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miles & miles, gone & gone

April 18th, 2009

so i have a little beef with my friendly travel agents at AirTreks. see, we had a deal in the beginning of my trip where they’d plug in my mileage program numbers so i wouldn’t have to think about such trivialities while tramping around the globe. as the flights were many and the miles accrued in the thousands, i figured great! these programs offer pretty good incentives for racking up miles.  shortly before returning i learned my miles had not been accruing over the course of the year because my usually on the ball agent neglected to provide OnePass with my mileage program numbers and when i got back, i found that the only miles on account with OnePass were the ones i’d accrued prior to departing on my around-the-world trip. a measly 7,000 miles (the balance should have been in the neighborhood of 60,000 miles).  after conducting a bit of research, i found that the 67,000+ miles would’ve provided some benefit equal to at minimum a round-trip domestic ticket at no additional cost. adding insult to injury, the miles expire 6 months after taking the flight and so miles from every flight on a OnePass partner carrier that i flew on prior to july 2008 had already expired. and since i was not monitoring my miles throughout the trip, i assumed they continued to accrue until the end. i was wrong and was only able to recoup a few miles from submitting a couple of boarding pass receipts i luckily didn’t throw away after returning!

AirTreks was good enough to apologize to me for the error, although they did not offer to make up the loss in benefits associated with those miles except to credit me $100 lousy bucks to my account held with them towards a future flight. i hardly think this is equitable…i hope others have better luck with their agents in the future than i did. or, take time out of your adventures and experiences to spend hours in the ‘net cafe monitoring this crap so you don’t get hosed the way i did!

end of tirade.

happy travels, everyone!

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what kind of traveler are you?

February 5th, 2009
I travel like Rolf Potts !
Rolf Potts

You are a travel legend in the making, with a sense of adventure that will lead to hundreds of fascinating stories. Locals all over the world will give you special nicknames, and almost all of them will be complimentary.

What type of traveler are you?
Take BootsnAll’s Travel Quiz to find out.
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some good reads on the road and invaluable backpacker tools

January 27th, 2009

now that i have returned from my magnificent journey, i thought i’d pass on a few titles of books i read while on the road as well as some handy tips for any of you considering long-term travel, i.e., what to bring that will save oodles of headaches along the way and what you don’t really need to bring along but which other travellers perhaps found necessary.

i read a LOT of books last year. it’s not that i had nothing but idle time on my hands, rather i had a substantial amount of in-transit time and time loafing on various beaches without strenous activities to partake in while soaking up the sun. some notable books i read are as follows: ‘jonathan strange and mr. norrell’ by susanna clarke – it’s all about magic, olde worlde style. an eloquently written first novel by clarke, a fat volume, and which made the otherwise quirky topic of early 19th century magic enjoyable for me (thank you Mr.L for the loan); ‘shantaram’ by gregory david roberts – another fat volume (a whopping @950 pages!) of an autobiographical nature vividly describing the life and times of an aussie ex-con on the lam in bombay’s mafia. fascinating and gritty. i mentally plugged my nose at his descriptions of bombay’s slums; ‘no country for old men’ by cormac mccarthy - having read ‘the road’ i knew i’d enjoy this tragic tale of the battle between texas outlaws and sheriffs; ‘eat pray love’ by elizabeth gilbert – a must read for all solo female travellers. a bit righteous on her ‘god-seeking’ path, but not too preachy. funny and insightful as can be. Read the rest of this entry »

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the end of the road

January 15th, 2009

well dear friends, i’m rapidly approaching the end of the road of this great odyssey. there are just 4 days left before i will be landing on familiar (relatively) terra firma once again.  my plane departs denpasar international airport at about 16.40 on janurary 19 and i will, shiva willing, land at LAX about 4 hours later on the same day. incredible to travel around the whole planet and yet it only takes 4 hours! this is a little delusion, of course, as i am well aware that the other 2o hours i’ll spend in transit will not be a figment of my imagination only. at any rate i have no less than utter trepidation about my imminent return. there is much to do and think about for my future and i am steadfastly denying all of those thoughts for the moment and plan to continue to do so well after my arrival back into the US, at least as long as i can get away with it. on the up-side, i do look forward to seeing some faces i have not seen in quite a few moons, and this gives me much happiness. still, the faces i’m leaving behind for some more moons, quite probably, cause me no shortage of sadness and despair. if my emotions are this mixed NOW, before i even leave bali, what do you reckon my state of mind will be when i get off the plane?

i know i got lazy on the egypt entry and also omitted quite a bit of tanzania that i’ve been meaning to share. perhaps those days were too profound or too personal to put down into a public/private blog. maybe i’ll get around to putting something down for those of you still interested in ME ME ME after i return and collect my thoughts and select the appropriate words. or, maybe i’ll just keep those thoughts for the memoirs…

as they say here on the island i’ve been marooned on these 2 1/2 months, salamat jalan dear travellers. bon voyage. bien viaje. see all you fine folks back in the good ole yoo ess of ayy.

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HOLIDAY IN PARADISE

December 21st, 2008

i would like to take a moment to wish you, dear readers, and all of you a very, very happy holiday season. whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year, i sincerely hope it’s filled with love, happiness and good cheer (and plenty of GOOD WINE, for those of you who indulge in such luxuries…i get none where i am now; bali is not known for its GOOD WINE and this does sadden me deeply, if you must know). be careful on the roads too. there are lots of maniacal nutters out there!

peace, love & good wishes to all my friends and family wherever you may be! until next time…

your humble narrator.

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i’ll have some sambal with that please

November 11th, 2008

today in bali it’s fairly hot. i have sought shelter in the internet cafe to catch up on email and whatnot.

i am currently shacked up in a bamboo bungalow in the coastal village of Amed, which is really a few villages not just one. the view is nice – palm and other trees, black sand, the beach a few feet from my veranda. there are bugs and geckos and some funny dogs and cats running around looking for handouts. i’m not sure they like their curry very spicy. maybe they do…they are balinese, after all.

the diving here is superb as well. there is a shipwreck about an hour away by motorbike submerged just a few meters beneath the surface. the ship, “liberty”, an american vessel, met its watery end in 1965 and since then she has been host to a variety of colorful coral and undersea life. also, down the road the other direction about 15 minutes by motorbike is another wreck, this time a japanese vessel that met its underwater destiny during WWII. she is only a few meters beneath the surface as well and is easily explored from the surface with just a snorkel and some imagination. the japanese wreck is far more deteriorated than the “liberty” but fascinating wildlife swarming in and around it nonetheless.

one thing i can say for sure about bali: the nasi goreng with an egg on it is top notch. this is fried rice with vegetables for those of you not in the know. i’ve always been a big fan of fresh asian food but for some reason or other i’m particularly fond of indonesian, especially of the balinese variety, vittles. i don’t even have to mention the seafood…i live by the sea; there are fisherman out here each morning in their catamarans searching the local waters for the freshest, tastiest snapper, mahi mahi, tuna and other goodies and i don’t have to walk far in this tropical heat to get it slapped on top of my plate.

i’ll have some sambal with that please…and a giant, icy cold bintang beer, thanks. make that 2 bintangs, please. makasih buuu. ;-)

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sorry i haven’t written for awhile…but neither has shakespeare

October 20th, 2008

hi friends and neighbors. it’s been quite sometime since i’ve written anything (worthwhile) on ye olde blogge. i promise to soon…but not now.

let me just say that since i was last here, i have traveled near and far, seen a thing or two, had some adventures and am still in (largely) one piece.

i am VERY excited to report that in 1 hour i will be meeting face to face my great friends and upstairs neighbors, becca & kevin, in sanur on the beautiful island of bali, indonesia. we’re gonna play hella cards, drink gallons of bintang and generally have a crazy-go-nuts hootenanny wreaking havoc on the unwitting balinese for one solid week before going our separate ways again.

maybe after that i’ll tell you all about Ramadan in egypt and the Maasai village in northern Tanzania…and zanzibar and singapore and possibly some thoughts and feelings on all and sundry. or maybe not. maybe i’ll wait to publish the book and you can pay me some CASH MONEY to learn of my fabulously fantastically exotic experiences abroad. :)

til next time, dear readers.

love, your humble narrator.

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60 minutes in India

August 31st, 2008

i was gonna upload some pictures from zanzibar and other parts of tanzania here but it seems i’m unable to, either because of some mumbo jumbo related to the internet connection (slow as molasses in january all throughout tanzania) or bootsnall. not sure which, but anyways i cannot do this, and so you’re gonna have to wait for those. rest assured, however, that they are stunningly good, national geographic quality photos of fluffy and hoofed and winged critters from the safari and some maasai warriors doing their maasai tribal jumping schtick.

i should be in india right now. sadly, i’m not. i’m in dar es salaam, tanzania. i flew to india only to be turned away for lack of a visa to enter. the kind folks at qatar airways got me on the first plane back to tanzania at 4AM, roughly, and 8 1/2 hours later i was back in tanzania. this super sucked and was really, actually, the worst day of my life (aside from the iPod mishap) this year and i hope the very last and worst of my travels. am working on getting to the bottom of why exactly i did not get a visa before arriving (who knew you couldn’t get one at the airport? clearly i did not know this and therefore was unprepared) and where i shall go from here. one funny thing did happen that was unexpected and, i assume, typical of india: a security guard at airport security in delhi asked if i was married FIRST THING when i was getting ready to send my luggage through the x-ray machine. i had to laugh because this question was posed immediately after “hello. where you from?”, no hesitation whatsoever.
Read the rest of this entry »

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ZANZIBAR: The Great Mosquito Massacre and The Maasai

August 20th, 2008

let me first express my apologies for taking so long to update the blog. tanzania has fair to middlin internet connections at all ‘net cafes i’ve been to since i have been here (about 1 1/2 weeks). i will be unable to update the blog until i am in a place where i can get a better connection. so, for the time being please know that i’m not ignoring the email messages all y’all have been sending me (THANK YOU!), it’s just that time is money and when i can only open and read 1 message in 1/2 an hour’s time, i have become very discouraged by the speed of the connections (when the connection stays connected, that is, which is about 1/2 the time) and so have been unable to respond to you guys. believe me when i say i will reply very soon (esp. benn and monica – i am sorry about your news and will write immediately when i get a good connection. i have thoughts to pass on).

and so meanwhile, i have very much enjoyed Zanzibar, the Spice Island (you’d think they know who the Spice Girls are here! but noooooo, they do not! i’m chagrined), so far. i have slaughtered no less than 1,000,000 potentially malaria-carrying mosquitos in my hotel room and beyond, ruthlessly and without remorse. i have also had the good fortune to have befriended a real, live Maasai guy named Chipa Chipa. his job is security guard at my hotel. because he is from the Maasai tribe, he is (supposedly) of fearsome warrior stock and not to be messed with. Chipa Chipa carries a big stick and wears the traditional drapey scarf/sarong thing and lots of jangley jewelry every day. his skin is a beautiful blue-black and his smile shines with perfect rows of perfectly white teeth. he smiles a lot and his English is good. despite his affability, i would NOT wish his wrath upon me. i do not doubt that with a diet (according to the literature - he has not confirmed this to me) of cows blood and milk, he could take your humble narrator down in about a nano-second. i try to stay on his good side. he and his brothers/cousins/sisters here in Nungwi Beach will perform a traditional dance ceremony down the road from my hotel this Sunday. i will try to arrange to see this, unless i am in the middle of the Serengetti on safari at the time.

at any rate, i am constantly working on writing in my paper journals and hope to condense and upload the juicy bits onto this blog very soon. send in the authorities if you do not hear anything from me by September 1. at that point, one may assume that i have been devoured by lions out on the plains…

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BIG CATS and CHEEKY MONKEYS

August 6th, 2008

i know i’m seriously behind on my writing. thing is, i’ve been a bit bummed out lately. it’s cold, i miss my friend in cairo, i miss my friends and family (esp.those of you who LAG, SERIOUSLY LAG responding to my feeble attempts at keeping in touch – you know who you are. now, HOLLA AT ME), it’s cold and i’m bundled up in everything i have that could possibly keep me warm and i’m very conflicted about the things i’ve seen here in south africa.

first off, south africa is still not the safest place on earth, thanks to apartheid and the years since then (it’s been 20 years!) of recovery therefrom and the current xenophobia battles. i was on an island in thailand when the sh*t hit the fan here with xenophobia. asylum seekers from zimbabwe camping outside of police stations, starving, getting sick, having no access to south africa’s “civilized” services and yet fearing return to their own country because they would (a) be killed or badly hurt by thugs, (b) find no work, (c) find their homes occupied by someone else and/or (d) find there is no food and that disease is sure to follow imminent starvation. there’s still quite a bit of crime – robberies, muggings, break-ins, etc. and it’s always advised you take extra care walking at night, especially alone, and so i’ve been limited in what i’ve been able to do at night, not wanting to take any chances out there. this repression is a big albeit necessary drag.
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