Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm at a pretty comfortable Internet cafe in Lanzhou. Lanzhou is one of those large, unknown cities that's an unpleasant surprise in the way Xining was pleasant. I think everyone that comes to Lanzhou comes here to get somewhere else, since it's a good place to go in a lot of different directions by train or plane. I'm going to Urumqi from here, capital of Xinjiang province and site of the riots that killed 200 people last month.

Lanzhou was described as polluted and boring by a variety of sources, but it wasn't as bad as described, entirely due to the hostel where I'm staying. This hostel doesn't show up on any of the sources I consulted (Lonely Planet, Wikitravel, Hostels World), but it's very clean, comfortable and fascinating. So let me say for the sake of those Googling for reviews that the Wanlin International Youth Hostel in Lanzhou is excellent, as is the Lete Youth Hostel in Xining.

This hostel is actually a cross between a restaurant, a greenhouse and a hostel. Most of the space is taken up by tables, which are secluded booths surrounded by trees. In the middle of the lobby/restaurant is a stream, crossed by delicate bridges every now and then. On the sides are rooms. About four of them are large, spotless dorms with immaculate bunk beds. The rest are private dining rooms. Try and guess which one is yours: you'll always be pleasantly surprised.

As you walk around, you'll bump into a few groups of people dining boisterously, most of whom will try and engage you in conversation and offer you food. I made a bad start when I refused a shot of liquor, and then a cigarette, then the liquor again, but everyone nodded knowingly when I said I was Muslim.

The dozen or so staff speak absolutely no English, but somehow the hostel has an English website, English-language signs and paperwork. The staff are really just sharply-dressed waitresses that people occasionally ask for hoteliering services. There are no rules, rates or anything of the sort. The shower is upstairs, room 208. You find a mysterious staircase and walk down an empty hallway. This part feels like a video game. Room 208 is an empty dorm with a clean washroom and, nicest of all, a Western toilet.

Lanzhou (pronounced laan-jo) is not a bad city from what I saw. I ran this morning along the Yellow River (it's really brown, but the Yellow Sea really is yellow) on a tree-covered boulevard with a wide path next to the river. It's cold here, like it has been my entire time in China. Even Shanghai was only modestly hot, and I've been wearing long sleeves and a jacket ever since I left Chengdu 8 days ago. Urumqi is supposedly in the desert, thank God. I'm running out of warm clothes.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sasha, I can get into Blogger but not post, so you'll have to do one more. Don't worry, you'll get a lamb kebab out of all this.

I arrived in Xining this morning at 7 after a 17-hour bus ride. My Lonely Planet guidebook touted it as being 14-16 hours, possibly even 12, whereas someone who had made the trip just before told me it would be about 20. The guidebook singled out this ride as bumpy, uncomfortable and smoke-filled, but the gritty sleeper bus was luxurious compared to 15-hour rides in cramped seats over dirt roads. The roads were paved and while I had to sleep something that was a cross between a recliner and an ironing board (a recliner the shape of an ironing board, I suppose), it was nowhere near as bad as billed.

Of course, I slept for 6 hours after I got here after sleeping 9 pm to 6 am on the bus, so it clearly wasn't that comfortable. I also tipped the taxi driver 9 yuan on a 7-yuan taxi ride because I was so excited to get far, far away from the world of dirt roads, chanting monks and cell phone MP3 players that play the same Tibetan song over and over.

The bus ride itself was spectacular, as always. The bus made it as high as 16,000 feet and while the weather didn't get too cold, there was a dusting of snow, along with ice pellets that drilled the bus and an awe-inspiring lightning storm that took place on the endless grasslands.

Xining, or what I've seen of it anyway, is very nice. It's places like this that make China both fascinating and frightening. Xining is a city of 2 million people in a remote province in western China that you've never heard of, and I'd never heard of. Despite the horror of other mystery cities of large size, Xining is very, very pleasant. The air is clean, the sky is blue and the city is developed, clean but not too crowded. As a spectacular bonus, this very cool hostel is located next to an 8-lane rubberized track that seems to be a bequeathal of the Beijing Olympics. I ran a workout of 8 kilometre repeats at a cruising pace with a minute in between, and nearly keeled over after. Xining is at over 7,000 feet, so clearly the best way to adjust to altitude is to run first at 12,000 feet and then work your way down.

A lot of people started running with me on the track, but most were there to play soccer or were university students engaging in some bizarre jump rope contest or a 16-leg race. Still, when you look at China's medal in the women's Olympic marathon, the 20 km racewalk at the current World Championships or even the Cultural Revolution, this is clearly a country and a people with a lot of endurance.

Edit: after I wrote this, the Chinese women went out and nabbed three of the five top spots in the women's marathon at the World Championships, led by winner Xue Bai.

Lastly, notes on absurdity as I've traveled across China:

- I woke up this morning at 5:15 to a Britney Spears song from about a decade ago
- I saw two copies of a two-volume set of the entire works of Proust in the Foreign Languages Bookstore of Chengdu (funnier if you saw Little Miss Sunshine)
- You can buy Oreos pretty much everywhere here, but not a cold drink. Or soap.
- Everybody knows Barack Obama, sure, but the only other foreigner anybody has mentioned? Beethoven.
- I figured how to transliterate my name into Chinese. It uses three characters: hungry, earth and two. Better transliterations are solicited.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Down the street from here is a large yak market. They're standing in a small square, maybe 100 of them, and people keep tying colourful ribbons around their necks. Just down the street from that is a similar crowd of goats, small ones. Sometimes small children come up, start petting them and then try to give it a hug, and the goat wriggles out from the pack into the open. Someone will then herd it back into the pack.

Speaking of herding, I have now seen enough to say that you should always grab the bull by the horns. That's one of those cliches that's true, unlike the idea of a free lunch (I got that at the school where I taught for a year).

The yaks and goats aren't the only ones producing solid waste on the sidewalk. It's very common in rural China for small children to wear onesies with holes for convenient toilet-going. I've already seen three small children going for it on city streets. I've seen them do number one on the street in Korea (facing traffic at that), but number two is more involved. Also seen on the sidewalks, multiple times, is breastfeeding, not-so-discreet for the women.

Seriously, Yushu is an entirely Tibetan town. Many people I've talked to speak Chinese as badly as I do, and others refuse to speak it all together. A woman at the restaurant last night only moved her lips when I asked her about her baby. I met a Tibetan monk last night at the hotel who speaks excellent English. He spent close to a year in prison when he snuck into Nepal without a passport. For this he was beaten and tortured, with the scarred body to prove it. His stories of the torture faced by other monks and nuns made me look away every time.

After about a week in the middle of nowhere, I'm more than ready to get back to places that have laundry, clean toilets and where things are marked. I once read that grocery stores are not marked in Greenland because there's no need; everyone already knows where everything is. Northern Sichuan province and this town in Qinghai province are similar. You literally have to poke your head into every single building, some of them open holes, others barred by a thick curtain as though protecting a heroin den on the other side.

That said, I can't say enough about the spectacular wilderness I've seen. You can look for kilometres and sometimes see nothing but grasslands and mossy mountains that look like FieldTurf. It's hard to get lost because ever since I left Chengdu five days and over 1,000 km ago, there has been one road. The road is usually dirt or gravel, sometimes fourth-rate pavement, and it is always bouncy and always rattling. The shaking, bouncing and cacophony, not to mention the cigarettte smoke and accompanying altitude, make the bus as horrendous as the outside is beautiful.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fortunately for us, he amended the punctuation in this one. - Sasha

I'm in Yushu, Qinghai province, at about 3600 metres altitude. I was suckered by the altitude sickness (headache, shortness of breath) from a 15-hour bus ride at close to 4000 metres into accepting a filthy three-bed room for $8. So I had three beds, all of them dirty. I used my backpack for a pillow and moved out first thing this morning.

There's no love lost between Tibetans and the Chinese. I thought they were kind of ambivalent towards each other now, but Tibetans take the chances they get to express their resentment towards the Chinese. They do it using the pinky, which indicates insignificance or something. The pinky is a big thing. The index finger is good, the pinky is bad and something that's okay is, well, the middle finger. I asked a police officer I met how he liked his job. He said it wasn't great (holding up his index finger), not bad (holding up his pinky), just okay (holding up his middle finger). I laughed and he laughed, and I had no way of asking whether or not he understood what the middle finger meant in English.

The last town I was in was Ganzi, which was very friendly. The Tibetan women that ran the hotel asked me to come and chat. Only one of them spoke English, so in her absence, we talked a little bit in Chinese, and then they stared at me. When I mentioned I worked in Korea, they brought in a Korean for me to talk to. Then they stared.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Adeel's proxy has been blocked by the Chinese government, so he delegated the task of posting this to me. However, the punctation in the e-mail he sent me instead appeared as odd characters. I took the liberty of beginning to correct it, but that tapered off as I became more lazy. Enjoy reading. - Sasha

China is good at what they do, which is keeping this country in one piece, exactly the way the government wants it. I arrived here in Ganzi £¨not to be confused£¬ as I did£¬ with Tokyo¡®s high-end shopping district of Ginza£© last night to a herd of yak and People¡¯s Liberation Army soldiers standing at attention at every intersection¡£ This was after a 9-hour bus ride became a 15-hour bus ride£¬ most of it over dirt roads along the sides of towering mountains¡£ Not only is it common to pass on the left while going around blind corners£¬ it¡®s really how you drive in this area¡£ The first few times I thought I wasn¡¯t going to make it here alive£¬ but after two days of it£¬ it¡¯s normal now¡£So too is cows sitting in the middle of the road£¬ unmoved by the ten-ton truck heading for it¡£ Cars£¬trucks and buses go around the animals£¬ they don¡¯t move for anybody¡£

This is a mostly Tibetan area£¬ and the architecture£¬ clothing and facial features give it away¡£Sichuan province has a population equal to about France£¬ but the western mountains are very lonely¡£ You drive for kilometres and see maybe a lonely brick house in the distance£¬ or a cluster of houses every hour¡£ Sometimes you see a person or someone¡®s goat in the middle of nowhere along the side of the road£¬ far from the nearest house£¬ with no obvious means of transportation¡£

As for running at altitude, I'm up to 11,000 feet by now. I ran about 25 minutes this morning that I thought was about 4 kilometres, at a very low effort. Whenever I tried to pick up the pace, I felt my head go fuzzy. I had a bit of a headache after, but it passed quickly after drinking lots of fluids.

This town of Ganzi is not as stunningly beautiful as Kangding, which is situated between two towering mountain ranges, with a furious river bisecting the middle of the town, but it's definitely worth a stay. There is a big market, a temple in the north end of town, and some stunning scenery everywhere you look. The Tibetan way of life is very colourful. Even people who are obviously poor and live in the middle of nowhere have bright-coloured houses and clothing. I think Tibetans are probably the best-dressed people in China, but that's not saying much. The men all look like hardened cowboys, and the women look wonderfully exotic£¬with braided hair£¬red spots on their cheeks and babies in baskets¡£

I've seen more animals in the last two days than I have in the last year in East Asia's urban centres, where the only animals you see (this is no exaggeration) are pocket-sized dogs. I've seen yaks, cows, black pigs, dogs, stray cats, ducks, lambs and goats.

People stare a lot. Some try to rob me with their eyes, others take the annual chance to speak English, others ask where I'm going. That's a very popular question, in English and in Chinese. I'm far off the beaten track here, the nearest city of any significance going north is probably 1,000 km away. I always reply with Xinjiang province, then Europe. People always get the first part.

They're friendly, though. Very friendly. At lunch yesterday, someone asked why I wasn't eating more. I explained that the $1.10 buffet at the truck stop was out of rice. About a dozen people simultaneously yelled "yo!" (have). Then they asked one more time where I was going.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Even though I made it a point to shave this morning, the next ten days are the hairiest in this trip. I'll be traveling through small towns in northern Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. These places are not in Tibet proper, but they are on the Tibetan plateau and have large ethnic Tibetan populations, not to mention that they consider 24-hour hot water to be an amenity worth advertising. This is also the end of China proper, the China of Han Chinese. It's Tibetans and Uighurs from here on out.

Today I'll climb 7500 feet, which is why a drive of 400 km takes about 8 hours. I'll get as high as 12,000 feet this week. If you're a runner like me, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is altitude training. Mine too. If I can run 20 minutes today, it'll be a victory. Fun fact: Kangding, at about 9000 feet, is roughly the same altitude as Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Taking a train across China was one of those things I've always wanted to do. I took a train from Shanghai to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province (often spelled Szechuan on menus). The trip is over 2,500 km and takes about 40 hours, so I came prepared. I bought a copy of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, as well as Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, and enough food and iced tea to three days. I reserved the middle of three bunks because my guide said the bottom bunk is used as a seat by everyone, and the bottom bed is too hard to sit. I expected all sorts of hooters, howlers, hawkers and hookers at the train station, which is horrendously marked, with little English and completely inaudible announcements.

I was ready for all that. I wasn't ready for the train, which was tiny, cramped and crusty to be charitable. The triple bunk beds were maybe 2.5 feet wide and a little under 6 feet long. There was a narrow aisle with a maybe 15-20 seats for 100 people on the car. "This isn't it, is it?" was my reaction. That was it, home for the next 40 hours. Eventually it would stretch to the point, where I didn't even realize how small it seemed at first.

It was coarse and chaotic. The sink was filthy, the bathroom was filthier, the little tables by the seats were dirty, and the first thing I did was put the blankets they gave in a corner. And that was it, I sat there. For the first 20 hours or so, nothing happened. People just stared at me. When I got up, when I sat down, when I read a book, when I looked out the window, when I stared at them. I stared at them a lot. I thought they were really dirty. And smoked a lot. And the really good-looking woman in the bunk above me had more armpit hair than me. Finally, someone asked me if I spoke Chinese. I said I didn't. He laughed at me and said "yes!" about a dozen times.

On day three (this was a two-night, one day affair), the guy in the row of bunks next to me noticed that I wasn't Chinese. He taught the kids around me some English. One boy kept saying "I love youuuuuuu!" Finally, we talked. The guy was 30, traveling with his cute 3-year-old son and well-mannered wife. Then they found a high school student from down the car who also spoke English. I became a celebrity. About 30 people watched me talk in English, and also the other Chinese talk in English. I even found an old man who spoke Korean, though he called it by its North Korean name. We all took pictures. They asked what I did, where I was going, how much money I made,how old I was, if I ate breakfast, if I was boring (they meant bored) because they always saw me sleeping, and why I took the train instead of flying (which is how they do it in Canada).

Now I'm in Chengdu, which I like a lot more than Shanghai. It's neater, simpler, cleaner. The appeal of outdoor activities in the mountains is intense, and that's where I'm headed next, though sadly only by bus. Chengdu is, I'm not surprised to learn, ranked as one of the best cities in China to live. The money might not be as good as Shanghai, but it doesn't have Shanghai's chaos and ubiquitous peddlers.

Parenthetically, since I haven't been on a computer in three days, I have to say that I actually love the peddlers. Every time I see someone selling something for what amounts to loose change, my heart breaks a little. I knew China was not a developed country, but I can't believe how little some people have (I was told that food was very expensive on the train, I bought lunch for $2). My favourite kind of peddlers are the ones that sell food on a stick. I'm strongly considering switching to only eat food that is served on a stick, namely kebab and melon.

The kebab sellers are often Muslims from the far west of China, obvious from the hats and appearance. And they know their kind. I bought a couple today, two shishkebabs for 25 cents. A burly man wearing an unbuttoned shirt, sweaty belly exposed, offered his hand: "assalam-o-alaikum". The boy next to him offered his hand too. "Pakistan?" "Jia-na-da," I replied. He replied again with "Pakistan?" The Chinese woman selling socks next to him sharply corrected him. Not buying it, he asked me again where I was from. I said Canada. We exchanged greetings again. He said something in Uighur. I said sure, and walked away.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I devoted yesterday to buildings in Shanghai. Buildings make up its unique skyline and drive its economy, and China's economy as a whole. Construction is part of the reason why the Chinese economy grew at a rate of 8% last quarter. The city is in the middle of an overwhelming upheaval. Where I'm staying, to the south of the city centre, the road is churned into a giant pile of rocks in parts, piles of massive pipes block the sidewalk, and shiny new buildings stand next to massive holes in the earth. In Pudong, home to two of the world's seven tallest buildings, plus the 420-metre Oriental Pearl Tower, the construction is even more insane. There is half a street in front of the 490-metre World Financial Centre, the second or third-tallest building in the world. The other half is under construction for the Expo 2010 taking place here next year.

As such, navigating Shanghai's ultramodern Pudong district is a nightmare. There is no sidewalk, few directions and really no reason for anyone other than a mudcaked construction worker to be there. To get from the Pearl Tower to the World Financial Centre, I walked through a park, got lost in a construction site, and then walked down a road bound by construction on both sides, risking my life against massive buses. Once I got there, I was informed that the visibility was too poor to get to the observation deck, the highest in the world.

This doesn't even compare to The Bund, on the west side of the river. The Bund is a collection of European-style art deco buildings dating to the early 20th century. In preparation for the Expo, the road is completely torn up. Coupled with the architecture, it looks like Europe circa 1945. The riverside promenade is also gone. You're left with a muddy, hideous street and hundreds of touts for a variety of tours and whatnot.

All that said, I'm baffled by why I see so many foreigners here. Every where I look, there are European backpackers or well-to-do tourists from Italy, America, Germany or elsewhere. This might be the third-biggest city in the world and certainly the most dynamic city I've ever been to, but I can't understand what the soft-looking tourists with thick Lonely Planet guides and upside down maps find appealing about this place. I can't even tell what I find appealing about this place. Shanghai is certainly more developed than Beijing, but I'd rather visit all the places I didn't see in Beijing than have mud caked on my face as I walk next to the billionth "EXPO 2010! BETTER CITY, BETTER LIFE" construction scaffolding.

If this computer permits, I'll post some pictures from Shanghai. If you're reading this on Facebook, click here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

There has to be some way of venting my resentment of China. I heard that they blocked Facebook here the night before I left, but it seemed too awful to be true. Well, it is.

China, as I expected, is a bizarre mixture of the ultra-modern, the ultra-bureaucratic, and the ultra-backwards. I took the Maglev bullet train from the airport yesterday, which has a top speed of 431 km/h, but the whole thing was administered like a rollercoaster. You weren't allowed onto the platform until just before the train got there, but some people did anyways, and then they were ushered out the exit (myself included). A man argued and we were let back in.

Buying a train ticket in China reminds me of the time I traveled by train to India from Pakistan as a kid. The train station is frighteningly chaotic and sad. The only ticket office that is marked is an automatic ticket office that only sells tickets to a randomly-determined set of destinations (hint: it's not yours). When I asked a police officer, singing out the Chinese tones to get my point across, he pointed to the vending machines, then assigned me a young man for a guide.

The main ticket office is a nightmare. There are 20 ticket windows, one of which is marked with a small "we speak English sign" (hint: it's number 10), which is not visible until you get there. A man barks over the loudspeakers, people push and yell behind you (there are at least a thousand people in the tiny ticket office), and you can barely hear the seller. That's how I ended up with a ticket leaving Thursday night instead of Thursday morning. There might be recourse, but I was too scared of the migrants and peasants in the line (yes, the English-speaking line) behind me to attempt recourse. I just walked back into the grey outside, with bright red lights and the people on wheeled shoes selling shiny things. Last night, at least, Shanghai reminded me of a modern version of Bleak House.

Monday, August 10, 2009

노을만 붉게 타는데

As I leave Korea, I will leave you with my favourite Korean song these days. I'm really going to miss this country...for a whopping few months.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

They don't call it the Yellow Sea for nothing. I made it to the west side of the Korean peninsula, and I was shocked by the water, which was a little too close to water from the toilet as far as I was concerned. The water comes from China, my friends explained, and that, like most things from China, makes it very dirty. The beach was filthy anyway, resembling a chaotic refugee camp moreso than a beach. It was packed with people and their debris, accompanied by hawkers selling inner tubes, clothes, food and Lord-knows-what.

I spent the rest of my weekend in the countryside, far, far from the neon lights and highrises that make up most of this country. The house where I was staying had no bathroom sink or air conditioning (today's high was 35 degrees). The road in front of the house was about six feed wide with pepper farms on either side, and about 3-4 km from the nearest piece of modernity.

It was a strange place to spend my last day in Korea, especially given that I'll be in Shanghai by this time tomorrow, but going to the countryside was one of those things I really wanted to do in Korea, along with eating outside a convenience store, going to a wedding and eating mysterious seafood.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Today I felt like a Coke bottle that fell out of the sky. After over a year here, I was treated more like a circus attraction than ever.

At a government office, I made small talk with the man helping me. He told me that he studied English at a nearby language school every night. I asked if his teacher was a Korean or a foreigner. He said it was a foreigner, an American. He paused for a second, unsure of what he was about to say, then asked if I knew Jamal. I said I didn't.

Later, on the bus, in a foul mood and engrossed in a book, I was interrupted by an old man shouting "wonderful" from 15 feet away. He asked what I was reading, asked where I was from (I don't think he had heard of Canada) and, most importantly, asked me if I knew the word wonderful. Then, when I got up to read the list of bus stops (Korean buses have a long line listing all the bus stops, maps would be too useful), he was shocked that I could read Korean. I didn't have the heart to tell him that it was in both Korean and English.

Parenthetically, translating bus stops and street signs into English is quite possibly the most useless endeavour ever taken in this country. Nobody would know the Great East Gate, but everybody would know the Seoul landmark of Dongdaemun. Similarly, the "Ajou University Entrance and Intersection of Three Roads" is not only a ridiculous mouthful, but it's meaningless. Writing Ajou Dae Ipgu Samgeori would get people a lot farther.

In the evening, I went for dinner at a Korean's house. I'm likely the first foreigner to ever visit my friend's sister's house, and my friend's sister didn't take the occasion lightly. She asked me to pose for a picture with her camera phone, which she promptly sent to all the mothers of her son's friends, with a cosmopolitan caption along the lines of "right now I'm conversing in English!"

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

As my first year in Korea comes to an end, I'm embarrassed to remember my first days and weeks here. I spoke English to everybody thinking that all Koreans spoke basic conversational English. In reality, a store clerk who can tell you how much something costs in English probably ranks in the top 20% for English ability. I laboriously matched what I thought were Chinese-style characters to learn to read three words in Korean: hour, Suwon, and won. I walked through a grocery store and found absolutely nothing appetizing. I walked down the main street of my rice field-bound neighbourhood and considered it not all that different from the meeting of Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street. Unlike most people I know, I stayed in neither an apartment nor a motel when I arrived. I stayed in the large, air-conditioned apartment of my director (who was on vacation), with its purple couch, deafening silence and complete isolation.

I've made two new beginnings in my life, the first when I moved to Canada and the second last summer. Each was embarrassing in ways I can't even articulate, but the embarrassment of coming here was intensely personal because it was done on a whim, my whim. I decided in April that I would go to Korea. Three months later, with a little paperwork, I was here. Moving to Canada, as I remember it, took about two years and we left with the expectation of never returning. Moving to Korea was something I cooked up and, given that I always like to give the impression that I know exactly what I'm doing, not being able to find a decent snack or even figure out which buildings were restaurants and which were real estate agents was a serious kick in the pants.

Later on, I made day trips to Seoul and longer trips to Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo, Beijing (and soon Shanghai) for the express purpose of walking around unsure of which buildings were restaurants and which were real estate agents. The day I learned to read Korean and understand what exactly storefronts read (about 30% are auspiciously-named real estate agents, another 30% are dentists and Korean-style doctors) was the day that the adventure died a little.

New beginnings are, I think, easier for someone like me. Living in Korea, a nation-state where everyone speaks Korean, is an ethnic Korean and has a three-syllable name, I came to realize how shallow my own background is. I was born in Pakistan, the second and last generation of my family to be born there, to people whose parents came from India (and elsewhere before that). I grew up in Canada, where my mom made Pakistani and Italian food, and I ate Jamaican patties, cheap Chinese food and donuts. Religion aside, my family has few traditions or "traditional foods" as Koreans like to ask. It goes without saying, of course, that as an ethnic Pakistani, what I consider my family is a group of 100 very close-knit people. Still, I've lived in seven houses not counting the three I rented in university or the one I have now.

I wasn't raised with the canon of Canadian culture (Christmas, Star Wars movies, a strange obsession with lying mostly naked outside on hot days) and I want nothing to do with Pakistani culture (coming up with conspiracy theories, technocracy, rice dishes with peculiar ingredients). The result is that I struggle to read my native language and stare at coworkers in disbelief for never having heard of the Iliad, much less being familiar with the details of its plot.

Many people get homesick living here. If I was actually from anywhere, I would have something to miss.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

God bless America

Someone has to bless America. I'd be embarrassed to be from the same country as this racist, lunatic hick and her band of slack-jawed supporters.