Showing posts from November, 2008

Obama and The Economy, Or Not

"So have you taken any interest in the U.S. election?", I asked Duguma, the owner of DH (Duguma Hunde) Geda, an Ethiopian industrial conglomerate. Mr. Hunde pulled a wallet-size photo of Barack Obama from his pocket. "I'll see you at the inauguration", he replied, and he was serious. Mr. Hunde, one of his Board members and I were on the bullet train to Shanghai together, and our low-key dinner conversation quickly grew into a caucus of international businessmen debating foreign relations and discussing how Obama could potentially help to resolve the issues underlying many of the current conflicts around the world. One perspective came from Affi, the Pakistani owner of an import/export business. His opinion is that the U.S. must negotiate with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Another man suggested that a crucial step in putting to rest all conflicts in the Middle East is to forge an agreement between Israel and Palestine. I agree that nothing will get accomplished by co

Shitleg in Beijing

Our 4-bunk dorm room is home to 6 of us this week. Paul is my British travel mate. He's from Bristol, England, and his accent and his dry, yet rich and funloving sense of humor go together like "tea and crumpets". We met in Mongolia 3 weeks ago, and have become great friends. Tonight I will head south and Paul west. At 6'3", I call him the BFG (big, friendly giant), and we joke that the Chinese make way for him for fear of being eaten. Also in Mongolia, I met Magnus and Rasmus over a bottle of vodka. They are 20 year-old Swedish self-proclaimed "enjoyers of life" who love to "paaw-eee" (they were quick to adopt Paul's way of pronouncing "party"). Last night, the 3 of us played an impromptu gig at a Beijing bar, along with our other Swedish friend, Johannes. We call ourselves "Shitleg". See the following link to see a couple of songs from that night..haha. Might have to give it a few minutes to load: Shitleg in Beijing.

To Beijing

Two Mongols, a Japanese, a Chinese, a Brit, and an American set out in a minivan across China today (Mongolian border to Beijing). I held my breath as we sped across the Chinese countryside and passed through towns (our ride is an illegal service so we have to avoid highways, police), swerving around people, bicycles and dogs at 100km per hour all the while. I've had to dehumanize dogs for this trip (interesting concept). The 2 Mongols are through 2 bottles of vodka now, and while they claim drinking speeds up the ride, the 10 pisses they've taken on the side of the road have ironically made the trip much longer. I'm currently traveling with Paul, a 29 year-old from the U.K., and Machiko, a Japanese, sub-5 feet, 59 year-old mother of four. Paul and I are amazed at the patience Machiko has exercised over the past 24 hours; I've noticed when things get particularly nerve-racking (like when I began dropping the F-bomb at our pre-paid driver after waiting 2 hours with the h


I was awakened from my nap by a warm hand resting gently on my knee. I must have dozed off, I thought. I'm in a ger on the mongolian countryside, and just finished drinking a bottle of vodka and eating fried pastries filled with goat organs. The smell of sheep or goat meat makes me gag. It's no wonder, at survival camp I went 10 days without a shower wreaking of sheep after slaughtering one. But I'm getting used to it again. I'd better; everything I eat over the next 4 days will have something to do with sheep or goat. I'm on a 4-day trek on horseback, hopping from ger to ger, and staying with 3 different herding families. Before leaving I was told that cigarettes and candy are good gifts, but after passing around packs of Marlboros to the men of the first hosting family, including the 85 year-old patriarch, I felt incredibly pretentious. My gift will be appreciation from now on (and smokes on demand). She's her grandparents' pride and joy, and it's app