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.
Travel for us means diving into the storage room in the bowels of our residence to find the right suitcases for the umpteenth trip. Our problem is that we (well, you know who “we” is ) never threw out the old suitcases when “we” bought new ones. So we have a bunch.
Among the legions of suitcases, there are a few reds which are easy to single out at the baggage claim when everyone has black. And when everybody got red, we got panter skin types. Staring at us is ‘Big Brother’, for surplus shipments to ‘Third World’ locations in need. There are some more suitcase pictures, but that would be ‘repetitive.’ You get the ‘picture.’
Next, follow pictures of some places we traveled to. I regret we didn’t have cell phone cameras in those days with their enormous storage capacity. We didn’t have the same urge then to take pictures of everything happening. Now we have to collect them from photo albums. My dad went all over the world for his beer business but took mostly 8mm movies that have deteriorated. We took videos we watched on VCRs. VCRs are gone now, too, and we had to have them transferred to CD-Roms.
OK, here we go, starting from when we worked for the World Bank. That’s a bit like ‘Join the Navy and See the World.” Except that we saw ports only occasionally for work (transport was one of my fields). Mostly we saw capitals and the interior, of which our memory kept many wonderful images that are unfortunately locked up in our minds. I wish there was a mechanism that would allow us to transfer them onto photo paper, like a scanner. Who knows what the future holds.
The world we saw is very large and we may have to do it in parts, starting with Africa, then Asia – South East and Far East – the Caribbean and the Middle-East. But first some left-over honeymoon pictures of 1974.
Joy at a ‘slave hut’ on Bonaire (1974). They were built entirely of stone and hardly tall enough for a man to stand upright in (Joy is 5’7, so you can imagine). Wikipedia: “From 1816 until 1868, Bonaire remained a Dutch government plantation. In 1825, there were about 300 government-owned slaves on the island. Gradually many of the slaves were freed and became freemen with an obligation to render some services to the government. The remaining slaves were freed on 30 September 1862 under the Emancipation Regulation. A total of 607 government slaves and 151 private slaves were freed at that time.” Those were bad days and the Dutch feel very shameful about it.
Bonaire: A flock of Flamingos flying off. Of the three Dutch Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire) little Bonaire is environmentally the most fascinating and a heaven for scuba divers.
Bonaire – a coastal rock formation.
A peaceful look at Puerto Rico’s coastline at San Juan.
Joy at a castle in Toledo near Madrid (1974).
And admiring windmills in Portugal.
Visiting flamboyant Georgetown, Guyana, and
Admiring its flamboyant trees from home.
Flying to Guyana Interior.
Getting ready to see the Kaieteur Waterfall
Kaieteur Waterfall, 226 meters deep, 113 m wide, surrounded by wilderness. Most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen.
Back at work at the World Bank, with the car parked in front of the office (impossible now!). Besides, the main office building was entirely replaced years later. Picture taken by Joy.
John’s office at the World Bank, picture taken by -surprise- Joy (years later). The window looks out on the IMF across 19th Street. The files on the radiator were to protect me from the secondary smoke from inhaling/exhaling Frenchmen/women in adjacent offices. Thank God those smoking days are over!
We will be going to Africa next time.
Yes, that’s Kathryn and Me! We like people who call a spade a spade. We like people who are not politically correct. Oh, no! We are not impolite or calling people names, the opposite what liberals do! We just do not want to be hypocrites and we don’t like people who are. Politicians in Europe and the USA have become so overly cautious, afraid as they are of standing on someone’s toes, that they are not standing for anything but platitudes.
Hyppocrit no hear no see no speak
That’s why we are flooded by loud-brawling terrorists who have nothing to loose. Them bullies know they can scare us because we have no guts to call them what they are. Them illegals, we let them come in-after they survive the ordeal of rape, torture, and disease on the way- because they work in agriculture, clean our streets, gardens or homes, babysit and whatever, and when they feel “at home” the bad and uneducated illiterates begin to subvert our nations in gangs and do drugs. But all these brave politicians, whether left or right, are so scared to say anything about that because the so called objective journalists will expose them as racists, maniacs, extremists, whatever they call you, and the politicians bow because they want to be elected. They say because a few are bad not all are bad. Well, those few can be very bad. What about that illegal who killed that beautiful girl in daylight in California today? Five times deported? How can anyone defend these liberal let-it-be policies and “sanctuary cities”? And that is not the first time that happens. Trump had it right. Rubio is the slicker: he wants it both ways–playing it nice to pander to the Latinos to get their votes. That’s exactly the problem with our politicians: pandering to the left.
The liberal media
OK with all this, if the politicians did something right after they are elected, but they don’t. They only make it worse: vide Mr. Obama and his crowd. Even old Jimmy Carter says it. What amazes us most is that they are born Americans (although in the case of Mr. Obama that is still a debated question). What has happened to this country? In 1996, Judge Bork wrote “Slouching towards Gomorrah.”
Sodom and Gomorrah
Liberalism in the USA began its onslaught on the traditionally held American values from the 1960s. In Europe it was not anything less. Some countries were even ahead of the USA because of their socialist governments and policies.
Since then in the USA the Supreme Court has been rendering increasingly liberal verdicts. Even judges appointed by Republican Presidents fell into the trap of liberal media bashing, and voted liberal. So we got abortion all the way to the dilution of the true meaning of marriage. And all that in less than half a century. Same sex loving and living is a choice, we never had an issue with that, as some people are born with that choice. It is good that at least western society does no longer consider that “sin,” although other societies still do and punish it hard. That’s wrong, but it should not be called “marriage.” Marriage is a sacrilege, a term with a sacred meaning for a man and a woman in procreation, the basis of our human relationship, the basis of the human race on earth, the basis of our Christian religions, whether Catholic or Protestant.
Call it “Union” or “Partnership” with the same legal conditions and protection ; that would have been good enough. We don’t call a woman a man or a man a woman. Why then must same sex living be called “marriage?” But the US Court bowed to the liberal media and groups that want to have “equality” for a tiny minority with a thousands of years concept of a union between a man and a woman. Same sex does not procreate, and if God forbid they want a child, one of the female partners must bike to the sperm bank, or a male partner to an orphanage. Marriage is now delinked from procreation and has been diluted to an ordinary partnership. Shame. It is all part of the increasing decline of western civilization, including that of the USA.
And the dumb electorate listens to the liberal media (euphemistically called “mainstream.”) So, all scared Republican candidates in the USA say Trump is wrong and must shut up. In Holland Geert Wilders must shut up. In France Marie le Pen or in Germany Bernard Lucke must shut up. “We on the left” are the only ones who know best what’s good for you and if you dare to contradict us we’ll massacre you. And “we liberals” will do whatever we can–character assassination, outright lies, destroying businesses, killing cops, burning cars and buildings etcetera–to prove we are right. In concept this is not much different from what the Islamic radicals say and do. And the liberal media never reports it objectively, always defends it. One or two sane Newspapers or TV-Channels that report it for what it is are “paid by the extreme right” that wants to take over the nations and put everybody in jail. In the liberal US, “Mr. Soros” is right but “the Koch brothers” are wrong.
In Europe, the same dichotomy exists as in the USA. Greece is a prime example of liberalism gone too far. If Greece says “no,” leftist groups in other “members” of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Spain) may want the same: when chaos reigns take the reins.
Unemployment in the USA is much higher than the “official” number: at least 10 percent, if not higher, versus the official number of 5.6. This official number is calculated over the workers actually looking for work. But many have left the work force. Why? Because they can’t find work in a weak economy. The Obama stimulus policies, Europe’s high taxes and socialist regulations, have slowed down economic activity and are keeping it from moving up, despite the inventive minds and the hardworking hands of the private sector. Manufacturing has gone to China, at low cost and with their currency manipulation to keep exports cheap.
Can America get out of this rut? If the majority voters want it, yes. With non-political leaders like Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina we might just get it “right.” Maybe Scott Walker, if he can get national traction. Big if. In Germany, Angela Merkel may pull it off. Regretfully, many voters just want more government money, “suck the rich,” because they are too lazy to work hard, and choose soft, easily bending politicians such as Obama, Carter, and Hillary Clinton with the result of further decline. They see no further than their immediate dollar. They don’t care about their country or the world until it’s too late. And that’s what Alexander de Tocqueville said when he saw the American wonder of democracy.
What we need in the West is leaders that stand for 1) a strong foreign policy that defends us from the dangerous and disabling intruders and puts us “back on the map” so that others will not be encouraged to bully us in the US or in Europe (China, Russia, Iran, and renegades like ISIS); and that prevents criminals from crossing our borders to subvert us from within; 2) good economic stimulus: reduce encumbering regulations, lower and streamline taxes, encourage energy production and efficiency, increase local manufacturing and small enterprise. That will automatically increase employment and more tax dollars for the Government; 3) living within our means and taking down the national debt. You have heard all this before: it is straight from economics 101 and has been done successfully before (e.g. Reagan, Thatcher) but why do liberals/socialists, whose economies have always failed, refuse to listen? Because big government and enslaving the workforce keeps them in power. They want your money and live well on it themselves.
If that is what the voters want: we will go as Alexander de Tocqueville predicted about our democracy: down the drain. Bye-bye USA or Europe (that has gone quite far down already) as we knew it. Thanks to Obama and Obama voters, Hollande voters, and their likes.
Alexandre de Tocqueville
DON’T FORGET SOME GOOD SUMMER READING:
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN
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