Friday, February 16, 2007

I've Moved!

I’ve moved to

I will be blogging about my trip, which is now less than a month away, for the BootsnAll Travel Network. It should be a lot of fun. Even more fun, if you GO THERE EVERY DAY and make comments.

I am really looking forward to this trip, but I’ll get lonely. So, go make comments. You wouldn’t want me to get all homesick and wallowy. I go on these trips for YOU people. I’m going all the way to Bangladesh to see where my underwear was made. You could at least go to my new Blog.

Does that sound needy?

Well, I am!


Go now to

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Results: Where was your T-shirt made?

Where our T-shirts were made:
(updated 2/14/07)
Honduras - 3
Mexico - 1
USA - 1
Turkey - 1

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Me Tube!

One of my pre-trip goals is to have the know-how to create audio-slideshows. Missions accomplished!

Windows comes with a nifty program called Windows Movie Maker that makes the entire process really easy. The audio is from an old podcast that many of you have heard already recorded using Audacity. I expect the quality of future recordings to be better because I have had more practice reading for the radio and I purchased a nice mic and minidisk recorder.

For the record, I find this recording to be a bit corny. My fiance does to. She really thought the "Kill it! Kill it!" portion of the adventure could use some work. I think I sound like a stoned Mr. Rogers.

I’m hoping to be able to post audio slideshows during my upcoming trip to Bangladesh, China, and Cambodia.

Friday, February 09, 2007

World Champions

I like to pride myself on not getting caught up in semantics, but this one really bugs me…

World Champion Indianapolis Colts

World Champions? The world is made up of about 200 some other countries none of which were defeated by the Colts. US champions – Yes. NFL Champions – Yes. But not World Champions!

I really try to not let it bother me. I tell myself that the other countries couldn’t throw together a team to beat the Colts, that our athletes are the best in the world.

They’re not.

They are probably better than average because we have a lot more leisure time to play games with balls. And, of course, their salaries match the Gross National Products of many small countries, allowing them to purchase trainers, nutritionists, and human growth hormones. But even given all of this, we regularly get our gym shorts handed to us in international competition. Don’t even get me started on our basketball team.

Many of the Colts’ players read this blog. If you are one of them, please stop saying, “We are World Champions, BABY. Yeah! Woohoo!”

Why would any of the Colts players read this blog? Because I just formed the National Blogging League and Touron Talk kicked the font out of every other blog out there.

Touron Talk is the World Champion of blogging, baby. Yeah! Woohoo!”

Update: Touron Talk is the Galactic Champion of blogging, baby. Yeah! Woohoo!”

Update: Touron Talk is the Universal Champion of blogging, baby. Yeah! Woohoo!”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Are you and Ugly American: Part 4 of 10

Budget Travel’s tips to avoid being a jerk abroad:
Don't overtip
Why I’m apparently an Ugly American:

I once had an older woman in New Zealand rake me over the coals for tipping my whitewater rafting guide. It seems that I was tearing the fabric of Kiwi society while at the same time polluting it with my insolence.

I also, peed in the river. But she didn’t know it.

Basically, she told me I was an Ugly American.

The guide was a friend of a friend and I had gone on the trip for free. I knew that if my tail had needed saving the guide would have been the one to do it, putting his own life on the line for me, a freeloading American. This, coupled with the fact that I worked for tips as a SCUBA instructor and knew what it was like to save bumbling tourons, was why I slipped the guide 10 bucks.

$10 bucks! That’s it. Plus, I copped a story off the whole ordeal. Have a read:
Mother’s Nightmare! Imminent Death!
By Kelsey Timmerman

Rotorua, New Zealand-

“This river has a waterfall that is sweet-as! It is the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world- 10 meters!”

Sweet-as? Is that good?

I’m staring at a glossy photo in which four people are hanging on for dear life to a raft that appears to have dropped off the face of the earth. There are other people in the photo falling beside the raft with strange, “I-hope-I-don’t-land-on-a-rock” faces. It is easily apparent that their butt cheeks are as equally clenched as their faces. Paddles and people are the detritus of the plunging raft.

A little math: Ten meters equals thirty-three, “I-can’t-believe-I-paid-money-for-this” feet. It’s a height where people are no longer tourists who are rafting, but tourists that are projectiles. By the time they splash down at the base of the waterfall, the raft, the rafters, and the paddles are falling around 30 mph.

“That’s the Kaituna (River).” Ryan waves at the photo, “It’s harmless compared to the Wairoa, and mate, lucky for you the Wairoa is where we’re heading today.” A smile creeps across Ryan’s face, “You ever been rafting before?”

“(GULP) Nope.”

Ryan’s smile gets a little wider and I get the impression that he doesn’t care for me much. Maya, his girlfriend, who I had met a few weeks previously while hiking on New Zealand’s South Island, invited me to come and stay with the two of them and go rafting. Maya had warned me, “Don’t be alarmed, sometimes Ryan can be a little moody, a little jealous.” Following this, I inquired into his size and strength.

At the shoulders Ryan is wide as a door frame, muscle built-up after years of rafting, but supporting his hulking torso are two twig-like legs. He’s built like a caricature drawing, except not so happy and much more menacing.

Ryan tosses me a paddle, life jacket, and a helmet before walking away with an evil laugh. My life is now his.

“All right everybody,” Ryan is yelling over the sound of crashing water, “this is a little rapid called Mother’s Nightmare.”
Our boat consists of two of the rafting company’s staff members who had never been down the river, Maya, Ryan, and me. Ryan’s briefing was somewhat informal and definitely not the one normally delivered to customers.
“Flipping on this rapid is a bad thing. You definitely don’t want to swim this one. There is one spot where if you fall in, you’re not swimming out. If you go in, as you are getting pounded relentlessly by the river and death is drawing near, make sure you reach up and feel along the rocks- if you can. There is a rope to pull yourself out- again, if you can. Otherwise, consider your day ruined.”

Some of you may know that class IV’s and V’s are the biggest rapids rafted. The Wairoa consists of nothing else. Lucky for me where fear should exist, ignorance has already kicked up its feet waiting for a good show. Ryan, the jealous lover, who I might add has no reason to be jealous, the rafting guide with my life riding on his paddle, slowly gives me an ambiguous nod, either, “Good luck,” or “Good riddance.”

“LEFT FORWARD!” my signal to paddle ahead furiously. “LEFT BACK!” now I paddle backwards. I can see no sense in the river as it pours over and around the boulders. I don’t know whether to paddle or to hold on, whether to close my eyes or stare at undeniable doom.

Everything is chaos and drama.

The rock comes from nowhere and brings our PLINKO down the river to a sudden stop. We teeter on spilling. With the time difference between here and Ohio, my mom is likely in bed and about to have a nightmare.

Fear shuts my eyes, but curiosity pries open the right eye a crack, just enough to see the other paddlers mouthing four-letter words. And then silence. The water is calm as we pull over to the bank to catch our breath and listen to our pulses pound in our ears.

Each rapid must be approached differently, each has a unique line that must be followed. In places, Ryan would intentionally bounce us off a boulder to spin the boat and continue on down the line. Rafting guides must have mental pictures of each rapid in order to safely run them. The lives of their passengers depend of this knowledge and their skill to execute these lines. To this point, Ryan has expertly negotiated each rapid and my confidence in him is complete. Approaching the last rapid, named something that translates to “Imminent Death,” we pull to the bank for the briefing.

“Hell, if I know. I really don’t have a clue about this one. Just hold on and be ready for anything.” Before I can express my concern and suggest a portage around the rapid, Ryan shoves off.

We float towards Imminent Death.

“Left Back, Right Forward,” around one rock.

“Left Forward, Right Back…” down a narrow chute and beyond the ugly white water.

Ryan directs us over to a standing wave and has us all paddle backwards. The wave picks up the boat and holds it in place- we’re surfing. We hoot and holler before the wave spits us out onto flat water. The celebrating continues with the high-fiving of paddles and splashes in the water. I’m not sure, but Ryan may have smiled in my direction.

That night over pizza, at a party in a room full of strangers, sitting with Ryan, we chat away. His attitude toward me has changed. He either saw that I was no threat to him following my girly cries for help on the river, or he respected me for surviving his innumerable attempts to do me in.

Traveling alone forces one to go out of their way to meet others, and sometimes, their jealous boyfriends and the deadly rivers they raft.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The whole world in your hands

And the world's such a toy
If you just stay a boy
You can spin it again and again

--- Jimmy Buffett in Jimmy Dreams

It’s been a while since I’ve held a globe. The World has changed a lot since. I got one for my birthday yesterday from my in-laws to-be, Jim and Gloria. The globe was Gloria’s fathers. He used it in his classroom. Her accompanying note got me a little verklempt and all.

Overall, globes aren’t that useful as a teaching tool. They are hard to hold and too tiny to show a class. A single finger blocks out about 13 countries in Western Europe. But when I was in school, every classroom had one in the corner. I remember getting out the globe during break times when we were supposed to be learning quietly with a buddy or playing a game with some educational merit.

There are three ways to pass the time with a globe:

1. Spin the globe as fast as you can and imagine all the World’s people vomiting from dizziness and, if spun fast enough, flung into space with said vomit.

2. Spin the globe and blindly place a finger on it. Wherever your finger is, well, that’s the place that gets bombed to hell by your fleet of imaginary, heartless bombers.

3. Spin the globe and blindly place a finger on it. You will go wherever your finger lands. If you land on Hawaii all of your buddies will be jealous. But in truth, anyone that lands on Hawaii is a big fat cheater. What are the odds of landing on a spec in the middle of the Pacific?

#1 no longer holds my attention like it used to and #2 is a bit twisted. We’ll blame this on the A-team and my parent’s allowing me to play with guns. But #3 is still cool. Lets’ give it a whirl. First in the northern hemisphere and then in the southern…

Northern Hemisphere – Quebec. Ouch! I let my finger slide a little to far from the equator.

Southern Hemisphere – Java, Indonesia. Nice. I hear they got some good diving there.

A globe, just what I needed another day dreaming device to distract me from actually getting any work done.

How about one more spin? I’m shooting for Hawaii this time. Here goes…

Close! Marshall Islands, here I come!

Monday, February 05, 2007

We all live in a Fantasy Kingdom

My whole “Where am I wearing?” idea stems from the disparity between Us and Them. What’s really strange is when you find out that all of the Them’s are not so different than all of us Us’s.

Over half of Bangladesh’s 130 million people live in poverty. But that didn’t stop the Them’s that aren’t so different than us Us’s from spending $400 million to build the amusement park Fantasy Kingdom. It has all of the things we We’s, and you know who you We’s are, love about amusement parks – greasy food, semi-maintained roller coasters manned by people who really don’t give a crap. And the entrance fee is only $3!

I’m so there.

The storyline of Fantasy Kingdom, as told by Fantasy Kingdom’s website:

“Once upon a time, there was a magical kingdom of fun and excitement where Prince Ashu and Princess Lia along with their four extraordinary friends, Zipper, Zuzu, Bangasaur and Bobo, spent their days in fun and frolic, dancing and playing with the people of their kingdom. But with time, this mysterious kingdom disappreared because the people in Prince Ashu's land had forgotten how to smile and became busy with their day to day lives. Then many years later, Prince Ashu recreated his lost kingdom here in Ashulia, Dhaka, so that people would forget their worries and again learn to smile and have fun.”

If this sounds like an experience in which the real culture of Bangladesh may be under-represented. It probably is.

In a 2002 BBC report:

“Located on a greenfield site more than an hour's drive from Dhaka, the Disney-style theme park sits a little incongruously alongside paddy fields and villages that have no running water or electricity.”

The villages with no lights or plumbing can be seen from the roller coasters. What more cultural experience do you need?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Dave Barry's guide to Miami

My buddy Dave has done it again. Read Don't be alarmed, Miami isn't so weird.

Oh, by the way here is a picture of Dave and me in Dayton, Ohio. The dude just idolizes me. It’s embarrassing.

Travel writer to travelers: Don't travel

Bits of posts in a recent thread:

“I'm pretty worried about global warming, what with the report published today (Feb 2) by scientists who met in Paris. Some of my income comes from travel writing, and I'm worried that if I encourage people to travel, they may be adding to a problem that will ultimately cause misery all over the globe.

...shouldn't travel writers be doing their bit - however small - to discourage people to indulge in activities that might add to the problem, such as air travel?”

- Petra

I get updates from a few times a week. Most of the threads tend to be of the I-hate-editors or the why-ain’t-I-making-it-as-a-travel-writer variety. This post is the first to suggest that travel writers should discourage travel.

Heck, why not stop writing too? All those trees dying with each word printed and computers eating up electricity.

If you continue to read the post, it eventually turns to “cow farts” and their impact on the environment. No matter what the issue, any time “farts” are debated you can be sure there’s a person in the debate with a level head.

Here at Touron Talk we, and by we I mean me, recognize global warming and its potential apocalyptic results. We also, much like the “fart” debater, like to keep a level head about these things. We’re not going to get preachy about travel ending poverty and hunger, and promoting world peace, skipping, and international Kumbaya-ing. But we do think travel does much more good than harm.

So, cows keep farting. Travelers keep flying. We’ll just have to find other ways to combat global warming. Oh like, I don’t know, maybe driving vehicles that get a bit more than 8 miles per gallon and flossing our teeth.

Wait flossing doesn’t help slow global warming? Well, in truth, it’s inconvenient all the same.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Beneath the surface, we're all lumberjacks

Whatever happened to flannel shirts, flapjacks, and big blue oxen? Remember when it was manly to be a lumber jack?

I don’t mean to boast, but I earned my Totin’ Chip from the Boy Scouts at a very young age, much younger than most.

I’ve split a few logs in my days. Okay, they were branches. But they were big branches and they quaked in the shadow of my mighty axe.

Yeah…yeah…you got me… it wasn’t an axe it was a hatchet. But I swung that little hatchet with such force that when it landed on its target – or somewhere in the near vicinity, give or take 14 inches – the ground shook and the leaves shivered.

Alright, I’ll level with you. I’m no Paul Bunyan. If a branch or stick was sturdy enough to take a few whacks against a tree, I threw it to the side and searched for something wimpier. I didn’t reach for the axe or the hatchet. But even all that was many times manlier than downing trees by controlling a submersible with a tini joystick.

It may be kinda nerdy, but it’s kinda cool too. Read this article, Reservoir Logs, in the most recent Wired. It's about a fella who’s harvesting underwater forests.

Go environment! Go nerds!