4/29/09

Moving Day

If you shopped for a table, mirror, rice cooker, and some shelf's at the garbage mart, odds are your not going to use a moving company. Which in my case leaves two options, the train or my bicycle.

Not wanting to deal with the unpleasantries associated with negotiating awkward items through train turnstiles and crowds, I opted to use my bicycle. After three trips and a minor incident involving an elderly Japanese woman and my table, I was all moved in.

4/22/09

The Contract Ceremony


When was the last time you read an entire contract before you signed it? The answer is likely never if it was over a few pages long. Well in here in the land of Japan the Japanese have a way around reading all that fine print, they have someone read it to you. Yes that's right the gentleman you see sitting across from me is a licensed contract reader.

Now while my contract reader could speak English, the contract (for the lease on my apartment) was in Japanese. Thus for an hour and a half I sat as he read every last detail of the contact, pausing occasionally for me to sign on the dotted line. Occasionally I would understand a word here or half a sentence there, but over all the characters on the pages and the words floating into my ears made absolutely little sense. It was one of those classic foreigner in Japan moments. Both sides knew this served no purpose, but because somewhere out there was a rather thick dusty old book stating this had to be done, we had to do this.
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When the “ceremony” was finally over I ask the contact reader, "How many of these contracts do you typically have to read a day." The contract reader thoughtfully paused for a moment, then replied, "No more than four contracts a day." "Does you voice get tired," I asked. He smiled and said, "Usually, no."

4/17/09

Floating By


What is floating on the surface of this river?

Hint: This picture was taken two weeks ago in Tokyo.

Please Don't Read This

Imagine going to Afghanistan and walking in Osama Bin Laden's foots steps. Think of walking through the caves where he lived, sitting in the bunkers where he waited out US bombing raids, and seeing the rooms where he communicated with his followers.

I have never been to Afghanistan, but walking through the Chu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam I imagine is a similar in feeling. Being able to walk where Americas enemy's won a war and seeing how they did it was an amazing feeling. Learning that the Napalm bombs which the US dropped on the Vietcong tunnels, only made them stronger because the soil was clay was fascinating. Having a tour from a former Vietcong gave me all the information I needed to know why America failed.

Looking back on this experience taught me one thing. As Americans, if we ever want to win the "War on Terror" we must first travel to the countries of our foes. Understand what we are up against and then smile and buy some souvenirs. This will in turn teach us how to beat our foes through means other than guns and bombs. More importantly it will give our foes a chance to sit down, have dinner with us, express their grievances, and then smile as we share a coffee together.

As a country that won our freedom through gorilla warfare; I find it amazing that we keep making the same mistake. The mistake is the same that cost the British a colony. It is the mistake of thinking we can forcibly remove a group of people who will defend what they have by any means necessary. Think of what that means.

It means life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness takes a backseat for moment. It means we as a people will stop at nothing to destroy this conquering power. Most importantly it means that that we as a people will NEVER let this war end.

Yes this is rather politically loaded, but after playing mediator between a table of Chinese and a table of Koreans this evening, I realized one thing. That is that differences cannot be overcome by power. Rather they are overcome by some goofball who understands both cultures and is willing to drink twice the number of drinks that he usually would be expected to and sing a few stupid songs that each side knows.

Whats the upside here? Well to start with, Muslims don't drink soju.

4/7/09

Getting There

The forty-minute ride on the back of a motor scooter with Ami through Phenom Phen. The countless beers, barbeque, and conversations Ami, her friends, and I shared in a crowed open-air barbeque restaurant. The loaded handgun Ami’s policeman friend showed off by freely passing it around to the table’s drunken occupants.

The mountains of tissues from scores of meals like just ours.
Nearly two hours I stood in the baking heat, no place to sit, packed in with the restless crowd while sweat streamed down my back.

Then just for a moment the multitude receded and there he was.

4/6/09

Three Little Words

Nearly every motorbike taxi driver I met in Saigon had the same three words to say to me.

The first would be, “Motorbike?” when the driver first caught sight of me. The second would be, “Massage?” as we passed one another. The third, “Marijuana?” would be whispered after we had passed; it was the most amusing to hear, since it was muttered in a magical way that allowed it to slip through the noisy street and right into my unsuspecting ear. Which in turn left me wondering on a number of occasions whether I was hearing things or being offered an illicit substance by drug peddling birds.