Three Wild Places in India You’ve Never Heard Of

Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category

By: YD Bar-Ness

“Achha”, says the chai-wallah, pouring you a syrupy sweet milky tea in a poorly baked clay cup. “You are journalist! Three places nobody has heard of?” He points at the thick brick of a travel guidebook youre clutching. “You want to see real India?” Continue Reading

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Clothes Shopping in SE Asia

Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category

By: A. Y.

… When you are at least One Head Taller and Five Sizes Bigger than Everyone Else

I suppose I can chalk this up as just one more “cultural experience.”

I’m backpacking Asia in early 2002 and it is clearly time to buy some new clothing to replace my tattered threads.  Ideally something a little bit fancier than my dwindling stock of now-greyish t-shirts. Continue Reading

The Tumunu Tradition

Qualified Entry: Non-Fiction Category

By: JoAnna Haugen

Marshall drove his truck up under the tree cover and parked in the shade.

“This is it,” he said. “I’ll be back to pick you up in about an hour.”

I hopped out of the truck’s cab and my two travel companions jumped from the bed.Marshall backed down the dirt driveway, and we were left standing in front of a small, open shack with the words “Rising” and “Boys” painted in white; a red sunshine was painted between the words. Continue Reading

Review of the Public Space at the San Francisco Federal Building

The Public Space at the San Francisco federal building is a design platypus that could only be the product of a drunkard ménage à trios between a uniquely San Francisco bureaucrat, a uniquely San Francisco activist, and Jack Bauer.

The small space on the 11th floor is made smaller by too many tables and chairs and, yet even smaller by two partitioned-off areas. The day I visited, a folded up ping pong table at the northeastern corner completed the cross-room obstacle course. There is no wall on the 7th street side which, given the often foggy and windy San Francisco weather, is about as charming as a wet cat. The room is segregated form the sky by a six-or-seven-foot-wide V-shaped metal barrier, an odd if not somewhat garish décor when viewed from inside the space. The bulwark nonetheless provides an ideal landing spot for SEAL teams in case the building is ever seized, and is a perfect sniper perch to repel any advancing hostiles. As bonus, unlike a narrow bridge railing or a window ledge, it also provides a comfortable platform for last minute contemplation before a headfirst jump.

To access the space, visitors must endure airport-style screening, conducted by Homeland Security staffers. In addition, visitors must also present government-issued identification, the data off of which is logged.  The strip-and-x-ray is followed with the question: “Where are you from”. I took this question in the context of keeping statistics on tourists who visit the building. But I was wrong. The true intent of question is to determine citizenship status. Yes! You have to be a US citizen to visit the space.

Unlike public spaces in other San Francisco commercial buildings, the one in the Federal building is only a testimony to loophole lawyering. It appears deliberate to minimally satisfy, if not downright ridicule, some inflexible city ordinance. I couldn’t help but wonder if the spirit of the ordinance, and taxpayers, would not have been better served if funds spent on the security and maintenance of the space were instead allocated to commission one or more artworks, installed at the street level. No security checks. No citizenship questions. Just a pleasant San Francisco experience.

All in all, only one message is clearly woven through the entire visit experience to this space: You are not welcome here.

The Best Seat on a Typical Bolivian Bus

On most buses, the best seat is number 48. It is on the last row where the passage between seats ends. It lets you stretch both your legs and stand up –  which are important on those 12 or 14 hour trips over gravel roads. Since seats are generally assigned, you will have to ask for it. ¿Puedo tengo asiento número cuarenta y ocho? (May I have seat number 48?) Should do the trick.

Of course, this can backfire sometimes. It is normal for buses in Bolivia to pick up passengers who will stand or sit in the isle and you’ll have to spend the entire/rest of the trip playing footsy with someone who gets crankier every time the bus hits one of the way-too-many bumps. All in all though I found the request generally worth the effort.

Buen Viaje!