Tag Archives: friendship

http://www.thefoxisblack.com/2012/06/08/tourists-a-poster-by-jim-field/

Tales of travel: top tips and other stuff thrown in


Here’s a confession- growing up, I secretly wished that I could walk around, unwashed, wearing ugly sandals and flowing Indian clothes. I hoped that one day I too would have licence to stumble about, mouth hanging open, invading people’s privacy by taking pictures of stuff with my very cool and expensive looking camera.

At some point I realized that trying very hard to be different from the masses turns you into a cliché yourself, and that sometimes this truth is evident to everyone but yourself.

So when I met a gang of  under-dressed, tattooed vegans who described themselves as long term travelers, I was intrigued. Maybe I could do the same thing? Maybe I could also make statements like

‘My home is my backpack and I am a nomad.’

and mean it?

Maybe I could finance my travels by making jewelry, reading palms and playing a myriad of instruments? Stick it to the Man once and for all by embracing an obscure Asian religion and changing my name?

Who am I kidding? I has the wrong passport.

Anyway, since none of the  trips I ever made involved acting out my hippie fantasies, I present you my very own top tips to having an awesome holiday:

Don’t be a Dead-weight

Group dynamic is very important when you want to travel with strangers, or even your own friends. You see, there’s leaders, and there’s followers. And then there are dead-weights. Dead-weights are happy to let everyone else make decisions for them, put them on a leash and shepherd them from destination to destination. Dead-weights come into their own when something goes wrong, and are often the ones who complain the loudest about everything. The hostel sucks, why are we looking at this sh*t? I’m tired. This is boring.

Don’t be a dead weight. Just don’t. Suck it in- following someone else’s plans is also a choice in itself. Remember that as you get rained on in the middle of some God forsaken town as you watch the last bus speed away.

Don’t try to recreate home

You know what doesn’t work? Trying to make yourself feel at home. Especially when it comes to food. I see people trying to recreate the taste of home over and over again, only to be bitterly disappointed. So…trying to find a replacement for paneer will not end well. Neither will buying pineapples north of the equator. Ditto for finding aged cheese in India. You can wait till you get home for that stuff. And above all, no-one wants to listen to a 45 minute lecture about how bad whatever it is you are eating is, and how much better it normally is at home. Don’t, just don’t.

Same goes for complaining about transport and people. Yes, we know, your country is awesome and people are nice and no-none stares and you get everything you want and everyone understands you. It’s okay, be strong, its only a few more days till you can go back to your Utopia.

Don’t be embarrassed about being a tourist

Memory can be a fickle thing. So take pictures if you want to. Instagram the shit out of them and use a million #hashtags if you want to. Especially if you visit landmarks that are a must see. Spend half an hour getting the perfect shot of you jumping in the air and touching the top of the building or whatever. Take 15 shots of those pretty flowers that you saw if you want to. Ignore people who tell you that you can download those images from Google and indulge your fantasies about being an awesome photographer (we all have them…) You are on holiday, what else are you going to do?

Seek out your authentic experience as much as you want, but the truth is, if you have a few days in place X, there are only so many ‘hidden’ things you will find. You will probably do touristy, cliched things and you will be happy about it. As long as you don’t obsess about finding the ‘real’ deal. Everybody wants to see the Eiffel tower. Everybody wants to see the Taj. Everybody wants to swim with the sharks. And it’s all been done before.

Remember it could be much worse

Below a certain age, doing anything with your parents is unbearable. But even when you can share a drink with your kin, lots of things you do with your parents fall under the category I like to call ‘obligatory fun’. Like going on holiday. Or going to amusement parks. Or going to museums. Sometimes even having a conversation. But  especially going on holiday.

Because getting lost isn’t just getting lost- its fodder for that ongoing war of attrition between mom and dad.  Screaming matches in public during dinner are not so funny in real life.  Going to a museum isn’t about culture. It’s about struggling with adolescents who see more value in their phones than in whatever dusty crap their folks are shoving their faces into.

Remember that when your plans don’t work out as imagined.

Leave your comments- best holiday, worst holiday, what works for you, what you resent about tourists invading your city…

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The truth behind randomness. And Claude Monet


Would you take a bus, a train, walk for half an hour and then pay 300 bob to stare at a bunch of flowers and an old house?

No, neither would I. I’d much rather buy a bottle of questionable quality wine and make idle chatter (or sit with a man of even more questionable intelligence in a dimly lit pub and  pretend to be interested in his conversation as he feeds me large quantities of beer…).

But I’m fighting a war, and like in every war, I need strategy.

In my war to get acquainted with more than just my laptop and reruns of 30 Rock, its all about being a YES (wo)man. And off we went to Giverny.

Because nothing encourages bonding more than getting lost in a town far away from home with a group of people who’s names you are still trying to memorize.

Its all about the honeymoon.

If you ever had a first day at school, then you must know the honey moon-a time when everyone is on their best behavior. Alliances are weak and cliques are still in the embryonic stages.

It comes before you discover that the really cool guy you like to party with is actually a pathological liar, and that the girl who is always out for a bargain is really an annoying skinflint who’s passion is running a constant monologue on every cent she has spent.

No, the honey moon period is a time for pleasant conversation and people falling over themselves to be as nice as possible to everyone else. It’s sort of screen saver mode. Or an airbrushed version of the real you.

Mais, c’est tres important. Like Jesus said, you must separate the sheep from the goats. But first you must get acquainted with the herd.

Giverny, Claude Monet’s final residence, is a ‘village’ of 520 people with tarmac-ed roads and uniform French people cuddling their little dogs. (Am I wrong in thinking that, if you want to invest so much in an animal, might as well have a child? Why take a dog to a museum anyways?) On a somewhat related note, dogs in Paris shit about 16 tonnes daily. Daycare, anyone?

To the untrained eye, Monet’s work looks a lot like multicolored, smudged scribbles . You can make out a couple of flowers or two, after reading the name of the painting, maybe.

‘Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand. As if it were necessary to understand…'(the rest of the quote is gay, so I’m doing Monet a favor here.)

He said it himself.

He must be like sushi, beer and cheese- an acquired taste. But saying that I was not impressed by his work and meticulous gardens would be a major faux pas– one of his paintings recently sold for USD 80 million.

Yet another source of pride and joy for France’s already overinflated national ego.

He hated school (shock horror, ditching school only works if you are a genius) obviously preferring to be outdoors, where he became fascinated with natural light and subjects, painting lots of flowers and ponds at different times of the day. Critics condemned his work as ‘impressionism’, and to their chagrin, the name was embraced by all his adoring copycats.

Yes, he was that good.

Add the French’s rock solid belief in the superiority of their culture above all others and their ability to transform even the most mundane wooden shack into a fee-charging museum, and Monet’s house lives on, providing W with a strategic opportunity for a reconnaissance mission.

Some took pictures of flowers. Others complained about the heat. All were out on their own mission too. Lewd jokes, plans for future nights in dark places and the odd confession dripping with suggestions of future adventures.

Jackpot.

Soggy sandwiches, melting chocolate, lukewarm water and a dead French painter. The glue that bonds friendships, or at the very least, drinking buddies.

Its the ‘Pre’ in Preparation


You know that feeling that you get when something that you knew would happen but somehow had not absorbed finally happens?

That’s where I’m right now. Its goodbye old life and hello continental Europe.

But I have this thing where  I’m a coward when it comes to saying goodbye. I’ve sneaked away from people on several occasions. I hate the finality. And the tears and ill advised confessions of shit that you should just have kept to yourself.

I had to woman up and tell my friends.

We decided to go to Naivasha as a farewell trip. The idea was to go to Mombasa, but since I had been burning through cash like Hilton’s blind daughter, that was out of the question. Consider the 16hour round bus trip and suddenly the Rift Valley was looking alot more enticing.

I love Naivasha. The drive down is beautiful. Kijabe’s tree plantation, (the right sequence of hand signals can get you some highgrade bursting with freshness…) the Rift’s dramatic landscape, it all makes me glad to be away from the city. And best of all, it is only an hour away from Nairobi.

Naivasha is many things to many people. Exclusive golf at the Great Rift Valley Lodge. The Lake Naivasha Yatch Club with its dinosaur KC crowd and uppity Nairobians. Naivasha Sopo’s overbearing gilt, embroidered toilet paper and cuisine that’s trying too hard. Hell’s gate and Crater Lake. Binge drinking disguised as camping at Fisherman’s and Crayfish camps.

…Not on our budget.

For us, Naivasha is the home of Nyama Tayari, hookers and hustlers, cheap beer in underground clubs with ‘animal feed’ rubber stamps, and crashing in dingy bar & lodging outfits with outside bathrooms. It’s breakfasting in one chef cafes that make surprisingly good omelets. It’s a place you can light a cigarette while walking on the main street, because you really don’t care.

In Naivasha, you must ignore the mountains of rubbish to enjoy an ‘expensive’ beer at the Happy Valley Bar. Where, when you climb a minibus, you ignore the fact that you are squeezed cheek to cheek with the multitudes and their burlap sacs.

Its a three street town that can be mastered in a few minutes, and when a sewage pipe bursts, you wade in human excrement until someone rouses themselves long enough to solve the problem.

It’s where budget tourism means going to the lake and taking ‘snaps’ for a hundred bob. Haggling with beach boy hustlers and strong arm business men for boat rides and park fees. If nature calls, better hide behind the bushes, because, why would anyone have the preposterous idea of building toilets at a public beach?

It’s a place where ornithologists converge convulse in delight when they see the African fish eagle and the malachite Kingfisher (yeah, the one on that horrible strawberry wine shit that knocks you out). And all the other pretty birds who’s names you will forget by the time you have your first beer that evening, which is really all you wanted to do all day long.

Not a bad place to say goodbye to your best friends, I guess.