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  • hardie karges 11:04 pm on May 19, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Rio Grande, Spanish,   

    A River runs around it, the borders of your subconscious… 

    Tex-Mex Border, behind Fences

    Tex-Mex Border, behind Fences

    Sometimes all you need is a little change of focus, a little shift in perspective, a little depth of field, when you’re standing at the border, when you’re on the threshold of a crossing, when you’re sitting at the crossroads, trying to flag a ride, waiting for the light to change, waiting for a a sign, waiting for a little voice inside you to announce something Big.  Good luck with that.

    The Rio Grande is also known as El Rio Bravo del Norte, the wild river up north, but it ain’t so wild, really, not here in southern Texas, the part below the Pecos that was never a part of pre-independence Texas anyway, so we Texans just stole that, too, figured as long as we’re here…

    Tex-Mex Border, with River

    Tex-Mex Border, with River

    In other modern countries full of Western ex-pats, they remember the Alamo, too, how we moved in as guests, and then refused to play by the rules of the game, prefer to just make them up, something like Manifest Destiny, something like American exceptionalism, something like taking what you need and leaving the rest…

    It’s funny how in Mexico they talk about ‘El Norte Barbaro’ and we talk about the Wild West, and it turns out we’re talking about the same place, really. They settled it, and then we took it. Such time-honored American concepts as the cowboy come straight from the Mexicans, the words ‘buckaroo, lasso, rodeo, and many more all American bastardizations of Spanish gone English.  So now we refuse them entry into what was once their own country–classic American.

  • hardie karges 12:16 am on May 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amenia, ,   

    Little Armenia, Big Armenia 

    Lunch break for the duduk makers

    Lunch break for the duduk makers

    When I’m in LA, it’ll be Thai Town, sometimes called the 77th province of Thailand, enough Thai restaurants to satiate even the most famished of Thai affections, and a few grocery stores, gift shops and massage parlors to boot.

    It’s also Little Armenia, which overlaps the Thai part of town, and is the larger of the two, though you might mistake the Armenians for Russians, since most speak Russian also, unless they came here 100 years ago during the final days of the Ottoman Empire and that celebrated genocide of resident Armenians, who were there first by millennia, at least in the eastern half of the country that is now Turkey, that now turns its ‘zero-tolerance’ racial policy mostly toward Kurds, Armenians long subdued, either by change of name and language or actual geography just to the east which at the time was also in process of becoming part of the USSR, and probably saved its life.

    (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 12:40 am on May 13, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very interesting.

  • hardie karges 10:30 pm on May 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , traffic   


    Kolkata train station

    Kolkata train station

    India is the perfect example of chaos, controlled chaos, somehow working toward uncertain ends with almost no reference to a common center. My favorite example is when traffic stops at a railroad crossing, at which point the traffic on both sides immediately fills up both lanes on both sides. Well, that’s fine as long as we’re all waiting to watch the train go by, but you can imagine what happens when the guard rail goes up again: total chaos, of course. This happens at every crossing every time, but it makes no difference. Any other way of reacting to the crossing stop is unimaginable, short of divine—or police—intervention.

    • Esther Fabbricante 10:37 pm on May 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’m glad I don’t have to contend with this situation.

    • hardie karges 10:43 pm on May 8, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I let others do the driving in India…

  • hardie karges 11:15 pm on May 6, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Africa, Bahir Dar,   

    In Search Of The Nile’s Source At Bahir Dar 

    Ethiopian Christians at Bahir Dar

    Ethiopian Christians at Bahir Dar

    Today the air is cleaner… good day to backtrack a few hours to Bahir Dar… …maybe catch some vistas that I missed on the way in to Gonder… maybe my lungs can start recuperating… but the vistas are few even on a clear day, nothing more than a few old stranded Russian tanks… finally Lake Tana comes into view, monasteries dotting its islands and shores, and a thousand traditional straw-thatch tukuls dotting the landscape…

    I get a place right on the lake, for the equivalent of a ten-spot, but no TV, and Wi-Fi just a sticky wet dream (beware of cheap places advertising “wireless,” a radio). My place in Gonder actually had satellite TV with real movie channels, but only when there was electricity… (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 9:49 pm on May 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      My goodness – an adventure to say the least. My excitement is the impending birthday party on the 9th of May.

    • hardie karges 10:52 pm on May 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Happy birthday in advance, Esther…

  • hardie karges 1:20 am on April 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Gonder   

    Escape To Addis & A Better Bus To Gonder 

    History Speaks in Gonder, Ethiopia

    History Speaks in Gonder, Ethiopia

    Bite the bullet, pay $300+ for a forty-five minute flight… feels good to be back in Addis Ababa… decide to forego Lalibela to concentrate on Gonder and Bahir Dar since they lie along the same path… two days out and two days back, with overnight stops both ways by local bus. This is brutal; there’s got to be a better way: Selam bus…

    …catch my morning Selam bus and we start off into the Ethiopian outback, over hill and dale, like some cheap cliché going nowhere new, but very certain of the route. English signs pepper the shops in small towns even in the outback, wherever two roads cross and somebody might need a tire or a trinket or a beer, though I suspect the signs invoke status as much as service… not much in the Ethiopian outback anyway… northern part of Ethiopia heavily deforested, hardly a square inch not under the till or the hoof, barely a five o’clock shadow of cover. (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 3:24 am on April 28, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’m too tired to travel with you tonight.


  • hardie karges 3:16 pm on April 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Djibouti, ,   

    Somaliland Stirred, Djibouti Shaken 

    Picture of Market in Djibouti that cost me dearly

    Picture of Market in Djibouti that cost me dearly

    May 2009

    (We get no peanuts, but we do get to Djibouti on time.)

    …my hopes are soon dashed…  If this is French colonial glory, then I’m Napoleon in rags… French legacy of high prices and pretentiousness only…  airport itself offers the first clue, single exchange office only opening after the guy can be found to service his single customer, me…  $30 three-day transit visa or $60 thirty-day visa, decisions decisions…

    Downtown not much better, squalid and dirty… much higher prices than neighboring countries.  Cabbies obnoxious, driving old green-and-white honkers that they like to back down the street in…  room has A/C and TV, though, and enough room to exercise if I want, something I’ve foregone for many days for lack of adequate food and water.  Refugees don’t work out.  My mental condition is deteriorating… got to plan my escape… (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 4:39 pm on April 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      All I can say is “You are a survivor!”

  • hardie karges 7:52 pm on April 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Hargeisa,   

    Somaliland Stirred not Shaken; Chewed not Spat 

    Street Market in Somaliland

    Street Market in Somaliland

    …get on a bus for a country that doesn’t really exist, except in someone’s imagination: existential ball-juggling 401… Somalia now effectively divided into three, Somaliland relatively peaceful and open for business, connected by land to the also relatively peaceful states of Djibouti and Ethiopia. Somaliland issues visas and currency and guards its borders just like everyone else.

    …catch the first bus out of Harar at daybreak, make my connection in Jijiga and continue on, certain to make Hargeisa within the day now… Travel in Ethiopia not hard so much as slow, crammed in like proverbial sardines… the vast Ogaden Desert, cousin to the Arabian and Sahara, spread out endlessly ahead, highland Ethiopia maybe the only real break in a desert stretching from Morocco to China.

    You decrease in elevation as you increase in heat, by some adiabatic ratio, and the Christian passion and delicate features of the typical Ethiopian face evolve into something a bit different, the harsher and darker Somali features and the more rigid and vocal Islamic demeanor. (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 11:15 pm on April 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Taking your life in your own hands, it seems. Scary. Doesn’t home sound good about now?

  • hardie karges 9:56 pm on April 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Dire Dawa, , , , Rimbaud   

    Following Rimbaud In Harar, Ethiopia…. 

    Ethiopia has desert, too...

    Ethiopia has desert, too… 

    May 2009

    …Addis Ababa bus station at 5 a.m. ain’t pretty… bus already quite full when I arrive… suspect some of the riders have been there all night… looks pretty lived-in… taxi driver asks if he can help.  Does a bear sh*t in the woods?

    Fortunately I have great faith in people’s goodness, especially those of the Book.  People were touched by the Book long before they ever had one thrown at them.  Still nothing cleans and scours the soul like fear, removing psychological debris and detritus long caked on and ground in, leaving you whiter if no brighter.  (More …)

    • Esther Fabbricante 11:15 pm on April 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I am still speechless at your descriptive ability. My right eye is coming along and I am able to read a little more now – cataract surgery was a week ago tomorrow. We had had Easter and celebrated John and Greg’s birthdays; and Charla is vacationing with three girlfriends in Asheville, N. C. this week.

    • Esther Fabbricante 11:23 pm on April 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      I’m reading a little better, but still blurry and having lots of little floaters. Another appointment a week from today for Dr. Ford to determine the next step.


  • hardie karges 2:54 pm on March 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Addis Ababa, , , Oliver Mtukudzi   

    Fear & Loathing In Addis Ababa 


    Scenes From an Ethiopian Wedding

    …flight to Ethiopia is on Turkish Air, so I change planes at Istanbul, finally getting in at midnight… friend’s there to meet me; first time for everything… night air is cool; that suits me fine.  I drink a beer and we shoot the sh*t for a while.  It’s midnight and I’m wired, jet-lagged as Hell.  Welcome to Ethiopia.

    …Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi is playing on Sunday; I’m in… first thing’s come first, though, so I go get my visa to Somaliland, even though it’s not really even a country…

    The “ambassador” calls me into his office.

    “Who told you to go to Somaliland?”

    “No one.  I decided to do it on my own.  I plan to go to every country in the world.”

    “Have you ever been in Ethiopia before?”

    “First time.”

    “Where else have you been in Africa?”

    “Mali and Senegal.  But I’ve been in eighty other countries also.”


    Cultural Dinner in Addis Ababa

    He nods.  He didn’t have to know that Mali was an unmitigated disaster and Senegal only somewhat mitigated.  He knows that Africa is a continent unlike any other, where your very conception of what it is to be human will be put to the test, where you’ll see things you might rather forget… like humans eating off the ground in flocks like pigeons… collecting discarded mango skins to process one more time nutritionally.

    …seems as if a whole nation is hungry and willing to do just about anything to satisfy it.  When I suggest to two amputees, one male and one female, that they look cute together, they suggest that I should snap up the thirteen-year-old girl with her hand outstretched.

    …girl immediately comes over closer and strokes my…arm-hairs.  They ask where I’m from, wondering if I’m Chinese.  I guess it’s not obvious with my baseball cap and sunglasses on.  I respond that I’m American, lifting my glasses and showing my eyes.  That seems to quell any further interest.  Apparently the Chinese are getting all the press as the nouveau riche from heaven.  Apparently the new Mandarins are the old Mandarins; they just haven’t come to collect the rent yet.

    Oliver 'Tuku' Mtukudzi

    Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi

    Ethiopian women are quite fetching… comparisons to Thailand occur to me…  word for “foreigner” is even almost the same, “faranji” instead of “farang”…  people equally subdued in character, with delicate lines and fine features, both men and women.  Stuff’s cheap, too.  A Plan “C” gradually emerges in my fantasies; if all else fails, then one could do worse than here.  It gets worse…

    Blogs are illegal apparently, and so is Skype… Addis no paradise either, though some modern conveniences and a bustling night-club scene… sprawling and chaotic and hard to walk around… probably “shambolic” too, as the quote goes, but I’m not sure what that word means.

    …go to a “cultural dinner” complete with song and dance… traditional Ethiopian dancing has to be seen to be believed… like pec exercises… while hopping around the floor, kicking and screaming and gesticulating wildly to music that is best described as a cross between Mungo Jerry and Khmer-style gantreum


    A Decent Restaurant in Addis Ababa

    …coffee is excellent, apparently an Italian legacy… cheap too, except in the foreigner haunts… it originates here, but the Italians took it to a high art… antique espresso machines prove it… old fashion machines with four-barrel carburetors… words “macchiato” and “cappuccino” are in the local vocabulary.  Ethiopians drink it with popcorn traditionally, and incense too, a more distant legacy I guess.

    …don’t like to have to watch my back every day in the city, so I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve seen the countryside.  Cities should be reserved for great art and beauty and culture, not shanty-towns.  Poverty still has dignity in the countryside.  Leave it there.  ‘Tuku’s show is great, but I’m getting antsy…

    • Esther Fabbricante 3:30 pm on March 31, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Very informative indeed. You can fit in “anywhere” – and it is unbelievable.

  • hardie karges 2:22 am on March 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Great Wall, Tiananmen   



    Tourist district of Beijing

    …flight leaves Bangkok at 1:20 in the morning, already doomed as far as I’m concerned… seat back doesn’t seem to want to recline backward… arrive in Shanghai at six in the a.m. with seven hours until my onward connection, but I have to change airports—not terminals—to do it.   Fun fun fun… exchange houses in China will fleece you right there at the airport, charging you fifty yuan to change your money, so I ask him for it back. I thought he said fifteen.

    I get to the other airport with plenty of time to spare, quick tour of Shanghai in the process, nothing to do now but free-base caffeine… my only goal is to find my Beijing hotel before dark using the subway system in a city I’ve never visited using a language I don’t really know written in characters that mean little or nothing, though the character for pot-stickers looks surprisingly accurate… too bad I don’t eat meat…


    The other Tiananmen Square

    Shanghai’s is the airport of the future, symbolic of their field-of-dreams mentality, their edifice complex, the notion that the world is there (and theirs) to be developed, a mall in every village, an airport for every town. I’m not sure I like that vision; I’m pretty sure I don’t in fact. Nature may not always be right, but probably more often than humans. I don’t think I’ll ever lose my love of fields and streams, mountains and valley daydreams.

    …weather is bad, so the flight is an hour late leaving Shanghai, still I find my hotel before dark by the grace of God. Allahu akhbar. There’s a reason I book hotels close to subway stations… it’s a peach, $30 net with a couple bucks extra for the best breakfast I’ve had since Istanbul; hard-boiled eggs, salad fixin’s, and forty-two different kinds of tofu, a vegetarian’s dream in cheap hotel heaven… hotel doesn’t have Wi-Fi, but I guess a hard-wire connection will do. Steve Jobs wouldn’t like that, though, would he?

    Great Wall at Badaling

    Great Wall at Badaling

    …first day I walk so much that my feet are mush. Tiananmen Square and Sanlitun Village—the foreign quarter—will have to suffice. I’ll save the Forbidden City for another day. I can do that any half day. The Great Wall will take a little more planning… mostly waiting actually, for the bus. I blow off the tour companies and opt for the public bus, but that means the long lines familiar to Communism.

    Wall’s impressive, too, as much or more as any picture could attempt to do it justice. I even thought about walking it, but… naah. On the way back, though, I jump the bus line when I hear the guy yelling, “Spaces for two!” At least I think that’s what he said. Most Chinese travel in packs. They yell a lot, too. You’ve probably heard that they’re not really yelling, that’s just the tonality of the language. That’s pure BS; they’re yelling.

    …a little bit of old China—but not much—lives on in the back alleys of Beijing. Here you can find the best street food and the most interesting little shops.   They’re rapidly becoming upscale and fashionable, too, since the faster they disappear the more valuable the few remaining ones become. It reminds me most of maybe the old quarter in Hanoi, with which it must share a common ancestor, if Hanoi is not a direct copy itself. Fortunately that district is not far from where I’m staying, so it’s the best of both worlds for me. I like it. I’ll be back.

    • Esther Fabbricante 6:37 am on March 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

      Of interest to know that you are a vegetarian. Wondering how you get your protein? And you are such a pro at taking in all the sights and describing them to us ‘laymen.’ Very impressive, indeed. Keep healthy.

      • hardie karges 3:20 pm on March 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply

        Was a better vegetarian then than now, though still prefer it. Never gave up dairy and eggs, though, major sources of protein, as well as soy products. Brown rice is my staple food, much more protein than the white versions. I haven’t heard of rice gluten causing problems, though not sure…

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