Face The Sun: Let There Be Light!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are exclusively those of its author, and are not in any way meant to reflect the opinions or policies of the US Government.

Past Travelogues.

Finland, Estonia, Petersburg

Kirovograd, Ukraine


Tirana, Albania

Macedonia & Romania

Budapest to Bucharest

Balkans and Poland.

Christiania, Copenhagen.

Northern Norway

Northern Finland


Kashgar, briefly

More to come, Inshallah, as I go through old paper travel journals.

The DC experience, archived.

July '05
June '05
December '05
October '04
More to come should interesting things happen to me. Ever.

Blatent Plagiarism

The nation's largest chain bookstore has indicated that, due to lack of consumer interest, it has stopped selling books.
--Frederick Raphael, The Glittering Prizes

I feel this is the equivalent of a surgeon, skipping through a radiology department singing, 'I don't have cancer, I don't have cancer!'
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

Mum is crying with her faced turned away from me, gulping and honking like an injured seal. And I'm rolled up in the back seat wishing the old man would stop the car and make her walk. That or buy her a fish.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

I love it when well-educated women sweaar -- the words regain their original power and meaning when delivered unexpectedly with so much poise.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

She lived with her mother, who looked like an old labrador, and an old labrador.
--Will Self, Great Apes

When I was small and would leaf through the Old Testament retold for children and illustrated in engravings by Gustave Dore, I saw the Lord God sitting on a cloud. He was an old man with eyes, nose, and a long beard, and I would say to myself that if He had a mouth, He had to eat. And if He ate, He had intestines. But that thought always gave me a fright, because even though I come from a family that was not particularly religious, I felt the idea of a divine intestine to be sacrilegious.
--Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Quality is merely the distribution aspect of Quantity.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

...In the frank brilliance of the bright sun, which, as we all know, is the friend of heroes.
--Jose Saramago, All the Names

He stuttered so badly that you could go out and buy yourself a chocolate bar while he was wrestling with an initial p or b; he would never try to bypass the obstacle by switching to a synonym, and when the explosion finally did occur, it convulsed his whole frame and sprayed the interlocutor with triumphant saliva.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

To Stand on Jericho's Walls and Face the Sun.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pakistan, late July: the movers came, saw, and boxed. All of my clothing was tossed in a fast-arriving shipment, packed into two metal crates and sealed with padlocks. Don't lose the keys. We're giving you six for each box, so you have ample copies. They're not replaceable if you lose them. The ball is in your court.

Pakistan, Mid-August: Last day at the Embassy, headless-chicken-esque in my sprinting to accomplish everything, the packing, the cleaning, the recommendation letters for my domestic help, the passing off of things to other people, and at 4:10 in the morning after an all-night organizational romp, the phone ringing and the embassy driver asking where I am, we need to go to the airport. I sprint to the main gate where he's waiting, leaving my key ring in the office.

Six of the twelve keys are on the key ring, but no fear! I've got six more, three for each box, keys-a-plenty!

Beijing, three weeks ago: arrived to mid-50s weather, made colder by the soul-sucking grey of the seemingly ever-present pollution. I have forgotten what winter is; I am freezing.

Beijing, today: the Embassy informs me that -- Halleluiah! -- my fast shipment arrives today! I, still freezing and overjoyed at the prospect of a sweater, sprint home after class. I run to my predesignated hiding spot and grab my six keys and sprint to the boxes to see what's inside. Three months after packing, the contents have become like Christmas, and I have no idea what's inside.

Beijing, today, exactly 49 seconds after arriving home: I realize that each box has not one but two padlocks, that the keys were divided into two groups of three not to make separating them easier, but rather because they were for two different locks. This means that I'm able to open exactly fifty percent of the locks on each box. The keys to my sweaters (and thus, my happiness) are sequestered in Pakistan, possibly the most inaccessible place in the world.

I weigh my options. I move towards writing an email to Pakistan -- help! You've got the key to my happiness! -- but decide that there's got to be, if not an easier way, at least a faster way. Hacksaw! I decide to find a hardware store.

This presents some questions: How do you say "hacksaw" in Chinese? Why is it universally known that hacksaws can be used to cut through metal? Where exactly does one go to buy hardware in this country? Why, dear god, am I such an idiot?

I trek to a nearby fertilizer store to ask if they know where I can find a hacksaw. We have the following conversation: "I have this thing [I show him a padlock]. I need one of these things [arm furiously saws in the air] to cut… cut it. Do you know… where is this thing?" He tells me: A hacksaw? Yeah, I've got one right here. And he hands me a hacksaw. Just like that!

I ask the logical follow up: How much do you want for this? He tells me: I can't sell you that. I don't know how much it costs. But I'm willing to pay as much as you… I told you, I don't know how much, so I can't sell it. How about a hundred kuai? I don't know.

You can maybe see how this would be frustrating.

I switch tactics: Can you call someone? He: Oh. Yeah. And he does. Suddenly my pro-offered 100 kuai is waved away. Hacksaws, apparently, cost only 10 kuai, a buck twenty five even.

Let me tell you a little something about hacksaws: it's not as easy as they make it look in the cartoons. Hacksaws, you see, are collapsible. This is to allow the user to attach whatever size blade he wants, making it longer or shorter as need be. This also means that when you're really getting your saw on well, with a sort of lumberjack-esque (and very satisfying) VRRRR-err VRRRR-errr sound coming out, the saw will suddenly fold in on itself, sending the blade flying toward your hands or face, and generally frustrating the hell out of you.

I attempt to re-install the blade myself and meet with little success. I return to the fertilizer store and explain the problem: your stupid hacksaw keeps collapsing on me. I've been gone from the store only about twenty minutes but there's a new guy manning the booth, and he doesn't understand at all what I'm trying to say. Vocabulary words I'm lacking: Hacksaw. Blade. Collapse. Padlock.

I: There is a problem with this thing. He: You should take it back to where you bought it.

I try a different tactic. Can I buy a new blade for this here? Yes, of course, he tells me. Can you install it for me? Yes, of course I can. Back in business.

I return to my apartment. I work up a good sweat, sawing (VRRR-err, VRRR-errr) with great intensity. I make it through one half of the padlock, and am very excited.

I realize that I have been sawing on the side of the lock that isn't clamped down; had I sawed through the other side, the lock would've sprung open once I got through. I have in essence just wasted 30 minutes of time sawing like a madman to have exactly zero effect.

I am less than pleased.

I switch boxes so I can switch locks; I can't face the one I've just wasted time on. And for some reason, this one goes easier. I am making great progress, despite the sweat pouring down my face. I saw through, the lock snaps open, and it is the single greatest moment of triumph of my entire life.

I return to the other lock. The blade is visibly dulled, with teeth missing, but I am determined to break through. Three minutes later, the blade snaps.

I return to the hardware store, silently lay the broken blade pieces next to the saw, and hand the man ten kuai. He doesn't speak while he attaches the new blade. We silently nod our thanks to each other, and I return to the task at hand.

Suffice it to say: I have never enjoyed a sweater as much as the one I'm currently wearing.

Posted by Dakota on 9:56 AM link |
Current Location:
The People's Republic of China.

Stop by any time: everyone's welcome.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem to Be Born

Comments and requests for dates should be directed to email.

And here I am.

And for all you random folks out there whom I don't know, for the love of god, email me. I'm abroad, know no one, and look forward to hearing from you. I'm especially looking at YOU, whomever YOU are who's Facing The Sun all the way from Kenya. And Sweden. And Canada. And whatnot.

Books Tackled, 2006:

1. Jarhead, Anthony Swofford
2. Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, Dennis Covington
3. A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
4. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous
5. Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, Dawn Prince-Hughes

This year's movies, in chronological order:

1. Kung Fu Hustle
2. A Wrinkle in Time
3. Pi: Faith in Chaos
4. My Big Fat Independent Movie
5. The Winter Guest
6. Voices in Wartime
7. What Dreams May Come
8. Farewell My Concubine
9. The Ring
10. Like Water for Chocolate
11. Sahara

Foreign Service Officers by day, Bloggers by day as well.

The Diplodocus
(Islamabad, Pakistan).

The Permanent Mission of Joshie
(Zagreb; Libyaward).

Prince Roy
(Chennai; Taiwanward).

Sue and not You
(Tbilisi, Georgia).

Life on the Mekong
(Vientiane, Laos).

FSO Globe Trotter
(Lahore, Pakistan).

Vice Consul: Diplomatically Transformed
(New Delhi, India).

Adventures in Good Countries

Our Man in Tirana
(Tirana, Albania).

Anne's Blog
(Kazakhstan; Greeceward).

(Bogota, Colombia).

Furnish Worldwide

Tasman's World
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

(Lome, Togo).

World Adventurers
(Seoul, Korea).

Aaron Martz

A for Adventure
(Chennai, India).

The Excellent Adventures of Nickie P
(Paris, France).

Permanently Disco
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Consul At Arms
(Kingston, Jamaica).

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