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Weightless, we are propelled along by a forceful current, 18 meters below the water’s surface. Beneath us, the deep blue fades into an almost black, never-ending void. In front, the equivalent to a towering, vertical cliff is covered in a kaleidoscope of colorful coral and creatures of the sea. Above, below and behind and sometimes stuck together I see Caleb, Michele and Sabrina.

The idea of this ‘drift dive’ is to descend, maintain a depth of about 18m and allow the current to naturally and effortlessly guide us along like a conveyor belt. We ‘just’ recline and watch the production unfold. (more…)

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We backpackers look like dirty clowns (pictures added for previous post!), with washed-out, faded multicolor jumpsuit-like outfits, excessive jewelry, pendants, and leather accessories. None of these items would be worn at home, but we keep buying. All of it looks hippie, but with a strange, vague Asian twist. Wearing a combination of clothing that is neither “Western” nor local sort of suggests that we’re free from it all, blissfully living in an imaginary world where we don’t have to care about what other people think. This is really fun, but even this is a great privilege.

Backpackers want to spend less money than other backpackers, but love to go shopping. We like competing over who has had the most unusual and authentic, locally immersed, experiences. We usually unsuccessfully strive for a non-commercial connection with locals and love telling stories of the unexpected and close calls. Backpackers don’t really like other backpackers in theory (perhaps of fear that conversing too much would make painfully apparent that our trip is not as unique or unusual as we wish it was?), but are drawn to each other in any concrete and practical situation: for advice, for company, for commiseration, for sharing the wonders and joys of travel.

But in all its limitations and silly fantasies, it is a beautiful expedition: it is seeking the good life (…so much easier to love all of humanity when you can’t understand what people are saying!), a quest for adventure, an attempted escape from getting stuck in routine, a search for unfamiliar and uncharted lands, maybe even like fulfilling a childhood fantasy of joining the circus.

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Less talk and more mustache

what a beard!

going…

going…

gone.

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Shame

I just finished Taslima Nasrin‘s novel Lajja (Shame). I wanted to read it before entering Bangladesh, since it is banned in Bangladesh, but maybe I should bring it and gift it to someone. I’m not sure how risky that would be. The book sold 50,000 copies before it was banned and really touched a nerve.

Following the publication of Lajja, Nasrin suffered a number of physical and other attacks. In October 1993, an Islamic fundamentalist group called the Council of Islamic Soldiers offered a bounty for her death. […] In August 1994 she was brought up on “charges of making inflammatory statements,” and faced death threats from Islamic fundamentalists. A hundred thousand demonstrators called her “an apostate appointed by imperial forces to vilify Islam”; a “militant faction threatened to loose thousands of poisonous snakes in the capital unless she was executed.

She’s been on the run ever since and renewed fatwas on her head have been issued.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the novel. I didn’t like the writing style. I thought it went overboard in being anti-religious and I thought it was trying to do too much and the characters were poorly developed. I didn’t even think the novel was particularly feminist, shocking, or outrageous. More research will be necessary. I’m clearly missing something. As late as 2007, “Kolkata witnessed a violent protest against Nasrin by neo-Jihadis. A protest organized by the militant islamist “All India Minority Forum” caused chaos in the city and forced the army’s deployment to restore order.”

Had protesters read Taslima’s writings? What was it that so enraged them?  I can’t imagine what it would take for there to be comparable riots in a major U.S. city. What would have to be written — feminist, religious, or otherwise — that would arouse and anger people to such a degree? What outlawed and silenced truths would have to be written for hate to erupt in such a way? Alternatively, depending on your perspective, what offensive lie or misrepresentation would evoke such a response?

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—From our ‘About’ page—

In a nutshell:

We are on a journey, traveling in India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Our journey is a learning experiment. The purpose of our journey is to learn about how to be in the world. The purpose of this blog is to document that learning experiment.

We expect this experiment to be unnerving. We are intentionally trying to bring about a state of disquiet and discomfort, because we believe such moments bear new insights. We believe the act of long-term travel, as a radical departure from the familiar and the routine, is an effective way to “wake up” and discover new ways of becoming more human. When you travel, it is impossible to be on auto-pilot. Travel, however, in no way is an escape from the mundane. Rather, we can discover new meaning as ordinary activities of everyday life (like riding the bus, washing clothes, and sharing a meal) are performed in completely unfamiliar places and spaces with entirely new challenges. Unguided travel is a forceful invitation to pay attention, which is exactly what we need if we want to learn.

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What moves you?

Jonathan Harris - a map exploring transportation in todays world

Jonathan Harris - a map exploring transportation in today's world

What does your map look like?

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