Apr, 2018 back to Feb, 2013: (nothing)
Jan, 2013 back to Jun, 2011: (nothing)
For the confused among my readers, I'm working on my Next Big Thing: a bicycle trip across Canada.
I'm riding from the west coast to the east coast.
Mile 0 of the Trans-Canada Highway is in Victoria. There are thousands of miles (and even more thousands of kilometres) between there and the end.
My bicycle is a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Edward at Ride Bicycles in Seattle taped the handlebar grips at the very beginning of my journey.
May, 2011 back to Sep, 2010: (nothing)
Freedom, not democracy, is the basis of our society.
Stunt biker (London)
Hundreds of years ago, political figures commissioned art. Now, they tolerate it. Artists spray-painted London's South Bank when doing so was illegal, and amateur skateboarders kick-flipped in before their parents could buy elbowpads. All the politicians had to do, when asked, was set up lights and tell the cleaners not to bother scrubbing.
Even that concession is a fight, of course, and the powers that be sometimes talk of closing the 30-year-old park to make way for shops. Skaters and bikers, a tiny minority of South Bankers, have fought to keep the park alive.
I'm going home.
Flying away makes me examine my experiences. I reflect and reflect until I worry the mirrors inside me will shatter from over-thought.
To the countless greens of Rwanda, the dusty infinities of Tanzania, the blissful bananas of Uganda, the recently-peaceful politics of Kenya, the picture-perfect beaches of Zanzibar and the friends and strangers who unify and diversify the land with all with your culture, beauty and warmth: kwa heri.
Warning: this entry is graphic, but it's not illustrated and it's not happy. I suggest you skip it if you don't like morocity. Morose-ness. Whatever.
I've promised myself I'd keep pristine memories many times: my first kiss, my first visit to a refugee camp, my first near-death experience, and just last week, my closest view of a death.
But even this latest one is blurring already, just like all my other memories.
It was on an express bus from Kenya to Uganda, and I can't remember which country we were in. I was in the front row. The bus slowed as we approached a village, and we saw crowds up ahead. I remember colours: women wearing colourful vitenge and buildings wearing colourful cell-phone advertisements. I can't remember which colours or which cell-phone companies.
Stand in the middle of one downtown Mombasa street and look north at the rickshaw distributing black fumes. Close your left eye, and your right will treat you to neat piles of sharp-red tomatoes on the sidewalk, hawked by friendly vendors.
But the smell of fresh vegetables won't make it to your nose. Open your left eye to see why: mounds of garbage 800,000 people high leak dark juices that seep down the street, fly through the air and buffet into both nostrils.
Cross the petrol-scented bridge from the city core to Kenya's mainland, head east past the mosaic of market scents and walk along the golf-course road, lined with grassicured lawns. Stop and lift your nose: even this far, a ten-minute walk from the beach, you'll smell the salt and breeze of the Indian ocean.
I didn't expect that smell. In Dar es Salaam, ocean breeze mutates to stagnant smog before even hitting land. But here in Mombasa, it's as though the wind has been showering since it left India and it'll be damned if it's going to let a few hundred metres' worth of kite surfers and holiday resorts mess up its hair.
I thought I'd need to haggle to get 67,000 Tanzanian shillings with my $50 USD bill when I arrived in Dar es Salaam, but the clerk gave me 74,000.
The Tanzanian shilling is suffering. When I flew in to Dar es Salaam this April a dollar was worth about 1,350 shillings; now, it's 1,490. In other words, the shilling has dropped 10 per cent in three months.
Why? Politics, according to analysts.
Every July, Tanzania's government begins a new budget. This year's budget costs 11.6 trillion shillings, up from last year's 9.5.
Kahama is a lost trade town: dustier and smaller than its lake-endowed northern neighbour Mwanza, its only assets are buried gold, a few hundred thousand residents and a dirt road that guides trucks from the rest of Tanzania to Rwanda. Google Maps shows it as a low-resolution swerve in the road. On the ground, it seems like every second building is a guest house.
Maybe I should have seen where this conversation was going, as I filled in my midrange hotel's registry:
"Company?" asked the landlady.
"No, I'm a student, I don't have a company," I replied.
I was arrested for being white while strolling around Goma during Congo's 50th anniversary of independence on June 30th.
I was told I made a mistake in leaving my passport at my guest house. I did that because I figured taking my passport to the pickpocket-stuffed streets would be an even bigger mistake. (It was the right decision: I even caught one pickpocket in the act.)
Of course, the reason was euphemism. The whole crowd, laughing at me, knew I was arrested purely because of my skin colour. Or maybe I was arrested because the policeman on that block was angry at me after his superior chastized him for trying to extract a bribe from me the day before.
They had intended to arrest me for taking pictures. But I was cautious enough to distrust the encouragement of four policemen and army captains; when the authorities realized they couldn't arrest me for taking pictures, they went down their checklist of excuses.