Array ( [total] => 4 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5656] => Array ( [iID] => 5656 [tTitle] => Phoenicians in Brazil [tSlug] => phoenicians-in-brazil [iTime] => 1491084000 [iUpdate] => 1491416152 [tDescription] => There now is no doubt that Vikings visited North America from around the year 1000 onwards. Based on the Sagas of Icelanders, prose narratives which were supposedly based on historical events that would have taken place in and around Iceland in the 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, historians had speculated about Vikings visiting North America for a long time. However, actual evidence only emerged from the 1960s onwards when, for the first time, a Norse settlement was found and excavated at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, in Canada. Still only speculation is that ancient Romans or Phoenicians, originally from the Levant, the eastern Mediterranean, perhaps also visited the Americas, as much as 2000 years ago, or more. Occasionally suggestive evidence crops up supporting this claim. Artefacts were found off the Canadian coast a few years ago, while a seemingly Roman terracotta head was found in Mexico in the 1930s. The terracotta head, all agree, is pre-Colombian, though it’s of course not obvious how it might have come to Mexico. Here’s an article with photos. Then, entering the realm of much more speculative history, the giant Olmec heads, dating back to at least 900BC, to some historians suggest that black Africans, or Egyptians, visited the Americas in ancient times, while even more fringe suggestions include Chinese and Nordic connections, the latter finding support with everyone’s favourite cross-ocean sailor, Thor Heyerdahl. Meanwhile, circumstantial evidence for Polynesian contact with the Americas in pre-Columbian times has mounted to the extent it’s now nearly undeniable, with evidence of East Asian contact being more shaky, yet not impossible. Suggestions of old world contacts with the Americas keep on cropping up and are tantalisingly suggestive. Scholars Ivan van Sertima and Gaoussou Diawara proposed some 20 years ago that a Malian king crossed the Atlantic to Brazil, supposedly arriving in Pernambuco, with that name, they claimed, possibly having been derived from the Mande name for the rich gold fields that accounted for much of the wealth of the Mali Empire, "Boure Bambouk", though the accepted etymological source is the Tupi para-nã (wide river) + mbuka (hollow or broken), apparantly referring to the coastal reefs. Beyond a doubt, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks all visited the Canaries, as early as 2500 years ago, but their is no archeological indication they also visited the Azores, though it’s possible they did and plausible they could have. In De Mirabilibus Auscultationibus, attributed to Aristotle, the author talks about an island in the Atlantic that appears to represent the Americas and was visited by the Carthaginians (in section 84 in the link above). And, a more exotic reading of Diodorus could also suggest Carthaginians having had access to the Americas. More tangible, Guanabara Bay in Rio has given up a bunch of what appear to be Roman amphora from a shipwreck. One theory suggests these might have come from a Roman vessel being blown off-course, though ending up inside the bay purely by accident seems rather unlikely, if not practically impossible. And then there are the Phoenician inscriptions in the Americas. Austin Whittall, several years ago, collected an excellent list of suggestive evidence of Phoenicians in the Americas and looked at hem with a critical eye. A recurring motif, found across southern South America, is what appears to be the letter yaz in Tifinagh, a writing system for Berber languages. The yaz is also the central symbol of the Berber flag, with the vast majority of present-day Berbers being based in Algeria and Morocco, roughly the lands of the Carthaginians, descendants of the Phoenicians. The yaz symbolizes the "free man", which is the meaning of the Berber word amazigh, the Berbers' own name for themselves. On the Berber flag, the yaz is in red, considered the colour of life. More on that later. Whittall collected several examples of the yaz in the wild, here. The connection is intriguing, but, besides that the yaz also looks like a stylised lizard, this could simply be a false cognate, like that the word for 'dog' in the Mbabaram language is 'dog', even though Mbabaram and English has no connection whatsoever. The one inscription that you can fairly easily check out yourself is in Rio de Janeiro, on the side of the top of one of the mountains on the city’s shore. The mountain, Pedra da Gávea, comes in at almost 850 meters high. Under Brazil’s first emperor, Pedro I, two scientists undertook the first official study of the structure, who pointed out that it was certainly possible the inscription was a chance occurrence, which is the generally accepted theory, today, but that another possibility was that the inscription was man-made, possibly Phoenician. About a century later, in the 1930s, a Brazilian self-made man, Bernardo de Azevedo da Siva Ramos, presented a Phoenician translation: "Tyre, Phoenicia, Badezir, Firstborn of Jethbaal", which would have referred to actual historical Phoenician rulers Badezir and Jethbaal. Later, an Argentine archeologist actually translated the inscriptions as Nordic runes into "Next to this rock, numerous oak planks for ships are deposited on the beaches of sand". Tantalising, but this seems to me a completely pointless notification in a very hard to reach place. The inscriptions look more runic than Hebrew, a derivative of Phoenician, and if you look at da Silva Ramos' text and translation, it’s rather mind boggling how he managed the translation. A more salient suggestion, proposed more recently, was that the then-emperor might have toyed with the idea of matching Brazil’s past, via an ethnocultural connection, to the old world. But, geologists in 2000, visiting the site, concluded the inscriptions were vertical grooves worn into less resistant parts of the stone. There’s another salient point: Phoenicians would not have called themselves 'Phoenician', as this was the name the Greeks used for them. Phoenicians called themselves Canaanites. The inscription is near the top of the mountain, and, though, under good weather conditions, it’s quite easy to suspect the markings to be artificial in origin, when looking at them from the beach, it’s not too likely to spot them in the first place, as there are few locations from where they are easily seen. Additionally, it’s practically impossible to actually visit the markings themselves; you can get close to them, directly underneath or above them, but you’d have to rappel to actually see them up close. But wait, there's more On the same rock, there’s also a hint of a face distinguishable, close to the potential inscription. But, if man-made, the location is so senseless, and the stylisation so suggestive, there’s, now, no one who does not believe this is an example of pareidolia. Whittal mentions another possible Phoenician inscription on an island in the south of Brazil. But, using Google Maps to check out the island Whittal suggests is the island in question, there does not seem to be a match. He also mentions that Bernardo de Azevedo da Siva Ramos, the person who translated the inscription in Gávea, wrote up two whole volumes with names of Brazilian natural features that would have derived from Semitic originals, supposedly being named by the same visiting Phoenicians. A visit On the weekend, Natalia and I went to visit Mirante das Canoas, a spot up in the mountains hugging the Rio coastline, from which you would have the best view of the inscriptions, though still some 2km away, but with a direct line of sight. We were unlucky, low hanging clouds were providing rain throughout the morning. But later, on the beach, with clear blue skies, we managed to get a good view. The markings definitely look artificial, though similar markings, lower down the same rock, appear wholly natural. Yet, of course, just because these markings might be natural, it’s not proof Phoenicians did not visit the Americas. And, on the opposite side of the same rock, also near the top, there are markings that also hint at them being a man-made inscription. Or the result of the same natural erosion. Epilogue One interesting side note is that Brazil’s name originates from the Brazil tree, which produces a strong red die. The Brazilian tree, a relative of an Asian variant, was known, before Columbus, as lignum brasilium, brazilwood. Phoenicia, the Greek term used to describe the people, possibly derives from ‘land of the purple’, which refers to the unique colour, Tyrian Purple, which Phoenicians sold to the Greek and Roman elites. Tyrian purple was also known as Tyrian Red, thus the first Mediterraneans, or Europeans, to potentially have discovered Brazil, were known for their red paints, red being the colour of life for the Berber people, descendants of peoples living on the north African coast, exactly where the Carthaginians, themselves descendants of Phoenicians, were based in Roman times, whose most important symbol is the yaz, which can be easily found in the south of South America, on the continent where the most prominent country is named after the tree that provides a distinct red colour used in paints. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2764 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1517 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 11 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -22.9984 [fLongitude] => -43.2848 [tLocation] => Pedra da G├ívea [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20170402 ) [4816] => Array ( [iID] => 4816 [tTitle] => Eurovision Song Contest 2010 [tSlug] => eurovision-song-contest-2010 [iTime] => 1275170400 [iUpdate] => 1275170400 [tDescription] => Easily the most entertaining Eurovision I've ever seen with a host of excellent singles. I seriously enjoyed Lena's winning single. Sure, she's very cute (and only 19), but it was also a very cute song. But hers wasn't the only one. The caucasian countries' entries I enjoyed, as I did Iceland's and a few others. But what was it with Denmark scoring so well? It was one of the poorer performances. Lena, after partaking in the national songcontest is rising quickly to stardom. She had three entries in the national final and set a record in her home country by debuting all three songs in the top five of the German singles chart. "Satellite", the song with which she won Eurovision, debuted at number one in Germany, and has been certified triple gold since. Interestingly, she is the granddaughter of the West German ambassador to the Soviet Union in Moscow for most of the 1980s. This month, Meyer-Landrut released her first album, My Cassette Player, which debuted at number one in the German albums chart. Talk about an impressive start. Also, how could both France and the UK send in such crappy submissions? How reasonable is it that they are automatically selected for next year's event? And why did Ireland score so badly? Sure, this Niamh wasn't the looker many other countries sent in, but it was a rather enjoyable performance. Several Dutchies told me the entry from the Netherlands was horrible. Instead, it was hilarious. The writer, Pierre Kartner, seems to have deployed quite a bit of tongue in cheekness. It's a pity they didn't make it to the final. Impressively, Father Abraham, which is his stage name, has written no less than 1600 songs. Similarly, my favorite entry of them all was Lithuania. We watched streaming video from the Eurovision website and it's quite amazing that, here in Dar, using publicly accessible (but not free) wifi hotspots, the connection was good enough for long enough for us to get our fix. Lithuania didn't make it to the finals, but we saw half the second semi final, in which Lithuania was the first to go on stage. Indeed, Lithuania also didn't make it to the finals. But the main reason why this was the best Eurovision ever was the way in which the producers integrated events and families from around Europe. Many european cities saw outdoor showings of the event to which, during the show, occasionally the focus switched. But the best were families from all over Europe who were plugged in through webcam. Then, during the break between performances and the end of the vote, a choreographed song saw everyone, a bunch of people at the venue, those watching at these outdoor events and the families with their webcams, break out in synchronized dancing. Hilarious and fantastic! [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3652 [iClicks] => 758 [iRating] => 4 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 987 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461975863 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -6.77171 [fLongitude] => 39.2702 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20100530 ) [591] => Array ( [iID] => 591 [tTitle] => Just like in the movies [tSlug] => just-like-in-the-movies [iTime] => 979426800 [iUpdate] => 979426800 [tDescription] => To walk through Reykjavik is as if walking through a parallel universe, surreal. Everything is exactly like home, the Netherlands, but not quite. The feeling being emphasized by the fact that I arrived during dusk and took a small tour of the city in the evening. Reykjavik When landing, the buildings welcoming us more resembled pictures from the movie 'Ice Station Zebra' then an international airport. Additionally, when flying low past Iceland's coast, the only thing to see was a moonlike landscape, covered in snow. Driving from the airport to the city center, I was constantly reminded of Murmansk, when I was there in the summer of 1999. The difference being that, here, the scenery was even more gloomy and the buildings were even more grey. The center of Murmansk, typically Scandinavian, is filled with pastel-colored houses. Many are not in good shape, but they are still pleasant to look at. The buildings of Reykjavik are just plain grey. However, it would probably have made a difference if I would have arrived during the day, in stead of in the evening. Why did the city seem surrealistic? Reykjavik is no larger than the city of Albany, NY, but not only is the capital of a country, it also houses more than half of all people in Iceland. This also means that, when you do not live in Reykjavik, chances are your next door neighbor is living 10miles away. The language, Icelandic, is a Germanic language, like Dutch or German, but more resembles the ancient Norse language of a thousand years ago. One of the results is that in Icelandic, there are a number of letters that only occur in the Icelandic language. So when you try to read street signs you think you can, at least, read what it says. But time and again it turns out that you don't even know how to spell several of the letters in the words you are trying to say. And you can pay with credit card everywhere. Really everywhere. When I arrived, I was scared for a minute (just after a dog sniffed my luggage at customs) that I wouldn't be able to get local currency to pay for my bus ride in to town. Not a luxury, since the Reykjavik city center is located about 50km from the airport. However, although I was carrying not one dollar or Icelandic Kroner, the airport not only had an ATM, I could also purchase my bus ticket by credit card. And not just my bus tickets. The hostel I could pay with my credit card, as the groceries at the supermarket, bakery or butcher, any drink in any cafe and the hot dogs at the street-corner hotdog vendors. Icelandic prices are absurd. Much too high for comfort. Therefore, being able to pay with credit card is not only convenient, but also practical. The more you pay with plastic, the less you are aware of the prices you are paying. But what is expensive? Single fare airport-city center at $12, a Big Mac menu also for $12. One cup of tea in a cafe, $4. A simple pasta dish at a simple restaurant, just about $22. A Norwegian guy I had a short conversation with told me he was being paid in Norway, in Norwegian Kroner, but was living in Iceland. Norway is expensive, but this guy was complaining about Iceland's high prices. Contrast A week earlier, when I was still in Portugal, everything was much, much cheaper. In fact, the relative difference between Dutch and Portuguese prices is about the same as the relative difference between Icelandic and Dutch prices. So where Holland is quite expensive for people from Portugal, Iceland must be way out of their league! No wonder Bjork decided to move to London. London may be expensive for me, for her, it's a bargain. The city is supposedly the most swinging Scandinavian city. The city is boring. Within the city limits, there is, count 'em, one building worth taking a picture of; a church, shaped in the form of a mountain of lava. Besides that, there are only a couple of statues, some lawns and one or two small churches. On the town square, you can easily throw a brick from one corner to the opposite corner. It's that small! In summer, the city is supposed to be more lively. For one, for a relative small amount by Icelandic standards, you can get an on-and-off bus ticket that takes you on a tour around the island. The tourist attractions should also be magnificent in summer. And, of course, really everyone speaks English, something that is emphasized by the fact that the supermarkets are drowning in British produce. For the two days I was going to be there, I just had to do at least one excursion. There were two interesting ones, that were also just a little bit payable, meaning under $75. One would take me to the 'Blue Lagoon", a hot water outside pool, fed by surplus cooling water from a local power plant. The water supposedly possesses healing powers. The second trip takes you along the 'Golden circle', showing you a dead volcano, the location of the old Icelandic parliament, Geysir, the mother of all geysers and more. I decided to take the second tour. A tour Shortly after Ingolfr Arnarson moved to the island, he called his newfoundland 'Iceland', basically to scare away potential visitors from settling, whereas in summer, it can get as hot as 30degrees Celsius. He seems to have been reasonably successful with this approach, since now less then 300.000 people live in Iceland. In the year 1900 Reykjavik had less then 500 people living there. Funnily enough, when Erik the Red got banned from both Norway and Iceland and moved to what is now Greenland, he called it Greenland just to more easily convince people to settle there. Needless to say, with Greenland's current 60.000 people, he has been a bit less successful in his set up. The trip I eventually did, going along the Golden circle was expensive but worth it. The 350km through the uninhabitable Icelandic landscape alone was already quite impressive. The massive cascades, to some more beautiful than the Niagara were simply stunning. Being able to stand on both the American and European tectonic plates was a blast and watching Geysir sprout water was highly entertaining. In the evening, when back in Reykjavik, the day was topped off by two long green snakes of Northern light hanging in the night sky. Two girls on the tour had seen the Northern Light the previous evening, after driving to some mountain top, two hours away. Last year, Iceland got 300.000 tourists. It is expected that, by 2010, the number will have reached one million. Remarkable, since all the foreigners I met in Iceland were only taking advantage of a stopover they had, when flying between the US and Europe. As were the other twelve passengers on today's tour. The unlucky number of 13 passengers not having a negative result on the tour itself: One of the Scottish passengers warned the driver when a car, right in front of us, without warning decided to stop in the middle of the road. We pretty narrowly escaped from a nasty accident. Almost no-one, including the driver was strapped in. The unbelievably big apple Taking the bus, from Reykjavik to the airport, got me talking to a constantly babbling Bostonian woman with facial hair enough to make braids with. On the plane, an Italian guy, studying in New York kept on talking about why Italy was better than the US and was still talking to me when I woke up. Already before landing on JFK airport in New York City, the smile on my face was taking on epic proportions. Flying towards JFK took us over the whole length of Long Island, on a relatively low altitude. The sight, the island covered in lights from one side to the other, was magnificent. My heart just stopped short from throbbing in my throat, but it was exciting! After seeing hundreds, if not thousands, of movies on the US and New York, this was finally going to be the first time I was actually going to be in the US of A. After visiting almost all European countries, generally after reading quite a bit about them and generally having a favorable attitude towards them, I realized that I actually did not have a very favorable attitude towards the USA. I don't know if this was because, for a large part, my image of the US had been formed by movies, the everyday news and American people I had met over the course of my life, but the feeling was there. And now it was just about to happen. I was going to come ashore in the country with which you're confronted from the day you are born, like it or not. The country whose slang creeps in to your English. The apex of all countries, truly the country of endless opportunity. The country were modern history, present and future come together in one mix of energy that, until today, I had only seen from afar. I was going to land in the Capital of the World! Surprise But what a less than regular experience it was going to be. The airport terminal was older then the one at the international airport of Moscow, employees were trying to direct the flow of people more strictly than in any Scandinavian country and a large part of the American people I encountered seemed either fat or sick. Or both. Something that I hadn't expected was my smooth flow through customs and immigrations. With my Iranian name, my Dutch passport and the face of a terrorist, something that I am not really used to. And I have to admit that the first real contact I had with a local was pretty good too. This American girl that also tried to get from the airport to Manhattan, where I had made reservations at a hostel, not only was very interesting to talk to, but also really listened to what I had to say. Although, eventually, she did fall asleep on my shoulder, she did not fit the classical American stereotype at all. Although, later in the week, this stereotype of the fat American who can only talk without saying anything did turn out to be reasonably correct. It is remarkable to see how much, at least as far as I can see, Moscow and New York resemble each other. The 'seven sisters' from Moscow, seven gothic skyscrapers scattered around town, with an eigth stranded in Warsaw, without a problem could grace the New York skyline without falling out of step. Sure, the suburbs of Moscow are less wel kept than those of New York, but surely, they are also safer. In true Babak-fashion did I race around town the first two days, to see as much of the city as possible. Strangely enough, already after two days had I seen most of the important sites in New York. One of two American girls that staid in the same hostel in Reykjavik asked me a couple of times what I was going to see in New York. After I read up on what there actually is to see, I told her where I was going to go. "I'm going to see the basic stuff, I guess", I said. She replied: "The basic stuff is all there is, really." Right. My first view of the Statue of Liberty was from the top of the Twin Towers of the WTC. And what a meazly little statuette it is! 'Lady Liberty' was nothing but a small pin sticking out above the water at the under belly of Manhattan. Untill then, I was in doubt whether to visit her or not, but now, in addition to the fact that having to wait several hours to be allowed to get a ticket is no exception, I decided not to dive into this woman. You would almost think that the $100million that was spent in the 80s to renovate the statue was a waste of money. Prices in New York aren't much lower as compared to Iceland. At Starbucks, you can easily spend $5 on a coffee, but at the same time you can get up to more than 3hours of websurfing for $1 at the EasyEverything on 42nd street. The totally skewed price scale is, at least for me, as incomprehensible as in Eastern Europe. Very cheap hardware and books, but almost unpayable housing and groceries. I already mentioned earlier how easy it is to pay with credit card in Iceland. New York is not much different. Prices are high and many places, although no hot dog stands, accept plastic. I truly believe that this makes it easier to charge people higher prices, since people less easily realize how much they are charged. Then you have a second thing, where you are almost never sure how much you are paying until you have paid. Because in some places sales tax is included and in some places it isn't, it's always very difficult to tell whether you will have enough cash to pay for what you want. And then you sometimes also have to deal with tipping. The amount you tip, generally somewhere between 10% and 20% is up to you. The amount of sales tax isn't. Although it's totally unclear to me how it is calculated. When you buy $1 worth at EasyEverything, you have to pay $1.10. If you want $5 worth, you pay $5.40. Here and there On my first day in New York, I went to the NYSE, the New York Stock Exchange, and arrived just in time to hear the opening bell ring. According to the tour guide, one of the two most seen moments on television. The other is the ringing of the closing bell. Actually watching the people move on the trading floor made me realize why casinos are so very popular. In effect, they are no more than a simplified version of the stock exchange. And I also went to Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, giving me really an unsurpassed view from the 'roof of the world'. Although, when I went to the Empire State Building in the evening, the view at night was even better. If you ever wandered, the long antenna on the top of the building was made for Blimps to 'land'. Quite a number of museums in New York are also very worthwhile visiting. Sadly, they had closed one floor of the 'MoMA', the Museum of Modern Art. TheMetropolitan museum of art, the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Public Libary are really wonder full to visit. The Guggenheim museum has a fantastic building, but the exposition on Armani clothing was a bit of a bummer, although they had great Jazz on Saturday. And the five minute show in the Museum of Natural history was, unfortunately enough, presented by Jodie Foster. As far as typically American food goes, the street corner hot dog was much better as I anticipated, but the more than a foot long pastrami sandwich was a bit too much. The thin was filled with, at least that was what it seemed like, a pound of roast beef! Observing The hostel where I was staying was a bit of a dump, although I should have guessed that from its $20 price tag. By far, this hostel on W 88th street easily was the worst hostel I have ever encountered. You had to share one bathroom with 15 others, whom with you also shared a room. You weren't allowed to take your bag up to your room and the drizzle that was the shower only ran on one temperature, beyond your control. Besides one girl from New Zealand, staff was almost rude. No wonder this hotel focussed on Foreign people below 30. If you ever had been there once, you would never return. After my first night I searched a bit for other hostels in the area, but the cheapest alternative I came up with would have costed an interesting $35 per night. Just a little bit above my budget. One thing that is really fun to do in New York is just to walk around. It is amazing to see how much people look like as if they just walked right of a movie. Not that they resemble actors, it's more like they resemble roles that actors played. One of the receptionists from the hostel is Rollergirl from Boogie Nights; the man sitting next to me in a Chinese take away was Richard Attenborough from Miracle on 31st street; A neighbor of the hostel is Tom Hanks from Philadelphia and I bought a compact flash card reader at CompUSA from Lester Burnham from American Beauty. You could play a game just guessing who is which character from what movie. The second thing is that people talk as if they are still right inside a movie. Every conversation seems to be straight from a movie. People also need to be very expressive, move a lot with their hands, make emotional faces, and so on. On Friday night I literally walked into a movie. I was looking for a bar where they would have some stand up comedians but in one back room of some bar, seating about 50, a video projector showed a movie of two talking old guys, sitting on some bench, somewhere in New York city. After each short, which lasted 10 to 15 minutes, the two guys from the movie, who were also part of the audience, would comment on what we just had seen on the screen. Both them speaking on the screen and in the room was totally inaudible. I obligingly laughed when the crowd laughed. Short observations According to the Lonely Planet, about 15% of population of New York is black. Remarkably, that is absolutely not what you would suspect when walking around town, taking the subway or entering any store. Based on these places, you would think a more accurate assumption would be somewhere between 50% and 90%. Where are all the whites? I walked, for half an hour or so, through a part of Harlem, on my way to Yankee stadium and the streets looked exactly like in the movies. The poor kids dressed in caps, hat, sports clothes, sneakers, ghetto blaster were everywhere, making their moves. To fit in as much as possible, I tried to be as cool as I could. Yankee stadium, according to some the most famous arena after the colosseum in Rome, is a real cow. Just like Flushing Meadows, it's nothing but a grey slab of concrete in the middle of nowhere. Close to Harlem, some more interesting sights are a very large gothic cathedral, Colombia university and America's biggest mausoleum. The mausoleum, of course, is for some long forgotten war hero and alive with almost irritating patriotism. When I returned from Yankee stadium, I was waiting at one of the metro stops. A mother with two kids came and sat next to me. One of the two kids, a boy of about 8 years, sat right next to me and immediately asked where I was from. At first, I figured the little fellow had a very good nose for tourists, but only later did I understand that what he meant was, where I was from before I lived in New York. Since his nephew was getting French in school, he assumed I must have been French too and not, like him, Colombian. The kid had come to the US three years ago, after his father had came here earlier and was now working in Boston, after having started in New York. When I mentioned I was going to Massachusetts the next day, the guy almost radiated when it became clear that that was the same state as where Boston was. It was funny to see how much the little guy had to tell, each time, when struggling with his English, rubbing his nose with his left index finger, as if to magically rub the words to the surface, under the chanting of the magic words 'ehm... ehm...'. Something that really surprised me was the water level in American toilets. The first time I noticed this, I figured the toilet I wanted to use must have been broken, but when I noticed all toilets suffered the same fate I understood this was standard practice. The only reason for this that I could think of, is that this way, a cleaning lady does not have to scrub shit of the inside from a toilet bowl. Still, it is not very convenient that, if you don't watch out when you shit, the water jumps up, splashing at your ass and, what is even worse, your dick hangs in the water. I was unable to verify if toilets in places more frequented by blacks have a lower water level. To take the train to Albany, NY, from where I would be picked up to go to North Adams, the location of the Geekcorps office, I had to get a ticket from Penn Station. I went there in the afternoon to buy my ticket, to make sure I would have no problem getting there in time in the evening. When I entered the train station, it felt like walking into either 1984 or THX 1183. Subtly hidden microphones were constantly blurting out messages for the general public: "Please, help us recycle waste.", "We are constantly on the lookout for...", "If you would like..." It was almost scary, since it suggested a totalitarian state, trying to keep everything under control. However, when I tried to go to the public bathroom at Penn Station, an older man entering one of the stalls just in front of me started making heavy vomiting noises, without anyone seeming to notice. I decided to try my luck elsewhere. Something that positively surprised me was the physical size of Americans. Sure, Americans are fat, but they were a lot less fat as to what I expected. Not once did I encounter anyone in the subway, who needed three seats to sit down. It seems like fifty years of thigh master is finally paying off. One thing that is nice, though, is the large number of performing artists hanging around in the subway stations. Some are really, really good. I bumped into an Italian singer and a Middle Eastern boy playing the xylophone. Both were very good, but the boy was much more, simply magnificent. He played like a madman, but with so much feeling it was unbelievable. You can listen to recordings from both artists. Although Americans are much less fat than I expected, they are highly individualistic, superficial, noisy and emotional. And most look like they're sick. Almost half of all Americans in New York wears a walk man, excluding themselves from the outside world. This not only goes for youngsters, but also for older people. And then, everyone is also moving and swinging to the silent noise coming from their head phones, totally oblivious from what's going on around them. And Americans keep on talking, without saying anything or listening. I talked to several people while in New York, but I only had conversations with foreigners. The girl I talked with just after arriving in New York was from Australia. It also came almost as a shock to me that 'service' was far more difficult to find as expected. This country that, as I assumed, was almost all about service, is a mess in that sense. Most shopkeepers are just plain rude. When I talked to an English couple at a jazz performance at the Guggenheim, we concluded that currently Western Europe has a clear edge over the US. Going North And then it became sunday evening, time to go on. At Penn station, it wasn't very difficult to find my fellow geeks, although in stead of three, we turned out to be four. Myself, Thomas from Denmark, Tim, an American living in Amsterdam and Jean from Oregon. Getting to know each other went reasonably smoothly and it soon became clear that the group was going to consist of like minded people. Never a bad thing. From Albany, we were driving to North Adams by Stephany, where we met the other volunteers, Francois from France, living in Louisiana, Jean-Luc the Canadian, Peter from Vermont and Jason from New York. Let the training begin. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3075 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 571 [iOldID] => 963 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462036922 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 48 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 64.1465 [fLongitude] => -21.8746 [tLocation] => Youth hostel [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20010114 ) [590] => Array ( [iID] => 590 [tTitle] => The rain in Spain... [tSlug] => the-rain-in-spain [iTime] => 978822000 [iUpdate] => 978822000 [tDescription] => The almost obligatory new year's sea dive, on which Vinca and I also had agreed, eventually was only done by Irene en Nico. During the night a really terrible storm had set in, where Vinca and I continuously wandered when exactly the windows would finally come down from their sockets, and because of that we had decided not to dive. Although it turned out that, the next day, not only was the storm not as strong as it had been during the night, the wind was also a warm wind. Locals, that is, Portuguese people, seem to celebrate new year inside. The streets where exceptionally empty, although many Portuguese had come from around Monte Gordo to spend the weekend at one of the parties the hotels were giving. This mainly meant eating till after 12 and then dancing, mostly to classical music. After witnessing Nico and Irene's morning dive, Vinca and I went to the little town of Tavira, a quaint little town where we spent some time drinking espresso in a nice little tavern. You can listen to what is was like there. Giso and Jaap staid in bed, after a night of heavy drinking in the 'NOX'. Vroom vroom Already before we left, we figured it would make sense if we would rent a car and drive around the Algarve a bit. We expected Monte Gordo to be less than very spectacular. Something that was also confirmed by a group of travelers that was in the same van with us, being picked up at the airport after arrival. They had rented a car. However, we were with a total of six people. Not amount that easily fits in one car. At first, to keep the price down, we considered renting a Fiat Palio. A reasonably spacious car, however not built to hold 4 people in the back. Additionally, I had had a quite interesting adventure with a Fiat Palio a couple of years ago, where the window next to the passengers seat almost without warning fell off the car. While driving. A Palio it was not going to be. A second option was a very expensive mini van. In stead we opted for twice the smallest car possible, a Fiat Punto. Not only turned this car to be reasonably cheap, just about $20 per person, excluding gas for a total of three days. It also is a very nice car to drive. And we now had the opportunity to split the group in two, if the need would arise. Sevilla Tuesday we went for Sevilla. The double 'l' you pronounce as a 'j', so when Nico, when later ordering a piece of chicken in some restaurant ordered a 'pollo' (with the double 'l', he not only received the chicken, but you could hear staff making fun of him in the back of the restaurant. Unfortunately, there is no highway between the Spanish-Portuguese border and Huelva, a Spanish town, some 80km after the border and some 70km from Sevilla. In stead you get a very busy secondary road, which resulted in the trip to Sevilla taking much longer than planned. The very reason why Vinca and I later in the week decided we would not go to Cordoba, another Spanish town, even further away than Sevilla. We still, however, could consider us lucky, that the very nasty looking Guarda Civil at the border didn't stop our car at seeing my terrorist-like face. The host of EXPO92 has two must-sees within it's city borders. The first is the Gothic cathedral, according to the Guiness book of records the largest in the world. Which is something interesting altogether, since later, in New York City, I was to come across another Gothic cathedral that claims to be the largest gothic cathedral in the world and also the largest cathedral in the world after the St. Peter in Rome and some creation in Ivory Coast. Either way, the cathedral is quite a sight and gives you a very nice view of the city of Sevilla. If it's not the biggest, it is still very impressive and also has a very interesting history attached to it. Originally, on the site of the cathedral, there used to stand a mosque, built by the conquering Mores, at the beginning of their conquest on the Iberian peninsula. When, finally after some 500 years, Christians took over from the Mores, they raised the mosque to the ground, except for its minaret, which they used as the bell tower for the newly to be constructed cathedral. Besides the interesting history, the church also probably harbors the remains of Columbus. Probably, since although there is an impressive grave for him in the church, no one is really sure whether his remains didn't get misplaced somewhere in the Caribbean. The other must see in Sevilla is, what is called, 'Alcazar'. A name that, even after having been to Sevilla, only can remind of the general from the Tintin comics. The guy that tries to stage a coup in some unnamed South American country and ends up as a knife throwing artist. Large parts of Portugal and Spain were part of the Morish empire, during the middle ages. In Spain, in Cordoba, Granada and Sevilla and in Portugal along the whole Algarve, many reminders of that era still exist. One thing in which the Mores differed from most occupying forces, is that they let Christians continue them practicing their faith. Alcazar was the location where Morish and Christian nobles had their luxurious houses with very luxurious gardens. Lisboa On Wednesday, Nico and Irene went for a bike ride around Monte Gordo. Something which was rewarded with Nico enjoying a flat tire along the way. Although the guide, at first, stubbornly refused to believe the tire was really flat and had it pumped up several times before he finally gave in. The kids, Vinca, Giso, Jaap and myself, took one of the two cars and drove to Lisbon. Again, a large part of the journey took us across secondary roads, where trucks and busses were keeping our speed down. And to make us even more joyous, just before arrival it started to rain badly, which only finished way after we returned. Lisbon supposedly is one of the 'undiscovered gems' of Europe and I have to admit that that seems to be true, even though we didn't have much time to explore the city, since Giso and Jaap already wanted to head back after a mere three hours. It is a fact that the Tower of Belem, the church and convent in the district of Belem, the old citadel, the small and zigzagging streets of the old town, the largest suspension bridge in Europe and the commercial center do give Lisbon the air of a Paris, London or Rome. And one that has largely still not been discovered by tourists at large. Prices are, although slightly higher than on the Algarve, very reasonable and since, without a hassle, you get large chunks of hash offered to you in the streets, what else could you ask for? A Jesus-on-a-mountain, just like in Rio? Well, it's got that too! We want Moor Earlier in the week, Vinca and I had taken up the plan to drive to Cordoba, in Spain. However, since the trip would take us first to Sevilla, we decided not to go there. The secondary road up to Huelva would simply take too long. Earlier in the week, the rest of the group had declared that in stead of going to Spain, again, they would rather drive around a bit in the Algarve. As it turned out, Vinca and I staid in the Algarve, visiting Silves and Estoi, the rest of the group went to Ayamonte, just across the border with Spain. Silves once was a Morish settlement but is now nothing more but a small, quaint, friendly town, not so much touched by tourism. Estoi, some 20km north of Faro, is nothing more than two streets converging but has two sights worth mentioning. The first is a totally not interesting dug up Roman ruin, for which you have to pay to see it. The second is a very neglected 16th century garden from some rich landowner. The garden is free to walk in and is quite impressive, even now, after so many years of neglect. The day basically was a day of chilling were we spent a large part of the day drinking coffee and, later, port in several of the bars of Silves and Estoi. Not that Portuguese bars are 'cosy' in a European sort of way. All bars, cafes, restaurants and most shops too, have one or more TVs in the waiting area. Not so much to please the customers, since they don't really seem to be watching that much. If anyone, it seems to be to please the workers. There and back And then Friday came about again. Vinca and I had the opportunity to sleep late and spend our day doing nothing much more than chilling. The rest of the group was to be picked up at 4:30am, to be driven to the airport. Our bus wasn't coming until 3:30pm. Not that we had an easy trip back. After arriving at Faro airport, we were told that our plain had a two and a half hour delay. In the end, that turned out to be a four hour delay. To compensate us for our troubles, the airline gave us a snack voucher. The snack voucher gave us a cheese sandwich, egg on a role and a small bottle of coke. Great. But we did get to say the Lethal Weapon version of Mel Gibson! Besides the not so great trip back, this type of vacation clearly caters to older couples who want to encounter as little uncertainties on their holiday as possible. They want to be able to speak their own language, they want to eat their own food. Literally, to them it must feel as if they really haven't left home. That's also why we were welcomed in Monte Gordo by a guide from our travel organization. The very friendly lady even wanted to explain, in as much detail as humanly possible, how to use an ATM in Monte Gordo ("And then you set the language...") Of course, she also showed up at the airport. It was a pity though she didn't know of our delay before we were picked up at our hotel. Luckily enough, the bottle of whisky I had bought when flying in to Faro was still one quarter full, which gave me about an hour to relax. Ready... Get set... Go! Eventually we went to bed, Saturday morning at 4am. Sunday afternoon at 1pm I was already in a plane going to Reykjavik. For the first time in years I was getting a normal meal on the flight and, a first for me, the plain was equipped with LCD displays. A pity they were showing old episodes of Frasier, the problem not so much lying in that they were 'old', but that they were 'Frasier'. After our four our delay at Faro, everything fell perfectly in to place. When I arrived at my gate on Sunday, I had still 10 minutes left to drink a coffee. I couldn't have been there any minute earlier. That is, of course, not true if I would have slept less than the four and a half hours that I did. Saying goodbye to my Love was more difficult for me as I expected. It seems that, because of the busy weeks and months prior to leaving, I hadn't really had the time to consider the consequences of us not seeing each other for so long a time. Only when on Saturday night, we lay together in bed, after tying together too many loose ends during the day, did it slowly dawn on my what really was going to happen over the coming months. And I didn't like the prospect at all of not seeing my baby for four months at least. Morning did eventually come around and we staid in bed just a little bit longer to enjoy each other just that little bit more. Eventually, four wet eyes later, we did manage to say goodbye for now. Just before finally getting up, Vinca asked me where her box was. "Which box?", I replied. "The box in which you will take me with you!" [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3531 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 568 [iOldID] => 962 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462185454 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 22 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 37.3832 [fLongitude] => -5.9897 [tLocation] => Alcazar [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20010107 ) ) ) Keyword: Iceland ::