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Archive for December, 2008

Airport Dwellers

Hiroshi Nohara, AP

Hiroshi Nohara, AP

Early September, Mr. Nohara, a Japanese citizen, landed in Mexico City. We are now three months later, and he still hasn’t left the airport. He does have a return ticket and airport officials can’t really do anything about it until his tourist visa expires. In other words, he is free to either leave the airport or return home. But for the time being, he is staying put. He is now living his life inside a terminal and getting by with food donations from other travelers.

When asked why he was there, he didn’t know himself. He just wanted to smell the Mexican air from the airport. Because he is traveling alone, I personally think he is suffering from travel anxiety. He probably did want to visit Mexico. But now that he is in an unfamiliar country with an unfamiliar language, he may very well be paralyzed as what to do next. Going home is not an option, that would mean personal defeat. But leaving the airport on the other hand means taking a leap of faith. Something he may not be ready to do. So he stays in the one safe place he knows, the airport.

Another famous case is that of the Iranian refugee Mehran Karimi Nasseri. He was the inspiration for the film: The Terminal with Tom Hanks. He lived for eight years at Charles de Gaul airport in Paris. At first glance, it would seem that he found himself in a catch 22 predicament when his refugee status documents were stolen on his way from Paris to London. Without proper documents, London sent him back to Paris. His refugee papers had been issued by the Belgian government and the only way to get replacements was to get them in person. But for that, he had to travel to Belgium, which he couldn’t do without first getting his refugee papers back.

When you first hear this story, you have to wonder how it’s possible that someone is left to live for eight years in limbo in a first world nation. But when I dug a little deeper, it seems, this Kafka situation was entirely of his own making. He refused every solution offered to him that didn’t involve moving to the United Kingdom. First of all, he wasn’t living in the transit zone, like in the Tom Hanks movie, but in the departure hall. He was free to leave at any time. By 1996 when his whole ordeal started, France and Belgium had already signed the Schengen Agreement and opened each others borders. In other words, he could have easily taken a train from CDG in Paris, and been in Brussels two hours later without having to show any papers other then his train ticket. When Belgium did offer to send him new refugee status documents – rather then having to pick it up in person – it came with conditions. He had to live in Belgium for at least three years under the supervision of a social worker. He refused stating that he didn’t want to stay in Belgium, he wanted to live in the UK. At that point, the Belgium government must have given up on him and withdrew his refugee status.

In the mean time, he was probably living off the royalties of his book he had written about his life in the terminal, and later also from the Spielberg movie. But as the years passed by, he apparently grew more and more insane. Finally, he was hospitalized. It’s not clear if he is still alive, and if he is, where he is now.

On a personal note: I twice had to spend five hours in a Berlin airport, and was bored silly after the first twenty minutes. The ten hours in total that I spent there were an ordeal. With that in mind, if one were to become an Airport Dweller, which airports in the world would be the best suited to live in?

Airline Safety Cards

sabena_safetycardssabena20boeing20747-200Sabena convair

A site that collects airline safety cards. How magically wonderful! I can’t count the times I’ve secretly wanted to actually steal one of these. I would love to take one with me as a parting memento of another successful flight through the skies. I’ve even entertained the idea of smuggling out a life vest. But I never do. I always think to myself: what if the next passenger to sit here would find himself in a dire situation. Lets say for example: the plane falling out of the sky.
It happens.
And when it does,
he would completely be at loss without his card.
And that would be so sad.

More distressing is the disappearance of the safety dance. A ritual every stewardess must perform before we can take to the skies. More and more airlines are now replacing it with safety videos. Call me nostalgic but it was those little things that used to make air travel fun. And so I’m reminded of this beautifully drawn little gem.

Hitch a Ride on a Cargo Ship

While a cruise on a luxury ship has never really appealed to me, I have discovered a new found love for ocean travel. Great was my surprise when I discovered that it is possible to ride along with one of the many cargo ships that cross our seas. They are the unsung hero’sof our globalized world. But social commentary aside, there is something to be said about slow travel. It’s an excellent way of stepping out of our hectic lives and coming to terms with how to fill your time once you’re confronted with too much of it.

Little red ship at Neko Harbour

Where my love of ocean travel began.

Freight travel by sea also has a notorious reputation for serving really great food. With crews away from home for months at a time, it has been proved that a world class chef onboard is the best way to keep morale high for those long trips out at sea. Traveling with a freight line is not cheap however. But you do get your own cabin rather then being packed and sealed into one of the containers they are transporting. And did I mention the food?

Nowadays, there  is also the added excitement of being boarded by pirates and taken hostage for huge ransoms. Chanses of stumbling across Jack Sparrow may be slim in this day and age, but still. Imagine the stories you could tell. And believe me, if you had to choose between buccaneering with pirates or sharing a plane with a terrorist, I would go for the first.

Any way, more information about cargo travel can be found over here: http://thetravelersnotebook.com/how-to/how-to-travel-by-cargo-ship/

Working with WordPress

In the past few days, I’ve created two new blogs. One for myself and one for the Pangaea Expedition, the latter being the only reason for doing all of this. I had already created a fan page on Facebook, and while it offers quite a lot of interesting possibilities, it does have its limitations. The most important not having the ability to display high resolution maps and drawings.

And so I figured I would actually have to build a real site if I was really serious about launching the Pangaea Expedition experience. Starting from scratch was out of the question. It would need to have such nifty things like entry posts, user comments, automatic feeds and such. Coding all that by new year would be impossible and so I needed an out of the box solution. My eyes fell on WordPress, a popular blogging engine that pretty much has all the features I need.

Installing WordPress on my server was a straight forward act. The admin section is clean, easy to use  and all in all quite  impressive. Customizing the front end however took a little bit more work then I had hoped. The good news is, my HTML and CSS skills haven’t deteriorated over the years to the deplorable depths that I had feared. Getting the templates to look like my initial designs  went rather smoothly. So far, I’ve had very few cross browser issues to deal with. Fingers crossed.

Proving to be a bit more difficult was extracting the information from the WordPress engine and displaying it in way that I wanted it; not necessarily the way WordPress had intended it. To give them credit, they have done their best in making things as simple as possible for the template creator. You can quickly create template pages with a minimum of PHP coding on your part. However, the downside of this all,  is that in order to achieve this level of simplicity, some commands have had to mix content with HTML formatting.And  I hate that.

Maybe if I were to dig a little deeper into the WordPress API, that I would be able to get around this problem in a more elegant way, but for the time being, I’ve simply just hacked my way through it all. If it was works, it works, but it is still frustrating none the less. Unfortunately, working this way also  invalidates many of the options in the admin. But as these are usually options  that rarely have to be changed. It’s no real big loss. It just means I need to make some adjustments in the code itself if that were ever to happen.

I still have quite some work to do, but so far I am pleased with the results for the Pangaea Expedition. As for my personal blog, I haven’t bothered messing around with it yet and have simply gone for a ready made theme. With a bit of luck, I’ll be able to launch the Pangaea Expedition website soon.

Travel Photos

My travel itinerary
My travel itinerary

I’ve just exported my facebook photo’s from my previous travels to this site. So for those of you who don’t wish to have a facebook account, feel free to view them over here.

The latest photo’s are from my last trip to Malawi. I spent the first week in Machinjiri with my family. After that, I traveled north.

T-shirts with the god Shiva print