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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Serbia, the Name Says it All

About a week ago (from date of writing) I went to ExitFestival in Novi Sad, Serbia. Following a trick I learned back in new year's eve 97/98, if you buy a ticket, no matter what you will find a way to go. When the time finally came, I was impressed that I had a partner in crime to go with me, unfortunately the wheels came off the wagon and she backed out at the last moment (apparently I am so terrible a person would rather throw out their ticket than spend 3 days with me...complaining of a fever, and not coming to work for days as a cover). This would not deter me for three reasons: 1) 50000 people, 2) a fortress, and 3) serbia. The festival was mostly techno, plus white stripes etc, but honestly if Lawrence Welk was playing to 50000 at a fortress in serbia, I would be the first one there. Incidentally if you are looking for a great tourist location, the birthplace of lawrence welk, and I question why north dakota has the fewest tourists.

Step 2- After forcing myself to get to the festival I dropped the idea of bringing a tent, because with only one person, i needed to travel light. Even though I knew it was going to rain, I figured people have slept on the street in the rain in serbia before. With this in mind, I got on the train in budapest, and the first thing the girls in the train car did was offer me a glass of liquor. Now it is common that girls try to get me drunk, but these ladies were working fast, certainly an auspicious beginning. Then 3 other brits got on the train, who were absolutely crazy, and I knew I would not be alone on this trip.

You may be saying to yourself, serbia, didnt we bomb them? How did the people feel about you? To this I would answer in 2 parts: 1) who havent we bombed, 2) one serbian said to me, "america you bombed here," and I replied that i was sorry, and he said, "no, I am a fruit vendor and when you were bombing, no one else would work, so I made a lot of money." Nice work, maybe we can get a bumper sticker out of that, "USA, helping out fruit vendors with a death wish everywhere"

The Brits let me stay with them, and their friends who we met. I think at one point in the weekend, the friends whose tent I stayed in (they had a middle room for sitting where I stayed) sort of asked themselves how they even knew me or what i was doing there, but seriously who is going to step to the crazy kid who goes to serbia by himself with no tent, knowing it will rain.

The concert venue was at a fortress, so there were cobblestone streets that would act like a maze going to all of the dozen or more stages that could be found in moats, etc. The concerts ended at 8am each morning and there was a beach where people partied during the day. The stamina of these serbs was equivalent to 10 men, and I felt obliged to at least hang with them, since I couldnt out do them.

It rained and the ground was soaked and muddy, so when I got on the train at 9am to go back to Bratislava on the final morning, I passed out, covered in mud, stinking. I am sure that everyone, including the police thought I was homeless, which may have been why they took me into that small train car room for that search...just kidding...sort of.

Anyway, if you find yourself in Serbia next summer, i do suggest you attend, Exit Festival, much like a Ferrari 250GT California, is so choice,

Aaron

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Romania, Where Dogs Go to Procreate.

Bucharest, I had always questioned why the EU stopped at Hungary and did not venture further down to Romania. After all these were all Soviet controlled countries, so they are probably all the same. Wrong, wrong, why would I come up such a stupid idea...wrong...put me with the guys who invented new coke and crystal pepsi...wrong.

Arriving in Bucharest I took the bus to the city center (I had to just get out when I figured I was there because I had no map). The main drag in Bucharest is pretty dirty, but to land Western European brand stores the Romanians came up with a solution. NEON LIGHTS! They put them everywhere telling your their name, what they sell, and the fact that they are nonstop (for a definition see below entry). The best way I can describe it is think Times Square circa 1978 (see what I did there, used an analogy without any basis for knowing if it is accurate, but it sounds good).

Also, there are dogs literally everywhere. Walking to my hostel, at first I couldnt get down a necessary street because there were some rabid looking dogs who looked to have the taste of human flesh on their lips. The first night I couldnt sleep because the room was so hot I needed to keep the windows open, but the dogs kept going crazy. It would be silent and then one dog would bark, and this would set off a chain reaction of 50-80 dogs (kinda like a nuclear explosion or keanu reaves in chain reaction (who I have always said would have been a physicists if he wasnt such a good actor))--bottom line--Bob Barker needs to get here quick.

Also, every store in Romania has signs declaring "non stop," if you want to shop at a pharmacy, eat, or buy a newspaper, you are more than welcome any time of night, in any part of the city. I like "Non stop" much more than "24hrs." "24hrs" is just so matter of fact, declaring the number of hours in a day, like some sort of math formula. While "non stop" evokes images of the cashier and the customers all with glow sticks sticks in hand raving to techno music at 3am. Romanians love buying shampoo at 3 am.

Romania is another country that is taking zeros off the end of their currency. They are dividing by 10,000, but unlike the Turks who seriously need to replace their beat up bills, Romania's are top quality because they are out of some sort plastic. New Zealand did this which is great for surfing because the money doesnt get destroyed when wet...this is also why Romania did...uh...wait a minute...why did Romania...whatever Romania is redoing their money for the zeros anyway.

All this money changing made me start thinking and I realized that Turkey's new $1 (approx.) equivalent is being turned into a coin and Romania's is not. Why is that and why do all the US attempts at $1 coins fail? Then it hit me, the strip club lobby is too powerful. I imagine G-strings dont really work with change, so the bills are a necessity. Turkey probably does not have such a strong lobby, I am just guessing. The more you look into the situation the more your realize this has got to be true, because think about the attempts at the dollar coin, Susan B. Anthony, Sacajowia (sp?), both women. You know the guys at Bureau of Engraving were like, "maybe strip clubs will accept it if there is some girl on girl action?"

I went to Brasov to see the castles of Translvania, and unfortunately they did not sell Count Chocula cereal, so I couldnt eat it on the tour and get the full Chocolatly effect that you know would have settled dracula (c'mon who is going to drink blood when they have chocolate marshmellows?). I was excited to see that even a vintner took to dracula explotation creating "vampire" brand wine (with a drop of blood falling from one of the letters).

Also, they must believe that Romanias have no access to the outside world to see that many ideas existing in Romania were stolen from other cities. Take for instance the "Arch of Triumph" in Bucharest or the giant white letters on the side of the hill saying "Brasov" reminding me of somewhere where in california, perhaps "Brasovwood" would have been to much.

Also:
Canada shows they can think of other things to do than hockey and the St. Louis Dispatch attempts to break into the journalistic big leagues.

Aaron

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Continental Showdown

Let me indulge myself by talkiıng about...well...myself. As a preface, I should note ugly American is much funnier than understanding foreigner, so ıf something is offensive just pretend Paris Hilton told me to say it.

Like Kramer test driving a car, I love to see how far I can go. Arrive 2hrs, before a flight, nah try 27 mıns. Sounds like I went past empty, but if you believe that you would have forgotten about the reserve tank full of dumb luck. So I breeze past security, buy a copy a the Economist, and take my seat in the exit row (not that I need the room, but its nice to have). Certainly a promising start to a trip that my mother considers to be about as stupid as combining a bull, a china shop, and the seven dwarfs.

Since the first flight leaves at night I was fortunate to sleep most of the way instead of doing ADD sprints down the aisles of the 747. When I change planes in London, there is someone waiting for me at the gate since there is only 30 min between flights. I am taken outside with one other guy who is US Military assigned to NATO and driven around to the plane. To me working for NATO sounds cool, but it would certainly lose its appeal if say I was taking orders from a general whose only english phrase is stand down. The real reason why Americans often take these posts is because if you do, you basically have first picks for your next assignment.

Anyway, after 12 hrs of travel, 2 movies, 2 meals, 6 beverages, 1 magazine, and 1/2 a book, touchdown Istanbul. Like Fredo with cocktail waitresses this cıty takes on continents two at a time, but dont worry you can still get a drink. Walking out to the main terminal of the airport, I witnessed the sweet smell of success, and surprisıng the Turkısh smell of success is much like the American smell of body odor. I was quickly bombared with offers from taxi drivers, but opt for the metro line although I have no idea where to get off aside from the fact that NATO told me to switch lines at the one with a "Z."

Sultanhamet is dotted with gigantic mosques, bazaars, bath houses, and more confused old people than a precinct using a butterfly ballot (shh...its because of the digital cameras, they know how to pay for them, but not use them). You can checkout some photos of a chap with devilishly good looks posted on the sidebar.

Sultanhamet may be were the tour buses are, but Taksim is where kids go out to play. Diesel clad yuppy Turks go out in search of the only thing people ever really go out in search of...girls. Here I met an inspiring traveler, Meg, who is a lawyer but for some reason her firm let her take off 6 months (apparently tough talk to the firm can go a long way) and she has now been travelling by herself to countries enlighted in feminism like Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.

Also I cased the city (i am like a regular Virgil Starkwell in Take the Money and Run) and although no businesses shut down for pray time apparently all the police go to pray, free krapkalach for everybody.

Hope all y'all are doing well, write me, and I will tell more as it comes to me, right now I need to get some more doner.

sic trasit gloria,

Aaron

Friday, July 16, 2004

I have gotten over a case of the Cusco "I am going to give you swift kick in the immune system and see how you like an infection" just in time to play a game of Rock, Paper, Sadaam with my friends.  You can still play post-Iraqi turnover, but if you are south the equator the webpage is upside down.  Why is that?
 
Also using my method of Peruvian Parity Pricing (javascript program forthcoming), gasoline would cost about 38 dollars a gallon.  Whose driving H2's now.
 
Also, I dont know if I have said this, but cuy is a popular dish here, though not one of my favorites.  If you dont know what that is, I suggest you look it up.  Hint, you may know someone with one as a pet.  Happy searching. 

Friday, July 02, 2004

Viva la box wine (thanks claudia)

Perhaps there is some hope in the future

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Peru...?

A couple quick notes about Boise, first of all, if Scranton ever had an aspirational peer this is it. Want to hear more? I thought so (ouch, this isnt interesting at all). Anyway, they also have a black history museum and the anne frank park for human rights. Yes, I am still talking about Idaho, I didnt get it either, i think it was a joke by the liberal media, (wait, now I dont make any sense, damn you high altitude).

here is a brief summary of the first 3 days in cusco, although there are many tourist, you get to breathe in a lot of dirt because the cars dont follow california emissions standards (i dont know how that makes up for the tourist either).

So I arrived in Lima at 1100 pm and had a 6 am flight, so there was basically no point in me getting a hotel room and a taxi might be tough to get a 4 am. I put my bag away and headed down to central Lima. After a bit i headed back to the airport and looked for a good bench or piece of floor to sleep on. I walked to an all night cafe (it was a comercial one, so think somthing like a subway, cause it was kinda small. There were two people sleeping on 2 booths, so i figured I would give it a shot. Aside from the lights, and the guy who broke a glass at about 2 in the morning it worked well. I dont know if you can pull a move like that in denny´s

When i got up I took my bag down for my flight to cusco. About 10 minutes before the flight, the people at the gate say that we are going to get on a different flight and go to Arequipa (another city) first and then cusco because there is bad weather in cusco and by the time we get to arequipa the weather will be better. Why they wanted us to take an additional flight instead of just wait in lima, i have no idea. But my bag was on the flight to arequipa, so i figured i should follow it.

We arrive in arequipa and it quickly becomes apparent that we will be there a while because they break out the cookies and water. After about 4 hours they say that the airport in cusco is closed, but we can fly back to lima if we want or stay here. i elected to stay and went to get my bag off the plane (we actually went out to the plane on the runway to take our bags from underneath it).

Well, the airline put me up in a nice hotel in arequipa for free so i was pretty happy. Then the next morning we show up at the airport and it is the same story, dont know if we can fly into cusco, bad weather. After about an hour they give us the go and we finally make it to Cusco about 28 hours late.

The first thing you notice in Cusco, is there are rainbow flags everywhere. At first I thought they must be big fans of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, or perhaps Gavin Newsome is the mayor of Cusco as well. Is that legal?

Things are very interesting here. If you want to know any prices i can tell you, but bear in mind that is with gringo tax included. There are tons of people on my street trying to change money with you. If you attempt to change money you get the price of about 10 people in 5 seconds. I dont know how they can make profit that way (a little micro might help?). Taxis are 60 cents for anywhere in the city and buses are 15 cents, so it is basically a new yorkers dream of public transport, however, the cars seriously try to kill you. They are very quiet and then come around corners as soon as you try to cross. It is a game we have. So far I am winning.

If you want to know what is going on in the world, you are asking the wrong person.

Thus the first 3 days,

aaron

Friday, June 11, 2004

Eating Everthing in Sight and Six More

Since moving home, i learned about meals for the first time in 5 years. They are good.

There is a new "tapas" restaurant in Scranton called Fusions and at the beginning of the meal they explain to you how you should share meals and let the cuisine "fuse" into one another and thus how they got the name. As the waiter was saying this I realized I had never thought about how a restuarant name was incorporated into their food style, and in the future I hope to never again go to a restaurant that does this.

Most people think of themselves as individuals, not fitting into any particular mold or stereotype. It is kind of arrogant really to think that with 6 billion other people you dont fit into any sort of category, but until last week I thought I too was different. That is no longer the case. I was eating a cornbeef and chopped liver sandwich at a deli and realized that my every move could be figured out before I had even made it. Cornbeef and chopped liver? like that. Woody Allen movies? yep; Phillip Roth books? check; havent watch baseball since the Dodgers left Brooklyn? (and not watching until they come back), uh, huh. Thinking about getting a place in Miami Beach? called the real estate agent the other day. So that is about it, I have no free will, and have officially become a caricature. If you need to find me I will be with my yiddish tutor working on becoming a more accurate portrayal of myself.

There is a job worse than yours. He does show signs of life with his commentary on musical conservatives (a long time gripe of mine) I'm not saying forget the past, but please don't reject all the future has to offer.

here is the shortened version , which you probably dont need if you are at work.

feel you cant be described as either hot or not, perhaps your ghettofabulous

This week the nation mourned the passing of President Reagan, and it is great that people want to honor someone who devoted half his life to public service, but if I hear one more "shining city on the hill" reference. In Reagan's enitre life, he used that phrase less frequently than people have this week, and he invented the thing (or at least a speech writer did). In the future please reword all "shining city on the hill" references to 2-Pac lyrics. Problem solved.

The G-8 Summit was just held on Sea Island, GA. In addition to conversations about keeping the rest of the world poor and clubbing baby seals, the G8 leaders had to pick next years location. Seeing how remote locations are so hospitable to these controversal meetings, the leaders voted on a similar sounding place, Sealand.

I am stealing this G-8 joke from Wonkette, but it works:
And staring Tony Blair as Mr Pink...


Photo credited to AP


At the 77th Scripps National Spelling Bee, David Tidmarsh beat out 264 other kids whose parents lock them in the basement with only a dictionary and meager food supplies. While David will be basking in the glow of lexicographers everywhere, a single tear goes out to those other 264 who will be beaten daily until next year when they are let out for the 78th National Spelling Bee (especially, that kid who fainted what is his story?). David can take comfort in knowing that he is the nations greatest kid at a skill made near obsolete by computers. If you wish to contact David, he can be found at the Rosetta School of Conversational Sanscrit in Dickson City, PA.

In other spoting news Sports Illustrated is reporting that Don King is campaigning for George W. Bush which should certainly lend some credibility to Bush's faltering poll numbers. That Bush/Cheney team knows about competition and they certainly weren't going to let Kerry's hair go unchallenged.

putting the grrr in danger,

aaron


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