While my blog will concentrate on destinations and their essence, I will be using this as a personal “soap box” from time to time. And I am disgusted, like most of the civilized world, by today’s ruling of Hong Kong’s Supreme Court that so-called “domestic workers” (i.e. Filipino maids) can never become residents of the country (psuedo-country at best) where they spend the vast majority of their lives slaving away. Any fight by Hong Kong people for their human rights is undermined by their treatment of those who raise their children and cook their food — “Why don’t you love the ones who take care of you?” I remember one maid’s protest sign reading. Filipinas, and increasingly, even more easily exploited Indonesian women, are a colonized people, treated worse by the Chinese than the British ever treated them. I know firsthand about the sexual abuse, long hours, broken contracts, false terminations, loan sharking, years of separation from families, etc., etc. For two years, while I was a reporter for the Asian Wall St. Journal, I infiltrated the maids who took over Central in Hong Kong on their day-off every Sunday and documented with a Handycam their many ways to reclaim their humanity (from religious frenzy to beauty pageants). The 150 hours of video that I recorded are a unique documentation of the culture of poverty and migration and the amazing happiness (“domestics’ bliss”) bred of community. As a writer, I have not had the time or technical knowledge to edit this cinema verite material properly. I am still looking for an eager young filmmaker who might want to take this material and unearth the documentary gold. Anyone reading, please contact….
The world is one big transfer desk. Everyone is trying to make a connection, get somewhere else before this somewhere sinks in. Call this the terminal the ultimate globalized non-place, a destination as instantly expendable as a crumpled boarding pass. Five a.m. in the midst of the desert could be a scene of mysterious beauty, but no one here needs to know that or even give up their state of denial as to which dictatorial state they have set down in. If necessary for those craving old-timey touristic experiences, the world’s tallest building and other spoils of oil wealth can be glimpsed for a split second through the unpleasant haze of an unexpected dawn while entering or exiting jetways. Groggily, whole tribes and nationalities and package tours and sects in starched white turbans stumble through metal detectors, McDonald’s, duty-free hypermarts, cafes savagely overpriced in strange Arabic coinage. Filipino lady barkers, chirpy English-spewing clones employed everywhere, beckon toward sushi and caviar bars, and everyone else plays musical chairs with not enough uncomfortable lobby seats for everywhere to sink into stupor in. The whole world seems jet-lagged, knocked-out, trapped in a festival of discomfort. Lost souls and tour groups snore in unison. Most are Chinese peasants in undertaker suits clutching tickets to plow fields of consumerism. I glance up to notice the victim next to me picking up purse and belt from scanner conveyor belt appears to be Nicole Kidman, identifiable by her purposely mannish designer gear as several personal sycophants hover near least this Hollywood mirage succumbs also to the general ugliness that’s too weary and unoriginal to even be called ugly. Here, if such a word applies, the worst of everything has been conveniently gathered, the worst people, worst ingestibles, worst luxury colognes, worst adverts, worst trips for the worst motives. The prayer rooms look like mirrored Vegas casino adjuncts, the toilets can’t keep up, the smoothies are rough and the minimum wage workers of the world have nothing to lose but their plastic hygienic hand gloves required for falafel wrap wrapping, brick-like frozen croissant reheating. In this meta-monster, they’ve already run ahead of marketing jingles just trotted out and run out of gates. The busses to parked planes take half an hour or more but no one complains about anything that can get them out of Emirateland as rapidly as inhumanly possible.
“Googling” myself one day as writers seeking affirmation of their existence are sometimes wont to do, I was led to a travel blog where the reference to me read something like this: “Too bad travel writing just isn’t what it used to be, since many of the best practitioners, like John Krich, are no longer writing anymore….”
Reports of my literary demise are, as the saying goes, greatly exaggerated. I have perhaps been sidelined too long into journalism and food writing, dropped from U.S. sight during a decade in Asia. I am always involved in some attempt of a more literary nature. But if I have not produced more round-the-world journeys to go with two prior ones published, that’s mostly because, alas, no patron has stepped forward to pay my way.
Still, if I am in a slightly better mood regarding my personal life, I remain in a “bad mood,” – really that shock of disappointment and disillusionment which regularly accompanies landing in almost any location one has dared to wish to visit. If anything, I’ve been made even more grumpy by age and new levels of madness and corruption when it comes to getting caught in the act of “seeing the world” — or more likely glimpsing a bit of ourselves as we do it.
So in order to announce my ongoing existence and uniquely caustic voice to the online generation, I am offering a blog that can serve as a sort of autobiography disguised as guidebook. Or vice versa.
Somehow, my life has been measured out in arrivals, a keen awareness of place and the place where I may fit or not fit into some larger geo-political scheme. Therefore, most of the entries here will be prose evocations of one singular spot on the world map. In each, I hope to get to some essence of how a city or culture looked to me and meant to me at the time I encountered it.
Call these jottings from decades on the road. Post cards from hell. My own personal list of the 1001 Places to Avoid, and Get Lost In, Before One Dies… I hope they will stir memories and imaginations and a lively debate amongst anyone who happens to wander by this site.
Some of these musings on mega-cities and meta-realities will track my current circumstances and movements around the globe’s circumfrence. Others will be plucked from a lifetime’s backlog of greatest travel hits. In either case, I hope this blog can be more than the usual navel-gazing, the incessantly inane glorification of the petty happenings of daily life. Why should the world getting smaller shrink our fields of vision as well?
Along the way, I plan to interrupt my private itinerary with comments of topical events and controversies, brief essays or bits of philosophizing on all the many clashes and contradictions of cross-culture explorations. Looks for references to my top inspirations, asides, epiphanies, too. Call these my excess verbiage on all the excess baggage we carry (personal or political).
I will also offer helpful hints and favorite tips on the best and worst ways to eat, drink, bed down, hitch a ride, etc I trust there will be a number of discoveries stumbled upon and ready to share.
A final warning: this blog contains attempted literary content and may cause brief episodes of indigestion for those accustomed to the glib shorthand of Internetspeak. I am cursed to be a writer first – with an allegiance to the poetic rhythm of words — a traveler/blogger/guide second.
So bear with me, cyber-friends. Stretch those attention spans. The destinations in a life beckon…