Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You might be a Touron if...

...you travel to North Carolina and unconsciously (and badly) mimic the regional accent in conversations with the locals.
Thanks to J. Herman for admitting the above Touron If. I believe this is one that we all have been guilty of at some point in time. I lived in North Carolina for about two years, does that mean I am allowed to use English's laziest contraction- Y'all? How many days, weeks, months, or years have to go by before it is socially acceptable to butcher the local dialect?
What really cracks me up is when I am talking to someone that barely understands English and I unconsciously try to bridge the language gap by speaking rapid staccatoed English with some strange accent. It doesn't matter where I am at in the world my strange accent is always the same. One of these days I hope to find someone that understands it.
To read more touron confessions visit the Touron If section of my website. If you have any good ones yourself leave 'em in the comments.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Proud to be American?

"You are pretty nice for an American."

I have actually had people say this to me before. I'm really not quite sure how to take it. Do I sell out my countrymen and say "thanks?"
They usually continue on to tell me things that paint "most" Americans as the brash, culturally insensitive, my way or the highway, cowboy, capitalist pig type.
Fueling this misconception is the fact that much of what they learn about us is through the TV or bigscreen. On one hand they think that we are the gun-toting models they see in the movies and on the other, thanks to the US's two most worldwide shows - Jerry Springer and COPS - they think we are toothless, obese strippers who are married to our cousins. I like to think we are somewhere in between.
This thought stream was brought on by a recent post on worldhum.com about two girls from Wisconsin that are selling ad space on their foreheads while they travel around the world. If there goal of $1 million in ad sales is met they will easily be able to fund their 80-day around the world trip. I know what you are thinking, "Capitalist piglettes." But wait. Some of the money will go to charity.
While I admire their desire to travel and their fearlessness in the face of humiliation, I can't decide what I would have them temporarily tattoo on their foreheads. I've narrowed it down to: I'm with stupid, Kick Me, Proud to be an American Entrepaneur, Bet you wish you'd thought of this, or simply a picture of the Canadian flag.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I'd like to buy the world a Coke...

...but the world already has it! Over the last week I've been researching Coca-Cola - very interesting and unbelievable. 1 billion Coke products are consumed each day. One friggin' billion.
Some of my encounters with the all-American company abroad:
  • Nepal: Monks using it as offering to some Tibetan deity.
  • Guatemala: Met a hippy from Spain (Do they call 'em hippies in Spain?) who blamed Coca-Cola for more than just rotting teeth. She said the company backs the killing of union leaders in Colombia. The materials I used to research didn't make any mention of this, but there is a web site dedicated to it - Killer Coke.

No matter how out of the way you are, if you are thirsty someone will probably hand you a Coke. Coke claims to be in 200 countries world-wide. This just in- there are currently 192 countries on Earth.

Now that is marketing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Touron Tip -- Underwear and security

Some people may think that the most security that one can get from their clothing is a hidden pocket or two. They would be wrong.
Get rid of your hidden pockets, mace, munches, and stun guns, underwear is the new IT item in travel security. A wisely selected pair of undergarments just may be the difference between months of being held hostage or a day of hanging out with your new friends with guns.
Let me explain...
Let's say you are hiking in Colombia's Darien Province where people tend to get captured every mile or two. You are, in fact, captured, but you are prepared. As your captors tell you to strip off your clothing they marvel at how calm you are. They've never had a hostage act like this before. Your shirt and pants lie in a pile at your feet and you stand there in your wisely selected underwear - Scooby Doo underwear. Your captors grew up watching Scooby. They love Scooby Doo, their children love Scooby Doo. A bond is formed. You spend the rest of the day eating their rice, drinking their booze, playing cards, and recounting the adventures of Scooby. Crisis averted.
Be sure to check local listing to see what cartoons play in the region you will be visiting and shop accordingly. If you are going to a particularly dangerous area you may want to step up your level of undergarments security. Trust me, no one will hold you hostage if you are wearing adult underoos.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I have fallen off the wagon. I'm drinking again. I can't seem to quench my thirst for salt water. Sometimes I poor a glass over my head and let it crust into a nice white layer on my skin. I miss the ocean that bad.

I miss sun-generated heat, colorful fish in the ocean, colorful fish on my plate served with mango, free diving, SCUBA diving, and, most of all, my flop-flipping flip-flops. I have had the good fortune to spend much of the previous three summers in and around the ocean working as a SCUBA instructor ('02- Key West, '03 Key West, '04- Baja), but in '05 I only had the opportunity a handful of times when I was traveling in Central America.

I'm one of those people that requires at least a month or so on and under the water each year. My name is Kelsey and I am an Oceanoholic.

With the help of my OAA sponsor, I have come a long way in the battle with this horrible disease, but today I broke one of the groups sacred rules: Do not read articles about sunny places, perfect beaches, and lazy days on the water. I get the NYT's travel section delivered by email each week and today I made the mistake of reading The Flip Side of the Bahamas by Danny Lee that featured the quiet island of Eleuthera.

So, I read the article and the drinking began again. Despite the fact that Eleuthera sounds like a part of the urinary tract, I gotta go!

Oh, and it's not true, drinking salt water doesn't make you crazy. If you don't believe me you can ask my imaginary pet sea turtle Bill.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Fast food horror

Cue the eerie music and The Voice that does all of the suspenseful movie trailers...

"Somewhere deep in the heart of middle America a little old lady is about to inform her fellow fast food diners of a horrible truth."

Stop the music. Zoom to the little old lady's face.

"The devil never sleeps." NOOOOOOOOOOO! We are all doomed.

I ran into a friend's grandma who randomly blurted this out today at McDonald's when I was mid-bite into my egg McMuffin. It really was kind of creepy coming from such a sweet crackily high-pitched voice.

My thoughts raced as my state of horror elevated: What if she's right? What if the devil never sleeps but spends all of his time trying to do evil? He could be among us right now?

Then I remembered that this is coming from a lady who I know for a fact eats potpourri.

I finished my value meal in peace.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Orwell on high-tech passports

There are some words that people use just to sound smart. One of these words is Orwellian. I know that it refers to George Orwell's novel 1984 that introduced us to BIG BROTHER. I never read the book, but I know enough about it to summarize: 1984 is about a group of farm animals that move into a house in LA and spy on each other. Each week the pig, who is the Head of Household, votes a donkey out of the house. Wait, maybe that isn't right. Let me google it... ... ... ...

Okay here is what I found: 1984 is a "dystopian novel setting forth his (Orwell's) fears of an intrusively bureaucratized state of the future."

Dystopian? This is another word that people use to sound smart. There was an Orwell, does this mean there is some guy out there running around with the last name of Dystop?

Back to 1984. As you can tell from my above research I was right about the pigs.

I read an article in a popular travel magazine in which the author was writing about memory chips being imbedded in our passports. Apparently, he felt as if he needed to boost his intellectual confidence and busted out the "O" word, calling the chips "downright Orwellian."

I have no idea what the chips would have to do with pigs, but to me they may not be a bad idea. They are supposed to speed up the process of passing through immigration. Those lines make me nervous. I don't like being in inter-country limbo. Plus, I always feel like I am hiding something.

There is also the safety issue. I once met a 22 year old American student in Eastern Europe who was fresh off a few months in Iran where he had gone native - wearing bed sheets, sporting an unkept fundamentalist beard, the whole works. It scares me to think that this fella could have handed his passport to a tired immigration worker who flipped past his Iranian stamps and allowed him to waltz into the country. This guy should have been detained and questioned.

That's just my opinion. I know that it's downright Timmermanian , and perhaps a little Kelseyian, so you'll have to forgive me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

You might be a Touron if...

...you were cured from a desire to vomit (due to dysentery, no less) by the revolting state of the toilets available to vomit into.

- Anonymous

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy V-Day

What do the Headless Horseman and St. Valentine have in common?

Their heads...err...their lack of heads.

On this day in 269 a roman priest named Valentine was beheaded. How we went from a beheading to greeting cards and boxes of chocolates remains a mystery.

I hope your day is memorable too, but not quite as memorable as the holiday's namesake.

1st time in NYC

(2 players just hanging in NYC)

I don't mean to brag - because, trust me, there is nothing to brag about - but I guarantee my first time in NYC was different than anyone else's. That is unless you are Nepalese, a Tibetan monk, or both.

Yesterday I mentioned my time in Nepal in '01. In '04 my monk friend Khenpo Sange visited NYC and I went to meet him.
I had always hoped that my first time in the Big Apple would be the typical country-mouse-visits-the-big-city kind of experience: broadway show, nice hotel, Letterman, good food, museums, hooker-spotting (we don't have hookers in Ohio- that I know of). It wasn't

I spent the long weekend hanging out with illegal immigrants who spoke very little English. We ate about 8 meals a day of home-cooked Nepalese delicacies. I can't stand home-cooked Nepalese delicasies. I was excited when we finally decided to eat out, until we walked into a Nepalese restaurant.

I spent most of my time staring at the wall while Khenpo spoke with his friends in Nepalese. At one point they were kind enough to put on a movie, 3 hours of home video from a Nepalese New Year's party. It made the wall look exciting.

It was great to see my friend Khenpo, but I do believe that weekend was the longest of my life.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A war that never makes the news

In November of 2001 I arrived in Nepal with the intent to go trekking. No surprise. That's what we tourist are supposed to do in Nepal - hire a guide, maybe a yak or two, and head off into the mountains.

My trek lasted one day before an infection in my foot flared up and I limped back to Kathmandu. I spent the next 2 weeks hanging with a monk and his flock of monk underlings who I had met on the flight in from Thailand.

I attended ceremonies, ate sticky rice with my fingers, was blessed by reincarnated bulletproof monks, and helped rebuild a monastery. My time in Nepal was more memorable than any trek could have ever been; read more about it here.

When the Nepalese government had sent troops out to confront the growing Maoist threat, the country became a litte too dicey for my tastes. I left. Since the Maoist uprising, over 12,000 people have been killed, soldiers and civilians alike in conflicts and random bombings. The country as a whole seems to be nearing anarchy - people are calling for the King's execution and government officials have been thrown in jail.

It is a war that never makes the newspapers.

Today is the 10th anniversary of the maoist uprising. Read about it here.

Monday, February 06, 2006

What am I?

(Henry Rollins is a rock icon, philosopher, expert intospective poser for black and white photos. He is way cooler than you)
Just got my latest National Geographic Adventure in the mail - my favorite magazine. I am giving it the quick once over before I dig in and I come across an interview with punk rock legend turned film critic Henry Rollins. He imparts some I-am-cool-so-I-will-try-and-impart-some-great-truth about travel:

"There's tourism and there's travel. The traveler doesn't know where he's going, and the tourist doesn't know where he is."

But what if I don't know where I am going, and I don't know where I am? What does that make me?

Other than unsure of myself and my general location/direction, it makes me know that Henry Rollins is way cooler than me.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Will work for cabbage

I have never pulled out a calculator and worked up the numbers, but I have a strange suspicion that I lose a lot of money working as a freelance writer. This may be why my checking has a tendency to work its way to zero. Who would have thought that traveling months on end and coming back to write 800 word blurbs about the trip would not make ME heaps of money?

Last week in the Hub, a weekly paper in Champaign, Illinois, to which I contribute, one of the columnist used me as an example of the low end of an imaginary pay-scale:

...By the way, I am not so gauche as to quote an exact figure, but let us just say my stipend resides somewhere in the neighborhood below “Koplinski boodle,” but above “Kelsey Timmerman cabbage.”...

You mean people actually get paid in something other than fresh, green produce to write?

Oh well...

I'm not in it for the money. I'm in it for the cabbage. Well, the cabbage and the LADIES!