Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Hey, Looks Like the Rain is Coming on the Other Side!"

This blog discusses rains quite a lot, and perhaps that is unsurprising given how central rain patterns are to the agriculture-centered local economy.  Indeed, when in villages, one of the most common topics of conversations is whether or not rains have come, when did it come, how long it was, and how strong was the downpour.  In a place where motorcycles are the chief mode of transport, the coming and going of rains is not just important to gauge the success of crops, but when and how long trips to the next village or market town can be.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nationality as a Practical Tool: Is the Future of Citizenship not Tied to Patriotism?

What does being "American" mean?  When hearing the word, one can usually conjure the pictures of loud being with distinctive accents proudly talking about the wealth and power of their home country, the global ubiquitous pop culture, and voicing their worries at the current political directions.  Inevitably (and often quite obviously), these same people will have citizenship of the USA.  Without the need to elaborate, the fact that they have the citizenship of the USA makes them America, and entitle them to speak of the country's culture, politics, and wealth in a matter-of-fact, this-is-my-business manner.

Friday, January 13, 2017

"So, What is the Real Africa Like?"

As predicted in the previous post, the author's time in Japan cannot possibly pass without having to answer some questions about Africa.  The questions are really as general as the title of this post suggests, and the inquiry usually comes with unusual solemnity incompatible with the rowdiness of restaurants filled with drunken salarymen.  A deep breath needs to be taken before an answer is given.  The inquirer is expecting some serious details, and with so much seen in Africa, it is difficult to select for which details that will most interest the inquirers within their short attention spans.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Art (and Lack Thereof) of English Language Meetups in Japan

Despite the continued doubt about exactly how useful English language really is in Japan, there is no denying that there is in fact an active, if small, segment of avid English learners in Japan.  To call them "avid" does not imply half-heartedness.  Instead, the avidity comes from the fact that there really is no urgent need for them to learn the language at all.  They do not use English in their jobs, they have no need to travel abroad for either work or pleasure, and indeed, they have no need whatsoever to interact with foreign persons or cultures if so they wish.

Monday, January 9, 2017

What Does a Korean Hostel in the Middle of Tokyo Says about Internationalization of Japan

The author is a big user of hostels.  Being cheap locations with many people to meet and relative safety of numbers, they generally fit the author's intention to travel on the shoestring and bump into random people in random places.  Interestingly enough, the author had never before stayed in hostels in Tokyo, despite having lived in the country for over seven years.  The current trip gave him that particular opportunity, as he specifically sought out perhaps the cheapest place to sleep in central Tokyo, with the price tag of about 180 USD for a whole week and a half of stay.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

How Does Old Age of Its People Transform An Economy

Japan is a country of old people, the stats are very clear on this point.  With one of the world's lowest birthrate and the highest median age, the country is set to become more and more elderly in the coming years and decades.  But those numbers do not really sink in until one hits the streets and sees the country at work.  Especially on menial public services jobs (such as street cleaners, trash pickup, train station maintenance staff), the average worker is definitely no less than 40, and more realistically (averaging) somewhere in the 50-60-years-old range.  It is sad to see such old folks bending over to carry large bags or wipe low places.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What Can a Developed World Urbanite Learn from a Rural Tanzanian Resident?

The other day, the author found himself at the street food market of the little highlands town that he calls home.  Severe downpours drowned out the streets while he was going for his brunch session on the streets.  Thankfully, the market is covered by thatched roof, leaving a whole group of locals stranded under it for a couple of hours.  There were some dismay, but little tension among the crowds.  All sat down in the foods markets' various stalls, picking up cups of tea, a few pastries, and some newspapers, whiling away the rainy hours with a few chats.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

What Does the Olympics Mean for Rural Africa?

On his brief tour of Isimila Stone Age Site outside Iringa town, the author got in a brief conversation with his mandatory tour guide on the Olympics.  "So, have you watched the Olympics, it just started today," the author casually quipped.  The nonchalant question quickly brought excitement to the otherwise professional guide who, before this, had kept the conversation strictly focused on the history of the area, reputedly one of the earliest residences of modern man's direct ancestor, homo erectus.  "Yes, yes, I am going to watch the opening ceremony after work today!"  The guide cannot hide his enthusiasm.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

What Sets a Non-Western Expat's Relationship with Africans Apart from That of the Western Expat?

The reaction of the customers sitting around sipping their beers could not have been any different.  Just moments before, when the author entered the little roadside cafe on his way back from the local museum visit, the six half-drunken old men could not contain their excitement upon seeing a Chinese guy walking into their usual hangout spot.  But now, after asking where the author is from and receiving "America" as the answer, the crowd quickly grew tame and quiet.  The enthusiasm to strike up further conversation dissipated, and they left the author mostly to wait for his meal in silence.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Are "Our" Problems Caused by "Them"?

The Livingstone Museum, in downtown Livingstone, Zambia, has an interesting way of chronologically displaying the area's history.  It starts with the natural exhibits of the land, so famously shaped by Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River, move on to the local ethnography, and finally to the more recent history of the town itself.  In this chronology, there is an interesting section that display a model of the pre-modern African village, with its semi-naked residents and thatched huts, immediately followed by the town of Livingstone at the turn of the century, with cars, shops, and a multiracial population.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

ANC and Racial Relations: a Story of Political Hijacking for an Increasing Incompetent Party

On the touristy Vilakazi street of Soweto, right across the street from Nelson Mandela's old house, was a distinctively colored car.  With large black, yellow, and green stripes visibly painted to the back and the side, the car's origin is only too obvious to anyone who knows anything about South African politics: it is a car belonging to the African National Congress (ANC), the formerly undergrad political organization started in opposition to apartheid government's unequal treatment of blacks and their political disenfranchisement and have led the national government ever since multiracial elections were introduced in 1994.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Can Some Residents of a Modern Society Stay Permanently outside of Modernity?

From looks the main urban areas of Cape Town is no different from anywhere in the developed world.  Coming from Tanzania, where paved roads and street lights are luxury even in the main city of Dar es Salaam, the immaculately maintained main streets of the city, flanked by vibrant shops, hotels, and malls,, is, by no exaggeration, the envy of sub-Saharan Africa.  The suburbs immediately surrounding the city center and hugging the Atlantic coastlines are home to first-class expressways and homes with modernistic architectural designs that are not out of place in the most moneyed American residential areas.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Hassle of Money Changing in the Middle East as a Reflection of the Regional Fractures

The author is quite used to having the ease of currency exchange as an expected convenience. In particular, he is quite used to the situation in Asia, where currency exchanges in all countries nearly always operate with no less than 15 currencies, taking in the standard set of hard currencies (USD, Euro, British pounds, Swiss francs) while making available practically all currencies of East and Southeast Asia, barring only those with small/closed economies (Cambodia, Laos, East Timor, to name a few).

Friday, May 20, 2016

How Much Role Can the UN Play in the Reconciliation of Conflicting Parties?

In supposedly war-torn Cyprus, the United Nations headquarters is aptly located in a bombed out hotel.  During the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Ledra Palace Hotel, one of the best in Cypriot capital of Nicosia, at the time, was on the receiving end of the constant barrages.  With the hotel situated directly on the UN-mandated "Green Line" that separated the city's northern Turkish districts from the southern Greek zones, the 1974 war saw it become the very frontlines of devastating military conflict that left millions internally displaced in its aftermath.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Assessing the Risks of Flying Egyptair on the Last Leg of a Journey Home

Another day, another plane crash.  This time with Egyptair over the Mediterranean.  Like the times of old, global media wasted no time in jumping with their various versions of speculations and conspiracy theories.  Now everyone flying the general region is all tensed up as TV coverage repeat the videos of crying family members and terse official statements from the Egyptian government.  Like the fiasco faced by Malaysian Airlines after two crashes, the company's image and revenues are both bound to suffer, a true misfortune to the first commercial airlines of the Middle East.

The Still-Unending Stream of Jewish Immigration to Israel

"Oh, I am from (Country A or B or C), but I am Jewish and just got to Israel as a new immigrant."  This was one of the oft-repeated lines from self-introductions when the author spent his Wednesday night in Tel Aviv mingling with the local expat working crowd in one of the city's high-end beach bars.  "I still need to settle down, take those Hebrew lessons, and find a job, but so far it is great," the new immigrants would mention, quite hopeful of their situations in a completely new country for many of them despite their Jewish heritage.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Effortful Friendliness of a Militarized Country in Perpetual Danger

This blog previously described Singapore as a country perpetually insecure but achieved prosperity nonetheless.  To say that Israel is the Middle Eastern equivalent of Singapore in this aspect may easily draw agreements from the local populace.  Despite peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, the country still face attacks from Hezbollah and Hamas, and face threats from likes of Iran and ISIS further afield.  "To defend the country," here, is not just an empty patriotic statement taught to students in school, it is a very real duty required of every citizen.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Does the Lack of Public Transport Benefit the Tourism Industry?

For a country that is relatively economically developed compared to some of its neighbors, Jordan does pretty terribly in one area: the provision of comprehensive and timely public transport.  Some of the country's population centers are served by minibuses, but they are often available during daylight hours and leave only when full.  For tourist destinations not near any towns of significant size, there may or may not be a couple of buses a day at odd hours.  For the traveler with limited funds and time, Jordan might as well be the least convenient location to travel in the general region.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Egypt: the Sick Man of the Arab World?

As he came in from Amman's North Bus Station to his hotel for the night, the author got into a quick conversation with the taxi driver getting him to his destination.

"Where are you coming in from," the driver, in his fifties, asked in perfectly proficient English.

"Oh, just came in from Egypt," the author replied, continuing the conversation with a rather light-hearted remark: "it is quite different from here."

A Country Unapologetic about Its Perpetual State of Cash Shortage

On his way out of Egypt, the author goes to the foreign exchange counter at Cairo Airport to get his Egyptian Pounds changed into Jordanian Dinar for the next leg of the journey.  It is a transaction that cannot be any more mundane for banks at the international terminal of a country’s main international gateway.  As the author goes up to the bank counter in the departure, he gets a blank stare and from the guy behind the counter.  Before the author opens his mouth, the guy harshly says, “No."