one world, one beer

31 days to go. I will send my passport off to the Afghan high commission in Ottawa this week. Australia has an online visa application for certain types of applicants from certain countries. That's a great idea. And Finland requires no visa at all for Canadian tourists, an even better idea.

I was listening to an interview with British/Italian author Tim Parks on Monday night. I wish
I'd heard of him earlier. I'll definitely pick up one of his books. He's written novels as well as non-fiction (termed travel writing, but as he pointed out, he never left Italy after he moved there and began writing about it). He read a short section from "A Season With Verona". The short section Parks read describes a scene on a train after a football match (football is the setting for the book) in which a young man simultaneously curses policemen out the train window and soothingly reassures his mother, via his mobile, that he'll be home by the time the pasta's ready.

The book explores is the phenomena of the space cut out for football in Italian life. It's a wild place where passions sore and men scream and cry and shout blasphemous things. It's the stadium-turned cathedral from the World Cup adds. . ."these are our anthems. . .this is our worship. . .this is our holy grail" etc. He admits that football is nothing, it means nothing, it's empty, but people are willing to stake their life on it because the game and the culture make them feel like there is something. That's kind of depressing, actually.

Maybe that's why Budweiser adds are so over-the-top. It's promoters are desperately trying to believe that there's anything of value in the bottle.


under the big sky

I still feel like a foreigner on the prairies after having been back for 8 years (or it will be this August). Before that I lived in the Himalyan foothills. I'm starting to fully appreciate the beauty of these flat lands. Tonight I drove just outside the town where my mom lives to shoot some pictures of the sunset on my Canon A520 4.0MP camera. These are some of the results.


"Imaginary Homelands"

So Salman Rushdie titled his first collection of non-fiction works. Rushdie also deals with this idea in his second collection of non-fiction titled "Step Across this Line". He's speaking of boundaries, frontiers, identity of place. He rightly claims that these are imagined entities, they are products of our minds and cultures. They are valid and necessary, but I think he also cautions us not to elevate these entities to the status of immutable, universal fact.

What brought this theme to mind, was the central character is Foer's book. The boy invents obsessively. He imagines. It disturbs him. Towards the end of the story, he starts to realize, however, that not everything he thought was concrete and fact, was as it seemed. Others invented as well to create their own reality. I understood this revelation to imply that everyone, to some extent, imagines to fill in the holes in their own reality or to bridge the gap between two concrete experiences.

This resonates with me because I continue to imagine my own homeland, to build my own identity of place in this world. The classic question supposed to stop third culture kids (TCKs) in their tracks is this: "where is home for you"?. The reason that question is a problem, however, is that it's almost exclusively asked by people who have few or no gaps in their concrete experience of home. Their physical home is their imagined home. If they haven't realized that about themselves, they ask the question, ignorantly, not realizing it's the wrong one.


"Strauss Defends Declaration Delay"

Pakistan drew with England in their first test. This pleases me as England set out with a high total in their first innings. Pakistan came back nicely to force the draw. If you think soccer is boring (if you call the sport soccer, you're more likely to think it boring) with the possibility of a scoreless 90 minutes, think about test cricket. After five days, each side having scored around 700 runs, the result can be a draw - that's right, no one wins. And then you have the reporters, the next day (day 6, in essence), criticizing the captain of the English side for waiting to long to declare. Because, in cricket, you can declare- you say, "we've scored enough runs and we're going to stop batting now". And if you wait too long to declare you might not leave your side enough time, after the other side's innings, to win the game. It's a 5-day game and you can still run out of time. And I'm a big fan, just so you know, although I find the one-day format a touch more engaging.

By the way, I got my visa for Pakistan. So, with 41 days to go, that's another major thing out of the way. Now all that's left is to decide whether or not to by a GPS receiver.


If things could go backwards

In this information age information itself is enough to entertain. The more information the more entertaining. I monitor activity on this blog through my free account on www.ewebcounter.com. and I can see who enters my website and how they found it and for how long they stayed. The site even tells me what country the hit originated in. That's how I know I've had hits in Sweden, Singapore, Norway and the Netherlands. The person in the Netherlands found my blog by searching for "karimabad+baltit" on google's blog search. I was happy to see that my blog was number four on the list of search results. Viewing hits on my website is almost more entertaining than writing posts for my blog (except when I'm posting about viewing stats on my blog!). Wow! Enough of that.

In my last post I almost got to the point where I could transition to talking about a great book that I just finished: "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." I finished it a couple of weeks ago and am still reacting to it and processing the whole experience. The book has the same elusive quality as other books that have, for various reasons, resonated with me. I think of Mistry's "Family Matters". A great novel, in my humble opinion, gives takes you, for a fleeting moment (sometimes longer) to a vantage point where you see humanity from outside of it and suddenly encounter a truth about humanity or a facet of humanity, be it love, loss, hate, sorrow, injustice, redemption. It shines up at you like the flashlight of a familiar person on the street, far below, letting you know she's there.


bombs and numbers

In her breathtaking book "For the Time Being" Annie Dillard wonders at numbers. How can a human fathom the vast numbers of things that surround us: the number of stars, the number of grains of sand, the number of people killed by other people and by nature? The train bombings in Mumbai yesterday make my eyes gloss over and my brain switch to another topic. Western news media create their own world. It seems to have little relation to ours. In their world only about 100 people die a month. And those one hundred deaths produce bold headlines and we are all supposed to wake up from our number-induced trance and take notice and get angry or sentimental or something.

One soldier in the Canadian military dies in combat. It's what he could have expected (and I say that with no disrespect to him or his grieving family) and there is a hue and cry: "It was a waste!", "Bring home the troops!".

1426 people are trampled to death in Mecca during the Haj in 1990 and it's a one word statistic on some link buried under 1000 pages on BBC's website (it happens every year).

And 160 (and counting) die in "co-ordinated attacks" in Mumbai. It's those terrorists. And since terrorists first appeared on earth in 2001 we must all sit up and start to analyze and run back to our podiums to root for our side in the conflict of ideas and ideologies where hundreds of people (188 in Washington D.C. this year already) are murdered in cold blood, unnoticed.

What Dillard points out is this: our experience now, in the 21st century is nothing new-humans have been killing each other in vast numbers ever since we've been around. Live in the present, go where you must. Exercise common sense. And live free of fear.


lost and loving it

I've searched blogs for the word "hunza" and also for the phrase "batura glacier". Neither search reveals much. Since a number of countries now have Pakistan on their "not advised to travel" list it's even less likely that travelers will seek out this remote valley.

I did, however, find this pair of world travelers, American's who found their trip to the Northern Areas a challenge to Western medias' portrayals of Pakistan. Here's a sample of a picture (of a view from the town of Gulmit along the Karakorum Highway (KKH) on their flickr site.
I've also come across this website. It's a journal of a British couple on a marathon trip through central and south Asia. I found it when searching for the phrase "Batura Glacier".

Northern Pakistan certainly seems lost on the Western world apart from the elite climbers who make their way there to attempt one the 5 8000m peaks in the area. It's rugged and relatively inaccessible and likely daunting to many perspective Western travelers, if they even hear about it in the first place. And personally, I like it that way and I count myself prevailed to be able to return there this fall.


!!. . .

I just finished writing a post and then tried to perform a spell-check on it and ended up loosing the whole thing. So I'll try again later.



Here's a random picture I found online. I can't remember what I was searching for. It's a picture of somewhere in Rawal Pindi, in the 80s. I think it's quite evocative.


id fotos

(NB. The picture on the previous post depicts a vista that I will soon see for myself once again: Baltit fort, Karimabad. I found the picture on a great site by Dutch photographers. Take a look for yourself www.terranomada.com)

Having an i.d. photo taken for a passport (or visa application in my case) should be a routine procedure. So I thought, but the poor kid at Shoppers Drug Mart could not get it right. The problem was that my nose reflected too much light. And people who review passport pictures dislike reflected light (apparently) off any part of the person who's identification is in question. People who grant (or, more often deny) visas are ultimately picky (at least in certain countries) so no light must reflect. And he got all flustered, because he assumed I would be embarrassed by the fact that my nose reflected too much light. It could imply my skin was overly greasy! And that would be unfortunate - devastating, actually. But I was quite confident this was not the case, as I had showered hours before.

I ended up having to go to the cosmetics section and get some makeup product to dab on my nose to flatten the light. This worked. So after try three he got the photos right and printed me two copies, one for my Pakistan visa application and one for Afghanistan. And now those pristine photos are in the mail. And hopefully the official at the HC in Ottawa will look kindly on my face, take my money (I'm sure he/she will do that anyway) and stamp my passport with ink worth more than it's weight in gold (I do not exaggerate).



coming soon

soon I will be off on a trip around the world. due to my considerable height, I always make an effort to obtain exit row seating when travelling by air. this is my pre-occupation. when I think of this trip, my mind seizes on that ellusive exit row, tortured by the possibility that some petite 5'5" person will have secured that last seat by random chance and I will be left to reflect on the proximity of my knees to my face for the following 14 hours while the Pacific slips beneath us.