Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Drunken Bushman's POV on American Foreign Policy

We slept in tree houses during the 5 evenings of the Safari. This lends itself to a certain type of magic and excitement that probably every 11 year old can relate to, and a lot more “mature” people have forgotten. Other than the sheer enchanting quality of living in the wild in a tree house, it allowed for some other unusual opportunities – for example, one morning, I woke up, and looked out my small window, only to be greeted by a mega sized rhinoceros about 50 feet away from my tree house.

Living in the wild (as oppose to in special tourist lodges) also meant that we got to interact with some of the locals who were still living, to use their term, in “the bush.” After cooking dinner, we would sit around the camp fire, having a few drinks and talking. One night, some of the bushmen came to hang out with us and join in the merriment. One asked where I was from, and when he heard “America” was very excited. After talking a bit about the differences between South Africa and US, he grabbed a napkin and drew a rectangle beneath a rectangle.

“What this?” he asked me in broken English.

“Two shapes?” I ventured

“No, this one America, this one Mexico, you see, they are neighbors.”
I decided to play along, and not to ask what had happened to the Gulf of Mexico, Florida, or just how Mexico had managed to get so large in the few months I had been gone, and simply replied,

“yeah, Mexico and my country are neighbors.”

“But Mexico, it is not as nice as America, and what does America do? Nothing! Not even help their neighbor who need their help. America not go to China, not go to Africa, not go to Mexico, even neighbor Mexico not get help from America. Who does America go to?”

I contemplated talking about USAID, or the Peace Corps, and attempting to defend my arguably indefensible country, but I was never given the opportunity, he continued on.

America goes to Iraq and kills for-why? America should help Mexico, its neighbor. Silly America ” at this point he laughed for a bit, and continued lecturing me on American foreign policy and its absurdity.

Though it was a largely one way conversation, filled with statements and claims of questionable accuracy, this bushman, who had never been outside of North Western South Africa, who had probably never seen a television, and whose connection to the outside world was the transient tourist, had made an interesting point, that I think if often over looked. We spend so much time worrying about “defending” ourselves that we forget to keep our friends happy, and to look after our neighbors. It’s funny that this isn’t often mentioned in the newspapers, magazines or blogs. Yet, out in the bush, I came across a bushman who believes that the prominent flaw with US foreign policy is our apathy towards friends and neighbors.

Next Stop: Swaziland

Monday, January 08, 2007

Rocco Report, The Safari

Not shockingly, “Manic” has been a lazy bastard, and has been neglecting this blog. Well I will stand for it no more! I will annoy him until he agrees to update at least once a week ‘til the documentation of this journey is over.

So you may be asking yourself, “How the hell did Rocco get so close to that Hungry Hungry Hippo without being eaten like a colored marble?” The answer is: I have not distanced myself from nature the way you, web-surfing, cheeto-eating, Nintendo-Wii-playing, humans have. I am still in touch with nature and can sense when the hippo is dangerous and when its not. Also, I think the hippo knows that if he tried anything on me, I could pretty easily kick his ass.

So anyways, while “Manic” was doing lame stuff, I actually hung out with the animals. We had a few beers. I told them that back in September, I sold my soul in order to be able to speak with the humans. I thought they were going to make fun of me, but actually they were glad to hang out. They want me to convey a message to you all. The animals say:

“Keep those green house gasses coming baby! These fur coats aren’t as warm as they used to be, so we are glad that you are seriously screwing up the ecosystem. And besides, our lives are pretty trivial, especially compared to yours, so if damage that you do ends up killing us (you already made a lot of us extinct!), no big deal - just long as you can keep driving those shiny SUV’s! Oh, and also, we happen to have way too much land to frolic about in. Please continue to cut down our forests, pave over our wetlands, and lay cement in our prairies. We are looking forward to even more waste, shopping malls, and soulless mega corporations in the immediate future!”

I can’t tell for sure because (I did have a few beers) but I think the animals were being sarcastic.

Oh yeah, I ran into a few dung beetles. They say “hi” to President Bush, and that he is an inspiration to dung beetles world wide!


“Manic” will soon be posting (or I will annoy him endlessly): “The Drunken Bushman Encounter”, followed shortly thereafter by the rest of the logs.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Safari, South Africa

It was 10am when the white van honked from the driveway of my hostel. I had only been in South Africa for about a day, but was about to depart for a six day safari. Getting into the van was one of those moments in time, when all I could do was take a deep breath and reluctantly admit to myself that I had no idea what the hell I was getting into. I was caught up in the cross hairs of simultaneously being afraid and excited. It’s a good way for a young twenty-something to feel.

The safari turned out to be incredible. Seeing how the animals interacted with each other and their environment, made me feel like the extreme distance we have from nature (think: cars driving on paved roads, needlessly large houses, complicated love affairs, the production of tremendous amounts of waste, television, etc) is probably harming us more than helping us.

Describing a safari in words is probably not possible. Here are a few of the photos:

Back on track

Over the coming weeks and starting today, Rocco and I will be uploading the African logs. Over the month or so between our last entry and now, we kept careful notes in our journals and took many pictures. The stories will be told in chronological order, as they happened, with no details altered. We hope you enjoy!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Safari, and please check back

We just got back from a 6 day safari, and it was incredible. I got the sense that we, as humans seem to be missing something, some connection with nature and our (collective) existence in time. I explained this to Rocco and he said, "yeah no shit, humans are the least civilized animals I know."

On a different topic, due to lack of time and resources, we will not be updating again until we get back home, which will be near the holidays. Please check back around December 20th for the beginning of the African logs, which will include:
The Safari
An encounter with a drunken bushman who decides to lecture me on global politics
Volunteering at Camp Sizanani
And whatever trouble Rocco manages to cause

Happy Thanksgiving,

Rocco and "Manic"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Hysterical Little Kid, and the Remaining Travel Plans

Two days ago, I flew from Madrid to London on an early morning flight and saw something that cracked me up. A little kid, maybe 4 years old, was wandering up and down the isle, when he went up to a man who definitely wasn’t his Father. He stared at the side of this man’s face for a few moments, and then, out of the blue, licked him, and ran back to his Mother. Absolutely brilliant.

Things are going very well. I have had my stitches removed, and the doctor says my hand is healing nicely. I ended up spending two days in London because I needed to get pages added to my passport before entering Africa. I turned up, unannounced on RP’s doorstep, and he took me in without batting an eye – what a superstar.

Everything else is all set to go. With a healing hand and expanded passport, I leave for Johannesburg, South Africa tonight. Once in Africa, I plan to spend two weeks traveling and hopefully going on a safari, and maybe the odd scuba dive or white water rafting adventure too. After that, I will be volunteering in a program for children afflicted with AIDS, called Camp Sizanini. If you are interested in what we are about, there is a link on the right hand side of this blog.

Thanks to: RP – let me know if you ever need anything man. You are one kick ass friend.
Next stop: Africa.

Rocco Report, Spain

Ok, so while “manic” went around Granada, Cordoba, and Madrid looking at old buildings, I immersed myself in the Spanish culture. What did I discover? That the Spaniards are wimps! Tons of Spanish guys actually carry purses! Now, as odd as this may sound, it actually explains their culture perfectly. See, the Spanish men, by doing something as effeminate as carrying what is clearly an accessory for women, need to balance their machismo out, and to do this, they decided many centuries ago to do the most masculine thing in the world - run around with, piss off, and fight, bulls. Makes sense to me. “Yeah, I carry a purse, but I also get bulls wicked pissed off and then fight them – you gonna do anything about that purse amigo?”

However, even if you do fight bulls for fun, carrying a purse is for sissies, and being a sissy explains the Spanish custom of siesta. For those of you who aren’t as acculturated as I am, siesta is the magical time from 2 – 4 in the afternoon, in which most of Spain shuts down to take a nap. Aww, they need a little nap, how cute!

All above remarks aside though, Spain was quite cool. It seems like the Spanish really know how to enjoy life - even if the men do carry purses and need mid day naps. However, the coolest part is the nightlife in Granada. Though just a small city, Granada has a decent nightlife, and a kick ass policy at its bars – with every drink you buy, you get a free Tapas. Tapas, is a delicious little snack that if you eat 5 or six of them, you will be full. When I say snack, I don’t mean a handful of peanuts like the bars in the US might give you, I mean a ham and melted cheese sandwich on a bagel, or mozzarella, tomato and olive oil on toast. How perfect is that! You can have a wild night out, and a full belly without ever paying for dinner! Not bad at all, cheers Granada!


PS that bastard photographer, “manic” caught me while I was blinking and made me post the picture.

Spain: Granada, Cordboa, Madrid

(The Alhambra, a Moorish palace in Granada)

(The Mezquita, a grand mosque in Cordoba)

(streetside shop)

Thanks to: CBs "That'what we do. When we can't help one another, we send each other Dylan quotes."
Next Stop: London to get pages added to my passport, and then on to Africa!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rocco Report, England

Ok so I am thinking of renaming my column from “The Rocco Report” to “The, What Stupid Shit Did ‘Manic’ Do This Week? Report” the only problem is if I actually did that, I would spend all my time writing and none of it soaking in the goodies of global travel. However, the England stop was outstanding, even for “manic.” The confusion, mayhem and insanity actually started before he set foot in the country. He was on a fast ship from Holland to England, when he started freaking out, because the ship was running really late, and he was going to miss his rendezvous with his little friend in London. Of course, every other person on the ship (and probably the continent for that matter) knew there was a time change between Holland and the UK, but apparently this eluded “manic” until someone explained it to him.

So he eventually arrived in London and set upon accomplishing two relatively simple goals. Don’t spend too much money (failed), and rest up (failed). Let’s see, on the don’t spend much money front, “manic” hit the London club scene and dinned out at fancy restaurants. Good going genius – London is literally the most expensive city in the world, and you went out and lived it up. And as far as resting goes, of the four nights in London, guess how many he actually fell asleep before 2am for? One. And the rest – well he was up at least until 4am. Don’t ask me doing what - I was fast asleep like any intelligent traveler would be.

So with those two missions failed, “manic” moved on to the academic epicenter, Oxford, England, and attempted again, this time with more success, to rest and save money.
Though he actually accomplished his goals this time, he still did a few entertaining things:

  • I guess he got bored of carving his little pumpkin and instead, decided to carve his hand. This resulted in a trip to the ER
  • His trip to the ER forced him to miss MF’s dinner party, but he was determined not to let his favorite holiday slip away, and upon returning from the ER, he put on his awesome and elaborate costume and hit a party. Joke’s on him though - it wasn’t a costume part at all, and he was the only one there dressed up – hahahaha!
  • JA wanted to show him one of her favorite restaurants in Oxford, and he neglected to mention until the very end of the meal that MF had taken him there just the night before. Wow, what an asshole.
  • He made a complete mess of first, GN’s room, and then GN’s house, and really didn’t clean it up before he left. Actually that was a funny a kind of funny stunt.

And as far as what did Rocco do while in Oxford? Well the town’s pretty boring so I ended up rocking the worlds of those “genius’s” at Oxford. They spend so much time reading their 10 books a week that they forget how to loosen up, so I showed them how with style, class, and grace. One of them tried to debate me on international politics, and I schooled him by using a scene from the Godfather to illustrate how to handle Iran’s plutonium enrichment program. Oxford – 0, Rocco -1!


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Oxford, England

The town of Oxford, England is just about perfect if you need to be a serious student. There is a small art scene, a few dance clubs, pubs, cheap restaurants, a small shopping area, and lots of parks and gardens, but nothing so over stimulating that you are ever distracted from your studies. I think the most exciting Oxford centric activity is “The Oxford Story” which is like Disney’s “Small World” ride, but about Oxford, and not whatever the hell “Small World” is about. But if you’re an Oxford student, this level of stimulation –not much - is a good thing, because Oxford kids have to study wicked hard.

Through some cosmic alignment of the forces, friends from nearly all realms of my life are studying at Oxford this semester. This made for an incredible week of hanging out in café’s, bars (including the one Tolkien and Lewis used to drink at), restaurants and living rooms. It was the perfect way to recharge as I hit the halfway point in my trip and gear up for the African leg.

Other than being completely enchanted by my friends, the most noteworthy thing that happened was the pumpkin carving accident on Halloween. See “What do 50 Million American’s Lack…” for the full story.

Thanks to: GN – Thanks for everything, it’s always a blast with you – reviving the math class drink was incredible, and you took great care of me after the pumpkin accident. Sorry about messing up your house - tell everyone there I say thanks, and tell AH not to be such a wanker in the future.
MZ – Thanks for taking me out of the cold. It was good catching up with you and just shooting the bull for a while. Our conversations are always fast, even though you say “self righteous” like it’s a bad thing.
JA – Wow, you’re a wild child now, and I love hanging out with you more than ever. Next time we get together though, I’ll choose the restaurant. Hahaha.
MF – Seriously, that pinkie promise about next summer makes me so happy. “Sick moves”, useless arguments, and intimate sailing conferences, to continue in summer ‘07!
Next Stop: Spanish Whirlwind (Granada, Cordoba, Madrid in one week or less)