A Travellerspoint blog

September 2011

Hold your breath

sunny 34 °C

I quite enjoy being in a country where hardly anybody speaks English. That totally out of your depth feeling where everything is completely foreign and people look at you with a mixture of pity and frustration when they realise that my blank stare means I have no idea what they are on about. I have even had someone give me the slower and louder treatment; it is quite entertaining from the other side I can assure you. I have taken to replying to people in Danish so that they have absolutely no chance of understanding what I am saying either. It took me close to 15 minutes to order dinner the other night, and even involved a game of charades whilst I attempted to play out chicken and chips to my rather cheerful waitress. She at least took everything in good humour, applauded my efforts, and even returned the favour when it came time for dessert. If you think chicken and chips is hard to mime, you should try crepes and ice-cream.

I have arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Once again I must say that Africans just don’t seem to get the point of airline safety. As my plane was increasing speed down the runway in the first stages of launching itself into the stratosphere, the man in front of me got out of his seat and wandered down to the slightly bewildered air hostess and inquired why the drink service hadn’t started yet. I’m not sure why these people always seem to be arranged around me on planes but I have come to accept this as a burden of economy air travel. As soon as the plane had left the tarmac the lady beside me threw her chair back with such force I was certain she would end up in the lap of the poor unfortunate traveller behind her. It took her three goes to realise that the chair only goes back a few inches. Then with a few grunts and some exasperated noises she curled up and went to sleep. At least I hope she was asleep as she produced a rather long, loud resounding fart that woke her up just as the dinner was being served. I’m sure she was looking at me like I was the culprit of both the noise and the now lingering odour.

Now that’s not to say that all Africans are like this, just the ones I catch planes with it seems. They didn’t win the prize for the most amusingly stupid thing I saw on this flight however, that distinction went to a Japanese gentlemen who, on alighting from the plane, answered his phone, walked underneath the undercarriage and started ambling off along the tarmac. It was a short time later that his presence was noticed and he was chased down by airport staff and dragged back to the waiting bus for ferrying to the terminal. He didn’t seem apologetic at all and appeared rather annoyed that his call was interrupted. How these kinds of people live to their adult years is beyond me.

There is another point that I have to bring up and there is no really delicate way to put it. The locals that I have encountered thus far smell…………….bad. This includes some rather smartly dressed gentlemen I shared a lift with in Nairobi, the kind of people who look like they would bathe every day. Now my olfactory sensors are quite poor, things have to be pretty potent before they come to my attention but these people are offending even my substandard senses. I was forced to hold my breath (no small task either considering we were going to the 12th floor, with stops). It’s not the first time I have encountered this either, my 2 I/C in Sudan was a lovely man but smelt just awful. It got to the point where I refused to let him wind his window up and in the end had to move him to a different vehicle on the premise that I was driving an Ambulance and therefore had to have the medic with me. If you would like an idea of what it’s like get 10 of your friends to not shower for a month and then hop in a confined space with them. Now some may argue that the smell is our natural odour, before we started covering it in Aqua Di Georgio and J’Adore, but there is a reason these things were invented. It’s just bloody awful; there is no other way of putting it. The first person to convince the locals that BO basher is a good thing will make a killing.

Since there has been little else of interest happening this week (meeting new people, filling out paperwork, looking blank etc.) I figure it is time to put my bucket list on paper. They seem to be all the rage these days, though admittedly I think that your list should be continually expanding. Why limit yourself to just one list when there is a world of opportunities out there. The moment you think you are old and stop exploring is the minute you become old and die. At least that is what I think. So this will be my list until I achieve it, and then I’m sure something else will come up. Surely………….

1 – Domesticate a Yeti. This may be rather difficult to achieve considering nobody has yet found one of these creatures. They must be out there somewhere and if all else fails I can just put a leash on Robin Williams and get him to grow his beard.
2 – Kill Tim Bailey. For those of you who don’t know this man he is a weather presenter for channel 10 is Sydney and is by far the most annoying prat on television. I have no time for a man in his mid fourties who tries to pretend he is 21, considers himself to be the coolest thing on TV and thinks everything he does is outrageous and the most interesting and funny thing in the world. YOU’RE NOT COOL TIM, YOU’RE NOT FUNNY AND YOU’RE FUCKING ANNOYING. ALL YOU DO IS READ THE WEATHER – GET OVER YOURSELF. (Sorry once I get going it’s hard to stop, this could take a while)………..
3 – Find George Lucas. Somebody has to inform poor George that there is a bloke out there pretending to be him and making the worst movies in history. If the Star Wars prequels weren’t bad enough they went and ruined Indiana Jones as well.
4 – Invent something. This is a rather ambiguous item. I have never actually invented anything, nor shown even shown the slightest inkling to invent something. But wouldn’t it be great to go to your local shop/park/hospital/garage/brothel/place of worship and go “See that kids?? I thought of that.”
5 – Climb Mt Everest. I have decided that the “free meals for life” deal is too enticing so I am going to scale Everest. Having no mountaineering experience I do concede that this may be a monumental task for me but I am hoping to find a Yeti on the way and kill two birds with one stone. You never know.

So that’s the list for now. I know many people have bungee jumping, skydiving etc. on theirs but I have done all those things and really anybody can. Be adventurous and you never know what might happen.

Posted by Dangermouse 10:03 Archived in Democratic Republic of Congo Comments (0)

Dr Livingston I presume

storm 30 °C

Well my holidays are over. All good things apparently have to come to an end though I am relatively uncertain as to why this is. Surely if something is good then we should be doing all that is within our power to maintain it. And do all bad things have to come to an end, or is it just that they seem to go on forever. Like a Meg Ryan movie.

So before the crushing burden of responsibility once again rests heavily on my shoulders I took my lovely wife on a surprise trip to Thailand. We were both suffering a bit of Kathmandu fatigue by then anyway and a trip away would do us both good. We did it in style too, flying business class with Thai airways (a highly recommended airline) and staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok for the best part of a week. The Four Seasons has become something of an icon for us and it all started with wanting to stay at the place whose swimming pool we could see from the Cahill Express Way in Sydney. It turned out to be our favourite hotel, mainly for the bed. For the beds in the Four Seasons are the most comfortable we had ever slept on, rather like slumbering on a cloud. And nothing makes you appreciate the cloud like qualities of a mattress quite like sleeping on the solid granite slabs the Nepalese call beds for 2 months.

The stay was like you would expect from any 5 star resort - stylishly furnished, extremely comfortable, extraordinarily accommodating, and a mini bar that, if wholly consumed, would put most western economies into immediate recession. In fact I am fairly certain that the primary reason the USA had to raise its debt ceiling by another trillion dollars was so they could afford the mini bar from their last stay here. Why is it that everyone knows that paying $10 for a packet of M&M’s is a massive rip-off, yet the prices have never rescinded?? Is it because they know that we will inevitably get the munchies at some ungodly hour and reason with ourselves that we will be able to get to the shop and replace them before the cleaners come through to restock and then just never get around to it?? Or is it because that all big hotels are run by the same people who manage movie theatres and feel that charging $25 for popcorn and watered down soft drink is quite reasonable??

So we frolicked, lounged swam and did whatever we felt like (except raid the fridge) for the time we were there. It was wonderful, the kind of break where we had no plans and could just relax. In fact I haven’t had a more restful break in a long time, at least right up to the point where I lost my big toenail.

Now lost is a rather inappropriate word for this kind of thing. One may lose their car keys or wallet occasionally for example. Generally pieces of your body are rather firmly attached and therefore less likely to be found in your dirty laundry. So let’s say then right up to the point where I accidentally removed the toenail from my big toe. It was one of those things where if you were attempting to achieve it, the feat would be near on impossible, like scoring a hole in one or creating a workable family budget. My wife was rather firmly attached to my back in the pool and I thought I might be able to shake her off a little better if I went up the ladder. The idea worked flawlessly in my head and was going according to plan right up to the point where I hit the ladder, as I somehow managed to miss the first rung and pushed my toe underneath while my toenail continued happily on its way over the top. It was, as you could imagine, a rather sharp pain so I asked my wife to politely alight as the ride was now over, and hopped out of the pool to inspect the damage. My toenail was hanging on for dear life in the bottom left corner whilst the rest was all rather loose, and painful, and bloody.

If you are ever going to injure yourself you could do it in worse place than the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok. They not only got me some first aid rather smartly, but called ahead to the hospital so they could remove the rest of the nail, and took me there in a Mercedes. I have never been treated so well by anybody with regards to an injury. All in all it was mightily impressive and I actually became a minor celebrity in the hotel after that with everyone inquiring about my welfare, from the managerial staff all the way down to the poor girls who have to open and close the massive front doors for people who rarely even acknowledge them. My favourite was Hans who was the fitness centre manager and seemed generally concerned that I had injured myself in his jurisdiction. Hans is a lovely bloke and if you are ever in the hotel pop down to the fitness centre and say hello. He has free tea and coffee and loves a chat. I also think he may get a bit lonely down there some times.

So after our little break I kissed the wife goodbye, boarded a plane and headed off on the next leg of the little adventure called my life. I am now working for a new company in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This should be quite an entertaining assignment as I have always thought of the Congo as the traditional deepest darkest Africa we have heard so much about. Dr Livingston used to hang out here for example. Unfortunately I am a few decades late to go inquiring as to his whereabouts, but I may just try it out anyway. The only real hitch I may encounter is that the local population speaks French, and my French is quite poor and limited to food products (Camembert, baguette) hello, goodbye and saying that nasal orh orh after every word. Racial stereotyping has a lot to answer for.

So it’s off to a new country, time to learn a new language and see if I can’t locate a certain doctor. Now where did I put my pith helmet??

Posted by Dangermouse 08:50 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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