Sunday, February 1, 2015

CHANGES WITHIN CAMBODIA

UPCOMING PLANS

For some odd reason, I woke up at 7:30 AM.  Fought to get back to sleep and failed.  Guessing it may be excitement for heading to a different country.  This sometimes happens.  Pain in the ass.

The plan for those who are curious:

Tomorrow, Guy is taking me to a train that goes to the airport here in Johannesburg.  We are to arrive there by 6 PM.  The train shouldn't take too long.

Once I get to the airport, I'm going to wait around for a few hours.  Only fools don't arrive plenty early for international flights.

The plane will then take me to Bangkok.   There is a shuttle from the new airport to the old one I must take.  It's free!

Rather than blow a bunch of money (up to $50) for a place to stay connected to the airport, I'm just going to crash in the airport for about twenty four hours.  It's not fun but that's just how the flights go.

Fortunately, I remembered to check that the airports are both open 24 hours a day.  They aren't in some countries in order to drive out the riff raff.

Yes, I realize I may be part of the riff raff.

After a long assed wait in the airport, I fly to Cambodia.  Back to Siem Reap.  Assuming my usual hotel will give me my usual rate, I'll probably hang out there for a month - the normal visa time.  Plus, that is long enough for that town.  Going to eat a lot of cheap Mexican(ish) and Indian food.  Buy some extra cheap ear buds.

After that, I'm really not sure where to head.  Might do some research on various ferries that go to different countries.  While the ferries are pretty dangerous, they seem safer than any flight out of Malaysia - where they have trouble keeping track of the planes.

I'd like to head back to Dani's Home Stay in Indonesia (beautiful place).

Need to research several new (to me) countries to see if they are affordable and such such as Singapore, Timor, Papua New Guinea and Korea.

Use to live in Korea decades ago (still speak some Korean!) and would like to eat a bunch of Korean food.  Good stuff.

Other than that, I'm not sure what else will come about in Asia.  My goal is to stay there for say 15 months.  By the time I'm ready to move out I'd like to be past the nasty winter.

We'll see how that goes.



JUGGER

This is the best thing I found out about in South African NERO.

Here is a video of the sport:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9Zg_aEPME4&feature=youtu.be

Here are the rules:  https://www.teana.co.za/DownloadFiles/Teana%20-%20Jugger.pdf

This is an excellent sport.  As you can see in the video, there are several men and women who like to play it and can compete on a very equal field.  It doesn't require much in the way of props either.  In addition to two sets of short swords, two handed swords and sword/shield, you need a skull and two goal things.  The only other things not really seen in the video is a steel hammer and some large steel thing that is hit at a beat per couple seconds rhythm throughout the game.  If you listen carefully you can hear it behind the music in the video.  Everyone would need either matching t-shirts or tabbards as well.

This is a sport that if people try it out in NERO (in the USA) I'm convinced it will catch on.  It's quite tactical and fun to play and even fun to watch.  (In the video I am the fat guy with the light blue bandanna).

If this catches on as I hope it will in the USA, I could even see NERO chapters having their own jugger teams and challenging other NERO chapters to matches.  This could be big.

[For anyone who cares about such things, I've been told this game originally comes from an old movie called 'Blood of Heroes'.  It may even be played within some other LARPs but I've not seen it at NERO in my over a decade of NERO.  Nor heard of it there.]

My thanks to NERO South Africa (Teana) for introducing me to this very interesting game within NERO!

Note:  Yes, I am aware of the movie it came from.

Note:  Yes, I am sure they play it plenty in other LARPs.  However, in close on two decades of NERO, I've not heard about it.  Neither in the game or in monitoring other chapters boards.  Hence, I discount reports of 'oh, we play it'.  Clearly not enough if it doesn't even make your chapter board.



SWITCHING CONTINENTS

When the time to leave South Africa drew closer, one question I was often asked is "Will you return to South Africa?"

My life is very strange.  Honestly, I can't answer that.

A better question would be "Do you have any desire to ever return to South Africa?"

Mixed feelings there.

Like every other country, there are upsides and downsides to South Africa.

The downsides include feeling like you're living inside of a prison, the $1200 price tag to go there and get back out again, etc.  The upsides include getting to hang out with some really great people.

Hence, I don't know.  If a good enough external reason presents itself, it is possible.



BAG WEIGHTS

Big bag, 14 KG.  The little bag with just the computer shit, 9 KG.

How about that?



WELCOME TO THAILAND, BITCHES

The sources I read on how to get the free shuttle from the new airport to the old were only mostly correct.

For anyone who wants to do it, exit through door 3 (NOT 2) and look immediately to your right.  It's a full sized big white bus.  Good news, the airports are the only stops.


Coming from the UAE there was absolutely no question of 'proof of onward travel' despite many web pages saying Thailand demands this.


Don Muang (old airport) actually kind of sucks to 'bed down' in.  If you need to, I'd suggest hanging out in the new airport then when the time for your flight approaches, catch the free shuttle over there.

While the old airport does indeed have Krispy Creame, McDonalds, Dairy Queen and Subway those are all after passport control.  You can't even get in to the airport proper until six hours before your flight and the good area about three hours before your flight.  Until these times, you stay in the sucky area with shitty restaurants charging $15 for meals they can't even make look appetizing on their own menus.


Playing the "Jason Bourne" game - ie having currency from various different countries - is really neat when you head back to one you actually have the correct currency for.  The rest of the time it is a pain in the ass.


Despite the numerous signs saying that carry on luggage for Air Asia is limited to 7 KG, the check in guy was much more lenient about it.  He encouraged me to keep the cabling with the computer despite it possibly pushing the weight past it's limit.  Not that anyone ever weighed any of the check in bags.  This is a big difference from Ryan Air (the European discount airlines) which only allows you one bag and is ready to charge you more at any time.


Air Asia priority seating, from left to right:  Mummies, old people, people in wheel chairs, pregnant or fat people wearing dresses, people wearing dresses with a monkey lodged in their chest.



BACK IN CAMBODIA AGAIN

Imagine if you will, Logan on heavy sleep deprivation.  Haven't slept more than an hour or two at any one time for the last day or two.  What do you do?

Go drinking, of course.

After getting a kind of shitty hostel, my first stop was to go to Viva Mexican restaurant.

Viva Viva!

They sell a 'bucket' (not a bucket but a half liter glass) of margaritas for $5.  Snagged that up immediately.

While I was drinking, a man with a whiny voice was attempting to grill a waiter on what kind of oil they use to cook with.  He then demanded to speak with the manager about it.  This is the kind of normally powerless twit that isn't really tough enough to go travel.  How he wandered into a third wold country is a mystery.  Hopefully, he won't survive it.



"LUCKY" MAN

After arriving at the airport, I ignored the taxis and headed out to the street to grab a tuk tuk.  They cost less than half.

During the negotiation for the tuk tuk, I mentioned I'd spent a lot of time in country.  Rather than the tourist rip off price, they started at $6.  I haggled down to $5.  If you don't haggle you're either rich or an idiot but most often both.

As we were headed in to the city itself, I reflected at how cool it would be to know hundreds of cities so well all over the world...

I didn't really know the city so well as I'd hoped.

Gone.

My beautiful hotel, gone.  The one which gave me a great room for just $10 per night.  The hotel where I'd bribed the people I'd interacted with.  The people who - last time I was in town treated me like a VIP.

Fucking gone.

New hotel at double the price with the same rooms.  None of the old staff.

Well, fuck that.

The tuk tuk driver took me to about five other places which were actually kind of crappy.  Eventually, I shocked him by giving him an extra five dollars and thanking him for his time.

He called me "Lucky man" because everything was either fully booked, over priced or just sucked.

After checking into a crappy room, I went looking and within an hour found one which gave me an air conditioned room for $12.  Close enough.

Note that most AC rooms are $15 to $20.  The people will tell you there are none cheaper.

They are full of shit.

After checking in, heading to the Mexican restaurant, staggering around for a couple (or few) hours and hitting a bar for a couple quick beers, I eventually decided on a quick nap.

Out like a light for twelve hours.

Twelve.

Sure, teenagers and people bored with their lives can sleep that long but I wanted to go do things and look around.

Like a light.

After waking up, I switched hotels to the one I'd found after sending the tuk tuk driver off.

For some reason, I always have better luck doing these things myself.


The next day, I headed back to my normal stomping grounds near the 'Old Market'.  Found a restaurant which use to be my old breakfast nook.  The owner and his wife still remember me there and were very happy to see me again.

Gossiping with them revealed that the new martial rule in Thailand (where they are actually enforcing the laws now) has been excellent business for Cambodia.  All of the people who were living illegally in Thailand doing 'border runs' to update their visa now have to go actually live for a time in a different county.  This has caused quite an up swell of business in Cambodia.  Also, the possibility of some new EU Asian style has a lot of stuff being built.

Before Anne Rice lost a love one, went crazy and returned to religion (death doesn't become her it seems) she reportedly did things like sleep in coffins to try to 'get into the mind' of vampires.

I do this by just wandering around.

I think vampires would often be depressed at how much areas have changed.  The places they love and the people they knew are always gone.

Boy, that sucks.  Hell, it's been only a year and a half or so since I was here and everything is changing.


The tourist age varies wildly from really young looking kids up to old folks trying to see the world before they die.  Most tourists I've been told stay in Siem Reap from 1-3 days.  Honestly, if all you are coming to do is see Angkor Wat that's probably enough time though the town is not bad.


Reminder - if you decide to head to Angkor Wat, be sure to watch the movie Tomb Raider before you go.  Despite the movie being made as recently as 1991, nobody seems to have heard of it now.  It's always fun to see things you've just seen in the movies.


All of these changes here make me wonder if Burma (now called Myanmar) might be good to head to.  Get that 'unspoiled' thing.  I'm still worried about the currency issue though.  Take in all of the money you will need in perfect condition because there are no ATMs.



THE GREAT ATM HUNT

Nasty shock today.  Tried five ATM's.  No money.

Did they charge my credit card and not give me any money?  Is it a repeat of Central America?

No.

They may have been just out of money.

Yes, this is the kind of country that kind of shit happens in.  Well, it is Sunday...

Fortuitously, the ATM right across the street from the hostel I'm in worked.  It stiffed me for $10 of charges but it worked.  The ATM charges are fixed in this country.  Regardless of the amount you take out, the charges are always the same.  Hence, it is an IQ test.  Do you take out 'just what you need'?  If so, you lose more money.


So what am I doing tonight?

Bottle of rum and movies.



PRICES

Tuk tuk into the famous Angkor Wat, $15 to $20 depending what you want to see.

Winston Lights (cigarettes, pack of 20), .70 (cents)

Big bottle of Glenlivets (whiskey), $12

Can of Coca Cola Light, .60 ($11 by the case)

Can of beer, .60 ($11 by the case)

Bottle of Cuapupo Gold Rum, $9

Sunday, January 25, 2015

SOUTH AFRICA CHECKLIST COMPLETED

THE ARTICLE IN QUESTION

I'd read this a couple days ago. People freaked the hell out in the comments saying they just didn't have the money and that the author's solution of 'desire' was inaccurate.

After some contemplation, I'm not sure for most people it is.

Normal people may desire having children more than travel. People with unexpected pregnancies may have desired sex more than travel. People who like toys - well, you get the idea.

Running into people working on the road, teaching English, towing entire families along (showing me that perhaps the 'stable environment' may be the mom and dad - not where they are living) and so on tells me that in the end much of it is about desire.

There may be a few notable exceptions people are quick to self identify with but that is the long and short of it to me.

Most people don't really want 'to travel' - even when they say they do. They want a vacation. A few weeks away from the grind. That is totally OK. Aside from those people that live in the USA. Ya'll are fucked. Sorry - but low paying jobs, little to no vacation time and being $700+ away from 'foreign parts' mean your vacation (like mine when I use to work) will amount to sleeping in for another couple days and masturbating in front of the computer using your tears as lubricant.

Sorry.



APARTHEID MUSEUM

Due in part to the remarkably shitty postal system and the burgeoning community of geeks they have in South Africa, they actually still have gaming stores here.  Remember those?  Yeah.

Anyway, the owner of the main one in Johannesburg is named Grant.  He kindly took me to the Apartheid Museum.

Honestly, Grant was more entertaining to the museum.  Rather than having a lot of 'stuff', the museum had a lot of short films on televisions and newspaper clippings hung up.  This is the kind of museum which would be of interest to anyone who had never heard of 'the internet'.

I didn't get many pictures of it partially because there wasn't that much stuff worth taking a picture of and partially because a lady told me I wasn't allowed to take pictures.  Bit hypocritical considering the museum had hung up pictures from everyone else within.  Never understood why some museums don't like pictures being taken.  In my mind it doesn't prevent the need to go there - seeing a picture of something nifty will make you want to go see it.

Sigh.

Like most of the other South Africans I've spoken with, Grant knows a lot about his country and  it's history.  He was an excellent host.

After that, we went out and ate Indian food - always a win.

Thank you to Grant and his hospitality the only thing I have yet to do in South Africa is to go to a NERO event.  Then, I'll have hit everything I wanted to do here.

The NERO experience is happening this coming weekend.  [Editor note:  For those of you living in the present where holo-decks have replaced leaving your cube, reference "LARP".]



SHENANIGANS

Just a few more fun things that happened in South Africa I've heard about going on while I've been here.

Grant, the nice man who took me to the Apartheid Museum had his home broken in to six times.  In December.  Though he is quick to point out the criminals only got around to stealing something one of those times, still...

Eight days before I was to leave the country, one of the people who came over to game for four hours had his car stolen.  As a side note, the people here were incredulous there was no tracking system nor car alarm in the vehicle.



NERO SOUTH AFRICA  (If you are not interested in NERO, skip this section)

Well, I got to do something I was told had never ever been done before.

I was the first foreigner to play NERO in South Africa.

Yea, me!

It may not wow over some people (especially those that live in South Africa) but you have to take your victories where you can find them.


First off, I'd like to say that I enjoyed meeting the players there quite a bit.  That was great.  The LARP and RP communities of South Africa are comprised of very warm generous people.  These are the kind of people who take me to things that I'd otherwise not get to see and such - just because they are awesome hosts.

The medics who treated some people who were abused by too much adrenalin also get a thank you.

Overall, compared to other events I've been to I'd rate this one as middling fun wise.  In the USA, I've been to much worse events (anyone remember the caves in Tennessee?) and much better ones.  This one was pretty firmly in the middle.


What follows are my opinions.  I don't expect people to necessarily agree with my following opinions,  but about half dozen of the people who run the event specifically asked for my feedback, as did several players.

It is a strange condition of humans that if something was good, you just say 'it rocked'.  If it isn't, you have a very specific list of what you didn't like.  Sorry, but that's just the way people work.  The tavern service was very very good.  Also, they have a game called 'jugger' (hope that is spelled right).  I'm going to get a link to a video of it to some of my friends in the US.  It is an awesome sport that can be done within NERO and it was even a lot of fun to watch.


They do some stuff that is very different here than in the states.   South Africa is under four very big disadvantages.

1.  Less than 10% of the population of the entire country might consider playing.  This isn't something black people do.  It's simply not a part of Zulu (etc) culture.  As the black middle class continues to grow they may start to get some black players but several certainly won't be the norm in my lifetime.  Hence, the total number of people who might become players is greater than the population of LA but much less than NY.  Of all of those people, a thin sliver will think LARPing is a good idea.

2.  Less disposable income.  I know nearly all the LARPers in the US thinks they are poor, but there is less money here.

3.  All of the information they got about NERO came from Joe Valenti, the owner of NERO. This is where NERO SA got it's 'monster manual' from.  I've never spoken with any NERO chapter owner who had anything positive to say about that.  Actually, most of the talk kind of went the other way.

4.  They had to pick up NERO from reading books.  This is rough.  While it is true they had (have) another LARP here, getting all of your NERO information from reading books is a bit like trying to ride a bicycle from an instruction manual.   I was taught NERO from the higher level people.  Eventually, I hung out with experts (many of whom were or became chapter owners) and learned from them.  The folk in SA really don't have that option.



Feedback:

A freakish over the top amount of Out of Game (OOG) talk.  When I started NERO this was something I was epically bad at.  The competent people kept yelling at me to cut it out until I did.  There is NEVER a good reason to talk out of game within sight or hearing of the other players.  I say never simply because everyone thinks their reason is ok.  It isn't.  If admin stuff needs to be talked about, say admin and go away out of sight of the other PC's or whisper into their ear "Go to monster camp" or something.  I watched people put their clenched fist next to their head (indicating OOG) *when they laughed*.  I watched a girl who was trying to give an in game speech OOG by accident because she was so use to doing it.  The problem is that unless the upper people ruthlessly stamp it out among themselves it will never ever be corrected with the population.  Why continue to shatter the immersion?  If you can't think of how to say something out of game using in game phrasing (ie 'films' become 'theater' etc) it is probably just laziness.  Ironically, at the end of the event, myself and two other people were talking quietly amongst ourselves OOG as we'd all agreed to and got bitched at by some passing out of game girl about it.


Going OOG, being OOG.  Mentioning this here as it is related.  Unless they are dead and trudging back to NPC camp, there is no good reason for an NPC to be OOG.  If they want to eat, here is a brown tabbard.  You're a simple villager and have no quests nor loot.  Done.  It populates the town.  OOG people should be shunned more than smokers.  Attempt to be where players are not.  This is also something that breaks immersion.   Too many times it appeared there were a lot of people but no - most were out of game.  Late at night before bed, this is OK but throughout the day they want to be OOG and hang out and talk to people who are in game?

I'm not sure if it is in the NERO rule book but the way I learned about going OOG was to leave sight of the players (around a corner or something) and go out on a three count.  If there is a chance someone is stalking you, loudly ask if anyone minds if you go out of game (generally if you are in a remote location) and if there are no objections go out on a three count.  Yeah, it's pretty fucked up when someone you didn't know was there says 'they mind'.


From the world of 'what the fuck'

Armbands:

People couldn't tell me what meant what without looking.  Which is worse?  I suppose that is why the chart (above) got hung up on the tavern instead of something interesting like say a wanted poster or royal proclamation.

Those I chatted with often didn't notice/see the armbands - more so at night.

It is another thing which breaks the immersion.

It coddles the incompetent.

It keeps fast talking NPC's from being able to bluff they are more powerful.

In short, I was not a fan of them.


White headbands - insist on them.  Especially for the staff.  If they don't always have one ("I lost it."  "I don't have it with me."  "I'm too lazy to make a good excuse.") it shows it isn't really important.


This chapter keeps freakish (and in my opinion, illogical, irrelevant) track of things such as an individual cure light wound potion.  It sounds like a lot of wasted effort to me.  Despite such slavish attention to detail, when I was 'mass invested' (not something in the rule book) into the healer's guild circle no names were noted.   I was told not to worry about it.  I've been told they normally keep track so perhaps that one just fell through the cracks.


Having access to the tavern (and being able to fight in it) is much more important than tables of pretty, breakable crap you notice for a couple minutes before it just becomes something needlessly filling space.  The tavern is the center of the NERO town.  If there are no cabins for the guilds, have the guild masters go 'free range' for a couple hours at a time.


Speaking of that, they had 'permanent NPC's to help flesh out the town by having people that actually live there'.  It didn't feel like it.  It just felt like squandered resources that could have been out reducing the massive downtime we had on Saturday by playing 'crunchies' and such.


For vague and unsatisfying reasons, all of the PC's are called 'bravos'.  Honestly, that sounds like something a corporate drone would come up with.  The chapter uses a lot of Norse - isn't there a cool word for adventurer, sell sword, killer that could have been used?


To avoid cheese (in the negative sense) have tags for each and every component as well as copies of the formal scrolls to be used for each and every ritual cast.  Also, have them per the rules along with a ritual marshal in case some PC thinks it would be funny to backlash the ritual and so on.


Why double hooking is desperately needed and why I don't think it will get used.

Double hooking is a clever strategy taught to me by experts.  A single NPC goes out and recruits two parties for different goals.  Assuming it is a combat module (doesn't need to be) the PC's of one party don simple tabbards (example: red) to play a creature such as a kobold.  After that module is completed, the other team NPCs.  One guy can effectively keep ten or twenty PC's entertained.

When the hook goes out, he does mention it is a 'double hook module'.  If someone doesn't want to help entertain their fellow PC's, they and their party can continue sitting on their butts wondering why there is nothing going on.

My belief is that if there was always (yes always - not once or twice per event) double hook guys wandering around looking for two groups to hook for modules this would help get rid of the massive downtime that comes from the excessively planned modules which are launched one at a time like great ships.  After the ship is launched, the plot team waits for the crew to return then launches another.  This gives a lot of downtime.  Combining the current system with double hooking gets rid of this.

In the states, often the PC's double hook themselves.  Two groups will come to monster camp.  The leaders from each group will tell an NPC "Our group is looking for the lost shrine of Gergidy and theirs is going hunting down by the river for elk."  An NPC is dispatched and off they go.  Other stuff may happen at it does require thinking on ones feet but it is good plot and the PC's get some control over impromptu plots.

Despite the pros of adding the double hooking to the existing system, I have doubts that it will take off due to the following things:  a) you need to get a bunch of single color tabbards.  Goblin points should take care of this.  I'd be sure to specify the length as all the tabbards I saw were made for tiny people and many gamers aren't.   b) plot will freak out the first time they launch a grand plot ship and lo, some of the people they wanted aboard are out on a double hook already.  Fast serve doesn't seem to mesh.  Hopefully, they can overcome these problems.  I think it will help the game mightily and get rid of the problem I kept hearing from some of the players about this weekend that "there wasn't much to do as a PC".


If:

If it takes longer to walk to the module area than the module takes, this is wrong.

If someone spends longer squeezing into a wedding dress to play a creepy undead than she actually got to spend fighting, that monster was not statted correctly.  (I'd give some parries or have something which 'reduces' the max damage they can take from a single hit.)

If NPC's playing crunchies have only one pop then they are dead, this is wrong.

If the modules newbies who are not interested (nor equipped) for combat are indeed combat, perhaps it may be worth writing up totally non-combat problem solving modules for newbies.

If you are holding for a description, your costuming is NOT 'detailed'.   Better to go with extremely simple single color tabbards for most things (since there isn't any or much NPC face paint - I saw little figured it was due to the heat) and more elaborate costumes for the more interesting things.

If you are calling a hold to answer the question 'what do I see', you are breaking immersion and wasting time.  Answers are usually along the lines of "Twisted humanoid", "red eyed bears", etc.  Very short - the players can either figure it out later or research it for themselves ("what was it we fought?".  [As a side note, one very well done response from an NPC at night to the question "what do I see" was "what color is my tabbard?"  The PC didn't know so all he got was "probably humanoid".  That was brilliant because PC's love to do that kind of crap all the time.  It stopped at that chapter after word got around and that became the norm.]

If you have twenty NPC's sitting around NPC camp, this is so amazingly wrong it would cause many chapter owners heads to figuratively explode.  Can't a few NPC's go be crunchies?  Before anyone says that isn't how the PC base likes it's NERO, I'd like to point out that for three minor undead the entire town got involved due to boredom.


UPDATE:

Jugger Rules here.
Jugger video to follow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

WHAT LOGAN HAS (MIS?)LEARNED OF SOUTH AFRICA

CHRISTMAS, BITCHES

Disclaimer:  The below article was written a couple weeks ago during Christmas.  Not a lot has happened since then so you get to read about it now.  Get jolly.


Today, I had something unusual for Christmas.

Crackers.

English style crackers.

These aren't the kind you eat - they are the kind you pull one end, someone else pulls another and they let off a very small explosion.

Yes, the English are fucking weird.  Example, Matthew Lunn.

But the fun doesn't stop there!

Inside the cracker (not meaning 'white person') is a toy so cheap the Chinese may even be embarrassed about it and a joke which is epic in it's lameness.

What do you call a dog that can tell time?

A 'watch dog'.

Yes, that lame.

But you have to wear a 'crown' when opening these.  The crowns provided in the box were clear plastic and made all three of us feel like we were wearing condoms on our heads.

Which would have been much cooler.

So that is yet another strange custom of the English.  Since there are a lot of English people in South Africa, I got to experience it.

Happy Christmas, bitches.



SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT IQ TEST

Read the first paragraph of this wiki article.  Now, read it again.

These sort of things make me think South Africa is going to have a rough time becoming a strong viable country rather than sliding into the shit stew that comprises much of Africa.



WHAT LOGAN HAS (MIS?) LEARNED OF SOUTH AFRICA

Disclaimer:  Let's get this straight right away.  If you wanted to know the true history of South Africa, you'd google it.  Instead, you are reading the Logan version.  This is either because you want to laugh at how little Logan actually understands of the history and politics of South Africa or you believe this version may be more interesting.  I'm sure after my friends in South Africa read this, they will send me corrections.  If you do send me corrections, expect to see them copy/paste into the next blog.

Also, I don't want to come off as sounding too judgmental.  After all, I am from a society which has bought part of a country we're keeping poor then set up our very own torture facility there.  And keeping it open despite everyone finding out what horrible stuff we do there.


Here we go...

Once upon a time, there were a bunch of Dutch guys (Boers, which mean 'farmers') who decided to take over South Africa.  And some Brits were involved.

That way are black people who need oppression!

The Brits and Dutch (who later seemed to morph into 'Afrikaners') got into a pissing contest over this area.  It seemed to be about money and land.

They also shot up each other in something called the 'Boer War'.  Not to be confused with the 'Bore War' (which was dull) nor the 'Boar War' which may have involved vicious tusked pigs.

Do not fuck with these.

There were also a bunch of black people living here.  The Zulus were the main tribe in the area but there were a lot of different tribes in the area.  Or they came in later to make attempting to learn any of the languages spoken by native blacks totally frustrating for white people.  This also makes me want to never call anyone in the USA an 'African American' ever again.  It's a silly made up term that nobody I've run into identifies with.  They will say they are Zulu or Chakti, etc.  Maybe even South African.  That reminds me - back to South Africa...

This is a still from the movie 'Zulu'.  If you Google 'movie Zulu' you can see lots of pictures like this.  No black people.  They didn't rate any pictures, apparently.  If you wonder 'why did they wear red uniforms?' I've been told that when fighting in a line it was so you didn't see the blood and know you'd been injured.  Hence, you keep fighting.  And make a great target.  And are half way ready for Christmas.  Also, your enemies couldn't tell you'd been injured.  Aside from perhaps the large spear sticking out of you.

So it got pretty brutal as wars tend to.  The most famous black warrior was named Shaka Zulu.


He made some new kind of spear I saw at the war museum which is a rather nasty piece of work and makes an unpleasant sound when pulled out of you.  The spear has been named after that sound.  I don't remember the sound but don't want to hear it if I am getting a spear pulled out of me.

Use of this shield in the NERO LARP would be illegal.  It is way too big.

Eventually, Shaka's mom died, he went nuts and got assassinated.  Fortunately, the leaders today I've been told are just wildly corrupt and foolish as opposed to 'murderously insane' (see earlier article 'SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT IQ TEST').

After that, the South Africans fought a bunch of wars.  Seriously, these guys were always fighting.  They fought the blacks.  They fought the British.  They even went up to Angola and fought there for awhile.  They fought in WW1 and it's sequel, WW2.  They fought in Korea.  They pretty much fought all the time.  From what I've heard, they were very good at it as well.

Eventually, came Apartheid.  Probably through various evil politicians.

Not known as the 'Four In One Flag' but it should have been.

Like everything else humans do, it had good points and bad points.

The good points were things like building actual infrastructure.  Under the current government, I've been told this is slipping mightily.  As we all know though, evil guys are plotters and schemers.  They do things like build a country wide road system so that their armies can get anywhere within the country easily.  Revolutionaries' big plan ends when they win.

Revolutionaries have trouble doing the little things like 'keeping the electricity going'.  This is easily seen in  Johannesburg (known as 'Joburg' to the locals) by things like daily rolling blackouts.  They even have something called a 'Joburg stop' which is a rolling stop made at a traffic light (inexplicably called a 'robot' here) which has no electricity going through it.

As in countries which were formerly in the USSR, I've heard that things 'were better in the old days' - meaning 'under Apartheid'.  Everything worked.  Everyone had a job.

Of course, it was a lot better if you were white.

The barbaric practice of 'necklacing' which may sadly be one of the things I remember longest from my visit here.

Black people weren't allowed to congregate in groups aside from churches - which were the downfall of Apartheid.  This is ironic because they used a lot of religion to justify controlling, disappearing or outright killing black people.

If anyone black did anything the white population disapproved of they would simply disappear.

Not pictured:  Several people who have mysteriously disappeared.  Let us have no more discussion on this bizarre cover up.

I'd call that a pretty substantial 'downside' for Apartheid.

A whole bunch of people from British India were also forced to come here.  They weren't white enough to not abuse, they weren't black enough to treat like blacks so they kind of got ignored.  They then became the merchants and 'middle class'.  It is fortunate they were brought because they knew how to make Indian food which is outstanding.  [Editor note:  Logan does not condone kidnapping people from their native countries and forcing them to cook for him.  However, if those people are already here...]

A feast worth kidnapping for.  No - wait - I meant do NOT kidnap people!

Eventually, Apartheid lost it's power.  It was because a lot of external pressure and internal pressures eventually heated up.  However, I prefer to think of the change being brought about following the Star Wars movie with the entire good guy cast being black and the Apartheid guys being the Empire.  Yes, even the wookie is black in my imagination.

Would Whoopie Goldberg play the wookie?

If not, Google has provided a picture of a black wookie.  Of course.


So a black government got in charge.  Everything seemed good until people a decade or two later when the people began to realize it wasn't all that cool.  After both sides made tearful apologies to each other for having horrible crimes done to them, people began to find out that you need certain skills to run a country.

"So.  Who knows how to keep the electricity running?"

And I've been told that the government didn't have them.  They left teams from the old government to try to teach the new one but the new government bureaucrats figured they were smart enough and ignored them.

Bureaucrats of all countries can be played by Grumpy Cat!

And now sometimes things like coal silos collapse from lack of maintenance which hasn't been done since 'the bad ole days'.

The thing which could really turn the country around is education.  There are way too many blank stares and people which seem barely able to function in the modern world.  However, like every other country I've been to, education is woefully inadequate.  Note, their government does say they spend a lot of money on it but the story I've gotten from locals is different.

Even more so here than in the USA.  (On this chart, the USA is at #14.  Indonesia is at #40.  South Africa didn't make the list.)

Back in the caveman days when I went to school in the USA, anything below a 70% was a failing grade.  You had to be pretty dim (or uninterested) to get that low.

Here, I've been informed that a 'passing grade' is somewhere between 30-50%, depending on who you talk to.  And people don't go to school for very many years.

In a country where even the president thinks taking a shower will keep him safe from AIDS after unprotected sex, education seems like a valuable commodity.

But it's not.

If it was, I'd bet this country could turn around within the next generation or two and become a vibrant economy.  As it is now, I don't think it will take place for several generations.  Certainly not within my lifetime.  Hence, it will always (for anyone reading this) be a weird mix of first and third world.


THE WALLS

This picture of Pink Floyd's album "The Wall" and the "Isn't Logan fucking old?" society.

As soon as Apartheid went down, the walls around each and every property went up.

Johannesburg strikes me as a heavily forested prison colony.

Johannesburg really needs more floodlights but you know...daily rolling electricity blackouts...

Not having walls isn't really an option because you can't get insurance.  Walls, electric fences, spikes - all needed.

The insurance company will however allow you to substitute a pyramid of skulls.

It's not just paranoia.  Everyone I've talked to has either been personally robbed, mugged, stabbed, threatened or knows someone who has.  You have to keep your windows rolled up with your car doors locked when you drive around.  Yes, really.

I've even heard stories from multiple people where a mugger has threatened violence unless they were given something like a phone then stabbed the person when it wasn't the right model of phone.  Or just because.

Picture of a white mugger used for 'racial balance'.

Pretty grim situation but the locals have adapted to it.  Humans can adapt to some pretty amazing circumstances but it's not good conditions to live under.

It's bad also for the blacks.  Under Apartheid, they were given some schooling (how to be a maid, how to be a gardener, etc) and given places to live and a tiny tiny wage.  Now they live in shanty towns and get either a tiny tiny wage or often none at all.   Every street corner has people either selling or - more usually - begging.

So, it's not what I'd call a desirable situation.

As to the 'tourist activities' within the country, I can't give any comment on.  My hosts and other people I've met have been kind enough to make sure I was exposed to some of the things in Joburg.  I can recommend it though for a fast moving tourist, it is a couple days of seeing some museums then out to view the 'big five' (see below Traveler's Tip) and off to the next city.

See these...then GTFO...

Those asking "Why did Logan stay for three months?"  Good hosts.  After dropping six hundred dollars each way for airfare, I needed to just hang out in one place and madly save money for three months.  I am extremely grateful to my hosts, Guy and DD for making that possible.



TRAVELER'S TIP - SOUTH AFRICA

According to my hosts, winter is actually the best time to visit South Africa.  It is still warm but it doesn't rain every day.  Because it is so dry, there isn't a lot of foliage on the trees and bushes - this makes it easier to see the 'big five'.



PRICES (in approximate USD)

Middling meal home cooked, $5-6.  Double for restaurant.  (Note, if you are just getting a burger or something don't double the price.)

Medicine - about 6x to 10x what it will cost in Cambodia including the mandatory visit to the doctor.  Stock up well on any medicines you need before coming here because you need a doctors note to buy almost anything.

Monday, December 22, 2014

AFTER AFRICA

VALUE FOR MONEY

A buddy of mine (Kevin D.) asked:  "What would you consider your top three "Best value for the money countries". Consider lodging, food, entertainment and site seeing."

The easy answer is most of the stuff in SE Asia is good value for money. It's cheap and (if you like Asian culture stuff) interesting. Eastern Europe is more expensive and a bit of a crap shoot as far as costs go but you are more likely to have interesting conversations with fascinating people. To try to pin it down to exact countries is more difficult.

I think some of the countries I've found that I am very much looking forward to getting back to include Nepal, Indonesia and Cambodia. In those countries you can live like a king (assuming you know how to travel and where to go) for less than $30 per day including everything.

In Indonesia, you can rent a scooter for about $5 per day (if you know how to ride one and are not Logan) and that gets you around. You may have to carry some extra money for bribes if the cops want to see a license but they usually don't ask. The cross over between homes and temples (both are in the same place) as well as interesting flora and fauna make it a very cool place.

In Nepal, you can go white water rafting including everything (food, drink, tent to sleep in, entertainment on the water) for about $20 per day. Also, the city of Kathmandu is interesting to just wander around in.

Cambodia has Siem Reap with the close by Angkor Wat - several kilometers of temples you can see for about $20 per day, a bit more including your own personal tuk tuk. If you know where to stay in Siem Reap, it puts you right next to the 3x3 block restaurant and bar block.

In all three of the countries the locals are nice but finding people who are fluent in any of the languages I speak is rough.

They make you feel very welcome in Eastern Europe however stuff costs more there (x1.5 to x2) what SE Asia costs.

Personally, I like being able to do the entire world as some sort of 'sampler platter' and would hate to be pinned down to just one region.



AFTER AFRICA

I really dislike Bangkok.  More so when I fuck up.

So I'd bought a plane ticket for the 29th.  Heading back to SE Asia.  Going to try to hit a couple new countries.  If I save up some money, I might even eventually fly over to Korea to eat some Korean food.

I miss Korean food.

Yes, chances are it is better than your food if you are in one of the 'meh' food countries.   For those interested, the 'good food' countries currently include India, Mexico, Thailand, etc.  I'd even go so far as to put USA on that list - not because I'm a native but so many people who live there are either from somewhere else or have ancestors from somewhere else and have brought different dishes there.  Of all the countries, it is the easiest to find any random countries food you desire.   Most food in the world - that is in restaurants I have access to - is either unimaginative or shit.  I rate only restaurant food.  The few times I've been lucky enough to have someone (or someone's mom) cook for me the food is always better.  You can taste the love.

Back to Bangkok.  Before I'd bought a plane ticket, I failed utterly to read up on the bus that goes to Siem Reap.  Yes, I've spent a lot of time there but it is like another home for me.  Unless they've managed to screw it up while I've been in Europe.

Because of my slipshod research, my plane gets there in the early evening (never a good time to arrive) and the buses leave in the early morning.

As anyone who has read my blog knows, I don't mind a ten hour bus ride (which it will be) but sitting around for a dozen hours with all of your stuff after flying from Africa to Asia is going to suck.

It became a toss up between 'do I want to get a train (if they're still running, rip off taxi if it is not) from the airport to the overpriced hotel then a taxi back to the bus station as they don't seem to have any hotels at the bus station.

Really dislike Bangkok.  Spent more than enough time there.  Really.  I just wanted to get to Siem Reap and sit for a bit.  Get yelled at by desperate tuk tuk drivers for awhile.  I've got a month to figure out whether I want to go there for a bit or immediately begin to wander around SE Asia.

This trip, I'd like to research getting to Philippines by boat since my whole plane trip didn't work out last time.  Heard they have rum there.  I can help with that.

Perhaps Papua New Guinea and Timor warrant more research as well.  Would I enjoy going there?  Guessing lots of mosquitoes, possibly malaria.  If shots and such are required that would damp my enthusiasm a bit.



AN OPEN INVITATION

If anyone is going to be anywhere I am, contact me.  We can have a beer.



WHEN WILL YOU...

People often ask me "When will you..."

...return to the USA?
...come to my country?
...go to some other country?
...grow up?

The answers are:

My guess would be I might visit in 2016 or 2017 if I am still alive.  If not alive, probably never.

When I can afford your country.  If you offer me a deal like my current hosts in South Africa possibly much, much sooner.  For those wanting to have Logan as a house guest, I got my own room and three meals a day for $10 per day.  This saves me money and makes me happy.  Earlier this year (2014 for those reading the book or blog in some distant dystopian future) I had the "Logan's Home Invasion" tour where I was driven by kind people from house to house within the USA and stayed with a lot of great people anywhere from a night to a couple of weeks for free.  Loved that because I got to spend a lot of time with a lot of great people.

Not sure.  SE Asia is needed to try to build up a bit of money after the severe buttfucking I took in Western Europe.  Note that I've never engaged in anal sex but have quite a good imagination and the prices in WE made me feel it.

Hopefully never.  'Grown ups' tend to be dull people.  While they take responsibility seriously and are good providers for their families, it is often at the cost of their own lives.



VIDEO

Geekfest (South Africa)










Thursday, December 4, 2014

GEEKING IN SOUTH AFRICA

COMEDY CLUB

Went with Guy and D.D. to a comedy club.  They know the guy who was the master of ceremonies and so he gave them two free tickets.  I paid for mine, it was under $10.

The nachos I had before the show were surprisingly good.  With two beers it came to around $13 including tip.  A pretty cheap night out.

The comedy was alright though there were a lot of 'in' jokes dealing with local politics and such which went well over my head.

They have a small smoking area in which I visited with a guy named Martin.  He didn't tell me but he was the lead act.  I'd told him a couple stories which he thought were very funny and assured me 'they would get a laugh'.

There were only two disappointments in the evening.  First was that I'd wanted to go on stage but they'd already filled their 'open mic' slots.  Despite never having been to a comedy club before I did volunteer to get on stage.  Freakishly outgoing.

The worst thing about the show was the audience.  I've been told that the 'culture' here is very participatory.  When people do things like walk across the stage while someone is performing, talk amongst themselves incessantly and yell things out regularly, I don't think words like 'participatory' or 'culture'.  Different words like 'drunk' and 'assholes' come to mind.

Not the kind of place I'd ever want to have to work for a paycheck.  I felt for the comedians there.

Overall, glad I went for a different  kind of experience but it was way too noisy to want to go back.



SWEETS

The other night, I introduced the concept of cake with ice cream here.

Apparently, these are not normally put together in South Africa.

And I've yet to find any place other than the USA/Western Europe that does what I've termed 'American style pies'.

The pies here contain chicken, beef, etc.

I've heard that 'American style pies' may exist here but they seem to be as common as the yeti.  The closest thing they have here are 'tarts' which are good but seem like compacted pies.



WHAT IS SOUTH AFRICA LIKE

The country has a lot of wild extremes.  They have kindness and heroism such as the people who rescued a Dutch Tourist (read about that here) and they have 'necklacing' which was created here and can be read about here.

I've personally met tons of awesome people (and gamers, yea!) but even the ones who are the most friendly either have been robbed or directly know others who have suffered horrific crimes.



GEEKFEST

By the standards of the USA, it is a small gathering.  All of the various booths can be walked through in less than half an hour.  However, this was only their second gathering.  It should be interesting to see what it's like in a few years.

Although it is primarily merchants selling stuff I can't carry, there was also a large tent for various games, some costume competitions and so on.

Detailed costumes, custom contact lenses...

After walking around and eating some pretty bad (though cheap) Thai food, I ended up hanging out and working a bit at the booth of a friend's girlfriend for several hours until I got taken home.

If I were in to board gaming or able to buy stuff to store at my castle it would have been a bit more interesting.

Fortunately, there were nice people to chat with a bit and I got to meet more of the NERO people.



LOGANISMS

"Telling people I don't own a phone is such a conversation stopper." - Logan.



INTERESTING

Now here's a license plate...


Saturday, November 22, 2014

HOOTERS

DISCLAIMER

The opinions expressed within this blog aren't really Logan's but things Logan has picked up from talking to a variety of people.  My opinions on South Africa are as follows:  I am very grateful to my hosts for allowing me to live here cheaply.  I've met a lot of interesting people and hope to meet more.  That's really all I've got.  I'm just a temporary visitor.



HOOTERS


Warren and Leon took me to a hooters here in Johannesburg, South Africa.  It was pretty much like every other hooters in the USA.  Girls with tight shirts and pasted on smiles trying to be chipper without much luck.

Fortunately, none of us were there to view the women.  We were there to chat about travel.

Both Warren and Leon are pretty well traveled, especially considering they live well away from...well, any where people really want to travel.  It's one thing to travel Europe when you live in say Czech Republic, quite another when you are all the way at the tip of Africa.

Fortunately, the 'load shedding' black outs hit the hooters and the overly loud background music was killed.

Hate music so much.  Conversation is better.

In South Africa, they have a lot of problems which come out regularly in day to day living.  This is different than in the USA where suddenly the house you still owe money on has dramatically reduced in value.

Here, they have massive corruption that causes them to turn off the electricity from time to time.  Since the electrical company has switched from government owned to a 'for profit' company, they've found more money to be made if they don't actually provide a service.

This is so wide spread that there is an ongoing joke about the people of Johannesburg becoming confused if they get to a traffic light that is working.  This actually happened when Leon was driving me around.

Another of the problems is the huge chasm between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'.  Something like 80-90% of the population live in shanty towns on subsistence farming, mugging, domestic work and other criminal enterprises.

Every traffic light has either beggars or people attempting to sell things nobody wants.  A common trick is to check out things lying in view within the car.  Should there be anything good, the beggar can either text his buddy or stick a piece of gum to the side of your car.  Within a kilometer or so, a smash and grab takes place.

There is a reason South Africa is easily the most paranoid country of any I've been to in my entire trip.  Nobody is without a story of a friend of theirs getting robbed, car jacked, mugged, stabbed, killed or eaten.

Perhaps not eaten.  I made that one up.

Since we didn't want to get robbed and our corpses violated in unspeakable ways then fed to pigs, Leon took me to one of the places where the 'haves' go.

Montecasino (above and below)

It is a combination of several (live) theaters, shops, a casino and large artificial Spanish village - complete with both day and nighttime skies.

As with every casino I've ever been in, the expressions on the face of the gamblers is one of 'grim resolve' rather than any sort of 'enjoyment'.

It has always confused me when people tell me they have 'fun' gambling.  These people are either the kind who win consistently or are addicted to trying to get something for nothing, ending up with nothing.

I've only met a couple people who make their living by gambling and it seems rough to me.

It was interesting as we wandered around the fake village made of real stone to see just how huge the divide is between rich and poor.

There is a lot of money within this country and mostly in the hands of the few still.  Though the few are mainly white, there are many blacks slowly clawing their way up into the middle classes.

It's a long process.

Unfortunately, something which usually helps is education.

To give an idea of where the education system is in South Africa - if you can afford it - a passing grade is 33%.

When I went to school in the USA, it was 70% and you were considered quite a dullard to score close to that.  Can't image what passing with a 33% is like.


Apparently education won't save the country soon.

Though I'm wanting to get more views on the country, the ones I've gotten thus far have generally not been possible.  Massive government corruption, the entitlement feeling of the poor in wanting government handouts, horrible education and dwindling coffers may be a sign of bad things to come.

Overthrowing despotic leaders is always easier than...keeping the lights on afterward.

We'll see what happens.



VIDEOS

Begging birds
Party
Ululation
TV studio

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

LOGAN ON SOUTH AFRICAN TV

SOUTH AFRICA

After living for a couple weeks in a house sized compound within South Africa, I can say this may be the most paranoid country I've ever resided in.


Just as in the USA buying a house that didn't have window screens would be highly suspect, buying a house without an electrified fence, spikes and other defenses in South Africa is simply not done.

In the USA, having your windows open would let in the bugs.  In South Africa, it would let in thieves and murderers.  Which seem to be common.  Or at least thought of as common.

Typical home

Everyone has a story about a friend of theirs who was carjacked, robbed, shot and so on.  If someone wants your cell phone and pulls a screwdriver on you, you'd better hope it is the right model or they may stab your ass anyway.

A couple blocks from nice homes hidden behind loads of defenses are shanty towns which utilize the age old corrugated metal roofs and walls made from mud, shit and snot.

There are certain directions I've been repeatedly cautioned not to walk toward unless I want the 'full South African experience' - which includes getting robbed then stabbed.

At some point, I'm hoping to interview people (on camera) about this interesting and extremely diverse country.



CORRECTION

I improperly called it a 'transvestite party', it was actually a 'drag party'.  There are a lot of little nuisances I am not yet familiar with.

Who says Logan doesn't admit when he is wrong?



LOGAN ON SOUTH AFRICAN TV

Well, I can't say I've never been on South African TV any more.

Before everyone says "We want to see it" please read the story below.

My wonderful host Guy took me to his work.  He'd gotten permission for me to sit through the creation of what I would term a 'corporate TV show'.  In other words, something for people of a particular company to watch.

It was quite interesting to see the TV show put together from the control room.

Also got to see a couple people 'melt'.  Another way to put it kindly would be to say 'they were very uncomfortable on camera'.  There were also a couple people who 'worked' the camera.  Very interesting.  None of them were professionals, they were corporate.

Found it fascinating.

Compared to American studios of which I have no experience I've been told the South African variety is very small and budget conscious.

After a lunch (payment for my upcoming debut) I got to play the part of a 'security specialist' who was talking about how and why people do piracy in an effort to stop it.  Ironic, considering.

Although I've been told this show will go out all over South Africa, I was playing the 'informant' part - darkened room, voice distortion and so on.  I was instructed not to be 'too animated'.  Hence, they didn't really get the full "Logan experience".

It was my first experience  with the autocue.  That is the 'teleprompter' which shows you what you should be saying.  Guy seemed happy with my reading and we didn't have many takes.  Pretty much when I messed up, I'd just pause for a couple beats then do it again.  A couple days ago I got to see how things are edited and figured that would be easy for the editor to splice together.

We'll see if Guy comes up with something in the future for me to do which we could put up a youtube clip so people can see what Logan looks like on South African TV.

After the filming I got to go have a long chat with their editor.  She was very nice and excellent at conversation.

Overall, it was quite a nice day and for that I must again thank my host, Guy.

While all of this was going on, I kept thinking "How many tourist to South Africa get to have THIS kind of amazing experience?"

I am one lucky fucker.



HIRING PRACTICES IN SOUTH AFRICA

You hire someone under contract to paint for you for a year.  After a year, the contract is up and you let the person go.  A couple weeks later, you realize you need something else painted and hire someone else.

Then you get sued by the person who use to work for you and taken to court.  Why did you not hire them back?

In the USA, the employed usually have no rights at all.  That's on one end of the scale.  Here, the amount of worker 'protection' they have makes me think a) why would anyone ever consider hiring someone here and b) it is probably cheaper to just have the person killed rather than pay an extra six months salary after getting sued because you let them go.

But wait, there's more!

In South Africa, the people who clean your home, garden and so on are simply termed 'domestics'.  Living in shantys (aka shanty towns made from corrugated metal and snot) they make under twenty USD per day.

And they damned well better get a muther fucking bucket for Christmas or there will be 'trouble'.  Serious trouble.

They will become surly.  They will complain to the organization that (over) protects workers.  They will whine for money.  They may even get legal action going against you.

What is this 'bucket'?

It is literally a bucket full of non perishable food.  Because this is so fascinating (and demeaning) I got a picture of it which includes the price and contents.


Here's yer bucket, bitch.  Now, STFU.

Wow, it was a bit of culture shock to me.



PRICES

Bucket to keep your poor workers off your back, about $25

Sunday, November 9, 2014

HOW TO SMUGGLE

ESCAPE FROM TUNISIA

Got up at 5:30AM to get the bus from Hammamet direct to the airport.  I should have gotten up a bit earlier but managed to get a seat on the bus which left at 6AM - as opposed to 6:30AM as I'd been told.  I advise getting there early as it becomes standing room only.

Most of the people actually get out at one of the three stops before the bus station.  It takes about an hour to get to the airport.


At the airport, exchanging the worthless Tunisian currency for something I could legally take out of the country was a priority.  Although they don't have any advertisements notifying people their Tunisian currency can all be seized if they try to remove it from the country, it is a rule.  Fortunately there are several banks in the airport.

They want a receipt from the place you got the money.

Because I know this trick, I'd kept all of the ATM receipts and just loaded them on to the bank guy.

There was no large signs telling people to get their 'solidarity stamp'.  This is the 'sting in the tail' Tunisia hits travelers with as they leave the country - for no reason other than 'we want your money'.  It is a pain and many people were getting turned away from passport control to go find where these things were sold.  I'd already visited the Office of Finance and bought one.


Dollars in pocket, I waited until the Emirates guys showed up for work.  They checked me in for the flight then I hung out with them for an hour or two chatting.  Though I'd been promised by the people who sold me the ticket they would get me good seats, check me in and so on I'd known the promises were bullshit.  Just like the wake up call I'd been promised.  When traveling budget, unless you get something at the time you pay, don't expect it.

Fortunately, the Emirates guys hooked me up with a good seat for both flights.


During the flight, I was chatting to a flight attendant.  Working for Emirates Airline (which has no taxes for businesses), all of the employees are required to live in expensive Dubai.  "You either love it or hate it." she said.

The Dubai airport is what happens when someone with no taste gets hold of thirty three billion dollars.  Want a burger, fries and a drink?  Plan on $30 or more.  I waited for the in flight meal.

Despite everything I'd read on the internet, nobody asked me for proof of onward transit.  This made me a bit sad I'd spent so long forging an airline ticket but better safe than sorry.



SOUTH AFRICA!

After a lot of thought, I'd decided rather than working my way up along the coast, I wanted to come straight to Johannesburg and hang out with Guy and DD.  It wasn't possible without paying more money to switch to the cheaper plane ticket so I hopped a bus straight after landing.

In Cape Town, they have a bus called My Citi.  You buy something that looks like a debit card and take money from that.  Since the card doesn't have your name, it makes a great fake credit card for your 'steal me' wallet.

After taking the My City bus to the bus station, I checked out the lines for the two buses which had been suggested - Translux and Greyhound.  The Translux line was very long.  At the Greyhound counter it transpired that one of the ladies there was a driver for the bus to Johannesburg.  It normally left a couple hours earlier but was running very behind schedule.

The only other passenger on the bus repeatedly contacted my host in Johannesburg (Guy) to let him know of our progress.  Very nice of him.  He said it was extremely lucky I caught this bus.

Although the bus was suppose to arrive at 6:45AM, it actually got there sometime after 9AM.



INITIAL IMPRESSIONS OF SOUTH AFRICA

Within South Africa, they have several shanty towns (aka 'shanties') where people live in extreme poverty.  These can be a very short distance away from an affluent neighborhood where all of the properties are surrounded by spiked walls, electronic fences and armed response security details.

Twenty kilometers outside of Johannesburg, we passed a sign that said "Hijacking spot".  What a well organized country!

Despite this level of paranoia, the people I've spoken to have been very kind to me.

On some levels, it is a lot like being in Asia.  I'm still very much the white minority but instead of everyone being Asian, everyone is black.  I don't care so long as I get fed.



JOHANNESBURG

After arriving here and doing some light shopping, I got to attend a drag party (see videos below) at the place I'm staying.  Sadly, I did end up crashing about an hour before the party ended but no real sleep for a couple days had wiped me out.



HOW TO SMUGGLE

Despite the title of this section, for legal reasons I am forced to suggest not doing illegal things.  Do not use my teachings for evil.

That out of the way, here is one way to discourage those annoying searches by the border guards when you go from country to country.

With a 'top loading' bag, the dirty clothing should always be on top.  The more disgusting the better.

While an actual biohazzard should be avoided the guards are human.  They don't want to dig through smelly disgusting laundry.

Aside from the ability to smuggle a couple extra packages of cigarettes, you can avoid having strangers dig through your pack and needing to repack everything.

Most searches are extremely cursorily in any case.  Most of the time it is about body language and not looking like you are freaking out.



VIDEOS

Bus out of Tunisia
Drag Party
The Last Supper (since I was the token straight guy, I got to be Judas)



BIG BAG WEIGHT

12.4 KG.  This is pretty much everything aside from my computer stuff.  Which is heavy.



PRICES

MyCity bus pass one way far enough for the bus station, about $5.

Greyhound bus from Cape Town to Johannesburg one way, about $70 - $10 more for 'business class' which I got.  This was worth it as it is a long, long drive.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

LOGAN ANSWERS THE MOST ASKED QUESTION EVER

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE COUNTRY?

The question most asked is 'what is your favorite country'?  After you've been to more than a half dozen, there is no clear answer.  Since the luster of tourist sites wears off after a couple of days, I've divided it into four categories - food, price, talk and wifi.

Each of these can be a positive, neutral or negative depending on the quality.  If it's not listed, it's neutral.  If all four factors are neutral or unknown, the country is listed at the end.

A note on each:

The restaurant food in most countries is shockingly bland and lacks creativity; this food is rated as 'neutral'.  I've not rated the home cooking - it is a rare treat when someone cooks for me.  The price is rated against the severely limited money I have.  Talk includes factors such as the friendliness of the natives and how many of them I am able to actually communicate with in my limited repertoire of languages.  If the people are unfriendly or I can't find many I can understand easily, I rank this as a negative.  The general scenery is indicated by wander - is it interesting to just walk around the city?  Most places are only for a few days and wander can be a negative if I deem it a bit dangerous.  I don't go by what a lot of other people say as dangerous because they seem to think nearly everywhere I go is dangerous.  Wifi is important to me as it represents one of my primary sources of entertainment.

Disclaimer:  Some are marked as 'friends there'.  These are places I want to visit again however 'talk' may or may not be marked on them.  There are some places which have many good things going for them but I will not be visiting soon due to remoteness, current human rights violations (ie Logan doesn't want to get killed or imprisoned there) etc.

So wait - criticizing your government and or religion was a bad idea?

Bulgaria
Positives: food, talk, wifi


Cambodia
Positives:  price
Negatives:  wander, wifi


Costa Rica
Negatives: talk, wander


Czech Republic
Positives:  wander
Negatives:  price


Egypt
Positives:  food, price, wander

Er, maybe later...

Georgia
Positives:  food, talk (friends there), wander


Germany
Positives:  food, wander, wifi
Negatives:  price


Greece
Negatives:  price


Guatemala
Negatives: talk, wander


Honduras
Negatives: talk, wander

I completely didn't find out why people liked living there.  At all.

Hungary
Positives:  wander
Negatives:  price


India
Positives:  price, wander
Negatives:  talk, wander (interesting and horrible all at the same time)


Indonesia
Positives:  talk, wander


Israel
Negatives:  price


Italy
Negatives:  price


Latvia
Positives:  talk, wander
Negatives:  price


Laos
Negatives:  food, talk, wander

Laos - the big tourist attraction is 'drunken white people on inner tubes.  That's about it.  Oh - and prostitutes that come to your room without being asked.

Lithuania
Positives:  talk, wander
Negatives:  price


Macedonia
Positives: talk (friends there), wander, wifi


Malaysia
Negatives:  price


Morocco
Positives:  wander
Negatives:  food, price, talk


Moldova
Negatives:  food, talk, wander


Netherlands
Positives:  talk, wander
Negatives:  price


Nicaragua
Negatives: talk, wander


Panama
Negatives: talk, wander

This is actually a picture of the bankers that tried to rob me there.  No muggers, just really criminal banks.  Yes, I'm still pissed at Central America.

Poland (yes, was there really briefly, want to go back to visit lots of friends)
Negatives:  price


Romania
Positives:  talk (friends there)


Serbia
Negatives:  price


Spain
Positives:  food, wander
Negatives:  price


Thailand
Positives:  food, price, wander


Tunisia
Positives: price


Turkey
Positives:  food
Negatives:  talk

No, the country.

Ukraine
Positives:  talk (friends there)
Negatives:  food


United Kingdom
Positives:  food, wander, wifi
Negatives:  price


United States
Positive: food, talk, wifi
Negatives:  price


Vietnam
Negatives:  food, talk, wander

Countries which I don't remember or didn't spend enough time in to find out anything about or am completely neutral on include:

Albania
Bosnia
Dominican Republic
Jordan
Slovakia

Logan's brain

For those wondering 'why hasn't Logan done more in western Europe?'  Quite simply, I can't afford it.  You are pretty much looking at a minimum of $100 a day there.  For that, you are going to be eating a meal and staying in either a hostel with a bunch of other people (usually ones who don't know hostel etiquette) and going to a minimum of interesting places.  You won't be staying in a 'quaint little B&B that is just adorable'.  That kind of stuff is usually frequented by old people intent on trying to blow their kids inheritance before they die, people who have 'daddies credit card' or people who have worked for a few years to get a couple weeks worth of vacation time.  Double (or more) the amount of money.  It's not cheap because everyone wants to go there and the prices reflect that.  It also doesn't help that the dollar is weaker than a bad knock knock joke.

The price of getting to see this won't make you say 'ooh la la'...


TRAVELER'S TIP

Horde clear bags.  Use them to store anything you don't want to leak or have something else leaked upon.  Clear means you don't have to open a bunch of bags to find what you want.  Use opaque bags to bag up your trash or choke the life out of those who try to shame you for using plastic bags.

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 Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje Bitola Ohrid Struga | Albania: Berat Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples Pompeii Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg

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