single inappropriate penis the entire time I lived in Melbourne, and the worst that happens here in Timor is having men randomly attempt to grab at my breasts or between my legs if I go jogging too close to nightfall.

But for instance, there was this one memorable time on a sleeper train in Thailand. The Boy and I were travelling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai overnight, and we were both quite impressed with the way the staff came around and magically transformed the seats into full-length bunk beds, with real sheets and pillows and everything. The Boy, being tall, took the top bunk and I, being small, took the bottom bunk.

"Night!" I said, pulling my curtains closed and buttoning them along the edges of the bed. I found the effect amusing, like sealing myself inside an giant empanada.

I'd been asleep for a while when there was an unbuttoning noise at one end of my bunk.

"Mmm?" I said, sleepily, as someone climbed into my little dark enclosure and started taking his clothes off. "Boy?"

In my half-awake state I muzzily presumed he'd come to cuddle, until it gradually dawned on me that the patterns I could dimly make out on the person's arms and shoulders were tattoos, of which The Boy had none. The person pushed his pants down and I shrieked, diving out the other side of the buttoned curtain like a cat on fire. With the curtains now flapping open and letting in light from the aisle, I saw my erstwhile bunkmate pull his dick out and start pissing on the sheets. His eyes were shut; in fact, he looked like he was still asleep. Or blind drunk. Or both.

"Boy!" I shrieked again, reaching up to shake his leg, until he grumbled and climbed down and then became instantly alert at the sight of the man still casually pissing in my bunk. Some of the piss had overflowed to pool on the floor, tilting back and forth into elongated liquid fingers as the train rocked along.

The Boy eventually managed to evict the man -- a completely intoxicated Russian backpacker -- out of my bed and into the ajoining carriage, used the old sheets to wipe down the waterproof mattress, and obtained new sheets from the train staff. Despite his best efforts, though, it still kind of smelled like piss, and the curtains were suspiciously moist.

But I was already blissfully asleep in the top bunk, and when I woke up -- refreshed and cheerful -- we were in Chiang Mai.


Oct. 7th, 2009 08:29 pm
tevere: girl in gloomy cityscape (city girl)
It's... not funny, but I guess apt in a purely coincidental way, that the first thing you see when you walk into Phnom Penh's Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is not the buildings themselves, but a beautiful lawn courtyard filled with frangipani trees. In Indonesian, the word for frangipani is bunga kamboja, or 'Cambodian flower', and according to Muslim belief they're associated with graveyards and haunting spirits. Back in Australia I always used to like frangipani, but now they give me shivers.

Another thing I noticed about the museum was again perhaps coincidental. Or maybe not. Seems Cambodians were tortured by having water poured onto their faces from watering cans, and suspended by their arms which had been bound behind their backs.

Ringing any bells?

If you haven't read them, I can highly recommend the ICRC's report on the CIA's illegal detention program (search through the New York Review of Books), Philip Gourevitch's 'Standard Operating Procedure', and 'Ghost Plane' by Stephen Grey. If ever you lose sight of the reality of the war due to over-enthusiasm in Generation Kill (which is easy to do, and I've done it myself), they're a good stark reminder.

More from Cambodia later, when I have a full-sized keyboard!
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Dude, not only did I spoil myself for this episode, I watched it on youtube. Even so:



In other news: I'm in Malaysia, land of my foremothers, lounging around and enjoying the old friends, great food, walkable footpaths and plentiful bookshops. Life seems remarkably simple when you're on holiday. I'll do the tourist thing at the Batu Caves, enjoy a pre-Passover meal with my favourite pair of peripatetic Jews, go to the movies (Fast&Furious?), go to the supermarket at Bangsar and boggle over the array of imported deliciousness, do some reading and writing in a comfortable cafe, maybe update this journal with some actual content. And then to Bali, where pretty much all of the above over again, but with added beach and husband!

Feel free to hate me right now, because I'm feeling pretty smug about it all.

Very lucky

Jan. 12th, 2009 03:26 pm
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
Yesterday was one of those sluttily gorgeous Sydney days that you don't seem to get anywhere else: sun glinting off the harbour, a fresh breeze, tiny helicopters buzzing overhead. I was moseying down the street when I passed two fortyish Sikh guys hanging out on the steps of an office building.

"Excuse me," one of them called, when I was a few steps past. Looking sideways without breaking stride, I saw the guy pointing directly at me with an outstretched arm. I scrubbed reflexively at my forehead, which was where he seemed to be pointing, but then the guy just said, cryptically, "You're very lucky," and turned away.

While all a bit perplexing -- was it a threat? an observation? -- I figured that, on the whole, the statement was pretty accurate. Earlier this year I was going to make one of those "Year in review" posts, in which I was basically going to complain about having spent the whole of 2008 in exile from civilisation on a miserable island with unpleasant colleagues, no bookstores and barely anyone I liked. But as the guy yesterday pointed out (intentionally or not), it'd be churlish for me to complain because I am pretty damn lucky. I have a job, no expenses, no debt, a loving and supportive partner, and good health. After this next year I'm free to go wherever the hell I want, do whatever I want to do, and financially I'll be in the position to do just that.

I think that puts me ahead, don't you? So here's to 2009.

For 2010, I'm strangely attracted to the idea of moving to Afghanistan, or becoming a bike messenger in Melbourne. No, seriously. I hate office work, and I like both Melbourne and bicycles.

What are your plans for the next year?


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