Sunday, April 8, 2007

Travel Sites

While surfing for the upcoming summer trip I ran into three sites worth noting here.

First, an incredibly rich place of a Polish globe trotter Wojtek Dabrowski, I spent no less than four hours yesterday reading his 2005 Across Africa trip diary, it was fascinating. Day by day account of a trip lasting some four months, over land, from Gibraltar, across the straight to Morocco, through the Sahel, central African countries to the East African coast and then to South Africa. And he has more journals like that from his other trips to Asia, the Americas, Pacific Islands, and more. Sorry, those pages are mostly in Polish, but hey must learn those languages, right?. If anything, enjoy the pictures.

Second, the Lonely Planet. I'm sure this is not a new discovery for most, but it is new to me, so it counts. I like their traveling checklists contributed to by users.

Third, the World 66 site. I like the visited countries maps tool, here's my European map.

And here are the US States I visited, at least those I remember:

  • Keep a journal when traveling, even if this is a short, one day trip. This not only enriches your live by forcing you to reflect on the events, places, and people that just went by, but also gives you a treasure chest of useful facts and hints that may make your next trip easier.
Do not:
  • Put onion skins in large quantities through the garbage disposer. Ok, this may not be a frequent occurrence for most, but yesterday I was coloring Easter Eggs by hard boiling them in onion skins (skins from maybe 5 onions, cook for 30 mins). Afterwards I dumped the skins to the sink and ran the disposer. Most skins just slid past the disposer without being shredded and plugged the pipes under the sink. My wife wasn't very pleased with that.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Others

I just finished reading short lectures given by Polish glob trotting journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski at the Vienna Institute For Human Sciences. The topic: The Others. It is a fascinating look at how we relate to people who are different from us, racially, culturally, nationally.

It strikes me, that the Europeans especially, have looked at other people and other cultures paternistically at best, as a resource to fuel their thirst for wealth and power at worst. Throughout centuries the French, the Spanish, the British, and others, sent the worst element from their societies overseas to spread the Christian values with the sword and the fire. We will live with the consequences of these brutal actions forever, just to mention the genocide of the indigenous people in the Americas and Australia or the African slave trade. These people were not looked at by the Europeans as Humans, they deserved to die simply because they were The Others.

But we don't need to look back in time to be appalled by how some groups of people treat other groups of people, simply because they are different. In the age of instantaneous electronic communication that literally shrank the globe and created huge network of interconnections between people, we see attempts to build walls to separate people from each other. One example is the wall between Israel and the West Bank, another example is the southern border of the US. These are pathetic attempts to keep The Others away from us, because we are obviously better, better looking, more intelligent, wealthier, our religion is better, in all possible respects The Others are not worthy of living among us, they would take our money, they would pollute our gene pool, they would desecrate our religion. Not to mention that they speak this strange language that nobody can understand (as Kapuscinski noted, the word 'barbarian" comes from Greek "barbaros", which means somebody who just mumbles incoherently). So we build walls around our domains, we capture and expel those that came to live among us illegally.

Kapuscinski cites three types of group behaviors towards The Others: you either subjugate them (the colonial powers, or like the US and UK are trying to do in Iraq), or you separate from them (the Great Wall of China, southern US border, Israel), or you try to live with them in harmony (what would be a good example of that?).

One would think that Humanity reached the maturity level needed for harmonious living of The Others among us, but then maybe we still need more time...

  • Every day take a minute or two to reflect on how things worked out, what went well, what would you have done differently.