As a Shanghai-er, my many visits to Beijing were always cultural-errands – see this and that, leave – return to Shanghai.
In the winter of 2010, I ended up in Beijing yet again, this time, with a less rivalrous and a more learned eye for a stoic people caught between a power-hungry capital and the memories of Communism. Shanghai has escaped much of the political weight of the Capital – it floursihes on modernization, art, youth. Beijing on the other hand, remains a stark reminder of the iron fists of government and its’ objectionable past.
*Notice: These pictures were all taken by me with a Nikon Coolpix Camera, please contact me if you wish to use them*
My dad left Communist Poland when he was 21. He believed that the Iron Curtain would never fall and that anyone caught behind it might as well dig their grave already – it wasn’t like the color spectrum would have been very different to the grey on brown that was purveyed by the all too kind Soviets anyway.
Having grown up with those perceptions of the ‘East’ in mind, you can imagine my ignorance and consequent surprise when I saw the beauty of Budapest.
It is a city that thrives on its historic beauty and was at its height during the Austro-Hungarian Empire that ‘collapsed like a flan in a cupboard’ (link to this fantastic phrase at 0.17 seconds) after World War One, but an air of royalty and impressiveness remains.
Unfortunately, the country’s politics have been tumultuous, almost acting like a revolving door: inviting one evil that is then superseded by another (the Nazis followed by the Soviets). Nowadays, the clutches of tyranny no longer plague their people but a corrupt political system remains.
In spite of this, you will find delicious food ranging from the Hungarian pancake (Hortobagy) to the traditional Goulash, and even – believe it or not – some fantastic Hungarian steak (as a Brazilian I was shocked…and yet it’s true)
It is a city you must visit if you have a historian’s eye and ear. The Holocaust memorial center should not be missed. It is an emotionally demanding place to go, but the education and insight you gain to a people and a time that was dark beyond comprehension is invaluable.
Visit the castle grounds – the enormous Palace will make you feel like a commoner and probably make you wrinkle your nose at your own home. Nevertheless, it transports you to a time of Kings and Queens, Royal Cavalries, wild feasts and no toothbrushes – and of course, the cliché post-card picture of Budapest can be taken here! So queue up with the rest of the Chinese tour buses to get your shot.
Do NOT forget to try some Hungarian Wine – it has rivaled some of my long-term favorites – and is an up and coming wine nation to keep a glass ready for!
As a general rule: there can never be enough wine.
At last my billets d’avion have been booked to go to paradise: Florianopolis, for Christmas break.
It seems that before I’ve even gotten on the last plane of this summer holiday, my passport is already geared up for the next trip. Overzealousness could be a vice – I disagree.
Perhaps this is the reason for my previous post’s senseless vegetation that seems to plague me when I’m not getting on or off a plane (see Summer Veg). Could it be, that after a childhood living the exotic dreams of nomad parents, that I have become a travelling snob? Or better yet, an addict?
The question is absurd. A travel addict? Someone so dependent on the adrenaline and tastes of adventure, that merely remaining stationary for a short period of time seems..unnatural?
But in the face of a world that seems so fascinating and boundless in exploration and learning, being ‘still’ almost seems insulting to the wonders we have at our disposal – or does this all sound like a justification for a junkie’s needs?
So I took my wonderings to the almighty google machine. As it turns out, my problem has been diagnosed and named! (I’m not actually surprised as all things have been diagnosed and named nowadays – you follow a step of your right foot, with a step of your left! YOU MUST BE SOME KIND OF MAD STEPPER!) Anyways – I can accept and proclaim that I have ‘Dromomania’.
Where’s my disability cheque?
“The term is derived from the Greek words dromos meaning running, and mania meaning insanity. In it’s purest sense, it’s a medical condition that’s used to describe individuals that are spontaneously driven to wander long distances by what seem to be irresistible and uncontrollable impulses” Article I took this definition from
As it stands now, my (along with my parents) ‘uncontrollable’ impulses have taken me to over 20 countries, not counting those I was too small to remember. At 19 years of age, I should probably shut the hell up and stop complaining about the consequences of my incredibly privileged life (thank you parentals) – again, oh it burneth – the middle class woes. Yet – at the same time, I can’t help but already plan my next 6 adventures –San Francisco to Caracas, Morocco, Lebanon, Israel…the list goes on.
I have nothing but one choice: re-invent Facebook, become a multi-millionaire by the time I’m 23 and then frolic freely for the rest of my life to the soundtrack of flight attendants (or in other words drive down highways in my mustang convertible to the soundtrack of I’m a Man by Black Strobe) Check out my page: The Soundtrack for all music.
I’m currently working on the latter – will keep you posted on that. As for now, I’m awaiting my induction into the Dromomaniac Society.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”
- Nelson Mandela
In lieu of the recent Olympic Games in London – it seems like an appropriate time to revert back to the reality of politics and conflict in the world and try to approach how sport can really erase barriers between people – on a longer term basis.
The image of a US Olympic athlete arm in arm with an Iranian athlete only serves to impress upon us how most people share the same values of kindness and respect. It also serves to elucidate how two countries so vastly opposed on a political platform, can find commonality on a individual one.
The violence in our world stems from the top echelons of governments. Violence is cultivated by corruption and greed for power in these circles.
Which brings to mind the following quote:
“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power” – P.J.O’Rourke
But before I drift and rant about the failures of government (which believe me would be all too satisfying) – I want to share a student initiative from SOAS (University of London) that makes me incredibly proud to be a SoASian.
Football beyond Borders.
A group of SoAS men’s football players (lead by Jasper Kain) set out to play football in Palestine – along the way, “they found themselves in Cairo in the year of the Arab Spring and with international news unfolding around them, they must decide whether to continue with the trip. Through their decision they come to realise that there is a greater goal in life.” – taken from their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/overthewallfilm/info
Their story was inspirational – a difficult feat in today’s emotionally bombarded world.
Since then (2009), they have travelled to West Africa, returned to the Middle East, and this summer travelled to South America.
My complaint to these boys is: WHERE IS THE GIRLS TEAM?
I’ll leave you with the trailer to the upcoming Documentary of their journey (being released in Autumn of this year):
and hope that you visit their website at: www.footballbeyondborders.org
“Consider a moment in your life; poignant, vacant, obscure, restless, silent. A moment so distinct, so vivid, perplexing and omnipotent that it feels as if “a clock had started ticking inside me or had stopped, I couldn’t say which (True Paradise, 119)”.” – Me, circa 2008..
Salgado’s(writer of True Paradise) description serves itself analogous to the state of my static mind. So static in fact, that I had to delve into the cringe-worthy depths of my 10th grade English writings to find inspiration – rock bottom it is then. And so time seems to have stopped for me, or perhaps for the first time reared its ugly head – made me aware of my own mortality and paradoxically made me not even really care.
Oh the middle class woes of having holiday-ed to the point of mental and bodily vacancy. The sweetness of days filled with no obligations but to remain alive and coherent. Done and done. Yet, it seems that I have left my pudding out for too long. I’ve been transformed into a pulpous organism that could definitely not pass for a university student, let alone someone capable of..well..anything.
I sit and write in the hopes of igniting some synapses – buzz buzz nothing. Vegetation ensues…
And so I do what any self respecting person in my situation would do – I chose a different wordpress theme for my blog. Due to wordpress’s extensive library of themes and backgrounds, I’ve now devoted a considerable amount of time to this very productive labor. I’ve rolled out the elephants (pronounced elefantees, since, naturally, they are more than just ordinary elephants) and made it nearly impossible to decipher any tabs or menus due to the colorful background – arguably things that will detract rather than attract readers – a promotional success. Regardless, it looks ‘pretty’ and that makes me feel like I have achieved something in this sweltering heat. I can now hang up my gloves and return to my well deserved state of remaining horizontal for the rest of the day.
If you don’t hear from me again it is because my epidermis has grown into the fibers of the sofa.
There’s nothing that I despise more than the abuse of children. Children come into this world innocent and wholly vulnerable to the upbringing of their parents. In some instances children are exploited for labor, others for sex. Children are used as shields in war, leverage in violent marriages, children are handicapped for the sake of more profitable begging strategies – you name whatever atrocious acts you can imagine, and children are at the targets and tools of that trade. So it may come to a surprise that I am adding toddler beauty pageants to these shameless evils.
It was only recently that someone passed along a Youtube video of young Alana Holler (otherwise known as Honey Boo Boo) documenting her journey to beauty pageants. What I saw, I could not have been prepared for. Honey Boo Boo is a “superstar because she does pageants”, she explains herself at age 6.
Her mother, at probably 200kg, glossy eyes and a nickname of being the “Coupon Queen”, is setting all the right examples: don’t respect your body, health is not an issue, and do whatever you can to accumulate the most cash. “Special juice is just to energize her…so whatever works for your child, use it”. Now I don’t know about you, but I this ‘special juice’ (the contents of which are unknown to me) is surely not the vitamin boost that your child requires. More likely, it is a caffeine, sugar infused energy drink too strong to be sold in the supermarket, but sure to wind up your daughter for a good booty-shaking in front of the pageant judges. The booty-shaking is a prerequisite, as is the bikini contest, evening wear contest and many more. We all know how pertinent those get-ups are for a 6 year olds.
Not to mention the name ‘Honey Boo Boo’. Alana must have been too ordinary to use for her great escape to stardom. Honey Boo Boo however, has every ring of stardom – porn-stardom that is. And that’s exactly what these girls seem to be in store for. At age 6 they resemble their 26 year old counterparts. Modeling classes (which you’ll find exist in abundance for these kinds of things) will teach your toddler just how to stand and pump out her chest to please the judges – and the lurking pedophiles in the crowd. And let’s be honest, there is no way that a self respecting woman or man will attest to a practice of this kind, behind every adjudicating judge, is a twisted sick mind with one foot by the judging panel and the other one most likely in the sex industry– and that needs to be said.
While on the energy drink, Alana (Honey Boo Boo) enlightens us on how the drink “makes her win”, gesticulating in ways that are reminiscent of Chucky’s bride or a mentally ill person on LSD – by no means normal, and very very concerning (2:23 in the video). So what becomes of these children? Besides being inarticulate and addicted to sugar, these children are lead to believe that it is OK to throw your child on a stage and make them smile through 3 layers of foundation. It is OK to drug your children to enhance their performance and to teach them that as long as you win, all means justify the end.
When we live in a world where you learn to take tests in Elementary school, you require them to get into University, get a driver’s license, get a job..etc. When it seems that every aspect requires some form of accreditation, it is mind boggling that parenthood is not one of them. Adoption agencies take months to assert that yes, a couple is an adequate fit for a child. Yet, when a mother is lugging her child from pageant to pageant, fake hair extensions after fake hair extensions, no authority can step in and say stop, you are ruining your child and robbing them of any chance they have at a decent, balanced lifestyle.
There are simply some people that should not be allowed to have children. This isn’t a single incident and Youtube is great in this respect because the problem of inadequate parenting extends beyond the ridiculous realm of beauty pageants. Infamous for her appearance on the Maury show, a 15 year old girl claims she’s slept with over 300 men simply because she really wanted a baby. Why you may ask well…(its almost hard to type) but she wanted the “attention” a baby would give her.
Of all the laws that exist, why is there not one preventing girls like this, and mothers like those of Alana Holler from abusing their children in such ways. Why, do we afford people the right to procreate and then to miscreate in such repulsive ways.
Perhaps if we started tackling the root of all our worldly problems: the young, we’d make some headway in solving them. By teaching them through popular media that Snooki is a star and American Idol, rather than hard work is the road to success – we are inadvertently paving the road to a less educated population with all the wrong priorities.
Whatever happened to kids playing cops and robbers instead of World of Warcraft, or listening to stories rather than 3D versions of them in alienating cinemas.
Do you know? Because I don’t.