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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bone Chapel

WHINGE NOT, ER...

About six years ago, it was pointed out in a very polite kind way that I did a bit too much whinging.

whinge
wɪn(d)ʒ/Submit
BRITISHinformal
verb
gerund or present participle: whinging
complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way.
"stop whingeing and get on with it!"
synonyms: complain, grouse, grouch, grumble, whine, moan, carp...

Although not always successful, I have been doing my best to tamp that shit down. It is poison for ones self and not a joy ride for those around.

Exception: After I have been pick pocketed, burgled or nearly die, I feel I can get away with some.

So I'm in a grocery store that has two lanes out of six or eight open. Long lines.

British couple behind me. They acted as though they both had life counters on and were literally watching the moments of their remaining life tick away.

They were buying two small loaves of bread. I did not say anything - especially not "Well, you must really want that bread" or "Your time seems less valuable than that 1 euro of bread you are buying." It would serve no purpose. Instead I observed the activity in the store. Tried to be more like Peter who just seems to take in everything at a glance. (Note - he either has the same kind of mind as Sherlock Holmes hence the nickname - or some Borg like readout. I'm not sure which.) After about 20-30 minutes of waiting, I checked out.

When the lady doing the checkout spoke to me in English and I responded in English you should have seen the faces of the old British couple.


Morals of the story:

Complaining serves no purpose. Put the bread back and go to a different store if you are truly in a hurry. Or go without bread.

People may be talking in Portuguese but they are listening in English. I'm not sure why this never sinks in with so many tourists. Even when I don't think the person can understand me, I speak as though they can - or someone nearby might. "I'm sorry I'm no where near clever enough to have learned Portuguese but I want FOOD." (Make eating signs. Not cannibal signs.) It's amazing how often someone who speaks even a little English will jump in to help. If you're being snarky to the person who doesn't happen to speak your language, only bad things can come of it.



LOGAN AND THE DENTISTS OF DOOM  (Faro, Portugal)

My gums still hurting a bit so I decided to go see what the dentist says.  At 10 euros, who wouldn't?

Nobody wouldn't.

After some negotiation with the young lady at the receptionist and reassuring her that my appointment would literally take two minutes or less (possibly much less) she managed to squeeze me in after a couple hour wait.

Pretty cool - I've waited longer in USA dental and doctor stuff when I had an appointment set up well ahead.

After the mandatory prod the dentist told me my bizarre news.

(I get a fair bit of weird news.)

"You're brushing too hard."

Wow.  Really?

After some questioning, he also added "And you're changing your toothbrush too often."

That is the first time I've ever been told that.  He assured me that four a year was plenty.  I sometimes go through six or eight a year for various reasons (country change, dropped it in something icky,etc).

I thanked him, paid my ten euros and left.

Quick and painless.



FOOD

So what's Portuguese food like Logan?

Fucking bland.

Which is interesting and I think I know why.

Back in the old (very old) days, the Portuguese (insert old time racial slur here, I don't know any - sorry) traders use to get spices from places abroad (like India) and resell them to other places (Vietnam, Thailand, etc).  But they don't like them in their own cooking.

I'd read somewhere the a lot of countries like bland food because spices weren't originally (when they first got them) used to perk up the food - they were used to extend it.  Meat taste a bit rotten?  Stick some of this spice stuff on it!  That sort of thing.

As a result, bland meant 'more fresh' in the world without refrigerators.  Remember, we're talking a long time ago - even before selfies.  Like 15th, 16th century.

As a result, Portuguese food is very bland.  But fresh.

Sadly, I can't ask people about this as (like people in the USA) few of them know the little interesting details (or perhaps major facts - again like the USA) of their history.

So I get to speculate until my time machine arrives.



THE BONE CHAPEL

Went to the one in Faro.  Cost to get in, 2 euros.  Note to tourists - it closes at 1PM.  Just after the train drops you off.

My plan worked out well last night - downed most of a bottle of whiskey to get to sleep earlier.  Woke up early and went to see it before it closed.

The church was fairly impressive.  A tourist tried to tell me it was all gold but it felt like wood.  Made to look like gold.  Not that churches don't have tons of money but they like it to be out growing in investments.

The bone part - not that cool.





Those are some of the better pics I was able to get.  The piece of crap $50 (not spending more due to wildly expert Moroccan pickpockets) phone I bought in Morocco just not doing the job.

What's funny is that this place freaks out some of the locals.  I told them about Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic.  That is interesting.  This place, meh.   [Edit thanks to Pete for previous link.]

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

FAT MAN WHAAA?

FAT MAN WHAAA?

If you are reading this and 'squeamish', my main question would be "How the hell did you make it this long on my friends list?"

Anyway - warning - gritty.

Because I'd rather be thought of as a 'great guest' rather than an 'infested fuck', I decided to go visit a hospital in Portugal to see 'what the hell is going on down there'.

AKA the 'dark side of the belly'.

AKA 'the parts of me I had declared legally dead because I haven't seen them in years'.

So there was still some itching down there.  Walked a couple kilometers to the city hospital.

At first, the lady was going to charge me the 'foreigner with no EU card' rate for seeing the doctor but after we chatted a bit, she very kindly decided to pretend I had an EU card.

Non EU rate:  100 EUR
EU rate:  18 EUR

Which is great because I am trying to hoard my small monies for my upcoming visit to the USA.

The poor lady was laughing hard half the time and the other half giving me the 'is he being funny or is he actually a crazy person' look.

I tend to get that a lot.

Looking at those rates tells me that in the USA we are doing it so very very wrong.

Anyway, I then got to sit in the waiting room for about four or five hours.  Much like all the jokes I've heard about medicine in England and such.  Fortunately, I've had to wait a lot all over the world so great.

In countries where I am the only white guy this doesn't happen.  There I get whisked (over my objections) straight to the doctors.  Here, most of the people are white so I didn't stand out.

At last, I got to see a doctor.  Sitting in the same room working at different desks were other doctors (including one who thought I was very amusing and actually spoke English) and a young lady I'd been chatting to in the waiting room.

When asked what the problem was, I displayed my complete lack of shame by saying "I think I either have a rash or insects living on my testicles!"  The lady I'd been chatting with in the waiting room helped translate to the stunned doctors.

Yes, I know many people would feel like dying of shame at a scene like that.  But if you think that is bad, read on.

So then they put me into one of those little examination rooms and four doctors (three males and one female) troop in.

After repeating to the doctor my issue he said "OK, could you take down your pants...."

(Logan drops pants and underwear)

"After you get up on the table."

You know, it is really tricky to get onto a table like that with your pants around your ankles.  But I struggled through it.  In retrospect, it is probably much better for the doctor instead of getting into a kneeling position in front of the guy with his pants down.

He examined me and I asked "Which is it?"

"You can put your pants on now." he told me since I wasn't reaching for them.  It was probably costing them sanity to see my unimpressive junk.

"Neither." he said.

No bugs is good news!

"What is it?"

"Fungus."

"How did I get it?"

"You are rather...large..."

"You mean I have fat man fungus?"  (I'd have rather called it 'fat fuck fungus' but fuck doesn't have as many meanings overseas as it does in the USA.  Sad.)

So they prescribed me two different creams to apply before bedtime.

Should be cleared up within a week.

Isn't it funny how much old fuckers talk about their physical health?  It's because they don't have much of it left.



CURIO SHOP

Sadly, not one of the ones that sell cursed items but good for people who want 'conversation pieces' and unique items to decorate their homes with.  If I had a home, it would probably end up looking a lot more like the shop.

Disclaimer:  I appologize for the picture quality.  Readers may remember that I had not one but TWO cellphones pick pocketed in Morocco.  So this is a really cheap cellphone.


First - how you get to the shop.

You find this church:


It is called:


St. Peter's Church.  While facing the door (as in the picture above) you go around the church toward the left (clockwise).

After about twenty meters on the opposite side of the street, you will see a small sign:


That is the shop.  Within is the lady who is my landlord as well.  Her name is Paula.


If you are wanting to stay in Faro for a bit, check with her to see if she has any rooms available.  I'm quite satisfied with my accommodations.

Anyway, here are some pictures of other items within the shop.  Again, I am sorry the picture quality is not as good as I'd like.


"Are you my mummy?"




Though not in Latin, Latin helps.



Shark teeth.







Note - this is a picture of a camera case she very much wanted in the blog.

In summary, stop on by there and give a browse!

That's about it for now - I will blog more when more stuff happens!

Logan

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

EPIC STRUGGLE TO PORTUGAL

THE WARM UP

Some countries have 'shitty' currency. For example, they don't let it out of the country or if they do, nobody else will exchange it.

Good examples of this include the Bosnian KM (convertible mark) and unfortunately the Moroccan dirham.

Giving dollars or euros to get dirham is a breeze.  Everyone wants to buy those valuable dollars and euros - nobody wants the dirham.  Aside from shopkeepers in Morocco.

Why countries like this don't just switch to a currency like the Euro or Dollar (like Cambodia did) is a mystery to me.  Probably nationalism.

Banks won't switch currency for you unless you have a residency card (because they suck) and getting money exchangers to buy it - despite them making a healthy profit on the transaction - is like pulling fucking teeth.

Fortunately, I tried to keep the amount minimal that I had so it was only about 100 euros worth I was trying to exchange.  I suspected some crap like this.

"Why not just change it at the border?" I hear some asking.  Experience.  Often same shit but less time and places to wander around asking why they don't want their shitty insular currency.  And doing it with all your worldly possessions on is even less fun.

So I got my 100 euros.  It might even be enough to get me - on a very circuitous route - to Faro (Portugal).



LEAVING MOROCCO


I almost didn't make it out of fucking Morocco.

After going through the crush of bodies (Moroccans don't really know or care about concepts like 'personal space') to get your passport stamped, you have to go along a footpath toward the Spanish side.

"We still got our colony on Africa bitches!" - Spain.

On the footpath, three Moroccan police (or border security - there's really no telling) that must look at your passport before you get to continue out of the country.

While one was looking at my passport and trying to figure out why it is literally twice as thick as every other passport he's seen, I struck up a little conversation with the third guard.  The first guard began telling the second guard he should take me back to the crush of bodies place to get another stamp.  Something about the one I already had (or just his day in general) did not please him.

The second guard took the passport but didn't seem really pleased about the prospect.  While the first one was busy with someone else in line, the third one took the passport and discretely handed it back to me making a very subtle head gesture that told me to sneak my ass out of there.

I scarpered.

Having made it to the Spanish side I noticed there was no where obvious to get a stamp.  Confusing.

You've got to look or someone will end up sending you back or saying you entered the country illegally or some crap.  It's never "Well, we do have a really shitty system so it's probably our fault" - no.  It's going to be your fault and you will pay.

So I went looking for someone to ask.

Found a guy dressed in a guard's uniform just sitting in an office.  I asked him "Where do I go to get this stamped?"

He had a stamp!  He also wanted to know if I'd caught the Superbowl.   Faking regret I told him I'd missed it.

He stamped the passport.  I did my best to remember where it was in case someone else had a problem finding it.  Yes, there are quite a few stamps and pages.  Enough to where I've noticed the security guards in the countries I'm in sometimes give up looking for theirs, figure it's in there somewhere, and just give me a stamp.

Handy.

Within minutes of crossing the border it was like I was back in 'modern' settings.

And I didn't have to listen to five times a day call to prayers from a super insecure god.  Yea!

Blue, blue sky and blue waters of the Mediterranean not quite dark enough to be called 'Navy'.  Irony.

With some euro coins I'd literally been lugging around for years, I bought taxi fare (yea!) to the ferry.  El Porteo.  Spanish - the easy language.  Compared to Arabic anyway.

Taxi - Ferry - Taxi - wait my ass for the bus.

Seven hours of waiting my ass for the bus.

While I was waiting a couple decided to hang out near me with their super noisy kid.  Thought about the eventual heat death of the universe to cheer up.

Getting to Seville ("Sev - eee - yah") is easy but for some reason the 'doorway to Portugal and big time tourist hub' Faro is not.

Decided to find food.  Nothing near the bus stop I was at - not the main bus stop apparently.  It was in a neighborhood which had been so gentrified it creaked.  Found a bar that served taipas.  Confused the bar tender that I knew taipas means 'little hat' but my Spanish was so bad.  Drank some beer and ate pork.  Good to be out of a Muslim country just for those things.

Back at the bus station the driver says "Good evening sir, where are you headed?"
Faro.
"You might need to change buses."
Why?
And suddenly, his English fails him.  As does his Spanish.  We are in Spain.  Amazing.

Got in to Faro at 2 AM.

Found the hostel (with directions and help) got a bed.  Slept in my clothing.

Got woken up by an idiot who decided talking on his cell phone in the sleeping room for a half an hour was OK.  Gave me the thumbs up.  Told me he was sorry.  Told him he was not.  Unbelievable.  Especially since there is a whole downstairs area he could hang out and talk on the phone.  Fucking people.

Met a guest at the hostel who was what I would describe as 'militantly chilled out'.  He would lecture people about how they should be as chilled out as he was.  Amazing.

Told the owner of the hostel I was looking for a place to stay.  He makes a call to an acquaintance.   She showed up a bit over an hour late for the appointment.  I get told by the militant chiller how I should be more chilled out.

I go with her to see a place she is renting.

Logan:  "Looks fine."
Her:  "It is 25 euros per day."
Logan:  "I was told it was 15 euros a day.  That is why I came."
Her:  "That is for the place upstairs which is already rented."
Logan:  "I can only afford 15 euros a day.  That is what the man who called you told me.  That is why I came."

Eventually, she dropped at 18 ("Final price") but I just kept repeating  about 15.  Eventually, I thanked her and left.  Made it about a block before she called me back.

She can do 15 euros per day.

Would it be better for you to pay by the week or the month she asks?  Of course I jump on the by the week.  What would be the downside to me?

"But you must pay me for eight days."
Logan:  So you will show up on Wednesday to get eight more days?  Then next week on Thursday?  That sounds very confusing.  How about I just pay you for seven days and you show up every Tuesday to get more money?  Wouldn't that be more simple?"

She looked displeased but agreed.  Maybe she thought I would pay eight days every seven.  I have no idea what is up with that.

The place itself is about three times as large as I need.  Tomorrow, Maria the lady who does the cleaning, will show up to show me how to use an overly complicated washing machine.

Why they make them complicated (more options are not always needed) and why people buy complicated ones for rental property is something I don't really understand.

The security here is pretty sad - I think with one rigid piece of metal I could be in to the apartment, possibly the building.

But it's better than a hostel.

Overall, Portugal is freakishly clean  - especially compared with Morocco.  There aren't even cigarette butts on the ground.  So I'm taking extra care to keep that clean as well.

While I was out earlier, I picked up a nice bottle of Jameson whiskey for just 12 euros (wow!) and will drink some or all of that tonight.

Yea!

[Edit:  Renting lady:  "Do you have a passport?"  Logan (with great confidence)  "Yes I do!"  And it was never brought up - nor viewed - again.]





HEAVEN

Imagine this. What if Heaven were real? Just imagine that for a moment. And imagine it was good - not at all like North Korea where you just sit around worshiping the mighty leader like it says you do in the Bible. OK - so now we have a good heaven.

If people really believed it, they'd work on dying faster.

People who really believed would take up really dangerous hobbies like skydiving simply because if they died, they win. Or, if they weren't sure, they'd go street preaching in countries that really hate Christians and put them to death because the bible says that if you get martyred for your faith it's a free pass.

Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

To paraphrase a quote, "I find their lack of faith disturbing."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

FUCK OSCAR WILDE

WOW, YOU HELD ON TO THIS AWHILE BEFORE PUBLISHING IT

Yeah.  I wanted to do some more research on Portugal before I published it.  Then, I got caught up in doing research for an upcoming tabletop roleplaying game I will be eventually running.

So not much got done for a long time.  I decided to take a couple hours out and do this.

I've still got about three weeks left in Morocco but I wanted to get through this now.



VISA RENEWAL

Went for breakfast at my usual place where my fixer was - as usual - there to scam coffee and cigarettes off me.

Super.

He said "Today is Sunday.  We should go to the border today.  No big lines."

And that the cost would not be 300d but 400d.  The extra hundred is supposedly for his bribe to the border guard.

OK.  Let's go.

Whole lot of walking at the border but other than my foot giving me some pain, it got done.

From the body language of the guy who did the stamp, I'm thinking my fixer may actually give him some if not all of the 100d.  Very tense dude.

But I got my passport restamped without going in the EU territory.  They don't have a very slick way of doing it here but it got done.

Glad I wasn't at the border during the summer when all the tourists from Spain flood in.  You could tell by the way it was built they are use to dealing with massive crowds.

So I have till after the first week of February here.  Not thrilled to be staying but it will allow my foot plenty of time to heal.  Plus, since we are getting close to the dreaded holidays (New Years at least is big - people get very excited to see a slightly larger number on the calendar) it is best to 'hunker down' instead of switching around residence.

In February, I will probably check out Portugal.  Everyone says it is cheap.

Come April, it will be at last time to visit the continent of my birth.  Very much looking forward to hanging out with my friends and perhaps meeting a bunch of new people.  Who will probably (and very disturbingly) remember my name despite my inability to retain any new knowledge.  Like their name.  Which distresses me to no end.



FUCK OSCAR WILDE

Logan's rant on immortality.

Who has read  The Picture of Dorian Gray?  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5297.The_Picture_of_Dorian_Gray?ac=1&from_search=true ?

When you are young, you think "Oh, that's horrible!"  I first read this when I was young because they forced us to at school.

Now that I am older, I think "You lucky, whiny fuck!"

Let's break it down.

He is eternally young and healthy until he looks at his picture.  Then, all the bad shit suddenly catches up to him and he dies.

I don't see the problem.

We are all in the process of dying little by little every day.  Once you pass a certain age (40 or 50) you begin to feel it.  You don't have as much energy.  You pick up little aches and pains.  You break your feet from the extreme trauma of *walking*.

You are going to die eventually either way.

It's just Dorian's way you feel as fit as someone in good shape in their 20's until you do.  After how ever long the little prick managed to live.

Why didn't he have the picture in a vault in China?  Because he was stupid.  That's where I'd have kept it.  Not in my fucking home like some Victorian suicidal poser.  Nope - it would be in some vault.  Probably buried near some monument outside of a city that was too cool to ever turn into a parking garage.  Preferably on a different continent than I live on.  Chances of accidentally getting zapped, much closer to zero.

Stupid, whiny, angsty people causing their own demise after staying perpetually youthful - fuck them.  It's only a pity they didn't pull the plug sooner.

Two things are really good to have with immortality.  A way to pull the plug 'should it all become too much to handle' and not being imprisoned.

Having the US Government hold you at Gitmo site B (the even more secret one) in order to routinely dissect you to try to make some sort of super soldier doesn't give you the 'quality of life' one would hope for.

In conclusion, you are going to eventually die anyway.  Even if you are immortal and enjoying yourself, the eventual heat death of the universe is probably going to be a drag.  Better to be young and healthy for your whole time on the planet than having life slowly knock the vitality from you.



LOGAN'S CONCISE OPINION OF THE 2016 ELECTION


The fact that after the election so many were so vocally proud of the results concerns me.

Note - just a month later and buyer's remorse has started to set in among many who elected Trump.  Let's all try to look surprised.



SHOPPING IN THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES

I know the politically correct term is 'developing countries' but you know what?  It seems that the last major reshuffling of political borders (creating countries) was back after WW2.  That's over fifty years ago.

Folks - the countries are pretty much as good as they're going to get.  There's not a lot of 'development' going on in the countries I've been to.

So I call them either first world or third world.  I was told Russia use to be the second world.  After talking to a lot of Russians, it seems to be a mostly third world deal with some first  world cities (Moscow, Kiev, etc) which are really expensive.

Anyway,

Shopping in third world countries always sucks.

If you are lucky enough to find a big grocery store, they don't always have what you need.  Which is odd, coming as I do from the land of Walmart which has more than you need under one roof.

Since the day when everyone loses their mind over an arbitrary number clicking up one (aka New Years) is coming up and all of the small shops will undoubtedly be closed down, I decided to stock up on some food.

In the USA, your kitchen is 'broken' if you don't have a microwave that works.  Most of the rest of the world thinks microwaves are 'the work of the devil, Bobby'.

Since I don't have access to a kitchen or microwave for the preparation of food - and didn't want to just go hungry on New Years day - I decided to put my feet to the test for the 10km + walk there and back again to the store.

USA stores have loads of prepackaged no need to cook or heat food you can eat.  It is not good for you, but it will fill the belly for a time.

They had fuck all at the big store.  I couldn't believe it.

Unless I wanted sugar, everything there required heating up.  Like corn in a can.

Unbelievable.

So I went back to a small store that is in the Medina and bought a big can of not very good fruit cocktail.  Do you have another?  No, just the one.  Well, fuck.

Got a couple more days to try to find something else for the 'just in case everything is closed as I think it will be'.

At least I have something!



PORTUGAL PRELIMINARY RESEARCH

It seems that meals are about 7 eur, beer 1 and wine 6 euros per bottle.  Very reasonable.

The lodging seems quite a bit higher.  Around 20 euros for a dorm bed.  Not something to look forward to.

Going to try to find a not too expensive apartment to hang out in for a month or two.

First step - find cities with hostels.  These have enough tourists that go through presumably there is something interesting there.  If I can't find a place to rent, I can still get highly charged indeed for a dorm bed.

Towns in southern Portugal, first pass:

Faro (50k pop, international airport), Tomar (smaller than Faro), Cascais (200k pop, close to Lisbon), Sintra (300k pop, close to Lisbon, commuter train to Lisbon).


OK.  Weird shit time.

According to my research, I will be docking in Algeciros.   Great.  But pretty much no matter where I decide to go to get into Portugal, I will end up traveling through...Faro!  Via - Seville!

This makes no sense to me.  Apparently, they don't have a lot of roads there.

Hence, it looks like once I get to Algeciros, I will be trying to get an eight hour bus ride NW to Seville then SW to Faro.

There is no telling (once the sea gets involved, fuck your scheduling) exactly what time I will be able to get there or find the bus station.  So we'll just play it by ear.

If worse comes to worse, I'll have to stay a night in Seville.

A bit more research and yeah, Faro seems OK.  It's also an inexpensive train ticket and four hours or so to get to Lisbon (the capital for the geographically and google challenged) of Portugal.

So we'll see.

On the downside, according to wiki, it will be the time when Faro gets a crapton of rain.

So if I have to I can always hop on the train.

By April 2, I will be in Lisbon taking off on a plane to go to the USA.


IN CONCLUSION

Sorry there haven't been more blog entries but when I'm not doing that much in a country and not much is happening, I don't feel the need to make shit up or just put up non-posts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

FUN TIMES IN MOROCCO

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO NOW?

Gosh Logan - why do you think our country is poor?

There are reasons.  Oh yes, lots of reasons.

Back to 'trying to find a new place to live' part - I've lost track.

Last I left the old couple, we'd established by Google Translate (love that program) they would get wifi installed in the house, TEST IT, then I'd come back.

I'd stressed 'test it before I come back' several times.

Why I even fucking bother I do not know.

They had the router there.  Not plugged in but hey, I suppose it is a step forward.  Plugged it in, loads of pretty lights and it doesn't work.  The password is printed on the back of the router and the password is printed on the router.  They even have some sort of letter in French with a couple more passwords.  Nothing works.  Fortunately, the store is two blocks away.  Two trips to it later and it turns out that men have to show up at the house and do something for some reason.

I've no idea why.

They had one of their daughters there who spoke rough English so the conversation went quicker.

She again stressed they wanted a 3000 dirham (one month, about $300) deposit.  I stressed we'd already agreed that wasn't happening.

Then the father produced a contract he wanted me to sign.

Naturally, it is in Arabic.

They seemed shocked that I didn't want to sign it.  I've never had a contract in any of the homes I've stayed in before.  Hell, at some I've never even shown ID.  "Who would sign something they couldn't read?"

The deal is looking like it is pretty much on the fence.

They agreed to have one of their kids come out to translate the contract on Monday.  I'm starting to wonder how much I want to stay here.

Strike that - I already know I'm not terribly happy in Morocco but I must admit it is helping me to save money.  Partially because there is no fucking alcohol to drink.

No alcohol makes Logan a sad bunny.

They seemed a bit shocked I didn't want to start living there immediately.  "What do I want with a place that has no internet?" I asked.

That seemed to shock them a bit.

The less developed the country, the less important the internet seems to be to older people.  It annoys them that there is something they don't use nor understand that people are now judging their homes with.

I can understand that.  But really - what the fuck do I want with a place that has no internet?

So on Monday, I am to return (no specified time - hopefully they will phone me) to see if they have working internet and get the contract translated.  I need to also give them a xerox of my passport.  That's no problem, happy to do so.  Not planning on doing anything that will make them sad if I live there.

But if there is no internet or the contract is not to my liking, then the next day I need to either renew my rent at the place I am currently staying or move to a different town.

Moving to a different town does sound good as I'm sick of this one - however I've figured out the cheap places here.

On top of that, I am suspecting the people who run the place I'm staying may be a bit sick of me.  Mainly because of the laundry.


How did it end?

Well, after some thought - and checking with the people I'm renting from to see if they'd like me for another month - I just ended up staying where I am at.

Not loving it but also not loving Morocco all that much either.

So moving around in it is probably not going to help all that much.

I was just getting 'pain in the ass' vibes from the people who I was looking on renting from in the beach town.  If there is one thing I've learned it is that after they've got the money, shit ain't gonna get better.  It usually gets worse.  Since getting a refund is about as easy as regrowing a severed limb, it's best not to give up the money unless you have only warm and fuzzy feelings.

Needless to say, my half fixer half beggar was not fucking thrilled.

Because he'd have thrown a fit if I'd said the reason for ultimately opting out was because I'd gotten that 'bad feeling' about it, I just harped on the contract.  He retorted that a lot of people come from Spain in order to make pornos here.  First - pornos here?  Really?  Going to a heavily religious country to make pornos?  Weird.  Second - how does the contract stop that actually?

He muttered darkly about not getting money, tried to talk me into going back out there three times after I told him I'd already paid for my lodging here and spoke of going to a different town to try his luck.

As though I might stop him.

I politely apologized to him but paying for failure doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  He'd already gotten a minimal amount out of me 'for the effort' on various unproductive trips out there.

Didn't bring up the visa renewal as I'm pretty sure I can figure that out myself, though if he is around I might end up paying him for an escort just to keep him happy.  Making enemies who deal in the grey market and think I owe them something - not a high priority.

So I'm still living in the same place.  But, it is close to GTFO when that eventually comes up in a few months.  Due to the upcoming Christmas (still might be a problem even in a Muslim country due to Christian tourists) who knows - I might be stuck here even longer.  Le sigh.



FUCKING OUCH

Yesterday, I was out on my regular walk.  I even have regular routes set up for coffee and water stations.  Unlike in shape young people (thinking of Travis here, the healthy bastard) I don't walk fast and need rest stops from time to time.  But I do make some decent distance.

As I'm walking, it felt as though I stepped on something.  Resistance then it broke type of thing.  Kind of like stepping on a fairly hard plastic bead which then breaks.

Unfortunately, I didn't actually step on anything.  That shit was all inside my foot.

Swayed but didn't fall from the pain.  Just stood there with what I'm sure was an unusual look on my face.

Unlike other poor countries with tuk tuks roving the streets looking for fares, here the taxis pretty much go on set routes.  Translation - no fucking taxis for Logan.

At this point, I could hear the voice of my travel coach (Adam) in my ear saying "Don't be such a pussy - walk it off!"

Since there were a bit over eight kilometers between me and my destination, I had to do just that.  No idea what was wrong with my foot but the pain was enough to completely blot out the normal pain from my knees and those calluses which form on your feet from walking in sandals a lot.

Refreshing to be free of those little pains...

Eventually, I slowly limped my way back home.

The next day dawned, the foot is a little better.  Decided to skip my usual walk - which means only a few kilometers of walking.  To get food and such.



THE FATE OF THE FOOT

One thing I try to do is surround myself with people who are more clever than I.

Not really that difficult.  Sadly.

But, in addition to that, I try to pay attention to stuff they say.

After the CRUNCH in my foot, I followed the advice of my travel mentor and strapped on my trainers (tennis shoes for those stateside) and went to the doctor on the advice of my favorite Dutch girl.

Broken.

Holy fuck, I broke a bone in my foot from just walking around.

Not only am I a fat bastard, I am now a weak boned fat bastard.

That sucks.

In good news, I was able to walk over eight kilometers on a broken foot.  Not advised.

In addition, the doctor said that two or three years ago I'd broken not one but three other bones in my foot.  Which explains the pain I was in then that we thought was from drinking too much and eating too good of food.  I forget what that is called.

Cost for xray and consultation, 400 dirham (40 USD).  The doctor wanted to throw in a cane I didn't like and some pain killing medicine for another 600 dirham.  I refused that.  The doctor then had a rather strongly worded discussion with his receptionist about not revealing the cost to foreigners before the visit.

Which I fucking insist on because otherwise you suddenly get massively over charged.

Too the prescription to a pharmacy near the doctor to find out how much the pain killer medicine would cost - 200 dirham.  Took it to a different pharmacy - 100 dirham.

Why are the pharmacy prices so different?  Who the hell knows.  Probably no protections in place for consumers.

The doctor told me it would be a month or three before it heals.  Glad I don't have to carry my backpack of shit soon.

What the hell.

So I will take it easy for awhile.  Apparently, my body does not favor the walks I was doing to try to stay in some health.  I'm going to take it slow and cautious for awhile and enjoy my week of pain killers.



OLD MAN STORIES

Here's an old military story that I had found out about back in the 80's:

Soldiers are always being sent to find stupid non-existent shit.  One of the many downsides of not having enough people close by to shoot.

One young private was sent off to get two boxes of 'grid squares'.

"Like on a map?"
"Yes."

Rolling his eyes, the young soldier eventually arrived at surprise and chuckling asked the supply officer for two boxes of grid squares.

Thunk, thunk.

The boxes were properly labeled and everything in military fashion.  After gawking at them, the solider opened a box and found little pieces of map.  Each exactly one grid big.

Baffled, he returned them to the NCO that sent him on this task.  He couldn't believe they actually exist.

Without blinking, the NCO glowered at the soldier and said "Now, assemble them."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

MOROCCAN LIVIN'

DISCLAIMER:  All of this stuff has been on my Facebook page.  Not everyone reads my Facebook page.  For some odd reason.   That's why it has been cobbled together here into a rather long blog - different audiences.



FIXER FAIL

My fixer is a fail.

After all that crap it turns out that the guy who was in the place we couldn't look at will be staying for another week.

And the fixer didn't have any place else.

Starting to think he's not a great fixer.

So I will be staying in the 'so you're lost again' medina for another month.

Since it turns out I'm staying here, I partially unpacked my bags (was prepped for a quick escape) and sat down to talk with the owners.  I expressed concern that at first the laundry took one day for a turn around.  Then two.  Then four.  With excuses (though I didn't say that part).  They agreed to two.  Great, I told them because no matter how busy you are, I still don't have many clothes.

Turns out the lady is done cooking for me as well.  Just cooking for one and making 20-30d from it is not enough profit to interest them.  Sad because her cooking was good.

Though if someone sets the price for goods and services they should stick with it instead of saying 'well, we don't want to do that any more'.

I didn't press the food point because laundry is the key here.  After a month I have found no place that does laundry here.  This is pretty abnormal for poor regions.  In most countries towns have gone one of two ways.  By the kilo (usually a buck or two per) or by the piece.  Also known as the 'rip off way'.  Towns are usually one or the other as people rarely have independent or unique thoughts and seem to do what their neighbors are doing.  Yes, that is a statement about humanity in general.

I also asked how often they normally clean the room.  Every three days.  I had it cleaned once in the last month.  Can I get it cleaned twice this month?  Yes.

So we'll see how it goes.  I'm not really happy to be staying here but it saves money over going out and looking for a new place in a different town.

I'm going to try to push my fixer to find a place within a couple weeks.  I'd like to have a place already lined up.  Although with the shitty business practices here, it would not surprise me to have everything lined up then have the deal fall through.  I've said it before but when countries are poor it is because the people are poor.  When the people are poor there is usually a reason.  Often it is shitty attitudes about business or poor business practices.

As a side note, I was careful to get the landlord's wife in on the whole conversation.  Since it was about business, this was not a normal thing to do ("Men talk business") but my reasoning is that she actually does all the work (laundry, cleaning, etc) so I wanted to go forward with her being involved rather than just getting told "and this is how it will be" which I think is more normal around here.

Different places, different customs, different sexism.



SCRUFFY MAN

Saw something interesting today during my usual breakfast.

In pretty much every country are what I mentally think of as the 'scruffy' people.  These are to be avoided for numerous reasons.  They may try to beg off you, steal from you or perhaps even have some of their lice come for a visit.  They are the dirt poor folks.  Within this, I will refer to one of them as 'the scruffy man'.

Yes, I know, it's very sad.  Yes, we should all feel bad for them.  But if you want to contribute money, food or drugs to them, do it directly or it will get sucked up into operating costs.  There are those people who like to speak out on their behalf, but I don't see them actually doing anything beyond that so they can STFU.

Anyway,

I was eating breakfast when the scruffy man exited a small shop right next to me at a slightly rapid amble.   Two guys came out and grabbed him.  I think one was a customer of the shop and the other the shop keeper.  Some of the displays got knocked over.  The scruffy grabbed onto a metal garbage can to try to avoid being hauled back into the shop.

At this point, I was thinking it was possible that he was a shoplifter who was going to get a bit of 'justice'.  As we learned on the Simpsons, 'there is no justice like angry mob justice'.  About a dozen people rapidly formed up around the yelling men as the scruffy was hauled into the store.

I hurried up with my breakfast as all this drama was going on about five meters away.

Not sure what was going on inside the store but eventually, a couple police officers drifted over.  More yelling and waving of hands from the shopkeeper and several members of the audience who were being more entertained than even Moroccan television.

At this point, the police allowed out the scruffy who was crying and for some reason had his bare ass exposed.  His pants were down around his knees.  Didn't spot any underwear.

I understand beating the shit out of someone but what was going on with him being exposed like that was curious.  Extra shame?

As I moved off (again, paying up front 'pays off') the police released the crying humiliated scruffy man back into the wild.

Sadly, the waiter of my restaurant doesn't speak English or I could have gotten the story from him.

Since I was the only white guy at what could have quickly turned into either a mob or a good chance to pickpocket a third phone, I moved off and got some corners in.  (By corners, I am referring to the correct way to throw pursuers within an urban environment - take more random corners instead of hurrying off in a straight line.)  I didn't think anyone was pursuing me but when a group of people become agitated (the cops decision was not popular) it is time to quietly disappear.

Interesting side note:  My friend David H. thinks the would be thief was probably getting a caning.  That would answer a lot of questions - why the cop let him go, why he was crying and why he had his pants down.  I was hoping they were saying "This man tried to steal from us - let us rip his dick off."



HOME INVASION?

Had one of the few times I wished I still carried a pistol today.

There is a heavy noisy security gate, usually closed, where I am staying.  It was left just a bit open.

My thoughts in order:

Wonder if everyone is dead inside?
Is the killer still around?
Is my stuff still there?

Noted that I didn't have a pistol.  Probably for the best here.  Even if the government approved of it, pickpockets would have likely stolen it.

Slammed the door closed behind me and advanced quickly into the room.  Shock and awe (awe - look how FAT this guy is) and pretty much no good reflexes or strength.

Guests were in the main room, still alive.

My stuff was even in my room.

Best day ever.



SCRUFFY MAN PART DEUX

It turns out what happened is even stranger than what I had thoughts.  Got the story from my fixer today (a day or two after the event) and it was the guy himself who pulled down his pants.

To shit in the store.

Apparently, the stress over being caught shop lifting was too much for him and so he pulled down his pants and took a shit.

The reason this particular shop was targeted - the guy running it as well as his father before him (who could have been robbed by this scruffy's father) have vision problems.

The reason the cops released the scruffy back onto the streets?  He is mentally ill.  Much like in America, nobody gives a shit about the mentally ill and they are 'released back into the wild'.

So that's what happened.  He just wanted to take a shit in the store.  Amazing.



THE STORY OF LOGAN'S SHORTS

"Eat my shorts." - Bart Simpson.

Splits appeared in my shorts like the dry ground during a massive earthquake.


Huge surprise since I've been wearing them pretty much every day for about a year.  The shorts are made from some sort of thin, flighty material.

Probably polyester though I'm not sure.  Normal people would just throw them out and get another pair of shorts but since it is harder to find things my size here than say Logan becoming a champion pole vaulter, I went into the souk to find someone to fix them.


Amazingly, they were able to...er...fix them.  Price asked, .60.  Yes, less than a dollar.  Paid him twice that because I was happy they are wearable.

My plan is to try to get more clothing when I get back to the land of the fatness.



RESTAURANTS

I eat at some restaurants where the locals do a double take of me when they walk in.

One guy asked the owner in Arabic what I could tell was the equivalent of 'who the fuck is that?'

The owner answered 'sadiquon' and 'American' in with the rest.  Sadiquon is 'friend' in Arabic.

Spending $1.50 to get the restaurant forks has really paid off.

After a month here, it seems that a lot more people know me than I know.  Peter would not deny that I have a piss poor memory.  But it still surprises me how many people say "Hello, Virginia!" to me.

I just tell people I am from Virginia since it's the last place I lived in the USA and there is really no where 'I am from' other than the USA in general.

Also, the waiters of the restaurants like me enough that they make it a point to chase off beggars and such when they come to try to get money from me.

Aside from the fucking pickpockets here, I find the locals very friendly.



HANDICAPABLE

So it's after dinner and I'm making my way through the narrow passageways of the medina when I come across a blind man.  White cane, dark glasses, tapping away.

Wanted to give him a sign I was there so I opened my mouth to say something.

And belched.

Not quite a 'hilariously blows the hats and a toupee off random people' but it was two tone, very deep and went on for over five seconds.

Tap, tap, tap around me.

I'm thinking, Logan, you are a lighthouse for the blind.



BACK TO THE BEACH TOWN

Another trip to the nearby beach town with my fixer.

Not happy with my fixer.  (Yes, this is a recurring theme.)

The  beach town looks OK.  It is fairly quiet and deserted since it is off season.  Good place just to 'take it easy' and be able to walk around without pushing through crowds of people nor getting lost in a giant maze.

We went to two places today, despite the fixer saying he had three.  I've learned to not believe him on simple things.

The first place was the 'oh, the people have decided to stay longer' place we went to before.  They pulled the same shit again this time.  I told the fixer "We are done with that place."  He agreed.  Then he tells me he thinks they are trying to hold out to rent to students.  From what he says, they are mellow, hard working and pay their bills here.  Not like the 'lets drink, take drugs, fuck and party' college students I'm use to in the USA.  (Disclaimer:  Not all college students are like that.  Just the fun ones.  Who probably don't have to pay for their own education.  I wish I could have done that.  Oh well.)

We went to another place.  Despite repeatedly telling the fixer my hard cap for price is 300 USD/month, this place is 370.  Plus electricity.  Fuck that, says I.  Which is a pity because they were nice places.  (For that kind of money, honestly, I could be in a country I actually WANT to be in.)  One in particular - very roomy and open.  It had a second bedroom and a living room I probably would never need to hang out in.  All my time is spent sitting at the computer and grinding through time.  I never watch a TV nor 'just sit on the couch to relax or read'.  A living room is not necessary to...um...live.

We were going to go to a third place but hey, that one is currently occupied but 'we could see similar rooms'.  I told the fixer "I have no interest in seeing 'similar' rooms - I want to see the actual room that would be rented."  This is one of the stupid games they are always playing.  You want a horse?  These are similar to the one I would sell you.  What kind of idiot buys based on that?  Stupid games.  When will the real room(s) be ready?  Friday.  I said tell him we'll be back on Monday.  Why Monday?  To give you time to find more places.  No, I don't want to wander around this town looking for places with you - that's what I am paying you for.

I told the fixer the next trip to the beach town will be the last.  If he can't get me set up with a small apartment for rent after three visits out there, he's done.  Each time we go out there, he is expecting some money 'for trying' so I give him five bucks.  Honestly, it's like getting a 'participation trophy'.  I don't see the point.

Thinking he's not one of the great fixers.

Honestly, I'm planning on him to fail.  If he succeeds, great - those plans are easy.  Now I need to figure out what to do should he (probably) fail.

I'm going to renew my visa for another three months (despite not wanting to be here) because there is no where easy and close to travel to.  The closest countries are in the dreaded Schengen zone.  Everything else would require flying to or is just worse.  So, I'm stuck in Morocco.

My next thought is 'change towns/cities because I'm bored here or stay because I'm living cheaply?

Might do a combination.  I've been here for two months (an eternity for Logan) and might sit through one more month because I'm saying money and the Spanish Enclave (read as 'give me that old time colonization') is the place to renew the visa (alternatively named Sebta and Ceuta for those who care) and it's about an hour away.  After that, it is possible to go somewhere else but...

That would cost more money.

And I'm trying to save as much as possible.  Currently living (without alcohol if you can believe it) for about twenty USD per day.  This is necessary because I'm saving up for LHI2TSC.  And a new computer which can play modern games.

Wanting to stay close to Portugal.  When the internet starts again (Morocco internet sucks bad.  On, off, on, off.  WTF.) I'm going to do some more research on it.  Can I afford to stay for a couple months?  It would be quite a nice break from Morocco.  I've heard from numerous people that it is cheap.  Plus, I could fly out of there (or get over to Spain and fly from there - where ever the airfare is cheaper) to get to the USA to start my big trip.




Friday, September 23, 2016

MOROCCO COSTS

APARTMENT HUNTING

House hunting...again.

Apparently, a month is enough time to drain most of the good will from my hosts.  Not sure why as I have done my best to be an agreeable guest rather than my normal cantankerous self.

My fixer, Abdul, said that in the nearby beachfront town ("Martil" pronounced "Mar-teen" - no I don't know why) there was a place for 2000d ($200).  He wanted a bigger cut.  Since his 15% is based on how much I pay, I agreed that he would get it.  I'll figure out something based on math and stuff later.  Probably just pay him 500-600d if it works out.

Anyway, we took the blue shared taxi out of town.  They put four people in the back seat and two up front.  In the bucket seat.  I got in the bucket seat and paid for three total people.  After we arrived.

That town looks nice.  Big, open streets and such.  Not that many people.  Enough stores and food place to keep me fed.  Great.  Apparently, it is only crazy busy two or three months out of the year.  The best time to rent is when nobody else wants to as they jack up the rates.

We went to the new building housing the rooms.  Third floor.  I'd made a big deal of not wanting anything higher than the second floor but didn't squawk about the third.  They are always trying to push the limits.

We saw too rooms.  One was 2000d and the other 3000d.  The more expensive one was about as nice but had an extra bedroom with a couple other beds.  Not needed at all.

But wait - that wasn't all of it.  Oh no.  This is Morocco.

The room we had gone all the way out there to see wasn't the room he was renting.  It was a 'similar' room.

"Would you see a horse and be told the one you were getting was similar to this one?" I asked.  I was irritated to be brought out there to not see the room.  And Abdul had only found one person who was renting.  I was thinking "Fail."  Now we have to go back tomorrow.

When I was getting out of the taxi, Abdul wanted money.  I gave him 50d ($5).  Naturally, he wanted more.  "For what?" I asked.  He was having problems coming up with reasons.  "We didn't see the room, we didn't get anything rented.  I'm not seeing any upside for me for this trip."

He said he understood.  I was irritated but figured the 50d would keep him in good graces.  Better than a total brush off.

Fortunately, I am in a rather good position right now.  If the room they are actually renting isn't good (or no wifi etc) then I can keep staying where I am.  If they have what I'm after at the new place (the room I was shown would have been super great) then I can move out there.  Yes, that would piss off the landlord at where I am staying because he did reserve the room for me but given the sharp drop off in service, I'm thinking "I could move or stay".

Either way, once I move I don't really see heading back to Teutoun.  It was OK but after a few days meh.

It's looking strongly like I will be stuck (with visa renewal in another month or so - that story later) in Morocco for awhile.  Before going to the states, I will try to decompress in Portugal.  Hopefully, they have less pickpockets there.  Oh - did I fail to mention that thus far in six weeks or less two cell phones have gone to the underworld here?  Yeah.  This will probably be my last trip to Africa for quite some time.



MOROCCO DENTISTS

Probably best avoided.  The waiting time is anywhere from two weeks to three months.  After going to several, I got very lucky and found one.  But it isn't easy.



MOROCCO COSTS

Shave and a haircut, 25d.  Yes, he was surprised about the fifty cent tip.  And very pleased.

Shave only, 10d.  Yes.  A dollar.

Breakfast - very simple - at a tea shop, 15d.

Bowl of miscellaneous food from hole in the wall place, 5d.

Warning!  Although they seem to know what dental floss is, nobody seems to stock it.

Dentist - just visiting, not including any work, reportedly 200d.

Beer - very small, 20d.

Dental cleaning - over two days, 400d.  Partial cleaning for 200d.

Tooth capping - ie replace most of the tooth with a fake one, 1800d, five treatments over five weeks.

Tooth filling - 300d.

Tooth xray - 100d.


Note that as in Nepal, they have the 'lucky money' superstition.  This is that the first money acquired during the day is lucky.  To refuse the first deal is 'unlucky'.  Buying expensive things early in the day may save you money if you know how to barter.

Real life bartering example:

Robe - initial price, 400d.  Some tourists would get it for 350d and feel good about it because they suck at bartering or whine that it 'makes them feel uncomfortable'.  To the locals, this means they are 'wealthy fools easily parted with their money and to be charged extra'.  200d would have been a reasonable price to get the robe at.  I'm told locals would have gotten it for 150d.  I got it for 100d because a) I didn't care if I got it or not, b) I'd set a price in my head and did not go up from it by even a dirham, c) "Lucky Money" and d) I am good at bartering.



Friday, August 26, 2016

PICKPOCKETS, SOUKS AND MEDINAS

So, I wanted to avoid the icy touch of winter by going back to Morocco.

It may sound simple but if it involves Africa, it probably won't be.

Nothing is ever simple there.  I have no idea why that is.  If I believed in a god, I would say that 'Africa doesn't seem to be one of his favorite places'.  At all.  With just a touch of hate balm.  Not sure why that is.

Hell, I don't know why Africa is the way it is but I am not overly fond of it.  Sure I'd like it better than say Antarctica which to the best of my knowledge doesn't have a lot of internet access.  Which I need.

So, due to finances and not wanting a cold winter, I took my dumb ass back to Africa.  Naturally.

After bouncing from Romania (I miss it already) to Germany then to Spain I finally ended up in Tangiers Morocco.

That took two days of exhausting travel, to save about the amount of money I lost within an hour of being in Tangiers.

Romania had lulled me into a false sense of security - for the third world.  Within an hour or two in Tangiers, my dumb ass got my phone pick pocketed.  Sad how many times you keep looking where it should be thinking it will still be there.  Or searching somewhere you know it isn't but hoping.

Unbelievable.

After checking out eight places in Tangiers, I came to the opinion that all of the under $20 per night (all I can afford) places had dirty, dark and smelling like human and animal waste.  What the fuck.

Thinking back, I did even have some foreshadowing.  When I was in Tangiers, I met a couple tourists.  They asked what was north of us.  "Spain" I told them.  "Good" they replied.  "We want to get the fuck out of this country."  Hum.

Combine that with the loss of my smart phone and I said 'let's roll the dice again'.

I went to the bus station and got the first bus out.   Tetouan.  Never heard of that before.  Couple hours later and I was there.

Met a fixer, got a new phone (not sure if I like it or despise it yet) and found a so so place to stay.  It's about thirteen dollars a night and not really worth that.  Makes me miss Thailand.

All cheap Moroccan places are noisy.  This is because they have a central shaft down the middle for funneling air.  If you don't have your windows open, you cook.  No air conditioning, no fans.  The problem is that every noise in any of the rooms along that shaft is magnified.  Note, this is called a 'riad' - often a grand house converted into a hotel.  Which would make sense.  Being able to hear your family (who you presumably love enough not to axe murder for making so much damned racket) may be a good thing.

And no screens in the window.  So if anything gets in, you get a new room mate.

I'm seriously wondering about this town.

And Morocco.

But I'm not down yet.  The fixer I met offered to find me a place for 15% of the rent.  I told him my budget was 3000 dirham (about 300 USD) per month.  Honestly, the country isn't really worth more to me.

It goes back to my philosophy of why I dislike  a lot of Africa.  If stuff is dirty and squalid (see also India) it should be cheap.  Then, that's OK.  If it is shit and expensive, that's a problem for me.

So, we'll see what the fixer can do.  He asked for a day and I told him I'd stay for another after today.  He's going to check out some places and see if he can find anything decent.  If he can, I may rent a place.  If not, I might go back to a place I'm familiar with - like Marrakesh.

Another problem is that Logan was not the only one with the bright idea to come to Morocco during the summer.  This is their big tourist time.  Hence, prices go up and places to stay fill up.

Honestly, if I could afford an apartment somewhere warm in the USA (New Mexico, etc) I'd just go hang out there and wait for the warm weather to start LHI2 (the next tour of the states to visit people I know and people I've not yet met) but the rent in the USA is about more than I make per month.

So, I'll just wait and see what happens.

It's nice to have people out looking for stuff for me.



OR IS IT?

The next day (my third here, I think) I met up with Abdulla, my 'personal shopper', AKA fixer.  We went walking for a couple hours through souks and medinas.

Lots of walking.

There was a lot of stopping and chatting to this guy or that.  It is what one would expect from a fixer.  Plus, in Arabic influenced countries nothing happens fast.  You just have to accept that the whole process of ...well, pretty much anything, may take hours.  Life has a different pace here.

That's one of the funny things for people from 'first world' countries.  They always say they want the 'slower (or 'laid back') pace life'.  When they actually experience needing to wait for something that should be fast for hours, they lose their damned minds.  When most people say they want the 'slower pace lifestyle', they mean for them.  Not people they are paying for stuff.  They want them to hop the fuck to it.

The first place we visited was a riad in the medina.  It had been converted into a hotel.  Beautiful and build four hundred or so years ago.

Sorry the picture is crooked but I'm still trying to get use to my brand new phone/camera.

If you look closely at the floor, it is all done by hand.  Thousands of little pieces.  You don't find those in the newer riads because it is expensive as hell.

We had tea there and chatted for a bit.  I think my fixer was testing me to see if I was really serious about the 300 USD per month price.  This place cost 35 EUR per night for one person.  I didn't say that was my entire allotment of money for a day.  For two people, it is 40 EUR.  Pretty reasonable for them.

It is nice getting served tea everywhere.  Part of the tradition of hospitality (in Arabic 'de-aww-fa').  Nice.

After that, we went to another place.  It was really pleasant but there were a few warning signs.  There were no other people staying there.  The guy had the wifi off and needed to turn it on.  Always be wary of this as people have some odd beliefs about wifi such as 'it needs to rest'.  Or are too damned cheap to pay for electricity and will later object to having it on 'all the time'.  As it should be.  The price was right - 3000 dirham for the month.  I asked if it would be possible to pay 200 dirham to stay for two nights and then if I liked it just give him the rest of the money for the month.  No, it would cost 300 dirham per night and then on top of that pay for the month.  And he would have to talk first to his wife.

After we left, my fixer voiced his disgust.  "In Morocco, the women have no voice.  It was just a bargaining tactic."

Yes ladies.  I know.  You know me - I don't care if a human is male or female but in Arabic countries it is a whole different thing.  Apparently science saying we all started out as female (why men have nipples) is not something that is pondered.  Or it would be angrily shouted down and penises waved about.  Or something.

Despite it being a nice place that was just too many red flags waved about.

After walking around for a bit, Abdulla admitted he didn't have any place else to see right now.  I told him I'd stay for another night at the kind of shitty place I'm currently staying.

I remember playing the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG back in the 1980's.  That was my first introduction to 'fixers'.  It was surprisingly accurate.  I had no idea that decades later I would be employing them.

Cold showers and noisy with spotty wifi equal shitty for Logan.  Trudging my fat ass up four flights of stairs don't put me in a better mood either.

Maybe tomorrow he'll find a better place.  Though my needs are simple, he's working his ass off for that 15% - and if he could find a place I'd be happy to pay it.



TRAVELER'S TIPS - MOROCCO

French, Spanish and Arabic are keys to happiness here.


Check everything.  "This is the battery for your phone."  "Great!  Pop it in there and let's take a look."  "Oh - it's just a little too big."  Glad I didn't buy it.  In countries like this, consider all deals final.  Getting back your money is either impossible or often more trouble than it is worth.  Check everything first.  Negotiate everything first down to the dirham.




Monday, August 22, 2016

ROMANIA AND BEYOND!

PONDERING

Still trying to figure out where I should go.

Got some ideas from Adam LaContra.  He did tell me to stay the fuck out of Mexico right now.  Since he was right about Syria and has consistently given good advice, I think I'll listen.

Hope Mexico gets their shit together some day.  I'd really like to eat Mexican food for a few months.

But I'm still trying to figure out where to go.

Adam did suggest Turkey but they are also in the middle of a 'snit'.  By 'snit' I mean that the leader has decided to 'clean house'.  By 'clean house' that means imprisoning or killing off his rivals to power.  It might be a decent time to visit because less tourists (dead or fled) but honestly, I'm not that fond of Turkey.

He did also suggest Dominica.  This place has me worried for three reasons:  1) It's a fucking island.  That means shit is close to water.  Since it's a small island, that means everything is close to water.  When you get close to water, prices go up because people (for some reason) love being close to fucking water.  Probably because they're made up of so much of it they feel like they're coming home.  2) The wifi will be shit.  I love wifi and feel like I am missing a limb when I don't have it.  3) On pages like https://en.wikivoyage.org/wiki/Dominica I can't find very many lodging prices.  The ones I can find seem to be in the hundred dollars a night range.  Way out of my budget.  By over four times.  Thinking that may not be a good way to save money for my trip to the states in 8 months.

He also mentioned Zambia and Madagascar.  Interesting places but getting there and back again will be a big hit to the wallet, again foiling my evil 'return to the USA for a visit' plans.

If I had a much larger budget, I wouldn't feel like I was running out of places to go.

Right now, I have eight months I need to soak up.  Even if I can find a cheap way to Morocco (it will be 300-400 USD probably) that will soak three months leaving me with five.

And I can't afford to stay in the (warm parts of the) USA, where visa issues wouldn't be a problem.

So I'm kind of stuck.

An alternative plan would be to suck up some of the cold and move south back into Bulgaria where I could hang out for three months.  It's an agreeable country other than it doesn't seem to have any airports that are going where I want to go.

So essentially, I'm still trying to figure out somewhere cheap and warm to just hang out until I can easily travel to the USA.  Fuck snow and cold.  I'm happy in a desert.

If anyone has clever ideas (or a friend who wants to rent a tiny apartment for 300-400 in Florida, New Mexico, Texas (yea, guns!) or anywhere in the very south of the country let me know.



PARTIAL RESOLUTION

Right - after a lot of thought and sweating it out, I've decided to at least sweat (literally) out the first three months (of 8) back in Morocco.  It took some indirect flying but rather than paying the 500-600 I found, I managed to find a flight going through Dusseldorf (yea Germany!  Wish I could afford to hang out there) and then to Tangier (ironically a close name to one of the three dishes served in Morocco).  Naturally, in saving some money, I've signed up for a three airplane trip that will last a couple of days.  Simply put, there is no easy way there from here.

Not a clue what I will do after Morocco.  I could go back to Tunisia but I fucking hate Tunisia.  Come to think of it, there are only two countries in Africa I don't mind and one of them is too dangerous even for Logan.  Especially since the current president was once my Facebook friend.

Sadly, the trip has a few 'moving parts'.  Train, plane, plane, plane, etc.

On the plus side, if things fall apart, I can blog about it!



THOUGHTS ON ROMANIA

I find it a very agreeable country.  The weather is good, the people are friendly, the prices are some what affordable.  Many people speak at least a few words of English.  If they don't, you do have a chance of figuring out what they are saying if you have some French, Latin and Italian.  As we all do.

Many of the words are close enough.  Also, since Romanian uses Latin characters (fuck Cyrillic) you can often make out what the stores are.  Easy stuff.

Also, Romanians saw fit to build a lot of benches for people to just sit down and hang out.  In many of the old USSR countries, this is not the case.  You should be working - not sitting, talking and fermenting a revolution against the glorious state!

The Romanians seem pretty relaxed and friendly.  For men, there are several attractive women here.  For my women readers, there seem to be a lot of men here.  I have no idea what you'd make of them.

Buy medicine here.  I take several different kinds and have found their prices - and stock - very reasonable.  In fact, normally hunting down all of the medicine I need is a two or three day process.  I found everything in the first store I went to.  Nice.

Trains seem easy - under five minutes to get a train ticket that I bought two fortnights in advance.  Some sort of personal record.  Some countries won't even sell you a train ticket more than a couple days ahead of time.


In the disadvantages column, they are pretty religious though not pushy about it and 'their gods are not noisy'.  Not a huge proliferation of noisy bells, announcements, etc.  So, it's ignorable.

Also, they have a lot of gypsies here.  Gypsies!  The Geordies of Romania!  Just like the Geordies of England, they tend to dress differently and are often loud, crass people.  There seem to be two different kinds of gyspies.  Rich and poor.  The rich ones - aside from spending a lot of time wandering around yelling at each other and geography - are not much of a problem.  The poor ones are the kind of beggars who will violate your personal space and follow you around.  Beware of pick pockets and such though I've not had any problems thus far.  Try to look menacing.  Since I don't really look that way, I try to look hungry and cannibalistic.



TRAVELER'S TIPS - ROMANIA

Zebra Crossings aka Crosswalks

In Romania, should a driver strike a pedestrian outside of a crosswalk, they are thrown a parade and given a large gold foil covered chocolate key.

Should they strike a pedestrian within the crosswalk, they and their family for three generations are beaten within the public square for two days.

Both of the above statements are false, but they drive as though they are true.  Be warned - use the crosswalks and signals within this country.



TRAVELER'S TIPS - LONGER TERM OCCUPANCY (1-3 months)

Plastic bags:  Aside from getting to occupy a landfill or parents who wish they weren't giving them to children to play with, most people don't think much about them.  Aside from those pricks who buy a permanent bag and attempt to guilt others into not destroying the planet.  Bastards.  But for you - the traveler - plastic bags are useful.  First - make sure they were not shoddily made or have holes to try to keep the kids alive and out of landfills.  If they don't leak, they are new very cheap waterproof containers.  Because they will begin to tear after a few months, you will constantly be replacing them.  In addition, dirty laundry can be put into them.  Save your 'good bags' (thick, large) and give the laundry people the more common, crappy bags you got from the grocery.  Often, the laundry people will 'accidentally' keep or 'lose' the good bags.  The best bags are clear - no guessing what is inside.  I never throw out any bags other than the one I daily remove the trash with.  A surprising amount often get used when packing stuff and the rest I just leave with the hotel.  They are often grateful to get them.

Toilet paper:  If you are staying at a place that gives free toilet paper (pension, hotel, etc) get several extra rolls.  Don't feel bad about this - better to have way too many than one too few and explosive diarrhea.   Believe me.  Also, when you leave, they will get back all of the unused rolls.  You can build them a decorative pyramid of them before checking out.  Or you can become some weird person who travels around with twenty rolls of TP.  Just tell people "I like to poop."  Be sure to take at least one roll in your train/bus bag.  Because you like to poop.  Or at least wipe.  We hope.

Water:  Stock the hell up on this.  You should always have an extra three liters just sitting around.  If you get sick or become dehydrated (see 'explosive diarrhea') you may go through them in a hurry.  In addition to the roll of toilet paper (above) you should take a liter or two of water in your train/bus bag.  If you don't have these, you will regret it later.  (See also Logan's Rules of Water, below).

Packaged snacks:  Have some sitting around.  You might be unable (if the revolution comes) to go out and buy food.  Put uneaten packaged snacks into your train/bus bag when you are ready to leave.



LOGAN'S RULES OF WATER

These rules exempt Western Europe, USA (well, most of it anyway) and possibly Australia - though I've not been there.

Always drink bottled water, regardless of what the locals tell you.  In Brasov, Romania (my current location) I have been told the quality of the water from the tap exceeds bottled water.  This may be true.  How are the pipes that bring it here?  How old is this building?  How much lead is in the pipes?  How often are they replaced or cleaned?  Usually the answers are: bad, ancient, plenty and never.

In Eastern Europe, I will have salads.

Asia and Africa, if it isn't pealed or cooked hell no.  You will probably (eventually) get sick.  Yes, there are a lot of "I've been drinking plenty of water here and never got sick" people out there but the question always is "How much of your vacation would you like to give up to save half a buck on a bottle of water?"



TRAVELER'S TIP - GENERAL

Bandannas:  At the time of writing, I honestly couldn't tell you how many I own.  Twenty?  More?

They are always useful and you should always have one on you.  Whether you are using it to keep sweat out of your eyes, wiping up spills or applying a tourniquet to someone's neck they come in super handy.

Remember to get colors and patterns that will not have you angrily brought before a gang banger asking why you are wearing his - or his rivals - colors in their territory.  I get pastels.  Most people don't have as much fear of gang bangers wearing gentle pastels.


BOOK REVIEWS

WARNING - LIGHT SPOILERS (for The Survivalist)

Seven (or more) book series - The Survivalist

It took a bit to get past the first book.

In all these prepper/survivalist series, it often seems that the first book is a lot of self congratulation on the part of the anti-social paranoid gun nut who spent thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on something that would have been a complete waste of money.

Unless the apocalypse actually happened.

Since these are works of fiction, hey, Armageddon is awesome for these guys.  Had it not come about they would just look like overly paranoid idiots.  But they showed them, didn't they?

Guessing a lot of fans of these sorts of books are those very individuals so it is a masturbatory self congratulation they can enjoy in their minds.

In the first book, the characters were a bit flat but by the time the second (etc) books rolled around they'd gotten interesting.  Essentially, there are two different groups.

The marshal and his dog.   Essentially a gun fighter and a dog who is smart enough that if he had vocal cords he could not only talk but be funny.

The old prisoner and the 11 year old girl.  There is some special name for this kind of relationship but Google goes to very dark places if you don't know what you're looking for.  They formed an odd family kind of like in Leon: The Professional movie ( http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110413/ ).  It works in the book and isn't creepy.

Both of these groups are interesting and have loads of interesting adventures.  It is odd with just how many people got wiped out (see also: Apocalypse) that they would meet as many people as they do.

Also, the Coincidence Fairy is on overtime.

But the books are interesting.  All the novels are essentially one long book, as is the custom of this day.

Series score (as well as each individual book score) 4/5.  Pretty decent and I may revisit them in the future - especially if a couple more books come out.

Currently out on audio are 1-7.  8 is out in non-audio format and fans are howling for 9.


THE BORROWED WORLD SERIES (book reviews)

Book 1
Book 2
Book 3



Friday, July 29, 2016

ALL HAIL THE GREY MARKET

BRASOV

After winning a game of hide and seek with the bus, I arrived in Brasov.  My buddy had made me a reservation at a very cheap hostel - $5 per night.  They wanted a phone call about an hour before I arrived to 'make sure someone was there'.

I convinced the taxi driver to contact them and let them know I was coming.  They'd never heard of me and the price was 18 Euros per night.  WTF.  "How many nights will you be staying?"  None, thanks, bye!

The taxi driver told me he'd never heard of a place that was that cheap.

He then spent about an hour surfing the internet (my phone was dead) and calling various places.  Eventually, we got it down to two different pensions.

Pensions are like normal hotels with two major differences.  They are cheaper and you have to pay for a much longer period of time.  The more  time, the less the price.

A normal hotel is about 120 lei or more.  If you are paying for an entire month (all at once, all up front) you can get a pension room for about half that.

The first pension had a little table and uncomfortable looking stools.  Their wifi would get mocked by Cambodians.

The second pension was much nicer and the lady who runs it speaks English.  Their wifi is fantastic.  And the desk is large and a chair with a back.  And she offered to do my laundry for free.

I decided to pull the ole 'do you believe in your product' thing and offered to pay her one night at the monthly rate to test out the room.  Some people say no.  That is a warning flag for sure.  She immediately agreed.  The room is just fine.

Oddly, she didn't want me to pay all at once.  Though she didn't come straight out and say it, she was hatching a new deal.  If I pay each day, for one day at a time and she doesn't make a receipt - would that be OK?

Romanians really hate paying the government any fucking money.

At all.

So basically, I now am getting a daily room at the monthly rate.  Grey market enterprise at its finest.  Go team go.

And if I need to leave, I can.

Great - I'm staying here.

The room was a bit more expensive than I wanted but I'm just not ready to leave Romania yet.

Note that the price I'm paying is about $3-4 above what it would cost to sleep in a room with a dozen other people.

I may be flying out from their airport located in Sibiu.  Couple hours from me.  Not sure where I will go from there.  Maybe back to Morocco, maybe say 'fuck it' and go to Mexico.  "DO YOU BOYS LIKE MEX-EEE-CO?"  Love that movie scene ("Super Troopers").  Want some Mexican food in my fat belly.

The problem isn't that they are killing people in some of the towns - I've been to lots of places like that.  The problem is that it looks a touch expensive.  More research (see below for the first toe dip) is required.



TRAVELER'S TIPS - ROMANIA

What follows are my accumulated tips for Romania.  Not sure if this is my second or third trip to this country but these tips should make any visit here easier.

Taxis:  On the door of every cab is written the initial KM price as well as the price for each KM thereafter.  At the time of this writing (2016), it's around 2-3 lei.  Be sure to use the meter.  Any excuses mean you need a different cab.

Lunch:  Monday through Friday noon till four is the time to go out seeking lunch.  In Romania, lunch specials are available.  They call them 'menu' but pronounce it with a harder 'u' than standard English.  These cost about 15-20 lei (under $5) and include soup, main course and desert.  Although Romanian food taste is somewhere in the middle of the planet ("meh") it is a good deal financially.  Drinks sold separately.

Bus stations:  Although they often have signs stating which bus goes to which 'gate' (or position) these signs are often more imaginative than informative.  Asking four different people gets four different answers including you need to take a taxi to a whole different bus station.  Walk around and keep walking around twenty minutes beforehand up till the time the bus actually goes looking for your bus.  Unlike other countries where the bus drivers apparently get paid for more people (hence having people trying to find more business) here they don't really care.



MEXICO RESEARCH (Warning - this is dull.  Put it in for purely educational purposes.  Most travel writers don't show this side of travel.  I do.  It may be of help to see my thought processes - even if they often turn out to be wrong.)

As time is relentlessly ticking by and buying air tickets betwixt the continents is best done at least a month before hand, now seemed a good time to start researching.

Needing answers -

Where is a good place to leave and arrive?  Since I'm flexible, I can move about a bit.

Which airline?  And on this I didn't want to deal with crappy airlines - generally a ticket like this we're looking at a fairly significant amount of money.  For me, anyway.  So I didn't want the airline to fuck it up.

Can I actually afford Mexico?  It should be pretty easy there to find a place to stay.  Spanish is a simple language to ruthlessly butcher!  But while most 'Mericans think of Mexico as an excessively poor place with dirt roads and dogs holding gnawed off appendages of people, it is actually more expensive than places I normally stay.  Which I suppose tells you something.

First step - what are the cheapest airports to arrive into Mexico?  Usually, these are the busiest.  Yes, someone may have found some wonderful deal where they ended up on a one prop (of two) plane that took them somewhere super for only a peso - but I'm going with the averages here.

According to one website, the cheapest airports were Mexico City, Cancun and the one that is a pain in the ass to spell, Guadalajara.  I like the name "Mexico City".  Kind of tells you where it is.  I don't like the kidnap rate there though so giving it a miss - not a problem.

My research started showing that Condor Airways has pretty impressive rates so I started checking around their route map and such.

Surprisingly, they have a place right here in Romania they use - Sibiu.  While it looks to be about $140 more than Berlin (or Frankfurt where the airline is actually based), I'm thinking even on a discount airline (extra pain with the bags) it would cost more to get there than to just head down to a different town in the country I'm already in.  Cool.

The only problem is that Cancun is the cheap place.  Much cheaper than the others.  And it is about as far from the USA as you can get.

Awkward.

While a nifty bus tour of Mexico may be neat, I vaguely remember reading somewhere that the buses there were not cheap.  Closer to prices in the USA.  Plus, I need to figure out if I am going to be cutting up through the USA overland or flying into it.  For that, I will have to reference the LHI2 stats.  That will tell me what states I'm going to be in.

For those who haven't been reading the blog long enough to know what LHI stands for, it is "Logan's Home Invasion".  Named by a clever friend.  It is where I go stay with someone anywhere from a couple days to a week then they pass me off to the next person.

It doesn't work if I - for example - only know one person in the state or something.  Traveling fast in the USA is not a good thing - just expensive.



SO WHO DO WE HAVE FOR LHI2 THUS FAR?

(LHI2 is "Logan's Home Invasion 2 - the Second Coming".  It is when I visit the states and stay with various people in different states.)

Noble, AZ

David, CA

Mira, CO
Seth, CO

Mahmood, DC

Mike, IL
DeAnna, IL
Joel, IL
Kevin, IL
Jason, IL
Carolyn, IL

Robert, OH

Conner, OR
Bert, OR
Erich, OR

John, MI
Jack, MI
Jennifer, MI
Brian, MI

Bill, MO

Travis, VA
Razvan, VA
Gilbert, VA

Three or more people on a team, pretty good.  Less means we need more people on the team.  Teams are by state.

I'm thinking to be able to visit the state (and keep down the freakishly high cost of travel within the USA) I need to be able to stay with three different people (ie a week each is three weeks to absorb travel costs) in the state.  Often the people I am staying with or will stay with meet up on the road to pass me like a football from car to car.

If you don't see your name listed, be sure to contact me if you want Logan to come stay with you for a few days or a week.



HOPPING VAMPIRES

Those familiar with Chinese mythology will know of these.  My buddy Derek found a good article as to why.



PRICES

Minivan - Targu Mures to Brasov, 35 lei.

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 | Portugal: Faro

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