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Jakarta Be Kidding Me!

December 15, 2010 by  

We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”
Hilaire Belloc

Holy crap, I’ve spent six weeks in Sri Lanka!  I know, I had to double check the calendar also to make sure it was for truesies. So far I’ve soared to incredible new heights of productivity, almost exclusively owing to my new found sobriety.  I’ve tried all sorts of strange new foods, almost all of them curried.  And just yesterday I got ambushed by a massive water monitor who crawled out of the sewer during the last rainstorm. But I’ve done almost no actual touring of the countryside! WTF!

All of that changes next week.  I’ve planned out a delightful 5 day excursion starting in a temptingly misleading town by the name of Kandy and then circling through the ancient cities in the North.  Pictures will be taken, bicycles rented, memories made. Sadly because of my schedule, I realized I’m only going to get to take maybe two more actual trips around the island to see more of Sri Lanka. I hate this part of traveling – knowing that you only have x many days to get to y many locations. It’s oddly reminiscent of the logic games on the LSAT, except that if you screw this up you end up stuck with third class tickets and racing the clock to catch your flight. I can’t possibly make it to the beaches out East and to the tea country.  And there’s definitely no way I’m going to make it to any of the surrounding countries like Indonesia or the Maldives.

But you know, I’m not too broken up about that…I’ve been saving Indonesia.  It’s a weird approach to travel, but I don’t know a single person that isn’t saving some special destination for the right time to go. Everyone wants to see Paris, but most people don’t want to end up spending 12 hours there on a layover and then calling it a visit. It’s your first time in a new country, you want it to be…ya know… special. I was asked a couple weeks ago why I was saving Indonesia specifically. Simple – I always pictured a honeymoon in Bali.  No, I don’t have a girlfriend and there aren’t even available women in my country, but that’s not the point.  I have some romantic vision that at least one of my honeymoon’s is going to be at an awesome glass floored luxury beach villa in Bali.  Unfortunately my absolute lack of originality was pointed out to me by my little brother Jon, for when I visited him down at school a month or so ago said that he too was saving Bali for his honeymoon…the race is on bucko.

Even now when I’m so close to Indonesia, I don’t want to spoil the awesomeness of my imagined post-nuptial evenings in the Lesser Sundas.  I started to think about why it was so important for me to save a destination – shouldn’t you go somewhere amazing if you get the chance? Hell, I’m an ‘eat dessert first’ kinda guy, why over think things? Still though I can’t help but feel that part of exotic travel is the romance of the trip, and when you build that image up in your mind it’s hard to change it.  Bali is supposed to be champagne and caviar…not hostels and street sambal. I don’t just want to tick off the box that I visited on a harried 36 hour weekend between work days…I want to really lose myself for weeks at a time on white-sand shores without having to drag around a backpack. And most of all I don’t want to go by myself to an island paradise where I envisioned spending my honeymoon.  That’s just soul crushing.

Originally posted on November 12, 2010 at Dear Lonely Planet. Eric N. Feldman is a human rights attorney currently on volunteer assignment in Sri Lanka.

Global Health: 200 Years In 4 Minutes

December 7, 2010 by  


From the BBC Series “The Joy of Stats”, Swedish academic Hans Rosling converts a vast array of public data into an easy to follow and entertaining story of the health and wealth of the world over the past two centuries.

So Fresh and So Clean-ish

December 6, 2010 by  


So, where do I put the quarters?

It’s better to have loved and lost than to have to do forty pounds of laundry a week.” ~ Dr. Laurence J. Peter ~

Now, I’m somewhat useless the in the economics of homemaking, so my idea of ‘doing laundry’ is shoving all my clothes in a bag and leaving it at the nearest drop off place near my apartment.  Sri Lanka is somewhat lacking in drop off service laundromats, so I went the old fashioned route and washed everything in a bucket in the bathroom.

First and foremost, I had to check the directions on the back of my Tide laundry soap package, mercifully written in plain English so I didn’t have to rely only on the picture directions.  Looked easy enough – soak clothes, then rinse. Step one – opening the Tide soap package.

This proved far more difficult than anticipated.  The package had clearly been reinforced with some kind of titanium alloy preventing me from tearing it open with my bare hands.  When I failed to open it with my teeth (gross), I tried tearing at it with a nearby fork.  Carefully I lined up the outermost tine, and sloooowly opened the package… nice and easy… nice and…explosion.  Dry laundry soap everywhere.  Convinced that the dog who lives here was going to lick up the dry soap and melt into nothingness, I diligently kept at the cleanup, however futile my efforts may have been.

Finally I got the ground in a relative state of clean and dumped water, soap and clothes into the bucket to soak for half an hour.  I felt pretty good, thinking to myself that I was nearly home free – all I gotta do now is wait!  This is of course the functional equivalent of tying one’s shoes before a marathon and thinking “well that wasn’t so bad… guess now all I have to do is run a bit!”

How wrong I was.  If I do end up in some kind of mythological Greek hell, my Sisyphean task will be attempting to wring the soap bubbles out of my Hamilton College tshirt for all eternity, only to watch it be soapy again every time I apply more water to it.  With every rinse and wring, I felt like I only making the clothes that much soapier! I was getting nowhere so I decided to goof off instead by rolling up my HamTech shirt into a rat tail and giving the wall a playful snap.  The sound was quite rewarding, and I would’ve been entirely proud of myself had not the snapping action caused a backlash of epically ironic soap residue to go careening off the wall and directly into my eyes.  Now slightly blinded, I decided that I had had enough fun for one wash and returned to my wringing duties.

Another hour or so of angry wringing later, I tried to empty out the soapy water bucket into the sink, making sure it wasn’t overflowing over the top of the bowl.  To my dismay, the entire friggin pipe system started to overflow, releasing no less than 5 gallons of tepid, dirty wash water onto my feet and into the area that also doubles as my shower floor.  This was made all the worse by knowing that I still had to wring out yet another goddamn tshirt when I was done standing in the run-off of my own filth. I was displeased.

Accordingly, I have decided to edit my wash schedule.  Socks and boxers will still be washed on a weekly basis, because even I have some standards.  However, Techwick button downs are demoted to being washed once every two weeks.  Dont judge me yet, because it gets worse.  Only in the event that I soil myself will pants be washed ever again.  They have cargo pockets, within which are more pockets with hidden zipper compartments designed to hide things like your passport, keys and possibly that emergency condom you carry with you cause one of these days you just know you’re going to get laid in a hostel bathroom.   These pants are so ingeniously designed that I’m going to be storing soap bubbles in the damn things for months to come.  If I get caught in the rain, I’m going to have to explain to people why my pockets are foaming over, and with my limited Sinhalese that will be hard to do.

Originally posted on Oct. 10, 2010 at Dear Lonely Planet. Eric N. Feldman is a human rights attorney on volunteer assignment in Sri Lanka.