Berliner (captward) Thu 22 Mar 07 21:00
Paulina Borsook (loris) Thu 22 Mar 07 21:56
yeah, i had been thinking a joyous family reunion might be in order! what i dont know is if that was the name of the publisher, or the -taxidermist- or ghastly game-hunting organization (given the source of the lamp and the documentation, anything horrid is possible...)
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Thu 22 Mar 07 22:19
Berliner is right. I did stalk the dik-dik in the sense that part of the book is about me going on safaris in Africa. (Actually, safari means journey in Swahili so it's about one long safari.) But the dik-dik got his revenge. I realize the title might be considered suggestive by some, but that's fine. That's why it's funny. And it gives school-age children who see the book an excuse to say "Dik-Dik" endlessly in front of their parents without getting in trouble.
mother of my eyelid (frako) Fri 23 Mar 07 08:38
One day while reading this book, I glanced at the cover at the cute little photo of the dik-dik then suddenly noticed that my bookmark, which is a postcard from a California state park, was a photo of a bighorn lamb. The resemblance between the two animals is stunning: heart-shaped head, huge ears, enormous eyes and eyelashes, face tapering into an adorable little nose and mouth. Small bodies and hooves. So this is the image used to sell us on leaving our homes: cute little animals with cunning little names! I confess that when I was still maybe 50 pages into your book, I was thinking, Hmmm, this is literally going to be about stalking dick--it's going to have too much man-chasing in it. But that impression evaporated when it became clear that the road was more interesting to you than going after the man. Still, I've noticed that we both have our own âMarlboro Menââguys who show up when weâre feeling lost or incapable and who make things safe and right for us. In my case it was Take my Nepali porter, who would hitch up his blue-jeaned leg, lean his blue-jeaned elbow on it, and have a smoke off in my distant view. When he wasnât taking his solitary breaks, he was lugging my enormously tall pack up and down 17,000-foot passes in the Annapurna Sanctuary and showing us the way. How about you? You have a Marlboro Man who shows up unexpectedlyâand you call a rugged night spent with him âthe single most romantic night Iâd ever experienced.â I guess my question is, Compare your solo pleasures with the pleasures of experiencing the road with a male companion.
mother of my eyelid (frako) Fri 23 Mar 07 08:44
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virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 23 Mar 07 08:53
(While we wait on Marie to share, I'll note that those of you reading along on the World Wide Web but, sadly, not (as yet) members of the Well, may yet participate here. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your question, comment, or observation, and we can post on your behalf. So, back to where we were.)
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Fri 23 Mar 07 08:53
Hahahahaha! <frako> slipped with saying what I was saying! Hahahahahahaha!!
mother of my eyelid (frako) Fri 23 Mar 07 08:54
Hope I didn't step on a toe . . .
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Fri 23 Mar 07 10:20
Ah, Herr Marlboro. End of the book. Did people get that he was the same man I was living with in Uganda in 2005, from the first chapter? The man who was with me when we were chased by a hippo and everything went to hell with the relationship? The hippo wasn't the problem. He's just my symbol of the moment this long-term relationship went to hell, the big hippo in the room. H.M. was also a regular cast member on my blog in my Uganda summer in 2005, and finally I fled the breakup for Namibia and a long recovery across southern Africa, the NE US, Kuwait, and Cairo. From here, it's a bit hard to remember all the positives because the negatives at the end overwhelmed them. (It was a baaaaaad one.) In Dik-Dik, he's only there briefly, so I can't really classify that as traveling with him. We talked for 20 hours on a ferry. And we never really traveled together--we stayed in one place together, in many places. The joke was that he "had one in every port," but the one was the same one. Barcelona, Portsmouth, Jersey City, Kampala. But we had homes--mine, his, ours. This isn't traveling together. But I've traveled with another partner, Turbo the Aussie, who I was with for two years. There were great rewards to traveling together. Activities are simply more fun with your best pal. We caught the Copper Canyon railway together, camped around New Zealand, and camped across the USA for three months. We had an absolute blast. But there are disadvantages to traveling with someone else. You are less approachable. When I am alone on a local bus--that's when I have cultural interactions. That's when people who don't normally approach tourists are happy to talk about anything--their families, my hair color, where they went to university. In some ways, solo travel is irreplaceable, the best and only way to do it right. In other ways, it can be incredibly lonely to eat alone in cute restaurants, to have no one to laugh with over something funny, to have no back-up if things go wrong. And traveling with someone--the right person--can be so much fun. The best way to travel is a combination of the two. Go solo for a while, then have a friend fly in to meet you. There are benefits to both methods.
mother of my eyelid (frako) Fri 23 Mar 07 10:51
Travel insurance: What kind do you get, from where, how much is it? Have you ever had to file a claim?
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Fri 23 Mar 07 15:09
I usually buy IMG <http://www.imglobal.com/> from Travel Insurance Center <http://www.worldtravelcenter.com>. This one <http://www.worldnomads.com/> looks promising, but I've never tried it before. My goal is not trip cancellation or minor medical care. In Uganda, I was in and out of hospitals with gut issues for a while, and I paid less than $40 for the entire experience. Not even enough to meet a deductible. No, the reason I get travel insurance is for major problems and med-evac. But even then, it can be hit-or-miss, depending on communications. When the truck went over in Ethiopia, there was no chance of cell phone communications so I was lucky I could walk out. The helicopter can't pick you up if you can't contact it. One thing that I think is a great bargain is annual travel insurance. This usually covers multiple trips within the same year, up to 30 days. I seldom fall into that range, but it is a great deal for people who do several shorter trips in a year.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 24 Mar 07 04:05
Great discussion, Marie. I like the way you point out: But there are disadvantages to traveling with someone else. You are less approachable. When I am alone on a local bus--that's when I have cultural interactions. That's when people who don't normally approach tourists are happy to talk about anything--their families, my hair color, where they went to university. In some ways, solo travel is irreplaceable, the best and only way to do it right. Can you also talk about your favorite modes of transportation for cultural interactions (Trains, Planes, Automobiles...)?
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Sat 24 Mar 07 06:01
Unfortunately, the best way to culturally interact (that is, meet people not from the US, Oz, UK, or Europe) is also one of the most uncomfortable ways. To endure a hellish stew of intolerable hours together--that is how you bond with strangers. Suddenly, you're a team of equals against corrupt policemen, they are using your wristwatch as their own, and you are helping a woman hold a chicken while they adjust their skirt for modesty as the last pothole dislodged it, but it's pointless since there are seven more hours of potholes and you're on the back of an open truck bed with the wind controlling how your clothes sit anyway. Not every traveler is so keen to hold a chicken through hell, so I suggest a long bus journey in relative comfort as a compromise. Not a tourist bus, which is something you'll find in Thailand. A local bus line. I took a bus for about 28 hours from Lusaka to Dar Es Salaam in late 2005. It was a luxury coach, made hellish by the number of hours and swollen ankles, not by discomfort. <http://www.scandinaviagroup.com> During this time, I brushed my teeth into a ditch with four Zambians, accumulated a stack of business cards and phone numbers from my new friends, and learned that everyone else in Zambia and Tanzania seems to have a more high-tech mobile phone than I do. These are fairly simplistic examples, but in short, if you want to meet locals, go where the locals are. They are not hanging out at the Hilton or the backpackers lodge. They are not sitting around an expensive coffee shop wishing a tourist would walk up and ask about their apartments. They are going to work, going on the bus, doing what people do every day in any country. Just two weeks ago, here in Egypt, I went to a temple off the beaten path and ended up on a second-class train for seven hours (this train had no first-class). Normally tourists go on a first-class train because they are much nicer and the price different is nothing to us. But in Egyptian terms, it's a huge price difference, so most everyone local goes second-class. For the next seven hours, I held babies, posed for photos, and talked about education with an Egyptian college student. The downside is that sometimes, you really don't want to be a "tourist attraction" and you just want to sleep! I was happy when Herr Marlboro strode onto the Sudanese ferry in 2001, because with his motorcycle and Arabic language, he got all the attention and I could sit back and be in the audience for a change.
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Sat 24 Mar 07 06:05
Oh, and by the way, Scott, I just clicked on your name and saw the Antioch LA address. I went to Antioch OH from 1984 to 1988!
David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Sat 24 Mar 07 09:58
I'm definitely with you on the discomfort:meeting people factor. One of my fondest -- but not most pleasant -- memories is a 72 hour Chinese train ride from Tianjin to Urumqi when I was 11 or 12, in the "hard sleeper" class. We were all miserable, Chinese and foreigner alike, and we talked a lot. One thing that kept striking me about your stories was the repeated theme of "and then I dropped into the internet cafe to check for messages". Can you talk about how the proliferation of internet cafes has changed travel in your experience?
mother of my eyelid (frako) Sat 24 Mar 07 10:06
So Marie, looking at the Lusaka-to-Dar Es Salaam schedule at <http://www.scandinaviagroup.com/Scandinavia%20Express/index.htm>--you say your trip was 28 hours long. It matches up with the "approximate" schedule-- so these timetables can be trusted? Speaking of time and timetables, one passage from your book fascinated me. Someone tells you to catch a bus at 11 oâclock. You say, âI knew that eleven Ethiopian time was 5AM by my standards. Ethiopians measure the day from daybreak, so their âoneâ is our 7AM.â (261) This must result in all kinds of misunderstandings and strandings!
paralyzed by a question like that (debunix) Sat 24 Mar 07 10:40
To add to <davadam>'s question--how did the regular blogging change the travel experience? You wrote at one point about your reader's pushing you to take the balloon trip over the Masai Mara, but did it change your day-to-day approach in other ways?
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Sat 24 Mar 07 15:50
Frako, YES, these timetables can be trusted. This is the top coach line in East Africa though. (Here's the southern Africa equivalent: <http://www.intercape.co.za/>) I've been on regular non-luxury buses where an 8-hour trip became a 12-hour trip. Outside of the luxury lines, there is practically an obligatory flat on each bus trip. Once, from Livingstone to Lusaka (Zambia), the bus didn't make it at all, and after a few hours of mechanical tinkering, the driver paid minibuses to take passengers the rest of the way. What's remarkable is how patient many passengers can be--after all, there is no hurry in Africa. All bus lines schedule in time for anticipated problems, such as difficult border crossings. Most seem to arrive at border crossings an hour or two early before the customs offices open. Then you all sleep or hang around outside, changing money with money guys or just stretching your legs. It can take several hours to get an entire bus full of passengers through Customs. One technique I have used to decrease down time is to catch local transport to the border, walk across the border, then catch local transport on the other side. Two hours crossings turn to 10-minute crossings. This one is really good for the Tanzania-Kenya border, where groups of tourists can hold you up for hours. One person can just push on through and be done in moments. By local transport, I mean minibus taxis (matatus in Swahili) or Peugeots (called service taxis in the Middle East). Both are shared rides. Matatus carry more people, are less comfortable, and cheaper. Peugeots are more expensive, more comfortable, and once in a while feature seatbelts. The last one I was in was from Arusha to the Kenya border and included two Masaai men who kept up a running banter the entire time. Apparently they were hilarious--the other passengers couldn't stop laughing. But I could not understand their Swahili.
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Sat 24 Mar 07 16:22
"Can you talk about how the proliferation of internet cafes has changed travel in your experience?" Internet cafes (and later wi-fi) have really made my lifestyle possible, and I love them for it. My jobs--comic book editing, comic book coloring, writing--depend on my ability to get work trafficked or turned in, and I couldn't do this from anywhere but New York if the internet had not spread across the world so rapidly. For a few years--2002-2004--I only colored comics and wrote (a book about camping in New Jersey, a book about camping in Virginia). These are freelance jobs done via email or FTP sites. I've never met the people on the other end of the email, and spoken to them only a few times by phone. What does it matter where I am emailing the files from? It's the same to the editor. It shows up. I have to admit that when I don't know an editor that well, I don't tell them "I'll be in Africa for six months," "I'm moving in with my boyfriend who happens to live in Australia," or "I'm renting a flat in Barcelona for the fall." I just turn the work in by email or FTP, same as always. And they send a check to my PO Box. Once they are confident that the work is coming in, I may mention "Oh, it's funny that I can do this from Uganda." "Er, what? You're on your iBook on wi-fi in a coffee shop--IN KAMPALA?" "Yeah, coffee is real good..." There is a lot of disdain out there for people who check their email on the road. Bah! I wasn't working on my job when I was going around the world--I'd quit that. I was talking to family and friends, researching my next steps or a bus line, doing my banking, paying my credit cards, and updating my website. There was at that time no other way to contact me. And I was gone for a *year.* People can go ahead and sneer at me from their living rooms while I check upload files in Uganda. Not my problem. That said, it *is* creepy to sit around a restaurant and watch 20 travelers with laptops all lost in them and using wi-fi. But they are just talking to home too, or doing their work, or updating their blogs. Mustn't sneer, mustn't call kettle black. I think the proliferation of internet cafes makes it possible for travelers to stay gone for longer. I could never have stayed away so long if I hadn't been able to run my life by remote control. Nor could I have researched as I went. I would have had to plan everything before I went.
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Sat 24 Mar 07 16:54
"To add to <davadam>'s question--how did the regular blogging change the travel experience? You wrote at one point about your reader's pushing you to take the balloon trip over the Masai Mara, but did it change your day-to-day approach in other ways?" I don't like to think of MariesWorldTour.com as a blog... though of course it fits the definition of a blog. But this was 2001 and blogging was far less common. I coded the HTML on the journal entries by hand (once I'd convinced my webmaster that I knew what I was doing). I scanned in photos whenever I could find a scanner (there were digital cameras but there weren't many places that could offload the images onto a CD, and all cameras required drivers then but internet cafes don't generally like you to put software on their computers). And laptops bring with them a host of problems on an extended trip--they break, get stolen, require different adapters, and they are heavy. So for journaling and notes, I went low tech. Pen and notebook, supported by film camera. Then I'd go to the internet cafe and type as fast as I could. After all, I was paying by the minute. I didn't actually launch my blog <http://mariejavins.blogspot.com> until mid-2005, when I was living in Uganda. I couldn't control the design so easily as on MariesWorldTour.com, but things like blogger and wordpress sure made posting entries easy! For me, projects like MariesWorldTour or my blog enhance my travel experience. They give me a mission rather than "visit museum X, see statue Y, and don't forget to try the dessert at cafe Z." And as part of MariesWorldTour.com, I gave readers the option to vote on my route and some of my choices. They voted me onto the balloon! I usually did what they said I should do, but I disregarded them on Sudan and went through the country in spite of their "Overfly" vote. It did and does sometimes feel like a burden. Like I can't lay around and do nothing for a day because it is not interesting reading. I can't just say "to hell with it, I'm flying from Uzbekistan to Moscow" without making a major production out of it, disappointing readers, and feeling guilty. But if I didn't keep these websites, I'd probably forget everything. Now, if I can't remember a detail, I just click around a bit and find out what I was doing on July 21 in 2001.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 24 Mar 07 17:35
I just clicked on your name and saw the Antioch LA address. I went to Antioch OH from 1984 to 1988! I went back to college through Antioch's low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program (2003-2005) where it was like going to summer camp with other writers twice a year. Similar to your experience on the road, we had on-line interaction with those in our mentor groups during the program periods between the intensive residencies. Antioch worked great for my situation. Of course, no one hassled me there about my fixation on hippies, either. (Is a Wi-Fi Sci-Fi degree going to be offered in Tanzania soon?). I hear so much talk about Prague as a new bohemian center. Have you come upon any cool emerging neo-beat enclaves out where the Dik-Diks roam, or elsewhere???
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Sun 25 Mar 07 04:04
Marie Javins (mariejavins) Sun 25 Mar 07 04:17
Scott, I was looking at a lot of MFA low-residency options for a while. In the end, couldn't afford it (though I can't afford to write books either), but I love the idea of it. I might be talking out of my, um... elbow, but I think Prague as a bohemian center is a thing of the past. Or maybe it's for really rich hippies. I can't claim to have seen any emerging neo-beat enclaves, that's for sure. The Dik-Diks roam through the rastafarian town of Shashamene, Ethiopia, but that's not exactly a welcoming place. The Dik-Diks roam through some swell, happening places like Jinja in Uganda and Swakopmund in Namibia, but you're more likely to find someone with an adrenalin obsession that anything bohemian. Elsewhere--I am probably missing something obvious--things seem bleak. Most countries have a more offbeat region, and there are places that attracted hippies originally but now attract people carrying worn-out copies of "The Beach." It's funny to think of the original London to Kathmandu Hippie Trail now, as I can't imagine busloads of hippies running around Afghanistan. There is a funny thing that happens in travel, and that is that various off-the-beaten-path destinations become "hot" to the point where the "secret" destination has pre-packaged tours and four-stars hotels. Sometimes it doesn't get the tours, but just fades from popularity. Anyway, it gives the visa stamp carrier instant credibility. "Oh, that's so last year. I was in Papua New Guinea when they were still eating people." Places that were sizzling hot for a while: Vietnam Peru Cambodia Nicaragua (or maybe that's in the next list) Still on the upswing: Laos Ethiopia Balkans Bolivia Colombia Eternal hot list: Thailand India Italy New Zealand Bali Serious cred: South Georgia Papua New Guinea Cameroon Places I liked a lot: national parks in the USA, New Zealand, Bali, Bangkok (yes, I know it's dirty), Cambodia, Luang Prabang (Laos), Hoi An (Vietnam), St. Petersburg, Tallinn (Estonia), Berlin (I know it's over--I still liked it), Uganda, Namibia, Buenos Aires, Guatemala, Esfahan (Iran), Red Sea (Egypt), and I go back to Barcelona over and over. Have you taken a look at Nimbin, Australia, and the surrounding area for your hippie studies? Problem is I think you want less drug-oriented and more literary and intellectual thought, right? Dahab, of course, is my local mecca (oh, that is the wrong word here, isn't it?) for backpackers. (I'm in Cairo.) I'm not sure where a hippie ends and a backpacker begins, but they is surely some crossover territory. I really am talking out of my elbow here.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 25 Mar 07 08:09
To heck with the druggies and hip intelligensia-- I want to find my pocket of peace with those people-eating Papua New Guineans. "Please pass the long pork." Thanks for the fantastic, thoughtful response. By my asking the question and your impressive reply (your elbows have been a whole lotta more places than mine or most of ours), I realized again that the Hopi term "Bahana" has much merit. Six or seven years ago when I lived in Arizona, a Hopi woman took six of us non-Hopis to her her village at the top of one of the mesas. We met the tribal chairman, saw the Kachina dancers, and visited some other families there. One articulate man said that the Hopi had foreseen when the earth would be encircled by a great spider web (the internet). He also said that the Hopi call non-Hopi, non-traditional people "Bahana." "The Bahanas are never content with what they have," he said. "They are always looking for more things, the next place, or the next experience. Bahanas are never satisfied." We are so privatized in our mass society where popular consumerism substitutes for our collectivist yearnings to belong, for our desire to share and be a part of some enlightened larger experience. Maybe we fail to stop and fully appreciate those enlightened, collectivist moments when we authentically connect with our fellow humans. Perhaps the neo-bohemian place I queried you about has as much to do with allowing ourselves to be fully within those "on the road" magical experiences you've described. By definition of the term, maybe true "bohemian" bliss occurs while holding someone elses clucking hen on the second class bus from Bumswana to Swahililand. Maybe my question was misguided. There are definitely incredible places to visit on the globe. (Thanks for naming some cool ones I never would have considered. In your stalkings, you are definitely a traveler and not a tourist). Yet, how much does any of this have to do with being at the trendy edge of "You Shoulda Been in the Haight in early '66 before the Saturday Evening Post slouched in and killed the scene"? Hey, even this place called The Well has much to savor (even though we know it's part of the Bahana's spider webbing). I think my own elbow's talking now. Thanks, again, Marie.
Berliner (captward) Sun 25 Mar 07 08:17
As a student of the European scene, your 20-something nascent hipsters discovered Prague in the early 90s because it was, as a Texas musician I was showing around said, "Europe at Mexico prices." It was beautiful, alien, cheap, and had that literary cachet of Franz Kafka, whom 20-something nascent hipsters love to misread. It also had legal pot, a little-discussed factor I wasn't even aware of until I saw that it had been made *il*legal -- along with LSD. This was when the Vaclav Klaus conservative government came in. As post-revolution economics kicked in, Prague got more in line with other European prices, and they started enforcing some of the laws about residence and so on, which included a Czech fluency test. Things really do seem to have shifted to Berlin, because the economy is collapsing and it's cheap. As with all such scenes -- Prague in particular -- the hipster crowd tends to stick to itself and ignore the locals as much as possible. One person I know calls the Friedrichshain district, the new hot center, Friedrichsburg because so many people from Williamsburg, Brooklyn have settled there. The good thing about these folks is they usually go home in a year or two when their money runs out. Or on to the next hot spot. Hopi slippage!
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