Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Naples - and then...

VAPE SHOP


As those of you who know me well may already grok to (holy shit - grok is a recognized word!) I need an 'objective' when I go out to do my 'daily constitutional'.

Today's was to go pick up some vape juice.

So I wandered for a LONG distance and eventually came to the vape shop. Second attempt - first one was closed down. Second one was inside of some other fucking shop making it difficult to find.

Why no, kind sir, you may not 'try before you buy' as you can in other civilized countries. You must buy then see if you have fucked up and blown your money on shit you don't want.

The price for 80ml of vape? More expensive than even England. 20 Euros.

"Why thank you kind shop keeper. I shall fuck well off now and not return. I feel I am already missing Eastern Europe."



ABODE IN NAPLES

So I go down to the front desk today.  My initial two days here are up, time to pay for more.

My plan is pay up through the end of the month, see where I stand then.  The room is fine except that it is noisy and claustrophobic.

When I try to pay for six days, the owner only wants me to pay for two.  He is muttering about the hotel being full, needing to bring in workmen to fix the room I am in which does have a little water damage on the ceiling etc.

I'm thinking despite him and I having talked about "I might be here for a couple months" his plan was to have me here for four days - to squeeze out the most he can from the hotel room while waiting for the workman.

After a couple days of wandering around Naples however I'm thinking that it looks like lots of other European cities I've seen before and there is nothing really sticking me to this place.

"Run, bitch!" is going through my head.

Before, it was laziness vs claustrophobia - now it seems necessity is pushing me to GTFO.

After four days there, I (foolishly?) went to live in Pompei.  The old town is Pompeii, the new one which surrounds it is Pompei.  No idea why.  Same volcano.

Anyway, the room is a little better.  Still a bit cramped - like living in a midsized bedroom.  I do miss the last house I was at in Ukraine where my work area and sleeping area were separate.   But the room itself doesn't really bother me.  The internet is good dial up speed.  For 900 USD plus per month.  Tell you, Italy is not shaking out to be the place for me.

Also, the area is pretty far dispersed.  Nothing is very convenient aside from a McDonald's (yes, really) that I'd rather avoid.  Everything seems to be a kilometer or two from me.  It will take awhile to explore the surrounding area and find something I like to eat.

No idea whatsoever as to why Naples is so busy with tourists but I need to find a place that doesn't suck to hunker down for awhile.

Guessing that by the time I paid for here is done I will be well sick of this place and wanting to go elsewhere.

Pompei itself seems to be full of walled houses and pretty light on the sidewalks.  While many of the countries I've been to don't have sidewalks, the host of the property was horrified I walked here from the train station (about 1.5 to 2 KM) because there were no sidewalks enroute.

Would I have come here if I'd seen it first or done better on my research?  Probably not.  But since I've checked in and paid a wad of cash I figure I'll make the best of it.  If nothing else it should be quiet.

After a week or two here I'll see if I like it enough to stay in quieter Pompei or if I want to go back to noisy as fuck cramped living quarters Naples.

One of my big concerns currently is getting a place during Christmas/New Years as everyone seems to wander to a different place during those times.



IN POMPEII

Super windy mixed with rain today.

Since everything seems to be 2KM plus away, after walking my usual 5km I have gone to hide in my room.

Which is a pity as I've not yet gotten to go wander around this area.

My initial impressions of Pompeii (I'm just going to switch to the old fashioned spelling instead of the new one) is that there seems to be two town centers.  One is the western - where I am - and the other - the eastern - is the tourist area.

The residents here are giving me some odd looks like 'why aren't you on the eastern side?'

I think I had one guy stop and demand money from me but I just said "I'm sorry I have no lighter" and walked on.  He looked confused and eventually just left.  No clue what was going on with that.

Note that if you ever need to say a fairly nonsensical thing it's always best to say something that even if that person ends up speaking perfect English (or whatever your language is) that it is not offensive in any way.  You should not say "I have no fucking lighter" as the only word he may pick up on is 'fucking' and think you have insulted him.  Also, you should stay away from any phrases that a stock reply can be used.

For example, never say "Do you speak English?" say instead "What do you think about the weather?"  That will tell you a lot more because everyone knows the first question and can lie if they wish.

Anyway, when it stops being like some sort of power wash outside (welcome to Italy's rainy season) I want to go explore the town.  The winds were so strong today that people were seeking refuge in doorways and stuff.  I was wondering if they were going to blow hard enough to dislodge roof tiles and such.



WHEN SUDDENLY

Shit went nuts.  I had to return to the USA unexpectedly and immediately.   Reasons I don't want to go into in the blog but let us just say the next 36 hours were a montage of Logan sitting in various forms of transport or in abandoned train stations.  Avoid Newark if you can.

Fortunately, I have amazing friends spread throughout the country and one of them - Mahmood - lived right in DC - on my route.  Within walking distance of the capital and all that.  So while I hole up here for a couple days on my way to Christiansburg, VA - I get to see a little of the capital.  When it is not raining.



COSTS

Spaghetti with two big meatballs, a bread basket and bottle of surprisingly good house wine (which was 4 EUR) and tip, 15 EUR.  Downside, the restaurant starts serving food at 7PM.  Why the fuck 7PM?  Italians eat dinner late.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

NAPLES, ITALY - the first three days

SUNDAY

Parts smell like urine wrapped around a dirty diaper.  They seem to have a street sanitation problem.

Loads of what appear to be poor African immigrants standing idly on the streets.  By day, people hustle.  I actually got to see the shell and pea game being played - classic.  Many people selling stolen cell phones.   Little bit of a Moroccan feel there but honestly this city reminds me a LOT of Hat Yai from Thailand.  I am (again) close to the train station, in a fairly grotty room in a city that I wonder 'why on earth are people interested in coming here'.

Seriously, I'd pair the two cities.

The hotel room I am staying in is within the low end of the spectrum for costs.  It's about $33 or so per night and best suited to people who are out wandering around all day.  Or sitting and crying in.  Either way.  How the fuck did it get two stars and why isn't someone docking them one and a half?

Was very happy I left some of my crap at Matt's.  My bag is only 26 KG this time - lightest it has been by about six kilos in quite some time.  If I could make it lighter, I would.

So happy I only booked it for three nights (they call that four days because people are dim) because I sure don't want to stay here any longer than I have to.   This is the kind of place you stay in while you research a better place to stay.  For normal tourists, they're not here long enough to really care.

The part that really baffles me is that all of the low end places (this is one) in the area seem booked up.  WTF.

Due to my failing physical health, it's becoming more and more important to find a place with an elevator in it.  Was wondering if I'd have a heart attack and die after humping my case up three long stories.  So happy it is down in weight from the norm.  If you are expecting people to help you with your case in hotels, chances are excellent you are paying over 100 euros a night!  Under that, nobody gives a fuck.

Interesting stuff while I was out and about.  As I have seen in other countries, there are black guys (always black guys) selling things on big pieces of cloth.  Every now and then, a police car with it's lights on slowly drives toward them.  They sellers gather up their stuff within the big cloth - like Santa - and take it away.  The cops are sure to turn on their lights and give them plenty of time to go away.  The sellers don't even run.

It seems to be an ongoing game they play and the cops don't want to do the paperwork of catching someone who will be out very soon anyway.

I'm a bit disappointed with my travel abilities.  I honestly think for the money I can do better.  I just need to do a bit more research - which I honestly hate having to do.

The internet where I am staying is fairly good - if rated against dial up.

Today is the hated Sunday - many things I want are closed.   Despite that, I managed to pick up a couple things I discovered I needed and a nice man at a more expensive hotel (over 100 euros per night for a room where they give a fuck) gave me a map and showed me the street I can find a lot of places that rent rooms.  He said they generally go for 300 euros or more per month.  If I can get into one of those (perhaps not in gang land territory) then that will put me on a different footing than the legions of tourists here.  And the suspicious people who want to check in to a hotel by themselves with no luggage.  Like the guy last night.  Was wondering what was up with him.

So if I can't find a place tomorrow I will begin working on renting a different place.


MONDAY

Well, some of the stuff was open but not what I was looking for.

Made a foray out into the rain (lots of rain) to attempt to find some real estate offices.  The one I was looking for on the internet was closed but I found two others.

They don't do one or two month rentals.

This sort of thinking is why Airbnb is taking over.

Did an assload of walking to discover that.

After doing a bunch of research on the internet, I found two different possible places.  I'm going to try to check them out tomorrow to see what I think.  I'd really like to find something better but it seems money has limited me.

Oh, to be rich!

If possible, I'd really like to view the places before booking.  I booked sight unseen at the place I'm currently at.  Although the water is hot (hurrah) it has a lot of stairs to reach the room.  And it's a bit small and grotty.  And worst of all, the wifi really sucks ass.  So, I'm hoping for better.

To throw an extra spanner into the works, Paypal now wants me to own some sort of old fashioned phone in the USA under my own name in order to flag my account saying I am traveling if I want money out of Paypal.  I know it's to prevent fraud but it is really a behind the times way of doing it.  So, money might be an issue for a bit.  Going to try to work on that as well.

We'll see tomorrow.  I felt like today was a bit of a waste.


TUESDAY

There was one place about 3km away that - on the website - looked really nice.  I hiked my ass out there to find that not only was it in an area that was all hilly but you had to go up three really long stories to get up there.  Every damned day.

The interior of the building also seemed to have construction going on inside and didn't look like it had ever been cleaned.

Whenever you find construction going on near where you are to be staying, run.  Run like you know an earthquake is coming.

So I went back to the second place I'd looked up.  Easy walk from the place I was staying.  Talked to the owner "Josephei" - forgive my guess at spelling - as in "Josephei - go for the eyes" from the Simpsons.  Yes, that is how I remember his name.

Never try to cut a deal with anyone who isn't the owner.  They usually don't really have the authority to do so and the owner may end up rolling it back.

Fortunately, Josephei is the owner.  I explained I was looking for a place for a month, possibly as long as three.  Wanted to try this place out.  He suggested 25 euros per night.  It's not bad for the area I'm in though I'm thinking I could probably find a place further from the center if I wanted to.  Paid him for a two night trial.

Due to my other place not having internet or working electrical outlets, I just turned in the key and left.  Still had one night in that depressing turd of a 'two star' if I wanted it.  Didn't.  One of the workers was trying to be helpful when he repeatedly warned me that evil black men would be snatching my bags and running off.  Sadly, I do have experience with knowing what the analyzing 'would this guy be worth robbing' look and must admit I got that several times from both black and white in that neighborhood.  Not a great look to get.  Especially since I dress like I am poor and strange.  That is super odd. 

I'd rather be in a bed and breakfast as the washing machine is usually included and this place is a bit claustrophobic.  It's essentially half a room that had some water damage come in from the roof.  Probably why I'm getting a better deal on it.

I don't think this will be the place I end up spending a great deal of time at.  I'm going to keep looking but may end up here after all.  I don't want to get caught out in 'suburb hell'.   The downside of this place is that it is super small and noisy.  The more I travel, the more I become convinced that rich people pay for silence.  I don't mean in the way Trump pays porn stars for their silence - I mean literal silence.  That's why rich people eat at places with very very softly playing music in the background, poor people with blaring crap.

It's my working theory.

After that I found that the last place I'd been staying in seems to have messed up my plug converter.  Went and got lucky finding more.  Bought a bunch - fuck being without one.

Went out looking for food.  Everything here seems to be fucking pizza - my least favorite food.  Did get lucky and found one that I didn't mind much but it is still my least favorite type of food.  Actually - least favorite vaguely American type of food.  My all time low point for food is probably anything I ate in Moldova.

Using one of my back up methods, managed to get some money from the ATM's.  Paypal is still on my shit list.

Seems like everything is a struggle thus far.  I am winning through but it's a bit of a pain in the ass trying to find my way.



MY THOUGHTS ON NAPLES THUS FAR

Honestly, I've not yet had time to go see historic shit.  To me, most of what I see looks like 'standard European town'.  Bit dirty in some places but not noticeably different than other places. 

My plan is to continue struggling to find a better place to stay.  While or after I get that taken care of, I shall 'deign to notice the town more'.  Yeah, that's right.  I used 'deign' in a sentence.  Give me some sort of prestigious writing award, chop chop.

Overall, not very impressed thus far.  It's 'meh' here.  I just want to find a comfortable (and fucking quiet) place I can afford to stay then hunker down for a few months.  Going to see stuff, neat. 

The costs here are making me very much miss Ukraine.  Probably one of the reasons I go there every couple of years.



COSTS

Claustrophobic not super nice hotel room within walking distance of city center - low end stuff is around 30 EUR.

Laundry (one load), 5 EUR.  (At first I was like 5 EUR?  But then I thought about it and it is probably 3 KG.  Normal price is 1-2 USD per kilo so this is a bit higher but not freaky high for the area.)

Cheap meal out - dreaded pizza or some shit, around 5-10 EUR.  Note that restaurants don't seem to open until 1PM here for reasons.  Before that only office and cake places are open.  Which I find super irritating. 




Saturday, July 21, 2018

Surgery! (Warning - after surgery pictures)

LOGAN GETS SOME SURGERY

Note - I'm trying to type this while it is fresh in my mind.  That means I am actually a bit dizzy and out of sorts (more on that later) but you will get it 'fresh'.

First of all Sergey & Roksana Panashchuk.  I cannot praise these people highly enough.  They went way the hell out of their way to help me out.  Calling taxis, looking for doctors, coming in to see the doctor, all that stuff.  Loads of work.    And not just for the hospital - pretty much my entire fucking stay in Ukraine.  Wow.

Stick little hearts around their names.  They are amazing people.  Simply amazing.

Without them I'm not sure where I'd be or how I'd be.

I would also like to give a special thank you to Julie J.  She is an actual nurse in the states.  I'll tell you, anything she tells me I pay attention to.  And she is happy to give me some advice to keep me alive.  Shower her with small dragon figurines!  Not the really pointy ones - just place those nearby.



DISCLAIMER!

There is nothing worse than some old fucker telling you about what all is wrong with them.  Getting their surgery and all that shit.  Nobody cares.  So why am I telling people?  Because any time I do, it seems that more people want to know about it.

This could be for several reasons including:

"Die, Logan, die!"
Want to find out what health care is like in other countries.
Enjoy the suffering of Logan
My audience is comprised partially of actual ghouls (Pickman's Model style)

So I am going into detail.  Otherwise, I'd just say "Had my gall bladder pulled out, feeling shaky" and move on.  If that's all the detail you need, I'd just close this entry and wait for the next blog, honestly.

I am always careful about giving this disclaimer as about two to three minutes after someone begins telling me about any sort of medical procedure I had not specifically asked to hear about, I begin rooting for the Grim Reaper.

"Please come kill this boring person!"


EXPLANATION

Sharp eyed readers may notice that some of the worlds are highlighted.  This is to make it easier for people who English is not their first (or fifth, whatever) language to be able to understand some of the more obscure terms I use.



WARNING

This blog contains some pictures which may make the reader projectile vomit onto their computer screen.  Read at your own discretion. 



PREQUEL

For the last couple months, I'd been having some nasty diarrhea.   Long time fans of the blog will know that is about as common as me going to a new country.  However, this was a lot more persistent. 

After a couple months, it was time to go in to see the doctor.



FIRST THE PRICES

Wanted to get these out of the way instead of holding them behind my back like a lame magician.

I forget exactly what the doctor (with all the tests) cost but it was under a hundred.  In fact, all of this stuff I'm going to write about totals out to under $500 USD.  For those from the USA, that amount of money is amazingly low, for those from what I personally consider more civilized countries (those with universal health care - just my opinion) will think that amount is 'crazy high'.

Also, yes, this was after haggling down.   It was about $60 less plus I got meds and tests thrown in for free instead of ala cart.  The actual price for just the surgery was 10,000 UAH for stay and surgery plus 1,000 UAH as a bribe (yes, really, not kidding) to the head of the department.  Because I am familiar with bribery (and have done it quite often for very minor things) I didn't do the 'indignant foreigner' thing.  I just said "So instead of the initial 15,000 UAH, we're down to 11,000 UAH?  Deal."  Always, always, always haggle.  (If you are bad at it or embarrassed to do it, either be rich or have friends with you that can do it.)

I did also try to haggle for a solo room.  Was told they didn't have any.  Got a solo room anyway.  Two beds in it but putting other people with 'the foreigner' doesn't fly with them.



ANALYSIS OF THE PROBLEM

Step one, Sergey and Roksana (after doing a bunch of research) found a close by hospital.  We went in there and they did an ultrasound. 

I asked if my baby was going to be OK.

Turns out no.

There was a 1mm big stone in there.  Until I saw it when they yanked it out, I didn't think that was that big.  Now, I think 'holy crap'.

Sergey distrusted this doctor.  He thought he was along the 'smile but don't help you' as opposed to 'gruff but helps you' type.  They only have those two different types here.  Nobody who is nice can help you, I guess?

Plus, this doctor did NOT want to operate on me.  He wanted me to wait till I got to the UK.  Operating on foreigners here - risky.  He was not up for it.


A couple days later, the pain and shitting had increased.  According to the internet 'chronic diarrhea' is crapping three times a day.  So I have triple chronic or some shit.


So Sergey and Roksana went back to researching even calling the landlord of the place I am renting.  When I asked "Oh god, why?" it is because he has contacts.  Old people have more contacts.  Apparently he (might) know someone at the State Hospital.  They operate on foreigners there.

Disclaimer:  I'm not sure if I was the first or if a foreigner had ever been operated on there.  Nobody mentioned it and usually people love to tell me about things like that. 

The hospital is actually older than Logan so in another forty years, it will be (according to American standards) an antique. 

Reminds me a bit of a school I went to in the 70's.

If the one working elevator breaks, you are fucked.

Grab a rack!  Note that an hour afterward, I got moved to a different room.

No, this is not for 'fun time'.  These beds do not go up or down - or even really move.  So if you want to pull your ass up into a sitting position, here's yer rope!



WHAT TO BRING TO THE HOSPITAL

Fucking everything.  The only thing you should really expect the hospital to supply is 'some of the stuff they will use for the surgery and that's about it'.  Towels?  Soap?  Toilet paper after you've been given a mixture guaranteed to make you shit out literally everything inside of you?  NO.  (Though in my case the surgeon was actually super nice and went and got me some.)

Where are you suppose to get all of this shit?

Unlike in many people in the USA where people have moved well the hell away from their family or are unmarried and such, the family unit in Eastern Europe is a huge deal.  The family is expected to bring all this stuff.  In some hospitals they may even have to feed their relatives.  When this happened to me back in Republic of Georgia, one of the nurses was kind enough to take some of my money out to get some horrible food for me at the market.

Gruel.  No, I have no idea what was in it.  Yes, of course I ate it.

Note that if you have special dietary concerns, you will have to pretty much bring all your own food.  You may even be considered 'weird', 'picky' or 'extra delicate' if you are a vegan, vegetarian, etc.  You can try to get around this in some countries by claiming a religious insanity.  But in the hospital, honestly I'm not sure.  BYOF.





THE PEOPLE (STAFF, DOCTORS, ETC)

Except for one lady (just one) everyone else there was super nice to me.  Being a foreigner when you are well away from anything 'touristy' is big clout. 

Rather than trying to take advantage of it (yes, locals haggle as well) I try to pay for their kindness by making them laugh and trying to entertain them just a little bit.  Their jobs are hard, icky and pay for shit here.  So I try to give them at least a smile for the day.


WHO SPOKE ENGLISH?

Well, after Sergey & Roksana had to leave (these guys work hard for their money and put a lot of hours into it) it suddenly turned out that the surgeon's English was 'just fine'. 

This is part of an infuriating problem I've seen in loads of countries.  Unless someone speaks 'perfect' English (or thinks they do) they are super reluctant to speak any.  Hell, I know 20-30 works of Russian and I use those daily.  And I am often told I mispronounce some of them. 

Once you slaughter their language enough, I find that either the people begin to feel they're not going to be made fools of for some piffling grammatical error or they want revenge for what you did to their language.  Either way, with about half of the people you can eventually get them to work with you.



GOOGLE TRANSLATE

But google translate really kicked ass.

Tips for using Google translate in the real world:

     Short statements only.  For some reason, the longer your statement is (even if comprised of different sentences) the more crazy the translation gets.  No idea why this is.

     Simple statements only.  Try to say it in such a way that it cannot be misunderstood.

     No catch phrases or sarcasm.  Blunt and direct only.


And other patients got press ganged into translating.  I tried to make up for it by later going into their room, chatting with them.  It ended up being a whole bunch of staff in there as I was telling a funny story.  Not nearly as cool as the scene from the movie 'What About Bob' but Bill Murray I am not.



THE REAL COST

I'm sure a lot of people out there would say "I would never want to get X surgery outside of the USA!"

How much money is just the surgery worth to you?
How much to be able to understand doctors and nurses with more accuracy?
How much for a very nice looking hospital room?

Is it worth tens of thousands of dollars?  Bankruptcy? 

To some people, perhaps.  To me, that's 'crazy talk'.  I try to stick with what I can actually afford.


AND NOW, THE PICTURES

I buried them down here so that nobody would accidentally see them.  You really have to want to see this stuff if you're scrolling down this far.

They don't have 'straws' at this hospital.  They found a way around it.

I felt a bit sorry for the nurse that had to shave my belly.  It was hairy - and vast.

After I checked in and paid (gots to pay first!), the surgeon went out and bought this.  "What is that?" Logan asked.  "Everything needed for your surgery." he said and left it in my room.  Wow.

So I'm just laying there in the bed and all the sudden four nurses come charging in with some sort of 1940's type of machine with sucker cups on it.  I have NO idea what is going on.  They stick them to me.  I convince them to take a photo of me.  They do.  Then, they take all the stuff and leave.  I'm sure the machine did something useful - I just don't know what.  Or care.  The photo is enough.

Of all the weird painful shit that happened, this was the one that initially scared me the most.  I've been told (by the wise Sergey) that basically this translates into a request for them to do surgery on me.  CYOA.

A couple of the wonderful staff that work there.  The taller one began pulling out what looked like hand made boxes which I immediately took pictures of.  Turns out she was trying to sell these.  Because men do not typically use/need/want/understand such things, I totally missed that, said "Lovely - I will take some pictures of them." and did so.  Here they are:



I think this may be a rather clever sewing box.  If I had a TARDIS and infinite cash, I might have lots of weird stuff in there.



AND NOW, THE GROSS SHIT

They had me walk into the operating room wearing only a T-shirt.  No underwear.  Bit awkward but I remembered the wise words of many nurses before "You have nothing we've not seen hundreds of times."  Which is true.  The above is a great example why when they tell you that you should keep your shirt on you should say "Fuck that!"  Funny fact - this is my Miskatonic University shirt - so now it has just a bit more horror.

Most painful memory within this hospital - I was actually fighting against the nurses when I first came out of the operating room.  Not really a conscious decision - I was just in blinding pain.  I was trying to lie on my side hoping it would decrease it.  All of them managed to hold me down.  Bad times.  Was that the most physical pain I'd ever been in?  Not sure - top ten for sure.

And now, the slow ramp up of 'stuff Logan found had been done to him while he was unconscious'.

I don't know (or particularly care) what all these tubes were for.

Finding this big ass thing, partially filled with blood is now hanging off you - not good.

And bigger!

And THIS was what it was all about.  Photographed next to an aspirin.  I really thought it would be the shape and size of a rattlesnake's tail.  Especially given what it felt like.  Is this the whole thing or just the stone?  I have no idea.



HOW DID I LEAVE THE HOSPITAL?

Honestly, I pretty much just walked out.  The doctor had told me the day before that the next day I'd be checking out.  And then he disappeared.  

No information on how to not catch an infection, what to do with my bandages, etc.

After being told I'd be discharged 'in the morning' and waiting till close to four PM, I asked the nurses if I needed any anti-biotics (etc) - they said no, I left.  No paperwork, etc.  Totally different than most hospitals.

They did ask if I was going to take the unused needles and chemicals.  The ones that I had no idea what they were for, how to use them, etc.  No.  I'll do a follow up visit here in five days then maybe another follow up when I get to the UK.



AND THE KICKER

On my way out, I ran into (not literally) an ancient guy who was there getting something else out.  He showed it to me.  It was way cooler and scarier looking than whatever the hell they pulled out of me.  I have no idea why this hospital sends people home with shit that came out of them but they do!



AND AFTER I GOT HOME

More fuckery.   (Yes, my friends this is a real word!) 

I felt like I was going to pass out.  Nearly shit myself.  Slammed my fingers in a door on accident.  Had gone in the hard rain to the store a three blocks away.  Told a guy I needed plastic wrap.  He pointed out paper wrap that looked just like fucking plastic wrap.

пластик plastik - Russian
пластик plastyk - Ukrainian

Note - it sounds the same.  Hence, I now think the guy I asked - who works there - may be a bit dim.  Ah well. 

Since I was given no information about what to do with my bandaged wounds and apparently buying plastic wrap to cover them is not possible (who the fuck uses paper to cover their food?) I chopped up a shopping bag and used some tape I'd liberated (took) from the hospital.  The tape was part of my 'bag of shit' so all good.



IN CONCLUSION

Yes, it was a bit of suffering.  Yes, it did feel a bit like 'Doctor Nick' as Joseph O. pointed out on Facebook.  But I could afford it.  And I'm happy to have survived.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

LOGAN VISITS THE DOCTOR

RANDOM SHIT IN UKRAINE


Went with my buddies in Ukraine to buy a cheap chair today.

The chairs that came with the place I am renting - not comfortable.  The mind can only absorb what the ass can endure or some such.  My ass was unhappy.

So we went to the mall.

It's a nice two story deal that has customers unlike in the USA where they are mostly dead due to Amazon.

Anyway,

The people in Ukraine are not that 'expressive' to people they don't know.  I suspect this is because of the 'bad ole days' (USSR) when if you looked happy it meant you had gotten a new refrigerator from the KGB for informing on your former neighbor or some such.

So when people working in stores see me 'being Logan' they either stare like 'I think he may actually be crazy' or try to keep from cracking up and try to hide it.

But I've studied Paul Ekman so I know.

The poor ladies at the furniture store. 

But, my clowning around often has a positive effect.  People admitting they speak some (or even good) English.

Being able to not take myself at all seriously helps others to open up, just a bit.

Another interesting thing - taxis here show the same attitudes people had toward seat belts in the 1970's (to the best of my recollection).  When I start putting them on, they often say (in Ukrainian or Russian) things like "You don't need that" and "Why are you putting that on" or "What are you doing?  Don't do that!" to which I respond (in English because I'm not that slick) "Hey, I've seen how they drive here.  I'm going to go for that 'double chance to live' thanks."

Turned out our taxi driver spoke a bit of German today.  That was a nice surprise so we did a bit of chatting.



UKRAINE UPDATE (posted to Logan's Voyage Facebook page 3 JUL 18)

I've fallen into a daily rhythm living in this small town in Ukraine.

Every day, I wake up (a needed step), putter around for a bit on the computer then go out for my walk and to get some food.   Get stared at by unsmiling locals who think I may be mad.  In many of the countries once ruled by Russia, smiling is not done outside of friends and family.  Also, the locals might be right.  I've found that (like with many countries) the locals may just be a bit freaked out because they don't get many tourists here.  When you start talking to them they are fine.  So don't take the looks you get while wandering around personally - just chalk it up to culture.  Remember - Russia had to try to teach it's people to smile at others (and not beat up too many gays) for the big month long football thing they had.  Cultural difference.

Come back, shower up, write.  Eventually, dinner comes from an excellent service, MisterAM (https://misteram.com.ua/chernigov)  Which is great because they can bring food from loads of different restaurants.

How do I feel about Ukrainian food?  If you were to put all of the food from all of the countries in a line with one side being great and the other Moldovia, Ukraine food would be somewhere in the middle.  I am not a fan but it keeps my belly full.

Eventually, give up writing and switch to drinking and watching movies or youtube until I go to sleep.  Maybe play some video games.

Once a week I meet up with my good friends - a married couple who live in this town.  We go to the mall so they can buy needed food and I can buy junk food.  I don't cook or want to.

That's about it. 

In a bit less than a month, I will be back in England running the table top RPG which is made into a podcast (https://anchor.fm/ataw for those interested) as well as on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2TZucbqPpz9Bx8rz57Wbmg/playlists) 

After three months of that, I will find somewhere to go hang out for the winter time.  It will either be in economically fucked Greece or perhaps the south of France.  I'm done with northern Africa and don't want to return to Asia yet again for a long while.

That's my update!



YET MORE RANDOM (LITERAL) SHIT IN UKRAINE

This is the headline hospital story.  For some reason (bastards) I can't understand, tales of Logan's pain and suffering top the charts.  Otherwise, I wouldn't bother telling people about my various physical ailments.  It's something old people love to do  - they don't have much else going on - but nobody cares.

Except apparently people reading this blog.  Watching Logan suffer is like a public execution.  Good clean fun for the whole family.

Warning!


This post deals with horribly disgusting stuff.  If you are offended by such things - well, it's a minor miracle you read this blog at all for starters. 


But this is pretty gross. 


Turn away now.


Still with me?


Right - you've been warned off but yet you are still here.


For the last two or three weeks, my belly has been making increasing loud noises.  Painful gas and my shit has been the combination of a soft serve ice cream server with a high pressure air hose.

That mental imagery is now stuck in you mind.  The next time you have anything remotely resembling that sort of bowel movement, you will think of the ice cream being blasted by an air hose.

It's a thing of beauty and horror.  But mostly horror.  Well, not much in the way of beauty. 

Let's start with a good quote:

Movie:  Formula 51 quote from Shirley DeSouza: "Well, shit in a bag and punch it!"

That's where this story starts out.

Logan attempting to shit into a bag.

I've got some very good Ukrainian friends here - Sergey and Roksana.  They help me out a lot when I come to Ukraine.  This time in particular.  They were the ones that helped me find a place to stay - even did the equivalent of co-signing for me since the landlords were freaked out to have some short stay non-Ukrainian speaking foreigner rent their house.

Way beyond the call of duty.  Amazing people.

So Roksana had gone out and bought me a 'collect your own shit and put it into this small tube' thing from the pharmacy.  I expressed surprise, then concern when I saw it. 

Then the poor lady had to explain to me that 'in Ukraine, this is how it is done' then go into some particulars.

I don't remember how I had to turn in shit in the USA but I remember it all took place at the facility and was not a big deal.  And I was absolutely not scraping my shit into a small cheap sample jar with a plastic knife left over from one of the take outs.

Not a great morning.

And the sample jar did not have a lot to show for it, thus proving my body works against me any chance it can get.  This is why I like punishing it with alcohol and an occasional Q-Tip into the brain.

At the facility I also gave blood.

There was a ton of work for a small sample, but as soon as I left the facility, I found myself rushing to a bathroom in the mall where suddenly UGGG.  Complete with all those sound effects. 

Then again on the way home he tried for another performance but I managed to get the 4.5KM home (I walked from the testing facility for some odd reason) before a repeat performance.

Thanks body.

After that was spent lying in bed aside from typing out this. 

More will happen tomorrow and I'll write about it then.  Some of the blood tests will be done (we hope) before I see the doctor tomorrow so we'll see what happens.

Total cost for two blood tests and one feces test:  About $40/36EUR/31GBP/56AUD.

(It's fun to think that with the exception of AUD I use all of those currencies regularly.  I do hope to visit Oz some day.)

The next day...

You guys are lucky to be able to read it like this.  I had to wait around to the next day to actually come.

Anyway.

Sergey and Rox showed up, we went to a pretty typical Eastern European hospital.  Lots of different corridors with offices built in the most depressing style possible.  While the west calls it 'brutalist architecture', Sergey tells me that here it is called 'Social Realism'.  Funny and depressing.

Paid some money, got an MRI.  I asked the lady if my baby would be OK or not.

Not sure how much Sergey translated.   It is probably best that he does not translate all of the random crap I say.

Anyway, they found a 1mm gall stone.

It's bad but how bad?  The doctor was saying 50/50 a lot when we consulted with him later and prescribed a couple very expensive medicines I should take. 

I asked how much he thought the surgery would be and he estimated around $220 - but I couldn't get it here because I would be flying back to the UK soon.    Plus, there is a fear of doing the surgery here because having a foreigner die on your operating table seems to freak them out.  So I'm stuck.  If they had said "Give us a couple hundred dollars and hop up on this table" I'd have said "Let's do this."  But no.  The changes in air pressure and fear of operating on foreigners - they advised I 'wait and see'.

So I may have to have a surgery in the UK.  If they'll do it.   I'll go consult with a doctor to see what is happening.

But according to Sergey - who was doing the translating and talked to me afterward - the doctor seemed to flip flop a lot in what he was suggesting.  Sergey suggested he might be a shit doctor and advised me to get it checked out in the UK.

So it's looking like I will have to do that.  Google says there is a UK hospital 3KM from where I live so I'll walk my fat ass over there and see how it would work to get treated there.  Does this thing really need to come out?  Will it solve itself?

There are some absolutely horrifying signs I can watch for to see - I am told - that bad things are now happening. 

Itchy skin.
My eyes turn yellow.
My skin turns yellow and I become Homer Simpson.  D'oh.

That is terrifying.  Especially if I start acting like Homer.

The doctor of course said "You will have to change your eating habits..."

I smiled and whispered "I don't think that will happen."

Doctor:  "And you should lose a lot of weight."

Logan:  "It is obvious I lack the willpower to do that."

Doctor:  (Said some other stuff).

Logan:  (Pondering to himself:  I wonder if alcohol will affect this?  Hum.)

Poor Sergey was distraught with my cavalier attitude toward possible impending death.

"I've had a remarkable run." I told him.  This did not reassure him for some reason.

So we'll see what happens. 


Total cost:

Consulting with a doctor
Having an ultrasound
Getting double the dosage of some freaky expensive medicine

Total:  About $100.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

UZHHOROD? OR IS IT UZHGOROD? OR IS IT...?

UZH

Depending on who you talk to, there seems to be different spellings to the town's name I'm hanging out in currently.

Everyone agrees on the first three letters, so I'll call it that.

This is because of the horrible Cyrillic alphabet which they stick to despite logic as America does to it's 'Imperial Measurement System'.  Because humans are like that.



After leaving my friends in their little town and heading back to Kyiv (Kiev?  Fuck it) I went back to the same hotel.  "You should have me on file."

They told me I was lucky that I'd booked ahead as there were no rooms left.  They checked my passport and said "We have your booking right here." 

Struck me as odd because I'd made no booking - but fine, I'll go with it.  Weird shit happens to me.

I started pulling out money but the lady announced the room was all paid for. 

Nope, nope, nope.  It could have been that they gave someone else's booking to me or that someone booked for me or they had gone crazy.  I'll take a booking - but someone else's paid room?  Even if I offered to pay it would end up with unhappy people getting there, passports compared and Logan getting the ole heave ho at some strange hour out of the hotel.

After checking the information the lady had I discovered that the "H" in my first name was where the similarities ended in the booking info.

And they have no space.

"Great - let me put my bags into your storage and please call me a taxi."

The whole reason I'd gone to Kiev as to get my passport done.  I'd gotten to spend some time with my friends as a happy byproduct.  So I wanted to head to the embassy to pick up my finally completed passport.

The embassy was about 20 minutes away and I discovered they were closing in ten minutes.  Well, shit.  So I had the hotel call (and put me on with) the embassy and I explained the situation and asked if someone would be around for an additional 10 minutes or so after close.  Yes.  Thank goodness.

So I rush out to the waiting cab, hop in and we set off to - oh.  Well, shit.  He wants to talk to me about Jesus.  I always wish these people would head off to somewhere they could get martyred for their faith when they do that.  It's a win win - they think getting martyred will get them into Heaven.


Where as I am thinking that it will not only get that person out of my face but raise the intellect of the remaining humans a smidgen. 

But it didn't.  He kept nattering on about his prayer did wonders.  "But doesn't god have a plan for everything?" I asked.  "Well, maybe not  this thing."  He responded.  "I thought God knew everything - no?"

Oh the ego of the god botherers. 

So I've just gotten off a three hour train ride.  Found out I have no where to stay.  Might be stuck in Kiev again.  Might not get there in time to get a passport.  And I have some guy trying to convince me that he can 'tilt' the inter-dimensional pinball machine by his actions.  Sure god might already know what will happen - he just likes to hear you beg for it.

I jumped out of the cab (my version which is painful and slow) and headed up to the guard.

"Do you have an appointment?" asked the external guard.

"Yes.  Yes I do." I said looking him right in the eye.

Eventually, I got in to the embassy - ten or fifteen minutes after closing time and a nice lady gave me my passport.  Hurrah! 

Headed back to the taxi.  Thought about it a bit and had the cab driver drop me off at the train station.  Even when I said it in Russian he seemed confused by it.   And then when I told him "The one 1.1 KM from the hotel you picked me up at!"

"You want go to hotel?"  Talking about Jesus had exhausted the finite quantity of his English.

"VOX-ALL!" I said sharply and loudly. 

I got dropped off at the train station.   I was in a fucking mood, I'll tell you.

It may be a Russian custom - not sure - but they have a window and only one person works at that window.  They clutter up a good deal of the window with the notices of when that person will be on break.  When that person is on break, the window is closed.  Rather than being a bit more professional and having more than one person working per window, they close it intermittently.  So you get lines of 20-30 people hanging out waiting for the person to get back from break.

So the wait began.  After half an hour at last the lady could see me.  She didn't want to see me.  No Russian or Ukrainian, no interest.  She sent me to a different window where the lady was...you guessed it - on break.

Mutherfucker, I thought darkly.

Eventually, I got to see the 'international' lady who didn't speak much English.  A couple of important words ('seat', 'wagon', 'no dining car', etc) but why they called it international is a mystery.  Maybe she just had more patience with foreigners.

Wanted a first class (12 hours!) ticket on an express train but I told her (asked and answered three times!) that I did not want a berth I had to climb up to.  I don't climb so good.  I'd actually be amazed if I can climb.  Walking is often rough for me.

Though she kept assuring me it was a bottom berth, I kept thinking I was going to get fucked.

Surprisingly, I didn't!

Anyway, I had a couple hours to kill so I went and got dinner at a fairly fancy hotel.

Went there for this:



But ended up having this (because people were wondering why I wasn't having 'Chicken Kiev' while I was in Kiev).


Honestly - it was underwhelming. 


After the couple hours of downtime, hoped back onto the twelve hour train ($20 to ride across the countryside!) and met some nice people.  It seems that every train ride I go on, I meet people who speak English.  Helpful and nice.  Good deal.

Got a little sleep - but I've nodded off twice so far while writing this.  Let's see if we can push through the rest real quick.

Arrived to morning rain in UZH.  Tried to get a taxi to take me to a place that showed (on my dying phone) as 1.4 or so KM outside of the town center but he took me to a place that is over eight KM from the town center.

Meh!  Tomorrow, I will try to be back in UZH.




A story of Logan in Ukraine:

So I'm out eating with my good friends when I said "Dirka".



Sergey:  "You shouldn't say 'Dirka' to the waitress - it sounds like 'hole' (like 'fuck hole') in Russian.

Logan:  "Oh my gosh I wasn't trying to insult her..."

Sergey:  "I didn't think you were - "

Logan:  "I was attempting to slander an entirely different group of people!"

Monday, April 30, 2018

Back in Kiev

AND OVER TO UKRAINE

I wasn't feeling particularly good on the day I left.  Upset stomach and all of that.

The people on British Airways were kind enough to let me destroy the first class restroom.  I've never been a fan of contortions but fat people on airlines...

Arrived in Kiev, Ukraine.  It was about then I realized I'd totally forgotten to research to find out where to go.

Just touched down in a city - no schedule, no hotel reservations.  What would you do? 

I said 'Fuck it'.  Go with the flow.

Went to the information desk.  "What's the bus into the city?" 

"Bus three two two."  She had me repeat it to make sure I got it.  Went outside and asked around.  Found the bus.  It had no numbers on it and nobody knew what I was talking about.  "City?"  Da.  Cool.

Got on it.

Always ignore or politely get rid of any taxi drivers within the airport unless you are in really unusual circumstances.  They are there to rip you off.  Since I'd arrived during normal business hours (close to noon, two PM something like that) the bus was fine.

Got on it, paid my $4 and sat back to see where I'd end up. 

Main train station.  My escape.  Cool.

While there, I picked up a Ukraine sim card.  It was cheap enough that I've already forgotten how much it costs.  Now I have internet, ho ho ho.

Looked up a hostel, found one that looked pretty good just a few blocks from the train station.  Drug my baggage over there and - it's closed down awhile ago.  Just nothing to change it on the internet.  Questioned the locals, even talked to the lady who bought the place.  My Russian still sucks horribly but I am starting to remember what little I know of it.

Hostels are often fly by night places.

Eventually, I found a place that offered a really horrible shared room for $4 and a solo room that you couldn't open the door all the way for $12 and a larger miserable room that had it's own bathroom and stank for $22.  After staying there for a night, I determined that it would not do to stay there for a week or ten days while the US Embassy worked out my passport woes.

Went exploring early the next morning.  Never book a place for multiple nights when you first get somewhere if you have time - get up early and try to upgrade your situation.

Checked out a chain (Ibis) which wanted $70 to $90 per night.  In Ukraine.  Crazy, crazy.

Went to a fancy hotel and bargained the price down to $34.  It's more than I can really afford (price started at $50 and it is 'high season') and eventually I may move to a place Sergey suggests well away from the city center which costs $23, but for right now, this will do. 

So on day two I got a $4 taxi out to the embassy - which was closed.

I'd forgotten the second biggest holiday in all Slavic countries, May Day.

Those who watched old footage of the Cold War (which I lived through and even worked in) will recall big military parades when missiles would replace the Soviet leader's penis and be rolled out for inspection.  That May Day.

Still a big thing, apparently.

Well, shit.

So now it is Monday.  I have been told to try back on Wednesday.  Maybe they will be open and back then.  Cool.

I hate staying at expensive places and I'm not much into Kiev either.  Looking forward to visiting my friends here then GTFO back to Lviv and then checking out Uzhhorod

In conclusion, it is possible to land on your feet traveling by the seat of your pants - but the more expensive of country you are in the riskier it is.  I would  never do this in an expensive country.




TTRPG OLD WAR STORY

One of the stories I like to tell is about a newbie vampire (not a bright player at all) who shifted into a wolf - and fumbled the roll.

Me: "Good news and bad news - you've shifted into a wolf but you're stuck like that for the adventure."

Him: "No problem!"

And it wasn't - until he came up with what he thought was a brilliant idea and wanted desperately to communicate it to the rest of the party.

Party: "What's the matter, boy? Is little Timmy trapped down the well?"

Him: "I want to write with a stick in my mouth!"

Me: "Tell you what - you're in a super unfamiliar form. It's really awkward for you. But I'll make you a deal. You can stick a pencil in your mouth and write in the dirt outside. If any of the players can read it, then your character can seamlessly communicate."

The other players were of no help, rolling in laughter and suggesting the wolf try 'interpretative dance' to communicate. No - the stick didn't work.





OLD EGYPT STORY

Desert story.  OK - this is a real life story (maybe it can be used in a game) that happened to me back in the early 90's. 

I was in Egypt with two fellow travelers.  Two of us had decided that the anal ways of the third traveler were getting to us and if he died, we were strangely comfortable with that.

At that time (maybe now, didn't try last time I was in Egypt) it was possible to ride horses in the literal shadow of the pyramids.

The guy renting the horses asked us about our horse riding skill.  I told him I'd ridden a bit - while no expert I was comfortable on a horse.  My friend Mustafa had never ridden before but was agile.  The other guy we were thinking about maybe killing (I hadn't mellowed back then) Hunter claimed to be a 'great rider'. 

So we got on the horses and were ambling along.  Mustafa seemed comfortable and he asked the guy in Arabic (he was fluent) if it were possible to make the horses go faster.

The horse master renter guy had a stick with a bit of string tied to it and a knot on the end of the string.  He flicked it and I swear, it sounded like a gunshot.  No idea how.

Suddenly, the horses were at a full gallop.  I enjoyed it (fuck cantor, walk or gallop are the only good speeds) - Mustafa had his arms spread way too wide clutching the reins but seemed to be doing fine.

Hunter was obviously uncomfortable at this speed.   He attempted to slow down the horse by giving it plenty of reign, moving his weight a bit forward, lowering his head and lifting his rump.  In short, things a jockey wanting to win the Kentucky Derby might.

Mustafa and I both began chanting 'die' as Hunter's saddle began to be displaced with the weight as Hunter began to slide off the right of his horse.  Big,  head sized rocks zipped by.  Eventually, the horse became so overbalanced with the 'great rider' it had to slow down.

Mustafa and I were both disappointed.  At that point, Hunter decided that traveling by himself to a different continent might be better.  Everyone was happy.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

UKRAINE PLANNING

[Story from when I was living in Cambodia.  No idea why it didn't get published but here you go.]

MOUSE OR RAT?

Thinking that I am well use to Asia.

Picked up my shirt and a mouse or rat (I don't know vermin) scurried out from under it and ran off. 

Didn't flinch or yell, just started 'old man grumbling', shook out shirt then put it on.  Then, remembered the whole 'black death' thing, took it back off.  Got clean shirt.  More grumbling.

Went down to desk, told them about vermin. 

You can really tell when the whole language barrier thing kicks in.  Once you get off the well trodden paths, it's all barbed wire and thorns.  Googled a picture of a mouse and said 'in room now'.  Googled a picture of a mouse trap.  "Need!" 

I have no idea what he said after that.  With things off of the West Germanic or Latin language trees there is a chance.  With Khmer, no chance unless they are saying 'thank you'. 

No - I have no idea what language tree Khmer is from.  The one I found seems a bit more euro-centric. 

Anyway, after I'd left, the desk guy went into my room and put a plate with some cheese surrounded by sticky stuff.  Apparently it works really well as the mouse was caught by the time I'd returned from my walk.

If things like mice, cockroaches, poisoned water (I've managed not to get conjunctivitis so far by treating the water as partial poison) etc bother someone, I do not recommend traveling on a budget to Asia. 

Heck, even those who are traveling on a lot more money might get sick as I found out from my buddy Carolyn. 

Note - I personally still think it is worth it (traveling to Asia) and I'm looking forward to reading Carolyn's thoughts on it when she gets those down.

But I wanted to warn the more...mmmm.... discerning.



ONCE IN ENGLAND

It was time for me to do some research on my next jump.  I had decided on Ukraine.

There is a little city named Uzhhorod in the far west of the country that looked like it might bear some hanging out in.  And it is somewhat close to Lviv.

The problem is that airports like to put you back from whence you were.  I deeply suspect that the people are a bit anal retentive and rock back and forth violently if people don't do things in the normal fashion.

I wanted to fly into Lviv then take a train to Uzhhorod however I discovered there was no USA consulate there.  Only in Kiev.  Seven hours away.  Super.  So I would have to fly in to Kiev then take a seven hour train to Lviv then further transport west to Uzhhorod. 

I could either spend close to double for my plane ticket to fly into Kiev then out through Lviv or I could just suck up a couple days transport and go into and out of Kiev. 

What a pain in the ass.

I would like to get my passport updated however.

Yes, I know I could go back to Tblisi (Georgia - the country not the state) and get it done there however after spending close to a year there I think with the exception of perhaps visiting some friends briefly in the future I would instead want to explore other parts of Georgia when I go back.  I do like that country.

So it looks like I will be stuck on a lot of trains and such. 

Speaking of that, after the 1980's, the cost of trains in Europe (western Europe) became stupidly high.  For short scenic trips, probably great.  Looking at the travel time (a few hours vs over a day of travel) I'd rather go by air anyway.

I think I'll get enough train travel in Ukraine.

More when I figure out more!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Thoughts and Reminiscences

I am currently in Cambodia.  Three more weeks to go here then it's back to England.  Hopefully, I've missed out on some of the worst of the cold parts though February is going to still probably be fairly miserable.  We'll see when I get there.   I am looking forward to getting to see my buddy Matt again.







Cambodian Bottle Shop



I always talk to local folks

a) with some respect (they are humans - but still) and

b) as though they can actually understand more English than they let on.

[Also, people notice I tend to slow down my rate of speech by say 10% and I use no 'sayings' and such.  Just very vanilla speech.  I've been told often more than once per week I am super easy to understand compared to other English speakers who just talk loudly.]



A lot of people don't.  No idea why.  It could be that they are dicks. 



So I am buying some pineapple juice ($1.50/L) at a 'bottle shop' (not really as these are in cardboard) and was noticing the way the lady was 'messing up her English' with Cambodian was not consistent. 



"Why you speak English so good?" I asked.  I was trying a sideways tack because saying "Why are you faking a bad accent" probably wouldn't get me far.



The old (60? +?) lady gave me a long contemplative look and said "I use to live in the United States."



"For how long?" I smiled.



"Twenty years."



We both had a good laugh.  Since that time, I've noticed when she talks to me it is a lot more 'fluent' than she is talking to other tourists though softer.  I have suspicions why but don't really care to ask her.  Don't even know if she is conscious of it.  Code switching and all that.







Rant on spending money



Was talking to an Ozzy.  He asked how much the rooms were at Viva.  I told him for a long stay you can get them for as little as $13. 



He told me the place he was staying in was $80 per night.



I'm thinking "How?  WTF are you getting extra for that?"



Don't get me wrong - if my budget was a lot more, I'm sure I could find a way to spend it but here?  It doesn't make a lot of sense to do so.  To me.



Yes, I've met the kind of people who paid an extra $20 per night for the exact same room I had but theirs had a nice garden outside of it they would pass on their way in or out.  No - they didn't spend any extra time in the garden.  They did not sit around and take drinks in it.  They would just briefly pass it on the way into or out of their room.  So that moved their room price up to three times what I was paying.  And they felt it was worth it. 



Things Logan just does not understand.







The story of Logan's Leg



DISCLAIMER: I only tell this medical story because someone may find it amusing. If you are sick about old people telling you what their medical problems are and thinking "Well, shit - hurry up and die then you old bastard", know I am right there with you. There is nothing more tedious than old people telling you their woes and not being able to shove them into a Futurama style Suicide Booth. If I was getting standard medical treatment in western style hospitals (as I have for some things in the past) you'd never hear about it. This might provide some mild amusement or illuminate you on what getting medical treatment is like in other countries. So please don't shove me into a suicide booth. I don't have a quarter on me anyway.



Decided to go see the doctor because the muscle in my right leg was hurting. Kind of a burning. Usually it kicked in after I'd walked 4-6KM but I'd felt a bit while I was trying to sleep. Since it is getting worse, figured I'd go to the doctor and see what is up.



Since it was DEC 30th, I was informed there would be no doctors around (at all) for a few days. I'm not sure who it was I got to speak with. He had a white coat and a doctor style mask so I figured he must be OK.



He asked me to write down what I wanted to tell him. This is a normal tactic for people who went to a middling or crappy school that teaches foreign languages. They often have teachers whose pronunciation is so horrible that nobody can figure out what they are saying. That's what happens when the school is too cheap to hire a foreigner. So the reading and writing end up exceeding the speaking - especially when the student talks to natives and discovers how bad their teacher sucked.



"You want drugs? Good drugs for pain?" he asked.



"I'd like to find out what is wrong first - also I take other drugs - will new drugs like old drugs or no like?" I asked. It sucks to try to figure out about harmful drug interactions with someone who I don't share a fluent language with.



But I do like that I get offered pain killers everywhere I go. Better than getting offered euthanasia. I fear that may be the next step for a lot of doctors when they see me.



So I wandered off. Decided to just suck it up, hope it wasn't a harbinger of something more serious and just walk around.



Happened upon a clinic. "Fuck it!" I said.



"Money consult doctor?" I asked after establishing their English skills. Most foreigners get frustrated when people don't speak their language. They then refuse to simplify what they are saying and speak more slowly. These inconsiderate people need a slapping.



"Five dollars." I then confirmed it a couple times with hand signals until I was sure this was correct. Nothing better than when they don't know the difference between five, fifty and five hundred. But yeah - five bucks.



Great. I sat down and watched them try to take my blood pressure.



My arms aren't that big but I make Asian people look tiny. I think I could actually eat one of them. Sure, I might be hungry again in a couple hours but - oh gosh was that insensitive and racist. Fortunately, I am old. Not as bad as your old racist grandmother who still refers to blacks with slurs but still. OK - I'm fat. Huge.



Though my arms aren't all that big it was still more than the little BP collar they had could take.



Ever watch some lady try to hold a stethoscope, pump a blood pressure collar and hold it together all at the same time? That's great entertainment.



They brought a bigger one and did it. They didn't tell me what my BP was or comment at all on it. I wonder if it was a 'yes' 'no' thing for them. "Does the patient have blood running through their system? If yes, continue on. If no, get payment first then continue on.



The doctor's English here was a bit better than the other place. Told him my problem. "I think your blood is not moving around on that leg so well." Neat.



Logan: "Well, walking helps, right?"



Doc: (Pause) "Not you."



Logan: (Pause) "Shit. Well, I'm still going to walk. I'm too fat."



Doc: (Shrugs)



Logan: "Any way to test this to see if you are right?"



Doc: "Not here. Maybe Thailand."



Logan: (Named off other hospital).



Doc: "No - not in Cambodia. Need to inject tracer fluid and watch."



Logan: "Shit."



Doc: "I give you drugs. Keep legs up. Sleep with legs up. Sit with legs up."



Logan: "I can't do the legs up thing but I'll take the drugs." (What a world where the best medicine can do is 'keep your legs up.)



Cost of medicine: $6.25.



No idea if they will help but I was told to take them for a week.



[Follow up after all the medicine was taken.  If they did help, they managed to do so covertly.]







FLASHBACK - GERMANY



(Sometime in the late '80's or early '90's.)



Back in the old days when I lived in Germany, I was riding a street car.



Yeah - they have them.



Anyway - there was some guy who was trying to make a left turn and made the mistake of going into the street car lane.



The street car run it's bell at him several times but he just sat there - waiting for traffic.



The street car driver radioed in, then slowly advanced on the car and pushed it out of the way.



Needless to say, the driver was freaking the hell out. Germans LOVE their cars. And his was being destroyed.



Everyone in the street car was wildly cheering.



The polizei showed up and arrested the driver.



It was excellent! They are really in to keeping their schedule there.







FLASHBACK - IL - 90's?



Long ago (15 years? More?) I was with some young lady - don't remember who - it was a co-worker - driving in my car down the highway when I was literally surrounded by police cars. One in front, one in back, one on each side. And they just kept their pacing. Because I always drive at or under the speed limit (and have never had a warrant out for me), I just kept driving.



The girl freaked the fuck out. "What's going on?" she demanded.



I looked at her and said something lame like "I have no idea." I wish I'd said "You know - I should have probably told you that I smuggle uranium." or something like that.



I think the cops either didn't notice me, were fucking with me (likely) or just wanted to give me a brief police escort.



Eventually, (maybe they ran my plates or just got bored) they all sped away.









PRICES (Cambodia)



Haircut:  $1.25 (away from tourist area)



Dinner at Viva! Mexican restaurant:  $4 to $8 for normal things though I think they've got a $15 steak I've not tried.



Beer:  $.50 to $1.00 depending on where you go.



Room:  Fancy hotels are approximately $30 to $50, depending.  Viva! offers walk in rooms at $20, $18 with a special, $15 with a different special (no idea why two different specials) and $13 per night for long term (a week or more?) aka $403 per month (yes they want that $3).



Tuk Tuk:  If you don't get sick of everyone always asking you if you want a tuk tuk (pronounced "Took, took") ride you are simply not human.  Rather than flipping off the people is bad.  Just ignore them completely or give a tiny shake of the head.   These guys are often more beggar than taxi.  They are interested in getting money in a big sort of way.  Taking someone for a day in Angkor Wat is the dream for them as there are a lot of super dumb people who will pay a lot more than the $20 it should cost.  They are usually not very educated.  Things like maps and business cards written in their native language tend to confuse them and they will often have to have a small conference while holding it upside down and trying to figure out what it means.  They just want their money.  Every dollar over one or two you pay for short trips shows how little you know how to haggle.  If you don't haggle a price in advance, expect to be charged outrageously at your destination.  Which they may not know where it is when the journey starts but they really want your money.







BOWING (for people not use to it)



As I was hanging out in Cambodia talking to people I was thinking "I bow so often that I'm not even noticing it half the time".  So I wanted to put together a quick guide for people who don't grow up in cultures that deal with it.



While various specialized cultural things may vary or dispute my claims, I've found "This fucking works".  Everyone knows you are a tourist and when I do these they seem very pleased and the feeling is that I am 'fitting in well enough'.



Neck bow - call it an exaggerated nod.  This is either for people younger than you, people in service industries (ones that hold open doors, wait staff, etc) and passing stuff.  Down, count to one, up.



15 degrees vs 30 degrees.  These are from the waist.  (The degrees are how much your body moves.)  The smaller one is for things like meeting a business person, etc.  Normal 'we're equals' stuff.  (For those who are wanting to say 'wait staff are people too' yes they are but their job is overriding it as far as how much you bow.  If you want to soothe your conscious, tip them heavier and they will get the fuck over it.)   The 30 degree bow is the 'big one'.  Meeting in-laws, apologizing for fucking his dog to death and shit like that.



Most westerners confuse people when they are doing too big of bow to the wrong people when then have to re-calibrate to deal with that person by at least matching their bow.  If they are hesitating then bowing that means you are fucking it up and doing too big of bow and they are doing a big one to match so that they are not seen as rude.



For a quick westernized translation:



Neck bow = friendly smile

15 degree = handshake

30 degree = handshake and apology or "Oh my god I can't believe I am meeting you".





EXCELLENT QUOTE



Disclaimer:  Logan did NOT come up with this - it was some clever Canadian lady.



"Every day you spend actually traveling (on a plane, in a bus, etc) is a day wasted."



























Wednesday, November 22, 2017

SUPERFLUOUS THAILAND VISITATION

SUPERFLUOUS

Yeah.  Got to use that shit in a title.  And it meant what I wanted.  Suck it, Pulitzer prize committee.



SE ASIA 'CLOCK'
These are Logan's observations.  While I have had some other travelers agree with them (or at least think they were humorous) you may have your own ideas on these.  Good.  Here are mine:


Sunrise minus 2 till sunrise: The only people up at this time are generally tourists dumb enough to think that something is more special at sunrise. Or want to be able to brag to people they saw x at sunrise.

Sunrise till ten: If you enjoy seeing closed shops, this is the time to wander around. Most shit you want to see and do is closed.

Ten till sundown: Some stuff open, a lot of people on siesta. They don't call it that here but avoiding the big angry orb in the sky is smart.

Sundown till sundown plus three: This is the time to go and see and do everything. Hell, a lot of stuff doesn't open till this time.

Ten till midnight: Sensible drinking at nice places.

Midnight till four: Poor choices, increased chance of bad shit.

Four till sunrise: Only the truly desperate are out and about.



PHARMACY ADVENTURES

In Thailand, they have either tuk tuks (see 'pro tip' below!) or 'meter taxi'.  As I've probably said in the past, both are often  (usually?) staffed by insistent beggars and rip off artists.  Especially the ones parked around tourist areas.  After being told they wanted to charge me five to ten times what the journey should cost and hell no they won't use the meter I decided to instead catch the water taxi to the hospital.  It is on the opposite side of the river near Khao San Road.

For those not in the know, Khao San Road ("Co like 'cope'" and sometimes spelled Khaosan Road because 'reasons') is the fluffy bunny tourist area.  If you aren't here for whoring or getting your perverted fix, this is the place.  Family friendly and all.

Since this is the tourist spot, the prices are a lot higher than other places.  I asked where to get medicine (as it is restocking time) and was told to go to the hospital - they have many pharmacies near there.

I chatted with various Thais when I made it across the river taxi (step lively or die horribly) and was directed to one.

A fellow customer told me I was very lucky to be at this particular pharmacy as it is the cheapest one in Bangkok.  I told her I was freakishly lucky.  Four different medicines for a year, about $100 to $125.  They were only missing one.  Since I will eventually be back to Bangkok (possibly to meet a friend as well as catch my eventual plane back to Jolly Ole England) I may end up swinging back by there to get the missing medicine if I can't find it in Cambodia.

Buying in bulk raised some eyebrows.  I was asked if I would be taking it back to my home country, maybe reselling it, etc.  Note that they were still going to sell it to me - they were either just curious or were looking to get cut in on the deal.  After assuring them it was all for me for the next year and that I had no home they gave up on that line of questioning.

So I got most of the medicine I need.  Hopefully, I can get the rest at some point soon and not have to worry about it for another year.

What is shocking is that the meds cost less on the open market here than I'd have to pay with the VA (Veteran's Affairs) office footing most of the bill in the USA.  Folks get mighty ripped off there for some rich people's stock prices.

Cambodia note on pharmacies:  The ones in Cambodia seem a bit grittier and it is a fucking epic quest to find something.  Seriously, you may end up wandering to eight different shops to find one thing you need.  While this isn't bad if you are a fat fuck and need to either eat less or burn more calories and fucked if you're eating any less sooooooo....



PRO TIP

I've come across this when dealing with people who have never been in SE Asia.  "Tuk tuk" is pronounced 'took took' - like "I took your pudding."  No idea why it is spelled the way it is.

No idea why it is said this way but book readers sound like idiots when they mispronounce it.  Because drivers are constantly trying to get you into one by stating what it is, anyone spending more than an hour here has heard the correct way of saying it at least a dozen times.  And probably has developed some rage.



WHAT AM I DOING IN BANGKOK?

Heroic Cthulhu.

Recorded in London, England and put up on youtube.  Both audio only and audio with visual formats.

These are TTRPG's which have been recorded and people seem to enjoy watching or listening to.

Currently, I am working on the second season.



WHEN SUDDENLY

Through the magic of staggering out when I write this thing, I am suddenly now back in Siem Reap Cambodia because well, fuck Bangkok.  I've really been there too much.  For like $8 a night I was staying in a pretty miserable room with a fan.  For $13 a night I now have AC and a mini fridge and the room looks really nice. 

And beer is cheaper than water (at restaurants/bars).  Seriously.

The current price for beer is fifty cents.  If you buy a water at a store it is maybe thirty cents (Cambodia uses the US dollar as it's currency - yes, really) but at restaurants it is generally seventy five cents to a dollar.  It's nice to see that the price of beer (and rooms) haven't increased in the last seven years here.  I know I've not been making more money.

Siem Reap seems to me to be a bit more squalid and trashy than it was.  Not sure why that is.  I don't mind squalid and trashy - it's generally cheaper to live in places like that.  Wondering what is causing it here though.  Due to various physical ailments nobody else gives a fuck about (take a lesson old people) my walking has been cut down to about a third of what it was.   Plus breaking my foot twice.  By stepping on it.  Too fat for my own feet.  (Note - if you make a joke about the physical ailment, you might be able to get away with mentioning it but it had better be a fucking short joke you rambling old bastards!)

Now I'm staying at my favorite restaurant, 'Viva!' in Pub Street within the heart (there's not much else) of Siem Reap.  I'd often seen signs advertising the place for $20 per night and figured I'd treat myself for a night while I looked for  something more affordable.  Haggling got the price down.  If you can't haggle, learn to be rich instead!

The manager of Viva! even gave me a card for 15% off of the food (in perpetuity) since I'd been a customer here for years.   Though grateful, I was thinking "It is NOT easy to get one of these fucking cards!" 



RAINY SEASON VS DRY SEASON

A lot of people hear 'rainy season' and say 'eek' because they think they're made of sugar.  While I don't recommend wandering around in SE Asia's rain (you'll probably get sick - a lot of things here can make you sick) it normally does not rain all day.  It normally rains for an hour or two then it's done.  And the temperature is much cooler.  Of course you then have to deal with tons of standing water (they are not good at making roads or sidewalks or gutters here) and 'squirt stones'.  Long time readers of the blog will remember those are the loose pieces of sidewalk that get water trapped under them.  You step on them with one foot and dirty water squirts onto your other shoe, leg, friend, etc.  That's what I call them anyway and they are fairly prevalent.

Right now (NOV) it is on the cusp of the two seasons - the only two they have.   The rainy season is ending and the dry season beginning.  Neat.

It's great that I've managed to procure lodging now and will be paying in advance because the great 'wander around' time for the ordinary person (New Years) approaches.  They don't really do much for Christmas out here other than a few expats and it's not a holiday I care about.  Actually, none of them are (you people need an excuse to drink?  What's that all about?) except where it impacts travel.   New Years is a huge one.  Get your lodging early, pay in advance.  Don't go anywhere.  Hunker down.  Buy some provisions (alcohol, water, snacks) in advance so you don't have to worry about it.

Ensure your place is rented out for these holidays - preferably in advance - or you'll end up paying a premium for the week before and after.  Unless that country celebrates Christmas - then a week before Christmas till a week after New Years is premium time.  Plus, all of the transport will be crowded or possibly even sold out.

The next time I will need to travel won't be until February.  At that point I will head back to Bangkok, go to the airport then fly back to England.  And hang out there making Heroic Cthulhu season 2.



THAI TRANSLATION

'Sausage' = shitty hot dog.  Think one of the cheap ones in the bargain bin that rednecks turn up their noses at.

'Ham' = think about a piece of Oscar Mayer bologna, inexpertly heated up (ie part hot and part cold - somehow rather than just being lukewarm).

'Egg' =  the 'eggy' taste will be double or triple what you are probably use to.  Plan accordingly.



PRICES

(As of OCT/NOV 2017!)

Water taxi, 15 baht.  Note - make sure the boat is pointed in the direction you want to go.  They do NOT turn around.  (At least not where I was.)

Decent place to stay, nothing fancy but great internet, 300 baht.  (That's less than a cheap meal at a lower class English pub.  Really.)  Note that the internet in Viva (Cambodia) seems better.  Weird.

Beer - half a dollar.  Contrast with Thailand's three to four dollars for a beer and wonder why anyone fucking goes there to drink.

Within shops, you can get loads of different alcohols for around ten to twelve dollars per bottle.  [They do have wine here but there is way too much to know about wines to mess with them for nice wine.  I've not yet started mixing red and coke yet though that may happen in the future.  Or not - I have enough of that in England to keep me happy.  Also, they don't have any (that I've spotted) truly cheap (four or five dollars a bottle) wine here though I've not really been looking.  Most seems to be around twelve to fourteen dollars at a glance.]

Tuk Tuk (Cambodia) - for short rides if you're giving them over two dollars, you're horrible at this.  Seriously.

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster | Thailand: Bangkok | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2018}} Ukraine: Kiev - Chernihiv - Uzhhorod | UK: Camberley | Italy: Naples Pompeii | USA Washington DC | Merced California | Las Vegas Nevada |

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