Get to Know Mexico – WIF Fun Facts

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Facts About Mexico

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Mexico’s international reputation isn’t exactly the greatest. Plagued by drug violence, hampered by poverty, and constantly getting bashed by US politicians, it can seem like a scary, far-away place where bad things happen. Even in the carefree days before the drug war, lots of Americans just saw it as the land of tequila, siestas and rowdy spring breakers.

 Well, we’re here to tell you that there’s a lot more to Mexico than its popular reputation suggests. A lot more. Stretching over nearly 2m km2, and with a history that goes back to the Aztecs and ancient Mayans, Mexico is a place of endless fascination. It has dozens of indigenous peoples. Its capital has more museums than any other city on Earth. It’s a place of culture, history, and great, historic achievements. Here are ten fascinating facts about North America’s only Spanish-speaking nation that you rarely hear north of the border:

10. It Used to be the 5th Biggest Nation on Earth

Modern Mexico is a big place. While it might pale beside Canada and the USA, it dwarfs the nations of Europe, and is bigger than all but one of Africa’s countries. Ranked, it would be the 13th biggest nation on Earth. But that’s just modern Mexico. The Mexico of the 19th century used to be much, much bigger. Go back to 1821, and you’d find yourself standing in one of the biggest countries in the world.

That map there is independent Mexico at its fullest extent. As you probably remember from history class, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California were all once part of the US’s southern neighbor. But Mexican territory extended further south, too. Modern Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were all part of Mexico. Taken altogether, the Mexico that existed at independence was larger than the entire European Union. If it existed today, it would be the 5th largest nation on Earth.

This super-Mexico didn’t last long. Before the 1820s were out, it had lost most of the nations that now make up Central America. About 25 years after that, the Mexican-American War eliminated its territory in the modern US.

9. It Has the Oldest University in North America

Quick, what’s the oldest university in North America? A good number of you just yelled ‘Harvard!’ at your tablet screens. Sure, Harvard is pretty old; it was founded in 1636. But even that august institution is a baby compared to its Mexican equivalent. The National Autonomous University of Mexico, based in Mexico City, was opened in 1553.

To demonstrate just how mind-blowingly old that is, consider this: NAUM was opened when Mexico was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. It was given its charter by Emperor Charles V, who headed both the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Empire (dynasty was a complicated thing back then). At that time, Shakespeare was still over a decade away from being born. Isaac Newton was over a century away. Right now, you are closer in time to George Washington’s last breath than NAUM was at its founding.

Not that it was called NAUM back then. It was the Royal and Pontifical University of New Spain. Unlike Harvard, it also hasn’t been in continuous operation. The dictatorship closed it down in 1867, and it wasn’t reopened until the Revolution.

8. There are Over 60 Official Languages

Ask most people to name the official language of Mexico, and they’ll say ‘Spanish’. And they’d be right… to a degree. See, while Spanish is the most widely-spoken official language in Mexico, it’s not the only one. Ever since the government enacted the Law of Linguistic Rights, over 60 indigenous tongues have been recognized as co-official languages.

The largest of these is Nahuatal. About 1.3 million people speak the language, roughly equivalent to the entire population of New Hampshire. This is the language of the Aztec Empire, the language that once dominated the whole of Mexico. But it’s far from being the only one. Over 700,000 people speak the Yucatec Maya language, and another half a million or so speak Mixtec. Over all, nearly 7 million Mexicans speak a language other than Spanish (although most are bilingual).

Interestingly, not all co-official languages are so widely-spoken. While the next 30 most popular are all spoken by between 10,000 – 400,000 people, some like Aguacatec are spoken by less than 30.

7. They Had the Shortest Presidency in World History

William Henry Harrison is famous in the US for his horrendously short presidency. The 9thPresident contracted pneumonia on Inauguration Day and died a single month later. But even WHH’s reign lasted longer than that of Mexico’s 34th president. By one count, it lasted nearly three thousand times longer. Pedro José Domingo de la Calzada Manuel María Lascuráin Paredes was President of Mexico for anywhere from an hour to just 15 minutes. So basically he was president just long enough for someone to get through his name.

The reason for this was the crazy politics of Revolution-era Mexico. General Victoriano Huerta had just overthrown President Madero in a coup. Under Mexico’s constitution, power of a deposed president automatically passed to either his vice-president, attorney general, foreign minister or interior minister. At the time, Lascuráin was foreign minister. To make his coup look less like a coup, Huerta convinced the government to appoint Lascuráin president. The two men then cut a deal, and he moment he was sworn in Lascuráin appointed Huerta his interior minister and then resigned. Power automatically, and legally, passed onto Huerta.

To date, no other world leader has ruled for such a short time. The closest is Diosdado Cabello, who ruled Venezuela for around six hours in 2002. His reign was still over twenty times longer than Lascuráin’s.

6. In Some States, There are Three Genders

Mexico’s relationships with LGBT rights is… complicated, to say the least. While drugs gangs have been known to shoot up gay bars in some states, places like Mexico City have legalized same-sex marriage. Then there’s Oaxaca. The southern state has an approach to trans-people that is possibly unique in North America. Among the indigenous Zapotec people, they’re legally recognized as a third gender.

 Known as Muxes (Moo-Shays), the third gender are people born as men, who choose to live instead as women. Concentrated around the town of Juchitan, they’re treated as a fact of life, in the same way men and women are. They own businesses, are admired for their cookery skills, and even have a yearly ball which the mayor of Juchitan attends. For American readers, this might seem like PC gone mad. But the Muxes are far from a modern invention. They’ve been around as long as the Zapotec themselves.

Pre-Columbian societies in Mexico tended to have a third gender of men who lived as women. While most traditions died off with the coming of the Spanish, among the Zapotec it thrived. In short, the Muxes have been around since long before anyone could say what the acronym LGBT stood for.

5. It’s Home to the World’s Smallest Volcano

So, apparently Mexico has an aptitude for leading the world in the ‘unlikely smallest things’ stakes. After the record beating barely-a-presidency of Lascuráin, the country has since thrown up yet another tiny marvel. Welcome to Cuexcomate, the smallest volcano in recorded history.

Now, pay attention, kids, because just looking at images of Cuexcomate is about as exciting as watching your toenails grow. It’s the facts behind it that make it fascinating. Cuexcomate formed way, way back in 1664, an offshoot of the bigger Popocatépetl volcano. Somehow, it began to grow… and then just stopped. Like a kid who doesn’t get any bigger after their first birthday, Cuexcomate topped out at a mere 43 feet. That’s tiny. You could stack 7 averagely-tall dudes on one another’s shoulders, and the top guy would be able to peer into the crater.

So small is the long-dormant volcano that no-one thought twice about building around it. If you want to visit Cuexcomate, you have to drive out into a suburb of Puebla, work your way around the Volkswagen factory, and locate it among people’s yards.

4. Net Mexican Migration to the US is Actually Negative

Mexican immigration has become a political flashpoint in the US. While we don’t want to get into the politics of it here, it’s worth noting that things may not be quite so explosive as they seem. While plenty of Mexican still travel to the US looking for a better life, plenty more come to the US, look around, then decide to go back to Mexico. We know this because, according to PEW Research, net Mexican immigration to the US over the last decade has fallen to negative levels.

This means there are actually more Mexicans permanently leaving the US than there are arriving. Prior to the recession, it was the other way. The period 1995-2000 saw a net migration of 2.27 million Mexicans to the US. The period 2009-2014, on the other hand, saw a net migration of minus 140,000.

The factors for this are manifold. Better border policing, the Great Recession, and increasing job opportunities in Mexico have all played a part, as has the desire to reunite with family members still in Mexico.

3. Mexico Once Went to War With France Over Pastries

In the annals of warfare, there can’t be many dumber reasons for attacking another state than the fate of a pastry shop. Yet that’s exactly what transpired between France and Mexico in 1838. After a rioting mob ransacked a Mexico City bakery owned by a Frenchman named Remontel, he sued the nation of Mexico for compensation. When Mexico laughed him out, he returned to France and demanded an audience with King Louis-Philippe. Amazingly, he got it. Even more amazingly, Louis-Philippe agreed to help him.

Paris wrote to Mexico and demanded payment of 600,000 pesos, some 600 times the value of Remontel’s shop (to be fair, some of it was for unpaid Mexican debts incurred a decade earlier). When Mexico balked, the French navy invaded. They bombarded  San Juan de Ulua, captured Veracruz, and blockaded the entire country. It was only thanks to a British-brokered agreement that the war ended in early 1839. Remontel got his money. All in all, the Pastry War dragged on for four months, killed over 100 people, and injured nearly 200 more.

2. They Briefly Had the Most-Deluded Emperor in History

Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph has the distinct honor of being just Mexico’s second and final Emperor. A member of Europe’s royal Habsburg line (the guys who ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Maximilian was just drifting along when, in 1863, he received a letter telling him the people of Mexico had voted to make him their king. Rather than treat it as we would an email from a Nigerian prince, Maximilian hightailed it to Mexico and declared himself Emperor. Bad move.

The letter had been issued by Napoleon III of France, who was conspiring with conservative Mexicans to place a loyal French puppet on the throne. Unknown to Maximilian, they’d chosen him as their useful idiot. When Maximilian crowned himself emperor, it triggered a civil war in Mexico that lasted three years. Apparently, Maximilian didn’t realize this, and thought he was a beloved, paternal figure who’d finally found his true calling. When the US intervened to push France’s pro-Maximilian troops out, the Emperor even refused to leave, saying the Mexican peasants needed him.

Those same peasants executed him on a hillside outside Querétaro in 1867. The deluded reign of Mexico’s last Emperor was over.

1. Their Capital City is Sinking

At 2,240 meters above sea level, Mexico City is one of the highest capital cities on Earth. Only seven other capitals (out of nearly 200) sit at a higher altitude. Pretty neat, huh? Well, wait till you get a load of this next part. If things keep going the way they are, Mexico City may not hold its coveted 8th position much longer. This is for the simple reason that the capital is sinking at an incredible rate.

Yeah, sinking. Every year, this vast megacity, home to over 21 million people, loses roughly one meter (3 feet) in altitude. In the last 60 years, the entire city has dropped 10 meters closer to sea level. That might not sound like much, so let’s put it this way. The 7thhighest capital city in the world is Sana’a in Yemen. It stands at 2,250 meters above sea level, ten meters higher than Mexico City. Over the course of six decades, the entire Mexican capital sank so low that it passed Sana’a, dropping from 7th to 8th place in the ranking of capitals by altitude.

 The reason for this is simple: water. Mexico City’s residents draw their water from beneath the capital, draining the water table and causing it to subside. As the city’s population keeps growing, it will sink faster and faster, until eventually dropping out of the top 10 highest capitals altogether. While that’s still a way off yet, (Nairobi, the current #10, is nearly 450 meters lower than Mexico City), the simple fact it could happen is mind-blowing.

Get to Know Mexico

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– WIF Fun Facts

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 79

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 79

“This baby is definitely not a luxury cruise ship; few windows, no padding or frills, and come to think of it NO females.”…

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Future Cruise Ship by Robert J. Tiess

“So let’s check out this galaxy trotter.”——

——Now two things are easier said than done: Knowing where to start and resisting the urge to press buttons of unknown function.

Image result for the quick and the deadGood old-fashioned observation is the safest way to go, you know, like finding out why the owners of this intergalactic flying machine have seemed to meet their fate with an uncomfortable immediacy; that is the quick and the dead, everywhere bodies strewn exactly where they wanted to be at that fateful moment.

The commander of the ship, or the person who probably called the shots on the NEWFOUNDLANDER, is seated in a swivel chair, facing what appears to be a viewing screen, poised as if he was expecting his ship to move. Others of the crew are braced at their posts, also indicating anticipated movement.

If that was the case at the time, then why were they leaving compatriots behind, left to die on the unforgiving Martian terrain.Related image

Amid the frozen moment in time, while moving about the narrow passages, Celeste takes note, “This baby is definitely not a cruise ship; no windows, no padding or frills, and come to think of it  NO females.”

“Then it must have been a dream vacation for these guys.”

“See what happens when you leave all the wisdom at home?”

“Or they were on the way to Earth and Mars’ orbit happened to be on their course heading.”

“Curiosity killed the cat,” she comments, “or when on Mars don’t drink the water.”

“That may not be so farfetched Cel. Judging by the landscape, that depression down range may have been a huge lake/inland sea, at the time they arrived… ain’t here now though.”

“Whatever the case, these guys were traveling light, like the economy class on a Boeing SST 807.”

“Hey, these GUYS didn’t come from just down the block, I’m sure they have budgets where they come from,” his practical nature surfaces, “and I am guessing that this ship covers at lot of space in a big-time hurry, which would explain the frugality.

“Why don’t you try to use that thing?” Sampson eggs her on.

At his bidding, Celeste fondles that black oval-shaped rock thing which she has seemed to gain mastery of; left click in, sort of, center-scroll the lighting. It is the key boat-001to getting around here.

“Absolutely Spartan.” Comments Sampson upon seeing a typical personal-space for the crew of the newly christened, NEWFOUNDLANDER.

“Nothing like the suites on the Colony, hey.” We she realizes what she just said, she reaches over to put a hand on Sampson.

“I know, it’s still hard to believe she is gone.” The sullen Commander speaks of the trillion dollar wonder that they had boarded, for the first time a scant 45 hours ago.  So much has transpired since then, the entirety being both a space-traveler’s dream and nightmare simultaneously.


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 79


 

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Contents TRT

Air Force One Fun Facts

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Things You Probably

Didn’t Know About

Air Force One

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Air Force One, a.k.a. that enormous plane that carts the president around, is one of the most enduring symbols of American power. To this end, the planes carrying the Air Force One designation are filled to the brim with bleeding edge technology and a bunch of other cool stuff we’re going to talk about… well, right now. For example, did you know…

 10. There are Massive Rolls of Carpet for it Lying Around Somewhere

most of the things aboard Air Force One come fitted as standard, like bulletproof windows and, we presume, high-tech anti-ninja technology, the President and his spouse have some control over what the interior of the plane looks like so it better suits their tastes. Much like a fancy car, the President, or more specifically the First Lady, can choose the color of the interior of the plane. To this end, they can make it as pimp or spartan as they like.

This, coupled with the fact the plane is specially equipped with the ability to communicate via everything from morse code to email, and can fly thousands of feet higher than even most military planes, means it could theoretically stay aloft, beaming down freedom, forever. In reality the plane could probably only stay aloft for a few months before it needed to stop for food (in a pinch even this could be delivered in mid-air), which is probably a good thing considering…

9. It Can Fly Forever

In the event these systems all fail, Air Force One is built sturdy enough to weather an undisclosed number of direct missile hits and could probably smash into the ground at Mach 3 and still not kill anyone aboard. Not that you’d ever get anywhere near the plane, given that it can fly in the upper stratosphere and secretly call on supersonic jets to aid it over any allied country. Even if you managed to do enough damage to hurt the President, he’d probably be fine, because it can stay in the air forever.

8. Everybody Aboard is a Picky Eater

Like with everything else, no expense is spared when it comes to the kitchen aboard Air Force One and prior to a flight, secret service agents will painstakingly seek out and purchase the freshest, highest-quality ingredients one at a time from nearby stores to minimize the risk of the President being poisoned.

The gourmet chefs working aboard Air Force One are said to be able to cook virtually any foodstuff known, are trained in virtually all culinary disciplines, and have access to every kind of cooking implement possible (except a deep fat fryer, for safety reasons). This is an issue because the most popular foodstuff aboard is burger and fries. Yes, despite Air Force One being basically a flying 5-star restaurant, most people aboard, including the President, normally just order burgers and sandwiches.

While the food has gotten healthier, mostly thanks to the efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama, it’s noted that journalists still mostly opt for sandwiches, coffee and soda, with the kitchen going as far as stocking peanut butter for especially picky eaters who don’t want to eat any of the fancier fare Air Force One’s chefs can cook up. While officially Air Force One does serve balanced meals, anecdotally most people just eat junk food, partly because everyone except the President is charged for their meal, with the exception of a free bag of M&M’s every person aboard is given after a flight.

Not that the President is immune from encountering food they don’t like. For example, George H.W. Bush is said to have literally ordered that brocoli be banned from Air Force One because he hated it that much, once stating: “I do not like broccoli, and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

7. They Destroy Everything that Doesn’t Work

As a symbol of the American presidency, most everything aboard Air Force One is fittingly adorned with either the presidential seal, the current sitting president’s initials, or both. On top of this, every item aboard is polished, cleaned and meticulously maintained to avoid the embarrassment of a foreign leader or diplomat being given a chipped mug to drink out of, or a journalist tweeting a picture of a dirty towel. You know, stuff that would make the President and, by extension, America look bad.

To deter thieves, extensive checks are carried out on everyone leaving Air Force One and you can be sure anyone selling an official Air Force One toilet roll holder on eBay would be soundly detained and questioned by the FBI. As an added measure, anytime anything stops working on Air Force One or becomes unacceptably damaged or dirty, it is quickly removed, pulverised into dust and then burnt. An extreme measure we’ll admit but one that ensures the air of mystique about the impossibly high-standards aboard Air Force One is maintained. Hey, speaking of that…

6. Every Member of the Staff Could Kick Your Ass

 Like any plane, Air Force One has flight attendants and other staff who perform basic custodial duties aboard the plane, like telling you where the emergency exit is and handing out little bags of peanuts. Unlike a regular plane, these staff members are all highly trained military personnel with spotless records, who are carefully screened and subsequently trained to handle nearly any conceivable emergency. As a result, every member of the crew aboard Air Force One is well versed in emergency survival techniques, weapons handling, and generally messing up your day.

In other words, every member of staff aboard Air Force One, from the pilot to the guy who cleans the toilet, could snap your neck with a rolled up newspaper or beat you to death with a shoe without breaking a sweat. Essentially, while flying through the air in his big plane, the President is surrounded by an entourage of highly capable killing machines who also just so happen to be able to make a mean margarita or whip up a steak on the presidential grill. As if this wasn’t enough, when he takes off he is also…

5. Being Watched by a Special Team of Snipers

The President is an important dude, and spends much of his time being flanked, shadowed and watched over by an elite team of bodyguards versed in 80 plus ways to obliterate a human testicle at 80 yards, with their eyebrows. Specifically, whenever the Commander-in-Chief is about to board Air Force One, though, he is also being protected by a special team of sharpshooters armed with 50 caliber sniper rifles. Why 50 caliber? So that in case someone tries to hijack the plane, they can shoot through the normally bulletproof windows and decorate the cockpit with the part of their brain that thought hijacking Air Force One was a good idea.

These snipers are amongst the best, if not the best the US has at its disposal, and are said to be able to hit a target the size of a dog’s butthole from a half mile away. Their identity is obviously a secret, and they’re additionally used to protect the President during speeches and possibly while he checks his mail. And while we’re on the subject of secrets…

4. Who Made the Toilet is a Big Secret

As noted, everything aboard Air Force One is (usually custom) made to the highest possible standard of quality, using the finest available materials. Now, you’d think any company making a product that was being used aboard freaking Air Force One would boast about that fact because, well, why they hell wouldn’t you? As it turns out though, no company involved with manufacturing anything involved with the plane is permitted to advertise that fact, mostly due to it being a possible security risk, and partly because it’s kind of tacky. This means that we have literally no idea who made the toilet, or indeed any item aboard Air Force One.

The government is such a stickler for this that it sent a very stern letter to the company that manufactured the oxygen masks aboard Air Force One after they advertised that fact in a magazine in 2001. This is a shame for the companies who do make the items aboard Air Force One, because along with being associated with the presidency, they would also get to advertise their products fly…

3. On a Nuclear Bomb-Proof Plane

Like the staff, Air Force One is prepared for virtually any possible emergency scenario and is equipped to deal with nearly any potential threat, from a rogue jet firing sidewinder missiles at it, to a nuclear explosion. Along with being immune to the effects of an EMP blast, such as one produced by an exploding nuclear warhead, Air Force One is shielded against conventional damage in the form of bulletproof plating and flares to deter heat seeking missiles.

 But here’s the best part: after the First Lady or President picks out a particular style of carpet or type of soft furnishing they want to decorate the plane with, some hapless sap from the Secret Service has to go get a special fire-retardant version specially made, because regular carpet is seldom thermite proof. Because everything aboard Air Force One has to be spotless, this carpet is replaced frequently, leading to a massive stockpile of it being kept in a secret location in case someone spills beer all over the floor or something.

 2. There’s a Special Fridge Full of Blood on Board

The full specs of Air Force One have never been disclosed but we do know that it has a fully stocked medical bay staffed by seasoned medical professionals. So prepared is this medical bay that it carries, at all times, an emergency supply of blood, drugs and vaccines for most known diseases, poisons and illnesses and is specially stabilized so that doctors aboard could give someone open heart surgery during an emergency take off. You know, if they really had to.

Even better, if they had to, all the potential assassin would see is a fiery ball of freedom ascending to the heavens because…

1. Air Force One is Polished to a Mirror Sheen

The extreme efforts the government goes to in maintaining Air Force One can be no better summed up than by the exterior of the plane itself, which is said to be polished to such an offensively bright mirror sheen, you can use it to make sure your hair is suitably on point.

 Though it’s likely few people reading this will ever get all that close to Air Force One, people who have are often shocked by just how perfectly clean and shiny the exterior of the craft is, with some noting that workers sometimes wear sunglasses while polishing, buffing and otherwise maintaining it. Are there more interesting facts about Air Force One? Probably, but we think the fact that the plane is maintained to such an extent it could potentially blind foreign leaders with sheer bling is a pretty strong note to end on.

Air Force One

Fun Facts

Dangerous Places to Live – WIF Travel

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Dangerous Places to Live

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10. The Anomalous Lake Maracaibo In Venezuela

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While there are other lightning activity hotspots in the world, they tend to be more spread out, or only during certain seasons. By far the highest concentration of lightning in one place in the world, goes to the bizarre lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. In this spot, on most nights, you can essentially see lightning flashing over and over again. In the area around the lake, there are roughly 250 lightning flashes per square kilometer a year. During the right time of year, when a storm is really going, you can see up to 28 lightning flashes per minute.

When the lightning flashes are going they can be seen as far as 250 miles away, and some say sailors from long ago used it as a navigational beacon. Interestingly, experts are unsure as to why this particular area is a hotspot for lightning. Some suggested uranium in the bedrock, others suggested wind patterns or other similar ideas. Right now, there isno solid theory to explain what is happening that anyone is willing to stake their reputation on.

9. The Coldest Inhabited Village In The World

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The village of Oymyakon, in Russia, is the coldest known inhabited city in the world, and is easily one of the most extreme environments you can choose to live. The temperature averages -58F during the winter, something most of us cannot even imagine dealing with. When asked how they deal with the cold, the locals responded with typical Russian humor, and credited vodka to their ability to deal with the cold.

Walking outside for a few minutes, even when properly equipped, can cause glasses to become stuck to your face, and cars that are turned off in the cold will not turn back on. Being outside for just a few minutes without the proper gear could quickly lead to frostbite or death, depending on how little gear you have. Indoor plumbing is pretty much nonexistent due to the frozen ground, so people use outhouses. Locals mainly consume raw meat and fish, washed down with liberal amounts of vodka of course.

8. The Colombian Village Where Children Zipline Across A Canyon To Get To School

Some young people will complain about taking the bus to school, and how annoying it can be to sit with the other children. Some parents will half-joke about walking uphill both ways to get to school when they were a small child. However, in some places in the world, getting to school is actually quite a real chore. In some poorer countries, kids walk miles every morning so they can learn, but one small village in Colombia has them all beat.

As seen in the video above, these children are actually ziplining across a canyon every morning so they can get to their school quickly from their village. While it may look kind of fun, the average child or adult would be absolutely terrified, especially at how little safety equipment they are using. It just goes to show that if you truly want something, you will brave almost anything to get it.

7. Honduras, The Murder Capital Of The World

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When most people hear about immigrants coming to the United States to seek shelter, whether they do so illegally, or attempt to seek asylum officially at our borders, they think of people coming from Mexico. However, there are many other South American countries from which people are fleeing to the United States. One of the chief of these is Honduras, often called the murder capital of the world.

Honduras is plagued by the worst kind of gang activity. Those who do have money live in extremely tightly secured houses, with private security, that may as well be fortresses. Most people live in fear, and many people have to join the gangs in some way or simply be killed. Many young people end up killed by gang violence regardless of what choices they make. Hundreds of young people die in the gang wars every year, and less than ten percent of the cases are even investigated at all — the resources simply aren’t there. This allows the murders to continue unabated.

6. Flint, Michigan — Known For Lead Contaminated Water And Sky High Murder Rates

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Flint, Michigan has been in the news recently because of the lead contaminated water. The governor appointed emergency city managers, and the one in Flint forced through a water change to a cheaper source that hadn’t been properly vetted. Even though the governor and the manager were warned by the EPA and others, they did not listen and went ahead. The water was not only contaminated and poor quality, but the change caused corrosion damage to the already old infrastructure, worsening the contamination.

However, this was only the most recent of Flint’s problems. Even before the water crisis, Flint was starting to fall apart in terms of wealth, infrastructure and pretty much everything else. They were once a bustling manufacturing town, but once the industry left, the jobs were gone and most who were stuck there fell into extreme poverty. In recent years Flint has either been the murder capital of the USA, or been in the top three to five. With gang activity ramping up, jobs continuing to disappear and the water problem not going anywhere, Flint may be the most dangerous city in America.

5. Life In A Submarine Is Definitely Not Fun

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Many movies have romanticized submarines, especially classics like The Hunt For Red October. However, in truth submarines are an absolutely wretched place to live in, and those who work in them often do essentially live in them long term. If severely damaged during wartime, submarines may have some survivors, but in many cases it would be the end.

More to the point though, even in times of relative peace, living in a submarine is a terrible prospect. They are incredibly cramped spaces with no view, no fresh air, and no variation in meals. There is nothing to talk about, no up to date television or news and nothing from the surface apart from occasional command updates. Many people start to go insane due to the extreme feeling of isolation and loss of personal space, as everyone has to sleep in tiny communal areas, and no one has their own personal bed except the command staff. While it is unlikely in peacetime for you to die on a submarine, having a bout of temporary insanity is not at all uncommon.

4. Astronauts Always Come Back From Space With Numerous Health Problems

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Being an astronaut and going up into space sounds like an incredibly cool job to have. Some people spend their entire lives aspiring to it and never get there. To even be considered, you have to have a masters degree or higher in a relevant field, have several years of experience, be of near perfect physical fitness, have the right height and weight range, and preferably have military experience, especially if you want to be considered for a command position. If you are interested in being a pilot, you also require a lot of experience flying. Even then, they will only select a handful of people to consider when they are looking for more, and only a few of those people will be trained.

However, the truth is that all of this stringent selection is done because being in space is incredibly taxing on the human body. Just being up for a few months will eat away at the structure of your bones. The general rule of thumb is that for every month in space you are going to need two months to recover your bone density. It can also give returning astronauts serious low blood pressure for some time, and can cause permanent damage to vision due to the strange way low gravity effects pressure on the eyes, among other effects.

3. Working And Living On An Oil Rig Is Incredibly Dangerous

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When people hear about a disaster like Deepwater Horizon, they think of the horrible environmental impact. As the oil continued to flow into the ocean unabated, and it took what felt like way too long to stop it, the loss of life was mostly forgotten in the media. The loss of marine life was talked about, but not much went into the fact that eleven oil rig workers went missing that day and were presumed dead — they were never found.

Working on an oil rig is an incredibly dangerous job, and when safety precautions are ignored — and they have been many times in the past — it is the workers who suffer first. Life isn’t much safer for oil field workers either, and especially in North Dakota’s oil fields, things are not in good shape. The federal authorities are investigating safety standards, after reports that there is roughly one accidental death every six weeks.

2. Any Of The Alleged Cancer Villages That Are Spread All Over The Country Of China

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If you ask the Chinese government, there is no such thing as a cancer village. For the longest time, they even denied the pollution clouds surrounding their major cities, until the international visits during the Olympics made it impossible to deny to the entire world any longer. Anything that may make them look bad, or pressure them to tamp down on industry, is swept under the rug. Unfortunately, this is causing great harm to many Chinese citizens.

All over China, the country is dotted with what some call “cancer villages”. They are so dubbed because within these villages, generally everyone knows a minimum of one person who has serious cancer. These villages are always way too close to industrial plants, and often have strange particles very visible in the air. Even living there for years, the citizens never get used to it. One journalist who risked going to these villages to talk to people found himself coughing up strange brown sediment after being there only a short time — and people were angry about it. Despite the Chinese government’s policy of crackdown against dissent, these people were upset enough that they were willing to speak out about it to outsiders.

1. The Island That Is So Overrun By Snakes Hardly Anyone Dares Set Foot

snake-island

The island known as Ilha da Queimada Grande, is owned by Brazil and within close enough distance that it would normally be put to more use. However, the issue is that the island is overrun by golden lancehead vipers, an insanely venomous variety of lancehead only found on this particular island. They evolved with too many other snakes, and too little of their regular prey, forcing them to evolve incredibly strong venom to take out more difficult foes.

This venom can kill a human in under an hour, and that is from just one good bite. Some reports estimate that this island has as many as one snake per square meter. This essentially means that in any given part of the island, you could look in any direction, and see at least one snake a few feet away. Legends say the lighthouse was once manned by a small family, who died when the snakes slipped through the cracks and murdered them. While that particular story is hard to verify, there is an old lighthouse on the island, that is now automated and is maintained once a year by the Brazilian Navy — hopefully they bring flamethrowers when they visit.


Dangerous Places to Live

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– WIF Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 43

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 43

…“Tough pickle very tough pickle, Saied,” the taxi driver states the obvious…

in-a-pickle-001

“There are others who want me dead.” claims Afridi.

“Lucky for you, I stayed on this side of the Bosporus. So someone is after you, I don’t care that you are a criminal, I like you. How can such a nice man be in such a pickle? I will take you anywhere you want to go, no charge.”

“I do not know where to go… I mean I know where I want to go, but there one continent and an ocean to cross to get there. You see, I have valuable information for the Americans, but cannot seem to talk to the right people.”

“Tough pickle very tough pickle, Saied.” Mehmet stops to decide whether any of his connections could possibly assist this pathetic man and his mysterious dilemma. “What do you have to trade, maybe I can find a way……stolen jewels, smuggled drugs, American dollars?”

“I only have this,” Aldona reaches for his left ankle.“

“That is a nice shoe, but the people who might help will require more.”abdullah-ashtaar-001

He hands his 3×5 “key to Istanbul” over to him.

“OOOooooo, Abdullah! This is better than money, a favor cashed in.”

“But what does this get me?”

“Who do you want to talk to and where?”

He gives over a meaningless name in a place in the United States.

“Oh really, you will need more than a telephone for this. Get into my taxi you Afridis, I think I know a way to talk to Galveston Texas. Hang on now.”

During their excursion through Istanbul’s maze-laden streets, Mehmet Ali explains where they are going. It turns out that he knows the operator of Turkey’s state owned radio station, his brother-in-law actually and if anyone could make this long distance connection, he could.

Three mosques, two idled street markets, and 20 minutes later, Mehmet and his passengers motor up to a dj-001building, topped off not with a dome but several antennae of different configurations. It is still early, 2:30 in the morning early, but this is a station that does not sleep.

103.00 METEOR RADYO FM utilizes the tallest spire on a deserted building with a sole lonesome announcer (Abad the Mad Morning Turk) at the microphone. There is a citywide buzz about the fracas at Sultan Ahmet Mosque; dead bodies always generate high audience participation.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 43


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 31

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 31

Was one of your fares a beautiful woman and two little girls perhaps?…

escape2-001

Aldona Afridi continues his defection to save Space Colony 1

“We must cross the Golden Horn to get reach Galata.”

The Golden Horn is an inlet of the Bosporus, the narrow band of water separating them from the mosque. The main bridge that connects Galata to Stamboul is choked with evening traffic and in the waters below is Image result for the bosporus waterwaynearly as busy, with floating forms of alternative transportation. Boatmen take their fares in the same dinghies driven by a hundred generations, bobbing side-by-side with a number of larger commuter boats.

A certain ferry commands Aldona’s attention. He scans each bow for the name Mother of the Black Sea, the ship of escape for (his wife) Fatima and the girls. It may be either under-sail or moored, are they aboard or are they ashore, in the safe confines of the mosque?

“There are many a ferry tonight, Saied,” the driver notices his passenger’s keen interest.

“Is the Mother of the Black Sea one of them?”

“Oh yes Saied, the largest of them, with the many lights no doubt. It is docked for the night.” He smiles fondly at the thought; the daily visits by the Black Sea ferryboat are a boon to the taxis.

“Docked this afternoon you say? Did you have any fares from that boat?”

“Oh my yes Saied, every docking brings many fares.”

“Was one of your fares a beautiful woman and two little girls perhaps?”

“No, but I may have seen such a group coming down the ramp, more baggage than my humble cab can carry. I think poor Muhammad XXVII may have gotten them, not good for his bad back.

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Turkish traffic

“Can we go faster; I need to get to the mosque yesterday?”

“We will kill more than pecking chickens…The world has gone mad for haste….”

“I don’t care; get us out of this stagnant mess.”

Never let it be said that a good taxi driver does not enjoy a challenge, especially if it involves driving obnoxiously; foot to pedal, hand on horn.

And the race is on!! The resourceful combination of a jet ski and a golf cart squirts through gaps barely wider than a bicycle, prompting Afridi to scrunch his shoulders and close his eyes. But as in old movie sight-gag, they magically appear on the other side, clear of the bottleneck.

So with the trail of tangled auto, with their fist-shaking drivers behind, the Sultan Ahmet Mosque is mere minutes away in Galata, the commercial hub of Old Constantinople.

All in all, Afridi has time to loosen the noose around his neck, having left the hardest roads behind. That he
lives to tell the tale is testimony to his firm resolve and evidence of his good fortune. When he was back in that cold river, bullets splashing like rain around him, his long term welfare was undecided at best. Hopefully there will be sympathetic ears to hear his story, at the end of his cross-continental campaign, ending here in the land of the Great Crusades.

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THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 31


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 30

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 30

…“One thousand perfect virgins in Heaven!” The taxi-man looks Afridi up and down…

ok-now-what

A scientist is accustomed to having the answers to most everything; killers at trivial pursuits, that leave mere mortals with that dirty, uneducated feeling. Yet few of his fringe information will be helping him out here and now. This bustling Arab city will confound the most worldly of traveler, especially virgin travelers, who lack logistical confidence.

Image result for vistaprintBut he does have a rudimentary travel visa, Abdullah Ashtaar’s 2×3 VistaPrint passport, none more useful in a cosmopolitan area that includes the merging of four to five ancient metropolises. He reflects on the actions he will take from here on in and those vexatious global ramifications.

Topping any agenda is to locate his family in this muslin clothed morass. His newly acquired impulsive streak has placed both him and them in danger. He is driven by his good conscience, hoping for good results.

His destination is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, somewhere in this undiplomatic state, but where? He had had a plan when he concocted it about 36 hours ago, but now for the life of him, he cannot recall that reasoning.

Possible rejoinders and other anonymities lay before his very eyes. Where else in the world can you lose Related imageyourself, like a carelessly pitched-penny disappearing thru a crack in the cobblestones? Oriental or Jew, black, white, red or brown, you name it and who is there that cares? Only a Martian or the Man in the Moon would stand out in this city.

Certainly Aldona Afridi can locate his family in order to secure the future for them…..along with nine and ninety billion others and their descendants.

Never let it be said that Istanbul does not care for her guests. Afridi was lost, obvious to even the most casual observer. One such well-meaning native drives a souped-up rickshaw-taxi and nearly runs over two other pedestrians to get to a good fare. That stray bandy-rooster in his way is not so lucky, a left behind meal for the people of the street.

abdullah-ashtaar-001“Hey man, where can I take you,” asked without asking, Image result for the golden horn istanbuldriving on without direction?

“The Sultan Ahmet Mosque,” Afridi flashes the conductor’s gift keycard to Constantinople.

“One thousand perfect virgins in Heaven!” The taxi-man looks Afridi up and down, trying to guess the nature of his business, why he is possession of a key to the Turkish underground. “We must cross the Golden Horn to reach Galata.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Sultan Ahmet Mosque - Istanbul by shhhhh-art deviantart.com

Sultan Ahmet Mosque – Istanbul
by shhhhh-art deviantart.com

Episode 30


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