Monday, 19 December 2016

Nannied to exhaustion but not to desperation

So I rented a car again because it was snowing and the ice from the last snowfall was still on the roads, making them very questionable for bicycle riding.  When I needed to park the car for a short while, I made sure that I found a spot by a curb with minimum old snow and crap and I even picked one going slightly downhill so that I could just slide out of it.

I get back in the car.  Try going forward to get back in the lane. There is an old snow/ice rut between me and the lane, so the car just goes forward but not sideways.  Oh Great.  Let's back up a bit and try again.   NOT.  The car is not backing up, I guess the tires are slipping on a bit of ice/snow.  No problem, we'll just spin the wheels until they grip.  Done that many many times before. NOPE.  I hit the gas pedal but I don't get the desired noise and spinning from the front wheels.  WTF is happening?

It takes me 2 minutes to figure out what is going on.  The STUPID car has a wheel slip detector.  So when a wheel slips on ice, a computer stops delivering power to that wheel.  Must be a brand-new and highly desirable  SAFETY feature.   Unfortunately it also doesn't let me back up.   I'm STUCK in a friggin almost level parking spot.

I've driven in snow all my life.  I know how to handle snow; I know how to drive in it.   But this friggin car doesn't let me !  After 10 minutes of trying to wiggle back and forth I finally give up.  I can't beat the computer and its dumb gas pedal over-ride.

This is the moment that I decide NEVER to even consider buying a Hunday ( I wish I could figure out how to spell that right now, but Denny's has abandoned the idea of providing its own Wifi and went with Telus Internet and Telus today (as yesterday) is NOT even appearing in my Wifi list.  There is that old saying "If it's NOT broken, don't fix it". In Canada, the 'NOT' seems to have gotten lost in translation, so anything that IS broken, doesn't get fixed.  NO Wifi at Denny's, NO usable Wifi at my hotel, half the time NO Wifi at Earls.  This country is going to the dogs. And Canadians can't even blame foreigners for it, LOL.

Anyhu back to my Hyuanday Accent, the miserable piece of shit with the anti-slip electronic.system. After hacking at the ice with a screw driver for a minute, I try a few moving a few more times and finally come to the conclusion that I do have to call a tow-truck to get out of that parking spot.

Think about that.  It's unbelievable.  And all because of some idiot in South Korea !

Busters Towing shows up after only half an hour instead of the predicted full hour.  Good Work!
The tow-truck driver, who I believe I met before somewhere, looks at the situation and decides to get in the car and drive out of there himself.    My mind is caught in a dilemma: Should I hope that he gets the car out of there, which would make me look like an idiot, or should I hope that he doesn't? 
Fortunately he GIVES UP before I have to make up my mind.   But I have an idea. With him in the car, and trying to reverse and me pushing from the front, we finally build up enough wiggle to trick the anti-slip system and he and the car move backward.  YEAH!

Then he tries to drive forward into the lane and suffers the same fate as I did earlier.   Thank you city and citizens of Vancouver for clearing the small of snow that fell more than a weeks ago. NOT. Lazy bastards that blame their problems on  foreigners.  Or was that Americans?  The problem seems wide-spread, LOL.

But now the tow truck has the necessary angle to get it's implement under the car and tow me out of there and he does.  Yes, it costs me $90, but the alternative would have been taking a bus home and hoping that in 1, 2 or 3 days the predicted rain would melt the ice.  

The conclusion? Be careful what you wish for.  Being perfectly safe sounds like a good thing. But it will cost you. Maybe a tiny bit of money, but that's OK, because the whole point of money is to be exchanged for something else that is useful.  
No, the price you will be paying, will be charged in loss of adventure AND freedom AND ability. 
Or in other words, you'll be paying with a tiny bit of LIFE.  And paying with a bit of life for 'safety' just doesn't make any sense, does it?  

So YES, I'm exhausted by the constant annoyance of the First World delivering forcing things on me that are trying to run my life into something that I don't want it to be.

On the other hand I don't really care anymore.  This is not home, this is not where I belong.

To put it in the words of Gnarls Barkley:
Anyone that needs what they want, and doesn't want what they need
I want nothing to do with

Let's not forget Lorde:
But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair.

To put it in the words of Bob Dylan:
I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin'
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it

With Christmas upon us again, why not think about what that holiday is REALLY about.  Hint: It's not about iPhones !

So I'm heading back where 'the people are a many and their hands are all empty' and Zulema is coming too !   

Somehow I have the felling that it's going to be FUN !

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Oh, just GO FUCK YOURSELVES !!!!! or I can't wait to live in the 'Third World'

As if the new Trump Era wasn't bad enough, today I get MINDBOGGLING news in the matter of renewing my Passport.

I already knew that the slow German machinery would take 8-10 weeks (2-2.5 MONTHS !!!) to provide me with a new passport, once I had jumped through numerous hoops in fulfilling the requirements to hand in an application for said passport.

AND I already knew that the German consulate NOW requires you to make an appointment for the submission of said passport application ONLINE (NO, NO! Appointments can be NOT made by phone!  WTF?)

So today, I checked out the ONLINE appointment scheduling system.  And all I find is confirmation for my previous bickering about the inefficiency and walking-through-molasses syndrome that has taken hold in the 'First' or Western World.  People are being treated like CATTLE but because they can choose from 200 different Shampoos in the Shampoo Aisle, they think they're living The Life ! 

The amount of nannying AND stupidity are APPALLING!

Harsh words, you say?  Maybe, but get a hold of this:

The NEXT AVAILABLE appointment for SUBMITTING the passport APPLICATION (YES, there is a LINE-UP to get to the LINE-UP !) is January 12th.   That's a Friggin MONTH from now!!!

So, just so you got this atrocity in its entirety, I'm going to repeat it:    It takes 2.5 MONTHS to get a new passport issued.  But to be able to just SUBMIT that passport APPLICATION, I have to wait ONE MONTH.   


So did I book the appointment?  NOPE.  Because my OLD passport still allows me to travel to my Beach Hut.  So while other Germans will patiently wait for their appointment to submit their application for a new passport and will shiver in the friggin cold and will suffer from SAD (Seasonally affected Disorder, i.e. lack of sunlight), my ONLY worries will be whether that sunburn will have turned into a tan by the respective 'tomorrow' (or whether I have to stay a day in the shade) and whether Julian will have another beer.
There are only TWO pictures in this post. I sincerely hope you get the connection !

Hakuna Matata, Cattle !

"There must be some way out of here
Said the joker to the thief

Monday, 12 December 2016

Obstacle Course Living or A Fairly Frigid Ferry and a Brilliant Bus Bozo

Reserving my beach hut has changed things.  Gone is the lack of energy or motivation I felt only two days ago at the prospect of freezing my behind off for another 3 months.  I wake up EARLY, because I'm looking forward to running all the errands necessary to provide for Grandma, get my life organized, and to deal with the remaining obstacles in the way of actually getting to that beach hut.
 One of the obstacles of daily Canadian living presents itself already at 8:53 am.  I have walked to the General Store to buy a bottle of wine for my gracious hostess as a small Thank You for a big favour she once did for me; a favour that keeps giving!   But the store clerk informs me:  You have to wait 7 more minutes; we are not allowed to sell you alcohol before 9 am. So I walk down to the beach. Better to get better at the beach than to get bitter.

Oh, for Friggs Sake, Canada, stop nannying your citizens !  This is getting ridiculous.  If anyone wants to get fully alcoholised at 8:53 am they could just buy one MORE bottle the night before when it is legal to do so.  NOT selling wine at 8:53 am does NOTHING, except piss people off and constantly remind them that they are at the mercy of the state.  Is that really the kind of citizen you want to have, Canada?   The sad part is that the answer might just be YES.

Having finally succeeded at buying alcohol at a legal time, having delivered that alcohol to the intended recipient, I rush to the bus stop to make the ferry connection.  In the 5 years that I have been coming here, this is actually the very first time that I take the bus to the ferry terminal.   It reminds me of the bus in Ha Noi because just like the Ha Noi bus it gets to its destination by seemingly unnecessary loops and detours, just to reach as many customers as possible.
Langdale Ferry Terminal

Here comes the Queen

 Looks COLD?  Try walking on the upper deck to take pictures ...

 The seagull does not seem to notice the cold, it keeps playing air games in the ferry's air draft.
WHY have I never seen seagulls in Vietnam ?

The ferry ride is uneventful, but as I find out in Horseshoe Bay, the ferry left LATE, 10 minutes to be precise.  How do I find out?   The Express Bus serving the ferry terminal LEFT EMPTY.  It left about 4 minutes before about 50 ferry passengers arrive speed-walkingh at the bus stop, shivering in the cold and desperately looking for their bus.  Oh Canada !
 After waiting for 5 minutes at the bus stop while I'm slowly loosing the feeling in my finger tips (I really notice it while typing this) and realizing that I would have to wait another 15 minutes and that the bus that will arrive is not even the express bus but the slow one, a thought forms in my mind.  I would have lunch when arriving back 'home', so why not have lunch here and after lunch catch the next express bus.  I might be able to save some of my finger tips from the frightening result of Vancouver bus drivers deciding to drive an empty bus just to be on schedule.  

Done.  I'm sitting in a semi-warm restaurant, sipping a yummy Sauvignon Blanc while the rest of the deserted bus passengers keeps shivering on the street.  I've reached an age where I refuse to suffer from the capriciousness of public service employees in the so-called first world.  And it works out very well.  The Fish & Chips at Bay Moorings is delicious (new management finally?) and much better than anything I would have gotten at Denny's ;-) 

I've finished the meal and I STILL can't feel my finger tips.  Thinking thoughts of beach huts warms my heart and soul but unfortunately does NOTHING for my finger tips ;-(

It's a good thing I finish lunch earlier than anticipated, because the 12:25 257 Express Bus is full and leaves at 12:22.   Go Canada Go !

When I finally get to my hotel (I walk from Park Royal instead of relying on another bus), I almost crack up laughing:
NO, they're NOT renovating the place;  Next fall the motel will be torn down to make room for more overpriced high-rise condominiums.  Oh Joy !

The last obstacle?   When the photocopier of the hotel reception refuses to photocopy my passport (paper jams), the receptionist tells me that she is applying for her Permanent Resident status right now and how she is amazed that everything is so complicated and so SLOW, especially after hearing from a friend travelling in Asia how unbureaucratic and fast things get done over there.  NO, I didn't NOT put her up to it, LOL.

Last obstacle of the day?   I am about to sign my application for a citizen search, when I have to run over to reception for the umpteenth time because I only have a pen that writes dark blue.  So? you ask?   NO, NO, gotta do it properly! The form specifies that the signature must be made in BLACK ink.   

So, where IS John Galt?

Sunday, 11 December 2016

A Birthday, Mental Relief, and Ooops, I did it again!

Actually, a sunny break in the grayness ;-)
December 11. It's Denise's birthday today.  Hans cooked up a 5-course storm and Dr. J and family came over for dinner.  And even though frequent verbal skirmishes with Hans might give another impression, I'm really just flattered pink to be welcome to be here in this setting of friends and family.
The obligatory beach walk with Denise & Max
 I am fortunate to have friends like this.   

On another front:
Frantic wiggling in trying to speed up the renewal of my PR card and passport has not shown ANY sign of being helpful or successful. SIGH !
I'm STILL looking at another 3 months before I will have a new passport with enough empty pages to allow me to travel to Asia and actually travel through more than one country.  

For a brief moment I actually thought I would be able to meet U&W in Sri Lanka at the end of January because that country would let me in with the limited amount of empty space that my passport has, but then I had to realize that I don't have the space that I would need for the stamps required for the two 20-hour lay-overs in China.
Sri Lanka (NOT my picture)
Yes, Dear Korbachers, I ALMOST made it to Sri Lanka, but it hasn't worked out yet.  But I will still inquire with the German consulate whether I can get a temporary document that will allow me to be in Columbo at the correct time; all is NOT lost yet ;-)

In the meantime I realized that I theoretically could go for 2 weeks to Vietnam with my present passport (No Visa required) or even 4 weeks to Cambodia  (with an advanced e-Visa, I'd only need the space for a simple arrival stamp).   
A group photo, LOL
OOOOH, the temptation !

THEN, when I 'just for fun' (Yeah, right) checked availability in Sok San Village, all that temptation finally got too much.  

Julian had (Note past tense) one single beach bungalow available.  And offered free cancellation until January 9th.   They know what they're doing, because .....

HOW could I NOT book that Hut in Heaven (TM)???? 

So I did.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Colourless views of FranticTown and Escape to the Snow Coast, eh, Sunshine Coast

It's been a while since my last picture post.  Why?  Not much to report.  Sure, there is the outrageous amount of wine in a large glass at Denny's delivered by a waitress that is happy to see me again.
But otherwise life is a bit colourless (NO, the following is NOT a B&W photograph, Vancouver is that GREY ;-(
The appalling absence of COLOUR !
But soon it gets worse than just GRAY, namely WHITE:
When it clears after that first snowfall, temperatures drop to MINUS SEVEN CELSIUS.  Going for a cigarette after a shower in the morning, I can feel the hairs of my eyebrows freezing together. NOT a nice feeling ;-(

When it starts snowing again and I no longer have a rental car, I decide to ride my bicycle. Yes, that is snow on my hat and eyebrows.

Why the public transit SeaBus has to be decorated with Candy Canes is still a mystery to me.  Maybe to evoke the Christmas Shopping Spirit in this otherwise GREY world?

On Saturday, it's finally time to escape the door-slamming neighbours, constant traffic noises, and general unpleasantness of the place I stubbornly refuse to call home when I'm staying in Vancouver.  Hans & Denise just arrived back from a 1-week stint in Mexico and I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

5:55 am.  Strange how when something is important you wake up just in time.  By the time my alarm clock rings at 6 am, I am already sipping my first coffee. 

7:30 am. Showered and packed, I head over to the office to 'steal' another not-included breakfast and chat with the receptionist staff, Carlos and Behnaz.  This hotel is a good fit for me; talking to people from Cuba and Iran over breakfast is much preferable to hearing just the same old usual ;-)

8:03 am. The bus arrives almost on time, but after an only 5 minute long journey I have to wait for the connecting bus to the ferry terminal for 20 minutes.  That time is sufficiently long to realize that I am NOT dressed properly for this weather.  I also note that Commercial Stores are pretty much the ONLY respite from the colourless monotony of Vancouver.  No wonder people flock there to shed their excess wealth ;-)

8:25 am. Hans & Denise get on the bus, but they haven't got sufficiently used to the new Trump-Days to understand when I tell them that 'Mexican's' have to sit at the back of the bus !

9:20 am.  We're on the ferry.  Another one of those monochromatic views.  But at least it's warm inside.

That's why you should always take 2 pictures,so you can use the one where everyone has their eyes open ;-)  Is Hans related to Trump?
10 am  It was drizzling rain in Vancouver, but it's snowing in Horseshoe Bay and it will be snowing even harder when we get to Langdale where Dr. J will have trouble to get his 4WD truck up the hill.
Some Colour!  Some Colour !
My kingdom for some COLOUR !
NOPE. NOT around here ;-(

Is it any wonder I am so drawn to other places?

Friday, 9 December 2016

ooooh,. That HURTS ! YVR to SGN for CAD $ 558

My mother is acting strangely, so Grandma already suggested I fly to Germany  and check on her.  A direct return flight Vancouver to Frankfurt before Christmas would cost me about CAD $ 2000.  WOW!

Then I see something else.  I know I shouldn't have looked.  I could have spared myself the pain.  Not having a passport and not knowing when I will get my new one does not allow booking flights. 

Otherwise I would have booked this one in a minute !  Just look at that price !  Unbelievable !  I NEED a passport !

If this isn't a burning bush, I don't know what is ....

There is another thing that hurts.  But it hurts in a different way. When I order a Clubhouse Sandwich at Denny's, the waiter asks me whether I want the regular one or the SENIOR's portion.  Holy F..K!  I just barely got used to not being ID'd when buying cigarettes.    

I know I've said this before, but it's worth repeating:
LIVE NOW, tomorrow might be too late !

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Pathetic Peripatetic Prussian

WHOOOAAA. What a title.

What pages of a long-lost dictionary did THAT come from?

Chris, my accountant, has a foible for alliterations (that means that several sequential words start with the same letter), so in a recent e-mail he called me a Peripatetic Prussian.  Alliterations are often used in literature because they do sound good in a strange way (Long-lost lovers pounding the pre-dawn pavement!).   Some writers just use them to show off.  Because they're difficult to create.  One either has a large active vocabulary or must be willing to look up synonyms to exhaustion.

Anyhoo, I'm getting carried away (I wish, LOL, preferably to distant shores!), The Prussian was simply a way of saying German, even though this German is as far removed from Prussian mentality as is possible.

 But for the next word even the size of my passive vocabulary didn't measure up. I had NO CLUE what Peripatetic meant.  I had to look it up.  'One who constantly travels from place to place'.  HOLY SHIT.  There is a word for me and I didn't even know it existed !

But there is the pathetic part. ESPECIALLY pathetic if you know that Prussians are known for their obeying of rules and their almost military discipline. Definitely NOT me.  And it gets even more pathetic.

I have been back in Vancouver for 10 days now and I can't wait to leave again. I can't stand this city and its people.

I walk down Robson street to get to Cafe Crepe and traffic is mad.  The road is blocked further down for a special event.  It's a parade. It's the ROGERS Santa Clause Parade.  ????

Oh, Thank God, Santa has found a sponsor. 

The pedestrian traffic on Robson today has added a third component.  People with elf noses, and garish paper mache extremities have joined the usual mix of shoppers at the high-end stores here and the final component made up by the homeless and destitute.  The view of seeing this man,wearing at least 3 pairs of trousers against the cold, tied with string at the knees to keep them from slipping, going trough the garbage bins  while everyone else is either trying to buy the latest outfit or is overly excited to pay homage to the great Rogers via the secondary figure of Santa Clause is noticeably shifting something inside me.  It's like that British TV series 'The Prisoner'.  Everything is perfectly normal on the surface but EVERYTHING in your being SCREAMS that there is something FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG !

This is WRONG.  I DO NOT BELONG HERE !   This CAN NOT BE REAL ! (o.k. so the homeless are the ONLY part of this that is real).  But watching the happy elves and busy shoppers effortlessly flowing around the destitute as if they were located in some invisible fifth spatial dimension is UNREAL.  The odd and almost funny thing is: Writing this a few hours later I can remember 3 THREE individual poor people, their faces, what they were doing, but NONE of the faces or actions of the other two groups. 

Yesterday I watched a documentary about the retirement of Lufthansa's highest-ranking pilot.  One of the things the retiree said in connection with the desire in his youth to become a pilot was

Live your dream but don't dream your life.

That's what Vancouver today feels like.  The Matrix all over again.  Sure, the ROGERS Santa Clause Parade is something to do or watch on an otherwise uneventful Sunday. But what does it mean?  Personally, I'd rather be at Castro's funeral today. Who is Santa Claus?  What does he represent?  Besides SHOPPING, I mean.  Are these people here today learning or experiencing something new (semi-relevant, I mean)?  Or did they just find a way to pass the time?.  Are they dreaming their lives?   

I'm afraid it's even more than that.  What more? you ask?  THIS VIDEO of Patty Smith singing Bob Dylan at this year's Nobel Prize ceremony could give you a hint, google the lyrics ! My gut feeling is causing an anxiety attack and I have to get out of their badly.  Of course, all the roads are plugged.  I feel strangely like the Prisoner, insisting that I am NOT # 6.  I know that I am a prisoner here, that this is NOT my world, but like in the original TV series, I don;'t really know where I belong.  South-East Asia was an insight.  

It's everywhere, starting with the morning news.  Trudeau (Yes, the WIMP who let himself be bullied NOT to attend Castro's funeral) announces a PEACE mission. But in the same sentence he mentions Canadian troops on that mission. Cat Stevens once sang of a Peace Train, but I don't think he envisioned that to be an armored train.  Double-Speak is here to stay because no-one seems to notice it anymore. 

Given all that it should be no wonder that I want to get out of here badly.  Easier said than done. When I arrived in Vancouver, I had ONE empty page in my passport for visas.  Not anymore.  The utterly brilliant Canadian immigration official put his small arrival stamp NOT anywhere on the number of half-empty pages, but smack in the middle of my LAST empty page.   Thanks a LOT MORON!  Why can immigration officers in Asia be bothered to leaf through the entire passport and place the departure stamp neatly next to the corresponding arrival stamp, and Canadians can't even be bothered to look for an empty page?  Who knows?

But it's probably a symptom of the same disease that allows me to send an e-mail to a Vietnamese Visa service over there, have a reply within 5 minutes, and the signed Visa Approval Letter within 4 hours, whereas applying for a German Birth certificate has not yielded ANY response within 7 days.  Infuriating is a term that only barely scratches the surface of what I feel like.  It's like trying to walk through molasses. 

WHY can an application for a Search of Canadian Citizenship Records be submitted ONLY by MAIL to a processing centre in Nova Scotia?   The mail delivery alone will take 3 business days !   Oh, sorry, I just looked up Canada Post's Delivery Standards, and my letter would arrive on Business day 4 (FOUR), EXCLUDING the day of mailing,i.e. a letter from one end of the country to the next takes FIVE FUCKING business days or a whole week.  

Now THAT is a joke.  Do they still use ponies?  Or have the fat union-employees negotiated a settlement that prevents them from touching more than 10 envelopes an hour?

 If anyone is looking for ways how to 'make Canada great again', this is somewhere where they could start.

No pictures? NO, because the white page background works very well to exemplify the frozen white snow covering the roads and sidewalks of Vancouver.   

I believe 'bleak' is the word that best summarizes my world right now, LOL.

Here is the latest piece of 'progress'.  Last time I renewed my PR card, there was a form one could take to the bank and pay the fees.  NOT anymore.   NOW you HAVE to pay online. No problem really, but WHY do I have to REGISTER with immigration Canada first just to pay a fee? Fine, I register. e-mail and password.
 NOW, they want me to give them the answers to 3 (THREE) of those 'name of my first pet' security questions.  Remember, all I want to do here is pay a fee to have a document renewed.  
Who comes up with this Bullshit?  And who actually approves it?  Isn't there a SINGLE person there who dares to shout out "We don't need to know the name of this man's first pet just to let him pay the fee!"  ????

It's a good thing I'm not Abraham, because if I had to play his numbers game with God, I'd be haggling down to lower numbers too "What if I find only 30 righteous people in the city?  Will you still destroy it?"

Yes, strange thought patterns, but at least I have figured out why anyone looking back deserves to be turned into a pillar of salt.  

Friday, 2 December 2016

Thinking of visiting Australia? Earn some good Karma by staying away !

In my despair with biggots being allowed to spew the most outrageous and inhumane venom in the daily Western news, I remembered that Julian in Cambodia had mentioned the Phnom Penh Post (how is that for an alliterlation, LOL?) as a decent newspaper. 

So I check it out this morning.  And there it is!   What I have been missing so much.  Empathy for human beings, not just cute kitty cats stranded in trees.  This is still news written by people who are NOT terrified of offending one of their big corporate client advertizing accounts.  This is human beings writing about other human beings, NOT a bunch of billionaires who got rich of fleecing the government (i.e. the people) promising to do good for the 'common' man. LOL, most ridiciluous thing I ever heard ;-)

There are two stories I stumble upon that involve Australia, an entire continent of only 30 million inhabitants with a HIGH living standard.  In the previous year, I already have been telling Grandma that I have absolutely NO desire to travel to Australia, a country with a population that elected a recent Prime Minister for his promise of "No more boats", i.e. he promised to keep the voters' affluent and sunny lives free from having to look at those dirty refugees from war zones and starvation. (And NO, I do NOT intend to spend any money in the US in the near future either). 

But these two stories still came as a shock.

Not enough for you?  Another reason for NOT vising Australia is that it is OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE ;-)

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Fidel Castro Ruz and select moments in an otherwise forgettable week of Gulag living

November 26.

Fidel Castro is dead.

He was born on Grandma's birthday (8 years after her) and he died on mine.  (Now if these are not two tickets to instant fame for Grandma and me, I don't know what is ;-)

It's time he died.   

You know the phrase 'the good old days'?   Fidel Castro was the son of wealthy Cuban land owners and studied  law.  Most Cubans were mere slave labour serving rich landowners, including the US sugar companies, already in those days 'maximizing shareholder value' on the backs of the poor.  So Castro started a revolution.  NOT out of a position of being powerless or unprivileged or hungry. But simply because he saw injustice.  Consider THAT. Also consider that Cuba has FREE housing, FREE education, and FREE healthcare.  Sure if you live in a multi-million-dollar mansion in West Vancouver you can put on a smug smile about that,  But if you're a homeless resident of the explosively growing tent cities along the West Coast, that has an unbelievable ring to it.  I think it might be time for a Tracy Chapman comeback soon.  And that thought leads to another one:  WHAT IF all those events usually classified by those in power as despicable TERROR incidents are actually the first skirmishes of that revolution?  

These good old days when people had principles or believed in something other than MONEY are OVER. That way of thinking is unthinkable in present times. Consider: Privileged White Americans have just elected a Privilege-Elephant because he promised to get those pesky underprivileged off their back.  And most of these voters would even consider themselves Christians.  LOL.

I'm glad Castro doesn't have to live to see the outcome of all that ;-)

November 27

I'm having breakfast at Cafe Crepe on Robson Street. OMG, what a step up from Denny's, LOL, but I miss all those Denny's waitresses ;-).  The Beaujolais is a tad too warm, but an ice cube quickly fixes that problem.  The White Bear that comes after breakfast doesn't need ice ;-)  The wine at Denny's doesn't even have names, I just think of it as Wine Squeasel, LOL.

I try to call my mother, who failed to call me on my birthday (no reason for worries; it's not the first time), but get an answer on none of her TWO cell phones. Hey, I only have ONE cell phone and I'm sending HER money?  Wacky World !

A gorgeous pashmina-type scarf that I had bought in Luang Prabang (I just could NOT resist the colours) but had realized an hour later that I would NEVER wear found a very happy new owner in Chantal.  She wraps herself in it and just purrs "soooo sooooft".  When I call her few hours later and jokingly ask "Are you still wearing it?", she says "of course". Cat Person, LOL.

November 28

I read the news and wish I hadn't.   The present Canadian Prime Minister's name might also be Trudeau, but his father wouldn't have given the slightest damn about the niggly-wiggly politically correct criticism from the rows of the always goody-two-shoes politicians at his comments about the death of Castro.  
Margaret Trudeau, Fidel Castro Ruz, Pierre Elliot Trudeau..  AKA, the good old day, LOL
But as I said before, the good old days are gone for good.

The political climate in North America is getting closer to that of the times of the Spanish Inquisition, where you could say anything, as long as everyone agreed with it.

On a funny note:  I was talking to the broken-back homeless man that calls the local paths his home, and while he didn't know that Castro had died, he knew that Trudeau had just visited Cuba (which I didn't know, because I was in Laos), and with reference to Castro's over 300 survived assassination attempts he added with a grin "Maybe Trudeau poisoned him".  LOL.

I finally get a hold of my mother and after a few seconds instantly wish I hadn't. She never made much sense before and that doesn't seem to have improved with advancing age.  I don't even bother mentioning that her only son had a birthday that she forgot about.  What's the point?  It's moments like this when I fully realize what exactly I had in my Spare Mom (TM) and what it really means to have lost her.

I call the German consulate in Vancouver to see whether they still have my birth certificate in their files.  The person on the phone sounds almost like my mother. I can distinguish words but there is no real meaning in them. She tells me it would be easier if I order another birth certificate in Germany.  WTF? Easier for whom?  These people get paid to help Germans in Canada and instead she first tells me to go somewhere else and after I say "NO, Easier would be if you already have the copy!" she dares tell me to send an e-mail. 

Malcolm X

Yes, in younger days I would have sent an e-mail. Just to stick to the principle and make them work.  These, days I can't be bothered with their likes anymore (lucky them; less work) and I use the online service to order a new certificate in Germany.  At least I won't have to deal with a chain of e-mails or soggy German voices. 

No, breakfast at Denny's doesn't taste better than any other time, but the Persian waiter who will visit his girlfriend in Germany over Christmas asks me "How was Vietnam".  Not treating waiters and waitresses as servants is mutually beneficial ;-)

I head over to my 'in-laws'. My 'kookum' promised her dying son to visit him in Edmonton over Christmas and the least I can do for a 71 year old lady who already lost her grandson and gave me a family after George's death is to save her from a 16 hour Greyhound bus ride. Something people forget these days.  Money doesn't have any value in itself. And it only gains material value when it's used to buy material things like Porsches or iPhones.  But if it's used to reduce hardship it becomes a completely different thing.  But that is another entire blog post that's brewing in the back of my head. 

Castro at Pierre Trudeau's funeral

Vancouver traffic is driving me mad.  The rental car that I still have provides the physical comforts of dryness and warmth but takes its toll on the psychological side.   The density of Vancouver traffic has robbed drivers of the need or joy of making decisions.  Drivers are reduced to performers of tasks an organism with very few logical parts could master. You take your foot off the brake once the car in front of you starts moving, and you re-apply it when you see brake lights in front of you.  That's all you have to do 90% of the time, with the exception of the occasional time when you're the first at a traffic light, when your bake foot is not triggered by brake lights but by the colours of the traffic light.  So strange that car commercials still show the product cruising at high speeds over mountain passes or nightly city streets and that the advertised product is always the ONLY car in sight.  But when you buy that shiny new car do you actually imagine yourself sitting in it in rush hour?

November 29

Castro and Justin at the funeral.  To NOT attend Castro's funeral reduces Trudeau to just another hypocritical politician.  His father is turning in his grave, I'm sure.

I talk to the Cuban receptionist of the hotel about Castro's death.  He was no great friend of the Castro regime but is disgusted with the single-sided Western media coverage and the developing system of what is allowed speech.  He acknowledges that he might not have been able to study economics at Moscow university for free if it had not been for the revolution.  And he is no great friend of people who happily enjoyed the benefits of Communist Cuba and complain bitterly as soon as they are out of Cuba.    And the fact that Justin Trudeau won't be attending Castro's funeral because of "schedule" problems only shows the direction that the Western World is heading.  UGLY.  And sad. It seems that Justin Trudeau did NOT inherit his father's balls and integrity.  The statements coming from the US are ludicrous.  The attempt to alter reality by repeating a fictional version often enough strongly reminds me of the book 1984 and Germany's 1000-year Reich. That was only 70 years ago. Do you really people have changed that much?

This new North-American pseudo-reality makes me appreciate another event even more.  In my efforts to renew both my passport and my PR card, there is GOOD news.  Processing times for PR card renewals have been hovering around 8 weeks all year (NO speedy option available), but when I check the Canadian Immigration website, that number has dropped to 31 days.   WOW, maybe they finally hired some more people!  
All that counts though is that I get to leave this nuthouse much sooner !

To close this post: There are the human qualities of decency and integrity.  And there is politics.  These days the two are almost mutually exclusive.   Maybe that's why the West's top politicians shun attending at Castro's funeral. Because he at least tried his very best to improve the situation of the people of Cuba. 

Hasta siempre, Comandante !

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The R-word (LPG to HAN to CAN to YVR)

The R-Word????

NO, the R-word is NOT Right, or Revolutionary or Radiant or Red sun or Recreation or Regeneration.

And YES, all of Return, Retreat, Regret ,Revolting, Rain, Runny nose, Raccoon are contenders.

Returning to a Western World WITH Trump but WITHOUT Castro is not really my cup of tea.  I now know that there is more to life than just owning the latest iPhone, so returning to a place where that is high on the list of priorities is depressing. The following picture (not mine) says it all:

The existence of this picture proves that there are at last some SANE people left in this world ;-)
It is 5 pm in Luang Prabang. My plane leaves at 7 pm and I managed to find more amazing things in the 9 hours since this morning.  I mean, HOW did the waterfall people know before they left out a road to get there that one of my yet unfulfilled fantasies was to ride in one of those long skinny boats that is propelled by what looks to the untrained eye like a weed-wacker with a looong stem?

I flag down a tuk-tuk driver (I’m getting better at this) 

The way the rays of the sun hit the Stupa on top of Mt Phousi and the road dust that every movement generates literally leave 'golden' memories.

Leaving Luang Prabang by way of riding a tuk-tuk away from the setting sun is a way to make sure that I will come back. 

The airport is uneventful. The check-in lines are SLOW (I can see at least one person being taken out of the line, being shown the Visa-Approval Letter, and being told to come back tomorrow. Been there, done that, LOL) and I start talking to a young German woman in front of me.  She’s a traveler to my heart.  She also took the time to travel the dirt roads AND visited the water falls.

Security check is funny.  I don’t take my laptop or anything out of my bags. No complaints, but the woman at the X-ray machine holds up a cigarette lighter as example.  Why not?  I dig out the lighter out of one of the backpacks and hand it to her.  Now she’s happy. I’m also happy because I learned NOT to travel with less than 2  cigarette lighters.  
Luang Prabang International Airport DOES have a smoking lounge (a roof terrace without lighting, but barely anyone is smoking. Wonder why? Unlike China, there are no airport-installed electronic lighters.  Later I overhear a young Aussie couple telling their friends that they want to have a smoke but can’t because they have no light.   I just flash them my cigarette lighter and say “You want to follow uncle into the dark and have a cigarette?”.  NO, NO, I’m kidding, LOL.   But they do come have a smoke with me and my lighter just before the plane takes off.

At first I am delighted.  I have a seat in the row behind the emergency exit. Good travel karma is with me again.  

At least Mrs Bouquet had Chutzpah. 
Her copy was more of a gray mouse with a whiny voice
Then I notice this very strange woman with affected manners floating around the emergency exit area.  Finally, she finds a stewardess and says loudly to her "I would like to sit next to my husband. I would like to know who that man is that is sitting in this man’s seat!" Her intonation sounds a bit like Ms Bouquet (Bucket) from that British TV show, sad really. I only clue in what is going on when the stewardess asks me for my boarding pass bit and it turns out I'm THAT MAN.  I'm sitting in the seat of a young Asian man who then sat down in the crazy woman's seat.  Why the woman or the guy didn't just talk to THAT man directly to tell him that he was in the wrong seat is still a mystery to me.  Do I look THAT scary or have people reverted to a pre-monkey state where using language as a communication tool no longer works?  Very ODD that !

Google Maps screws me again at Noi Bai.  It says that the way to walk to my hotel is complicated and long.  So I look for a taxi. All the taxis lined up and waiting for passengers DO NOT want to exchange their $30 fare to Ha Noi for guy that just wants to go around the corner. At least they are somewhat aware that they are violating their professional code of honour because none of them looks me in the eyes when they wish me away.

Google Maps is wrong.  It’s an 800 meter walk straight along a road to get there.

I head to the restaurant next door.   
After pointing at the pictures on the wall and the wine glasses on the menu front (both not available), and asking around, I slowly realize that I speak more Vietnamese than the waitress speaks English.  But she seems delighted with that (takes the pressure off her, LOL) and she brings me my Bia Ha Noi and a SCHNAPPS.  Good thing I live right next door, that thing almost knocks me off my feet. No wonder the Vietnamese are always smiling.   I order Pho Ga (that’s all they have apparently), but it must be the end of the day leftover special, because besides the chicken I discover beef, something balls, and at least 2 kinds of unknown Squeasel in the yummy broth.
They must like me because my Pho Ga turns into a Pho (Ga + bo +various kinds of Squeasel)

Total cost of this ‘I can’t finish it’ meal: 65000 Dong.   It’s nice not to eat on Highstreet in Luang Prabang anymore ;-)

I paid US$ 18 for my hotel.  It’s about 800 meters from the airport, has two huge beds, a water kettle, a clean functioning bathroom, air-conditioning and a cat on the roof across the street that decides that I am worth observing me when I smoke out the window.  Smoking out the window is a necessity, because when I decide that it’s time to have a real smoke outside at 6 am, the family is still sleeping on mats in the hotel lobby.  I knew well why I was smoking out the window ;-)

Leaving the hotel at 6:30 on foot as usual was the right decision.  In a taxi cab I would have never experience the feelings and sights of this amazing morning.

And it would have been unfortunate missing this sight, because it is just another memory that will bring me back here. 

Whoooa, that can’t be true.  I can’t be in Vancouver yet !    But looking out the airport windows I could swear that I am, it looks EXACTLY the same, LOL.     Hmm.   
So after Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Blenz Coffee (!) the ugly weather also has been imported to Guangzhou ;-(
Looking at the pictures of Guangzhou’s brand-new Singaporesque buildings, I always thought the airport would be a collection of wonders too, like for example Incheon in South Korea.   What I find instead is an international terminal where I can’t even buy headphones to use on the plane.  Sure they have Bluetooth ones, but how am I going to use them on a plane ???

To get Wifi, you have to provide your mobile number and they send you a text with the password.  The last time I have seen that laughable process was in Germany 10 years ago. So first that cost me $1.50 for the text and then the bloody internet doesn’t work properly.  Thanks soooo much !  Guangzhou is heavily advertising its 72 hours visa-free transit stay.  I tried 24 hours of that on the flight here, and that encouraged me to never ever do it again.   If the airport Wifi can work flawlessly in Vietnam, friggin war wreck Cambodia, and even the glorious sphincter of the world, Laos ( I mean it in the sense “The place where Trump’s sun don’t shine ;-), then why can’t China get it right?  

I blame the corroding effect of salt water of the South China sea in 2012
All that rain is a good way to ease me into my Vancouver existence again.  And I might have to stay there for a while.  Because I need a new passport.  Not only do the pages literally hang by threads, more importantly there is only ONE page left for visas.  As for the appearance, I'm not too worried about US immigration officials with stern faces telling me that a passport should NOT LOOK LIKE THIS (I hope my friends down there will visit up here more often because I have no great desire to visit a Trump America), but this passport has had it. At every immigration counter I was worried that the official would hand me back two pieces instead of one ;-)
Look at the guy in the yellow shirt.  How many pieces of carry-on luggage does he have?

Revolting is not only the weather, but how uncomfortably numb the people are here.

I mean if you see this guy standing in shorts at the bus stop with a tan while it is raining at 8 degrees, wouldn't you ask him where on the planet or from which planet he came from ?

I certainly would be tempted.   But then I'm also not sure which planet I come from, LOL.

Grandma actually still thinks that I go to Indochina because it is warm there (Given that I have tried to explain it to her several times this seems another indication that her memory is not the best anymore).   I have to get used to being on a part of the planet again where people have forgotten how to smile.