I finally got to writing my Memoirs. In the process, I remembered my many cultural shocks. If you traveled the world over as I did, you may recognize some of your own experiences.
THE “WEST” AND “SORT OF WEST”
- USA: Americans think only they are sane. The rest of the world thinks Americans are insane and they are sane. And everything in America looks and tastes the same, and their girls are xenophobic.
- Russia: Taking a bath is against the rules unless you do it in vodka.
- Holland: Bikers don’t look right or left and run you over, yelling YOU are stupid. Plus ample dog poop and the only place where I got robbed three times over the years by the same people. Guess once: Starts with an “M”, Holland’s most popular ethnic Moroccan invaders.
- Belgium: Toilet paper cut from old newspapers and no sinks to wash your hands. Language either Flemish or Walloon, either way unintelligible. Breakfast: French fries, mussels, and beer (or “rouge”, red wine). Lots of smokers.
- France: Toilets with black holes, no seats, and pissed-over footsteps and no sinks to wash your hands. Plus subway stink is the world’s worst. And heaps of dog and pigeon poop. Food is way too expensive and waiters are rude. And French love is a myth. Americans in Paris made that up because they don’t know what love is either, only in the movies. But I made some very good friends and had lovely moments.
- Spain: Males can’t leave a girl alone. Females are locked up 24/7. And I can’t sing serenades in Spanish.
- Portugal: As many windmills as in Holland. They look spooky. Don Quixote traveled from Spain to Portugal to fight them.
- Italy: Males can’t leave a girl alone. And females eat too much pasta. And there’s too much pigeon poop, too.
- Germany: One menu only: bier, wurst, und sauerkraut. And too much hoompa hoompa.
- England: no menu at all, only rain, and after joining the EU they still drive on the wrong side of the road. Maybe that will change after Brexit.
- Ireland: All Irish have gone to New York to join the Democratic Party. Only Poles and Romanian pickpockets are left.
- Scotland: Rain, cold weather, smoking chimneys, and nobody speaks English.
- Switzerland: Swiss-French unintelligible; Swiss-German unintelligible, Swiss Italian, well, who knows; I don’t speak Italian. Traffic priority signs for frogs, cows, and turtles. The Swiss put holes in their cheese to attract American off-shore money. Raclette sits in your stomach for two weeks and causes terrible farts that kill your co-worker in seconds.
- Rwanda: Twice destroyed in thirty years with old colonial help.
- Burundi: Twice destroyed in twenty years with old colonial help.
- Central African Republic: snakes in and/or under your bed, wasps in your toilet, and pygmies running between your legs.
- Cameroon: The food looks great but you can’t eat it.
- Congo-Kinshasa: Everybody cheats.
- Congo-Brazaville: Nobody cheats. It’s forbidden by law.
- South Africa: Go visit a shopping mall to get shot at and run for your life.
- Tanzania: Dar es Salaam has too many SUVs and nobody knows how they were paid for.
- Kenya: Wildlife is for tourists and the airport road is to kill the tourists.
- Ethiopia: The table cloth is edible but you wouldn’t think that when you go to bed.
- Mali: That’s where Timbuktu is and when I got there I finally understood why everybody says it’s nowhere.
- Guinea: Why for heaven’s sake did the colonialists put that country on the map?
- Ivory Coast: Must be called Côte d’Ivoire to show it was once French and that’s why it is what it is.
- Ghana: The only place in Africa on the West Coast that seemed to work because it had a direct KLM flight from Amsterdam.
- Nigeria: The one place in Africa that should work but doesn’t. Night flight out to safety.
- Bangladesh: Delicacy: cockroached curry. Eating with your fingers; spit reservoirs in every corner of every corridor; toilets are bastions of urine, providing the main perfume in office buildings; and beware of the Dhaka “run” if you want to survive.
- India: more of the same, but a little bit more sophisticated and the best food in the world. And heavenly Kashmir should be declared neutral territory for everyone to enjoy, not just Islamists, not just Hindus, not just Pakistanis. Just let it be.
- Malaysia: A mushroom garden with millions of multicolored edible mushrooms and a McDonald’s in Kuala Lumpur. What a place to live.
- Singapore: The country that everyone wants to ape but only Singaporeans know how to run.
- Taiwan: The only place where China is not China but everyone speaks Chinese and a tree you can slide through to become rich if you don’t fear getting stuck in the middle for the rest of your life.
- Philippines: Manila TV is like American TV – just as awful. In the countryside you find its beauty, but you may get struck by a typhoon.
- Indonesia and Bali: Djakarta is like Lagos, but outside the city, Java is a jewel. And on Bali, they serve the best suckling pig on earth. Go visit Bali’s interior to see the real Indonesia and its terraced rice fields. Heaven on earth. But the hotel bills are hellish.
- Hong Kong: British geniality mixed with Chinese Confucianism. Foremost a good cuisine, especially on the street, but everyone wondered how long the good life of one country two systems would last when the Brits handed it over to Communist China. The day of reckoning has come.
- China: More bikers than in Holland, and I never had real Chinese food before, not even in Amsterdam or NY China Town.
- Macao: Beware! Bought my wife a sapphire ring that turned out a piece of colored glass.
- Japan: Plastic food in the window is for show and not for eating. You must bow when meeting people in the elevator. And even a GPS can’t find where you’re going.
- Hawaii: advertised as little Asia but no, it’s pure America.
- Saudi-Arabia: The place where beautiful women are kept in hiding and your head gets cut off if you dare looking at them when they come strolling out after 11 p.m., or for saying something about their beauty.
- Lebanon: A Falafel tastes as good as a bomb.
- Jordan: An oasis in the desert and the only place in the Middle-East where I could ride a horse, have dinner in the open with a lovely woman, and feel at home, and where I might have stayed if she had said “yes.”
- Guyana: Loud. Loud dogs, loud crickets, loud vehicles, loud music, loud people but great curry and the best rum in the world. Drives on the wrong side of the road because the British stole Guyana from the Dutch in the 100-year European wars. Beautiful and savvy women, always showing a pleasant smile; and everything stays the same.
- Surinam: Neighbor of Guyana and awfully isolated but Surinamers don’t mind. People speak fluent Dutch (the only country outside Holland and Flemish Belgium that does) as Surinam was a Dutch colony until 1975. My greatest shock was that while speaking Dutch they are not Dutch at all, and their beautiful women bite.
- Curacao: The place to live but too expensive to retire.
- Bonaire: For scuba divers and iguana lovers only.
- Jamaica: The place where I spent my Millennial and tore both of my shoulder tendons when climbing back into my capsized sailing boat, leaving me burdened with lifelong Jamaicanitis.
Still on the beach at St. Maarten, Mars Man sits with his dear Kathryn, Dr. Kisshanger and Lu drinking rum punch and munching on their Dutch oil balls, watching a multi-colored balloon drifting through the blue sky with a foolish overweight American dangling from a rope.
Kathryn: Look who’s coming, Mars! Aaron and Taher of the Israeli parliament! Remember we last met them in June 2010 at that Florida Beach? What are they doing here?
Aaron and Taher almost simultaneously: Hello you guys. What a coincidence! And hello, Dr. Kisshanger and Lu, what fun to see you all together!
Kathryn: Have an oil ball, fresh from Holland. No pork.
Mars Man: What brings you here?
Aaron: On our way to Washington D.C. to prepare Netanyahu’s visit to Congress. We thought we could get some ideas here, and low and behold, we stumble onto the most knowledgeable people on earth and beyond.
Kathryn: We were just talking about Washington. As you know, the President is holed up on Hawai after the military take-over. They only let him say prayers.
Taher: Foolish thing to do. Even at prayer he’s out of bounds. As a Muslim and Arab representative in the Israeli parliament, I can imagine that he, whose name is Hussein, does not want to call ISIS Islamic, but that’s what they call themselves. But then to compare them with what Christians did during the crusade 1000 years ago, or even refer to the Spanish Inquisition 6 centuries ago burning infidels on stakes, and then not naming ISIS Islamic, is fastidious to me.
Aaron: It’s topsy-turvy talk. They’d better get rid of his teleprompter.
Dr. Kisshanger: I’m afraid that wouldn’t make much difference. He must have listened to your TV show the other day, Kathryn. As you said, the Islamic year according to their calendar is 1435 so they are six hundred years behind us. But the President in absentia forgot to explain what you said, that religions seem to pass through the same evolutionary development span. These barbarians believe in their mission as much as those Spanish Inquisitioners did in their time. You see what they did to that brave Jordanian fighter pilot. Reminds you of the Nazis. That’s the issue and the danger.
Kathryn: Right, these people are willing to commit heinous crimes and die for it, like these Saudis on 9/11, but I’m not sure if the Spanish Inquisitors had the same obsession. You must confront it with utmost force right in the butt and not wait until they carry out more dreadful executions and come to the USA with another 9/11. Five centuries ago, Protestants Luther and Calvin stood up against the Catholic Inquisitors, but you don’t have those leaders yet in the Middle East. Only the US can lead, and they don’t. They’re only downplaying the danger to excuse themselves for not acting forcefully. Obama went golfing after an American was beheaded.
Mars Man: King Hussein of Jordan, Obama’s namesake, took brave actions and put the US on the spot. We should support the Jordanians forthwith. The US and whatever allies they have should put immediately twenty thousand troops at the Jordanian border with Syria. You imagine what could happen if they don’t? Jordan’s peaceful people and their beautiful treasures? Lu, you as the colonial master of the US, can’t you get these American guys to act like men?
Lu: We get oil from Iran. They are Shiite. ISIS is Sunni and they are based in Syria, where Assad, who is Shiite, is still holding out in part of the country. Maybe ISIS is in collusion with Iran? If you want to fight ISIS, you’d have to fight in Syria to get their rebels to join you. That would mean removing Shiite Assad first. Obama, his friends, Russia and we don’t like that because we don’t want Shiite Iran to get upset in the ongoing nuclear negotiations. Above all, we don’t want them to cut off their oil from us.
Dr. Kisshanger: We negotiated nuclear détente with the USSR at the time. It worked.
Aaron: The USSR didn’t have a plan to wipe Israel of the map. Iran has. They say it openly, Lu, and you know it. You guys and Obama won’t give a damn if we go to pieces, but we do.
Dr. Kisshanger: History has a tendency to repeat itself, although never on the same path. World War I started with the murder of the Emperor of Austria-Hungary by a terrorist Serb. It took some four years before the USA, with a Democrat President, Wilson, got involved, only when the Germans torpedoed American ships creating national uproar. World War II began with Hitler coming to power and invading Austria, Hungary then Poland. Europe acted far too late, with that British Nevil Chamberlain at the helm. By then Hitler had swallowed Europe’s continent. The unwilling USA, again with a Democrat President, Roosevelt, was forced into it by Pearl Harbour. Before that, Roosevelt had promised US soldiers they wouldn’t fight in European wars again. In my view, again with a Democrat President, the US has not been doing now what it should be doing.
Kathryn: But that same Democrat President and his Hillary went to war in Libya without Congressional approval and under false pretenses as the recent tapes disclosed. Nobody liked Gadhafi but look what we got in return. That’s why Petraeus took over.
Dr. Kisshanger: the grounds for World War III are already laid: Russia, Iran, ISIS, maybe you, dear Lu, against Europe, the USA, and Israel.
Kathryn: Iran and ISIS together?
Lu: Don’t they say ‘me and my brother against my cousins, me, my brother and my cousins against the stranger?’
Taher: People should make a difference between good Arabs and bad. ISIS is bad. Jordan is good, but they have many problems, refugees and ISIS hiding among them. They are very vulnerable. Iran doesn’t mind if Sunnis battle among themselves for political power. But to let a strident ISIS conquer the Islamic world is a life and death threat to the Middle-East, us and the West. What if Saudi Arabia goes? What about Egypt? Nigeria? Both ISIS and Iran must be dealt with now. ISIS with decisive military force, and Iran with the strongest sanctions to keep them on a tight leash, and to keep their proxies Hezbollah and Hamas off our back.
Kathryn: And that’s Netanyahu’s message to Congress?
Aaron and Taher at the same time: Yes, exactly. To kill the beast at infancy and not wait until we are forced into another World War.
Mars Man: Now we understand why the former President does not want to see him. His party doesn’t want to spent money on the military in lieu of his social programs to buy votes. Maybe you should ask that other former President, Carter. He looks a lot better now in comparison, and he seems very happy about that.
Aaron: Carter is a friend of Hamas because he still does not realize that Hamas is not the Palestinians, but a terrorist group. Palestinians tell us all the time how much they fear them.
Kathryn: I wouldn’t even try. The man is peanuts now. I also hear that Democrats want to boycott Netanyahu’s speech before Congress, only because the Republicans invited him. Boycott an ally and above all an allied Head of State? Only for party politics?
Mars Man: There are moments I’m glad I’m not American. They’re shameful. American democracy is in dire shape. But Alex de Tocqueville predicted that already.
Lu: The world will be a lot better when China controls it all. You can always come to China, Mars.
Mars Man: I keep telling you, Lu, you are too confuciused. You may be glad if you can keep selling your fortune cookies and American Wal Markt goods made in China with a deflated Chinese Yuan or Renminbi if you want.
Kathryn: Have another oil ball, Lu. I’ll get some more. Waiter! Get us another round of rum punch, we really need it here!