Sunday, 29 August 2010


World Peace? "Could I borrow your set of plug-adapters for the laptop?", asked ma cherie as she was packing her luggage one day. As I handed over the universal plugs, I wondered what happened to her's and mulled over a seeming indispensable accessory of international travel today . . . . if you'd like to stay in touch with loved ones, friends, and official business . . . or simply find some way of whiling time in airports or cafes.

Why haven't the electrical systems of nations been globalized -- one system, one world, one plug! That alone is an indication that disagreement and aggression among nations at the WTO round tables and conferences will continue until who knows when. Is it really possible to globalize trade in an unglobalized world of varied cultures?

Across the Atlantic, the mobile phone reflects cultural divides. In Paris, the locals that you meet along the Rue de Rivoli would be talking on their mobiles but with short, to-the-point clips. Over in New York, the cell phone isn't as obvious on Fifth Avenue but when they call, the Americans seem to spend a lifetime conversing or arguing with the party at the other end. While both cultures may tend to use the mobile phone for voiced communication, the French are more inclined than Americans who with the advent of the Blackberry increasingly keep up with their email messages.

And why does Britain if it were indeed part of Europe insist on driving on the other side of the road compared to the rest of the continent.

Wouldn't the world benefit from economies of scale if nations were willing to give up material differences on perhaps electrical and transportation systems and then savings ploughed into innovations that could contribute to a sustainable global community. Are chasms at the WTO meetings due to intellectual substance than to philistine pride.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


Nerves! Decidedly one of my favorite world cities, Hongkong was our next stop on the way home. It beckons because it is home to many Chinese friends with whom we've spent many exciting moments including Christmas dinners on Lamma island and in the new territories, one freezing barbecue binge on Repulse bay, and Chinese New Year celebrations. It serves as our most convenient gateway to Europe, North America, or some parts of Africa and then back; let's not also forget airline loyalties due to frequent flier miles.

In the news recently was a legislator from our country belonging to a family of distinct notoriety who had been caught with prohibited drugs in his possession. His family bailed him out (luckily that was possible) and spun the tale that the situation was manipulated by some influential parties. In Hongkong?

Light, airy, and shopping-friendly: Hongkong's airport
I had my own sordid experience too when on entering the territory this time my passport was closely scrutinized by immigration authorities to the point that I was brought to their back offices where I came across people of various nationalities waiting for some dialogue with the Chinese officials. It was a horribly irritating 20 minutes of wasted time while Immigration scanned the pages of my passport, talked among themselves over it, and then asked me of when I shall leave the City. As I was eventually let go and escorted into baggage claim, I had not been informed about the reason for the brief incident which prompted me to demand for an explanation. We went back to the office because the escort agent could not communicate well in English.

There I discovered that I was detained because the letters bearing my first name on the passport's first page were somewhat smudged. That had to be since this document is almost four years old and went through the fingers of countless consulates and various immigration personnel in many countries. In the shadows of 9/11, we can only be wary of instantly arising situations (especially in airports) like that. Have you seen the movie Rendition?

It was recommended that I secure a new passport -- the digital type -- to avoid similar circumstances and which they say is "for my own good". Hmmmm. My stubborn nature tells me to diss that instruction and to keep using the current one until expiry. On exiting Hongkong, I hoped that Immigration would see that smudge again but they didn't in the same way that they hadn't on previous times which only proved my theory that the observation was subjective and defensible. But one could miss a flight that way! The other motivation for me to acquire a digital passport is the ease of checking in at airport kiosks (as opposed to check-in counters) which require this kind of identity document.

The visit to Hongkong was planned so as to meet Chinese friends and if only for that was well worth the anxiety and troubles. But yes, Hongkong will still be a favorite.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Holy Days

Part of the spice market within the souks
Au revoir, mes amis.We left Marrakesh just as Ramadan began. Leaving was the right decision as the City was just about to shift into holy mode and then soon its residents would be sporting long faces more out of food-deprivation from dawn to dusk than anything else. Goodbye to a colourful culture and to an equally lively people whose religious discipline I had come to admire.

Faithfulness is written all over the country and I suppose on the rest of the muslim world. I wish them well and thank them for the wonderful reception accorded me in the riad where we stayed and in the souks which I had bravely foraged. 

Sunday, 8 August 2010


Dazed. In the bowels of Heathrow's terminal 5 business class lounge, I took a strategic seat which allowed a panoramic view of a variety of passenger types. All of us were definitely en route and I again went on to while time in an airport by people-watching.

The 'road warriors' always fascinate me. With one hand on the laptop's keyboard and the other tapping away on the Blackberry, they're the quintessential business travellers who feel an entitlement to the place. They're not even looking at either screen while doing all that. Is this awesome display of ambidexterity due to some chase at stock markets opening and closing in some parts of the globe; that a second's miscue could mean quantum financial losses. Or is it just a trend that to divert from it will show a less competent individual. In all cases, they'd look dazed. I have not fallen for this cult (yet?) but the reminder of a laptop in my carry-on is tempting as well as securing one of those public workstations in the lounge if only to check on mails.

Then there's the 'hyperactive' who keeps on commuting from his seat to the food buffet or drinks counter unmindful of other passengers as he skips and hops around. He seems nervous about something -- missing his flight or meeting someone at the end of the flight?  Does he know that only an idiot misses a plane? While moving about, they disturb the relative peace of the lounge and waste the food which they do not even touch after all. More to the point, they're dazed.

The 'TV fan' has eyes eternally glued to the television whatever nonsensical show is going on. Perfectly dazed. Not a word to his nearby companion. Try changing channels and he wouldn't mind as he simply continues to stare.

There are raucous passengers who might have chanced on an acquaintance and are busy catching up with each other. Vocal sound decibels are above what one might expect in a resting spot like this lounge but what caught my attention was that nobody seemed to care about conversations bordering on the noisy. Animated faces of people exchanging news and views sharply contrast against stoic faces of quiet and oftentimes individual lonely travellers.

In airports, we are all caught in a space of time and of place. We are neither here nor there. This is what keeps passengers dazed. With the reality that it is a temporary state and so would be the next one (i.e., inside the aircraft), we might feel lost, anxious, imprisoned, irritated, sick, or oftentimes we don't know what it really is because we do not acknowledge it. Pity the constant traveller who flits from one tentative state to another -- be it airport or hotel. The trance never ends.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Image? Beauty?

Drat! Until now she is considered a high priestess of couture and beauty. Everytime I attend a social gathering there is inevitably a svelte damsel garbed in that famous 'little black dress' proudly faithful to its backless original. Her perfume Number 5 does not fail to impress in high society. Our featured agency for this post is Madame Coco Chanel because of recent discussions about women wanting to make themselves attractive and beautiful with clothes, jewelry, hair styles and coloring, beauty products, and now cosmetic surgery. I asked myself what would Coco think of breast augmentation, tummy tucks, and liposuction. If anyone who has intimacy on her thoughts and philosophy, please post your comments.

More than just profits from it, beauty has been medicalized for sure suggesting that it can be improved or modified. I do not have problems with that as long as women's self-image, self-esteeem, and well-being are made better and therefore their lives changed after the cosmetic surgery. With the improvement in body parts, one's self-image image improves in the short term and I hope in the long-term too. Do their sex lives improve as well? Was the husband or boyfriend a major factor in the pressure to look younger or more beautiful?

Men are not spared. I have been receiving enormous spam emails offering various concoctions of Viagra. A friend informed me (how could I be so ignorant) that some major pharmacies sell tea blends that offer Viagra-like effects but for shorter durations. Better, longer erections! Larger penises! Men are also pursuing to regain lost youth and to increase virility.

I mentioned the word 'profit' earlier which i think has motivated this whole industry. Whether or not the need is there, the landscape of cosmetic surgery has motivated that need or desire to surface -- even if irrational. Or is there a "right to beauty" really? And is cosmetic surgery the answer?