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The real blog post:
I read a number of books about
One of the books I read was Dervla Murphy’s ‘Muddling Through in
I started reading Dervla Murphy's Muddling Through in
Travel books written by myopics wearing rose-colored glasses. But I think a lot of us commit a similar sin. We decide we want to go on vacation. We look through magazines and travel books and read up on all the neat things to see and do in a particular place. We fall in love with the pictures of the beautiful rocks, of the interesting buildings, of the colorful people. Before we set foot on the plane or drive away in the car, we already have a picture in our heads of what the place will be like. When we arrive, we see what we expect to see, or we don't, and, upon our return, when we're asked if we had a good time, our answer will depend on the degree to which the place matched that picture we brought with us in our heads.
We see what we want to see. We find interesting what we've been told to find interesting. A man drives us around in a bus, points at things with a stick and tells us to be amazed. And we come home feeling just the slightest bit empty. What's missing? A genuine sense of discovery. The thrill of finding something new and unexpected. The satisfaction of surviving a trip through uncharted territory. It's the difference between reading in a textbook about
OK, so what do I have to add to this? Absolutely nothing profound. But I do realize that most of you won’t be able to visit
“I was soon to come to the conclusion that a Malagasy bureaucrat is judged primarily by the amount of rubber stamps that he has hanging from the little tree in the center of his desk. This was a twelve-stamp délégué”
“If there is anyway to avoid it, a polite Malagasy will never answer ‘no’ to a question.” [This extends to directions—a polite Malagasy will give you fake directions rather than admit they don’t know where your destination is. So I always ask about five people and ignore anyone who hesitates before giving directions.]
“Under the eaves of the concrete government office three glassy-eyed youths were chewing their way through a large basket of leaves. This was qat, a narcotic plant, something like betel nut in that it is a mild tranquillizer with no great effect other that the stimulation of vast quantities of bitter-tasting saliva.”
“On a sloping paddock to my right, three men were chasing 25 zebu round in circles. As they chased the cattle, a hundred scrabbling hooves chopped up the earth so that the center of the field was already muddy brown in contrast to its verdant corners. This was ploughing in its most basic form.” [This is how they plough rice fields in my area.]
“In some parts of
“Wherever you go in the Third World, veteran travelers almost seem to queue up to tell you: ‘You should have seen this thirty years ago—there was nothing!’ In
“Rich Western travelers (and almost all of us can be considered rich) cruise the undeveloped world in search of the ‘picturesque’: and in most cases poverty and hunger lie in its shadow. The inhabitants of these little huts, woven from branches and covered in mud, would gladly have traded instantly for a concrete box with a television aerial.” [This is why I’m so grateful for my concrete house: it’s by no means comfy, but unlike my neighbors’ bamboo houses it is sturdy, roomy, and secure.]
“I was to see deforestation and burning on a small rural scale throughout all my travels in