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Archive for May, 2008

Flying to Istanbul from India CONFIRMED: June 18th

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

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We have made the executive decision to, most regretfully, fly over Pakistan and Iran (and as a side-effect nearly all of Turkey) from India to Istanbul Turkey.  From Istanbul, we will continue the European leg of our Eurasian bicycle tour, still aimed at finishing in Paris, France. 

Highlights we’re looking forward to in Europe include visiting my good Serbian friend, Lela, at her home in Belgrade.  I met Lela in Beijing last year, where she also taught English.  I’d also like to visit Medujorje, Bosnia, a pilgrimage destination for Christians, especially Catholics, but we still need to discuss this option more.  Nakia also has a few friends in Bosnia.  Northern Italy is home to My Favorite Restaurant In The World, San Rufino, in Leivi village, near Chivari on the Mediterrainian cost.  After all my raving, we couldn’t pass up their 15 course set meal overlooking the Mediterranian Sea.  We also hope to coordinate meetings with our American friends Jen and Natalie, who will each be in Europe this summer on study/internship.  Finally, one of our close Chinese friends, Cecilia [her English name], recently moved to France to start a 4-5 year graduate degree in Comparative Literature.  She was in our small send-off group in Beijing when we left last Sept (2007), so she will have the honor of being the only person to see us both at the beginning and the end of our 1 year journey. 

The number 1 reason we are not going to Pakistan and Iran is cost.  Due to the sad lack of diplomatic & business relations between the US and Iran for several decades now, the already difficult and lengthy process to get an Iranian tourist visa is even more lengthy and difficult for Americans - but NOT impossible.  Jim had found a contact in Iran who has been helping us for a couple months now.  He wrote a letter of invitation for us, submitted it to the Iranian government for approval, and recently even got it back approved.  The big set back is a regulation that American tourists in Iran must be accompanied by an official tour guide at all times.  Our contact informed us that said tour guide would cost us US$100 a day - simply way out of our small budgets. 

We’d also heard from one other traveler that the landscape from Tehran to the Turkish border was not as good as in other parts of Iran - dry, hot, difficult.  Moreover, the road from Pakistan into southern Iran would most likely have to be traveled by bus, as it is 100s of km of desert.  Though that could have been easily handled.

Additionally, many people (mostly Americans) have also been worried about safty in Pakistan.  On the contrary, we have heard about wonderful experiences several other European bicycle groups have had in Pakistan in the past year.  We were really looking forward to a personal perspective on Pakistan, which seems to be one of the most misunderstood countries in the US.  However, without Iran in the route, going to Pakistan doesn’t make geological sense.  And yes, we care about our parents worries and wish to leave them at ease. 

In an effort to acknowlege and show our respects to Pakistan and Central Asia which we are now unable to visit, we would like to include two charities in this part of the world, often neglected by funders and aid organizations.  I will write a separate post to introduce them later. 

For the time being, if you haven’t yet read the book, Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, I strongly encourage you to get your hands on a copy.  It is perhaps the best account of Pakistan on the ground in the last decade, highlighting the higher importance of education over military force as a means to “fight terrorism” by builiding balanced-education schools in poor areas.

For those in Minneapolis

Friday, May 30th, 2008

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Late notice but for anyone interested but there is a Minneapolis native performing at the Fitzgerald Theater this Saturday May 31st who previously did a cross-Europe bike trip with his accordion.

http://fitzgeraldtheater.publicradio.org/events/

A rough night in town

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

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60 km outside Delhi, we became embroiled in the first of many traffic jams to come. I almost clipped a bus with the trailer, only to snap my head forward in time to swerve around another bus turning straight into me. Traffic piled up behind slow bullock and pony carts. Cycle rickshaws, motor scooters and cyclists dodged in and out of of the slower vehicles. Buses relentlessly blasted everyone with their horns. Vehicles always charged up behind me when I tried to get around bullock carts.

After a day of hard biking and constant direction-asking, we arrived where we wanted to at 6:00pm. It had been a long day, but little did we know it was only 2/3 done.

We couldn’t find a decent place to stay. According to our custom, we left one person with the bikes and sent two out to look for places. Several times they came back empty handed.

I argued for going to the train station. Pete was against, but Drew sided with me. We mounted the bikes and headed towards the train station, which was only a couple kilometers away.

One hour later, we had gone 1 kilometer. Traffic leading to the train station was hopelessly backed up. It moved at a snail’s pace. Cars, buses, carts, cycle rickshaws and motor bikes all moved in spurts and stops. Tempers shortened and drivers smashed into each other’s bumpers rather than leave space for anyone to get ahead.

“This is hell,” said the usually indefatigable optimist Pete. We put our cycles onto the sidewalk and rolled past the honking mass of jumbled traffic, but to cross the road we had to jump back in.

Finally we made it past the train station and our lane opened up. We proceeded to race to the international youth hostel, so eager to be out of the area we didn’t even stop at the grungy hotels that finally emerged by the side of the road.

We couldn’t race for long, though. We didn’t know where we were going. We stopped again and again to ask for directions. The Delhi Police force became our god-sent guides. One officer spit on the ground and shoved his machine gun underneath his arm. “Straight,” he said pointing, “then right at round about, then you ask again, ok?”

Half an hour to midnight, we finally arrived at the hostel. The silence of the embassy area of New Delhi made for an eerie but welcome change. There was no food. We registered and had our emergency food cold and dry: ramen noodles meant to be consumed when we were stuck in the wilderness with no restaurants. Wilderness or not, we were happy to be finally arrived. We all slept well.

Sharad and Family

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

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The same night as my extended audience with the Indian military we met Sharad.  It had been a long day preceded by a number of other long days.  We had just entered into the area where we were having to deal with large amounts of Delhi traffic.

The Meerut area is basically one big military base.  Pete had managed to find a civilian-looking field 2 km down a small road otherwise lined with military bases.  Halfway to this potential camp-site, we stopped at a hand pump to wash, as is our custom.  We immediately attracted attention, and the men loitering in the street formed a crowd to watch us bathe, as is their custom.

Pete pumped for me.  Someone brought us a bucket (one advantage of bathing for a crowd, one of those people must have a bucket).  Halfway through the process, a man with a demeanor of calm intelligence rode up on his well-used bike.  Pete had actually met him before, briefly in town.  He observed us stripped to the waist, gathered around the pump, surround by a crowd of Indians and inquired what the heck we were doing and where on earth we planned to sleep that night.  We explained.  “Look,” he said, “this area is all military bases, you will find no area here. Come back to my house.  You can sleep in my house or put your tent in my yard or park, as you wish.”  He surveyed the crowd, and then added, “you can also bathe at my house.  This is no place to bathe.”

We looked at each other.  The words of the friendly officer who warned me against getting caught twice on military land rang in my head.  We unanimously agreed to accompany Sharad back to his home.

He lived in a nice neighborhood, in a new two story house with a huge gate, a garage and a real yard with real grass.  We met his brother, an engineering student, his father, a retired teacher who now oversees farming on the family land, and his mother, who makes great parantha.

Sharad and his mom served us the obligatory glass of tea.  We chatted.  His father told us about farming.

Sharad showed us a room.  His room.  “You can sleep in here, if you wish,” he told us.  The sky outside promised rain.  I was sick of setting up the tent.  The failed zipper on the screen often guaranteed plenty of mosquitoes accompanied us through the night.  We accepted his offer. Much to my guilt, he cleared everything out fo the room and set up three mats for us.

We went for a short walk through the rich part of town, an area famous as one of the richest neighborhoods in India.  Quiet, wide, car-lined streets reminded one of suburban U.S.  The huge houses looming behind their high-security fences, however, brought to mind America’s own wealthy neighborhoods.   Suddenly, all the lights blinked out.  Power outage!  We had become accustomed to these ever since we left Kolkata, but I was surprised to see the rich unexempt from this inconvenience.  Kind of.  Things quickly blinked back on as AC supplied kicked on and generators fired up.

The next morning, after a night of fitful sleep, we were treated to a meal of paranthas and bread and butter.  Sharad and his family saw us off, and Sharad even accompanied us to the main road.  The stay was just what we needed to recharge before heading into Delhi craziness.

Jim and the Authorities, again

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

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“So tell me,” said the rotund man in sweat pants, “are you a spy?”  In other circumstances surely a laughable question, but he was an army officer and this was an army base.  I had wandered into this area looking for a campsite.  I made the mistake of assuming the Army would put a fence up around areas they didn’t want people wandering into.  I had ridden down an unmarked road, then stood around surveying an open area for campsites.  When some uniformed men ambled through the area, I waited for them, hoping to ask if camping was permitted so near the army base.  I had to wait a long time, for they walked slowly and not directly towards me.

Thinking of the wait, I responded with some annoyance: “If I was a spy, I would come here at night and not walk around in the open.”  “In fact,” said the officer, “this is just what I would expect from a spy, to walk around in the open.”  What could I say?

“Do you have a passport?” asked the officer.  When his subordinates had so skillfully apprehended me, they took care to separate me from my bike.  I explained that my passport was on my bike.  While we waited for my bike to be retrieved, we discussed ground hockey, a game my two interrogators were playing before they had the opportunity to play interrogation with me.

I asked what I hoped were un-spy-like questions about ground hockey.  “You don’t know much about ground hockey,” summed up one of the officers.  My effort to cloak my intelligence and set them off the scent had evidently been successful.

A soldier rode up on my bike.  I hate it when other people ride my bike.  A quick look at the mismatched straps on my bags indicated someone had taken the liberty to search it.  I retrieved my passport and examined the searched bag for missing items.

“Do you have any drugs?” he asked.  I launched into a long list of anti-diarrheal, anti-biotic, anti-histamine and other useful travel drugs.  “No, no no,” he smiled sympathetically at my naivety.  I assured him I had none of those drugs.  “Are you sure?” prodded the officer, “shall I put it through the X-ray?”  Where he had an x-ray and what made him think it would be of any help in finding drugs is beyond me.  As you wish, I told him.

I was being interrogated on an ant mound.  Huge ants ran up my legs and I had to brush them off and stomp my feet.  “Step away from that area,” kindly ordered the lower-ranking officer.

“Can I see that book?” asked the man in the sweats.  I had taken my journal out of my bag to see if my favorite pen was still attached to it.  I handed it over.  “It’s a bad habit, you know, to read other people’s diaries, but I’m just doing my job,” he said as he glanced cursorily at a few of the pages, searching for a legible section.  My terrible handwriting seemed to lessen his commitment to duty.  “Your handwriting is very poor,” he informed me, and handed the book back.  I craftily avoided telling him how I had slaved at spy school to develop my incomprehensible chicken scratch.

The passport and photocopies came back.  “If you want to camp somewhere, ask if it is a civilian area first,” the officer advised me, “if they catch you at night it won’t be like this, they’ll just throw you in the brig.”  “I really hope you are not a spy,” he continued.  “Now, I have a copy of your passport, so I can catch you next time.  This man will show you out,” he finished and rejoined the game of ground hockey, of which I was so poorly informed.

Even though they had foolishly led me into the center of camp, they took care to lead me out the way I came, through brush and down windy trails.  They wanted to keep the main gate of the the camp secret-at least until I rode by it the next day on the main road.  I returned to Pete and Drew more than an hour later than I was supposed to meet them.

Overall, I couldn’t have hoped for a better interrogation experience.  Everyone was friendly, even with the occasional jab or hard question thrown in. Perhaps they were paranoid, perhaps eager to exercise their authority.  I’m just glad they didn’t actually think I was a spy.  Even for adults, games are often preferable to doing the real thing.

Dancing in Chalu

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

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In what was to become a common theme of the next two days, Ranjeet invited us back to his house for parantha. We had just eaten lunch, but no matter. FBR is always ready for second lunch. Ranjeet, an man soft-spoken enough to require many a ‘what?’ on our part comes from a line of cooks. His father cooked for a big hotel in Delhi, and now he cooks for an Indian restaurant in South Africa. He spend ten months out of the year there, earning the coveted foreign salary, and then comes back home for two months.

Ranjeet and FBR

 

Ranjeet and friends with FBR (Ranjeet is in the middle in the white).

We happened to catch him while he was at home. After we had polished off many a parantha (delectable thin bread fried in ghee) Ranjeet took me to observe the village cricket match. The cricketers played in a bare field and dodged the odd tree looming overhead. There was an announcer-plugged in, and concessions complete with cold drinks and betel nut. A surprisingly sophisticated set-up for low scale sports.

bowler at cricket

 

A bowler at the more official of the two village games I attended.

We dodged around the open sewers to get back to his home, only to find Drew and Pete trying to sleep. Ranjeet went out again, this time to actually play cricket with a different yet even more informal village league. Ever since I began listening to the BBC, cricket has mystified yet intrigued me. The villagers played a fast paced game, more interesting than, what I’ve seen on TV. The folks involved in the cricket on that day tried hastily explaining this rule or that, but the game was too intense and my questions too complicated to lend easy answers. I can speculate why batsmen switch places, just as I can guess what makes an out, but how many outs each side gets is beyond me.

After cricket, night fell. “What would you like to eat?” inquired Ranjeet. We assured him anything would be ok. As we watched hungrily, a neighborhood kid deftly caught a chicken and held it squawking for Ranjeet’s inspection. To our great relief, it passed, and soon was flopping around in a pool of its own blood. We hardly ever get meet, and the chicken made our night. We busted out the music, while Ranjeet’s sister began bustling about in her red shalwaar kameez, preparing us yet another meal.

We asked the villagers gathered around us to sing a Hindi song. One man finally burst forth with a slow tune. His big eyes held mine as his prominent facial features exaggeratedly expressed the emotions embedded in the music.

Song from the man with big eyes.

We played another song, but the villagers wanted to hear a faster song.  Faster, faster, faster.  Drew did his best, but soon we were out of fast songs.

FBR song (recorded live in Chalu).

 

A huge Indian double-headed drum showed up, and the crowd urged a young man sitting near us to pick it up and play. He slung the shoulder strap over his head, and used the double-ended drum sticks, one in each hand, to knock out a great Indian dance beat. Two slinky men in tank tops leapt up and sauntered about the circle. They gyrated their hips, painting circles in the night with their huge belt buckles, and carried the crowd to hysterical acclamation.

kid with drum

 

The kid with the drum and a dancer.

Drum beat.

The singer urged us to dance. I was dead tired. I did not want to paint circles in the night with my ass. I skipped about half-heartedly. It was almost ten at night, and we still hadn’t eaten. The drummer was even slowing down. The singing man was calling us frauds. What? We couldn’t figure out what was going on. Perhaps my lackadaisical effort had failed to impress. I faded in and out. An argument seemed to ensue.

Luckily, our host came to the rescue. “Do you want to eat now?” he asked. We responded with enthusiastic affirmation. Suddenly a huge pile of roti (non-fried flat bread), salad, and plates of steaming rice and-oh boy oh boy- chicken curry appeared before us. We enthusiastically dug in, savoring the meal as we had relished few others.

After we ate, it was high time for bed.  Ranjeet gave us his bed, despite our protests.  We collapsed into it and slept fitfully.  The next morning, it was more parantha, and we said good bye.

I did not, but I should have dreamed of how many parantha I will have to make random people I run into in the U.S.  The idea of hospitality in the classical sense, the hospitality that saved Odysseus, that rules nomadic culture, that has smiled upon FBR so brightly of late, no longer seems to exist in the U.S.  Before this trip, I would never imagine inviting strangers into my house.  Now, however, I can’t wait to go back and begin repaying all of this kindness.

Safe in New Delhi but worn out

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

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Jim, Drew, and I arrived safely in Delhi last Friday and Nakia will be meeting us this afternoon for the first time in over a month since we parted company in rural West Bengal.  The three of us guys have been recovering from the ride in through crazy Indian traffic while negotiating prices.  Tonight, we plan our Next Move.  That move will most likely be flying to Istanbul, Turkey after a swing through Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.  To be confirmed.

 

Although us guys arrived in Delhi safely, the journey from Nepal to Delhi has certainly taken its toll on me.  For the first time in our 8 month journey, a couple weeks ago I was longing to be home, a feeling I’m not familiar with; homesickness?  It’s not severe, but a steady, gentle pressure.  I’m going through a period of fatigue and dreaming of eating my mother’s famous cherry coffee cake, caramel rolls, and egg bake while I’m stuck with rice, dal, potato curry, and samosas…everyday 3x a day as I have been for 2 months.  Luckily I have a large tolerance for the same mediocre food day after day, perfected in numerous Chinese university cafeterias.
 

The fatigue has come from some difficult experiences dealt to us by India and Nepal, centering around people labeling us as “tourist” and trying to cheat us by charging higher prices, as well as asking us for money straight up.  We’ve met plenty of average local children (not unusually impoverished, in fact one child was in their nice school uniform with white shirt and tie) who rudely (due in part to poor English) asked us for money, “Give me money!  Give me pen!  Give me money,” especially in Nepal when we merged with the Kathamandu-Mount Everest road that sees many foreign tourists (whoapparently give out pens and money to these packs of children).  Meanwhile, at restaurants for weeks we’ve felt we’ve always had to be on guard because several times people would change the price we’d agreed on, sometimes giving some lame excuse for charging us extra, like “Oh, the price I gave you before was for a HALF plate of chow mein,” after we’d eaten it…as if we had asked for half a plate in the beginning.  One teenage daughter of an Indian restaurant in the middle of know where last week said, when we were discussing the prices which at first were 3x what we had paid for lunch 40km away, made a side comment along the lines, “Oh you can afford this price,” so we should just pay the upped price.  Its been quite stressful to have to assume people will try to over-charge us.  We were warned of this though, a couple of our home stay hosts told us that northern India is known for cheaters or clever business men, unlike the south where people are more honest.

 

We haven’t seen this blatant price-change rip-off strategy since Vietnam.  I’m disrespected each time; disrespected that they don’t look at me as a brother or fellow human being, but instead as a rich white foreigner with money to throw away or worse, a stupid dehumanized thing to be exploited for a little extra cash.  It is racism and prejudice, terrible things but good for me to experience from this perspective outside of my home country.  I know I shouldn’t take it so personally, but sometimes I can’t help it.  I can handle and even enjoy honest bargaining, but it makes me so sad every time people try to cheat us. 

 

In turn, I’ve found myself approaching people with a negative attitude which only starts things off on a bad foot, my negativity bringing out the worst in them.  Its alarming to see how fast negativity and disrespect spirals out of control.  Its contagious.  

 

Adding to our fatigue is the general fact that India is the most INTENSE country we’ve cycled through, even more than China .  More people.  More people staring at us, yelling at us without really wanting a response just to practice their 1 English phrase, “What is your name” as they zip by on their motorbike, more people approaching us always having us on guard thinking,  “OK, what does this person want from us?”  Insane and dangerous traffic and terrible horns, always truck, bus, car, and motorcycle horns…ALWAYS honking.  China has a lot of horns, but I’ve nearly been driven insane by Indian horns.  For a country with a reputation of being religious or spiritual, I find their use of horns completely contradictory, selfish, “I’m more important than you so get out of my way,” of course different horn honkings have different meanings.  But it’s nearly always not just a beep.  They LAY on their horns.  The trucks and buses have these crazy air horns made of many notes that change very fast, creating a feeling of extreme urgency & distress, letting you know if you don’t get out of their way, you will die. And they’re so LOUD.

 

If it weren’t for our positive experiences (also in Nepal and India ), I might be ready to end the trip.  However in the middle of all this, we were graciously hosted two nights in a row by different people just before we arrived in Delhi.  Our hosts were generous and kind, the night before Delhi rescuing us from bathing (as we always do) at a public water hand pump in a satalite town comprised mostly of military camps.  Camping in that area would have likely gotten us detained for questioning upon setting up our tent, as Jim was while looking for a suitable camp site.  But I’ll let Jim tell that story

We’ve cycled over 10,000km, Beijing-(almost)Delhi

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

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We’re actually around 10,500km, but as Drew said to me this morning while we were pedaling along our 2-lane secondary road in an effort to avoid even crazier Indian National HIGHWAY traffic into Delhi, “10,500km just doesn’t sound as impressive as 10,000.”  Humans do seem to like nice round numbers, all those zeros and just one “1.”  “10,000.”  Ah, Nice.  If we said the exact distance we’ve cycled, 10,527.8km (which of course we don’t actually know due to large margins of error and disagreements between our different bicycle odometers), all those other non-binary numbers make it rough around the edges and difficult to swallow, having even less meaning, and certainly creating more confusion. 

So 10,000km it is. 

8 months. 

Beijing-Shanghai-Hongkong-Hanoi-Phnom Phen-Bangkok-Calcutta-Kathmandu-Delhi (almost…give us 3.5 more days)

Thank you so much for all your support and prayers.  They have definately paid off.  Please keep ‘em coming!

We are resting on the Nepal-India border before heading to Delhi

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

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We are alive and well in Mahendranagar, Nepal on the far western border with India in the sparsely populated Nepali lowlands (south end).  We came down out of the mountains from Pokhara via Butwal (the only way out via the small 2-lane highway) about 5 days ago, down from the cool and the rain of the mountains to the intense heat and dryness of Nepal in the hottest month of the year before the monsoon, though we have had 2 or 3 thunder storms at night.  So we again are taking our daily rest from 11am to 3pm to wait out the heat.

Even Jim and Drew are coming around and are actually enjoying eating dal baht again, the Indian and Nepali standard meal that most people eat twice a day every day: rice, liquid dal (lentils), shubji (potato curry), with occasional vegetable sides and just lately, milk curd which has been an excellent addition.  The best thing about dal baht is that it is “full,” that is one eats until they are full, aka all you can eat.  This has been a great thing for me (the biggest eater on the FBR team) but a not so great thing for Jim and Drew who don’t have the insensitivity of taste and tolerance for the same mediocre food every day that I do, and apparently not great for Nakia as she contemplates her added weight.  The biggest lack of the dal baht meal is no meat, though that can be bought for extra, albeit usually doubling the cost.  However, due to multiple stories about getting sick from Indian meat, we usually just get the vegetarian meal and supplement our diets with eggs and milk in the form of lassies and curd. 

Moreover, the all you can eat meal is at most US$0.70 a person, or in West Bengal India in the countryside, US$0.30 a person.  These food prices are much cheaper than in China, where we’d usually spend US$1.25 to US$3.00 per person per meal.  So its been difficult for me to comprehend the supposed current “global food crisis” and rise in food prices.  I’ve never eaten this cheap before in my life, and again, the rice is unlimited when you pay the all-you-can-eat price, a whopping US$0.66 in Nepal.  The one-plate option is usually US$0.50.

I’ve read that one of the causes of the rise in global food prices is the rising price of fertilizers due to a higher demand, mostly coming from farmers around the world planting more corn for ethanol production, in addition to the direct effect of rising oil prices.  Although I haven’t done extensive research into ethanol, everything I’ve heard and know says that it is not a good option.  The energy it takes to produce ethanol from corn, combined with the fuel used in the trackors used to plant and harvest the crop is nearly the same as the energy given by the corn.  Thus, the fossil fuels used to produce ethanol might as well be used directly, freeing up land to be used to produce food, not fuel, to lower food costs for the poorest of the poor around the world.  What’s more, corn is a harsh crop on soil.  It is especially draining to soil’s nutrients, requiring even more use and increasing dependence on chemical fertilizers which have their own negative affects such as surface and ground water pollution and perpetuates this new cycle of rising food prices.

I would encourage you to look at ethanol critically and support other alternative energies like solar (the big one), wind power, and full 100% electric cars instead of the cop-out hybrid, which unfortunately is the best option on the market now after full electric cars, EV1’s, were taken off the market and destroyed in California around 2000 in large part due to political and economic collaboration for Fuel Cells by oil companies, car manufacturers, and the US government.  While modern electric cars with a 300 mile range were here in the late 90s and early 2000s only in California (little to the knowledge of most Americans), Fuel Cells will take atleast 20 years to research and develope so they’re both effiencient and less than US$1 million a car…and of course this time frame gives the world’s oil hawks ample time to wring out the last profits from the soon to be archaic energy source.

For now though, we are planning to re-enter India tomorrow and continue our last leg on bicycle - always the best environmental, physically healthy, community building, and anti Saudi oil money-funded muslim extremist madrasa schools option - to Delhi, which we expect to reach in 5-10 days.  There, we will make our executive decision based on if we’ve heard from our Iranian contact, if we can go to Iran or more likely, fly from India to Istanbul Turkey in the first part of June.  In Istanbul, we would start the European leg of our Eurasian journey for increased global understanding, friendship, and a quick response from all to take action now to slow and eventually stop the Global Climate Crisis.

In closing, here is one of my favorite quotes from one of many peace-loving moderate/liberal muslims:

“My heart has opened unto every form. It is a pasture for gazelles, a cloister for Christian monks, a temple for idols, the Ka’ba of the pilgrim, the tablets of the Torah and the book of the Koran. I practice the religion of love; in whatsoever directions its caravans advance, the religion of Love shall be my religion and my faith.”
                    -Ibn Arabi; Sufi Islam mystic and philosopher

Peace.

The Chinese earthquake

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

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China will always hold a special place in the hearts of FBR.  We were all quite saddened to hear of the terrible earth quake which befell Sichuan earlier this week.   While we did not pass through Sichuan on this trip, all of us had been there previously, and have connections their with both places and people.  We are in the process of establishing the wellfare of those we know.  In the meantime, we would ask everyone to keep the people of South West China in their thoughts and prayers.