Things I wanted to put on my travel blog, but couldn’t

I’m just blogging about climing Mt Fansipan in Sapa, and it was exhausting. I’d have liked to have used the following to describe the exertion, but it’s a family-friendly blog, so I can’t. It’s a shame to waste it, so here you go:

“There was more heavy breathing than the last time I fucked a fat girl in a sauna.”

I thank you.

Beggars belief

This is related to a lot of what I’ve seen in recent weeks while travelling around India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In a word: poverty. And to expand on that, various peoples’ ways of dealing with it.

Sri Lanka, to be honest, wasn’t so bad. There were some beggars around, but they were few and far between. I’d say no more, possibly less, than you’d see in an average day in an average British city.

India, however, is swarming with them. And they’re tenacious. You can’t walk around Mumbai, for instance, without having some young girl with a baby in her arms poking you and asking for money or food for the baby. Frankly, I’d rather hand her a load of condoms and a lecture on birth control. At least they’re more direct in India. Back in the UK the usual procedure is to get pregnant so you can claim more income support and get up the ladder for free housing. In India it’s simply “I have a baby – give me money”. One girl in Bangalore simply stood in front of me saying “babybabybabaybabybaby…”

Bangledesh seems outwardly to be more affluent, at least insofar as there are less beggars on the street than in India. Also, the roads are better, power supplies seem more reliable and so on. There are more better-dressed people on the streets. Whether it’s all image or what, I don’t know. Still, the beggars are tenacious. They won’t take “no” from a tourist at all. You get looks of disbelief, disdain and disgust if you refuse them money. Worse is if you give them food and they look at you as if you’re insane. Which is when you take it back off them.

My problem is that I can’t help everyone. So instead I choose to help no-one. I don’t know if this is the right choice, but it’s the one I’ve gone for. If I happen to have, say, a half-eaten packet of crisps on me when a small child asks for them then fine. If it gets me a smile then it’s worth it. But I just won’t hand money over. Ever.

Trust me, seeing some of these people who are asking makes it difficult. They obviously live in utter poverty. They’re dirty, they look unhealthy, a huge number are crippled or disabled, even many of the rickshaw-wallahs can’t read. But in Bangladesh, a mainly Muslim society, they care for their own. These people get fed by others who do have money. Both in India and Bangledesh you see locals handing over coins regularly to these folk – and that’s heartening.

But does it excuse me from not handing over my own money?

I suppose I can look at it one way. I’ve bought food and paid for accommodation in places where I’ve seen the staff handing money over to beggars. So I suppose it’s a “trickle-down” thing. Or am I just trying to make excuses up for my lack of generosity?

On the flip side, we were talking to Caroline – another British traveller – on the train from Varanasi last week. She’d had words with a flower seller by the waterfront who’d tried to charge her 10Rp for flowers she knew were only worth 5Rp. The conversation went along the lines of:

“Why is this 10 Rupees?”

“Because you have more money.”

“Why do you think I have more money?”

“Because you’re white.”

It took a little more wheedling to get it out of the guy, but that was the answer. If you’re in India and you’re white then you’re richer than a local.

Last time I looked, the guy who owns Kingfisher Airlines (and Kingfisher Beer and several other industries) is Indian. And he’s got a hell of a lot more money than I have.

Basically, I do want to help some of these people. Some can get knotted – they’re professional beggers. I have sympathy for those in a situation that’s not of their own making and which they simply can’t get out of. But I have no time whatsoever for people who won’t help themselves. That’s why I’m happy to spend time and effort with the kids from Blue Dragon or similar charities. They’re all there because they want to improve themselves, to get out of a hole that fate has dumped them into.

But how do you pick who to help and who not? As it stands, my aid is going to have to be to spend my tourist dollar in these countries and let it filter down to those who need it. I’m glad to see that, in certain areas, it does seem to happen.

Byeeeee (again)

GMM 10th Anniversary Ticket
GMM 10th Anniversary Ticket

Well, folks, this is your lot for a few days. Tomorrow morning, I drive down to Dawn’s and we panic trying to figure out how to split no more than 30kg of camping equipment and strong alcohol between us (silly Ryanair luggage limits). Then, off to Belgium via Holland.

I’ll try to convince her that it’s important I get back in one piece. Mainly because I’ll be the one driving us home from the airport. I’ve been checking the insurance policy and it excludes “claims arising from any activity which requires a degree of skill or involves a greater risk”. Does this include moshing? If anyone asks, I fell down some stairs…

Coursework 1 is almost done. Work’s dead today, so I’ve been pulling together most of the stuff I have to do and, when it’s all in one place, it’s not that much. I’ll panic over the maths when I return.

Gym at 12:00, lunch straight after, head for site at 1:30 and – if I’m lucky – home a little early depending on how things go there. Holiday is so close!

Before any of you ask, no you can’t have a postcard. 1) I’ll be on a campsite. 2) the last time I was on hols and sent postcards, two out of the 18 I posted actually arrived. You can, however, sit in your offices and homes and wish you were there with me. That is allowed.

Clippings

Don’t you hate it when you’ve just clipped your fingernails, they’re all lovely and neat… and then you realise you can’t reach that huge crusty snotter right at the back of your nose? Your finger just seems to glide over the top, pushing it deeper and liquefying is so it either goes down the back way or mushes up and makes a mess of your hanky.

Just me, eh?

Leave them alone!!!

There’s a story on BBC News today about a former prostitute being stripped of her earnings. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve never used a prostitute, nor do I think I ever will.

However, why on earth can’t they do their job and be left in peace? This girl came over here as a kid, set herself up and bought a flat with nearly a £500,000 deposit. In cash. She went on to set up “escort” services employing at least 45 other women at one time. They reckon she’s got upwards of £1.2 million stashed away that they’re going to try and get back.

Now… why? My only quibble (assuming the girls themselves made a decent living and were safe) is that she might not have paid tax. Thing is, if she did they’d be asking where she got the money from.

Will someone explain why prostitution is such a difficult job to have? As far as I’m aware, being a prostitute in and of itself is not illegal. It’s a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body, and if a man (or another woman) wants to pay to make use of those services then so what?

The thing is, everything surrounding prostitution is illegal. Kerb crawling. Soliciting (i.e. advertising). Living off immoral earnings (so if you’re out of work and your partner earns a living on her back, you can’t live off them or you are in trouble). Running a brothel.

The last one’s ludicrous. A “brothel” is described as any premises where more than one prostitute works. Prostitution is not a safe job, and this stupid rule prevents “safety in numbers”.

When the hell will the UK wake up and realise that a legalised, taxed and certified prostitution business (like that in some continental countries) will reduce drug problems, STDs, violence towards women and have the added bonus of bringing in some income to the treasury and reducing the load on our police and courts?

Bollocks to it. I’m off somewhere foreign. If only for a few days.

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