Archive for May, 2010

Backpacking in the News

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Link to article: What not to bring backpacking: 10 things to leave at home

Chad Norwood's gear for a 6-month, round-the-world trip.

Chad Norwood's gear for a 6-month, round-the-world trip. (Source: chadn on Flickr.com)

I agree that the unnecessary weight of jeans and hiking boots should be avoided, especially in hot, humid places. (Looks like Chad packed both, in the above photo).

I’ve packed a sleeping bag before but rarely ended up using it (only while camping a couple times). I never backpack with a laptop — I use Internet cafes instead (see 9. Lost e-mails). I do travel with an SLR camera, but I don’t bring any additional lenses or flash units.

The author, Steve James, also concludes that “there is a common consensus that people who travel with guitars are tossers.” Good stuff (see 18. Playing Guitar).

A couple other packing techniques that chap my ass:

backpack-locknet

I think Spiderman shot a load on your bag.

Backpack locknets: What is the point of these? To prevent people from unzipping pockets or cutting into your massive pack while you’re wearing it? And when it’s stowed in a cargo area or closet on a train, bus or in a hostel, I’m pretty sure a would-be thief could cut through it with a standard pair of wire cutters.

This look should be avoided.

This is not a good look for you.

Double packing: You’re not carrying a baby. You don’t need to hang gear off your chest if you’re already hauling a load of shit on your back. Better to keep it all on your back and not have to bother with two packs. Besides, it looks ridiculous.

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40. Beach Games

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

I just want to lie on the beach, drink, smoke cigarettes and, if I feel like it, read a book. I want to people watch. I want to take photos of children frolicking in the surf. Just kidding, I actually don’t, but people who are into photography do.

Since I came here on vacation, I want to bask in pure laziness. If you would rather be active while at the beach, good for you, champ. Just don’t expect me to participate in any of the following games:

Beach Ultimate
  • Frisbee: I hate Frisbee. I especially hate people who are “good” at Frisbee, with their unconventional tosses and catches. Likewise, I detest Ultimate (perhaps the fruitiest team sport ever conceived). The only way Ultimate could get any worse is if it were played in a parking lot in rollerskates and cut-off jean shorts.
  • Beach volleyball: It’s never as competitive as it should be. The unathletic weak links on each team kinda ruin it. The only time it’s ever been truly competitive at the amateur level was when Maverick and Goose took on Iceman and Slider, while shirtless and wearing jeans (full-length jeans). Now THAT’S beach volleyball.
  • Beach tennis (a.k.a. Paddle ball): A variation of table tennis, without the table. Or the fun.
  • Beach soccer: I remember kicking somebody in the shin with bare feet while attempting to play beach soccer. My toes were throbbing for hours, an experience that forever soured my appreciation of beach soccer. And there’s no cross-bar over the net (which consists of two shoes as goalposts), so there’s always an argument as to whether or not a shot was “too high” to be a goal. Plus, North Americans are an absolute joke at soccer.
  • Hackey sack: The juggling can also be done with a soccer ball. But the hackey sack is more transportable and hippie/stoner-friendly. Either way, it’s extremely boring.
  • Beach (American) football: Non-North Americans cannot throw a football.
  • Beach rugby: I don’t even know how to play rugby. Most North Americans don’t. So yes, I am a pussy, according to Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans, Brits and certain Frenchmen.

A couple exceptions:

  • Patentero: A Filipino beach game that is super awesome. Ask my dad how to play it.
  • Bocce: I actually love this game, mostly because it can be played at a lethargic and effortless pace.
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39. Lost in Translation

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

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For some time, I’d intended to write a post about signs, menus and other printed materials that featured funny, ridiculous or nonsensical translations to English.

But upon finding a NY Times slideshow (accompanied by an article by Andrew Jacobs and a readers’ gallery of submitted photos), I’ve resigned to the fact that I simply couldn’t do a better job than hundreds of people at once. Check them out.

There are some real gems among the submitted photos, such as:

#9: “Decent Public School” in Varanasi, India (taken by Justin Hefter).
#20: “Careful Drowning” in Putuo Shan, China (taken by Jonas Crimm).
#43: “Genuine Fake Watches” in Instanbul, Turkey (taken by Jules Villamor).
#44: “Each hour takes about 1 hour” in Seoul, Korea (taken by bmarconi).
#59: “Stay away from the deer with ANTLERS!!” in Miyajima, Japan (taken by cesse123).
#82: “No Wasting GARBAGE!” in Indonesia (taken by Anthony Zak).
#88: “Sorry we’re open” in Instanbul, Turkey (taken by Skidel).
#151: “Wikipedia fried with eggs” on a menu in Beijing, China (taken by cohenhead21).

Some highlights that come to mind, from my travels, include:

  • “Beatiful ladies” outside a strip club in Tijuana, Mexico [Beatify: to declare (a deceased person) to be among the blessed and thus entitled to specific religious honor].
  • “Sea products” and “Shepherd’s bag” on a menu in Bratislava, Slovakia.
  • “Meet balls” on a menu in Bangkok, Thailand (see above photo).

If you have any you’d like to add to this list, feel free to post them (with a link to the photo) as comments.

Taken in Spain by Rhett Larsen

Taken in Spain by Rhett Larsen

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38. Teaching English Overseas

Friday, May 7th, 2010

I get it. You have an Arts degree. You don’t know what to do with your life; no particular career path in sight. You enjoy traveling and experiencing other cultures. You’re really into photography, architecture, music, geography, politics, history and ethnic cuisine. Yeah, you already told me you have an Arts degree.

In many ways, teaching English is like working in a restaurant. You can cling to whatever shreds of youth you have left. You can make decent cash without putting in too much of an effort. You can plug away, take time off, travel, not have a mortgage. Surround yourself with other people who are young or want to stay young. You can screw your co-workers without all that drama. It’s a good life.

This guy is a huge pimp in Korean nightclubs.

This guy is a huge pimp in Korean nightclubs.

I’m not against it. I’ve done the restaurant thing and more than once, I’ve considered teaching English abroad. I have family members and close friends who have done it or are currently doing it. Still, you have to admit it’s become a cliché.

I’ve decided there’s a three-year shelf life for teaching English overseas. You can’t really keep doing it forever. People your age are getting on with their lives back home. Unless you’ve reached true enlightenment (i.e. abandoned your native social pressure toward adult responsibility) you eventually have to hang it up, come home, attend to your ailing parents, get a real job, etc.

Becoming enlightened requires you to let go of your former self, to become a new, more confident person. There are a lot of “fresh starts” on the English teacher scene. Band, drama or Magic Card nerds starting anew on foreign soil. Misfits who dig Indie music (and wear skinny jeans, scarves, Chuck Taylors, etc.), who didn’t really fit in in high school, some of whom got bullied and are still bitter about it. Virgins.

Many of these people flourish overseas. Finally freed from the judgement of the “cool people” they grew up with, they can party their faces off and convince new groups of people they are actually cool.

Some of these awkward, newly-minted swans not only lose their virginity overseas, they actually start scoring quite a bit. This is especially true for guys. White guys, however homely they may appear, can become rockstars. I’ve seen the goofiest-looking geeks rocking primo arm candy in Japan. These guys are macking on girls way out of their leagues — girls of this caliber back home wouldn’t give them the time of day. (On the flip side, Japanese girls might be the female version of Hal from Shallow Hal. Where we see a hapless loser, they see Brad Pitt.)

Many of these nerd macks enjoy their newfound swagger so much, they never come home. That, or they lost their virginity to a pretty Japanese girl who cooked them breakfast the next morning and they thought, “I could get used to this,” in which case they married the girl and stayed in Japan forever. Their parents back home, instead of being dismayed that their son will indefinitely remain a million miles away, are ecstatic that a pretty girl actually gave the bastard the time of day. They sometimes worry the Japanese bride will figure out she’s been duped, but they quickly dismiss those suspicions. Their kid is happy.

Besides, nerdy white guys cannot resist Asian women. My buddy, who is a hard-core F.E.T. (Far East Talent) man*, often likened himself to John Lennon. Not that Yoko Ono was super hot or anything. Frankly she freaks me out, but anyway, you know what I mean (see SWPL.com or Yellow Fever). Woody Allen and Nicolas Cage are a couple other celebrity examples.

*He actually came up with the F.E.T. acronym, too. A real pioneer.

I feel like I’m getting way off topic, but am I, really? This is all part of the Teaching English ritual.

Unattractive girls do it, thinking they can get a fresh start, too. Not in Japan, honey. Your male counterparts are too busy having a heyday with skinny/tiny/ageless/pretty/subservient Japanese girls. Meanwhile, the Japanese guys don’t wanna mess with your man hands and cankles. (Heaven only knows why Japanese guys don’t  fall for less-attractive white gals the way their countrywomen do for the aforementioned nerds.) It’s frustrating as hell, I know, but don’t worry.

You’ll only have to deal with it for three years, tops.

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