Monte Alban

It was as though I was in the hand of some immense giant that has been mysteriously slain; and I felt luck to somehow have the privilege to view such an intimate site.

I went to Monte Alban yesterday

The night before I discovered some of the local mezcal with two Italian guys, a French street preforming clown, French Canadian (who acted like a linguistic double adaptor since she could speak Feanch and English), a German couple and some Mexicans, who we seem to have meet in the street and started to have a fiestas with with their car door open, until the cops showed up and moved us on. I woke in the morning and was unsure as to how I got into bed. None the less I was at the ruins by noon and completely taken aback by it.

Imagine a great isolated hill at the junction of three broad valleys; an island rising nearly a thousand feet from the green sea of fertility beneath it. An astonishing situation. But the Zapotecs were not embarrassed by the artistic responsibilities it imposed on them. They levelled the hill-top; laid out two huge rectangular courts;raised pyramidal alters or shrines at the centre, with other, much larger pyramids at ether end; built great flights of steps alternating with smooth slopes of masonry to wall in the courts; ran monumental staircases up the sides of the pyramids and friezes of sculpture round their base. Even today, when the courts are mere fields of rough grass, and the pyramids are buried under an obscuring layer of turf, even today this high place of the Zapotecs remains extraordinarily impressive . . . Monte Alban is the work of men who knew their architectural business consummately well. – Aldous Huxley, ‘Beyond the Mexique Bay’

It was as though I was in the hand of some immense giant that has been mysteriously slain; and I felt luck to somehow have the privilege to view such an intimate site.

!hola¡

Mexico is everything I imagined it to be while holding unexpected surprises. First impressions of Mexico.

Mexico is everything I imagined it to be while holding unexpected surprises. I arrived in Oaxaca (Wa-ha-kah) this afternoon in a daze, after 12 hours in buses/couches, which are the best I’ve ever been in actually, and strolled on into the center looking for my hostel of choice.

It was quite warm and people walked around at the minimum pace that counts as walking. Evey where there where people sitting in the shade mostly sleeping in the upright position. Shoes’shiners sat in there seats reading the newspaper, not to fussed weather they got any business or not (it would seem). Couples spooned on park benches lazily nestling in. I wandered around and was thankful for a hat.

Mexico seems to have an impenetrable stillness about it. I noticed that the hundred and one things that usually stress me out about traveling in a foreign country where I don’t speak the native just didn’t register. I got lost trying to find the hostel but even this didn’t faze me as I couldn’t find a thing to care about.

Internet cafe is shut. No such thing as an all nighter here

A Concentration Camp Day

A day at Dachau, a Concentration Camp.

Suicide in the electrified barbed wire, Dachau 1940

Decaln left to return to Sweden this morning and I had the day to kill so I took it to Dachau, Germanys first concentration camp! Yes it was a crappy day so I thought I would make the best (or worst) of it, and boy did I ever.

Dachau was founded in 1933, the year Adolf took power. It held over 200,000 people with just over 30,000 of those perishing from one thing or another. It was the camp that all the others were modeled on! It wasn’t a death camp however, although it was fitted with a gas chamber near the end of the war (but apparently never used). Boy did I get a creepy feeling when I walked in there (by accident at first as I decided to do the whole thing in reverse and the labels where all on the other side for some reason?).

Gangs of tourists moved though the camp taking pictures of each other posing in front of the various places of atrocities. All putting on a serious face instead of the usual “Hi mom” expression. What strange tourism. It struck me that the memorials that were placed all over the place weren’t as popular as the sites where death and torture occurred. People seemed drawn to them, like the scene of a car accident. Every one wants to look.

I also had a feeling of strange fascination that one gets when you see a celebrity in person. This thing that has been exaggerated and hyped up by the media for most of your life is suddenly in front of you. It became hard to relate to the sentiment of the place as it had become larger than life in my minds eye.

I left wondering weather ether of these emotions, the ‘passer by’ or the ‘dazed fan’, really were helping anything except push a stereo type that Germany and Germans will never live down. I suppose there has to be something to mark the history. It may have been grim but it wasn’t boring.

There were no postcards on sale. Sorry guys.

Ugly UK

There sure are some ugly people in England

There must have been some serious in breading going on in England. I have found some evidence in support of this:

Boy George (again)

Bitches on the mic and the George laying down the tracks.

Young Richy coaxed me to go out last night with a few of the lads and one of Erika’s flat mates Kat. We went just around the corner from where Eir/Richy is staying, The Hoxton Bar. Richy used to work behind the bar and thus half price drinks all night. It happened to be Gay Night at the Hoxron Bar and the next thing I know I’m standing 2 feet from Boy George (who was fat, dressed in Black and had a black top hat. With sequins). He was going to DJ, but not before ’10 minutes with my dad’ did a short number.
'Ten minutes with my dad' flyer

‘10 minutes with my dad’ are a pair of young skimpy chicks with massive blond wigs on, teased to the point that they defy gravity and wearing bikinis and leather jackets and Zoro type eye band masks. The ‘act’ consists of them tearing/wrestling with each other while screaming lyrics, in early Beasty Boys style, about their apparent nymphomania and sexual preference for there fathers. They ended up on the ground in the middle of the crowd with most of the little they had on hanging from them. But I’ve seen them before. YAWN.

Boy George on the other hand was a freak. I saw him when he came out to Australia in the 80’s and I was dumb struck to be close to fame like that. OK he’s looking sad and pathetic but I was fascinated by the spectacle of fame, the idea of it, as I’ve never had much occasion to ogle at it. His DJing wasn’t too bad (I wouldn’t travel for it but it grindy house seem to fit the mood, which was some male stripper flashing it Jon Doe around a bit on the podium) but no he didn’t play any of the old classics so if I was till a fan I’d be disappointed.

Just an average Sunday in Hoxton

Wide World of Alex

So its time for an update on the amazing adventures of Alex. If you have a heart condition or are on any kind of medication you shouldn’t drink with please stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

So I got to London
I did dilly dally in Indonesia for 5 days and got a bit of sun and diesel exhaust in one of the most densely populated regions of the world (Java duh). That put me in the mood for arriving in London. It did take me 16 hours of pure ‘knees-firmly-rammed-into-the-seat-in-font-of-me hell’ and a bribe at the airport (which I was too dumb to figure out I was supposed to be giving) to check my over weight luggage though to London, and not pass Amsterdam and pay $648 us for the excess. I remind myself it wasn’t in the bottom of a galleon for 6 months with scurvy standing up in my own fasces so humanity has made progress get form Sydney to London, it only takes 16 hours to achieve the same feeling. But nothing new here.

At first euphoria…
The first week I was here the sun was out every day and I was working on my tan. White (white!) English body’s littered the parks and birds were singing. Eir has landed a pad a block for a spate of Vietnamese restaurants so even the food situation isn’t so bad. Eir had already hooked me up with a room in a share house 10 minute free bus ride up the road from her in Dalston, a very happening area with open markets every day for fruit and veg.

Sebastion came down form oxford the first weekend I was here and we went to a Mudhoneys gig at the Astoria. Mudhoneys are an old 80’s indie band and we moshed around for an hour or two. Heaps of fun. We ended up walking 5km home to Shortditch and catching Erika at her bar as they where packing up. Seb got stuck into the kitchen and we were eating ice cream with ladle spoons.

Week two was more like the London I remembered it. Money was (is) very tight since paying bond and rent for the first month. So I start looking for a job, only the mobile phone I brought with me doesn’t work much (thanks B) and no landline at home so it’s hard to hunt for a job. The final kick to the ribs was my laptop going down once more talking the last 2-3 weeks worth of work I’d done on it with it.

My pills where running out so I had to spend most of the week doing battle with the NHS just to get a prescription written. This I managed to do despite being told ‘impossible’ repeatedly by six different women behind reception desks. Alex one, NHS zero!

Living in the ghettoooo
I moved into my new place, with Erika’s help, that first weekend and was given my first impression of Dalston. We were walking along the main drag near Dalton junction, which is predominantly a black area with a smattering of Turk, and I pushed passed this guy as the street was very crowded. This guy then proceeded to behave like what can only be described as a pro wrester: He attempted to spit on my back, but missed and got Erikas back. We were both a little dazed by it and he started swearing and waving his finger in my face in a threatening manor chanting “I wanted you, you! YOU!”. He was short but had three buddies and dressed like Mr T. I asked him what the big deal was but he kept reminding me that I’d bumped into him, which I now take as a bad custom here, even in a crowd.

I was tempted to pursue a more aggressive line with little ‘Snoop Doggy’ but I remembered that less than a week before hand, the friend of this girl that Erika works with was stabbed in the throat with a broken beer bottle coming out of a cub in Dalston. He be dead now. For a time I was scared to go home from Eirs on the bus because I’d seen another violent incident where this guy started hitting this woman he didn’t know and insinuation she wasn’t a woman. I can’t remember ever being around so much hostility before.

There is a lot of poverty in Dalston and it seems to foster hatred. After having dealt with the NHS and seen the way they make everything such a struggle I could see why they might hate the society that doesn’t want them and is openly hostile to them every step of he way.

There is also an up surgeons of nationalism in England at the moment, ether due to the Euro Cup or the issue of England adopting the European Union constitution. White flags with the red cross hang everywhere. I have noticed that there are many, many cultures in London but none of them are represented in the media. No community radio or alternative media. I’m thinking that maybe if there is a representation of the poorer sectors here, an outlet, then maybe there would be less hate and more love going round.

It was pointed out to me that England has never had a modern revolution. Its laws are ancient and have been setup but rich land holder and its all seems to work in their favor here. The common people are entrenched in bureaucracy. No one seems to question the rules. They just take it. I think that’s why they always lose at football: no fighting spirit.

Where theres a Whill..
I’ve been hanging out with young master Richard and his crew of trendy young homies. He’s working in a Bar in Soho called ‘Two Levels’. Eir is also working at a trendy bar in Shoreditch in the Truman bury called ‘the Peacock’ and between the two of them there is much free beer going round. I’ve started playing basketball with richy on one of the underused public courts. Still got the moves ;)

Joes BBQ: Richy, Eir, Marie, Brian

Shortditch being what it is, the whole are is full of arty end of year shows for students of St. Martins Collage and I’ve seen a lot of the young talent from around the world strut their stuff.

Eir and Richy are encrusted in a tight little group of fashion/publicity crowd and there is much wild partying going on at all times of the week. Since its summer time and it doesn’t get dark till after 10:30pm midnight seems to leap upon you unawares.

Art of party, Richy, Eir & Nico

Oxford
I visited Sebastian in Oxford, who is doing philosophy there, for the weekend and spent he night in the Holywell Manor, a lovely group of sandstone buildings with an enchanting little private courtyard. Oxford seems to be full of lots of private areas that we spend much of the day trying to intrude. The architecture is exactly as you would imagine it, in fact they filmed Harry Potter in one of the grander looking buildings.

Because the weather was so fantastic we spent the better part of the day on the river bank in the sun watching the punters punt by. There was also a carnival, similar to the Surry hills festival, on when I was there and wondered around a bit enjoying the festivity. The food was nasty but there was a hint of some local musical talent, but nothing gripping.

He introduced me to the many types of nerds that are reared in Oxford. Anime society, ‘Speculative science’ (sci-fi) society, Dr Who group, etc. You get the picture. I ended up at a pub on the ‘town’ side of… town where ‘robes’ (students) hang out and they have free monkey nuts and good ale, which is quite a nice drink. There’s a bit of a ‘town’ verse ‘robe’ thing happening in Oxford.

Oxford is only an hour and a half bus ride from central London so I think I’ll be heading back there soon.

So all in all I’m having a crusy time hanging in the park with the homies sucking back European beers and enjoying the sun despite being poor and hungry. Still looking for a job but have a few prospects cooking. I’ve meet heaps of interesting people and it looks like my time here this time will be of a completely different flavor form the last time.

East Timor

So what have I been doing here in East Timor this last month. Well I’m glad
you asked…

On the first weekend here Miriam took me to a sleepy little village called Liquica (Li-kee-sa), west of Dili. Lovely beach there and we were forced to sit on it and drink fresh coconuts that a local guy happened to be harvesting at the time.

VIQUEQUE

The next weekend I went to Viqueque (Vi-kee-kee) on the south side of the island as I was invited to a Uma Lumic (Lit: house holy) that was opening by a guy I’d meet, Josh, who is the prince of that district form what I understand. Miriam stayed in Dili as she had a workshop to do on Saturday and it was a 9 hour journey on way.

To get there we had to go via Boucou (bow-cow) which is about 4 hours east of Dili and then directly south from there over the mountain range that divides the island in half, north from the south. The habitat is much lusher in the south side and the North is much dryer and arid, much like the Australian Northern Territory.

The road was bad for most of the journey and, because we where tiring to make it to a village near Viqueque by 8am we woke at 3am in Boucou for the drive south. By the time we got there we were all stuffed and found out that the ceremony had been postponed 2 days ago till the following weekend. One of the disadvantages of having no phone lines or satellite coverage in the districts.

We went up to see the Uma Lumic anyway, which was on top of a small mountain with great views over the surrounding country side. Some of us ‘malae’ (foreigners) camped on the beach which was beautiful. Having a swim as soon as I got out of the mosquito dome.

MAUBISSE

The following weekend, Miriam was invited to another Uma Lumic by a local member of parliament she had been working with on media law, a Manuel Tillman. This one was in a village, Fatubisse, near Maubisse in the middle of the mountains south of Dili. The road was very windy an the local driver was going as fast as he could, which was only about 40kmph but we all felt queasy in the back seat by the end of it.

We stayed in a nice old Portuguese style hotel up on a panicle surrounded by mountains. It had a beautiful view in all directions and it was quite cool in the evening, which was a pleasant change. The Uma Lumic ceremony was very Christian and a bit dull as a result. I heard later that the one near Viqueque on at the same time was much more lively and festive. It started out with a catholic mass on top of a steep hill overlooking the uma lumic. Again due to every party involved being late it didn’t start until about noon and we all got fried in the sun. Miriam got particularly badly burnt on the shoulders and my bottom lip was in blisters for more than a week afterwards.

The ceremony then proceeded to a Portuguese style grave yard near by all white and aqua blue, where respect was payed to the dead. While we were doing this the old folks of the village where getting warmed up banning drums and gongs, and was a much welcome relief form the morbid Christian part of the proceedings. The crowd, of about two to three hundred attended from the local surroundings, moved back to the village where they were greeted by the elders who where done up in feathers colourful native looking numbers. The little band consisting of two people with one drum and a gong player or two would randomly burst into heavily syncopated noise for a couple of minutes at a time. The elders would dance/float around at this in circles and then stop again with the music. Some sort of handing over chanting was done with Manuel Tillman by the elders and then we all ate, and I mean all. Food, mainly roast cow, but possibly house of buffalo, steamed out continually while we were there. The elders danced on and off with the music which started and stopped every five minutes. This went on till 6am the next morning.

We spent the next day in the hotel recovering form out burning and admiring the view. We hand lunch in Maubisse at a local restaurant (the only restaurant), Mei Gorang (fried noodles) which was pretty good and one of the few dishes available here due to limitations in produce.

Other than that I’ve been hanging in Dili dodging the goats and huge pigs that roam the streets, among other things. Working ion the laptop during the week and meeting Miriam for lunch, mostly Ikan (fish) or Ayam (chicken).

I just got a six week contract to do two hours a week at Miriam’s office mentoring the local guy on network issues. Not much mullah but should cover visa expenses (about a dollar a day).

lots of love

alex