Sunday, December 28, 2008
Ahhhhhgra. A breath of fresh air. Relatively clean, less touts, good prices, healthy food and a world-class monument, what else can a traveler ask for? I could tell we were in a new phase of our trip when we arrived late into Agra on the train and I wasn't stressed, the roads were paved, and I could see the stars burning brightly on this chilly desert night. We got up before dawn to see the Taj Mahal, THE monument to romantic love (the Shah built it for his wife who died in childbirth), which was shrouded in an ephemeral mist. Then, we took some time to wander through Agra Fort, a sandstone red complex that stood to protect the royalty more from the revolt of their subjects than invaders.
The following day we took a day trip on the insanely overfilled local bus to Fatehpur Sikri, a city built as the new dynasty and abandoned 20 years later due to the lack of water. Because of the short tenure of human habitation, the place is well preserved and some of the details remaining are quite exquisite carvings and decorative flourishes As we strolled through the abandoned streets of this ancient city, I was wishing all of India was a placid as this place.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
After Khajuraho, with a renewed tenacity, we headed on to a less touristy part of India to see a slew of UNESCO World Heritage sites: prehistoric rock paintings, the oldest buddhist building in the world, gigantic sacred Ajanta and Ellora caves with sculptures and paintings of early Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, and the famous colonial train station in Mumbai. We got to our first hub, Bhopal, our base from which to explore the cave paintings and the oldest buddhist stupa. We had planned to spend several days here, relaxing for Christmas and seeing each of the sites on their own day, but these notions were reversed once we stepped from the train.
Shouting touts and half-witted beggars getting eerily close to our pockets with their wandering hands greeted us at the station exit. Checking out our hotel options, we found a few overpriced musty rooms and decided that Bhopal is not a place to linger. Deciding we would try to take a train to the Ajanta and Ellora caves tomorrow afternoon, we rushed that evening to see the fantastic rock paintings, hemmorghing money to bypass the public bus and go by taxi for time's sake.
We had an hour to see all fifteen caves, which made us feel rushed, but the wonder of seeing markings made by the humans of prehistory is immensely moving. These marks were etched in the stone twelve thousand years ago; before any seeds had ever been planted and cultivated, before any people took dominion over animals through domestication, before anyone lived in settled homes, before religion, wars, empires, industry, science. The graceful animals they scratched showed a study, a respect for the creatures that exist and sustained them. The most moving image for me was an outline of a hand, that opposable thumb and the part of our body that separates us from the animals, which this early person placed onto the rock and decided it needed to be remembered there.
Back to the madness, we went to the train station to reserve our train for the next day to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves and we come to find they were sold out! So, placing ourselves on the waiting lists we prayed we'd get a spot. We returned to our hotel room late, slept fitfully, and rose again in the early morning to see the buddhist monuments. Again loosening our pockets for speed, we arrived at the monument with less than an hour to spend. We saw the influence of the far-reaching ancient Greeks on this earliest of Buddhist monuments (from 250 BC), and enjoyed the artwork from before Buddha was depicted as the smiling fatty we know him as today; then he was the bodhi tree, the lotus flower, and the horse.
Returning to the chaos of the Indian city again, we picked up our bags and hoped we could get the hell out on the train. Which, of course, didn't happen. India, incredible! Being forced to either stay in this terrible city for an indefinite amount of days with nothing to do or skip the Ajanta and Ellora caves and head north to Rajasthan, we chose the latter. Here's hoping we have a shift of luck in this next leg of our journey.
After the holy city of Varanasi we tried to head to Khajuraho, a double feature town with both UNESCO World Heritage listed Hindu temples as well as a national park with lots of indigenous animals to see. Alas, the transport gods do not love us. We waited for our 11 pm night train for 4 hours, finally getting on at 3 am only to find the conductor setting up his office in our sleeper birth, conducting business all night. After a two hour tipsy-turvy taxy ride from the rail head (I think our driver thinks he is racing the Indy 500) on little to no sleep, we trudged into Khajuraho...
...Only to find out that evening that Alex had contracted food poisoning which was getting slowly worse as the evening progressed. The night passed along with plenty of bodily fluids fleeing his ailing system, and we spent the next day nursing him back to health. It is these particularly trying circumstances that really made us want to enjoy where we are, to take it in, to see what we came here to see. Forging ahead, we spent the next day giggling at the sculptures on the temples, as they are famous for their depiction of Kama Sutra, and the following day we got up before dawn and went on a safari. Our main goal was to see a tiger, but because of human greed and negligence, the tiger population has dwindled drastically over the last decades. Knowing our chances were slim for a tiger spotting, we could relax and enjoy the creatures we did get to see: Nilgai (giant antelope), Sambar (large deer), Chital (small spotted deer), Wild Boar, Langur Monkeys, Kingfisher birds and Storks. The landscape was a combination of teak forest and savannah-like grassland with a few craggy trees dotted in the foggy mist. Oh, it's the moments that make travel what it is.
Friday, December 19, 2008
India is filthy. From the moment we stepped from the plane we were bombarded with grime, scum, dirt, exhaust, feces, urine, vomit, spit, trash, burps, farts, mice, rats, cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, and miscellaneous bugs. People are poor here, the population is exploding, filth is to be expected.
But seeing past the grime reveals a world unfocused on the external and casually retaining its history. Older women let their often soft sides show through elaborately decorated saris and men with dyed red hair chew betel nut (a mild stimulant) as they stroll through the streets. Every person is cognizant of their caste, a system which delineates sectors of society by birth. The lighter skinned people are the highest caste, Brahman, succeeded by three lower castes down to the 'untouchables,' people who are cast out from society altogether.
Calcutta is a difficult place, challenging to handle for even this experienced traveller. We spent most of our time there seeing the remnants of British colonial architecture and one afternoon strolling through the neighborhood where people have burrowed homes into piles of trash. To see a child climbing out of her home which was created from the waste of others is just staggering.
We moved on quickly to Varanasi, the holy city along the Ganges River where Hindu people come for good karma. They bathe themselves in the river, and if they die here they are said to be released from the cycle of death and rebirth, which makes it a popular place to lay to rest (certainly different from Florida!). We spent most of our time here wandering through the Ghats (areas of steps down into the water which serve different functions). Saw people swimming in the (now officially sewage) water in the mornings, waking up and starting the day with a jolting cold swim, and watched the bodies burn from a distance at the cremation ghat. Private moments are public here, and the inevitability of human suffering is on display in all its varying forms. Children and cripples beg for food and animals (dogs, goats, cows) pick through trash for their next meal. India is both sad and fulfilling, educating and difficult, exhilarating and fundamentally moving.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Sometimes, when travelling, the places that I imagined don't fulfill my expectations. At those moments, I feel in transit - like I am moving through, passing by, a stranger in a strange land with no business but to move forward. Now is one of those times.
We tried to go trekking in Northern Laos, but after having spoken to a few terrible salesmen (one of them drunk) who made Laos sound like the Dan Ryan Woods, we decided to get back to Thailand as fast as possible. The nicest and jolliest Thai man gave us a free 8-hour ride to Chiang Mai out of the kindness of his heart, saving us close to $30 and hours upon hours of travel time.
Chiang Mai was nice, nothing to write home about, so I won't. Sukhothai - ancient Thai ruins where we stopped on the way back to B'kok - were underwhelming compared to the Ankorians they conquered centuries ago.
Moving along, pressing on, looking forward.
The next legs of our trip loom excitingly on the horizon, like we are at the outset of an entirely new adventure. We fly to India on Sunday where we'll see throngs of women in Saris and ride camels in the desert, tour the Taj Mahal, go on tiger safaris and wander through the pink, golden, white and blue cities of Rajasthan. After a month or so there, we'll fly back to Bangkok and spend some time at the Highland Farm Gibbon Refuge, getting to know our primate relatives. Lastly, on to paradise! Southern Thailand, home to some of the best and last remaining intact coral reefs in the world. We'll sleep in secluded cabins plopped on the shores of tiny white-sand islands and float in warm crystal-clear azure waters hovering above rainbow-worlds of coral and tropical fish and maybe even whale sharks.
As we loaf in our homey room in Bangkok, I feel like I did as a child right before a vacation I had been dreaming about: relaxed, comfortable, but on the edge of something fantastic and unimaginable.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
A poor but relatively sparsely populated country, Lao is an eruption of sensory stimuli. Like an onion, each layer you peel off has a stronger impact -- and might even make you cry a little. We arrived at the Thailand-Laos Friendship Bridge border crossing after our night train from Bangkok pulled into the station roughly 6 hours late. Considerably spry after crossing the border on foot, we watched the other tourists pay exorbitant prices to hop in personal jumbo tuk-tuks while we nestled in the back of a 50 cent bus with the locals. After a few stops to let out the older women and their live chickens, we arrived in capital city Vientiane.
There are a surprising number of NGOs working in Lao, and Vientiane is crawling with United Nations Land Rovers and do-gooders with fair trade tshirts walking hurriedly around. As a side effect of this, there is *the most incredible food* we have found on our trip thus far. For under ten dollars you can have a huge french steak with pommes frites and a 40 oz beerlao and a large pizza with the works and a crepe suzette for dessert. Bummed about missing Thanksgiving, I was yearning for something vaguely reminiscent of home. Lucky me, I found a place serving a turkey sandwich with cranberries and stuffing; to top it off, they were playing Christmas music amid dangling shiny ornaments. Satiated and nostalgic, we moved on to the old French colonial town of Luang Prabang.
Palm trees loiter around whitewashed french mansions with opened shutters, saffron-robed monks collect alms beneath blooming azaleas, little kittens purr for attention at my feet and I enjoy my lusciously thick spaghetti carbonara amid broad-leafed houseplants twisted with white christmas lights. Oh, but I am sure your Thursday evening was nice too. Enjoying perfect (mid 70s and sunny) weather, we ambled through the streets, discovering historical Wats that house different sects of buddhist monks. We returned in the evening to listen to the monks' nightly chanting, their solemn repetitions bouncing off of the large gold buddha in the temple and into the evening sky.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
We arrived on Thanksgiving Day in Bangkok after a 12 hour bus ride from Siem Reap. Weary and a bit nervous about the political situation here, we trudged towards the backpacker district not sure what we'd find. Not surprisingly, all was well in perpetually-adolescent backpackerland: party buses and funny tshirts for sale, cheap food stalls and grown white men lying in the streets yaking or sobbing, depending on the type of alcohol they drank, I assume.
The next few days we spent seeing the gaudy royal palace, a giant golden reclining buddha, some famous wats and enjoyed eating. On our tree-lined mostly pedestrian street stood food stalls with freshly made pad thai for less than a dollar and concocted-as-you-stand fruit shakes for 60 cents. Oh, a budget traveler's heaven!
As for the supposedly chaotic airport hold-up here, it clearly did not effect anything we had planned to see or do. Just like the 1968 DNC riots in Chicago, I am sure the people in Beverly managed to make it through unscathed. Protests happen, they usually have particular objectives and those must be taken account of. These protesters are not trying to physically harm tourists (like the terrorists in India were), they just want to force to government to pay attention to them by inconveniencing a lot of loud whiny westerners which would get the attention of their home media organizations.
I know from watching CNN here that it seems like a scary situation, but it must be put into perspective: in the US, several people died and women miscarried in WalMarts on Black Friday being stomped to death by angry shopping mobs. Exactly zero foreigners have died in Bangkok from these protests. You had a better chance of being hurt shopping the day after Thanksgiving than I did watching the overgrown boys in cargo shorts and backwards baseball hats throw back shots here in Bangkok.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Cambodia is the Ecuador of Southeast Asia. In its capital, Phnom Penh, there is trash strewn on every street corner, roaming dogs with bellies full of swollen nipples, and beggars with another sympathetic story to hawk. I know you’re poor, Cambodia, but you’re not letting me enjoy you!
Phnom Penh was gross, frankly. With little to offer besides garish overpriced palaces funded by the French colonists and a former high school turned prison camp in the Khmer Rouge era. We did find a delightful little restaurant, Mama’s, around the corner from our hotel where we thoroughly enjoyed our three squares a day with the precious tiny daughter of Mama taking our order and meringue blaring on the stereo. Sick of modern Cambodia, we travelled back in time to visit ancient Khmer culture.
The Angkor temple complex is one of the most spectacular places I have been in my (fairly short) life.
It has huge repetitive tower-faces jutting up into the jungle trees, monkeys relaxing in the grass and giant trees spouting on top of temple walls, maneuvering their roots in through the ancient brickwork. To get between temples and back to town, we hired a tuk tuk (a motorcycle with a four seat Remarque attached to the back). In the middle of the second day, with the sun peaking through the thick canopy, soft, warm wind cooling my rosy cheeks, and beautiful rounded temple towers peeking through the forest, I felt real elation. Cambodia, you have redeemed yourself.
Southern Vietnam boasts most of the same draws as the North: colonial architecture, women in markets with conical hats, and fresh baguettes. But the South feels more tropical, lowland, and lush.
In Hue we stayed in a perfectly adequate seven dollar room and saw the citadel complex of the former monarchy and, subsequently, the Communist Party as a base to fight against the Americans. We only had a few hours to see the entire complex, but feeling rushed we resolved to take our time and finish what we couldn’t tomorrow. We strolled around the romantic fallen structures set amongst green fields and statues spotted with moss. Even with all this loveliness, we finished seeing the palace in ninety minutes.
Surprised at the quickness of our pace, I sat in the promenade in front of the former royal residence and re-evaluated. Are we lingering in these places too long? Should we be moving faster? Yes, I decided at that moment that we should speed through only the most spectacular places in Southeast Asia (you don’t visit the US and go to Piedmont, ND, do you?) and make some time for INDIA!
I threw my haphazardly conjured idea at Alex and, always a good sport, said he’d look into making it happen. Two days later, in Hoi An, we bought the Lonely Planet INDIA guide for eleven dollars, now there was no going back.
Hoi An was wet, drowned by a tropical storm that flooded the streets. Almost ruined by the rain, we still managed to see the wonderful Chinese, ancient Vietnamese and freshly-painted French colonial architecture on offer. Scouring our India Lonely Planet in a café on our last night, we decided we needed to move quickly if we were going to get to India. Skipping Dalat and Quy Nhon, we bought a $37 flight to Saigon that night.
Which was stiflingly, pore-openingly hot. We saw the little there was to see, including an enlightening War Crimes Museum and spent most of the rest of our time hiding from the heat in our air-conditioned room.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Next, Lijiang. A bigger and better Dali, with even larger snow-capped peaks on the horizon. We sat in European cafes and watched the rain patter on the blurry panes. On our last night we went to see the Naxi orchestra - a group of ancient musicians playing on even older instruments pieces from the Middle Ages. There was even a solo from one of the oldest members called "heartless love" about how his money left him and his woman followed suit. ouch.
Oh, then to Shangri-la, where we expected so little so the return was even greater. We met with the first foreigner allowed into town in 1987, and she told us of how she got around town on horseback. We drank yak butter tea and were invited into the dormitory of an orange-robed Tibetan buddhist monk. I watched the sunset from beside the largest prayer wheel in the world, looking over Old Town Shangri-la with prayer flags rustling in the wind overhead and bells tinkling in the temple and I realize that looking for Shangri-la is a fruitless endeavor, it can only be realized in passing moments like this.
Finally, Shaxi shocked me. The most intact and least touristed village yet, we saw an ancient Buddhist temple, trudged along the old Tea Horse Caravan Road through the fields of harvesting Bai people, and ate locally-grown organic potatoes, roasted red bell peppers, snow peas, chives and goat cheese washed down with thick red tea for two dollars and twenty five cents. We laid to rest under the roof of a structure built during the Tang Dynasty. Look it up - it's more amazing than you think.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Colorful tapestries, harvesting rice, morning cock crows and ancient songs floating over drum towers where old men sit playing mah jong. The ethnic minority villages of Guangxi Province offer much in the way of slow living - especially in contrast with the rapid industrialization of the home places of the rest of their Chinese brethren. These pastoral places seem to serve as refuge for city-dwelling Han Chinese; similarly to the romantics in turn-of-the-century continental Europe, you can find painters and poets and lovers of a slower life here in these villages, enjoying the clean air and the sweeping movements of the brightly-clad reapers, harvesting what they had sown many months previous.
In Ping'an, home of the Zhuang people, the rice fields are in the form of terraces cut into steep hillsides - referred to here as 'dragon's backbone.' Most of the time in Ping'an was spent hiking amongst these carved mountainsides, taking in the autumnal scent of burning dry leaves.
In Chengyang, a series of Dong towns clustered along a water-wheeled river, the main attractions are several flower (or, more practically, wind-and-rain) bridges. A leisurely stroll through the towns finds gaggles of schoolchildren giggling out hello's, narrow alleyways framed by nail-less Dong houses with drying bouquets of rice hanging from their eaves, and drum towers with friendly old men smoking pipes and offering weak green tea as a token of friendship and pride.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
if there was a better way to go then it would find me
i can't help that the road just rolls out behind me
be kind to me or treat me mean
i'll make the most of it i'm an extraordinary machine
--fiona apple. extraordinary machine
next is vietnam (hanoi) to teach english. and visiting china, laos thailand, burma, cambodia. then off to new zealand for a few months after that to work and stay and eat on organic farms (WWOOF). and, hopefully, the year after that in africa (tanzania, please!) with a fulbright or thorugh the peace corps. and the year after that in south america (argentina and brazil, yes!) teaching english and learning spanish. i can't help that the road just rolls out behind me.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
We ambled along the clearest creek I've ever seen, lined with fresh spring buds. It was the kind of creek I imagine you'd dip into on a hot summer day, swirling between the water lilies and swans and drinking it straight anytime you got thirsty. The grass was crisp and bright and green, the dew drops slipped onto our toes as we passed along it. We came upon the old mill, still operating, and just beyond it stood the castle-like towers of the ruined monastery. Erected in the dark ages, monks used to walk these halls, pray in this chapel and think about God, life, and existence.
Within the walls is a large rolling meadow with dozens of sheep and lambs scattered upon it. The babies are experiencing their first spring, tumbling on their new awkwardly long legs and mowing the grass like adorable puffy white lawnmowers. I sat under a flowering tree and watched them play, sit, drink milk from their mother. I felt like a milk maiden, hiding from my duties to take in the beauty and warmth of the new spring sun. My long hair blew in the wind and the sun shone lightly on my back, warming me.
And now I sit here, in this ruined place of worship. The arches of what were walls and windows are being flooded with the afternoon sunlight and I can imagine how human beings could devote their lives to learning and meditation and worship in a place like this.
Alas, the monks eventually left this place and the rocks they assembled into walls and holy spaces are slowly returning to their place in the earth. The tombs are eroding, turning into rocks and then sand and then soil. Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity. A verse from the bible that these monks might not have known well enough.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Proust: I think that life would suddenly seem wonderful to us if we were threatened to die as you say. Just think of how many projects, travels, love affairs, studies it - our life - hides from us, made invisible by our laziness which, certain of a future, delays them incessantly.
But let all this threaten to become impossible forever, how beautiful it would become again! Ah! if only the cataclysm doesn't happen this time, we won't miss visiting the new galleries of the Louvre, throwing ourselves at the feet of Mrs. X, or making a trip to India.
The cataclysm doesn't happen, we don't do any of it, because we find ourselves back in the heart of normal life, where negligence deadens desire. And yet we shouldn't have needed the cataclysm to love life today. It would have been enough to think that we are humans, and that death may come this evening.
*an excerpt found in a book on Proust in an english bookstore in Paris
we are humans. finite but far-reaching creatures, we assume our lives will go on forever and as this assumption lies burning in our subconscious, we deaden inside, losing the desire to think and feel deeply, to explore and to love. Travel is the conscious acknowledgement of my finite-ness, the fact that everyday that I live I am one day closer to my death and it oughtn't take a perceived catastrophe to confront this truth. I must constantly move my feet on this trip, move my body through the world, and I am aware of my life's lack of routine and knowing always of my decision to be here now.
By behaving this way I fall into the anti-routine, a place where the catastrophe of death becomes more conscious, and I explore my place in my life on a daily basis. I know almost every hour of every day of this past two months that I am young and I am seeing the beauty and intellect of Europe, of western history, while politics and economics allow it. And I, like Proust, must work to retain this awareness throughout my life - through routine and change, happiness and trauma, good and bad - I must live this day as if it were my last, and to beware of the endlessness and risk of the unconscious routinized life of which Proust speaks.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
In Stockholm, Amsterdam and Paris Alex and I couchsurfed. What does this mean? you ask. well, it means that we meet up with a total stranger and stay on their couch or extra bed. In exchange, we make our couch available to people when we are not traveling. It was only a tiny bit scary at first; but after the first 5 minutes, when you get a sense that the person is not crazy, it immediately becomes rewarding. Not only do you get to save money, but you get to exchange ideas, make new friends, and learn about the world through the people in it.
In Stockholm it was Andreas. Slightly gothic, befitting the Scandinavian youth stereotype, and very much into the Smashing Pumpkins, he was such a friendly fellow. We all talked late into the night about swedish socialism and american capitalism, and all of the politics that make them work. He told us of his free education (up to college), no health care bills, and his government funded job making educational television on Swedens public access channel. Oh, how I wish I were Swedish!
Then, in Amsterdam, we met Robb, a cal tech postdoc working on particle physics. We talked about LAs music scene, the presidential race, and we acquired a scientists insight on the energy crisis. Oh! and he took us out for a Dutch beer with his German girlfriend.
Finally, Gabriela and Angel in Paris. They are Brazilian students (sociology and journalism, respectively) earning their phds with an exchange year in france. From them we learned about the life of the Sao Paolo working class, the effects of multinational corporations on south americans, and how they hope for change in our country as it will bring change in theirs.
I am radicalized by the ease and beauty with which these people have opened their lives and homes to us. Nearing the end of our journey, I am feeling a resurgence of love and wonder in the world and the people it contains.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Luckily, train travel is super not stressful and we had our night cabin to ourselves and it was mostly pleasant for having to go that far for that long. Stockholm was beautiful. Clean, neat, happy. The land looked to me like northern wisconsin -- which is probably why a lot of swedes ended up there -- filled with red barns and flat land, lots of glimmering lakes among forests of thin pine trees. I felt like I fit in there. Lots of tall beautiful blondes, not what i am exactly, but sort of how I see Lindsey. Alas, it turns out that in very well run countries with not much sightseeing you'd rather dream of living there than be a tourist there. So, we cut out a day of Stockholm and headed to Amsterdam via Copenhagen.
Just in the short while we have been here the experience has been filled with wonder and awe. Bikes everywhere! Barely any cars only buses and trams and bikes and people fill the streets. The canals are rife with young and beautiful large dutch people, rowing their boats and their newly-browning skin glowing in the afternoon sunlight. When we tried to get on the bus the driver said it was free today (i think informally because no other native amsterdammers knew about this), and everyone was in such high spirits about this spontaneous phenomena that they kept filling with laughter everytime someone else got on the bus and received the pleasant news from our jovial captain. To top it off, he picked up his microphone and told the bus he was thinking of Louis Armstrong's famous song and began to sing "the colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people on the BUS, i see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do, they're really saying I LOVE YOU -- I love you, I love each and everyone one of you, my bus riders." And as I look over past all the faces just beaming with glee in unabashed and unironic happiness, a little girl who looks like a younger version of myself and is also dressed up like a priness smiles at me as the setting sun shines behind her head and illuminates her golden hair, throwing a halo around her angelic face. Then I look out the window behind her and see the famous statue that proclaims I AMSTERDAM. This can't be real.
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Alex and I had just gotten into Prague. We were excited. We were happy, ready to see the gem of central europe. After a few poorly marked signs and hard to find ATMs we made our way onto the metro. We bought a 90 minute ticket, or so we thought. We waited around at our hostel for a ridiculously long check-in procedure with some Thai students in front of us in line and then finally got our room and headed out to the city. We finally got back on the metro to go into the historical district and as we slipped off into the crowd two burly slavic men stood at the bottom of the escalator, checking tickets. Ours was 30 minutes less than valid. Not knowing this, I took our tickets out of my back pocket and presented them with confidence. He pointed to the clock, the 75 minutes on the ticket, took us to the posters that explained his badges and the penalty that was about to be forced upon us. A whirlwind of both disbelief and clarity ensued.
There was no way out, we were about to get fined, and I cannot believe it was over such a small thing as this. shit shit shit. ugh. no! 90 dollars. A days' budget. Bureaucracy. The men seemed to get a sick pleasure from walking us over to the atms, holding our American passports. Getting thieved by bureaucratic thugs is somehow more rewarding than getting robbed by the poor. They aren't desperate, they don't need the money, they are just doing their vicious jobs and holding us accountable to their flawed system.