Cebu City Status Quo

It´s noisy, it´s dirty, it´s still a lot of fun. I´m hanging out here in the Kukuks Nest (you guessed it, a now dead Austrian founded it) and training each morning from 6 to 10. That´s why the rest of my days are mainly filled with sleeping, eating, reading and generally not being tooo active. 4 hours of stick-swinging Eskrima can do that to you.

So, there are no giant big new fascinating news at the moment, but I decided to write up the status quo as I see it anyway.

It´s apparently traditional that the opposition burns an effigy of the current president at each SONA (State Of the Nation Adress), and Mrs. Arroyo has clearly one of the worst tastes for dresses ever conceived by the human mind. Can you take any dic.. ah, politician seriously who runs around in a pink monstrosity?

In other news: Journalists tend to get killed here. In a variation of a classic drive-by shooting, a political commentator of a national radio station was dispatched expertly by several gunmen, uniformly armed.

But yeah, what the hell. Taking things easy is a very pinoy thing to do, and that´s what everyone is doing around here. My trainer (Alexis Villarente) is a wonderful person, who even arranges food and water in the morning (which has not destroyed my digestion yet, yay!), and I´m looking forward to the next session tomorrow (although my natural tendency is to sleep veeeery long).

Down at the Kukuks Bar, they´ve been playing the same Bob Marley CD (burned, of course) for at least the last year or so (as my swiss colleague affirms). "Stop that train, I wanna get on"..

the d.


Cebu City: I´m starting to see a pattern here.

Well, it is quite obvious, isn´t it?

People here earn the equivalent of three dollars a day, and consider themselves lucky to be earning that much. So when the Princes from the Lands across the Sea arrive, more often than not quite old, a bit on the fat side, and sporting a moustache a walrus would envy, many Pinayas consider themselves lucky.

Or, better put, they continue the battle started by Magellan and Lapu-Lapu so long ago with their own set of beautiful weaponry. The three expats I´ve met so far have quite similar stories, two of them kids, and none of them seems too happy about the extended family. Obe of them got attacked with a broken bottle the other day, by the mother of his two children. Another Englishman seemed rather happy, in a I-no-longer-care sort of way.

These scenes begin right at the start, in the plane to the Phillipines, where beautiful young women travel to their motherland with husband attached. Now, perhaps it´s just me, but I have a hard time imagining tales of true love on sandy beaches between men the age of my granddad (mostly quite ugly) and women the age of myself (stunningly beautiful).

Seeing the eyes of these young women, who undoubtedly have to endure the clumsy advances of their legal spouses from time to time, I saw pain, resignation, and a certain stubborn pride.

They´re not the only ones fighting for survival in this paradise lost: The Moros in the southernmost islands have resisted conquerors since the spaniards arrived. The USA, the Japanese, even the independent Manila government never managed to really take control of that territory.

Fighting has a proud tradition here, and Lapu-Lapu, the chief who killed Magellan, was just the beginning: Guerillas fought bravely against the Spanish and the Japanese, and continue to do so even today, although with different enemies, ideologies and goals.

And that´s what I´m here for: to learn the ancient art of Eskrima, the fusion of indigenous swordsmanship with spanish techniques, which, until recently, used to be essential for survival on the streets. The old-style lethal duels known as "Juego Todo" still exist underground, if the rumours are correct, and every Eskrima school has it´s own stories and legacies of their Grandmasters and their mostly violent deaths.

But that´s of course not what I´m looking for.

martially yours,
the d.


SecurityFAIL: Escape from Mumbai

Singapore: There is free WiFi. Yessssss! It makes you want to shout out with glee! As soon as you step out of the plane, the soothing waves of wireless bliss surround your very existance, caress your sense for information, and, of course, cater to the net-addicts. Ahhhh.

But, I digress: Actually I wanted to write about the sweaty ordeal that I knew nothing about 8 hours ago.

When you get to the Mumbai airport, the full extent of the paranoia prevailing in a city that just suffered some terror hits you like a truncheon. Pillboxes line the taxi drop-off cue, nice big german shepherds fan air to their keen noses in the brooding head, and policemen with moustaches who have absolutely no technical capability to control the validity (or even plausibility) of your ticket will still refuse entrance to the airport (to the check-in counters) to anyone not bearing a printout with lots of numbers on it.

Yes, that was new for me. Normally, these e-ticket things tend to be a bit too easy: you walk there, show your passport, and that's all anyone will ever ask of you, anywhere in the world. Except India.

Okay, so I'm standing in the humid heat of a typical Mumbai night, and trying to keep my inner barbarian from ripping out. The paradox is that, of course, there is no airline office outside of the hall these moustached machos so jealously (and absolutely senselessly) guard. As Terry Prattchet writes "Guarding is in the process of happening." A guard may not question the utility of his or her placement, because that's simply not something guards are supposed to do. But in case someone comes around without said printed piece of paper, the entry to the hall were such printouts could actually be procured is denied.

It took some screaming and agressive walking, followed by some more rational conversations with different people, and finally a clerk at an exchange office pointed me to an elevator that led to the secret hideout of the airline offices. By this time I had realised that such a situation just screams for utterly civilised behaviour and at least some sign that you have money and are therefore important. My Boss jacket, brought along for exactly this purpose, did it's job quite nicely. Guard convinced, printout procured, and a lengthy and sweaty running around was about to end.

The policeman at another entrance checked my Pieces Of Paper Granting Admission (with lots of numbers on them) for exactly 0.4 seconds before waving me through.

Finally IN the sacred halls, a young guy from Singapore noticed my jacket (the rundown flipflops and the old backpack seemingly ignored) and reduced my further waiting time decisively, waving me through a few other security checks and at the end cheerfully asking me if I could mention his good behaviour to his superiours. Ahhh, the appearance of wealth at the right time can be quite helpful.

So far from the wonderful airconditioned terminal one of Singapore Changi Airport, where they sell wonderful coffee and have free WiFi. Bliss!



Bhutanese Refugees III - Resettlement

And yeah, there's video.

Bhutanese refugee camps look far better than Mumbai slums, though.

There's more material where that came from.


I was held hostage by terrorists.


And the main terrorist had breasts the size of Pamela Anderson's, muscles too big for walking. My two co-hostages were quivering, crying, while I sat on the couch with defiant anger, mixed with a healthy dose of fear.

The terrorist, his greasy long hair combed back, munched on three cashews, dialed a 10-digit number, and then proceeded to announce to an unknown interlocutor:

"Heeeey India TV! Muahahahahahhaaaaaaaa! "

Yes, I am now oficially part of the actors guild. Bollywood called, and I roared an answer: "Total Ten", a movie which takes quite a lot of liberties with the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Hotel, will forever be recorded in the history books as the first appearance of ME, the D., on the big screen.

Tomorrow will be another day, another performance, and perhaps a bit more dancing. I hope for a more challenging role than lying on the ground with blood on my head and a sobbing New Zealandette next to me.

The profit ratios my agent gets are not bad: Apparently, the studios pay around 2,000 rupees per white guy or gal, and the agents dish out a meagre 500 rps to the tourists in question.

But hey, you get food, chai, conversation, and an insight in the world's biggest and fastest film industry. Yes, the fastest: The movie I mentioned before is being produced in three months, A-Z. In Austria, you wouldn't even produce a short in that time, let alone a feature.

This is Bollywood, so the terrorists can hide behind glass windows, and be born evil, and look ugly, while the heroic commandos are the image of bravery and goodness. Every story here has basically an intrinsic moral and mythical context, where the cheesieness is NOT optional. Having an overweight baddy with eyebrows the size of shrubbery is just what you need to captivate an Indian audience, apparently.

But hey, who knows, a new breed of actors, directors and producers might be just around the corner. In order to get around that, however, they need to break with these age-old traditions, and perhaps even change the society as a whole.

Jai Ho!
el dji.


Mumbai > Opposites attract. Or do they?

Hello again, World.

Mumbai greets the weary eyes of the train-borne traveller with the images we all know now. The slums.

Imagine a city in which every space that is not explicitly walled in, fenced off or protected by automatic weapons is used as living quarters. Or farmland.

The camps of blue plastic (even cheaper than the tin, apparently) crop up wherever space exists and the people haven't been beaten away yet. Just 5 minutes from the Taj Mahal Hotel, the monument to luxury erected by the Parsi industrialist Jamseti Tata, you can find seafront housing of the basic kind.

The "beaches" consist entirely of plastic, and the blue roofs behind it fit in perfectly. I guess at a high development value of this peculiar abandoned wharf.

Back to the trains: Travel in second class sleeper cars is absolutely up to european standards, if not a bit further up the scale. The friendly (tip-coveting) wallas pamper one with free food that's ages away from the fare airlines serve, and the air-con is a good reason to bring a fleece jacket to India. All in all: Quite an enjoyable experience.

Even more enjoyable when, looking out the window, the normal kind of train passes your island of comfort, commuters literally clinging to whatever surface they can find. (The roof is no longer used, probably because of the high casualty rate)

so long,
the d.


Dehli. Thanks, bye.

Dearest Readers!

After a long time of scarce (if not totally absent) posts, now commences a time of many words, of interesting observations.

And no, my camera was not yet stolen, but I simply decided I could write a bit more often. Not a bad notion, I hope.

SO, here I am, in Dehli. New Dehli, to be exact. The temperature outside is about 10 degrees above the workable limit, so the only option I have to bridge the gap between my successful ticket purchase for the train to Mumbai (I still admire myself a bit for that achievement, explanations will materialise soon.. )is to write.

The Yellow House in Kathmandu was Paradise, with a capital P put there for a reason. Wonderful food, cheap, clean rooms and really nice staff top off the groovy, sometimes a bit freaky, crowd hanging loose there and savouring the vibes of Nepal.

Indeed, I have to say it might have been a bit too good, and contributed thus to my long absence from the keyboard. Blogposts entitled *it's wonderful here and I'm loving it* are not the kind of message I would want to read. Thus, writing them is even less of an option.

But yes, as I am now in New Dehli, that moloch breeding with heat and hustlers, there are far more interesting phrases to be formed.

This society demands a basic distrust of everyone, especially of those who happen to earn less than you do. Trickery is abundant, a spanish girl I met while trying to purchase my ticket managed to be conned 5 times in the short time she had been here (since today in the morning, three o'clock).

So, the following week will be interesting: In which traps will I fall? Will I manage to get to Singapore with my pants still on? And, perhaps, upload a video while doing it?

It's understandable why Hinduism is polytheist: A single god could never cope with such a seething mass of humanity.

the d, alive as can be.