Olkhon Island Dogs

These dogs are the glitterati of the dog world; natural beauty, good health, lush coats and not an ounce of fat. They would feel quite at home on the catwalk.. sorry, dogwalk. However, unlike the Tel Aviv dog, these dogs do not command respect or generate excitement from the Russian locals, instead, they’re often ignored. In a cruel irony, these dogs then commit the same discriminatory based apathy toward tourists/foreigners. The Olkhon Island canine looks upon foreigners with suspicion, often refusing the slightest interaction. The puppies, however, are happy to interact with foreigners, not yet biased by the systemic racism that exists among seniors. The puppies often run hundreds of metres to greet the foreigner, holding them in the highest regard; bouncing around, rolling on the ground, chewing hands, all vintage puppy form. Meanwhile, the senior dogs look on in disgust..’They’re scum, woof woof, get away from him now, woof woof’. The puppies, in time, will lose their welcoming demeanour, as they soon learn that the foreigner, while friendly, is not loyal. It’s all just PR, a friendly face to a cruel reality. They learn that the foreigner will leave at the first opportunity, while the local human will always be there, albeit less excited. The reality of being a Siberian dog kicks in; it’s battle conditions, no time for PR nonsense, this shit is real.

No photos
The black and white dog was more than happy for me to stop and observe the area as I walked by. The minute I pulled the camera out though, fireworks erupted… ‘how dare you, woof woof, have some respect, woof, no photos allowed, woof, go on.. piss off, woof’. We argued for a little while before the white dog, who had stayed out of it till this point, started getting involved too. That was my cue to leave, ‘ok, relax guys, I’m deleting the photo. I’m gone’, as I slowly backed away, using a calming motion with my hands.
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Whitney Fan
This dog was a busker performing a rendition of Whiney Housten’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ as i walked by. Superb voice, I appropriately left him some of the chicken legs and lamb shanks that were in my pockets.
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Posted in dogs, Travel Post Comment

Irkustk, 4am…

To say I was scattered upon arrival in Irkutsk, is like saying Tony Abbot is a fuckwit, it’s a massive understatement. You know that scatty feeling you have when you haven’t slept all night, then arrive at a random station in Siberia at 4:25am, that’s dead quiet and empty, except for the 20 or so random men sleeping and loitering, and a lady arguing with herself? It felt like that. Totally surreal. My task was to find out, 1: if my accommodation at Olkhon Island had organised my bus, and 2: if so, where it was and what time. I walked around like a stray dog for a little while, wondering what to do, when I saw a sign advertising sleep at the station, so I enquired and scored a room for 160 rubels. The lady lead me to my room, at which point I discovered it wasn’t a room, rather, a couch in the lobby. An argument ensued (well, as much as 2 people who don’t know what the other person is saying can argue) before I was given a refund and a tirade of abuse. I was too tired to care and went back downstairs, when a Chinese backpacker excitedly approached me asking if I wanted to go with he and his friend to a hostel in town. I shrugged my shoulders, whatever, and went along. We caught a cab, and after much pissing around trying to find the place, eventually made it. Not surprisingly, like all of Irkutsk, it was closed. But my Chinese friend wasn’t accepting this. I’ll never forget the site of this tiny Chinese guy running to the door and banging on it trying to alert staff we had arrived. Whoa, I thought, we’re gonna get ourselves in trouble at this rate, play it cool Hong (that’s his name). Then a tall, tired and bemused Russian lady came out, not knowing what to make of the little scene in front of her. They had a brief conversation before Hong excitedly looked back and motioned us to come. And with that, 3 little guys with big backpacks hurriedly entered the hostel, through the legs of the tall owner, tired, but very excited that we had found somewhere to rest, we had struck gold. Credit to Hong and his friend, I was just going to slouch at the station till I’d gathered my thoughts for a plan, they had a plan and executed it with devastating precision. It was a lesson in how to get stuff done. The hostel owner let us rest our heads there in the morning for free, she even walked me to the taxi rank later in the morning.

Posted in Travel Post Comment

TRANS_SIBERIAN

 

My first thought upon seeing my cabin/home for 4 days was ‘oh shit’. Not only was it smaller than I thought, and I wasn’t expecting much mind you, but it was 50 degrees degrees Celsius. I quickly marked my territory in the room, not like a dog, but in terms of space, as I read that to do this is recommended, otherwise you’ll potentially be isolated once the Russians enter. After 3 minutes I was sweating like a pig and trying to force the window open when my cabin mates entered, 2 middle aged women. ‘Does this fucking thing open?’ i asked, ‘It’s like a bloody sauna in here!’ (Note, swear words added retrospectively for effect). They looked at me, said something to each other in Russian, and giggled. That would be one of the themes of my cabin mates over the 4 days, they all laughed at me when I spoke for the first time. I said, ‘yeah, yeah, I’m Anglo, ha ha, but we’ve gotta spend 4 days in this den, if we don’t open the window we’ll die!’ That was the extent of our dialogue for the day they bunked with me, except when once they asked me to leave, in english, so they could get changed. That made me think they had selective English Amnesia, I.e. not understanding English when I needed something, but suddenly grasping the basics when they needed something. ‘I think I know what you’re playing at’, I said, and then pretended I couldn’t understand their question, ‘I speak Mexican’. They had no choice but to undress in front of me while I sat on the bed and made myself comfortable, telling them to relax, and to take their clothes off s-l-o-w-l-y, in Mexican of course.

Im getting sidetracked, back to the first moments of the journey… it seemed the thing to do for the guys was to gather around the windows in the hallway, to watch the train depart. Many had cracked open their first beers, all sweating like pigs. I looked at the beer and started to salivate, ‘ooh, that looks good’. The little voice saying ‘easy tiger, you know how beer and transit mix, remember the ferry in Thailand and the throwing-up-into-the-bin-incident. Keep it together’. ‘I don’t want to keep it together, I want beer!’ I yelled (the Russians wondering who i was arguing with) and went in search of the dining cart. This landed me in trouble with the attendant, yelling ‘blah, blah, blah..’ in Russian. ‘where is the food and beer?!’ ‘blah, blah, blah… ‘. Sod it, I thought, and trundled back to the den with the Russians. Which got me thinking, where are all the westerners? This journey is supposed to be rife with them. I wouldn’t mind having at least one conversation over the next 4 days, seeing as though I haven’t had one in the past 4, apart from the solo arguments, which were increasing by the day. Eventually I made it to the dining cart, and found English, Canadians, Swiss, Swedes, Australians, all having different motives for being on the train. Some were doing a promo for Louis Veton (who made me feel like i was at work, which I didn’t appreciate), some were documentary makers, others were just going for the ride, like me. I had 2 warm beers and called it a night.

Forced Relaxation
The rest of the journey is easy to summarise. The first morning I was a bit like a cat in a new environment, curiously exploring all the nooks and crannies (didn’t find any crannies, what is a cranny anyway?) Thereafter, it was all about practising the art of relaxation. This may sound strange, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as relaxed as I was over those 4 days. The idea of waking up, knowing that there is absolutely no reason to actually get up, so going straight back to sleep again, a deep sleep, with not an ounce of guilt that time is being wasted or there is somewhere i need to be, is something I’ve never experienced. The sounds of the train, my cabin mates coming and going, the platform announcements, all added to the experience. Then, once you decide it’s time to get up, you look out the window and see how the scenery had changed, head to the dining cart for coffee, pancakes and reading your saved newspapers. And that’s roughly the cycle for each day with a few deviations.. go back to the cabin and lie down for a bit more, head to the hallway to stick your head out the window, have a random conversation with someone, head back to the dining cart for another coffee and another random conversation, back to your cabin for some sleep. I’m not a deep sleeper, or someone who can sleep at will, so to be able to regularly go to my cabin and just doze, with ease, was something to cherish. Adding to the experience was the fact I didn’t have a phone or Internet, so there was no feeling that I needed to respond to anything, call someone or do anything. I’ve had beach holidays, I often spend afternoons in London drinking coffee and reading the paper, but nothing like this. This is forced relaxation, and once you unwind and accept that you’re not going to miss a connecting train, announcement, phone call etc, it’s a sweet ride. Not showering, not having anything to do or feeling confined didn’t come into the equation, nor did the language barrier, I found myself wanting to stay on beyond my 4 days.

Room Mates
One of the interesting sideshows, apart from the changing scenery and the conversations with westerners, was my ever changing cabin mates. After 24 hours, the first 2 departed, and 3 entered. One of the guys can best be described as looking like the Russian who fought Rocky in one of the Rocky movies. I walked in after they’d unpacked, he looked at me and said ‘sit’. He turned out to be amiable, offering me food and tea as best as one can with broken English. He wanted my email and URL and promised he’d stay in touch. Then a single middle aged woman came, who prayed a lot, then a younger woman, who bought food and chocolate to share with me, and laughed whenever I spoke. Then I had it all to myself for 2 nights, which was complete luxury.


Ps, I’ve just uploaded a batch of pics to my Flickr page, see the link on menu to the left.

Posted in Travel Post Comment

Day 22, Moscow

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Posted in Travel Post Comment

Tel Aviv Dogs

These dogs are by far the benchmark for dogs globally. They have a strong presence in the city, garnering respect wherever they go. They gallop proudly along the packed beaches, tongue out, face beaming, defying the No Dogs signs, onlookers pointing with excitement as they pass by. The authorities don’t even consider asking these dogs to move on, they know the score. Lean, agile, quick, they dart in and out of the beach-goers with the grace of a… what has grace? What ever does, it’s like that. They also exhibit a slightly wild veneer, quite rare in a domestic dog. Respect.

Posted in Travel Post Comment

WESTBANK_MAST

 

Hebron
If you are going to have a 24 hour stomach bug, I’d advise against having it in Hebron. I’d done a lot of reading on this place, but nothing prepared me for the intensity and beneath-the-surface-anxiety that was in the air. Hebron is home to a mixed community, 80% Arab, 20% Jewish settlers, i.e. Israelis who, in the recent past haven’t lived here, but decided it might be a nice spot to settle. This isn’t an easy process though, they need to uproot Palestinians from their shops and homes in order to camp here themselves. Palestinians, being the intruders and inferiors they are, are required to accept this and obediently find somewhere else. That’s only fair. There are roughly 500 settlers in total. The soldier population protecting the settlers in Hebron, however, is 4000. What did you say? 4000. Many of the settlers are extreme orthodox and unagreeable to say the least. I wondered what exactly they were angry about? You are the ones who gate crashed this place, you are in the West Bank, in an Arab neighbourhood. Yet you are angry with the Palestinians, for… Existing? Oh right, yeah, gotta hate those people that exist. How dare they exist, the audacity! But I exist though, does that make me bad? The answer, as I found, was yes, if you exist parallel to a Palestinian. Israel and its tourist groups do what they can to discourage travellers from going to the West Bank, because apparently Palestinians are dangerous, but really it’s to stifle their economy, ensure travellers don’t see the reality and to perpetuate a myth. The Australian government does its part too, by advising against travel to the West Bank. The British Government, to its credit, doesn’t scaremonger in this way, it only advises against travel to Gaza, which right now is fair enough.

Anyway, back to the settlers and Hebron. These settlers have swathes of land in which to settle comfortably in Israel, but they choose here, out of political provocation rather than necessity, and are somehow angry about it. And angry at me for having an interest in it. The Israelis/Jews I spoke to about Hebron either, a) loved the fact a small portion of settlers had based themselves here, as some sort of perverse act of defiance, or b) as with the Israeli soldier with whom I shared a room one night, lamented the fact that so many Arabs were here, making it dangerous for the settlers. Lamenting the fact that so many Arabs are in an Arab neighbourhood, is like lamenting the fact that so many Australians are in Australia.

Walking through the souk one day, a lady invited me up to her home and the terrace above. From here you get a bit of perspective. In each direction there is a military station with armed soldiers, flood lights and barbed wire, all surrounding her home. At all times, from this residential terrace, a soldier with a machine gun is watching. Below is Israeli settler territory, formerly made up of Palestinian shops, above is Palestinian territory. As her kids showed me some horrible things, like their water tank having bullet holes in it from the Israeli machine guns stationed opposite, a group of settlers congregated below, looking up in disgust at this westerner conversing with scum. The soldiers were quite interested too. One of them was within earshot, listening and watching everything we did. How dare I. To say i was anxious is an understatement, but I can leave at any time, this is their life.

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The underlying anxiety was everywhere, another example of which arose when I was having tea with a merchant, and pointed to the mish-mash of buildings above and asked, ‘So is an Israeli soldier stationed up there?’ The guy jumped up out of his chair, ‘Soldier, where?!’ We needed a translator to calm things down. And another example, I spent a couple of nights with another family while I was sick. One day, needing some space from the mayhem I climbed the steps in their yard and sought a bit of time to myself, reaching the top, and surprise surprise, who was nearby? A soldier. ‘Oh for fucks sake, can I not just have a moments peace?!’ I sat for a while, thinking, ‘Bugger him, I’m allowed to sit here’. We had a staring contest for a little while before I conceded that I wasn’t relaxed and retreated downstairs. Again, for me, this is temporary, for them, it’s their life.

But for all anxiety and overbearing military presence, the city refused to be saddled by depression, somehow managing to be one of the most energetic and friendly places I’ve ever been. Walking the streets, I was a celebrity. Everywhere I went people approached me to shake my hand, ask my name and where I was from, and say ‘Welcome to Hebron’.

Short stories
#1
Arabs, well, those in Hebron anyway, tend to yell a lot. At any given time I’d hear what was either a massive argument or merely a very, very intense conversation. Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference. With my desire to fit in and assimilate, I thought, when in Rome… And randomly started yelling at people in Arabic as I walked down the streets, flailing hands with dramatic facial expressions. I don’t know Arabic though, so it didn’t quite work out.

#2
The kid pictured below, was many things to me: my wake up call, my company, and my helper. He and I somehow broke the language barrier to strike an historic deal, it involved him carrying my large backpack around for me everywhere in Hebron, because it was really heavy. I, being part of the superior race, was entitled to preserve my strength. His help came with the promise of a single Shekel as reward (less than one cent). All day he would carry my backpack for me, in the sweltering sun, occasionally looking up at me with his hand out for the promised shekel. ‘Uh ah, the day isn’t over yet, don’t be greedy’. Unfortunately for him, when pay day finally came, I didn’t have any change, so I couldn’t give him his shekel. Life can be cruel sometimes.

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#3
As said, the kid was many things, including my wake up call. When sick, I’d dread when the time came in the morning for him to surround my room with his entourage, screaming my name (which was Shouz, apparently), banging on the door, climbing through the window for me to come out (at least I think that’s what he was saying, I didn’t know what the hell he was saying), before eventually making it into the room. Luckily, I worked out the score one morning, and locked the door, window and all points of entry from the inside, before he and his goons arrived. As he banged on the door, I laughed, loudly, insanely, so everyone could hear, staring at him through the window, taunting him that he will never make it through. Eventually he gave up and left, and I could get some rest.

#4
I spoke to a Lebanese girl who was held at the airport for 7 hours because she was, um.. Lebanese. Which means quite obviously, she could be a terrorist. By that logic, the average American citizen entering a middle eastern country should also be held for 7 hours to ensure they do not have plans to invade the country they are entering.

The Wall
As said in a previous post, I was unprepared for how walking the wall for a few hours would make me feel. Seeing this gigantic, intruding structure made me wonder how it could possibly have been allowed to have been be built. Obviously, it’s to block the terrorists that are the Palestinians from entering Israel. Security. It’s an interesting approach and got me thinking that if it’s ok for them, why not everyone else? If the north of England feels threatened by the Tory scum from the south, why don’t they just build a wall to block them? Likewise throughout the Middle East, Africa and Asia? For that matter, why doesn’t every country start building walls to keep certain people out? Why don’t we all build a wall? Everyone! If you don’t like the person you sit next to at work, build a wall. If you don’t like the way your neighbours’ house looks, build a wall around it. Everyone, hear me now! Walls! It’s the only way! Walls!! Then you realise that such talk is utter insanity from a psychotic person, and then, the Israeli Defence Forces begins to make sense.

Expansion
It wasn’t until I travelled through the West Bank that I realised how naive I was. Here’s me, looking at the map, looking at the West Bank, and thinking it’s Palestinian territory. Not so. My first insight to this came during my visit to Ein Gedi beach on the Dead Sea. According to the map, it’s in the West Bank. So I caught the bus, the further we travelled, the more I wondered why I was still seeing Israeli flags everywhere, as well as Israeli people, but no Arabs. Aren’t we in the West Bank I thought? It turns out that Israel has built Israeli highways through the West Bank, for Israelis and non-Palestinians only. It’s a good way to mark territory. Further inspection reveals the amount of land in the West Bank that is actually Palestinian, is tiny, otherwise known as Area A, 3% to be exact. Almost everywhere you go, you see an Israeli settlement. And it all becomes clear, there is absolutely no desire for a 2 state solution. The desire is for expansion. Over time, the Israeli land will slowly encroach further and further onto Palestinian land until it is irrevocable. I read that Benjamin Netanyahu simply considers this to be part of the natural growth of the Israeli population. Interesting take. By that logic, Germanys population growth and expansion means they can naturally start building German towns in Poland and Holland. How do you think such countries would react if German military set up camp beyond their borders and said, ‘Sorry, our population is growing, we need this neighbourhood now’. But Poland and Holland can defend themselves, so it’s a tad difficult. And, Germany is not immune to international law, and not given unlimited funding by a rich uncle, so they’d struggle to get away with it.

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Hatred
The more time I spent here, the more I came to the conclusion that the thing that fuels this conflict more than anything, is hatred of Arabs*. Pure hatred. Time and time again. Sounds obvious, but there’s a difference between belief in an ideology or messianic dream, and simply hating a certain race of people because they exist. A French girl told me she overheard 2 French Israelis lamenting Francois Hollande’s election victory in France. Why? Because he is pro-Arab, not anti-Semitic, but pro Arab, i.e. he’s against discriminating against a group of French citizens on the grounds of ethnicity, unlike his rightwing opponents. Which was bad in their eyes. It was a recurring theme, the Israeli soldier with whom I shared a room was disgusted that I planned to enter Arab territory, because they were, um, Arabs. Not because of any suspected links to terrorism, but simply because non-Arabs shouldn’t mix with Arabs. The Australian Jew in the hostel spoke of his delight in seeing an Arab being hit by an IDF soldier. Personal stories, first hand evidence, of deep seated hatred. It’s what fuels the actions of this rightwing government, more than the messianic theology. I don’t know the stats for exactly how many Israelis are pro peace with Palestine versus pro expansion, I’m just commenting on what I saw and what I heard. *Of course, Arabs are ok if their docile to Western/Israeli Governments, or part of a Monarch (see Saudi Arabia, Jordan etc)

In Closing
I could write forever on the experiences I’ve had, but that’d mean I’d need to stay in my room. It’s been an enlightening and memorable few weeks, I came for enlightenment, and that’s what i got. I don’t want to paint all Israelis as xenophobic Zionists, many were friendly to me and went out of their way to help. But, I honestly came with an open mind, expecting to have any preconception about this conflict smashed to pieces by a different reality. Not so. Seeing people who have absolutely no rights/no dignity/no longer being humiliated by humiliation/generational refugees, is a little disheartening. A shrinking land. Unreported atrocities that are just an everyday occurrence. All funded by the rich uncle, over $100 billion since 1948. Republicans consider spending government money on Americans as some unacceptable form of Socialism, but pumping unlimited weapons and military aid to one of the most oppressive machines on earth? That’s ok.

It’s been a great trip so far, and it’s only just begun, ROLL ON RUSSIAAAH!

Posted in Israel, Palestine, Travel Post Comment

Day 15: Tourists, Touts, Donkeys, Camels and One of the Wonders of The World.

After spending last night in Wadi Musa, a small town in the south of Jordan, it was time to see Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. An expensive one at that. Not that money should define an experience, after all it’s just paper and you don’t need a lot of it to be happy, but after spending £50 on a taxi ride to get there, and another £50 to enter the site itself, you’d think you’d invested enough to not be hassled for anymore once you’re in. Not so. While the site itself is something else, ancient buildings carved out of mountains, it’s not a living city, rather, it’s an open air museum. The locals are strategically stationed, overly zealous touts, trying to spruik a camel ride / horse ride /donkey ride /souvenirs etc etc, until you crack and start just plainly ignoring them, which makes them accuse you of being English. You can’t even get a small meal, you have to have a buffet at £17. It all left me looking back longingly at my days in the West Bank (which were, um, 3 days ago) where often I couldn’t even buy fruit because they’d want to give it to me for free. Where people would come up and shake my hand, not to take me to their store or mangled donkey, but because they wanted to know who I was and where I was from. People that were poor, repressed and isolated, but, energetic, beaming and hopeful, and still able to see me as something more than a dollar sign. 

The cruelty to the animals was a bit much too. Not that I want to be a bleeding heart, but seeing donkeys that are nothing more than bags of bones, malnourished and unhealthy, being constantly beaten with a stick to carry tourists around was a bit much. Their agonising cries would ring out across the whole town. Often, they’d try to defy their masters and run away, only to be caught and beaten, much like the Palestinians with their Israeli masters. Not just donkeys, the camels have their mouths chained to the ground, barely able to move. All for the tourist dollar. Maybe i should man the fuck up and just deal with it. Either way, it just ain’t my thing.

It probably makes me sound like an impossible to please prat, shrugging his shoulders at one of the great wonders of the world. I’m actually easy to please, but it’s the simple things that please me. I travel less for the sites, more for the experience; the people,the politics, and to see life from a different perspective. Today I saw amazing sites but no life.

It’s all relative when you finish the day swinging in a chair on a rooftop terrace, surrounded by cliffs, mountains and the sounds of the town under a setting sun. At times like these I remind myself what time it is in London, and what I’d be doing right now if I wasn’t travelling… At my desk, working. And in that moment the stars all briefly align and everything makes perfect sense.

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Posted in Travel Post Comment

Travellers are expected to know everything

It’s just expected that wherever you go, you already have inside knowledge of the way everything operates. In the space of 24 hours I managed to offend 3 people from 3 different countries because i didn’t have the inside knowledge required to function efficiently. Firstly, a tip for those ordering tickets at the Jerusalem bus station.. Don’t wait for the surly arse at the counter to acknowledge you in the slightest way before ordering your tickets. As soon as you get there you must bark an order for the exact route required for your return ticket, already knowing exactly which departure time you need from jerusalem, you even need to know what time your bus will be departing from Jordan 2 days later. Embarrassingly, I didn’t know any of this, all I knew was I needed a bus ticket to the border crossing. But it was the fact that I waited for the arse to finish what he was doing before beginning my request that riled him. He was busy doing whatever on his computer, so 9 times out of 10 you can be sure that if you just go ahead and order before he’s finished what he’s doing, it’ll start a war. So I waited. Big mistake. He was furious that he had to look at me..
‘What is it?!!’ He yelled with his fiercest death stare after 10 seconds.
Luckily, i have a pretty fatal death stare myself. Plus, I’ve learned how to respond in situations like this, just bark back with as few words as possible…
‘Eilat, TICKET!!’
Return or single!?’
Cue thinking music, ah, return, didn’t think of that, might be cheaper… ‘Return!!’
‘Time!’
‘What?’
‘TIME!!’
‘I have to choose a time from Jordan now, I don’t even know how long I’ll be in Jordan..
‘YES! CHOOSE! NOW!!! ‘
Ah, ah, fuck it, ‘SINGLE!!!!’
And with that the painful and very tense exchange finally ended. Upon leaving, I looked at him and muttered ‘cunt’ or something like that, just loud enough for him to hear, but low enough for me to deny everything if he called the soldiers over.

Offence 2
The second offence was offending Papa Smurf in our dorm in Eilat. The only way I could keep the door to our dorm closed was to lock it. Big mistake. Lying on my bed I hear the knob turning aggressively for a few minutes before three thuds on the door. I open it and looking back at me was someone who can best be described as Papa Smurf.. ‘Hey, Papa Smurf, how’s tricks’ (I didn’t actually call him papa smurf). He was furious that the door was locked.
‘Why is the door locked?!’
‘It’s the only way the door would close’
‘You must never lock the door!’
‘Hey! Pipe down Pops, no-one told me it was a sin to lock a fucking door, it’s just a bloody door, what’s the big deal?’
Then he muttered something in his native tongue and I did the C word trick again and the exchange eventually died out.

Offence 3
Upon arriving to my hostel in Petra, I realised I didn’t have a Jordanian power converter, so the friendly guy at the desk showed me where I could charge my stuff with his converters. So I left my iPad and camera charging before returning to collect 3 hours later. Big mistake. In the room was the English owner of the hostel talking to her Dad on Skype. I gave an agreeable nod to say hello, before crouching to look at my iPad. Little did I know that this was her living room and not a communal space.
‘Excuse me, can I help you’.
‘No, I’m ok, just checking some emails’.
‘Well can you do it out there please’.
‘Huh?’ Then she said, ‘Just a sec dad’, stormed over, took my stuff and rammed it in the power sockets by reception’.
‘Hey, hey, hey, ease up! Theres some expensive stuff there… thinking ‘Surly bitch, you can take the girl out of London…’. Then she told me it was her living room, before me saying I was told to charge it there, why live in a hostel if you hate people blah blah blah, you belong in London blah blah, cunt etc, and that was that.

Posted in Travel Post Comment

Tales from my trip halfway across the world #3

Israel’s Great Wall of Shame

Ive finally worked out how to get WordPress and the iPad to live in harmony, so i’ll try and get Stuff & Shit cooking again, albeit with an identity crisis, one day being a travel blog, the next an anecdotal-humour-mixed-with-vitriol-type blog that everyone is more accustomed to. Firstly, a brief update of where I’m at… I’ve spent the past week in the West Bank (Bethlehem, Hebron and Ramallah) and have now gone south to the border of Israel and Jordan for some down time by the Gulf of Aqaba, it’s kinda like Australia’s Gold Coast in the Middle East, a bit tacky but so relaxing after an absolutely manic fortnight. I’ll be heading to Petra in Jordan tomorrow before returning to the northern part of the West Bank and a town that has offered some of the fiercest resistance in recent years, Nablus, before calling time on my 3 weeks in the region and heading to Russia on the 19th.

Before all this, I saw the great wall of shame for the first time last week. I was a little surprised at how it made me feel. Not that I thought looking at it would give me a buzz and think, wow, this is great, but I didn’t think I’d feel momentarily depressed. To see this gigantic, man made structure, totally intrude upon the local population in the most coarse manner imaginable makes you embarrassed to be part of the species that constructed it. The most telling example of the reality of it all, is the first pic below. A residential/office block that previously looked out to a typical Palestinian landscape, hills, sunny sky etc. is now surrounded on all but one side by a pile of concrete. It’s actually cruel. So one day you look out your window and see light and colour, the next you see grey. Possibly worse, is that this building is now essentially at the back of a dark alley, as with a lot of the section of the wall I saw. One stretch of the wall has been decorated by artists, my favourite of which is the final photo below.

Also, I’m updating my Flickr page on an almost daily basis, so take a look at the link at the base of the menu to your left.

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Posted in Israel, Palestine, Travel Post Comment

Tales from my trip halfway across the world #2

The Marking of Territory in East Jerusalem
Walking through East Jerusalem, which is 100% Muslim, is like entering a different country all together. The music, the people, the food and the shops all made it perfectly clear this is the heart of Muslim territory. Then out of nowhere, droves of Israeli soldiers entered the scene in groups, first one group, then another, then another and so on. The purpose of their little waltz? “You’re not in Muslim territory anymore” is the message I think they were politely offering to the Muslims. One guy walked straight through them with his cart, neither he, nor the soldiers stopped or gave way. There was no collision, just business as usual.

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