This post was originally written in July?… maybe August 2009…. it’s been sitting in my draft mail, unfinished… unedited. It’s been calling out to be posted for months now… so now, I’ve decided to listen to the cries of words unheard and share with you the un-ripened fruits of my mind. Enjoy… It was originally called “Nothing lasts.. but nothing is forgotten”
In June 2009, I took a 3 month sabbatical from work, packed up my bags and headed off to Nepal to do some volunteer work in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery/orphanage... these my little peeps!
My home for 1 month
This photo says a lot about the kids and their monastic lives
View from the teacher's lounge @ 6am
Nick name: The janitor. He always wore a white tank top underneath his frock and always carried a set of keys. To what, we never knew.
My grade 5 Micro Monks and I!
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 9/19/2009 07:12:00 PM
***Pls. note that this post is about 6 weeks old, I originally wrote it on July 14th, right before going in to my Vipassana meditation course and subsequently did not post is here on the blog... much has happened since. ***
Hello there intrepid readers... welcome to another installment of "Welcome to Absurdistan". It's been a while since my last update and I do apologize. It's not like I have much of an excuse... well... I am on vacation. :-) So if my memory serves me correctly... and it doesn't this morning as it's a tad early and there are vague memories of sharing a bottle of "Royal Stag" Nepali whiskey with two Israelis, two Brits and a seemingly mute Frenchman. Anyhow... that's not the story I want to be telling or the one you want to be hearing right now is it. Let's just say, that Nepali whiskey is not exactly your finest single malt... but definitely A step up from the whiskey and Red Bull buckets that were Oh so prevalent during my travels to Thailand. Anyhow... I'm meandering.
So? Where are you now Chris, you might ask. Well, as I'm typing this, I'm lying in my bed in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. Now for those of you who don't really know, Thamel is the backpackers/tourist district of Kathmandu. All major cities of Asia
have an area like this... Vietnam is was Pham Nu lao (I know I've completely butchered this spelling), Phnom Phen was... I don't remember actually, but there it does exist, I just didn't stay there. Mumbai it called Colaba and in Bangkok we have the ever so famous Ko Sahn Road which was brought to light in the ever so wonderful movie, "The Beach?" starring the ever so talented Leonardo DiCaprio. Advice to all those of you thinking of going off to Thailand... DO NOT WATCH THIS MOVIE BEFORE
YOU GO. Wow, was that a mistake on my part. wow... I still haven't forgiven myself for that one two and a half years later. I should talk to my shrink about my decision making process ;-) Anyhow, back to Thamel. Thamel is hands down the most interesting and bustling travelers/backpacker hubs in the world. The famed Koh Sahn road does not even compare. Thamel is a maze of streets lined with budget hotels, adventure travel outfits, Thangka painting shops, pashmina shawls, Tibetan and Hindu art and artifacts. Not only is it a shopping extravaganza but the whole area is dotted with little Hindu shrines and Buddhist stuppas just in case you want to pray to your favourite diety before you commit to climbing up to Annapurna base camp... also known as the ABC trek. Get it? A...B... C... Annapurna... Base.... good. ;-) So, as I was saying I'm now back in
Kathmandu. My stint at the Faulty Towers of Buddhist monasteries is now officially over. I must say, although my last two emails where pretty... well... intense, and I think many of you kind of understood that i was miserable ( I don't think I said that), the remainingg time I spent there was absolutely splendid... did I just really say that?
hmmm.... let me reconsider those words. My time at Pema T'Sal, although very difficult at times, was an experience I would not change for the world. The last two weeks were much much easier than the first two and I think I can attribute this to the fact that, I just found my groove. It also helped that I was joined by another volunteer, but it's weird to look back at the cast of characters (and believe you me., there were a ton) and think about the things that "bothered" me and I really have to say that alot of it seems trivial. In some strange and distorted way, when i look at some of the video of the kids having a battle royale battle the head administrator looked on, I say to myself, "wow... that really wasn't too bad", yet at the time I remember thinking that I was witnessing the most insane thing on the planet and why was nobody doing anything to stop it (as I sat
there with my camera filming). I guess you just had to become part of the madness, or at least just see it all for what it was and accept it and then just roll with it. By the end, it was all very chilled out and routine (in a good way). I do have to say that leaving the monastery, I did so with a heavy heart. I miss my gaggle of micro monks. They definitely grow on you... not like warts or athletes foot though (mind you, with the monk's complete lack of personal hygiene in the monastery, I don't even want to think about it), but in a good way... sort of like... ... ... ... ... well to be honest, I haven't the slightest idea of what sort of good things "grow" on you, but you get the jist. We'll just leave it at, there is no real need for an analogy is there. :-) I'm also going to miss my teaching staff as weird and dysfunctional as they were. I made so real good friends there. I'm particularily going to miss my friend Palden who is a Tibetan refugee stuck in a bizarre sort of limbo that many Tibetans in Nepal and India find themselves in. He came by footover to India when he was 14 years old, crossing the Himalayas by foot ending up in Dharamsala. He then bounced around various Tibetan settlements in Northern India and ended up living in the Pema T'sal monastery two years ago. At first I thought him to be quite odd as he never ate with us and was always holed up in his room watching movies and reading. At first I thought him to be quite anti-social and rude, but I soon realized he was doing everything he could do to keep his sanity intact. In the end he turned out to be one of the nicest guys there. I feel for him as he came from Tibet without his parents and he hasn't seen or spoken to them since. The thing is that most of the Tibetans here, Palden included, do not hold any citizenship. They only have a Tibetan refugee status card, and there is really no way for them to get a Nepali passport. This holds true even for those who were born here. The only way for Palden or any other Tibetan to make it back in to Tibet/China is to basically sneak back in to Tibet via a very dangerous trek back through the Himalayas. One of my monk friends Daptka told me that he made this trip a few years ago in order to visit his parents. Sneak in, sneak back out... very tough story to hear. I have heard many many heart wrenching stories of families torn apart and struggles to reunite.
So there's a phenomena here in Nepal that some of yo might have heard of called Bandha. Bandha's are general strikes that have been historically been called by the Maoists to disrupt the country in order for them to bully the government and the citizens of Nepal... however, now that the Maoist hold a legitimate place in the Nepalese government, the concept of bandha has been co-opted by other groups and individuals to suite their own purposes. during my last week at the monastery, I was "fortunate" (and I say that with extreme sarcasm) to be able to live a local bandha. PLEASE NOTE, THE FOLLOWING STORY IS PRETTY INTENSE AND GRUESOME. It sort of exemplifies why I think that this wonderful country is so so so backwards and that I have dubbed it, Absurdistan. So about two weeks ago, I was sitting in our teacher's lounge with some of the other teachers and we noticed that where was smoke burning off in the distance. About 30 minutes later we saw a fire truck saunter down the highway towards the fire... we all speculated as to what it could have been. Pile of rubbish burning out of control? Jungle on Fire? who knows. The next day we were horrified to discover the real story of the plume of black smoke. It turns out that there was a school bus driver who happened to accidentally crash in to a motorcycle killing two teenagers who were joy riding about. On impact, only on of the kids was killed and the other was pretty badly injured. Now before I go any further with the story, let me inform you of some pretty backwards laws here. If you injure someone for life here you are responsible for their medical bills for life. If you kill someone you are only fined and face a potential jail term. So more often than not, when a driver finds out that the someone is pretty horrifically injured in a crash, they tend to... well finish the job. So, the bus driver seeing that one of the kids was not dead but terribly hurt, backed up the bus and killed the second kid. The villagers seeing what had happened, formed a mob (which from reading the papers here is actually a very common occurrence) and decided to chase the driver from the bus in to the jungle and then torch the bus. Yes, in Nepal unfortunately mob rule mentality is very prevalent. The driver was able to escape the mob and later turned himself in to the police however the local Communist Youth League ( other name for hoodlums) wanted the police to turn him over in order for them to "finish" him off. Thankfully the police never sucame to the hoods. Now what happened next, is also a very common occurrence. The families of the victims declared a bandha in the region demanding that the government or the bus company pay them a ransom for the loss of their children. They got the local Communist Youth League to barricade and effectively shut off the main highway in the area (on which the monastery was on) for a full four days. This meant that nobody could travel by vehicle in the region until their demands were met. Anyone who tried to go through the barricades or circumvent them in anyway where lynched. We know of police cars, ambulances and taxis that were stopped and torched. There is a story of one taxi driver that tried to go the long way around the barricades by going around another mountain in the region and it is said that he was dragged from his cab, had both his legs smashed to bits and then had his cab burned. really messed up. Anyhow, it turns out that a settlement was reached and four days later the roads were reopened. As weird and f'd up as it sounds, this sort of thing is actually a common occurrence and we read of bandhas like this on a weekly basis. The brutality of each just as nauseating as the next. As for me, well, being in the monastery provided me with a bubble of security. We were pretty much impervious to any sort of BS that was going on, except for the little inconvenience of not having electricity during the bandha as apparently the bus was torched underneath the power lines. Ai caramba.
So now that I've left the monastery, I spent a good week in the wonderfully idyllic town of Pokhara realxing and eating real food. The amount of tomatoes and other wonderfully mineral rich foods I've been binging on has been soooo good. Other than that... rancho relaxo. Now, as I mentioned before I'm back in Kathmandhu and am continuing my relaxing and sight seeing here as tomorrow I'm off to start my 10 day Vipassana mediation course. For those of you who are interested in what it is, you can visit the site to get glimpse of what I will be living. ttp:www.dhamma.org . So that being said, I'll be out of contact as of tomorrow 12 my time for the next 12 days. So any sort of communication won't be dealt with until then.
OK, well I think I've talked your eyes off here for more than enough and I thank you for your time... I'll sign off
now. I hope that everyone is doing great and I'll try to be in touch as soon as possible. I hope that you are all doing really well.... AND just in case you are wondering things are really really amazing here. I know some of you were kind of concerned about me and my happiness here, I just want you to rest assured that all is really good. Tonight there's a massive dinner with many of the travellers that I've met in the past few weeks at this amazing Israeli vegetarian restaurant... I think we're going to be at least 25 people. Going to be fantastic.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 9/03/2009 10:50:00 PM
Soooooooooo....... .... ... it's been 1 month and a 3 days I've been home now. I've got two posts that I haven't posted here... one is finished and I just never posted it. I think I will. It's my pre-Vipassna email to my peeps. And then there's this email/post sitting half finished in my drafts box. It calls to me to be finished, but I have no desire. It was started a few days after the mediation course... and to finish it now would be odd... so much has happened. The rawness of the experience has been dulled by the 5 weeks since. My return... my birthday... my return to work... I'll ask you guys if you want me to post the un-finished post. I should probably post it... I might even attempt to finish it. Unfortunately apathy has been a strong emotion since my return. Well maybe not apathy... just a sense of "why?"... lots of existentialism. I'm tired... I'll post the other blog posts... and I should give you guys some pics... yeah. That would be nice wouldn't it... ok... twist my rubber arm! ;-P One of the missing blog posts and some pics.... I know I know... I rock. :-)
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 9/03/2009 10:39:00 PM
So the monsoon has moved in and it has been raining for the past 48 hours... Was able to watch the most amazing lightning storms in the next valley... Also, I haven't been able to get to internet since Wednesday... There has been a bandha (general strike) on my stretch of road since Thursday. On Thursday night a bus driver killed two boys on a motorcycle. It's created a lot of chaos here... the town (mob mentality) decided to torch the bus and chase the driver in to the jungle. He later surrendered to the police but the Maoist or the Communists (local thugs who like to u burn things) have demanded that the police hand him over so that they can kill him. The families of the victims have declared a bandah which is a strike that affects our entire area... it's been going on now for 4 days, so there are no taxis or buses to anywhere. Apparently the thugs decided to burn a police car and an ambulence that tried to drive through the barricade. Also there is a rumor that a taxi driver
had both his legs broken when he tried to circumvent the bandha... this place is stupid. We in the monsatery are in our own little bubble and are safe, so no need to worry. Anyhow, the lack of power (3 days now) has been attributed to the bandha or possibly the fact that the bus was burnt under the powerlines... who knows in this place... it's all so weird. The joke at the monastery is that when this bandha will end, someone will probably declare a week long country wide bandha to protest the fact that this bandha is over.... sigh
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 6/28/2009 01:39:00 AM
So when we last left our intrepid traveler, I was in the temple... bag of sand in one hand, staring at the golden idol on the alter... the heat was intense. Sweat dripping from my brow. ... using my very keen sense of observation, I adjust the amount of sand in the bag so that it matches that of the idol... Very skillfully I swapped the sand bag for the idol uhh... yeah... umm... then all of a sudden, the bag on the alter starts to sink...uhh... in to the alter... yeah... and then the whole temple starts to rumble and the rocks start falling from the... ceiling... yeah... so... uhhh I start running... umm... WHAT!? We've all had out Indiana Jones fantasies no?
So, just so you know... If you haven't heard from me in a while, I apologize. Getting access to the internet at the monastery is next to impossible and going to the nearest cafe is like... well... building the Eiffel tower out of marshmallows. In other words, very difficult. All the conditions have to be aligned properly and then blessed by the pope.
ok... so where am? Well as we speak I'm now in Nepal, in a small town on the outskirts of Pokha ra called Bugger. I'm living about a 15 minute ride out in to the country in a Buddhist monastery called Pemal T'sal Sakaya Monastic Institute. I'm about I don't know how many days in to my placement at the Buddhist monastery and, I'm very much looking forward to going home. oh yes, you heard me right. Wow...
where to begin with it all. First off, it's really intense here in Nepal. Real intense. I like to consider myself the seasoned traveler and I have visited a fair amount of what we in the west would call developing countries; Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. All of which I can honestly say that I have truly loved and enjoyed. Yes there were moments in those adventures where I had some difficulties, but nothing.. and i mean nothing had prepared me for my first two weeks here in Nepal. Culture shock cannot even begin to describe what I've been living. From the first days in Kathmandu where I thought I had gotten off the plane in Mogadishu; to my current situation, where I'm living in a Buddhist monastery run by Basil Faulty his intrepid staff (If some of you don't know who Basil Faulty is, I highly recommend that you go and rent yourself a Faulty Towers dvd)... The monastery itself is actually a monastery/orphanage which is situated on the edge of a Tibetan Refugee camp. Yes... refugee camp.... for Tibetans... trust me, this is not your ordinary trekking/sight seeing visit to Nepal. I really don't feel like I'm in Nepal. It's much more like
Where to begin?... So, my initial plan was to come here and teach conversational English to monks. I was supposed to have a small training session in Kathmandu and then I was to come to the "monastery" and do my teaching stage. I expected, and was told that the monks I would be teaching were going to be between the ages of 14
and 18 and already have some sort of grasp of English... well.... as all interesting things in life, that was far form being the case. So, upon my arrival I settled in to my room which was quite nice except for the 1.5" rock hard mattress and the bag of cement of an excuse for a pillow. What's up with Asia and their love of sleeping on slabs of granite? ( at least I had a western toilet and could use toilet paper) Soon after, I was greeted by my new principal, Lopsang, who gives me my class schedule. Sweet... or so I though... I quickly notice that the original plans of an older class load was not to be the case... oh no... quite the contrary actually. I was given class 1, 2, 4 and 5... holy crap is not even close to how i felt. Ok, well I can do this I say to myself. "So Lopsang, what kind of books and materials do I have to teach with?"
"mmm... I don't have a book for you. Just do whatever."
"mmm... yes. Just teach them good English and all will be ok."
"Ok... so, what level are the students at?"
"mmmmm... they don't speak English very good. After you leave they
will all speak English good."
"mmm... ok, I must go now. See you tomorrow."
So that was pretty much my first conversation with my principle. So in essence, I was thrown in to the lion's pit completely unequipped to say the least. The conditions in which I teach and most importantly the conditions in which the students learn is appalling. The classrooms are pretty much a concrete bunker with a blackboard. There is nothing for them... they have their course books, but there is no support materials whatsoever. They are lucky to have pencils and I am lucky when I have chalk to write on the board. even their note books are barely holding together with staples and some of the students have taken to making their own books with scraps of paper held together with thread. Quite ingenious actually. As for me, I've managed to figure out how to teach grades 2, 4 and 5 (apparently they've done away with grades 3 and 6 at this school) but grade 1 class was next to insane. They spent their time standing on their desks, running around like little lunatics and punching each other in the face. Today the new volunteer had to disarm one of the baby monks who was wielding a metal ruler that was pretty much banged up to the point that it would qualify as a knife. I really need to get some video of the insanity that we live... I've pretty much figured out how to deal with my grade 2 class. They are actually really well behaved, but it's hard as out of the 7, there are two geniuses and two kids who are absolutely illiterate. I really have no way of knowing how to juggle the discrepancy in education levels. Anyhow, this class is actually really amazing and very enthused to learn. My grade 4 class has awhack load of really smart students but they all are so shy and don't talk. My grade 5 class like my grade 4 class has it's share of really smart students but man are they ever apathetic teenagers. Outside of class though, the entire place turns in to Fight Club. The kids really seem to like to hurt each other. I've seen kids run around
with 2x4's chasing each other around the yard, I've seen kids beat each other, I've seen kids play with metal... The other night I had to run after 5 year olds wielding meat cleavers as they ran down the hall of the monastery. They really don't have ANY supervision... it's quite insane. Some of their favourite places to play are in the construction site behind the school where they are building a new temple.... and then there is the decrepit tool shed next to the entrance gate where when I decided to have a look at what was inside, my jaw just dropped. An axe, about 4 panes of shattered glass, diesel fuel, a crow bar, a bag of cement and a shovel head.... yes.. a great place for kids to play. I think the worst part is that the other teachers just look on and don't do anything. Yesterday I had to breakup a fight between two 5 year olds who where trying to head butt each other off the dinning room table during lunch while the elder monks looked on and were laughing in that, "oh isn't that cute" kind of laugh... so insane.
As for my life in the monastery, well, it's definitely filled with time. Lots of it. I've managed to read 6 books in my time here. This afternoon one of my goals is to find a book store to pick up some more reading materials. My day is pretty much like this... I wake up at 6:30 to the sounds of the sounds of the students studying their prayers.. I eat at 7 (oh! wait until I tell you guys about the food!),then I'm off until 10:40 when I teach my first class. At 1:20, I'mon break again until 1:40. I teach two 40 minute classes and then at 3, I am off. Supper is @ 7ish and then when it's dark around 8:30, I'm in bed... so I have tons and tons and tons of time, but the really unfortunate part is that I am so far removed from anywhere that I really can't go "visit" much. The Tibetan refugee camp is up the road, and well... aside from the internet cafe, it's pretty much a
refugee camp... run down, depressing and pretty much devoid of
anything of interest. Actually that's not always true. The other night, the owner of the internet cafe invited me to the camp so we could attend a "Pro Tibet" rally. It was probably one of the most bizarre evenings that I can remember in a long time.
Anyhow... back to the monastery life... I think that one of the hardest parts of what I'm living is the food. Now, I've been to many countries and have tried all sorts of crazy foods, but what they have here, isn't so much crazy as it is horrible. I can't believe that this is what they are serving kids on an ongoing basis... prisoners eat better than these kids. I'd go so far as to say that they are mal nourished. So here's a sampling of how we eat in the monastery.
Breakfast: A pita bread and a small plate (4") of boiled curried
cabbage. OR beans and a pita bread. We also get a cup of tea... either sugar tea or the OH SO WONDERFUL Tibetan butter tea... note that the caps was to denote exaggeration... butter tea people....really.
Lunch: For lunch, we have what I like to affectionately call "the white dirt", which is rice that if you haven't guessed it, tastes like dirt. With this wonderful staple, we have about half a cup of greens that have the grit of many eons gone bye... I wonder if they have heard of washing veggies here. Oh, yeah, and we get a small bowl of dhal, which is a lentil or barley soup which if you haven't guessed
it, tastes like dirt.
Supper: Well, for supper we are really spoiled. We get to eat Tukpa!!! Yeah!!!! TUKPA EVERYONE!!!! NOODLES DROWNING IN SALTY BROTH! with gritt... I really don't know why everything here has dirt and grit in it... it's really weird. On special nights like last night,we were treated to a real special Tibetan meal... Timo... Timo...
Timo... where does one even begin to talk about Timo? Actually it'sreally easy to talk about Timo as it's a real simple meal, and apparently everyone's favorite. Timo... is steamed oily dough. Yes... steamed oily dough... wtf? come on. This is supper? I'm supposed to dip the bread in the chili sauce? oh... ok... that makes
it that much more tasty. sigh... seriously though, the food situation is really intense. To the point where my two visting monk freinds can't stand the food either and we'll occasionally escape to the free world and eat... MEAT!!!! YES!!! MY MONKS EAT MEAT!! Twice my buddy Datkpa and I went to a local Tibetan restaurant in the refugee camp and had Buf (pronounced beef, but is buffalo) Momo's which are steamed dumplings and Chapalais, which are buffalo deep fried patties. They are so good.
Anyhow... I'm gonna wrap it up for now as I have to go find some food in the market before the sun sets. I want to thank everyone who helped me deal with the insanity and my freakout upon my arrival at the monastery. It was tough... real tough... you have no idea how close I can to packing it up and coming home. Now that I've found my groove and head space, things are much better. I wouldn't say that I'm having fun... but I am appreciating all the experiences that I am so privileged to be living. I know that I will look back upon this mega adventure fondly despite the fact that there have been huge chunks of it that have been very difficult. I have another 9 days in the monastery and after that I will be relaxing in the lakeside area of Pokhara. Unfortunately I won't be doing any trekking as I am here at the wrong time of the year. Morning/daytime it's 32 degrees with about 85% humidity, so it would be sheer insanity to be out on the trekking trails. To top it all of, it looks like the monsoon has rolled in and it's been raining for about 24 hours solid now. It should be like this until August.... so trekking is out... but before I embark on the Vipassana meditation course, I'm going to do it tourist style in Pokhara. No way I'm heading back to Thamel in Kathmandu. I'll save that for the end of my time in Nepal.
So thanks for your time... I hope you enjoyed. I miss and love you
all... and I'd love to hear from you all. Don't be shy...
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 6/28/2009 01:38:00 AM
Hello ladies and germs...
well I suppose it's time for a first instalment of "White Boy Has A
Hard Time With the Heat as He Travels Asia, What Was He Thinking?". I'm not too sure how to go about doing these group email things (technically yes i do...smart asses); I figure different groups of you will want to know different things about my travels... and to be honest, I'm really not the type to just list of the things i saw and call it an email. Mind you... it might be a lot easier that way... but alas... those of you who enjoy reading bullet point lists or top 10's, you loose. It ain't going to be like that. ;-) Please don't mind the grammar and spelling... it's hot, I'm bothered and hungry.
So, I'm now at the end of my first week away... and what to say. Lots actually... I've discovered that I really like to complicate my life when traveling as I really feel like I have to organize as many interim destinations as humanly possible only to realize that once on the road, I've managed to totally annoy myself and create what i can only describe as misery and psychosis... kidding, kinda (It's all better now that I'm settle in KAthmandu)... it's sort of how this first week of the trip has been (as some of you who have rec'd emails from me in quite literally a panic from Mumbai) can attest. First off... why in the hell did I schedule a 24 hour layover in London? well actually I know why I did (wanted to meet the Madagascar crew, which I didn't). I must really like changing lots of Canadian dollars in to Sterling pounds, in order to pay for a flea bag hotel next to the airport so that I can watch the BBC. Brilliant I tell you brilliant. I think that 24 hours (didn't my Tokyo adventure teach me anything?) in Heathrow...not even LONDON, was more than I've spent in the past week in Mumbai, and all I did was pay for my hotel, buy a
meal and drink a pint of Fosters. FOSTERS'!! and then to have the freakin' waitress give me snide remarks, "what did you expect form the King Burger it's gonna be big! Well lady! I thought i was f'n hungry! and it was the only god damn hamburger on the menu! AND THE ENGLISH SHOULD LEARN TO MAKE BURGERS! IT'S NOT THAT HARD!sigh... atleast my time there enabled me to learn about the new theories on Stonehenge. I am now so much more enlightened... thanks ITV!!! ok ok ok... i know... I'm travelling and i should be more chipper.... and I am... now... it took me a while though. I think that I've experience what i would consider to be the worst case of jet lag I have EVER encountered. And that's when Mumbai enters the decor.
Mumbai, Mumbai, Mumbai... to be honest, I was expecting lots from Mumbai. Great stuff with a touch of hell on earth... and to be honest... well... In my honest opinion, not too much great stuff. I don't like Mumbai. It's very much like any other East Asian city I've visited... Bangkok, Saigon, Phenom Pen... it's huge, throngs of people, crazy amounts of poverty and it smells like shit. Mind you, I
was expecting worse when it came to the smell department. i was expecting to be slapped with a soiled diaper once I disembarked from the plane. I was pleasantly mistaken. :-) Mumbai has more of a stale room mixed with diesel and curry thing going on... and the curry thing is only during the day. There is the excrement smell that does pop up here and there but that's whenever you come close to a canal or open body of water... and Mumbai being a series of Islands, I won't
say that it didn't happen;-)
So yeah... back to me and Mumbai... well the fact that I arrived @ 2 in the morning did not help my situation any. Suffering from the exhaustion of my 5 movie flight (when you travel distances like that,the actual hours you travel seem like a very complicated way to keep track of things as there are time changes and all that, so I do it in movies), my next 4 days were nothing but a mish mash of sleepless days, several 2 hour naps in the day, 35 degree and 60% humididty heat. Couple that with the fact that it seems in Mumbai there are no noise laws (they see it fit to do construction with jackhammers under my window at 2AM) rat and dog fights and crazy neighbours listening to Bollywood movies all night; made for an environment that was not conducive to sanity. So in essence, I was able to make a few jaunts out in my neighbourhood to explore and find food (absolutely divine I must say) i spent much of my time loosing my sanity in my hotel room watching MTV, VH1 and the most insane (FOX News has nothing on the Indian news) news shows. Everything seemed to be BREAKING NEWS!!! OH MY GOD!! RAJ CROSSED THE STREET, more from Yasinder on site... no
seriously though... it seemed like every day there was some sort of new crazy breaking news. The show would have all these crazy graphics and extremely dramatic music. It was a riot. The absolute craziest things that I came across aside from the daily new terrorist warnings ( I really think that there was at least one a day)... was the poison milk scam. Every thing bad to them is a scam... you see, to me, a scam is when some dude bilks you for an extra 10 bucks because you are
a tourist... that's a scam... when ALL OF NORTHERN INDIA'S MILK IS BEING MIXED WITH PAINT, POTASH AND UREA!!! that my friends, takes is up a notch from scam to .... well... What the fuck? and just plain criminal... and yes that is exactly what happened. Milk transporters would take the milk they were delivering, transpose it in to larger vats, mix it with white finger paint, urea, potash and palm oil mix it
up and then send it on to it's final destination, being most milk plants in Northern India (Delhi and the like)... crazy... just crazy.
Now, although i did spend copious amounts of time "adjsuting" in my hotel room, despair not, I did get out and about... I promise. I managed to make it to the Taj hotel to pay my respects and say a prayer for my friend's mother who was killed in the 11/26 attacks. It was a lot more intense than I expected it to be. To be honest, I didn't really know what to expect. The reality of it kind of hit once i was on site. The memorial was very nice, a bronze statue of the tree of life set in front of this waterfall in this glassed room just off of the lobby. Very tasteful.
Other than that, I managed to see the gates of India, and generally walked around the Fort and Colaba districts. Like I mentioned before, from what i did see in Mumbai, it didn't resonate with me all that much... I really felt cities like Saigon are much more interesting to explore. I also felt (now this might just be my jet lagged paranoia)that the Indian's were exactly all that friendly. In Bangkok everyone wants to be your friend no matter where you are... they do call Thailand, the land of smiles for a reason... In Cambodia, they are just so happy to have tourist that they are so so so nice... I call it the land of the glowing smile... Vietnam, well... I call it the land that Smiles forgot, because nobody smiles. It's all very stern, but in the end, when you get to know people they are really quite
warm... when it comes to India (PLEASE REMEMBER I WAS JET LAGGED!) I really felt that when i would walk down the streets, everyone's eyes would follow me down the road and shoot daggers at me. Again, jet lag and this might also just be Mumbai's vibe... Someone i know who goes to India quite often said that there is a ultra nationalistic Hindugroup who does not like foreigners... maybe i was in a district (the Fort District) where all these dudes hang out.
Now... the food... wow... I have had hands down some of the best Indian food on the planet. I had the best samosas (they were of a Punjabi variety) and this absolutely amazing veg kofta. wow... i've been eating like like a king (all veg... not a splurt of meat in 7 days, with this heat, it seems like the last thing i'd want)... do you guys know the scene in Monty Python's "Meaning of Life" in the restaurant when Mr. ( I forget his name) ate all the food in restaurant and then proceeded to eat the last waffer thin mint?... well that's kind of how i felt. If you don't know that reference, i suggest you find it on youtube... it's quite funny, gross too. I have to ask my friends who have been to India a question though.... do all Indian waiters sit and watch you eat? All of my dinning experiences consited of the waiter standing about 3 feet from me and watching me eat. Occasionally he'd go off for 2 minutes, but then return to another spot of equal distance to the last and then watch me eat. It's just one of those odd things I've experienced.. :-) all good.
So yeah... it might seem like I'm being hard on Mumbai/India... and i'm not. I know better to judge a country, a people and a culture by my first 4 jet lagged days there. there might be some of you who remember the emails I sent my first week in Bangkok a few years back. Within 24 hours I was ready to jump back on a plane and high tail it home... well... I know better now, and I know that my last few weeks
of my trip, which will probably be in India will be absolutely fantastic.
So now, I'm in Kathmandu but I've just been warned that the power might go out, so I'll leave you waiting with baited breath for the next instalment of "White Boy Sweating Bullets in Nepal" I just found out that my placement is not going to be in the isolated monastery in Besishare (?)... instead I'll be just outside of Pokhara.
I'm pretty psyched... it's going to be quite an adventure. I hope you are all as excited about it as I am. ;-)
Oh... and as a final note... don't be shy about sending emails... being on the road can get lonely at times and even just a small "what's up? Did you know that the toilet paper is on sale at Jean-Coutu this weekend?" can bring a wonderful smile to a traveler's face.
ps: two things... for the people who like lists ;-)
- thanks to everyone who helped out with advice before the trip. Your help was invaluable.
- If you know anyone who didn't get this email and you think would like to read it... pls. forward it on.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 6/09/2009 12:03:00 AM
Less than 24 hours to go and I'm on a jet plane.
1) Montreal - London (24 hours layover... any suggestions? I was thinking the Tate Modern.)
2) London - Mumbai (3 nights in Mumbai)
3) Mumbai - Delhi (via Rajdhani Express)
4) Delhi - Kathmandu
5) Hyulsa Hyon Monastery, Besisahar, Nepal
6) Kathmandu (Vipassana meditation course) www.dhamma.org
7) ... haven't quite thought that far yet... Annapurna Trek? Rishekesh (Yoga capital of the world)? Dharamsala?...
Keep your eyes peeled for photos and updates... I don't know how my connectivity to the real world will be while in the monastery but I'll do my best to keep you abreast. :-)
OH! and please EMAIL ME!!! I really want to hear what going on with all of you, no matter how mundane...(Except work stuff)
If only you knew how a small email can make your day when you've been away and on the road for a long time. :-)
So, whether you are groovin' to the Tams on Mt-Royal, climbing Machu Pichu, hanging in Moshi or bearing it all on Wreck Beach have an awesome summer... except if you are in Laval... then you deserve what you get. ;-)
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 5/31/2009 12:18:00 AM
Hey!…. So it’s been a little while since I’ve updated my blog (except for the header, which is a photo I took in Hoi An, Vietnam last year) and I figured I’d give you guys a bit of an update of what exactly’s been going on in my universe. So much goodness has been permeating my life these days it’s ridiculous. (I’m thinking that this is going to be a marathon post… so grab a cup a joe and sit in tight for the ride)
I guess the big thing is that I’m six weeks away from my sabbatical. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been planning to take some time off from the 9-5 grind and « do something else ». My original plan was to spend 3-4 months doing coral reef conservation work in Madagascar, but that all went to hell when some idiots decided to stage a coup d’état. I won’t go in to the politics or take sides, although I’ve been following the developments quite closely, I’m in no position to say if what happened was a good thing or a bad thing… all I know is that 100+ people perished in riots and clashes surrounding the events and thus I did not feel safe about going there this summer. I’ve kept in touch with my contacts over there and have volunteered my services to them so that I can stay in the loop, but this is proving to be quite difficult as the people involved are less than great communicators, so we’re still trying to get the first « press release » done. Anyhow… all this to say that I changed my plans, quite drastically and on a whim and a cheap ticket, I’ve decided to go to India. Actually, wasn’t exactly a whim. I had a good friend who was supposed to meet up with me in India sometime in July and then rent some motorcycles and head off to Dharamsala, but just recently he bailed on me. I hate using the word bailed as it makes it seem like his decision was wily nilly, (which it wasn’t) but none the less, it’s sort of left me hanging… so as of now I’m landing in Mumbai on June 2nd and I’m in the planning phase… I feel kind of weird as I’ve been working on my Madagascar project for almost a year now, and then to have it disappear and be replaced with just a plane ticket and a destination is quite the odd feeling…. anyhow, I've been working on getting some sort of project set up for myself over there. Just this weekend I applied to a group called Hands for Help Nepal, where if all goes well, I will either be teaching English to young Buddhist monks or be working in an orphanage in Kathmandu. For those of you who know me personally, you’ll know that I’m hoping that the Buddhist monk project will be the one that pans out. After that, I plan to head back to India for the remaining 4-5 weeks of my time and will be doing a Vippassana meditation retreat. For those of you who do no know what that is, follow this link for more info. http://www.dhamma.org/ . So no matter what transpires over there, no matter what pans out or what random adventures or paths, I find myself on, I’m positive that this summer will be transformative and nothing short of life changing.
On the other fronts in my life… well, this spring I was privy to a very short but incredible romance with a wonderful woman. Things ended way too early for my liking but sometimes, actually it should be always, you have to just appreciate things for the amazing things that they were. Although heart broken at the moment, as I was utterly smitten with A, I have to accept her decision and her reasons :-( Thank you for letting me in to your life, thank you for being in my life… it was short but unforgettable. G’d damn I wish I had a magic wand of lustful persuasion!!!! Lol!!! Hopefully our story is not over, be it in whatever permutation it will take.
"Don't cry because it's over... smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss
My training for the half triathlon this summer is going… well, it’s going… not as good as I expected but not all that bad either. I’ve yet to break out the bike (probably later today actually) but I’ve been running and keeping up with the capoeira. On Friday I ran my first 8k stint that wasn’t in a race. The run was pretty good, except that somehow, I seem to have buggered up a tendon or something next to my ankle, so walking has been a little painful this weekend. As for the capoeira, well, it was progressing quite well until my broken heart got the best of me and didn’t go for two weeks and now with the ankle thing, I don’t think I’ll make it this week. It’s unfortunate as I was progressing quite well and the « batizado » is coming up. I won’t make the one in June during Capoeira week at my school, but my teacher had wanted me to go down to Plattsburgh to do it with his students there, but, it’s this weekend and well, with 2 weeks of not practising and a sore ankle, I’m going to have to wait for the next batizado in December. I was really looking forward to getting my capoiera appelado (nickname) and finally getting a belt.
So that’s pretty much the gist of what’s been going on… Hope everyone is well and that life is being kind… :-)
Talk to you all soon…
as my trip is ramping up, I’ll try to post more… I was actually thinking of doing an on-line video diary of the prep for the trip and of the trip itself… maybe just audio… anyhow if anyone is interested, let me know and I’ll see if I can make it happen…
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 4/13/2009 08:46:00 AM
Fear is the emotional response to a negative prediction. The negative prediction is powered by anger. Anger is a defense against a feeling of vulnerability. The vulnerability is perceived rather than real. Therefore you are living in a creative fantasy and hence you are psychotic.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 1/14/2009 07:02:00 PM
I was out @ Les Bobards before the holidays at a Papa Groove show (surprise!) and after the show, I stayed behind to dance a bit as they were playing some really good music. For the first time in probably over a decade I went to the DJ booth to find out what was playing. Turns out it was Magic System... although it's kitch Ivory Coast dance pop whatever... I love it. Makes me want to dance all around my living room... enjoy.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 1/07/2009 08:51:00 PM
This is probably the highest point in my father's career as a car builder. This fall he made his way down to Arizona to deliver his first car to his customer. On his way down, he made a detour to Los Angeles and some how got an interviewe with Jay Leno, one of North America's biggest car collectors.
Today, his birthday, is the day that Jay Leno's Garage launched the small web feature on his car. The Allard J2X... Check it out. There is an ad in the beginning of the clip, but be patient ;-)
So proud of you dad!
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 12/02/2008 06:58:00 AM
I just rec'd word that a good friend's mother and her boyfriend were killed in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. It really makes the world feel small... it really makes the world feel unfair... it really makes me angry... :-(
I'm so sorry for you loss... I'm so sorry for the hundreds of other families around the world who lost loved ones this week. I could not imagine the hell you are all going through right now. My thoughts are with you.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 11/28/2008 07:20:00 PM
As seen on vanou's bla blah...
1.Put your iTunes on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS!
1) IF SOMEONE SAYS "IS THIS OKAY" YOU SAY?
Punky Reggae Party - Bob Marley & The Wailers
2) WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
For Me... Formidable - Charles Aznavour
3) WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
Lord, Help The Poor & Needy - Cat Power
4) HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
Beneath The Undertow - Isotope 217
5) WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?
Campina - Afro-Cuban Jazz Project
6) WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
Fishies - The Cat Empire
7) WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
I Wanna Get High - Cypress Hill
8) WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
Promiscuity - Manu Chao
9) WHAT IS 2+2?
Le Moulin - Yann Tiersen
10) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
Black Man's Cry - Fela Kuti
11) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Collie Herb - Horace Andy
12) WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
Wharf Rat - Grateful Dead
13) WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
Close Encounters - The Orb
14) WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
Dos Gardenias - Buena Vista Social Club
15) WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
amor pa ti - Sergent Garcia
16) WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
Vertige - Karkwa
17) WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
Room 23 - Shpongle
18) WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
Never Forget to Remember - Tommy Guerrero
19) WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
A lenda do Abaete - Baden Powell
20) WHAT'S THE WORST THING THAT COULD HAPPEN?
Il te suffisait que je t'aime - Charles Aznavour
21) HOW WILL YOU DIE?
Today Like Everyday - Tommy Guerrero
22) WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU REGRET?
Satta Masagana - The Abyssinians
23) WHAT MAKES YOU LAUGH?
Receptive - Younger Brother
24) WHAT MAKES YOU CRY?
Y'en a marre - Tiken Jah Fakoly
25) WILL YOU EVER GET MARRIED?
Kodachrome - Simon and Garfunkel
26) WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST?
Atomic peace - Alice Coltrane
27) DOES ANYONE LIKE YOU?
Float On - Modest Mouse
28) IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?
1990 - Jean Leloup
29) WHAT HURTS RIGHT NOW?
Mystical Experiences - The Infinity Project
30) WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?
Dynamite – Jamiroquai
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 11/26/2008 11:53:00 PM
Well, I did it. My first 10k run ever... holy crap. I finished 3rd to last in the entire race but who the hell cares. I ran freakin' 10k in 1hr and 6 minutes! I'm over the moon. funny how during the race I was cursing myself for having signed up for such a ridiculous endevour... and now, I'm planning my next 10k.... maybe even a half next year... BUT what this race has really done for me, is really get me psyched for the triathlon next year... Training starts NOW!!!
thanks Joel, Dom and David for being a part of this..
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 11/05/2008 09:39:00 PM
So I've discovered my new favourite thing in the world. Capoeira. Why haven't I been doing this all my life... I've been learning the basics with a buddy in Jeanne-Mance park on Sunday mornings... nothing like playing barefoot in the sand, doing kartwheels and handstands. ahhh... anyhow. With the cold weather approaching, I'm signing up for some indoor lessons next week. It's gonna be solid.
HAve a look at these two magnificent vids of capoiera. ENJOY! I know I am!
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 10/30/2008 11:48:00 AM
This past weekend, I was in Toronto for the Good Life fitness marathon. Wow.. what a great race. Mind you I've only run two, but I was able to improve my running time to 31m 34s!!! A whole 40 seconds better than my Montreal début. Despite having shin pains 3km (northbound on University and Dundas) in to the race and having to walk it off AND the retardedly jam packed start of the race where you litterally have to push people aside if you are going to run.
And in keeping with Halloween, I finished 666th!! How devilish of me!
Congrats to David who ran the entire 42km marathon in about 3.5 hours. Dude, you rock!
I'm signed up to do my first ever 10K run Nov. 1st. Little nervous as it's more than I've ever run, but as long as I finish, I'm happy.
Life is good. :-)
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 10/23/2008 06:59:00 PM
A bunch of buddies and I went camping and hiking this weekend near Lake Placid, NY. Fun times... but man was it cold... damn cold. They were saying that at the top of Whiteface there was 6" of snow. It's only the beginning of October!! Anyhow, our hike was supposed to be on this mountain called Big Slide, but there were so many people out this weekend, that they needed a shuttle bus for a larger parking lot to get people to the mountain. So we opted to do another one called Pitchoff mountain which was not as high as the rest from what I could tell but there was a series of about 5 peaks to climb and go down... It was a great weekend, until the last 45 minutes of the hike when my knee decided it wanted to hurt... no rhyme or reason... just pain. And now, a day later, it still hurts like a mofo. Hope it's not too serious. I have things i want to do this week!!!
enjoy the pics...
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 10/05/2008 01:48:00 PM
The first picture is of me on Cat Ba Island in North Vietnam. It was at this moment that I had my "epiphany" and knew that my life had to change. The second photo is of me (and my friend Kate) about 30 minutes after I accomplished one of the most challenging feats in my life. Running the 5km @ the Montreal marathon. Before and after... although I'm easily recognizable in both pics, the physical changes are huge... but what isn't so visible are the changes inside... Looking back at the photo froom just over 6 months ago, I feel like I'm looking at a different person.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 9/25/2008 09:27:00 PM
Today I ran my first 5k Marathon. I can now truely say, today my life is different. In the beginning of 2008, I weighed in @ 235 lbs, I drank 2L of diet Coke a day, I only ate processed foods out of a box and was smoking again (pack a day). One day when I was in Vietnam, I snapped. I had had enough. My life style was preventing me from actually living my life. I remember the moment. 1 km up a jungle path during a climb to the summit of a small mountain. I remember sitting down on this rock, thinking I was going to die. I had had enough. Of the climb (which I did finish) and of my life... it was then thatI decided it was time to stop being a victim of myself... the victim of my own self destruction. It was time to take my life in to my own hands and reclaim my life... reclaim my happiness. It wasn't an over night change... when I got down from my climb, I smoked a cigarette (or 20)... but the process had begun. It took until mid May, to start the physical exercise changes, but from then on, I was full on on the path towards change and today, Sept.14th, 2008, I accomplished something I never thought possible... running in a marathon. I cannot begin to express how emotional today has been. 5km in 32 minutes and 18 seconds... you have no idea how sweet that is. My life has changed. :-) Today, I no longer smoke, I no longer drink soft drinks, I no longer eat processed foods, I run, I cycle, I'm starting yoga (tomorrow) and I will be starting rock climbing and possibly Capoeira in a few weeks... I now weigh 211 lbs. For the first time in almost 10 years, I feel sexy... I feel proud... I feel alive.
Thanks to all my friends who have been there for me... Dominique, Joel, Nick, Jake, David... you have no idea how much gratitude I have towards you.
Be the changes you want to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 9/14/2008 07:06:00 PM
Ok... so sometimes in life we have to look at things realistically. A few posts ago I mentioned that my goal for the fall was to do the Sprint Triathlon in September. Well I had a pretty big reality check when I started training for the swimming section of the race... hmmm... a little harder than I thought... actually much harder than I though. It had been 5 months since I had been in the pool and for some reason I figured that it would be very easy to ease back in to the pool... not so. Then I went for a bike ride along the Olympic Basin (where the race is to be held) and I actually cycled next to the 750m where I was to be swimming. WTF was I thinking!? Holy crap 750m is long AND, it's in open water?! No ledges to take a rest between laps!!! That's just crazy. SO, all this to say, that I've decided to go back to my original goal of completing the 5k @ the Montreal Marathon, which is the day before the Triathlon. This is a much more realistic goal AND, looking at where I was in April health wise... this is quite an achievement. Nothing to balk at... seriously. PLUS all this training, I've gone from being 235lbs, to 218! 17lbs gone! I'm pretty happy about that... although when I started training, I told myself that amount of weight I lost was not my ultimate goal. I wanted to increase, my fitness level, my endurence and I wanted to slim down. I set no real numeric weight goals as in general I find that they can be quite misleading... muscle weighs quite a bit.
Tonight I went for another run... the first run in about a week and a half and I've managed to up my distance, by about another 500m. So now, I'm "running" 5.75k in 46 minutes. To think that in May I had a hard time running 500m.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 8/05/2008 10:30:00 PM
Just thought I'd let you know that I'm still Dreaming of Babylon... whatever that means these days. Movin' life forward in a positive direction, I guess is how, I'd best describe it. I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it, but the name of my blog, "Dreaming of Babylon" comes from the title of a book by one of my favourite authors, Richard Brautigan. Beat poet and author, pretty obscure random stuff, but it always puts a smile on my face because it's so damn good. Dreaming of Babylon is not my favourite of his... I guess it would have to be Trout Fishing in America, but i must say that I really really dig his poetry... and generally I'm not a poetry guy. Check out the books, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster... it's pretty good stuff...
"The Shenevertakesherwatchoff Poem"
Because you always have a clock
strapped to your body, it's natural
that I should think of you as the
with your long blonde hair at 8:03,
and your pulse-lightning breasts at
11:17, and your rose-meow smile at 5:30,
I know I’m right.
Oh, how perfect death
computes an orange wind
that glows from your footsteps,
and you stop to die in
an orchard where the harvest
fills the stars.
"A Candlelion Poem"
Turn a candle inside out
and you've got the smallest
portion of a lion standing
there at the edge of the
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed the poetry...
Have you ever had a day where you just needed a hug?... today is one of those days.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 7/31/2008 09:44:00 PM
Hey y'all... it's been a while I guess. This is harder than I thought it would... pickin' up where I left off... which from what I see was a sketchy parking lot @ the Hanoi airport. LoL!... anyhow... just to let you all know that life is good... life has changed... and is still changing... but all going in a positive direction. Not sure how much blogging I'll be doing in the future... I tend to enjoy blogging when I travel more than I when I'm in the 514. That being said, I am organizing my next adventure... I've decided to take a "leave of absence" from the office in the spring of 2009. Not sure of the details, i.e. the length of the journey, but it's going to be at least 3 months and at most 6 months, and I'm going to be going to Africa. My original thoughts when I came up with this trip was that I wanted to do more than just travel. I wanted to give back to the places I visit. After having been in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, although I had incredible journeys, I always came home feeling a little... I'm not sure how to express it, but I guess "white, rich and privileged" comes close... so this time I've decided to do things a little differently. I'm going to backpack, but I'm also going to be doing some volunteer work. My primary destination (at this moment and time) is Madagascar. I hope to do some coral reef conservation work with a group called Reef Doctor. I'll let you go to their web site to see what it's all about. I was going to do it for a full 3 months, and then spend 1 month travelling up and down Eastern Africa, but now I;m feeling like I want to do more travelling and less diving. I've just ordered my Lonely Planet and we'll see what comes of it all... who knows, by next year, I might end up in Mongolia or something.....
Other than that, in the news... well I've pretty much turned my life around. From couch potato to quasi-healthy dude. I've discovered the love of cycling (spandex and all!!), I've completely changed my lifestyle and eating habits (haven't had a soft drink since March and no more fast food!) AND (drum roll please)..... I'm training to do a half triathlon! Actually it started out that I was just going to train to run the 5km @ the Montreal marathon this September but somehow, I've managed to commit myself to doing the Sprint Triathlon... WTF?! 750m of swimming, 20km of cycling and 5km of running. Now, I'm pretty confident about the swimming. The cycling, I do about 120km oer week ( I cycle 3 time a week to work, which is 20km to Laval and 20km back to Rosemont... 40km)... so that's pretty cool... but the running... holy shit. I'm actually making progress.... When I started, I couldn't even run a kilometer... last week I was able to run, 2.5km... and this past Monday, I was able to run 3.5km without stopping. Yay! So I figure, the 5km part on it's own should be doable in the next few weeks. The part I'm not sure about, is all three parts combined. I went cycling at the race track this weekend and I took a detour to cycle down along the rowing basin where we will be swimming... and holy crapola... 750m is a lot longer than I thought. I can do it in the pool, but in the basin, there is no ledge to rest on... anyhow... I still have 2 months.
So yeah... life is good.... 2008 is turning out to be quite the incredible year. I had a feeling in 2007 that this was going to be a year of change... I'm excited to see what the rest has in store.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 7/10/2008 09:31:00 PM
After seeing this @ Vanou's and Zura's blog, here is mine...
Here’s how you play:
Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr search
using only the first page. Choose an image.
Copy and paste each of the URLs into the mosaic maker at FD’s image maker.
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favourite food?
3. What high school did you attend?
4. What is your favourite colour?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favourite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favourite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One word to describe you.
12. Your Flickr name.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 7/10/2008 08:50:00 PM
Well, I'm back in Montreal.... well to be honest, I've been back almost a month now. I stopped blogging in Hanoi as it was really hard to find an internet café (yes my hotel had internet but it couldn't hold the connection for more than 5 minutes) and after that, well, to be honest, I just didn't feel like it. Sorry... the trip was awesome and I'm really missing being over there.
If you are interested, is the link to my photos on FLICKR...
I'm already thinking of next year's trip...
Here's my short list...
Really not sure yet, however there are a couple of places that seem to rise to the top, so to speak.
Anyhow... ideas or inspiration from you guys would be cool.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 4/18/2008 07:19:00 PM
Weirdness @ the airport. When I arrived I arranged for a pick up as the airport is about 45 minutes from the city. So I see the guy with the pancart with my name on it
and we go out to the lot and the dude doesn't even know what car he is
driving... then there are these young girls looking kinda hip but
homeless, and these guys looking like pimps or hipsters but real
sketch are all loitering in the parking lot. I can see that they are
all eyeing me and the driver guy... then I get my stuff in to the trunk
of the car and a bunch of the whatevers not exactly swarm, but
congregate around the car... then they start talking to the driver and
all of a sudden he declares that he has to wait about 10 - 15 minutes
for another pick up... so one of the guys comes to the window and
starts chatting, asking where I'm from and all that stuff. So I step
out of the car and start small talking with this guy and about 15
meters away this cop or security agent pulls up on the scooter and
just stares at us... The dude I'm with starts getting a little edgy
as do all the others. Talk, talk, check out the cop... talk... check
out the cop... and then after about 5 minutes the cop just drives
away. Then the driver just declares that the other person isn't
showing up... but he didn't even get a call or anything... it all just
didn't feel right. I'm feeling pretty sketched out right about now... is this my real driver? Is he going to take me to my hotel? am i going to die or get arrested?!! So then we take to the road and we are driving on
the most godforsaken road ever with tractor trailers swerving all over the road; scootes do 10km/h, other drivers completely oblivious to anything else on the road. "Many new drivers in Hanoi" spurts the driver.
Then the driver points out one of the most troubling things I've come across. We've all heard about the zones that 3rd wolrd governments give to coroprations which are kind of international autonomous tax free zones in which they set up their factories to produce all the shit we buy in the west... well we drove bye one of those... man was it surreal. It was this huge huge gated area at least a few square kilometers surrounded by some of the poorest shanty towns I've ever seen. Real depressing; it just makes all the things you read so much more real and so much more upsetting. It's hard really concieve of the real humanity that is affected by our western consumption until you drive right through it. I saw a Canon factory, a Nikon factory... Panasonic... everything was there... anyhow. Not sure I can really convey it all. I'm sure that there was a Nike factory in there somewhere... it's all the same shit.
Next post... happier stuff from Hanoi or is it?! ;-p Those of you who got some emails from me, know what I'm talking about.
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 2/29/2008 10:51:00 AM
Do I talk the talk or do I walk the walk? That's the question I was
faced with on my last night in HCMC... As a general
rule, it seems that Eating out in Saigon is cheaper than going to the
Market abusing your food. So pretty much every meal is at a
restoraunt. Last night was no exception. Jason and his good buddy
Nguya (pretty sure its spelled wrong but it's pronounced Nia) took me
out for a meal in a truely, this is real Vietnamese dinning experence.
Nothing in the western world ever comes close. So we zip through the
streets of HCMC and turn down this little alleyway and pull up to this
building teaming with locals. Pulling into the building, I was amused
to see that the " parking" garage for the scooters was actually in the
restauraunt. A small flimsy gate separated scooters from patron..
The joint was teaming with noise and The place looked essentially
like a large parking garage illuminted by very bright fluorecents.
The ever so present kindergarten stools and tables were de rigour here
so we plopped ourselves down, my back up against the gate and a couple
of tires and thus began my evening's personal voyage of " do I talk
the talk or do I walk the walk?"
Sitting at our table they bring out this small little hotpot filled with a broth and is heated with a little piece of coal. Before we get to this wonderful part of the meal, lets start with the entree. Skewered jumbo shrimp... but not just the
tail that is deboned like we eat in the west... no... it was the whole
god damned shrimp. Head, antennae, legs and tail all still shelled...
yeah. Apparently a real delicasy in Saigon. All eyes baited on me, it
tooka few minutes to muster up the courage to bite the head off of the poor little thing. Basically like a mouthful of shrimp and chips. I know
must this must seem nasty, but it wasn't all that bad. The tough part was the
grilled whole fish. Same deal as the shrimp, except that fish have
skulls. ughhh... brains,organs and a skeletal system. Took me
a while.. but I did it much to the delight of Jason and his friend. Crunch, crunch crunch... mmmm... spine.
Tasty, but seriously, it was hard to crunch down on skull and bones. The dipping sauce made it all that much easier. I guess you just have to close your eyes and do it. Now, the real hard part was the live fish; or should I say the recently
deceased in front of my eyes fish... god... well this one I didn't do
to well... Going back to the hot pot on the table. A young waiter brought to our table a small blue bucket that seemed to have just a little to much resistance for it's own good. Taking our little hotpot and putting it on the floor, the waiter then proceeded to fill the pot with the contents of the bucket... a dozen or so LIVE fish, like the ones we just ate skewered and BBQ'd. A small little bugger escaped and while the dude was holding down the lid on the hot pot so that escapee's brethrin could not escape; the escaped fish flipped and flopped on the floor as if itwas charged with thousands of volts of electricity. Finally when our hotpot was back on the table, the waiter then proceeded to kick the floor fish along until the kitchen all the while trying to scoop it up in his bucket. We chuck in the veggies and wait for the contents to cook... meanwhile, I'm loosing my mind but trying to play it as cool as possible. They open the pot and start digging in. What do I do to try and avoid having to try this? Well, let's have another shrimp!! Crunmch crunch crunch... god damnit! Finally they notice, I haven't even taken a fish out of the pot yet so one is deposited in to my bowl of noodles... ... I just ignored the thing for the longest time until I was cajoled in to trying it. I didn't eat the head. I just couldn't.the other one was BBQ'd and for some reason that makes a difference to
me. So I put the thing in my plate and then pulled off the flesh from
the bones and only ate that... I somehow manged to eat part of the
spine, but that wasn't too too bad.
So... I'll leave it up to you. Did I walk the walk or just talk the talk? I guess this will be really put to the test when I go back to HCMC when I'm confronted with snake...
Posted by Chris - Dreaming of Babylon at 2/29/2008 10:17:00 AM