Wednesday, August 31, 2005

For all you Spanish speakers out there:

One of my good friends here in Chandigarh, Nacho, has a blog that is hilarious (or so he tells me). I can't understand it, but i've been told by other Spanish-speaking friends that it's one of the funniest blogs they've ever read. If you're interested in hearing amusing stories about life in India, visit Nacho in India. It's gaining popularity all over his home country of Chile and his posts are even being published. Good job, Nacho...keep up the good work.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I had my first experience with death in the family yesterday. My grandpa of 91 passed away on friday evening at his home in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Unfortunately, I didn't find out until Monday here in India. I all but lost it when I was trying to write this post yesterday, so I decided it was probably better to wait until today.

It was really only a matter of time. What really bothers me is that I don't feel like I was able to say "goodbye" properly. When I did say goodbye to him for the last time, in June, I secretly knew that this was likely the last time I would ever see him again. As much as I knew it was coming, there was just no way to prepare for the day it actually happens.

RIP Grandpa.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Bulgaria:

Makfax, the independent news agency of Macedonia, is reporting that the owner of the Bulgarian soccer team FC Lokomotiv has been murdered. Georgi Iliev was sitting at a bar enjoying a drink when he was gunned down by a sniper. He had just come from a UEFA Cup qualifying match between his team and OFK Beograd.

Police are not speculating on who may have ordered or executed the murder. One theory is that there are disputes in the Bulgarian criminal underworld over drug territory. Mr. Iliev and his late brother, who died 10 years ago after a shootout in Sofia, were suspected of having ties with these organizations. Georgi Iliev was 39.

Well, I guess bad things are going to happen when you get involved with the criminal underworld. You essentially sell your soul and if you want it back, you're going to pay...in some very imaginative ways.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

North Korea:

Yesterday (August 24th) was the 45th anniversary of Kim Jong Il's rise to power in the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea (DPR Korea). This from the Korean Central News Agency of DPR Korea.

I've always thought North Korea would be an interesting country to visit for a few days, just to see what it's like in a true-communist country. There aren't too many left...Laos and China are the only other two that come to mind at the moment. Only difference between DPRK and China is that China is a global trading force, whereas DPRK still has a platform-shoe-wearing leader, Kim Jong Il, and is way behind the rest of the world in terms of political and economic freedom (China has its issues with political freedom, of course, but much more economically free as compared to North Korea).

This is exactly why I want to go there...to see if it's really as "bad" as they western media tells us, but at the same time whether it is anything close to what the DPRK propaganda machine spits out. Maybe one day....

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Crazy News Out of Sweden:

According to SR International - Radio Sweden, the top diplomat at the Libyan Embassy in Stockholm was found dead. He was found hanging from a doorway. The man was not the ambassador, however, as the charge d'affaires, he was the top diplomat (there is currently no Libyan ambassador in Sweden).

No names were released.

This has been a bad time for diplomats. Just under two months ago, the entire Egyptian envoy to Iraq was kidnapped and killed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Next Stop: Kenya


According to a report by The East African Standard, the water level of Lake Victoria has dropped by about half a metre. This has locals and experts concerned because the receding water level could have an affect on the abundant marine life. This includes a large variety of fish species and, overall, the ecosystem. Experts say that over-fishing has caused fish stocks to deplete. The government blames the weather for the receding water, but scientists are quick to point out that a lot of this is a result of Lanina, a cyclic pattern that causes low rainfall.

There have also been inteferences in the transport industry. The low water levels have forced ships to dock in deeper water than normal. Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania all use the lake for transport. It is most important for Uganda and Tanzania because ships carrying fuel destined for the two countries use Lake Victoria. If fuel supplies are delayed, prices will rise. This won't make anyone happy.

Even though I have not been to Lake Victoria, I can imagine that it is a beautiful lake. After all, it's one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and is the source of the Nile. Is there someone out there reading this blog that has been to Lake Victoria? Can you provide some insight into the situation?

Monday, August 22, 2005

A much bigger waterfall...on the bus back from Manali.
Other pictures of India can be viewed at http://www.greenthumbdesign.ca/gallery/index.php


Small waterfall in Manali.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What is going on in Suriname?


After two failed rounds of elections, the incumbent president, Ronald Venetiaan, has been sworn in for a second term. He has attempted to stabilize his country's economy through privitization and a reduction in government expenditures.

As you might already know, Suriname was ruled by a dictator, Desi Bouterse, from 1980 to 1988. He has since been convicted in absentia (in the Netherlands) of smuggling cocaine and murdering political opponents. His party, the New Democratic Party, has gained some momentum in the recent elections - doubling its number of seats to 15.

For more information, check out the article.

I was suprised to read that the largest ethnic group in Suriname is Hindustani, or East Indians. Apparently, people from northern India emigrated in the late 19th century. This also means that Hinduism is the largest religious group. I had no idea. CIA Factbook site on Suriname.

In regards to the former dictator, Desi Bouterse, he is now living free in Suriname, but has an international arrest warrant out for him. Suriname cannot deliver on this warrant because Bouterse is a former head of state. He came to power in 1980 after a coup d'etat by his military regime. He served until 1988 when he resigned. He is probably most famous for his role in the December murders in which 15 political opponents were murdered. He denies any involvement though. More about the dictator can be found here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

If someone were to ever write a book chronicling my adventures in India, this would be the chapter on Manali (a resort town in northern India):

Kent was surprised by Manali. He thought it would be a mountain town similar to Mcleod-Ganj. Later, he found out that the town was already at 2000 metres, which is the same as the other hill stations he had been to. The town itself doesn't have much to offer, Kent observed. Full of resorts, an endless number of tourists, and the ubiquitous odour that is diesel exhaust. Combined, these make for an unpleasant experience.

That was until a journey to 4000 metres was conjured up. Our adventurer had never been that high before, or at least as far as his memory served him. Nonetheless, this was something that needed to be done. Clean, albeit thin, air was the order of the day.

A jeep was needed for the 52 km journey to Rohtang pass - the 4000 metre pass that dwarfs anything Canada has to offer. "He used to think that the Salmo-Creston pass was high...not anymore."

The jeep wove its way up mountain after mountain, avoided oncoming buses, and skirted its way across parts of the road that had been washed out. Kent was surprised at how many streams just went across the road. "It's only a matter of time before something bad happens," remarked one of the trainees.

The air was getting thinner, heads lighter, and breathing deeper as they made their way up to 13,000 feet. At the top, there was the usual bustle of activity that comes with a tourist spot in India - food and drink stands, horse rides, etc. Unimpressed, Kent took off to find what he was really looking for...the Himalayas.

As he stood in front of the most impenetrable natural fortress in the world, he could not help but remember the people that had crossed this frontier to escape persecution. He is talking, of course, about the Tibetan people escaping Chinese brutality. Then it all became clear. Any problems or complaints Kent had were as trivial as deciding which tie to wear because there were people out there that had to cross this seemingly impossible mountain range in order to gain a fraction of the freedom he had. Then he thought, "Could I have done that? Could any of the people I know have done that?" The answer was an overwhelming "No."

"So what is the point of complaining? Who cares if you were stuck in traffic or the food didn't taste good?" A great remark from one of the trainees. And no doubt true in every sense of the word.

Our adventurer had been noticing the abundancy of flat rocks and had decided that he was going to build an inukshuk. And there he was, standing at 13,000 ft in a country on the other side of the world, building an inukshuk. Albeit small, a sense of patriotism came over Kent like never before - even more so than when Donovan Bailey won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It would be an understatement to say that Kent could've stayed up there for days - it was just that relaxing.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Here is a gruesome story from Jessore in Bangladesh (about 95 miles, 150 km, west of Dhaka), courtesy of The Independent:

A 20-yr-old woman, Joynur Khatun, fell victim to the wrath of her husband, Yunus Mollah, for allegedly not paying the requested dowry.

Yunus and Joynur were married in the village of Jagannathpur, at which point Yunus demanded that Joynur bring a dowry from her father, Yusuf Hossain, in the amount of 50,000 Takas ($770 US). Unable to meet the request of her husband, Joynur was then physically brutalized.

On August 3rd, Yunus began fighting with his wife over the dowry. What resulted was Joynur being beaten to the point of death. She died on the way to the health complex and her body was subsequently thrown in a pond. Yunus is now in hiding over the incident.

The dowry system seems to be an elusive concept for Westerners, as it is rarely properly explained. A good explanation can be found in this article by Mohammad Asghar. In it, he states the difference between the Muslim and Indian sub-continent system:

"Islamic law requires the Muslim bridegrooms to pay dowers to their would-be Muslim brides."

"[In the Indian sub-continent,] parents, irrespective of their religious affiliations, always want to get rid of their assumedly “un-saleable” daughters by offering dowers to their would-be sons-in-law."

Western-bias aside, if someone promises to pay you to take something and then doesn't pay you, you wouldn't be very happy. If the culture states that a dowry be paid, shouldn't it be honoured? I must point out that this by no means justifies murder, or any other sort of physical/verbal brutality. I also don't know the whole story, like was the dowry unreasonable, did the husband and father-in-law agree to a different price, etc. What I can tell you is that the dowry system remains a fascinating cultural aspect, which will probably be never full understood by the western world.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Came across this today. It was the winner of the "Grand Panjandrum's Special Award" at the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest-a contest that awards bad writing.

"India, which hangs like a wet washcloth from the towel rack of Asia, presented itself to Tex as he landed in Delhi (or was it Bombay?), as if it mattered because Tex finally had an idea to make his mark and fortune and that idea was a chain of steak houses to serve the millions and he wondered, as he deplaned down the steep, shiny, steel steps, why no one had thought of it before."

Ken Aclin
Shreveport, LA

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Haven't been on any trips lately, so there are no exciting stories to tell at the moment. In lieu of that, I'm going to post some news stories from places you don't hear about too often. If any of you are travelling to one of the countries mentioned, maybe the info will be useful. The first one comes from Namibia, courtesy of allAfrica.com, entitled "Taxi Industry Wants Fare Increase."

Here is a brief synposis:

There has been a 39 cent (6 cent US) increase in the price of fuel in the country and bus & taxi operators are pushing the government to allow them to increase fares. Operators in all of the regions need to submit their current fare information in order to be given permission by the government to increase the current rate.

Until now, however, only bus operators have brought a request to increase fares. For example, the current fare for a bus ticket from Windhoek to Katima Mulilo is N$190 ($29.50 US). Bus owners are hoping to raise the fair by N$5 (78 cents US) to N$195 ($30.28 US). Other fares for routes within Namibia are likely to rise N$5 as well.

There hasn't been much in the way of a response from the Namibian government. Currently, a litre of unleaded gas at Walvis Bay costs N$4.79 (74 cents US)

This sounds like a legitimate claim. I can't really blame these guys for wanting to keep, for example, a 10% margin. After all, western companies use the same argument ("the cost to produce the goods/provide the service has gone up, so we have to raise the price") all the time.

Couple of interesting facts about Namibia, courtesy of the CIA Factbook:

GDP is estimated at $14.76 billion US (2004)
First country in the world to incorporate the protection of the environment into its constitution
Population is just over 2 million (2005)
Capital is Windhoek
65,000 Internet Users (2003)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Mussorie - The view from 2000m (6666 ft).