Friday, February 16, 2024

Jefferson City, Missouri: At Least I'm Not Camping

Although my apartment offers charm in views, design, and location, it is as breezy inside as a log cabin that has lost its chinking. 

For some reason, this state of affairs reminds me of the so-called bozi flower in Caucasus Georgia, aka prostitute flower. My apartment windows are as loose as a bozi's legs. 

And the walls are cold. Because there ain't no insulation in this 100-year old building. 

Sometimes I'll feel an actual push of cold air that flows by me, but when I get up to investigate where the hell it's coming from, it's untraceable. A frosty spirit? 

During a recent two-week arctic blast, when temperatures sank into the single digits, my first thought upon awakening each morning was: "At least I'm not camping."  

Cold comfort, as my living space was frigid.

I wore (and still wear) a hat to bed and for most of the day inside my place. I'm wearing it as I write this. During the day, I typically wear three layers of clothing.

Oh, sure, I could crank up the thermostat, but with the super-high ceilings, the billowy blasts of cold air coming through the windows and walls, with the registers affixed to the high ceilings, and electric heat pushed up such a long way through vents that are quite possibly lined with a thick layer of dust plaque - from a furnace of unknown age - which is way down in the basement of this old building, to which I have no access, thus I can't check the filter ("We change the filters twice a year!" say the property managers, as if that's a generous amenity) - and a bill that could easily hit $250 for just one month, I started out with a 65-degree thermostat setting before frugalizing even further by dropping it to 63 degrees.

Since the leaden cold has descended, I don't see my charming outside views because I've covered my windows with two cold-air barriers in addition to the blinds already installed: Plastic sheeting and fabric curtains, and for some windows, Reflectix, too. Against the walls below the windows, I've pushed bulwarks of boxes and pillows to block the cold air swooshing in through the frames.

My charmless winter decor to repel the cold invasion. February 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.
My charmless winter decor to repel the cold. February 2024. Credit: Mzuriana.


Other cold tales:

Rustavi [Caucasus Georgia]: Warmth Strategies

[Caucasus] Georgia: Cold

[Caucasus] Georgia: Warmth

Birmingham, Alabama: An Annoyance of Facts 

My winter in Birmingham was the very same that hit Houston so hard in 20/21. My winter in Birmingham is when I bought both an electric mattress pad and an electric throw to put on my bed.

The year I wintered in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2018, I said this: "No, no, no, no. I am finished with winters in cold lands." I made this proclamation after it snowed on Easter. In April

Yeah, and now look what I've gone and done again. 

At least I'm not camping.


Friday, February 2, 2024

10 Years Ago: Worst Travel Advice



Dubious travel suggestion. Nazret, Ethiopia. Credit: Mzuriana.
Dubious travel suggestion. Nazret, Ethiopia. Credit: Mzuriana.

Ten years ago, I posted the article below. 

In searching for fresh pieces of bad travel advice, I'm not seeing anything that adds much value to the 2013 Lonely Planet list - or mine. 


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Worst Travel Advice

The Lonely Planet has a list of the worst travel advice ever here. It's not bad. 

Here's my list of worst tips: 


1. "Let's ask if they can help us buy some coke." 

Yes, a temporary travel companion did propose this to me in Ecuador.

Don't do this.

2.  Bring candy, pencils, and small coins to give to the children in the streets.

This tip is offered to those visiting a country such as Ethiopia.

Do not do this. Do not do this. Do not do this.

It promotes begging in lieu of school (for those who have access to school). It causes a plague upon the tourists who follow you, as you set up the expectation that foreigners are walking Santas.

Besides, you will never have enough stuff to distribute. Never.

Finally, it is at best, a gesture of noblesse oblige. At worst, it is akin to feeding bread crumbs to pigeons - dehumanizing. 

If you want to contribute in some way to a country you're visiting, to offset in some way the terrible disparity of resources between you and most of the country's population -  identify an in-country organization that you admire and give it a donation.

3. Take traveler's checks. 

Travelers checks have gone the way of rotary phones. ("Rotary phones" - look it up.)

No matter how remote the country you're visiting, trust me, travelers checks are over.

Instead, take some cash (dollars or euros) + cash (local currency, upon arrival) + two cards that you can use as debit for ATMs. Stash the second card in a place that's separate from the other card.

And remember to inform your financial institution that you'll be traveling - you don't want to be abroad and find your card is locked.

4. From locals, about an area in their country - "Don't go there, it's too dangerous." 

This can be superb advice that you'd do well to heed. 


I've discovered that locals in all countries suffer from the same malady as the locals in my country. How many times do we hear compatriots caution against going to a particular U.S. location, be it an entire city or a part of a city, or a certain rural location? Again, sometimes the advice has merit, but more often than not, it's a generalized and unsubstantiated fear that has little connection with reality.

So if a local cautions me about going to a particular place, I'm going to listen to her, but I'm also going to ask more questions, do some independent research, and then make a decision.

5. Wait for the official instructions ... 

Like #4, this is sometimes the exact right thing to do. I learned in Ethiopia to be patient and let staff, such as those at a bus terminal, help me. They knew what they were doing and it was in their best interest for the maintenance of efficient operations to get me through the process smoothly.

But in an unusual situation, look at what the locals are doing. Are they waiting for instructions or are they moving?

In Ecuador long ago, a trio of us (all Americans) were on a train from Ibarra to San Lorenzo. En route, we encountered a landslide that had obliterated a section of track.We passengers disembarked and milled about for a bit. The train maestro said we should wait for instructions about what to do next.  While we waited, we noticed that all of the other passengers began streaming on foot through the compromised pathway.

By the time we decided to follow, our fate was sealed: On the other side was a waiting train - older, smaller -  in which all of the seats were taken.

This experience was a laugh-about-it-later one.

But on a much more serious level, there were people who died in the World Trade Center when they complied with instructions to "stay put."

6. Go here - the food is AMAZING!!! 

Yeah, OK, maybe.

But I invite you to redefine the term amazing!!!  to mean:

It is the ultimate experience in mediocrity! Nowhere else will you spend more money for such a stupendously average experience than this! 

I promise: If you redefine the word amazing as I suggest, you will never be disappointed. In fact, your expectations may be exceeded. Win-win.

What's your worst travel advice? 


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Word of the Year: Migration

The Long Walk, by C Ortiz. Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico
The Long Walk, by C Ortiz. Bosque Redondo Memorial, Fort Sumner, New Mexico


So, yes, it came to me that I do have a word for this year: Migration. 

There is a massive human migration on our planet today. 

Millions of women, men, and children are leaving their homes, their families, their friends and neighbors, their rose gardens, their languages, their neighborhood sounds and smells, their food, their favorite shops, their local houses of worship - all that they know, moving toward a future they hope is worthy of this outrageous price they pay. Knowing, too, that the people at the endpoint of their journeys may greet them, not with welcoming arms, but stony resentment. 

Columbus - Puerto Palomas port of entry, New Mexico. April 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.
Columbus - Puerto Palomas port of entry, New Mexico. April 2013. Credit: Mzuriana.

Some migration is forced, in the sense that oppressors intentionally push people out, escorting them out, even, with arms or threat of arms. 

  • The Alhambra Decree of 1492, which expelled all Jews from Spain unless they denounced their faith, for example. 
  • The 18th century Acadian Expulsion in Canada, for example. 
  • The 19th century forced removal of American indigenous to reservations, for example. 
  • The Long Walk, for example. 
  • The 1940s concentration camps, mostly but not exclusively for Jewish people, in 15+ European countries, for example. 
  • The 1940s concentration camps ("relocation centers") in the United States for Japanese-Americans, for example. 
  • The "Negro Removal" in St. Louis in the 1950s (and since), for example. 
  • The Israeli threats to Gaza residents to abandon their homes or suffer the consequences for imminent Israeli military attacks, for example. 
  • Rwanda. Burundi. Bosnia. Brazil. Guatemala. The list seems endless. 

Since mass migration is, if one looks at history, inevitable, it would seem wise if nations through which the tides of humans passed: 

  • Recognized such movement as an inevitability - as inevitable as the seasons that come and go - and did not treat each migration as a crime to be quashed or a one-off disaster that ends in forgetfulness until the next one-off disaster that ends in forgetfulness until the next one-off disaster ... 
  • Built flexible systems that expand and contract as the forces ebb and flow, like the rise and fall and rise of seasonal floods, to work with the migration instead of constructing river channels that may control a stream in typical seasons, albeit with constant vigilance for cracks in the walls, but which will collapse like a child's little pile of stones when the inevitable 50-year or 100-year or 300-year flood comes. 
  • Accepted that the mighty weight of human desperation to rescue ourselves and our children from the drowning waters rushing behind us will break through walls of wire, steel, stone, concrete; of desert heat, and killing thirst.

There is migration within our country today, a domestic demographic rearrangement as the pandemic and lack of affordable housing and "trauma tax" pushes or pulls Americans away or toward new home bases. 

The pandemic and the resulting bloom of remote work has expanded the choices of where to live, possibly breathing fresh life into small cities and towns in areas that are/were moribund as a consequence of decades-long brain drain to larger urban areas.

There is migration occurring in my internal map, as well. Will I redefine rootlessness for myself? Or en-root myself again?

 This is the year of migration, both literal and figurative. Both macro and micro.

La Virgen of El Paso and Juarez, mural in Segundo Barrio. October 2016. Photo credit: Mzuriana.
La Virgen of El Paso and Juarez, mural in Segundo Barrio. October 2016. Photo credit: Mzuriana.