Thursday, May 18, 2006


are your children safe?

these are some conversations that, over the past 18 months or thereabouts, i have heard, had, or wanted to have. it’s all getting mixed up lately. the colors signify different speakers. the stage directions are in red. actually, i forget who is who and what i said and what was said to me and what i just happened to hear. in fact, i may have made all of this up. but i’m pretty sure, well fairly certain if nothing else, that i didn’t.

thE firSt oF mAny
in vanuatu:
where are you going?
i’m riding my bike around this island.
where did you start?
in the capital city, port vila.
where will you finish?
in the same place, port vila.
so why are you doing this if you are just going to end up where you began?
that’s a very good question.

this was with a lady in ecuador. she had been to the states.
so, what do you think of the united states?
i think it is a very interesting place.
what do you mean by very interesting?
i think it is a place that, now, is very rich, but i believe your country is soon to fall.
what do you mean by “fall?”
your country does not value the family like we do here in ecuador. without the proper emphasis placed on the family, your country will soon lose its prominent status.
how so?
the family unit is fundamental to any culture. there, people are always leaving their families. it starts as children. kids go away to places like summer camp. then it’s four years of holiday visits during the college years. and so on. here, the family stays together. we work together on our farms. we prepare meals together. everybody has a role to fill. the family structure is vital to our culture. to you, it almost seems secondary, if that.
but families do hold roles of importance in the states too.
how? the children, as adults, usually live maybe five hundred or more miles from their parents. they go to where they can make money, because money is so very important to people in your country. maybe they’ll all be together on christmas, maybe not. phone calls are rare, maybe weekly. and when the parents get old, they aren’t cared for by the children, they are placed in nursing homes with people they don’t even know. maybe the children send flowers or a token card, but even this gets more and more occasional. i understand this isn’t how all families in the states are, but wouldn’t you say most are like this...?
...well maybe, unfortunately, i guess i would, i guess i’m not sure what to--
also, i think your current president is doing horrible things for the reputation of your country not only here but all around the world.

...iS everYthing.
this conversation was had with an american who had been teaching english in ecuador for about four months.
so have you enjoyed ecuador?
yes and no, i mean it’s a beautiful country, the landscape is unbeatable, but the people have kind of got me down.
what do you mean?
i mean, they’re always telling me what they think is wrong with the states. like they say we don’t value the family and all that. and at first, i was like, yeah man, they’re totally right. we don’t value the family as much as they do here. but that’s just a first impression. you know, when you’re taken in by it all being in a new place and experiencing a new culture.
yeah, i understand what you mean.
yeah, so at first i was like, they’re right, because i mean on the surface, it seems like the family is very important here, much more important than in the states because they’re always together and doing things as a group and all that.
yeah, but the deal is i think they’re only together all the time because they don’t have anywhere else to go really, and even if they do, it’s too expensive for them to get there and then if they get there, they don’t have the money for a place to stay and food to eat and all that. so it’s like they’re always together, not really by choice, but by default. and these same people who are telling me people in the states don’t value the family, well, i hear them at night, these very same people, beating their children man. and they call their oldest daughter names that have a worse connotation than “whore.” and they always seem to be yelling at each other or demanding something of someone else. i never see them just sitting down and having a normal conversation. so i mean, yeah, the family in the states is certainly screwed up, but so is the family here...just in a different way.

was this sign telling me to go home? i didn´t.

i’Ll neVer gEt iT...
i’d like some beans and rice and avocado please.
sorry, we don’t have that.
but your sign says you do.
(pointing) right here.
oh, yes.
but you don’t have these things?
so why don’t you take down the sign?

thE profanIty oF prOfit
a guy and i were walking down a street in peru...
gringo! give me money, gringo! gringo! give me money...
we walked past biding him a good afternoon, but not giving him any money.
so why didn’t we give money to that guy?
why should we?
because he needs it and we have it.
aw, but he’d just use it to get drunk or high.
sure, that’s a possibility, and probably a strong one, but he may use it to get his kid some food. or to pay school fees. or something.
but if you give it to them, then they’re going to expect it. and if they expect it, and the next time they don’t get it, then they get angry. and if they get angry repetitively like this, they’re likely to do something about it. enter stage left: crime.
so by not giving him money, we’re preventing crime?
something like that. have you ever been to india man? poverty is big business there. it may as well be wal-mart. here’s what happens. families have girls. in india, baby girls are useless and unwanted. so families want to get rid of them, because it’s only an extra mouth to feed in addition to the ones they already can’t feed. so they sell the girls. as infants. for cheap man, disgustingly cheap. and the person they sell the girls to, he disfigures them in some sick way. and i mean sick man. and in a way that any passerby can see. and now the girl has a job. she sits on a street corner, the same one, every day from dawn until dark. begging for money. pleading on the sympathies of tourists and rich locals. she’ll get maybe 10% of what is given to her. the rest goes to her disfigurer. it’s like he’s her pimp man. and that’s her life. the less money she brings in, the more disfigured she will get. until the profit is suitable. it’s a sick balance. and by giving money to her, you are making such disfigurements more likely. nothing is easy man. but you gotta think about what you do. you can’t just act on emotions.

in new caledonia:
it was all in french so i had no clue what was being said to me. but my answers were the same regardless because i kept repeating:
i don’t know. i don’t understand.

dinner in my tent.

tHe waR Of whAt?
it’s all about oil, the americans’ war in iraq. it’s so obvious. yet supposedly over half of your people, and god knows your president, support it. why is that?
not everyone supports it.
yeah but those who don’t don’t do anything about it. they just hold up signs when the tv cameras are rolling and send out emails telling you to email a congressperson some message she’s never going to read anyhow. but it seems the auto-reply satisfies.
ok, but why do you think it’s about oil. some people think it’s about removing saddam from power.
removing saddam from power?! ha! do you know who put saddam into power in the first place? your country! but that’s just brushed over. and of course it’s brushed over so it’s not so blatantly obvious that you guys are actually trying to undo what you did. it’s ludicrous! and wake up buddy, it’s definitely about oil. it’s not about removing dictators. if it were about removing dictators, why has the usa done nothing about mugabwe in zimbabwe? that devil has done recognizable and provable travesties ten times over that of saddam. we’re not talking mythical weapons of mass destruction here. and yet he’s still in power without a worry in the world. why? because how much oil does zimbabwe have? nada! so who cares? and what about the “reelection” of museveni in uganda? but you guys don’t do a thing in africa. why? because it’s not worth it to you! after all, it’s just those crazy africans anyway. let them sort things out for themselves, right? the usa can’t, after all, save the whole world. but you guys can save the parts of the world that guarantee all of your suv’s will start in the morning with the twist of a key. and you all sit around patting yourselves on the back thinking that you’ve done this great thing by spreading democracy when the reality of it is, all you’ve done is spread the fuel for an imminent and horrible iraqi civil war. and your eventual exodus from the country you “saved” will be the strike of the match.

it´s not a dot. it´s me.

defiNitions Of a hEist
hey you! we’ve been watching you on our cameras! you’ve been shoplifting!
what? i’ve never shoplifted in my life.
you’ve been eating food out of the bulk food bins without paying pal. and that’s shoplifting.
i’m sorry, but that’s not true.
we have you on tape.
then let’s see the tape.
(we saw the tape.)
see! see! right there, you’re eating those chocolate covered almonds! and you didn’t pay for them! that’s shoplifting. now you can either pay for that food right now, or we can call the police.
wait just a moment...look where i got the chocolate almonds. out of the tray beneath the bulk food bins. not from the bulk food bins. and those almonds i ate were already there.
but you didn’t pay for them!
yes, that is true. but what would you have done with these chocolate almonds that had already fallen from their bulk containers?
one of our employees would have cleaned them out of the tray underneath.
and then?
well, then he would take them away.
to where?
the garbage.
so i ate what would have been garbage?
uh, well, but...yes.
and how is that a crime?
look, kid, just get out of here and don’t let us catch you doing it again...
as you wish.

i was thinking this might be heaven. i hope there´s a heaven. i´m pretty sure there is. and i hope i get to go. but that´s something that isNotuPtoMe. but maybe it is.

bLack golD, thAt iS
it’s incredible. people in the states don’t seem to be bothered by the fact that they make up maybe 3% of the world population yet use over 25% of the world’s oil. people read this or hear this, but they just don’t care. it’s just another fact to be forgotten. and then they hop in their humungous vans saying things like, “but i need the space!” the thing is, they don’t.

in new zealand:
bloody hell mate, why do you want to ride that bike all over the place?
well, the reason see, it’s really simple...uh, actually i don’t know.

off i go to where i will go which is always a place i do not know.

tHe cellUlar saVior
yeah, so it’s so great to have you home again. i can’t believe you´re back.
yeah, me neither. i’m starting to feel like a stranger here...
well, listen, i want to hear about everything! don’t leave a thing out, ok? promise?
you really want to hear everything?
of course i do! why wouldn’t i?
well, maybe this will be good for me. i don’t really talk about this, but maybe i should. this is kind of hard for me. actually, it’s the most important thing in the world to me....but here’s the thing. some years ago, i---
a song started to play. it was a pop song, it was playing loud. she dove into her purse. for her cell phone.
oh god, it’s my husband!
no worries.
the thing was, i could obviously hear my friend talking, but the way the volume on the phone was, i could also hear him talking. i mean, i tried not to listen, but, well, i couldn’t help it.
hi honey!
where are you?
i’m at the grocery store getting the things we need off the list. it says here pantene shampoo and conditioner, but---
of course it does, honey. that’s what i need.
she covered the receiver and said, it’s my husband, the big dolt, and smiled at me sideways.
but honey, it’s over $7 a bottle. there’s another kind that says it’s just like pantene for $1 a bottle. do you mind giving that a try?
honey, i just told you the pantene is what i need. i’ve used it for years. now i don’t want to go changing everything just so you can save a measly $6.
she covered the receiver again and, swiveling her head horizontally, said to me, he’s such a cheapskate! then she continued, honey, now don’t you always say how you love my hair?
yes, but...
no buts! if you love my hair, then that means that you love pantene too! can’t you see that? so if you don’t want to get me my pantene, i guess that means you don’t love me...
once more covering the receiver and addressing me, i took philosophy in college so i know all about logic!
now baby, listen, i never said that, i was just saying---
well, if you love me, i will be seeing my new pantene in the shower when i get home, now won’t i?
yes...of course...hesitant pause...i also had another question.
an overly dramatic sigh. yes honey, what is it now?
well, there’s this new brand of all-natural yogurt they’re selling. i just had a sample and it’s delicious! i was thinking that i could get some of it instead of the normal yogurt we always get. is that ok?
now honey, what’s all this nonsense about this new yogurt? you know we love the yogurt we always get.
yes, but baby, this is better. and healthier too. it doesn’t have all those preservatives. i mean who knows what that stuff is actually doing to our bodies. and also, for example, the all-natural strawberry yogurt is actually white yogurt with real strawberries in it. it doesn’t have that artificial flavoring and it’s not dyed with red color either. i really think you’ll like it! let’s give it a try.
now honey, really, what has gotten into you? everyone knows strawberry yogurt is supposed to be red. you know that. it’s always been red. and it’s always had that strawberry taste that we love. now do you really want me eating strawberry yogurt that isn’t red? it sounds absolutely dreadful.
she looked at me again. i don’t know what’s gotten into him! i’m so sorry about this. he gets on these little kicks where he wants to change everything.
ok baby, i’ll get the normal yogurt. one last thing...
uuggghh, what could it possibly be?
i ran into kevin langston and he and his wife have invited us over on wednesday night for dinner and cards. can i tell them we’ll come?
wednesday night?
honey, don’t you know what wednesday night is?
honey, it’s only our favorite show, desperate housewives! we love that show. and you know we can’t miss it!
but baby, it’s just one episode. and i think it would be really fun to hang out with the langstons. it would be, you know, different. in fact, we could record desperate housewives and watch it on thursday night instead. how about that?
now honey, really. you know that everyone will be talking about it when i go into work on thursday morning. and if i haven’t watched it on wednesday night, like we always do, i won’t be able to participate in that conversation. now do you want that for me? to alienate me like that? and besides, i’ll hear about the entire episode that morning, so there’d be no point in even watching it thursday night, when, as you know, we have our other shows to watch anyway. and honey, the langstons? you know we don’t really like them anyway. kevin’s always talking about something philosophical or some current world event that doesn’t even really matter to us. and his wife, god his wife! she’s always talking about recycling everything and saving all these species that she doesn’t even seem to realize we have plenty of in the zoos! they never talk about the things that we like to talk about.
but honey, it’s just one night. i mean look at us. we’re always doing the same things over and over. we’re becoming that routinized married couple we swore we would never be when we first got married!
honey, now you’re being just ridiculous! now i’ve just about had enough. besides, i’m sitting here with hIrSch whom i haven’t seen in over a year and we were having this great conversation until you called and ruined it. now if i haven’t made myself clear, you will be getting the pantene that you said yourself you love, the normal yogurt that we both have always eaten and loved, and on wednesday night, we will be watching our favorite tv show. isn’t that right honey?
of course baby, of course...
now bye!
oh god! i’m so sorry. that’s my husband for you. i don’t know how we ever got married. i guess it’s like they say, you never really know someone until you marry them, and by then, it’s too late! anyhow, what were you saying? something about something?
oh, yeah, well, nevermind, it’s not important anyway. so when you say you don’t know how you and your husband got married....i mean, do you really mean that? do you love your husband?
do i love my husband? now what kind of silly question is that?
it’s just a question. i don’t really think it’s silly.
well, you should know the answer. isn’t it obvious? i mean, he is my husband after all!
so you do love him?
well, i don’t know why we’re still talking about thi—
a song played. it was a clip from a famous symphony composed by someone now dead. she look relieved. the cell phone saves the day.
i’m so sorry. it’s my grilfriend. this’ll just take a minute....

this is all i want, just a little place to call home.

in lima, peru
starbucks is the absolute greatest! i love it. i’m so glad we finally got one here! i mean, god, it was about time.
when did you get one?
like a year ago. i mean, hello! they already had one in baghdad or in one of those places like that!
why do you like it so much?
because their coffee is the best. there’s this one with vanilla and cinnamon. it’s unreal.
how much does a cup cost?
like about $3.
don’t you think that’s a bit expensive?
not really.
but you can get a complete meal at a restaurant here for only $1. or a pretty nice hotel room for maybe $4. doesn’t that seem strange?
no, why should it?
well, in america, a cup of starbucks coffee is roughly the same price. however, a complete meal is about $7, and a pretty nice hotel room is about $40. to me, though i think the cost of starbucks coffee is absurd, that seems a little more relative.
yeah, but have you tasted this one they make with chocolate? it’s to die for!
um, ok, yeah, maybe i’ll try that one day...

tHe impossiBility Of balAnce
yeah, sure, having money is nice, but it’s not everything man. the more you have, the more you spend, the more you need. it’s funny really. i think about how much money i actually make and how little, relatively, i actually save...
why is that?
it’s because now, i outsource.
what? what do you mean?
well, like, for example, i used to mowe my own lawn. in fact, i even enjoyed doing it. but now, i hire someone to do it for me. pay him like $150 a week too. can you believe that? $150! but i don’t have the time now. i have to work so much. i kept thinking i would have to work less and less, but that hasn’t been the case. i can tell that if things continue to go as well as they have, i indeed won’t have to work quite so much, but that’s a long way off. everytime i think i’m almost there, something comes up and i’m slaving away at 3pm on a sunday. anyhow, the time i used to have to mowe, when i wasn’t working so much and making so much more money, i now use to spend with my family. and so i can’t mowe. i outsource.
that’s interesting...
yeah, and also, once you start making money, there are definite social pressures. i mean, they’re silly...don’t tell my wife i think they’re silly!...but they are silly. when we have people over, it’s expected that inside our house will be nice stuff. you know, nice furniture, nice dishes, a big tv, etc. and not just that, i mean, it’s “important” for whatever reason, that everything “goes.” like the carpet needs to be in sync with the curtains that need to be in sync with the upholstery on the couch. i mean, when i was in college, what was important about a couch was if it were comfortable. that’s it. but now, we have to think about things like fabric texture and dupont stain guard and all that stuff man. it’s all noticed. and for whatever reason, it’s things like this that have become valued in our society. so yeah, we spend quite a big chunk of money on stuff like that. and my wife really likes to eat out. and we can’t go to the cool little cheap places anymore because she has quite a picky pallette. so i’m easily dropping $50 a meal for just two of us. plus a movie or something. plus babysitter costs. it adds up man. from all sides.
yeah man, i can easily see that happening. me, i gotta find a girl who will be happy on the saddle of a bike, dirtbagging it in a tent most nights wherever the ground is flat, someone who can eat wherever we can find a dish that doesn’t include animal parts or flesh or fat, a girl who will duck under whatever we can find during the rain and we can sit it out together, reading a book to each other, or bouncing ideas off of each other. a girl who can deal with all my idiosyncrocies. i want to find that girl man. i gotta find that girl man. my life is pending on that discovery.
best of luck to you friend. look, i gotta get back to work.
yeah man, it’s cool. i gotta get back to my bike.

cubicle or this?

in canada:
why are you doing this trip, eh?
i’m not really sure of the why’s. i just want to ride my bike.
but what’s the trip abooot?
it’s not really about anything. just pedaling.

i doN’t seE hOw i cAn be wronG heRe...
how much will a plate of rice and a bowl of beans cost?
eighty cents.
perfect. that’s what i’d like please.
(i finish eating.)
here’s the eighty cents for the meal. thanks. it was delicious.
you’re welcome. but you still owe twnety cents.
but we already agreed on eighty cents and that’s exactly what i gave you.
sorry, it’s actually one dollar.
but why did you tell me eighty cents before?
you owe twenty cents.
you’re not answering my questions.
i need twenty more cents please.
but this doesn’t make sense!
could you please give me twenty cents?
(begrudginly) ok, here...
{sure, yes, yes, it’s only twenty cents. but you see, that’s not the point. it could be twenty million dollars. the fact is that a price was agreed upon that was satisfactory to and agreed on by both parties. then this price arbitrarily changed. it’s things like this that i don’t understand, and that pretty much drive me crazy. especially if other people are like, “dude, it’s only twenty cents.” because i’m like, “but that’s not the point.” but, as always, no one really listens or understands. also, people will sometimes say that i’m being “unreasonable.” but they won’t qualify how. or if they do, they will say something like, “but these people are poor.” but if they say this, they too are missing the point. it doesn´t matter who is the poorest, the richest, or the mediumest. that doesn’t matter. if i am in any way wrong here, please, and do so eloquently, let me know exactly how, utilizing logic (if such a thing even exists)}.

the middle of nowhere is always somewhere. and that´s where she lives.

leT uS
can i get that salad without lettuce please?
uh, i guess.
what’s the deal man? why don’t you want lettuce?
it’s like this. i can eat a tomato and say, yeah, that was juicy and had a nice taste. or a carrot. or an olive. or something like that. but you can’t do that with lettuce. it’s just kind of there. as a filler. it’s not that it tastes bad. it’s just that it doesn’t really taste good. i’m convinced no one really likes lettuce. it just seems to be one of those things that is assumed to have to be a part of a salad. and that we just stuff it into our mouths because that’s what we’re supposed to do. do you understand?
uh, whatever man...

in usa:
what’s up dude?
not much man.
so where you heading man? looks like you’re doing quite a trip.
yeah dude, i started riding my bike in vanuatu, and aft.....
vanu-what? where is that?
it’s a country in the southwest pacific between australia and fiji.
cool man. so you were saying?
yeah, i kind of started there with sort of this dream that i would ride my bike and see as much of this planet as i can. but i’ll just have to see how it goes. i may quit tomorrow, i may never quit.
awesome man, awesome. catch you later dude.
yeah, later man.

mom, dad, world: i got a job. please, don´t call me the ice cream man, but rather, if you will, the ice dream man. because if you´ve ever dreamed, yes even you johnny...

...of living in a sand castle, then i´m going to tell you how to fulfill that dream. just get on a bike and get yourself down here to peru, and it will be true.

tHere’s goLd iN thEm thAr hillS
how are you?
oh, you speak english.
yes, some of it.
where did you learn it?
i live once in new york city.
and what did you do there?
i work!
of course. so what are you doing here?
i am waiting.
what are you waiting for?
for a shipment.
of what?
of mining supplies.
you’re a miner?
yes, i am find gold in the mountains.
great. when is your shipment supposed to arrive?
i don’t know.
so you’re just waiting?
yes. my shipment is come by sea.
how long have you been waiting?
a couple months.
a couple months?!
that’s the way here. you just don’t know.
well, how much longer do you expect to wait?
i don’t know.
well, good luck.

sticKy subsTances oR juSt giVe iT aWay?
mister! mister! mister gringo! buy this!
no thanks, i don’t need it.
but you have the money to buy it.
yes, i guess that is true.
so buy it and help me.
but, really, i don’t need superglue.
but i need money.

this is a nativity scene made of bread. i can only imagine the arguments come christmas. ¨no, you ate baby jesus last year, i get to this year!¨

in mexico:
i hadn’t learned spanish, so it was all garble. but when i first entered the country, i asked a guy who also spoke english how to say i don’t know, i’m not sure, and i don’t understand in spanish. repetition of this triumvirate served me well because these always seem to be my answers regardless of the questions or language utilized to ask them.

tHe deliCate hanDling oF huMus
a lady in a new zealand market was removing all the humus from the humus section. i wanted humus.
excuse me, what are you doing?
i’m taking away all this humus.
can i please have one of them, i’d like some.
no. these aren’t for sale.
why not?
because they are soon to expire.
i checked. they were to expire the next day.
but they’re still good now.
but my boss has told me to remove them.
ok, well, where are you taking them?
the dumpster.
well, then if you won’t let me have one, is it allright if i just take a couple out of the dumpster?
but you can’t.
why not?
because the dumpster is behind a locked gate.
miss, i totally understand that you are doing your job. but does what you are doing make sense to you? i mean all this food just going to waste...
i have my orders.
i understand that, but that’s not my question.
look, come back here in an hour and there will be a new fresh shipment of humus on this same shelf that you can buy.
but that’s not the point. it kills me that you’re wasting this food that hasn’t even expired...
i’m sorry.
yeah, me too.

hey from the hay.

buT i’M riGht...rigHt?
so do you ever feel like you’re missing anything by riding your bike all the time and not having some sort of permanent life?
i do have a permanent life. a permanent life of movement.
you know what i mean.
yeah, yeah, i know. the answer is, i don’t know. i don’t know that life, so i don’t know what i’m missing. maybe it’s better. maybe it’s infinitesimally better. maybe it’s worse. i have yet to sample it. but one day i will.
well, i’ve lived the life you’re living now man. and now i’m living this life. the other side, ha! and let me tell you, it’s better. sure there are tradeoffs. i’ll be the first to admit i don’t have near the freedom i once did. i won’t try and pretend i do. but the life i have now, in my opinion, is of a higher quality than the life i was leading. that previous life was one of movement, as you call it. i was never anywhere for more than a week, tops. in and out. and what i began to realize was that i was losing the ability to make and have relationships with people. my relationships were two-second hellos to people on the street and little mini-conversations with the waitress at wherever i was eating and a couple of sentence exchanges with the owners of hostels. that’s it. otherwise, i just kept to myself...or my book...or my journal...
but wait, i...
no, let me finish man. because the other thing i used to do was always interrupt people who called me out on this. i used to try to get my two-cents justification in. to rationalize what i was doing. to try to convince the person who was telling me that he or she was wrong. but the thing that i eventually realized was that i was trying to convince myself that i wasn’t wrong. and each time i did this, i realized more and more how wrong i was.

almost 15,000 feet on a bike. i´ll be higher soon.

grEasy palMs
i had this conversation with a girl i was this close to falling in love with (until i realized she was pretty high maintenance).
so what is your opinion of the states?
i think your president is a horrible man.
because he sends your american oil companies here to my country. they go to our mountains, cut down all our trees, suck out all our oil, and leave with almost all of the profit.
really? why does your country allow such a thing?
we have no choice.
certainly you have some sort of choice.
ok, yes, we do. but let’s say we refuse what your country asks of us. then what? well, your country will impose some sort of new trade rule on us that will hurt our economy. so yes, we have a choice, but as you can see, we really don’t.
so you’re saying my country is basically blackmailing ecuador into doing these things?
of course. but they never call it blackmailing. it’s just an understood pressure for our country to pretty much do whatever your country wants us to.
well, at least now you know.

yes, kids, it´s a water bottle. run along now.

in guatemala, el salvador, honduras, nicaragua, costa rica, panama, colombia, ecuador, and peru:
where are you from?
the united states.
we hate george bush.
ok. i’ll let him know.
where are you going?
to the place where i will stop.
when did you start?
the day that i began.
when will you finish?
i don’t know. i just don’t know.
may god be with you!
i think god has much more important things to be concerned with.
nevermind, thanks.

shaDes oF terroRism
i had this conversation with a lawyer who worked for an international bank. he had lived in the states for several years when he was younger.
did you like the states?
yes, of course.
your country is very rich and everything is much easier to get done.
so you think the states is a good place?
when i lived there? yes. now? no.
because of your president. i think he is a very, very bad man.
why is that?
he thinks he rules the world and doesn’t realize that the states is only one country. what he is doing is creating a horrible reputation for your country all around the world.
are you referring to iraq?
sure, there’s iraq, that’s the easy one. but it’s more than that. it’s how people are treated that want to visit your country. for example, what did you have to do to enter ecuador?
i waited in a line, got my passport stamped, and pedaled in on my bike.
so it was easy?
well, for an ecuadorian to enter the states, it is very complicated. we have to fill out many forms. forms that often take months just to even get. we have to prove we have certain amounts of money. we have to say where exactly we plan to go and for how long and where we will be staying. we also have to have a letter of invitation from someone in your country. all of these things. it takes many months to arrange all this. and much more often than not, we are refused entry based on some minor detail or petty mistake on the application. and then, if we still would like to see your country, we must start the whole process again. and even if we are allowed in your country, we are questioned about terrorist activity, we have to be fingerprinted, we must have our picture taken. the people are very unfriendly who do this. it’s anything but a welcome to enter your country.
yes, our country is very worried about terrorism.
terrorism? aahh. here is the question then, friend. who killed more people: the terrorists on september 11th...or...your military, while supposedly promoting peace, in afghanistan and iraq and who knows where else? answer that and then you will know who the terrorist is.

i saw this in a city on a wall. the translation is: assasin.

tO beliEve To nOt tO belieVe iS betTer
i grew up in apartheid south africa. i grew up knowing that the right thing to do was never talk to blacks, never associate with blacks, and most importantly, to hate blacks.
so how did you change that?
when i moved to switzerland and began to hear and see and know that there was another side to the story. when you’re eight years old and you’re only exposed to one thing, it’s all you know, so you believe. you’re not mature enough to understand what it means to question a belief that you don’t even realize you’ve been forced to have. when everyone around you, your family, your friends, your teachers, when they all believe the identical thing, you just fall in with it. it’s a passive acceptance. and it becomes so ingrained such that many fear even a healthy questioning of it. they don’t realize that fully examining something and subjecting it to intense scrutiny is actually the most important and worthy thing one should do with his beliefs. apartheid became a religion. and when you are a member of a family who is a member of a religion and you begin having doubts...well, it’s often easier to keep quiet, pretend to believe, and not “rock the boat” as you americans say.
but you rocked the boat.
yes, i did, because more information, information that was banned in south africa, was made available to me. and when you have that kind of exposure, exposure to things that had previously been hidden, you realize that rocking the boat is the only way to stay afloat.

gIrgIb! gIrgIb! get up! we still have thousands of miles to go!