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18 July 2010 @ 02:37 am

Dear you,

I arrive in Bangkok being as kind as I can to dogs and eager to see something nasty happen to a human. Since strays are everywhere, I have many opportunities for pets and scratches and food donations, but it's hard to think of them as strays when there's so much life outside. Food vendors and markets line every sidewalk, and the streets are always filled with motorbikes and tuk-tuks. Thais and tourists are all out walking in this intense, wet heat. I am at first intimidated by all of the movement, and once I find myself stuck on a median for twenty minutes with my luggage. The street dogs appear well-fed and ignore me. My wanderlust propels me down side streets, and I follow one with a light spattering of vendors and few cars. I make it to a turn in the road when a mutt races toward me and barks. Nearby Thais subdue the dog while laughing. When I continue rounding the corner, they try to discourage me. I obey and turn around. The racist dog follows, making sure I won't come back. I stop approaching dogs.

The way I would prefer to travel isn't working out either. I've failed to get a single host via couchsurfing. People either didn't respond, responded too late, or said no. But it's Thailand! Westerners come here for entertainment on the cheap! I will pay my own way for everything, and the experience will barely dent my budget. I am going to be a tourist!

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29 June 2010 @ 12:43 am

I kick the dirt in front of me because I don't know what else to do. The chickens scatter, and the dogs keep barking. It's nice, I suppose, that I built up to this moment. If this had happened first, I might have handled it poorly.

"Sokoree!" There are trays that need carrying to the barn. I try not to think about anything, and when that doesn't work, I distance myself by writing this opening in my head. My host calls again as I take photographs. I walk back to the barn.

I'm standing with my luggage at the Buyeo bus terminal, and I don't need to panic because I have many options. I could construct complete sentences from my Japanese phrasebook to better convey that I need to be picked up, and then I could try calling again. My first phone call succeeded only in my host and me saying "bus terminal" over and over until he hung up. Perhaps that and me speaking English was enough for him to know what to do, but I've been standing here for a half hour now. I could take a bus back to Seoul and give up. I could find a hotel in Buyeo for the weekend and contact the WWOOF coordinator on Monday.

I send an emergency e-mail to Sean.

"No one there speaks Japanese," Sean says when he calls minutes later.

"What? But that's what my host book says."

"He answered and I said, 'Konnichiwa, [more Japanese],' and he said, 'Buhhhhhwahh?'"

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Lunar or solar? This is a question I must ask myself as I complete my form at the dentist's office. It is a question posed after "Birthdate:" and before "Age:".

"This is a serious place where you do serious things, right?" is a question I wish to ask when I acquire the pen to fill out this form. It is retrieved from a pen holder shaped like a man lying prone with his buttocks pointed upward, the pen extending from his gaping anus. Failed attempts to reinsert the pen have left him looking unclean.

I leave the box blank. Further down, I check boxes based upon the type of treatment I desire. "Good and thorough?" "As painless as possible?" "Total examination?"

Now, a question from the nurse: "Do you have a toothbrush and toothpaste?"

"Umm, sure, yes. Not here though."

"Are your teeth now clean?"

"Oh, well, I haven't cleaned them since lunch." I gesture outside, a reference to our shared knowledge that I have just eaten lunch somewhere nearby, as per my instructions. I originally arrived two hours earlier, and they were closed for lunch, which is common. They asked, "Have you eaten lunch?" I said, "I have not." "Why don't you go eat lunch and come back?" they recommended.

They guide me over to a sink and give me a toothbrush. White rocks fill the bottom of the sink. I brush thoroughly and discover I am wounded at the gumline of another tooth, my top left second molar. A slight touch to the gums above my two front teeth causes blood to stream downward.

I am x-rayed, and I notice the nurse is explaining everything but the dentist remains silent.

As in Japan, space is tight, so I watch a brief teeth cleaning occur beside me, occupying the same dentist.

The attention returns to me. The dentist does speak in English a few times, including, "This tastes bad," before placing something in my mouth and, "This hurts," before jabbing at me. They say there does not appear to be anything wrong, but that stress and brushing incorrectly may have caused the damage. I am skeptical but entertain the nurse's desire to show me how to brush correctly with an oversize pair of teeth. I first demonstrate on the teeth how the bad me touched myself in the wrong way. "It would be terribly silly if this were actually the problem," I think. I still worry. They recommend mouthwash, but I have also read that alcohol may damage the gums. Perhaps my host's insistence that I join him in drinking soju nightly contributed to the problem.

The nurse makes some recommendations for the future, and I explain that I am traveling a lot, so I won't be able to return to my American dentist soon, but that I will certainly come back here if the situation does not start improving soon.

"Are you Jewish?" is her last question.

I laugh and smile, "Yes. I am."

"Aha," she says. "My boyfriend, he looks like you." Her hand moves toward her nose.

And now, a few photos from the cityCollapse )
09 June 2010 @ 12:45 am

(This and the next few upcoming posts were written during the trip.)

I'm moaning and squirming for all of our twenty minute descent. My west coast illness never became too debilitating, so I didn't think to take a decongestant before the flight, and now my left ear is screaming. I keep my jaw dropped to open my ear canal, so I appear in constant shock. After landing, sounds only come from the right side of the world. I stumble into a pharmacy and buy a box labeled "Specialized ear medicine". My reluctant warbling gets the attention of some police officers, and they ask for my passport.

"Do you... speak... Japanese?" one of them asks.

"No," I say. He laughs.

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13 September 2008 @ 07:33 pm

OH GOD oh god they don't even need the rat bodies anymore

06 September 2008 @ 05:38 pm

(Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

I'm standing at the Capitol grounds on Monday, and I'm holding a camera, so my move is to find something interesting happening and take a photo of it. An ice sculpture of the word "Democracy" is melting. I keep trying to take shots, but children get in the way. A professional videographer complains at people blocking his view. I think he means to make a time-lapse video. He eventually gives up. A bloodied American flag moves past me, carried by a man in a green jacket. A woman with media credentials approaches to ask about his message.

"No war but class war!" I march with the socialist crowd and their black and red flags, because I figure if anything is going to happen, it will probably involve these guys. "Solidarity forever, solllidarity foreeever, for the union makes us strong!" Some are wearing gasmasks. Few are carrying signs, and there's one that says, in many colors, "Free Hugs". Cellphones receiving twitter feeds provide a central source for information about events in the area. "I'd like to announce," the man with the megaphone says, "that our comrades have succeeded in smashing the windows on a delegate bus!" Cheers all around.

"Someone's been shot at 6th and Cedar." We correctly assume that message refers to rubber bullets. "Whose war?" "Their war!" "Whose streets?" "Our streets!" Coming up on cops in riot gear blocking the unauthorized routes, we lock arms and pivot around the corner. "Okay, we're going to do it again everybody!" the man with the megaphone says. Everyone laughs. We stop past the corner, letting the march leave us behind. "10, 9, 8..." As with every other chant, I stay silent. It's a long time since I've been comfortable in a crowd of people speaking in unison. "...3, 2, 1, REVOLUTION!" Bandanas and pink dreadlocks charge by.

I'm back at my computer in Minneapolis, watching the live video feeds at The Uptake. I thought nothing would happen Tuesday night, but the impromptu Rage Against the Machine march met up with the Poor People's March, and now they're headed toward the Xcel Center to perform a citizen's arrest on everyone at the RNC. It all ends in teargas, and the videographer is on the run. The riot cop model repeats throughout the dark streets. Small variations appear: riot cop in gas mask; riot cop with rifle; riot cop on horse. Colorful characters converse with my stand-in: a band taking refuge in a music store; a spunky woman dressed in red, white and blue, jumping up and down and saying, "This is how you have to dress if you want to survive a protest!"; sheepish Channel One journalists.


Now I play video from the previous day. Each team stayed within the accepted rules of violence. Black blocs smashed windows at Macy's, on a police car and on that bus. In one incident, an individual bodychecked a police officer to save a friend, successfully, from arrest. Often, people swore at officers. It is rumored that someone threw feces, which were probably gathered from horse droppings. The police pepper sprayed, teargassed, threw explosives, tackled, bloodied, captured, held at gunpoint, and allowed only assemblies that had permits. Though members of the media were arrested, nothing big enough happened to be worth following up on past this weekend. The peaceful attendee count might have hit 10,000. It might not have happened. Too few came into this hurting, and too few came out of it hurt.

(David Joles/Star Tribune)

I've missed everything that happened on Monday and Tuesday, and I feel guilty, so I drive to St. Paul on Wednesday night, hoping to catch the vigil at the jail. Of course, I miss the small post-RATM show riot and teargas cannon equipped ATVs in Minneapolis. I also get the wrong address, so I circle around several blocks, unable to spot the kids but seeing cops everywhere. Every other moving vehicle is a police car, and there's one stationed at every corner. A helicopter flies overhead. On the radio, Rudy Giuliani expresses irritation at how the Democrats never mention 9/11. The crowd must express complete solidarity, so every idea requires validation. The rule is sentence, cheer, sentence, cheer. "Drill, baby, drill!" goes the chorus of children in the Xcel Center.

Back at my computer, I'm as distant from what's happening as I can feel. The Uptake journalists are now in the mayor's office, demanding that police stop arresting members of the media. Riot cops are there to protect the mayor's staff from the journalists, which pisses off The Uptake. "You should be ashamed of yourselves," one yells at a riot cop, "This is not a game, and we expect action from the mayor." 400 people are arrested on Thursday, including 19 journalists.

"Chicka-Chi-KA!" A bearded twenty-something in a white hoodie parades down the sidewalk. Applause breaks out amongst the two dozen people at the St. Paul vigil. It's Friday night, and the man has just been released. A woman with a clipboard approaches to provide legal advice. The grass is strewn with blankets and trash.

As I help set up a banner reading "Free the Political Prisoners", I'm approached by another survivor. "Hey, man, did you just get out?" "No," I mumble. "I was never in."

One man tells his story. He was in a mass arrest the night before, when the police developed the strategy of herding people onto bridges. "When the cop got to me, he said, 'Ugh, you have a baaaag.' Three cops stood around trying to decide what to do with me." Due to the overlapping jurisdictions and rules of the many levels of law enforcement present, bags are sent somewhere different than the contents of people's pockets. It takes hours to process everyone and their belongings. This man was a street medic. He is let out at 4 am without his things, unable to get to his home in Minneapolis. "Yeah, man," another guy says, "We can't get our stuff until Monday. I told her, 'You have my id, my keys, my food stamps. You've got everything I need for survival.'" He thrusts his fingers at his chest.

With a single cheer amongst a chorus of groans, someone lying on the grass wins a board game. I step over an open Boggle tray. "Hi mom," says a man standing beside me, his short dreads flopping over his phone. "Looks like the hostilities are over now. I had fun last night, I guess."
01 September 2008 @ 06:27 pm

Poor, silly girl:

01 September 2008 @ 05:23 pm
I could say I'm happy I headed home early with a sunburn, but I wanted to see this kind of thing firsthand. I should have taken bus and bike and map and subscribed to twitter feeds on my phone. Also, I really should have worn sunscreen.

Explosions in St. Paul:

I'd love to know what the hell those people thought they were doing crossing the street in an intimidating manner. What's the point?

Later, the crew is nearly arrested!: http://qik.com/video/257586
16 June 2008 @ 04:12 am