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

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

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

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

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