Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Days in Blue and Red / Utah, USA

Do you think it is possible to assign colors to days?
Sometimes it works. For example when you think about your day and only colors came to your mind instead of people, conversations or situations.

I had a few such days in Utah and it was possible to compress them into just two colors:
Blue and Red.
I visited a several National Parks in the western part of the USA and the Bryce Canon was one of them - a very impressive one.
There was no real idea in my head about what to expect- well, a canyon - maybe an impressive hole in the ground.
What I got was a forest of giant red stone pillars with little walkways beneath them. In some moments was like walking in a red gothic cathedral with a blue roof. It was impossible not to be impressed by the sheer simple beauty. All around me was only the red rocks and the blue sky.

Compare the size of the trees to the the height of the stone pillars to get an idea of how big the canyon was.

The sun was setting when I was driving back to my hotel in my rental car. It was a one hour drive and the street snaked through a region called Red Canyon. In the distance I could see a big cloud of smoke over the hills and a sign told me that is just a controlled fire started by Rangers.

All of a sudden I saw massive flames right beside the street - and I mean massive.
The setting sun was illuminating some of the red rocks in such an intense way that I really had to make a full break just to stand around with open jaw.
I wouldn't have thought that stones could glow that way - 'Fire Stones'.

One lesson I already learned on my trip was that the good old mother earth does a very good job in keeping busy being flabbergasted.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Street Fighting / San Francisco, USA

I was invited for dinner at the place of an ex-colleage. He lives in San Francisco with his family and gave me a wonderful private tour through his city showing me some of his favorite places. That is sightseeing at its best. Thanks again for the tour and the special vegetarian dinner.
I got to know his son and was really impressed by this kid.His great passion is fencing and after only five minutes of talking we both vanished into the garage because we wanted to check out his fencing gear. He explained me his equipment and his sport with great passion and I was even a bit jealous because he obviously found an activity he can be really dedicated to.Sometimes dedication leads to big things and in his case the big thing is a fencing jacket with his surname and the name of his country on the back - he is member of the USA Junior National Fencing Team. Wow.

By the way: I learned that the best fencing gear by far comes from - guess what - Germany.
We ended up out in the dark street and he showed me the basic moves of fencing. For me it was a very special kind of street fighting.
Well, you could think that the guy is just one of these nerds that only live for their sport being drilled by their parents all day long.Far from that.This bloke had more interests than most adults, had a kind of talking and a vocabulary that outwits most of the conversations in business meetings and he gave me sightseeing tips to San Francisco that gave me the impression that he lives in his city with open eyes. Apart from that he was as funny and playful as a kid should be.

Of course I asked him for his word of the day using my little chalk board. He really thought a long time. It was not until I rephrased the question into ‘What was your day about’ that his eyes gleamed and he finally wrote his word.He told me that today he have had the chance to train with a guy that attended the last Olympic Games and guess what his big dream is...
If I should specify some requirements for an own son I would simply say ‘just take this guy as a template’.

Hey Mr. I-have-a-jacket-with-my-country-on-the-back, if you make it to the tournament in Germany in 2009, drop me a note and I will be there as your biggest fan.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas from Down Under

My first christmas in Flip Flops is very close.
I still don't know how to handle Starbucks cups with snow flakes printed on it while realizing that I wear shorts and a sweaty T-Shirt.
The sight of a christmas tree in the dining room of a diving boat out on the Great Barrier Reef is similar crazy.
As far as I understood so far Christmas is more like a party in Australia. At least I already saw a lot of drunk girls with high heels and red Santa Claus hats in the streets.

This year will be completely without unwrapping real presents or watching loved one unwrapping theirs.

I am unwrapping virtual gifts almost every day since the start of my journey. I am pretty aware that it is very special what life pours over me with this trip and these days I just treat it like a big pile of Christmas presents.
The biggest gift although wasn't the visit of a tropical island or a rain forest or a stunning snowy mountain. The thing I feel grateful about most is that I realized over the last months how much my family and my friends care about me.
Hearing that someone misses me back home or reading that I should move my suntanned bum back home soon because some hard men want to spend time with me again was more than good.

Thank you friends for all that. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.

My Christmas days will happen up in the air to a certain extend. On Dec. 24th I will fly from Sydney to Brisbane and on Dec 25th I have flights to Singapore and then on to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. This may sound very uncosy but it is ok this time because I totally life out of my normal context during my trip.
Next year I am hungry for Kinderpunsch, my family and watching my four little princessess unwrapping their parcels what usually ends up in total chaos.

Christmas deco and palms, Brisbane

Scuba Dive Christmas, Cairns

'Weihnachtsstern' on a public square

Anti-Unplugged-Christmas, Sydney

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Nautical Signs - Brisbane/Australia

Yes, I know I am supposed to tell about the USA but I really have to jump to Australia for a second.
Yesterday I strolled through Brisbane and walked by the Nautical Museum. It had a big sign on the facade showing the nautical flags together with the flag alphabet. Each flag respectively character has a certain message.
For example the flag with the blue and yellow stripes means "D" or "Delta" and also "Keep clear of me".

The part that catched my attention was the letter "L" and the message attached to it. I really had to grin broadly.
I will not explain what the hidden meaning is because it is sort of delicate. Some of you will instantly understand and for all others it wouldn't be funny at all. What I can tell is that it is related to a company I worked for.

@ all the Visioneers and Ex-Visioneers: 'Funny to the core', isn't it?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Haircuts - Merced/California

This posting is about the same place as the last one - the city of Merced in California. If I continue with this slow pace I will never finish posting about my trip.

Almost every day I have a new 'first-time' event during my trip. This time it was the first hair cut outside of Germany.
I was hesitating several days I went into the challenge. The thing that made me reluctant was the fact that I had no idea how to explain in English the way I wanted my hair to be cut. In German it is sounds like
'An den Seiten und hinten mit der Maschine auf 9 mm und oben gerade so lang dass ich es mit Gel noch etwas durcheinanderwuscheln kann'.

What the heck is the English word for 'durcheinanderwuscheln' (hints are appreciated)?

The sun was shining and I was realizing that I am a tall blond warrior and not a mouse and that it is completely stupid not to dare to go to the hairdresser just because I was missing the word for 'durcheinanderwuscheln'. It is even more ridiculous because there's not that much left of my head to be 'durcheinandergewuschelt'.

I saw a sign saying 'Hair Cuts 10$' and stepped into the shop. Ha!

It turned out that the woman in charge had no idea about the English Word for 'durcheinanderwuscheln', too, because she was from Mexico and her English was not much better than mine.
Well, in addition she had no understanding about how long '9mm' would be and I was still struggling with all inches, yards, ounces and all the other funny units.
Tough start, wasn't it?
After a while she just started cutting and ignored my instructions with a grin on her face.
This was the moment when I realized that probably even my hair dresser woman in Germany doesn't care about the technical sounding cutting instructions from me and all the other male customers but just cuts the way she thinks look best.
As a customer you probably have to use phrases like 'die Spitzen sind schon etwas angegriffen' or 'Volumen' or 'durchgestuft' to impress a hair dresser. How is it working on you, girls out there?
(Remark: Together with a friend we once almost convinced a slightly drunk girl that my friend was a professional hair styling artist just by dropping words like 'stufig' and 'conditioner'. This is a special greeting to the 'Friseurmeister aus Ibbenbueren').

My trip is full of important enlightenments as you see.

The name of the woman was Maria and we had a very nice conversation about Mexico, Germany and the global costs of hair cuts. We were both surprised about the huge differences in price. A haircut in Mexico is 2 USD, in USA 10 USD and in Germany I pay 20 USD for the exact same thing. Maria told me that this little fact helped a bit to smoothen her opinion that all Europeans are incredibly rich if they have to spend 20 USD for a hair cut.

Of course it was not possible to avoid the topic 'soccer' (although I am an absolute soccer idiot) and the subject turned to the World Cup 2006 in Germany. Maria could remember watching the first game of the Mexican team during the World Cup on TV and we both were excited when I told her that it was in my city of Nuremberg and that I was outside the stadium with all the crazy Mexican fans.
I told her that I even have one of the photos I took that day of two Mexican fans framed in my living room. If you look closely at the photo of my apartment [here...] you can see a piece of the photo of the Mexicans in the background just behind my head.

We both were impressed by the fact that we found a connection between us - a moment back in the summer of 2006 were we both enjoyed the same vibes created in my home town. I look forward to the next time I look at the framed photo back home - it will beam my back to a small beauty salon in California.

I liked the way I looked after Maria finished her work and she and her husband even acted as models for one of my chalkboard photos.

If you ever had the urge for a hair cut in Merced, just go to 'De Imagen Beauty Salon' and greet Maria from me.

Little Differences - Street Names / California

I had to wait some hours for the Greyhound Bus back to San Francisco. The town I stayed in was called Merced and although it wasn't close to the Mexican border it was almost an Spanish town with all signs written in English and Spanish.
But instead of choosing important sounding street names like 'Avenida 5 de Mayo" the founders of the city haven't been very creative. The streets in one direction were called 1st Street, 2nd Street, 3 Street etc. and in the other direction A-Street, B-Street, C-Street etc.

It took my a while to understand that the phrase '16th and V' on my bus ticket was nothing less than a precise description of the corner of 16th Street and V-Street.
Really straight-forward.

Well, in Germany the city government tries to be innovative all the time when it comes to street names - unfortunately. In one area of the city all streets are named after flowers and in the next area it is fairy tale names (no kidding).
I remember having a hard time several years ago in my old town of Bayreuth. The address I was heading to was named after a fairy tale but that was all I remembered. All of a sudden I was surrounded by Schneewittchenweg, Ruebezahlstrasse or Sterntalerstrasse. I didn't dare to ask anyone because I thought it would be ridiculous to ask something like 'Could you please give me some names of fairy tales? I forgot the address of my physician.'.
On the other hand, as a man I am not allowed to admit that I am lost anyway.

As far as I remember I was late for my assignment and Snowy White was to blame.
Back in 1997 I would have been glad to have a sharp '16th and V' instead of 'make a left on Ebony and Ivory after you passed Cinderella'.

@Rainer: I am talking about the fairy tale address of the old weird physician that gave us the scuba diving consultation. Do you remember? I think he had his office in the Ruebezahlweg and that was for a reason.

To be complete I have to add that I don't like the fact that the US Americans use the house numbers sometimes twice - e.g. '25 S Main Street' and '25 N Main Street'. What does a poor little German tourist know about dividing a street into North and South? Nothing! If you want to keep me busy and walking for hours, that's the way to do it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The photo is from a very busy dog lady securing an Indoor Climbing Hall attached to a Backpacker Hostel in a very small town also in New Zealand. For some reason the dog sensed that I took a photo of her and rolled on her back instantly rising all four legs into the air.
The owner of the climbing hall just said 'Oh, you have to scratch her belly now. That's the deal'.

So I did.

Recently a few friends back home asked me via email or Skype whether I'm already tired and exhausting from traveling.
It wouldn't be unlikely, would it? I am almost three months on the road right now and more or less in the middle of my trip.
Shouldn't I be tired from constantly changing places, from packing my backpack again and again, burnt out from the need to adopt to a new environment every day and from saying good bye to the cool guys I met one or two days before?

I don't know why but never felt that awake in my life.
The only thing I am tired of is living a tired life like being constantly on Valium pills.

The little one in the video is the son of the skipper of a small boat acting as a water taxi in New Zealand. Although the boy acted as the captain he obviously had a hard day and was barely able to stay awake. Almost every wave brought him in real trouble. I loved looking at him and you can even hear some of the passengers laughing because they observed him, too.

Seems as if being tired isn't bad all the time but I prefer to stay awake at the moment, though.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ready for Boarding - A Chalkboard and the World / Part 1

This is one of the most precious postings I ever published because it consists of many many valuable moments of my recent life on the road.

Visiting nice landscapes is only a part of the story when it comes to travelling. At least for me it is about meeting interesting people.
I met such an amazing variety of funny, interesting, smart and inspiring people in the last months and I never expected it to be that way.

There is a little chalk board in my backpack and sometimes I dare to ask my counterpart to write down a word or a phrase on it that reflects his or her day best - a word of the day.
Take it as an attempt to conserve a tiny tiny piece of that human being in my head.

Most of the times it happens after an interesting talk or after spending some time together.
It is very surprising to me that almost everyone I ask is willing to share a word and a photo with me.

There's a little story behind every single photo and the moments with these strangers enriched my life very much.
Of course you don't know the little stories and precious moments behind the photos but you can watch the small movie I created out of the first bunch of chalk board photos, though. Maybe it gives you a idea of what my journey is like. Be prepared - the video is more than six minutes long.

If you have a fast Internet connection you can watch the video in [higher quality], too.

If you recognize yourself in the movie it would be great if you could write a comment to this posting using the 'Comment' link below. If you are not in the video, feel free to comment, too.
Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your life with me - you rock!

More chalk board photos to come in the next months.

Addendum: The still photos contained in this video can be seen on my Flickr account [here...]

Explored Again

Click on photo to view it in different sizes on my Flickr account

Heyyyy, one more of my photos was selected for 'Flickr Explore' on the photo site It is the fourth of my photos and similar to the last times I am very proud.

This time it is not from a far-away-place but of my hometown Bayreuth.

The building on the photo is called the sun temple and the facade is made of thousands of little colored stones - like a mosaic.
The sun temple is in a baroque park called Eremitage in Bayreuth, Bavaria, Germany.
I love to walk around in the park after the crowds are gone and I look forward to do it again when I am back home in a few months.

Well, it is a far-away-place right now, though. Actually as far away as possible because I am in New Zealand at the moment.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Drum Solo Laughter, San Francisco

I am travelling alone this time and I was scared in the beginning about that.

Will I feel depressed all the time?
Will the 150 evenings summarize to a huge pile of loneliness?
Am I an awful pal to accompany myself?

I tell you what: The answer is 'No', 'No' and 'No' so far and I am a bit surprised about that.

The guy on the photo helped me a tiny little bit to realize the answers.

He called himself 'Bucket Man' and he was a street musician I met in San Francisco.

Bucket Man was a percussion genius and his drum kit consisted only of empty plastic buckets.
I strolled Market Street and all of a sudden I was surrounded by noise that shaked my butt - and my inside.
The noise his drum sticks created was mixed with an incredible laughter. Bucket Man laughed like a maniac while playing his 'instruments'.
No one was paying attention to him and he wasn't paying attention to anyone. He was just drumming and laughing. Bucket Man was all that Bucket Man needed to laugh.

During his next break I had a nice talk with him and he told me that his very first CD will be available next week and how proud he is about it.

I saw few people in my life that looked so happy while being on their own or showing so much passion for life.
This crazy bald guy gave me a little hint that as long as I can laugh about and with myself I don't have to fear any pile of loneliness.
Of course it doesn't work all the time and that's good.

I am not as good as Bucket Man yet when it comes to laughing while being alone but I'm already damn good in grinning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

MVP - Most Valuable Places, Part 3 - Yosemite, California

Half Dome (click to enlarge)

Achieving lifetime goals is a delicate thing because it might turn out that the actual goal isn't that spectacular as you might have imagined.
A 'goal' is not necessarily a 'big' thing like founding a family or get the high paid job but sometimes only just visiting a special place.

I dreamed many years of being to Yosemite Valley in California. I wanted to see the famous rocks like El Capitan or Half Dome with my own eyes. I adore the photography pioneer Ansel Adams and his fantastic captures from Yosemite made me wanting to see the valley even more.

I was a bit scared that it would be like 'Been there, done that, what's next'. Well, it was quite the opposite.

As I write these lines I can still exactly remember how I felt when driving into the valley with the public bus in the early morning. With me was a guy from Italy that I met the day before. The bus driver was a woman with a sticker saying 'Fast Girl' beside her steering wheel. Luckily she was driving slow though so I had the chance to soak up every second.

We were driving through forest and suddenly I saw some rocks behind the trees. Actually it was a massive wall. I bent down while looking out the window to get a glimpse of the upper end of the wall but I couldn't. Stefano beside me said 'This must be El Capitan' and he was right. It was funny to realize that he lowered his voice. Obviously he was as stunned as I was.
Seeing this rock rising up just vertical for nearly 1 km (3000 ft) made me have goose flesh. The morning sun helped making it perfect by illuminating the rock turning it into the color of the wax of an lit candle. Life can be really kitschy and I loved it.

The whole valley seemed to air calmness and peace and it captured me immediately. The meadows on the valley ground, the trees just turning into a yellow color and the warm autumn sun made my internal battery recharge with full power.

Stefano: 'What Else?"

Yosemite is a very popular national park and full of tourists during spring and summer. Because it was already autumn the valley was almost empty and I was on my own most of the time. Just the valley, myself and my thoughts that I allowed to meander around in my head without barriers - great.

El Capitan on the right side (click to enlarge)

During the next three days I hiked in Yosemite exploring some of the peaks or having lunch on top of a dried waterfall accompanied only by some ravens. Being on my own made the experience even more valuable.

On my last day I had some cream on this big peace of 'life-cake'. After I crawled through the forest to touch the base of El Capitan I found a meadow just in front of the famous climbing route called 'The Nose' and tightened the slackline I bought in Toronto between two huge trees.
While trying to walk on the slackline facing this massive wall I was like 'Udo are you aware that you are just slacklining in front of El Capitan in Yosemite?'
Well, I was very aware of it and it dug deep into my mind.

Slacklining Tourist

In the end my time in Yosemite was not as good as I expected - it was better, much better.

To make an already perfect time even better I stayed in a very cosy hostel called 'The Yosemite Bug' at the rim of the valley. It consisted of a few wooden houses in the forest and the dining room with its fire place was one of the cosiest places I could imaging although it was freezing cold during the nights.

I liked Yosemite so much that I decided to spend two more days there a few weeks later. That's what I appreciate on travelling alone with a rental car - you can decide on very short notice and do whatever you want.

Yosemite is now one of my 'Most Valuable Places' and I am sure that I will come back some day. I wrote a posting about two other of my MVPs in Germany a few months ago [here...] and [here...]. Completely different places but very similar in a kind of way.

By the way: Two famous rock climbers from Germany made a cinema movie about their attempt to speed-climb 'The Nose'. The movie is called 'Am Limit' ('To the Limi'). The documentary is full of amazing footage about El Capitan and Yosemite. Grab the DVD if you have the chance. I loved it.
Here is the [trailer...]

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, You Can - Obama and Sticky Rice

So this was election day. As I already wrote in a previous posting it is quite interesting for me to observe the whole thing in the middle of it.
It started for me today with a newspaper in the waiting hall of the airport in Oahu, Hawaii. The headline said in very big letters 'Vote!".
Actually I wasn't aware until today that I am in the middle of Obama-country because Obama was born and raised on Hawaii. The newspaper said that the people from Hawaii are for Obama 4:1.
During the day I saw some handwritten signs saying 'Vote" and the 'o' was written like the 'O' of the Obama-posters. Well, here on Hawaii it looked like an easy race for Obama.

While driving in my rented card I listened to the news in the radio all day long while the first results from the west coast states came in. Kind of funny to listen to voting results under palm trees.

OK, the US are a very big country with several time zones but it was strange for me to realize that the results for the first states where already published while the polling station were still open in the eastern states. I am sure the people in the east weren't influenced. Right?

One of the words used most by the radio speakers was 'historic' and it didn't sound overstated.

A women going to vote in a small village on Maui

I bought a sandwich in a small shop and the owner had a conversation with a customer about going to vote. They greeted each other with 'happy voting'.

Being back in my small hostel most of the folks sat in front of the TV watching the speeches of John McCain and Barack Obama live.

First of all I have to admit that the US is really good in doing stuff like these election things.
McCain did a great job in admitting his defeat in my humble opinion. Well, it was very clear that he lost so maybe it was a bit easier but I couldn't imagine such a respectful behavior in Germany. I still can remember Gerhard Schroeder after his lost the last elections in Germany - yes, I know it was much closer.

I was impressed by the way Obama addressed the crowd in Chicago after his victory. Even if it is his job to speak free and even if someone wrote the speech for him it impressed me.
In Germany such a speech would be far less pathetic but being here in the states it felt really ok - even the chapter about the 106 year old wasn't too much - but it was close.

The last part of the speech consisted of a lot sentences containing the main slogan from Obama's campaign 'yes, we can' and 'yes, I can'.
This wouldn't be that important without me picking up some food for take away from the Thai place across the street.
I asked the waitress 'can I have sticky rice with my tofu' and guess what she said.
'Yes, you can'.

No kidding. I am part of all this change thing even if it's just about sticky rice.

Wish you good luck Mr. Obama.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Street for the Pirate Captain / San Francisco

Do you remember Captain Horatio McAllister? The pirate captain from the Simpsons?
Shame on you that you missed my former posting about this honorable guy.
While chatting with an ex-colleague back home via Skype he surfed Google Earth to look for the spot in San Francisco where I was staying. After a while he typed 'Hey there is a McAllister street in San Francisco. You really have to go there and take a photo of the street sign.'

Should there really a street dedicated to the mascot and hero of my former team? Unbelievable.

Of course I walked there - very far and through kind of shabby neighbourhoods for shooting a photo of the street sign together with the portrait of McAllister.

Because I wasn't able to hold the chalkboard and take the photo I asked a random guy for help.
I am pretty sure he thought that I am completely nuts but finally he holded the pirate captain above his head.

Master Brownwood, this posting is dedicated to you (and a little bit to Dr. DICOM, of course.).

@Dr. DICOM: Feel free to add more facts about captain McAllister as comments to this posting.

Perfect Timing / Niagara Falls, Canada

On Top of Niagara Falls

Being in Toronto and not visiting the Niagara Waterfalls would be a sin, wouldn't it?
There's nothing wrong with a little sin from time to time but actually I love waterfalls - so I went to visit the falls.
At the first glance I was very annoyed - not by the falls, they were great and very impressing - but by the stupid Disneyland crap the Canadians built right beside the river.
Several casino towers, a Ferris wheel and stupid restaurants like 'Planet Hollywood' is not what I expect when I visit a wonder of nature. What a difference to the waterfalls in Brazil and Argentina (see also my posting about Foz de Iguacu).

Although the weather was bad, the big white cloud of mist above the falls impressed me so much that I decided to go closer using the famous boat 'Maid of the Mist'. I didn't expect much because it is a really touristy thing but finally I am nothing more than a tourist.
They gave me a big blue plastic coat and clever little Udo even had a plastic bag for his digital camera.
As soon as the boat started a taped voice started blubbering very loud telling facts about the waterfalls through water proof speakers. I didn't pay attention because I was staring at the falls.
The boat came very close to the falls - very close. The falls have the shape of a horse shoe and the 'Maid of the Mist' dared to advance right to the middle so that I had water on 3 sides.

The boat was shaking, it was very wet and I was surrounded by high walls of roaring water. I never experiences something like this. And just in the moment when I bended backwards to look up the white walls the tape voice shouted:
'Ladies and Gentlemen - this is Niagara Falls' with a little pause between every words of the second part of the second part of the sentence.

I wasn't really able to think but my head was like 'hell yeah, you guys are so right'.
In general melodramatic speeches like this don't work for me but the perfect timing of this single sentence blew me away.
You can say what you want about North American folks but they are the masters of good shows.
Kudos to you guys, but you should get of the casino crap!

Blue People Approach the Water Wall

Little 'Maid of the Mist' vs. Niagara Falls

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Election Campaigns / USA

Volunteer supporter of Obama

The elections for the new president of the United States are only a few days away and it is very interesting to me to observe the whole thing directly where it happens - in the US.

I was surprised that I didn't see a single portrait poster beside the street with Barack Obama or John McCain on it. In Germany there are big displays with grinning photoshopped maroons all over the place when it comes to election.
Here I only saw little signs with 'Obama / Biden' or 'McCain / Palin' in some courtyards of private homes. They have the same colors for both parties and there's not even the name of the party on it. Obviously the name of the party isn't needed because in the US it's only about Democrats and Republicans and I don't know whether there are parties like the 'Naturgesetzpartei' (Nature Law Party) or the 'Grauen Panther' (Grey Panthers, a senior party) in the states.
In Germany every party have stupid slogans on all posters like 'Deutschland zuerst' (Germany first), 'Sozial ist was Arbeit schafft' (social is what creates employment) or other wisdoms like that. Here it's just 'McCain' - bam - done. Only on some Obama signs it says 'Change'.
Actually it reminds me of some of the homeless people that asked me for 'some change'.

San Francisco seems to be occupied by the Democrats because there are little booths with Obama buttons and shirts on the streets but not a single one for McCain. An ex-colleague from San Francisco told me that the city is quite liberal.
The parties sell little merchandising things in the streets to raise money for the election campaigns. For me it would be unthinkable to buy a T-shirt with Guenther Beckstein on it (ok, that guy is history now) or a button saying 'I vote for Roland Koch'.
I talked to the guy on the photo above and he was very passionate and convinced by Obama.
He made me doing my first political statement in my life: I bought a button with 'Obama 2008' on it. It is now on my backpack.

McCain/Palin, 'United we Stand', 'Remember the Towers and Pentagon', 'God Bless America' / Sierra Nevada, California

The countryside seems to be not that clear. If one simply counts the signs in the gardens it is McCain country. Having a McCain right beside a sign with 'Remember the Towers and Pentagon' and 'God Bless America' looked so strange to me that I had to stop my car an take a photo. Again: Unthinkable in Germany.

'Merchandising'-booth for Obama, San Francisco

One week ago two girls addressed me in the streets showing me some forms. They worked for a school project and wanted me to register for the election. Of course they stopped their attempt after I told them that I am not an US citizen. We had an interesting conversation afterwards about the election processes in Germany and the US. They were very surprised to hear that in Germany it isn't required to register for an election because you get your registration card automatically via mail.
To me it sounded awkward that every US citizen has to register for the election just to be able to perform one of the most basic rights like voting. If one wants to prevent as many people as possible from going to the ballot booth that's the way to go.

Right now it seems as if Barack Obama leads the polls with double digits. I really hope he will make it. Eight years with an Republican president are more than enough although I have to admit that even John McCain seems to be a much better choice than the current president. But that's not that difficult, is it?

Toronto Pavement, Part 3 - The Old Lady and the Pavement Flower / Canada

Imagine a few people standing in Toronto at the waterfront waiting for the ferry boat to a little island in Lake Ontario. One of them is an old lady. She is constantly moaning and seems to be very grumpy. A tourist stands nearby.

Old Lady: The ferry boat is late again.
Tourist: So we can at least enjoy the nice view to the island a little longer.
Old Lady: But look at all the ugly condos-buildings near the water. They destroyed the whole waterfront.
Tourist: I think it is still nice.
Old Lady: They also removed the benches here at the ferry terminal. Seniors like me have to sit.
Tourist: Do you see the boat over there? I guess it is our ferry. Only a few more minutes.
Old Lady: Some time ago the whole place was full of flowers. Now it is only concrete and asphalt.
Tourist: So you would like to have flowers here?
Old Lady: Of course. Look how ugly it is without flowers.
Tourist: Ok, give me a minute.
[Tourist knees down and draws something on the floor with a piece of chalk]
Old Lady: What are you doing?
Tourist: Be patient.
[Tourist stands up]
Old Lady: Oh, you painted me a flower. That's nice. A chalk flower.
[Old Lady forgets to be grumpy and starts smiling]
Tourist: Do you think the place is less ugly, now?
Old Lady: Yes, I do think it is a little nicer now. By the way, I am Gina. I go to the island several times a week to feed two horses and a donkey in a little park. Do you want to join me?
Tourist: Of course, I want to. My name is [...]. Nice to meet you.
[The old Lady and the tourist enter the ferry boat and the pavement flower hopefully stays there until the next rain].

Toronto Pavement, Part 2 - Sidewalk Breaks / Canada

Who says that the sidewalk is only for walking? If it is a sunny day it can be perfect for just sitting down and having your lunch break.
After the big big city Sao Paulo it felt completely different to be in Toronto. Everything was much more slow and relaxed. The sidewalk wasn't the living room for street kids but only the canteen for some workers. It was like an inverse culture shock.
In addition I was able to joke with the construction workers a bit because the language barrier wasn't that high as in Brazil - although my strong German accent.

PS: Did you notice the pig on the helmet of the worker on the left?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Toronto Pavement, Part 1 / Canada

I am pretty sure the duck felt like the king/queen of the world after walking through the wet concrete.

I spent only a few days in Toronto on my way to San Francisco. Canada is not on my travel list this time because it would take much more time.

For a reason I don't understand my Toronto experience was about pavements and sidewalks. I like to look down to the ground and watch for small things lying on the floor. Therefore I decided to see Toronto not by the usual way of looking up (e.g. at skyscrapers) but by keeping my eyes down.

Nice idea but more difficult that it seems - at least for me

Trans-gender? Trans-lucent? Trans-parent?

Life is good - even for a gully

The stains looked like a smiling sperm. I didn't add eyes or mouth, it was just stains. Do sperms have a funny life by default?

One more method of advertising. I do like the album 'Parachutes' much more than the new one

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wheelbarrow Taxis, Brazil

When a pushy taxi driver runs after you because he wants to convince you that his car is the only taxi in the world it isn't that spectacular in a country like Brazil.
If the guy pushes a wheelbarrow with the word 'TAXI' on it maybe it is a little bit special - at least it was for me.
I spent a few days on the little island called Morro de Sao Paulo in Brazil.
On the island there are no cars or streets but only sandy paths. Therefore all goods were carried with donkeys or with wheelbarrow taxis.
Whether I was responsibly for his little nap because I preferred to carry my backpack on my own instead of using his service is beyond my knowledge.

Although the island is very touristy I loved the fact that there's beach everywhere and you simply lie down wherever you feel like it.
Sleeping in the sand, reading, sipping coconuts and watching some muscular guys practising Capoeira on the beach were pretty much all activities I did during my days on Morro.

As far as I remember I never went to a beach party before and although my attempts of dancing barefoot in the sand were ridiculous compared with the Brazilian guys (yes, you're right my dancing es even ridiculous compared to a centipede trying to grind a cigarette) I enjoyed chatting next to the dark water with some Brazilian music in the background and an (non-alcoholic) cocktail in front of me.

The painting on a shop window was claiming that I am on 40%. Hmm, 40% of what?
I had only days with more than 90% on Morro de Sao Paulo.
Ok ok, I am talking crap. The painting was announcing a sale with "TUDO 40%" and I was shooting only a part of the window. Is this really cheating? Probably it's the same if you take a photo of a beautiful beach without the ugly German tourists at the edge, isn't it?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Handstands in Las Vegas

After lots of days with no Internet access or activities more attractive than sitting in front of a computer the blogging guy is back.
I have lots of things to tell and tons of photos to share but this time it is only a short note that I am still alive.
Currently I am in Las Vegas (and I think it is horrible) and in an hour I will drive towards the Grand Canyon. It seems as if I'm more into great landscapes than slot machines.

The next days I will try to catch up with some photos from the last weeks.

What I want to share with you right now is not a photo but a song.
Yesterday while strolling through Las Vegas I was sitting on a bench below a huge huge huge LCD screen and an ad for iPod Nano was running in an infinite loop. The song within the ad managed to sneak into my head and I hummed it the whole day.
I am pretty sure that I will connect the song to stupid theme hotels like 'The Venetian' or to millions of flashing lights my whole life. I call such things 'songs with attachment'.

The song is nothing sophisticated but you never know what song makes it to a 'song with attachment'.
This one is called 'Bruises' from the band 'Chairlift' and is about the bruises one makes by doing handstands for another person.

Here is the video. Maybe it beams you to Las Vegas, too.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Concrete God in the Clouds

Hey, this is Rio de Janeiro. Finally. After 27 hours on the bus I made it. Actually only 23 hours were planned. The rest was a gigantic traffic jam and an inspection of our bus by the police. The buses coming from the border to Paraguay (my starting point Foz do Iguacu is near Argentina and Paraguay) are frequently used vehicles for all kinds of smuggled goods. The police checked every single bag from every single passenger (except the ones from the few European looking folks) and found - guess what - nothing. But not because there wasn't anything illegal but just because my co-passengers got a hint 15 minutes prior to the inspection and moved hundreds and hundreds of smuggled lipsticks to plastic bags and out of the bus. Obviously the bus driver was involved. I didn't know what was going in the beginning on but finally all the puzzle pieces fitted together after I talked to a Brazilian guy.

But this is not what I wanted to tell you. This posting is about a concrete god on a steep hill. I guess everyone has seen photos of the giant statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro called 'Cristo Retendor'. It was really like the statue watched over the city.

On one day I went up the Sugar loaf and the view to the mountain with the statue on top was hidden in clouds. From time to time the mist unveiled the monument and sometimes it was like Jesus was hovering in the clouds. Magic moments.

The next day the weather was sunny again and I went up to the concrete Jesus. I'm not sure what I liked more: the stunning view over Rio de Janeiro including the Sugar Loaf and the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema (where I stayed) or the nuns doing sightseeing and trying to take photos from each other in the gesture of the statue. Actually I think I liked the nuns a bit more.

Nun Fun

The Sugar Loaf

Cristo Retendor

Again I was amazed of the fact that funny little animals running around everywhere.

Random Wild Animal

By the way: The idea to build such a huge statue came from a catholic priest in the 19th century. He requested the money from pricess Isabel but she refused. Finally the statue was financed by donations in the early 20th century (source: Wikipedia).