Bury my heart – wherever

People ask me why I don’t go to a hospital when I am sick, when I get bitten by a bear/anaconda/piranha, when I have strange viruses, when I am bleeding from all orifices or when I have kidney stones (OK, that one time I actually did go to a hospital because the pain was really unbearable). The reasons are that

  • I am scared of doctors,
  • I don’t want to take up scarce medical resources and the doctor’s time for my minor complaints, and
  • I am too poor to afford health insurance.

“But what do you do when X/Y/Z happens?” people respond in shock. My answer, as with so many other things in life, is “I will cross that bridge when I get there”. The worst-case scenario is that I will die, but it seems to me that a lot of people with health insurance are dying too, so I am not sure there is a connection. Recently, another European traveler whom I bumped into in South America seriously wondered: “But then who will pay for your body to be flown home?”

A strange concept, not only because I personally don’t have a home, but because dead people in general don’t have homes. Dead people have nothing. It is already 2017, but let me explain it once again: dead means dead. There really isn’t anything beyond it. And even most people who subscribe to the erroneous opposing belief don’t believe that their idea of “something” depends on the state or location of their body, otherwise they wouldn’t ask for cremation in a last act of pyromania.

Apparently, there is a funny thing: an insurance policy that will pay for your body to be repatriated in case of death. Selling insurance policies which you promise to honor for the time after the death of your contracting partner generally sounds like a profitable business model. Those of you who enter into such policies may please get in contact with me in order to grant me a long-term loan.

The tree-hugger in me cannot embrace the idea either. If this deplorable custom will gain popularity, the sky will soon be filled with planes ferrying corpses, body parts, coffins, urns and souls from one continent to the other. Some of these planes will collide and their passengers collapse, and yet more planes and courageous pilots will be necessary to fly around yet more corpses. And so on. German au-pair girls will be flown back from Australia, Indian guest workers from South Africa, the ambassador of an obscure small country will be returned to the Caribbean. A global carousel of corpses.

It really shouldn’t matter where on this wide world you go to seed and compost. I am going one step further: I hereby expressly prohibit that my body will be flown anywhere after my death! The idea of the last resting place being determined by nothing but the coincidence of a train accident in Bangladesh, freezing to death while mountaineering in Bolivia or falling from a bicycle in the Kyrgyz steppe strikes me as a rather romantic idea.

Turkish cemetery Bitola panorama clouds

Even more romantic would be to simply get lost and never be heard of again, but my home country of Germany of course has a law on getting lost (seriously). Reading that makes you lose any kind of Livingstone/Mallory/Earhart romanticism.

I am not even thinking of myself when setting up these instructions, after all I don’t believe in my continued existence after the heart will stop pumping blood. My motivation lies rather in the hope that relatives, friends and readers of this blog, if they ever want to lay down a flower or a stone, will have to travel to a country that they otherwise would never have visited. Those who never leave their small town will suddenly turn into explorers and adventurers. Pilgrims from all directions will flock to a quiet mountain village in Bhutan, to a farm in Zambia or to the marker stone for kilometer 2,300 on Ruta Nacional 40 in Argentina.

On the long journey to there, they will read my books, and when they get to know the friendly locals they will realize how they have been wasting their lives by going to the office day in, day out, instead of exploring the world. They will wire home the termination notice for their employment contract, for their apartment lease, maybe for their marriage and will embark on a new life, at exactly the same spot where mine ended.

cemetery-cactus-western-001

I almost remained in that cemetery in Bolivia. How could I have known that the villagers had serious objections against a stranger taking photos of graves?

Realistically though, nobody will come by. Because people only visit cemeteries when these are on the way to the shopping mall, when there is free parking and when the rare visit doesn’t upset one’s self-selected memory of the deceased. When the latter would make the visitors reflect, and possibly make them notice that the dead never was the person the survivors wanted him to be, then it’s really too much of a hassle.

cemetery-gate

To reach this cemetery in Chapada Diamantina, Brazil, you need to hike across a mountain range. Ain’t nobody never get there with no car.

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.)

Posted in Health, Law, Life, Macedonia, Philosophy, Photography, Travel | Tagged , | 9 Comments

The difference between Peru and Bolivia, illustrated in random messages

Whenever I move to a new country, I receive e-mails from people whom I don’t know, welcoming me to their country, offering help and giving advice. That’s nice.

As I am about to move back from Peru to Bolivia, I realized how well these random messages from strangers illustrate the character of both countries.

When I moved to Peru in August 2016, I got a lot of e-mails about food,

You have to try ceviche!

You have to try guinea pig!

You have to try this and that!

as well as not very original touristy advice,

You must go to Machu Picchu!

and business offers:

My uncle/brother/grandmother has a travel agency/car rental/taxi company. It’s the best travel agency/car rental/taxi company in town. Don’t go anywhere else! Everyone else is trying to rip you off.

I can rent you an unfurnished shack in a village for loads of money.

There were so many identical, non-personal messages that it felt like a country inhabited by bots. After a short while, I knew in advance what people would say when they met me. (To be fair, there were two exceptions during the five months in Peru, both of them very intelligent and funny ladies.)

Now, as I am moving back to Bolivia, the first message was from a lawyer with the Instituto de Estudios Internacionales in Cochabamba:

Hello, this weekend there will be a seminar on PHILOSOPHY AND METHODOLOGY OF INTERNATIONAL LAW. It’s free, and if you want to join, I can add you to the list of participants.

If there is a country that thinks like me, has the same interests as me, and where I feel at home, it’s Bolivia.

After all, even the children here are already engaged in moot courts and legal debates:

children-icj

Posted in Bolivia, Education, Law, Peru, Philosophy, Travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Better than a Spy Novel: the Trump-Kremlin Files

I was sitting in the park outside of the courthouse in Puno today, reading Nuestro hombre en La Habana and, fittingly, smoking a habano, when a gentleman in a suit – but without a hat – walked up to me and handed me a large brown envelope with a heavy stack of papers.

“This may be more interesting than the book you are reading, Sir,” he said.

“Ehm, thank you.” I looked up and smiled. “But who are …”

He interrupted me, not because he was impolite, but because he was noticeably in a hurry: “Watch out for yourself.” His voice was calm, but his eyes betrayed the seriousness of the warning.

As he disappeared into the crowd of teenagers, tourists, ice-cream vendors, photographers and old ladies selling hats and warm socks, I considered it impolite if I tried to follow him with more than my curious gaze. He didn’t look back once.

Not wanting to appear suspicious by getting up right away, I opened the unsealed envelope on the spot and began reading. They were obviously copies, not originals, and on almost every page, sections were highlighted by a yellow marker pen, drawing my attention to those paragraphs.

trumpkremlin1

And this was only the first page.

As I continued reading,

  • I was so shocked by the material on the ties between Donald Trump and the Russian government, by the duration and severity of those ties, and by the implications that I forgot to continue smoking my cigar,
  • I realized that there will be an impeachment against President Trump,
  • but that it will be at a time of President Putin’s choosing,
  • that President Trump will do everything to avoid that, putting US policy completely into the hands of a foreign power,
  • that Russia doesn’t do this kind of thing just for fun,
  • and that I would therefore be very worried if I was Ukrainian, or indeed Kazakh, Georgian, Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian.

trumpkremlin2

Only later tonight did I realize that maybe I myself should be worried, too. Therefore, I have uploaded the total 35 pages for you to read here, removing anyone’s incentive to silence me. – And in case you think that I am making something up, these are the documents that CNN is talking about.

Posted in Elections, Politics, Russia, US election 2016, USA | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Video: Take a break!

After hiking up and down Cerro San Luis (4,267 m) in Cajas National Park in Ecuador, I had to cross this river.

cerro-san-luis-with-creek

The ranger had told me that if I kept walking along the side of the river, I would sooner or later find a bridge. When I did, it was a good place to take a break. In my usual cowboy manner, of course.

Posted in Ecuador, Photography, Travel, Video Blog | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The man who predicted the financial crisis

We should have listened to Brazil.

Ferndando Henrique Cardoso, the country’s president from 1995 to 2002, warned as early as 1995 and numerous times thereafter that the IMF and the World bank were no longer equipped to deal with the number and speed of international financial transactions.

He realized the problem of what he called “virtualization” of money:

[…] that the capitalist system contains an element of chance, of gambling of pure speculation. And the most serious thing is that the virtual has taken command of the real.

President Cardoso repeatedly alerted G7 leaders to the risk that central banks would lose control over the financial system. The warnings were ignored.

fhc_15_anos_real

Professor Cardoso is not an economist, by the way, but a sociologist.

(I learned this from the book Brazil: The Troubled Rise of a Global Power by Michael Reid.)

Posted in Brazil, Economics, Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Every hotel should have this

When I checked into Mundo Albuerge Hostel (not recommended because too noisy) in Lima (ditto), Peru (ditto), they asked me if I wanted a room with cat or without cat. Hoping that “gatito” didn’t have any naughty meaning that I wasn’t aware of, I said “with cat, please”.

And indeed, a cat was sitting on my bed.

katze-im-hotel

I wish more hotels offered this service.

Posted in Peru, Travel | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Why it’s important to get the best divorce lawyer

ex-wife-lawyer

Note that I wrote “best”, not “most expensive”, because these two do not always coincide.

How do you find the best lawyer? Luckily, there is my 10-step guide.

(Thanks to @littlewisehen for the photo.)

Posted in Family Law, Law | Tagged , | 2 Comments