Beauty and the matrix

My dad was always guided by the instinct of being correct. And in his philosophy, this was an act of proving wrong to all those christians out there who used the label of “christian” just like today’s teenagers use the names of whatever MTV star they need to be worshipping as to be cool and in the know. My dad was the closest thing to a revolutionary that I ever known, considering the standard background he and everyone else his age came from. He is exceptional. And I had the privilege to grow up near him. It brings me to tears to think of how pure and amazing he was compared to all the ridiculous, hell-like shit people all around when I was growing up. I say “he was” because I’m afraid he might have burned down his revolutionary light. He is still an exceptional man considering for how long he kept his ground, but I’m afraid he got tired. He blames it on his age, I think he’s using his age as an excuse for stopping to constantly float against the current and just let it be.

The direction of the floating is not essential. What is important is that there is barely no grain of evil in my father. There are many good people who eventually get corrupt by the norms of being the best, not entirely, but just enough to be accepted in the game. And then it’s a slippery slope really.

My mother is an angel. She’s so full of energy that many times she might seem a bit too stingy. But she’s soft and nice and a 14-year-old girl inside. She loves flowers and nice little picnics, she loves to see people sitting peacefully, especially people about whom the media and word of the mouth created the image of burglars, rapers and noisy music people. She is filled with positive energy from seeing all those walking stereotypes going beyond all that was thought of them and just spending time peacefully.

She loves nice little toys, everything cute really. She always blamed us for bringing kittens in the apartment and not taking care of them, when she is the one who brought the first kitten we ever had. It was the 90’s. My sister and I would get one pair of jeans and one pair of shoes to wear for 2 years. My mum would buy all kinds of filling grains on half kilos. Our school was making my parents buy expensive (at least for many of us in those times) textbooks as to get better education and my mum would be the one to always fight about it with the richer parents in class. She would say that her kid can study well even with less colorful books. She wouldn’t mind the more colorful books, but she couldn’t afford them and that would have created a big divide between the ones who can and cannot afford them.

Well in those times she brought Forgetta home. That kitten was so small, it would get lost in our underwear drawer. I barely remember it, I’m afraid in those times I was still a very egocentric child. My sister was too young. So it figures that my mum was the one to take all of the care and also play with the cat.

When we were living in the family dormitory, we used to have a balcony. In that balcony, a family of pigeons made a nest. A white beautiful she-pigeon and a grey he-pigeon. They would lay eggs, we’d see the young chicks appear and then they would fly away. I think we had a few generations of pigeons at our balcony. I think we brought some of them to the village. I could have been maximum 6 years old, but I remember when one time, the pigeon parents did not return home for quite a while; then the mother came back, all beaten up, chewed almost. My mum took care of her, gave her first aid. I remember the green brilliant tincture on the white wing. I remember with what care my mum was nursing the bird, almost feeling every pain the bird was feeling. My mum and my dad were speculating about what must have happened that both birds were attacked and how the female escaped. It got better soon, but I think the father never returned…

There are a million things I don’t know about my parents. It is still not very clear how they first met. Legend has it my mum was reading a book on the beach of the Consomolist lake and my dad, inclined to intellectual things from nature, was impressed by that and went to talk to her. Many shady details ahead, there is the wedding proposal, where my grandfathers, meeting for the first time, end the wedding “agreement” by singing Romanian patriotic songs on the terrace. And from there on, it’s never been a fairy tale. It’s been lack of money, frustrations, seeing all the world you knew disappearing in front of your eyes like it was the matrix and Neo finally won. Only you don’t know how to live in the new world. Nobody knows. My parents youth was very much alike American people’s youth today – you’ve got the right way and the wrong way, the success stories and the national acclamation for being the best at the game that everybody shared and whose rules are very clear. Everybody wanted to seem like the model the media was promoting, you can even catch those poster grimaces on their faces in your parents old, black-and-white photos.

But then we all got saved from the matrix and thrown into the pit. In the pit there is not food and soon enough we start eating each other to survive. Then somebody throws brochures in the pit; they are of such bright colors, we’ve never seen anything like it before, they are featuring amazingly, almost unrealistically fit people with haircuts and clothes so strange that it very much captures our attention. And the only text on the brochure is saying “if you can’t afford to buy this, you’ll never be as good as the people in the pictures”. Now the old notions of “good” and “bad” are not valid anymore in the pit. So let’s take these notions and replace the void. Thus the post-soviet culture was born.

My parents survived. I dare say they were vegetarians, because I know of no situation when they went forward by devouring other people. Needless to say, this has affected them, but they’ve dealt better than the rest in the pit. The prescription of a family in the matrix was not great – woman became huge, talked about how much of an alcoholic her husband was while steering in an aluminium pot, man met with other men to drink vodka like shooting a 100 gr was an Olympic accomplishment and talk about wives like they had a donkey instead of a human being in the 4 square meter apartment; I don’t know what to say about kids growing up in this environment, it probably takes its toll, but I consider my childhood very happy. Mostly because I spent it in the village.

I have a difficult time dealing with the real world. It would have been way overdue to deal with it by now. I sometime came across as a weirdo to other people, mostly because all they said seemed some distant privileged world bullshit to me, but slowly-slowly I learned some of the bullshit and how to care about it.

But what I missed most in my upbringing was learning how to be evil. I can be mean, no problem, but this happens mostly when I loosen up very quickly with a person and feel like they’re part of family, or yes, I don’t realize it and I am mean sometimes for no reason. But being evil on purpose is difficult for me, knowing what is the correct way and behaving against it to fulfill a purpose, with hurting other people on the way – it’s just not right… And when someone behaves like this towards me, I am really disturbed and hurt. I can barely handle it.

I blame many of my difficulties today on my parents. As much as I think of it, I never remember one evil thing that my parents taught me. Never an evil thing that I heard them talking between themselves. Never one conspiracy… Maybe they tried, I don’t know. But I was raised in an environment that taught me fairness and respect, without ever being rigid or lacking kindness. They never taught me that I should be better than others in spite of what I have to do for that. They never asked me to beat anyone at anything. These concepts were never so important. I simply don’t remember a time when they said anything that would represent bad people. Or successful business people for the matter. There was a lot of negative talk, but it was about blabla stuff, nothing including other people and how to out-smart them.

I thought for a while that this is blue-collar mentality – be fair, do your job well, be a hard worker, respect the elderly etc. Now I think these are all amazing values. But not in the context when your work is somebody else’s profit. Slaves also had food and shelter and some (very little) time off. I don’t want to draw an insensitive comparison here, but let’s face it, standards of living have increased in the countries that had slaves some time ago. So, assuming that there would be slaves today for ploughing, they’d still be using a tractor instead, but operated by a slave. Someone who made no profit and had no liberties. Blue-collar and most of white-collar today make no profit and, although they have the liberties, they rarely get to use them because if they don’t work that extra hour, they won’t even afford that lodging that was granted for a slave. Yes, slaves were brutalized, but today this is a matter of human rights enforcement. There are many democracies out there in the world where you get away with most crimes because you’re rich/powerful.

This writing began with a sincere admiration for my parents and developed into some other discussion. I think they are related. But I’m not going to try to link them. All I can say is that there is genuine goodness and that I was blessed/lucky to have lived it. I think most people try to not vocalize the principles they’ve been built on because of the gram of shame that remained in some societies. Most people I know are like that at least. Trying to be civil. For different reasons though.

I don’t know where and what I am, but I know that I came from two pure, idealistic, although different natures. I’ve barely ever met people like my parents (and some of my extended family) and I think they are a rare, disappearing species. I think they are as hippie as any people with their background would be. I love them anyway because they are my parents but I love them even more for being so amazing, for being the kind of people who I later came to idolize from books, movies and thought discussions. I am so happy to come from them  and to be built by them. I wish I’d known my grandparents and I think I miss the valuable things we kept leaving behind us when moving from adolescence to the matrix, from the matrix to the pit and then on our way to get out of there… It might be that more physical baggage survived than moral baggage. But the beauty is that we can recreate, rediscover and relive any of the distant echoes of light reaching us. We just need to keep soft enough to be able to absorb those beautiful rays.

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A post about Sicily without the use of the word “mafia”

I arrived in Palermo in late July. The humidity of the island’s air reminded me of South-East Asia and it instantaneously put me on guard. Animal mode.

animal mode

Fortunately, only “positive” looks were directed toward me. Long, appreciative looks from womanizer Italian men. I knew it had nothing to do with me and my figure, it was just the default look of the average middle-class middle-aged Italian man. From the South. I never thought I would say it but… wow,  did that feel good! I forgot the feeling of being watched in such a way. Whereas those men did not seem more appealing, you felt wanted, beautiful, sexy, powerful. It was back to the jungle again – this time during mating season!

Palermo is a gorgeous city, rich with old buildings and cute squares that never fail to be full of tables, chairs and ambulant shops selling everything from squid and panini to Sicilian wine. Street food is good, cheap and always available. I did not take any photos of the food due to the high number of posts on fb ridiculing this practice. I am not one that will live up to the stereotype.

Architecture-wise, Palermo can fill a good day of sight-seeing. The cathedral stroke me as an unusual mix of exotic weather and palm trees with christian church. That used to be a mosque. In my mind christianity does not go together with vacation sights. It is of course just a weird prejudice. But I thought that seeing so much beauty will take one out of the church premises and into the world to live and love and spread goodness.

And Palermo is really one of those places, the beaches are amazing. Mondello is the mainstream one, the one full with people, felling like Copacabana or something from a soap opera; I liked Mondello beach because the  water was emerald coloured and there were very few skinny bitches to make me feel all self-conscious. But I hear there are more pristine, more beautiful beaches.

I liked the people of Palermo. They seem to be relaxed and easy-going, but not in the “lazy” sense, rather in the “down-to-earth, non-arrogant” sense, unlike many European places I’ve seen before. Maybe I’m generalizing based on the few great people I met there, maybe it’s based on the fact that most Palermitans drive nice little Fiats or other non-macho, environmentally friendly small cars. But my impression of Palermitans is really good.

The mountains and the seaside make for a great place to live. The mansions scrambled on the side of the mountains right above the rest of the city make you think about the real estate prices here. Actually, in the South one can still live the dream of the prince or princess: the small seaside town of Tusa hosts an actual castle by the sea which is just someone’s house. In Palermo many of the really cool places are not museums or hotels, but private homes. Makes you somehow nostalgic of the feudal times. Maybe we were wrong to choose democracy… After all, there are still some people who live the old Italian aristocratic lives. And a passer-by like me from a distant universe goes like “WTF… all that talk about humans being equal, about rights and about them defending us, they’re just bullshitting us, they’re literally greasing the eyes of the rest of us, they’re sweet talking to us, they don’t mean a thing of what they say, they don’t want to change the status quo, it’s all a lie, a PR move, they’re probably laughing their asses off looking down at us, turn off the TV and dismiss the politicians, how could we have been fooled for so long…”. Nothing to do with Palermo, just one of those moments when the veil goes away from your eyes. Probably the fresh sea air facilitated a moment of clarity.

My next stop was Siracusa. Easy to get there from Palermo, a 3 hour bus ride. I’m not going to write about Siracusa and Taormina, as they are already very touristic. I lived on Ortigia Island by myself for a day and it was the perfect day. Beauty does relax you and makes you feel that life is a dream. Sicily was a pleasant surprise for me: very beautiful, relatively cheap, full of soul and authenticity and perfect for a summer vacation.

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Inequality and the dream

Richer kids are smarter. It’s true and there’s nothing to do about it. No communist fossil will prove me we’re all the same and that the rich have somehow annihilated all those brilliant minds of the poor. There were no brilliant minds to begin with. Besides a few geniuses, most of us are a result of what life puts into us. If you’re born in shit, you’re taught shit and you believe in shit, then you’ll probably not going to be that millionaire who wrote a book on how he succeeded from nothing. You’re going to be a piece of shit. Just like those soldiers/rebels in Sierra Leone who see women walking on the street, casually take them to the forest and rape the hell out of them and their children. On a normal basis.

Hey, atheist, if you were one of those women, wouldn’t you  have rather liked those men to be crazy christians, puritans or muslims? At least you know there’s some set of values. It’s not perfect, but there is something. There is some kind of predictable order, some kind of God.

Back to the intelligent rich. I agree with the fact that they are smarter and more interesting. I myself, in the awakening of a certain conscience in my teens was far more attracted to spending time with the rich kids. The barriers were high, acceptance was not easy. Interaction was often possible only if you had cute girl friends to bring along to the bar. That was my way of stealing as much as I could out of that knowledge I never had access to otherwise. I despised spending time with the guys from the block and longed to be at the table with one rich interesting person or another.

Then comes the voice of the populist taking about how poor people are better people, more spiritual, more open, more welcoming. Well that is probably a long, enticing topic for another time. Let’s just say they present strong variability as to their reactions to incentives.

Here are just some statements from “Intelligence and How to Get It”, Social Class and cognitive culture chapter: “Lower income families are not raising doctors and CEOs. They are raising children who will eventually be workers  whose obedience and good behaviour will stand them in good stead with employers who are not looking to be second-guessed or evaluated.” I cannot even say how true that is. My family raised workers. And it is still very difficult to get rid of the worker attitude, although all the other features of a professional are there and there is potential. That worker mentality will follow me and everyone raised like that forever. Or at least for a long time.  I think the struggle is for young families to avoid doing that.

Some more facts from this book: “The working class mum talks less to a child and more of what is said is in a form of demands that would most likely not stimulate  the child’s intellectual curiosity.” The accent that moms put on cleaning the house and making the bed and other little things should be equally matched with the accent on analytical thinking and engaging the child in discussions of why something is wrong to do, not just demanding not to do it.

“The professional family includes the child at the discussion at the dinner table, often attempting to engage the child in the issues that are being discussed. Vocabulary differences by the age of 3 are already at 50%.” Vocabulary is important in the age of internet where all mistakes are seen and scrutinized. There seem to be enough reasons to try to intellectually stimulate your children.

The problem is that way too many families don’t think that intellectual capabilities are important. They associate that with arrogance, lack of spirit and soul, loneliness etc. It’s true to some extent, but I think intelligence and money following it can still be channeled in a way as not to erode spirituality.

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A quick word on power

Reflecting on world conspiracies, I conclude that, given what the paranoids are saying was half-true, the world is ruled by a bunch of the most common junkies. These junkies may well be hopeless, since:

1. they’re not easy to find: hiding and lying about their vice;

2. they might be too deep into their addiction and will choose the drug to reason.

So forget them. Sometimes I think it can be more productive to accept a loss and work on the future than to dwell on the past and compromising the future in the process. What’s most important, like in the case of smoking and heroine, is to keep the young ones as far away from it as possible.

What I mean is that, if there is a conspiracy and some people devote a lot of time and brain power, it must be for some kind of gain. I highly doubt that this gain is monetary. Doing bad things for money can be the case of everyone from the forester who peels off the skin of endangered species, sex slave owners to bankers, rigged local politicians and even some mid-ranked CEOs. But there’s a limit when it stops being about the money and starts being about power. I always believed that there’s only this much luxury you may truly want in life. Past that, it becomes a bore.

Now, if we assume that there are a bunch of world rulers out there, the magnitude of influence they are assumed to have presupposes so much money as only the debt of the USA can be used to compare. Nobody needs so much money. But why then would one have to basically make a pact with the devil for so much influence when the monetary target was meet some billions ago? Power. Why does one need so much power?

If you need power to pursue monetary goods, it’s all clear. And that’s how most super-rich start. Some of  them, later, inevitably enter the second paradigm: you need power as an end in itself and you may use your monetary resources to achieve it.

The story of the lust for power is very old. We’ve seen excesses of it in merely every ruler of country, police, business or any other institution. It even would take a while to write down the names of all those who perceived themselves as God. But the question is Why? I see no answer to it. I believe that power is a drug: has no real role in survival but makes you feel better. Normal drugs harm your body while power doesn’t. But it can be argued that it harms your mind in the way that you don’t realize the consequences of your actions on the others. Why care about the others? Because otherwise the world is a shit hole and it’s really not worth living in it, but that’s a whole new argument.

Here one may say two things:

1. by this logic, not only power harms your mind, but general living, since most people are not considerate of others.

2. if power makes you feel better, isn’t one free to pursue happiness?

For (1) I have to say I found power to stand out as I can well understand the other reasons not to care for people: greed and envy. One knows where they come from and they are testable in the following way (a test which I use as a mental exercise): if suddenly all the children that are born are educated in a way that greed and envy will never come up, will these children become just as destructive as their parents used to be? I can well imagine that the world will be a better place. As for power, how do you educate a child not to want power? You may teach him to be indifferent to most physical things, but what about emotional supremacy? Intellectual supremacy? This is bound to exist. How do you restrain this supremacy you have over another in order not to execute your power on him/her? Is that a good thing? The question is open.

For (2), no, as long as you are christian, utilitarian or have some common sense. Maybe in other doctrines there would be a reason for it.

This was a reality check for the existence of world conspiracies – trying to see whether there is any sense to be a world conspirator and have just so much power. With the assumption that people will have unlimited want for power, it then became an attempt to understand a destructive feature of man – the want for power – in order to be able to somehow mediate its influence and also monitor it on a personal level. Help on the matter will be most welcome. Forum for thinking here.

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The dos and don’ts of travelling in South East Asia

It was painful but I learned a few lessons about traveling low budget in South-East Asia.

First, a few golden rules:

– the earlier you wake up, the safer and cheaper you get to where you want. After dark things become much more complicated, freaky even. So don’t be lazy and do wake up at 5.30 am if you want to travel that day. My experience of getting stuck in port cities (Padangbai and Lembar) at 8pm with weird people offering ridiculous prices for transportation convinced me.

– buy a local sim card. Loads of things can be arranged if you have one and it’s safer.

– negotiate everything. We knew the real prices and the number we were told from vendor were simply to laugh about, simply astronomical. Transportation, accommodation, even food if there is no set menu.

– they will always try to trick you. These are a few ways to be tricked:

  •  you need to get from A to B. The driver says he’ll take you to C and D on the way and make a whole tour and still be cheaper. Actually the price he offers is only from A to C and in order to get to B, you’ll have to pay extra for each segment. Happened at Borobodur bus station when we took the horse carts guy to get to the temple. Actually, it was walking distance but we did not know.
  • you need to change money and you find this shady place with a good rate. There are many ways in which people get tricked at the money changer. One way to know you’re being tricked is when they give you back very small denominations of the currency you’re buying. They’ll make you look aside for a second and then a third of the money won’t be in the stash and you won’t even notice. Keep the money to yourself until you’ve triple-checked the amount you’re being given, without them helping you in the process. Happened in Kuta, Bali on Poppies street.
  • you are walking in the  city and some very nice local starts giving you tips of where to take a good excursion which is normally for locals, government-provided, and is not a rip-off like the rest. He even stops a taxi for you and asks the driver “no stop-no shop” so the driver won’t just take you to some shop rather than where you want. He negotiates an excellent price for the transport, says good luck and goes away. You are inclined to believe this random passer-by and thank him for a great tip. The truth is that he’s working together with the taxi guy and whatever tour company he advised you, which will be ridiculously overpriced. Happened in Bangkok, boat tour, the guys said he was a teacher.
  • The free guides around historical attractions sometimes are actually free, but they’ll shortly end your trip to a few near-by stores to make you buy stuff. The seller is usually very charismatic. Or you’ll finish the trip in a place where you need to pay to get out or something. Happened at the water palace in Jokja.
  • You had a drink too many. You will probably be taken advantage of in one way or another, lured into a bar where the minimum consumption is very high, or they’ll charge you for unknown stuff. They can also slip drugs into your drink and then rob you. I heard there’s a practice where guys are being drugged in clubs and wake up next to a girl who asks for crazy amounts of money so she doesn’t call the police to arrest you for rape. Mushroom guys in Bali will want you to take the shake with them so that when you trip they might get something out of you. Always be in control of the situation and take care. Happens everywhere, especially Bangkok.
  • You arrive in a new city on the night bus. It’s not yet light outside. You decide to walk, get on a shadier road and quite soon some guys on motorbikes stop, threaten to kick you in the head with their helmets and maybe are armed. You run, they take all the stuff and disappear. Happened in Kuala Lumpur (through some miracle they didn’t manage to take our stuff). Or, daytime, main road, you’re a girl, some guy ona motorcycle passes by you, grabs you purse and pushes you, then disappears. Happened in Kuta, Bali.
  • Never leave your stuff (not even your biggest bag) when getting off the bus for a break.
  • Get travel insurance and travel light.

It sounds a bit dark, but that’s kind of how it is. Of course, if you’re careful, you’ll be ok and at most overpay a few things. But if you don’t have someone at home to bail you out or send you loads of money, better keep safe.

A few places, services and people who were good and I’d like to post them out here for future travellers:

Bali

Get a taxi from the airport to Kuta, should be about Rp30,000. Take only metered ones. The choice of guesthouses in Kuta is huge.

We stayed at Bali Dwipa (Gang Poppies II, +62 361 751446) and loved it. Close to the beach and everything there is in Kuta, has some great buildings and garden. You can get a twin room with aircon at about Rp180,000 and with fan at Rp120,000.

Depending on the kind of person you are, you might get the hell away from Kuta pretty soon (if you’re not into obnoxious drunkers and shit music) and start exploring the real Bali. If you have little time, just get a driver with a car and go to one of the many one day destinations around the region. The route we took was  Dreamland – other beaches – Uluwatu (for temple and fire performance). It was really amazing. A little secret is taking a light dose of magic mushrooms – legal and widely available in Bali- for the way;) Connoisseurs will appreciate the touch. Other places to go to are Ubud and Lembongan island. We traveled with our driver David (Aichi Tour, +62 361 9260527, +62 081 236 031 532) who is a great person, lets you connect your ipod to the car sound system and rock all the way.

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Travel Bali-Lombok. It’s really worth exploring Lombok while you’re there. You’ll easily find a shuttle to Panganbai (get the price per person down to Rp60,000) and the ferry to Lombok is 24 hours every 1-2 hours and costs a fixed price of Rp36,000. Sure, it’s not the most luxurious boat, but totally fine considering the alternative of fast-boat is at 600,000. You arrive at Lembar and you need to go away from there asap because, against what Lonely Planet says, there is no decent place to stay the night.

Lombok

You can go to Secret Island Resort (http://www.secretislandresort.com/, the american owner is really cool). The island is amazing and there’s a small village and you can just walk all around the island on the pristine beaches all day. Also there’s amazing snorkeling and stuff. Rp 150,000 for a normal room is really good. You get a free pickup boat from the mainland. But you need to get there by car from Lembar on a 40mins drive. A reasonable daytime price is Rp150,000 for the whole car.  Alternatively there’s the perfectly acceptable bimos (public minibusses) at 25,000 per person.

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On the same island there is a very small and dreamlike villa, called Madak Belo (+62 81805549637) http://madak-belo.com/. Perfect getaway.

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Most people go straight to Sengigi from Lembar and to the other, more famous Gilis. Depends on what you look for in a vacation, cause Secret island was really surreal.

Thailand

A word about Chiang Mai, Thailand. Definitely to go there at new year/ Songkran in mid-April. Guesthouses will be full though so book in advance. There are a few places with real character, like the Red Buddha. But we stayed in this new place, Baan Nam Sai (+66 053326653, Soi 5, Moon Muang rd) which is so clean and has aircon and fridge and drinking water and TV and all these perks for a very reasonable price. A room of 3 people was Bhat700.

In Bangkok, we stayed in Kao san road. My advice is try to really understand what is Kaosan road before booking a palce there. It might be your paradise, but might be your hell.

Thats it in terms of useful(hopefully) tips, need more, just ask.

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Selamat pagi, Bandung

A week passed and I made peace with the bathroom and even with the angkots. Apparently there’s some kind of system in place for those random public transport minibuses (RUTE ANGKOT). The experience of the place is being grossly slowed down by the torrential rain every day but we’re still going on discovering.

When I was told we’ll go to a hot spring, I  imagined swimming in a small natural hot water pool with a view on the mountain. What actually happens is that a little geyser springs out of the ground and  instantaneously lots of people will come, build a big luxury resort around it and set an entrance fee and working hours. Luckily most hot springs “work” 24 hours a day so you can go at 2am, when it’s a bit less crowded. I’m not allowed to post most of the photos from that night due to their high levels of gayness, but here’s just a bit:

Another thing to do while in Indonesia is, of course, to have a massage. We went to ZEN Family Reflexology, which is one of the best in town and it was the best 10 euros ever spent. Truly great service and a very good masseuse. Plus, they have showers with hot water and you can’t miss out on such luxury in Bandung. One and a half hours of relaxation starting with my feet being washed in water with aromatic salts and lime, all the way to head massage and ginseng tea. I went most of all to get rid of the traffic noise from the city but that was too much to ask. The melodious ambient music was thoroughly mixed with the roaring of the scooter engines.

I really needed a relaxing massage after having spent a few hours in Pasar Baru, the main traditional market of bdg. Like in many developing cities, this market unfolds itself like some skin infection on the streets of the city, blocking the traffic and arresting people’s movement, creating a perfect environment for small and big crime the like. A big, unplanned, uncontrolled region of the city where the market demand and supply dictate the rules. Pasar Baru is a market of non-food stuff and it spreads on both sides of a road and the many adjacent buildings. You can find almost anything here, especially in terms of textiles. Vibrant, fun, cheap, dangerous and with a big food court, Pasar Baru is definitely a place to see.

After Pasar Baru, I got a headache. It was because I found my bag unzipped a few times, closely averting a theft, while my friend had to politely ask for his camera back from the guy near him. But also it was because of the money changing policy. Even in Moldova someone has finally broken through the mafia and the law of accepting any bill is in order. In Indonesia they would not change my money because of a small rip, a duck tape strip or even because the banknote was folded in two in the wallet. That made me mad, but I what can I do, it’s not my fight… or as our Indonesia friends say, it’s a free country!

I also went to a local club, Amnesia, apparently one of the best here. This made me quite sad, because it wasn’t really very good. You could comfortably teleport from Amnesia, Bandung to Shocking, Milan or to Drive, Chisinau without noticing the difference. The tendency for luxury is exposed in a way that might come across as a bit ridiculous. Girls need to wear high heels to get in for free, guys need to wear shirts and also buy a pack of cigarettes instead of a ticket to enter, the interior is all about exclusive seating places. The big room is dominated by a catwalk on which you’ll see a quisi-artsie fashion performance with lesbian symbolism in the end to leave the obviously novice audience in awe. What stroke me was: it seemed that there was a competition for who has the shortest dress, nothing else in terms of style being of any importance. The music was not worthy of mentioning and the DJ’s only task was to turn on the radio and add as many beats as to make the Chivas Regal drinking audience jump on the catwalk.

I don’t mind this kind of kitsch places, they’re everywhere and many people have a good time there. But I wonder whether there is any choice at all in Bandung for other type of places. I’m not even saying the word “underground” for fear of being exaggerated, but it seems that people want to run away as fast as they can from their culture to the one “western culture”, thoroughly vilified on this blog and within my circles of friends.

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Life is Bubur

After about ten posts that I didn’t publish due to their high level of disgust of and hostility toward the Moldovan society, I packed my bags and went to Indonesia.

It might be even worse there, I thought, but at least those are not my people and therefore not my problems and I would enjoy the tourist advantage of silently taking photos and telling my parents how crazy everything is there.

There was no clear reason to believe that everything will go as planned, besides my conviction to not care and to have a great time. And so it happened that the thing that I singled out as the most important in my last post was the one taken away from me in Indonesia. A nice clean bathroom, shower and bed.  As much as I know how shallow it is to focus on that, as much as I recognize that one needs to understand and accept the local custom, I take my sight away from the vibrant life simmering in the jungle outside and sadly think that I will have no shower when I go home. I think of the frustration of not knowing how to use the local toilet and how I miss toilet paper and a sink.

To be fair to my dear precious self, had it been Papua New Guinea and not Indonesia, I wouldn’t even mention it. But this is Indonesia, a mighty country with a higher GDP/capita than Moldova, with better roads, coolers cars and richer houses. While dashing through south Jakarta at 120 km/hour, I only saw huge amazing buildings that spring out of the greenest, tallest trees to the skies, to the envy of the biggest European cities. But somehow even in those buildings there is no sink.

This goes to say how differently this culture took its road to progress. The moment they caught up with the shopping spree culture of the west was later than the hygiene obsession times. They skipped straight to the iPhone. Even the hippest people around here chose to preserve their old, time proven ways of living, from city planning to furniture and bathrooms. As long as it comes naturally, I can live with that.

More on the positive side, I’ve been here three days and didn’t get any indigestion or food poisoning. This is after eating lots of street food, which is just amazing. Bubur ayam is a tasty porridge with chicken, then there’s fried rise with egg, yellow rice breakfast, fish chips, rice chips, some pink chips, tofu, soybeans, red sausages, green bread and free green tea to any serving. I don’t know the proper names for anything yet.

No bugs and snakes in my diet yet, you can’t find such food at every corner as I thought. It is served only in a few places with regional specialties, along with cat or dog meat. Street food is really cheap, you can get full from a euro worth of food. There are also tons of more expensive restaurants and all the global chains. We had the privilege to eat at our friend Havidz’s family restaurant on the mountain. Traditionally built Indonesian gazebos with a round table in the middle, placed at the edge of a hill with a wonderful view, especially from the second floor of the gazebos, makes for a perfect location to enjoy the local food before you have climbed up to see the volcano. Menus are not really translatable, but you won’t go wrong if you ask for something cooked in banana leaves.

And the fruit, oh the fruit! Yesterday I had a divine fresh strawberry juice and I aim to try the whole list of unknown fruit: Semanka, sirsak, alpukat, jeruk etc. You can have something like broken ice mixed with all kinds of fruit, which refreshes and at the same time fills you.

Bandung transportation is crazy and it takes a while to be able to go around the city on your own. The traffic is really only for those who live here. You drive on the left side on narrow streets and you feel like you’re dune bashing – there are no 500 meters of straight road in this city, only hills. You also have to mind the multitude of extreme sports oriented scooter drivers that buzz around. Public transportation consists of many green minibuses with a schedule and itinerary unknown sometimes even to locals that stop anywhere and have no clear bus fare. There are no sidewalks so walking in the city is on your own risk. It is so hectic that after some time on the streets you just want to evade to the nearest McDonald’s and calm down in its standard familiar atmosphere where everything is as you expect it to be. And I hear that Jakarta is even more chaotic.

As for the soul-searching experience, I can’t say that I got to that yet since we’re spending most of our time with a number ranging from 5 to 50 AIESECers, on which we’re totally dependent for our survival at the moment. I’m looking forward to the traveling, enjoying the truly magnificent nature of Java and Bali, and just living life the Indonesian way.

the magical mystery tour in Havidz's van

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