Friday, 7 December 2007

afghanistan

a old friend of mine has just informed me that he moved to Afghanistan about a month ago for 6 months. although I tend to think I'm a relatively adventurous person who likes to travel and see new places, the first things that comes to mind is an exclamation of what?! and then why?
The weird thing is that this guys' actions don't seem to match with the personality you see when you meet him in person. he comes across as a rather dull fellow, with a sombre nasally voice, pleasant enough but not terribly amusing, yet his last adventure prior to this little desert sojourn was 2 years in Antarctica. I'm afraid I didn't understand that either. While I would love to see Antarctica and in particular understand more about it scientifically, the idea of of spending 2 years in a giant shed with the same 10 people in the freezing cold sounds like a nightmare which no amount of Emperor penguin sightings could make up for.
The afghanistan thing could in theory be a whole different, more interesting kettle of fish, given that its only 6 months and he's based in an actual city with no doubt a fascinating culture. but then he tells me he's working 85+ hours a week (for the military although he's not in the military), he doesnt leave the compound so he doesnt see any of the city anyway, they have a waste water disposal problem so showers must be under 30 seconds (and I thought our drought driven 4 minute limit was hard), he's going to be there over Christmas and New years and its a 'dry' base. which brings me back to why? why? why? Presumably they're paying him very well.

Monday, 3 December 2007

DNA

Travelling on the bus in Perth I noticed a rather strange sign. Instead of the standard no smoking, no eating kind of signs you tend to see on buses there was a sign stating that ‘Spitting on this bus will not be tolerated. Bus drivers are equipped with DNA kits to identify offenders who will be prosecuted’. huh? The first question that comes to mind is what kind of a person would be spitting in the bus anyway. I know the majority of the people travelling on these buses are Western Australians, but still. Is this really a problem to the extent that bus drivers carry DNA kits?! This would presumably mean that the Perth public transport body is also willing to go to the expense of providing training in how to use the kits. Assuming that someone would commit the terrible offence would they really be spending time and money on submitting swabs for analysis? Presumably they would require not only a sample of the expelled saliva but also a swab from the suspected offender for proof. My mind conjured up images of bus drivers attempting to tackle resisting youths in order to lightly scrape the inside of their cheek with one of those plastic swabs you see in police TV shows, while curious passengers looked on. I only noticed the sign on one bus, so I wondered if there are particular bus routes that are more prone to spitting offenses than others, are certain Perth suburbs more populated by spitting types? If so which ones, and was I inadvertently heading to a dodgy area full of the dangers associated with an excess percentage of the population being spitters? Fortunately I did not encounter anyone attempting to commit the offense either within a bus or elsewhere, although it would have been interesting to observe the consequences.

Perth

Visiting Perth this week I encountered a strange feeling whereby despite being within my home country, in a place where people speak the same language as at home, look more or less the same (fashion aside, oh dear – but that’s a whole other rant), have the same culture - relatively speaking, buildings, food, shops, banks etc are the same, it all felt decidedly foreign. Perhaps the fact that it took a longer than five hour flight to get there had something to do with it, and staying in hotels always makes things seem foreign, the beer was different (but that was in label only, in taste it was that same generic Australian beer) and the fact that the river was so wide we weren’t sure whether it wasn’t the ocean was a bit disorientating. But all this doesn’t seem to add up to enough. Spending time in the outback earlier this year where things (except for the beer) are vastly more different didn’t seem foreign at all, but perhaps that was because the people were so friendly. In the end I guess it all comes down to expectation and perception, I was expecting the Outback to be different to home and therefore it didn’t seem so foreign I was expecting Perth to be…well, I’m not sure really, but not what it was, perhaps more similar to Brisbane, and it wasn’t therefore it all seems a tad weird.