Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Festival of Random

Long Live Yugoland!


This article tells you everything you ever needed to know about the Balkans.

But it did get me thinking. Every retro nation should be an amusement park! Wouldn't you visit Upper Volta Land, or Ottoman Empire World? Ceylonville? Siamtown? Soviet Unionville?

Sarajevo has its own low-rent international amusement park. We go there to shop. The military base just outside of town has a small PX (or commissary) from different NATO countries. The American PX (AmericaWorld) is the largest and tackiest, and sells Tommy Hilfiger clothing, convenience foods, and Burger King. NorwayLand sells outdoor equipment at outrageous prices. Franceland has wine, cheese and silk scarves. Italyland has pasta. GermanyWorld is the most disturbing: it's full of beer and fetish porn.

Maybe boiling a country down to its most basic aspects is a bad idea. After all, Yugoland has been described as "some dirt and a hill." And I'm sure Germany has made more contributions to society than fetish porn and beer. Sometimes a little complexity goes a long way.

However, I still want to pay $3 and become a citizen of Yugoland. Maybe they would even give me a passport. It would totally nuke my security clearance, but the reaction would almost be worth it.

Me: "Well, I'm a tri-national...US, Australia....and Yugoland!"
Investigator: "Yes, Mrs. Johnson." (backs away slowly)

Budapest Notes

Ever road tripped in Europe? Matt and I drove to Budapest over the long weekend. With a decent map and good driving, you can get there in 8 or 9 hours (it took us more than 12).

Budapest was lovely. It offered everything we needed to see: museums, cathedrals, castles, and commerce. After living in a country with a 40% unemployment rate, it was nice to be somewhere with actual stores...that had actual things to buy! And people buying stuff!

It also offered the best eavesdropping ever. It being August, Budapest was overrun with backpackers and tourists. This was an unusual experience after Bogota and Sarajevo, which receive a combined 17 or so tourists a year. I especially enjoyed the following backpacker exchange:

British Backpack Dude: "I must say Budapest is more cosmopolitan than Praaaague."
American Backpack Kid: "I've heard Tallinn is really cool. It's in, like, Estonia."
British Backpack Dude: "The beaches in Tanzania are really awesome, but there's just too many Americans there."

I just love the fact that nothing they said had any relation to what the other person said. It was just a game of "I'll see you Prague, and raise you Estonia!" "Yeah, well, Estonia sucks. Tanzania, dammit!" Sigh. Silly backpackers. The Middle American Jet Set, Gap Year and all those 19-year-olds with $5,000 limit credit cards will be the death of us all. It's a great privilege to travel, and should count for more than bragging rights.

Finally, remember how I couldn't figure out my washer settings (Celsius Cauliflower, Santa Hat, and so forth)? Well, I think those same artists create international road signs. Matt and I even made a game of trying to guess what all the road signs were. Exploding Schools Ahead, Beware of Amish, 2000 Deer Ahead, No Gay Cars Allowed, Thar Be Giants, and Passengers Must Shovel Roadway. Some were disturbing: Flat Top Breasts Ahead, and Penis Caught in Door come to mind.

One Man With a Dream, a Trowel and a Bucket Can Change the World

I'm scheduled to leave Sarajevo on September 2 and fly to DC for a work conference. However, I just heard today that Sarajevo's airport will be closed September 2-9. I haven't heard why yet. Maybe repairs. Eggroll and I decided that one guy with a bucket and a trowel will be repaving the runway. He'll also be taking frequent coffee breaks.

The upshot of all this is that I might have to leave Sarajevo on September 1. My other option is slightly less appealing: a six-hour bus ride to Tuzla. Because nothing is better than a long bus ride in August, with creaky seats and bumpy roads.

So, as it stands now, I'm in DC from September 2-18, but that will probably change at least once.

1 comment:

Cave-Woman said...

This is so funny! And so true----I've overheard a conversation or so like that of the backpackers---and am ashamed to admit, participated in one myself. I think it is in part, bragging---but also I think it's the common bond of traveling that gets them going.

Great blog.