Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Coincidence?

The Presidential Election in Azerbaijan will take place on October 15th, 2008. That happens to be my birthday, and I might happen to be there at that time.

Speaking of significant dates falling on my birthday, the last day of the Eid to end the month of Ramadan falls on my birthday.

Looks like the next two birthdays have been well planned out in advance.

Life in Mongolia

Selenge

Eating Korean BBQ

My Host Family (Tuul, Selenge, Ochirsukh, and Tuya)

"You Very Good Chef"

Christiane Was Here

More Desert Fun




Monday, May 28, 2007

A Definition of Random

Random is getting on a bus at 7AM in Cairo only to see two Koreans patiently waiting for the bus to depart.

Random is finding out these two Koreans are going to see a Korean woman in the desert village of Baharaia.

Random is learning that this Korean woman is in fact married to a local.

Random is eating Korean food in said village.

Random is learning about Korean speed dating while camping in the desert.

Random is a married couple that can't really talk to each other (he doesn't speak Korean, her Arabic is not great).

Random is meeting a Korean woman willing to give up a nice apartment and life in Korea to come to said village.

Random is ascertaining that three more Korean women are set to marry locals in said village.

Random is a Korean housewife community in said village.

 

Wonders never cease.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

South Korean Speed Dating

Imagine that. The phenomenon that involves "dating" ten people in the span of one hour has made it to South Korea. We call it "speed dating." I'm not sure what they call it, but it's likely similar to the literal Korean translation. Why and how do I know this? I spent the weekend with two Koreans in the desert. More on that in a separate blog post.

Speed dating in Korea is a bit different. Four guys, four girls, a pub, some beer, some soju (beloved rice liquor of Korea), and perhaps some karaoke. Sounds like fun to me, and is so much better than the regimented North American version. Granted, I'm not an expert on speed dating, so maybe Megan can provide some input.

It starts when an "connector," a person who knows a bunch of people from different groups, picks four guy friends and four girl friends. This random group of eight then heads to the pub to commence the speed dating festivities. After a few rounds of beer and soju, people are feeling comfortable and inhibitions are flying out the window at record speed.

The group usually talks for about four hours. There are no timers, no forced situations, no pressure. Just eight people enjoying their soju and talking about anything from StarCraft to baseball. If the night is going well, karaoke is often the next step.

Thank your lucky stars if you're a good singer. For the guys, the girls love a good singer, and vice versa. I suppose singing is the equivalent to dancing in North America.

There is the possibility of further communication once the night is over, as mobile numbers and email addresses are sometimes exchanged. Surprisingly, there is a certain characteristic that can set the tone for the evening:

What's your blood type?

In Korea, this determines your personality. Type A people are shy and generally introverted, Type O are extroverted, Type B are aggressive towards the opposite sex, and Type AB are a mix of everything. Most Koreans are Type A (according to the guys I was talking to), so they tend to be introverted. 

If the people you are talking to aren't interested in the personality that comes along with your blood type, it can prove very detrimental to your chances. I suppose it's similar to someone not having an adequate bank balance around a certain group. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ode to Panchkula House





I received word the other day that Panchkula House is no longer housing foreign trainees. This is a sad day for the 20+ people that have graced this place. This reminds me of when my favourite liquor store in Panchkula was razed by the authorities months after I returned home. It's really unfortunate that the places so dear to me then get cast away for no good reason.

More importantly, I wonder what will happen to the Fridge-of-Fame. It had all the profiles, plus pictures, of the people that lived in the house. Perhaps the trainee who leaves the house last could take a picture and send it to us alumni for memory sake.

Goodbye, Panchkula House. We had a good time while it lasted.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Before and After

What a mess. Now there's a face that hasn't seen much sunlight.


It's all gone. I think it'll be much cooler now, and the aerodynamics have to be working in my favour now.

Why Did I Go Back?

"Hey Kent, it's Farzina's friend Vimel. Can you take me to the bellydancers tonight?"

Now there's a message you don't want to see 3 days after being soundly embarrassed by a pregnant woman in front of rich Arabs. I had this chilling feeling inside that if I took Vimel back to Palmyra, something bad was going to happen. There was just no way I was going to show my face in that establishment for a long, long time.  

But what alternative was there? I wasn't aware of any other bellydancing places in the neighbourhood. My brain was on overdrive for most of the afternoon trying to figure out what I could possibly do to get myself out of returning to that place. Besides, frequenting these places isn't exactly a classy thing to do. It's like going to the strip club in Canada twice in 4 days....

Luckily, or perhaps unluckily ... I'm not sure I will ever know ... Vimel is one of those people that throws caution to the wind and does things like preparing her own food at the fatira place and packing her own coffee at the coffee place. Such interaction in these places was likely to translate to the bellydancing place. If you stop to think about what "interaction" might mean in this context....

As we walked, gingerly I might add, in the general direction of Palmyra, my hopes rested on whether or not the two places beside Palmyra had bellydancing. We were greeted by the "security" outside the Palmyra entrance, at which point I inquired about the other two places. Turned out that both had what we were looking for. Excellent.

We took a look at the first place. Meame Night Club. Upon entry, all I could see was what looked like a 16 yr old girl wearing not a lot. The guy who ushered us in said, "We just started. This is the first dancer." We learned that it was only a 5 LE entry fee, as opposed to the 35 LE fee at Palmyra. The other place was just as sleazy, minus the 16 yr old girl. It was slightly more expensive, but it was empty. After careful consideration, we chose the former place. And what a good choice it turned out to be.

"We should get up on stage and dance." Surprise, surprise. Those were the first words out of Vimel's mouth. What a girl. At least the statement was quickly followed by, "Beer, please!" We discussed the possibility of some stage work. Drums seemed a bit more up my alley, but Vimel had her heart set on teaching the bellydancer bhangra.

Our plans were delayed a bit due to the finest bellydancer I have ever seen. Her hips were seemingly disconnected from her body. She could move them so freely and expertly. She also didn't look Egyptian, or Arab for that matter. In any case, she deserved numerous applause and helwa's (nice one) for her effort. At one point during her performance, one of the guys got up on stage and showed us how Egyptian men dance when nobody is watching. This provoked the only female spectator in the house, Vimel, to give him 5 LE.

Finally our time came. I asked one of the servers if we could go up to the stage. He eagerly obliged, unsurprisingly. I went straight to one of the drummers, while Vimel took the stage. She seemed a bit confused, so we lasted only a couple of minutes.

That didn't stop Vimel, though. We had another beer or two, and this time we went up when the bellydancer was on stage. I spent about one minute proving to the spectators that I was not cut out for bellydancing, and receded to the drums. Vimel, on the other hand, put on a show. She must've spent ten minutes mixing bhangra moves with Egyptian moves. At one point, she was showered with 5 LE notes by the guy she had given 5 LE to earlier.

After a round of applause, we went back to our seats. We sat there for another 30 minutes before saying our goodbyes and leaving. As much as I would like to keep my promise of going back, I'm not sure this is something I should be doing very often. Makes for a great story, though.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Return to Domination

"Rick Nash scored twice to lead Canada to a 4-2 victory over Finland in the gold medal game of the World Hockey Championship in Moscow Sunday.

This run to gold was stunning in its sheer efficiency. Canada outscored its opposition 13-4 during the playoff round games and seemed to get better each time out. The Canadians were bigger, stronger, faster and more disciplined than their opponents when the games counted most." -tsn.ca

 

Looks like we're back to dominating the world. Where were the Czechs? The Russians? The Swedes? The Slovaks? All these countries are supposed to treat this tournament like the holy grail of hockey.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What's a Pregnant Woman Doing in a Place Like That?

So I went back to the Palmyra and the bellydancers last night. This time I was escorting Farzina and her friend, Amrita, who was especially interested in the seedy establishment and all it had to offer.

If you recall the last time I went, we weren't too impressed with the show. The women seemed generally uninterested in shaking more than what they were getting paid for, while the men failed to cough up the big bucks. Last night was different. Last night involved some serious cash. Last night we witnessed a good bellydancer. Last night...I was being serviced.

The normal procedure for a rich Arab, or any Arab for that matter, at Palmyra is to sit, enjoy the show, and be paid attention to by one of the "hostesses." These are the women that don't bellydance, but just flirt with the guys and get them to empty their wallets. Success is generally imminent, as was seen last night.

I was the only foreign guy there, but I certainly wasn't expecting to get any "attention." We all like attention, but I'm not sure this is the kind I was interested in. My concern began when a woman came over to talk to Farzina and Amrita. It looked as though she wanted to get them up on stage. Needless to say, that didn't go over well. Minutes later, she was giving me a lap dance. Oh, did I mention she was pregnant?

She was also fully covered, except for the head. It was so surreal. After a minute or so, she turned and started demanding that I pay her. I was like, "Later, I don't have any change." This provoked her to start strangling me, albeit in a playful way, and grabbing my hair. She kept coming back every so often to ask for money and yell at me.

On stage, the bellydancer was impressive. This woman had serious cheek control. Both the girls and I were in awe over it. Then I see one of the rich guys sitting buy the stage give 200 LE to the guy singing. A short while later, two stacks of crisp 5 LE notes arrives. So the man takes the stack, calls the woman over, and proceeds to slather her in the money. He dealt the bills like cards onto her chest, while she shook vigorously. It was fascinating.

The next woman that came on wasn't nearly as good, but she also got a stack of money. Instead of having a shower with it, she took it on stage and started throwing it up in the air. For the first time, I can honestly say it was raining money.

Before leaving, I gave the "hostess" 5 LE. She laughed and put on a display to show how cheap I was. I just hope the baby makes it.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

People Who Don't Like Uncle Sam Very Much

"Ever since the Vietnam War, many Americans have viewed Canada as a liberal oasis, ready to welcome those who no longer want to take part in Uncle Sam's wars.

But US soldiers fleeing to Canada today face a Canadian government that may well be less hospitable than the one in power during the Vietnam era. Back then, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau welcomed war deserters, declaring 'Canada should be a refuge from militarism.' Richard Nixon called him an 'asshole,' to which Trudeau allegedly responded, 'I have been called worse things by better people.'" -Speigel

 

Well said, Pierre, well said.

This is a long article, but it's interesting if you're: 1. Canadian, 2. an American draft dodger, or 3. have some interest in army desertion tactics.

Canada and the US have a long history of this "reverse" brain drain. It started with the US Revolution (the loyalists fled to Canada), gained strength during the Vietnam War, and is still prevalent today.

I Wonder What Happened to the Koshary

Ten minutes after passing the police party, I was standing at the corner of an intersection talking to a guy I see most mornings on my way to work. He's a bit of a crazy dude, exhibited by his predication of a revolution in the next three months.

All of a sudden, I heard this noise. I turned to see a guy on a motorcycle screaming down one of the streets and a car flying down the other. I'm fairly certain that all in attendance could foresee the impending doom.

The man on the motorcycle, who happened to be a koshary delivery guy, let out an "ahhhhhh!!!!" right before impact and tried to turn his machine to soften the blow. The car didn't really try anything fancy other than slam on the brakes.

Then, SMACK!. The motorcycle t-boned the car, the man slammed into the side window, and fell to the ground...is bike on top of him. We rushed out to him. He was writhing in pain on the ground, but tried to get up has quick as he could. People were telling him to slow down and just lay there for a second to catch is breath.

Luckily, the guy had been wearing a helmet. I'm pretty sure it saved his life on this occasion. The driver of the car should've been pommelled, according to the guy I was talking to. "But these policemen seem to be nice today."

Thanks goodness everyone was okay. It's strange to think that the people who ordered the koshary had no idea what happened. In fact, I wonder if they ever got their koshary.

I Was 20 When My Wife Was Born

Gamal Mubarak married is 24-year-old fiance yesterday. He's 44 and at the ripe, old age of "becoming the next president of Egypt." The only stipulation, according to the Egyptian Constitution, was that a president must have a wife. Hence the marriage.

He has said he doesn't want to become president, but I don't think anyone believes him. To show this disbelief, protesters planned to stage a fake wedding ceremony about a block away from my house. One thing you learn quite quickly in Egypt is that wherever there is a planned protest, an exorbitant display of force is not far away.

I caught site of this display yesterday on my walk home. First, there were troop trucks on every street (filled with idle troops). Policemen were stationed on every street, directing traffic. Barricades were setup. But best of all were the plain-clothes thuggies. These boys, who look like they know the gym better than their own mothers, were placed in sections at every corner of the circular roundabout. Each "section" was six men wide and three men deep. Their job was to stand there, look menacing, and pound some protesters if things get out of hand.

I don't think anything happened, but seeing that excessive display of force makes you wonder how paranoid Mr. Mubarak is of a revolution.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What He Said

To follow up from the previous post, it turns out that Shane Doan has been alleged to have said something along the lines of:

"There are 4 French Canadian referees...think about it."

This was during a game in Montreal, in which Doan was frustrated over the refereeing.

If you've ever played sports, it's like a fundamental right to complain about officiating. What better excuse is there than to say "the ref lost us the game...it certainly wasn't me."

If that sentence uttered by Doan was derogatory, then I'm guilty too. Anytime you go into someone else's home rink/court/field, you're always a bit wary of where the officiating crew is from. And if it happens to be giving the benefit of the doubt to the home team, you generally say something along the lines of, "Hometown officiating crew...think about it."

It was nice of the NHL to clear Doan of the comments he allegedly made. Too bad the government couldn't follow suit. I mean, sure Quebec voters are important, but you'd think a majority of Canada (namely Ontario) would be upset with a political party(ies) that ruined one of our few remaining symbols of national pride.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Only in Canada...

would a government spend precious tax dollars arguing in the House of Commons over whether or not a certain hockey player should've been chosen as captain.

"Opposition leaders Stephane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe suggested in the House of Commons that he was unfit to lead the Canadian team at the tournament because of derogatory comments he is alleged to have made about French-Canadians in an NHL game some 17 months ago." tsn.ca

Well, it's nice to know that our government is discussing matters that are truly important to Canadians (for once), but I highly doubt anyone really cares about this one. What we care about is winning the hockey tournament. This isn't going to happen if our government keeps acting as a distraction.

Does this happen in other countries? With cricket? Football? Jai Alai?

Everybody is a Communist Today

It's May Day. A day to celebrate the glorious proletarian regimes of old and the workers they sought to unite.

I bet the party was rockin' in North Korea and Laos. Too bad Castro didn't show up because he no doubt missed one helluva good time. And then there's Russia. I wonder if there was another military display down Prospeckt Mira like they used to do in the good old days.

Here in Egypt, we were greeted to the following headline on Page 5 of Al Ahram (The Pyramids) newspaper:

PRIVITIZATION BLOWS

No parades or anything like that, though. Just a headline to remind you that Egypt still has its socialist roots firmly entrenched...just in case the Soviets need a friend when they rise again.