'A modern day journey through the wild western Balkans'

Monday, April 10, 2006

All the kings men

The only time th west really pays much attention to Nepal is when a white climber dies on Mt. Everest, or better yet, when they summit. The west doesn't care much about kings and their regimes, as long as they keep pumping the oil (Saudi Arabia), torturing suspected terrorist for the CIA (Morocco), or are too little to really give a shit about (Nepal). Maoist rebels, my companeros, have been fighting for many years and some say for all the wrong reasons. Their demands are primitive - I mean who the fuck cares about socialized medicine, education, water rights, and responsible tourism anyway? Idiots!

The people of Nepal have had their fill with this monarchy, and as trendy as it has become lately, took to the streets in massive numbers to peacefully protest. Its hard to peacefully protest when all the kings men are beating you like a dog with sticks, though. So it goes. The capital has been marred with bloody clashes with the crowns police and military forces, whilst opposition parties, including the Maoist rebels are busy as well blocking major roads and causing peaceful havoc as we like to say in the business.

So whilst the French conjure up fond memories of their great revolution, they today celebrate in Chirac's decision to ditch the youth employment bill. March on froggies, march on!

The Thai's have strongly enoughed voiced their dissent over the president selling the state owned telecommunications company to Singapore that they have crippled the work of the government. Even though Mr. Pres, a villager himself, has done a good amount for poor - the Thai's actual demand ethics in governing the people. Do you believe these ungrateful wankers. Ethics and morals in politics. What fucking century do they live in. Mr. Pres should have sent out the army to deal with them...but hey, its a democracy and its a bit harder (unless your America) to send the army out whenever it tickles your fancy.

Nepal is an important little piece of the wonderful planet we all share. The Nepalese people are kind, peaceful and resourceful. They have taken to the streets to demand back the democracy, as imperfect as it was, that they once had. But the king and his men are determined not to give up that easily. America would only have to huff and puff to blow that house down. But they choose silence. The EU too has choose silence. India and China have chosen silence.

Do the little people, with little economic ramifications, really not matter to us. Are our moral obligations weighed in cost effectiveness? The west bombs so-called democracy down the worlds throat whether they like it or not. But much like the immigrants we find on the street protesting in the very America that gives them the economic security they've always dreamt of - the Nepalese find themselves wondering 'does anybody really give a shit besides us?' I'm afraid the answer, by and large, is no.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sofia City Center

Flying into Sofia reminded me of many Balkan capitals. Socialist flats lining the outskirts of the airport like tombstones. High mountains in every direction. Old Russian logistic and firefighting vehicles lining the runway next to rundown warehouses.

This would be my first adventure to a country that exclusively uses the cyrillic alphabet. Luckily my frat days at uni taught me the Greek alphabet, which in turn helped me learn Serbian cyrillic, which in turn didn't make me feel like I had arrived in China when i landed in Sofia. It's amazing what a funny alphabet can do to your perspective of a place. Just the familiar letters made me feel at ease. Then the customs official spoke to me in Serbian. I was so dumbfounded that i had to ask him was he speaking to me in Serbian or in Bulgarian. The resemblance is striking. He informed me, however, that he was definitely speaking to me in Serbian. Fair enough.

Two young comrades were waiting for me after I effortlessly passed through border control and customs. Everyone was pleasant and unbalkanlylike not annoyed that i dare come to their country. Maybe its my trauma from the former Yugoslavia and the horrible entrances and exits to Romania that had me prepared from the worst. But I must say that the entire 20 minute Sofia Airport experience was a perfect one.

The two comrades quickly took me to a taxi. Now it gets Balkan. I jump in the back and have to slide down behind the driver. He has his seat in extra-cool taxi driver position, which means i have about NO room for either leg to fit in front of me. So I sprawl one leg over the other towards the comrade sitting next me. Even though after a few minutes i started to loose the sensation in one of my legs....i began to thoroughly enjoy the experience. Turbo Folk music beamed from the radio as we cruised down towards Sofia City Center (SCC).

I was pleasantly surprised in Sofia City Center about pretty much everything.
Run-down socialist buildings toking massive Coca-Cola and Oriflame adverts. Ridiculously expensive Mercedes stopped at the light next to a 1970 something Ficho. But as we neared SCC the architecture transformed, parks appeared, well kept cobble stone roads ran in every direction, beautiful Bulgarian women sported Europes best fashions in laid back and swanky cafe's. It felt like home. I was happy.

Being that I cannot disclose my reasons for being in Sofia (other than that is was, of course, for revolutionary purposes) I shall skip the details of my meetings. I checked into my four star hotel (for disguise purposes only of course - no legitimate revolutionary would stay in a multi-national hotel would they?). The location, the room, everything about the place was perfect, except one thing. There was no electricity. It wasn't a hotel problem, but just my room. Of course, I immediately expected it was the damn jankees who, once again, were following me and decided to eliminate any chances of easy communication with my other comrades. I went down to reception and the cute receptionist, shoes off and all, couldn't really be bothered with my complaint. She was obviously watching a very important soap opera and i was very obviously disturbing her. She did send the security guard to my room though. You can imagine how much that helped.

"Good evening sir'
'Oh, good evening comrade. I don't seem to have any electricity. Maybe its a circuit breaker or something?'
'Ah, I don't speak English'
Then i thought 'so why did you start speaking it to me in the first place?'

I then started to converse with him in Serbian, and we got to a point where he understood the problem. He confessed he was just a security guard and couldn't do anything until morning. I inquired about checking the fuse box, but he adamantly refused, shrugged his shoulders, and left me in a pitch black four star room. So I decided to be naughty and flip all the switches in the fuse box. The last one, as always, did the trick. And then there was light.

After a little horribly dubbed television i cut out my new found lights. End of day one in Sofia City Center. More tomorrow.