Sunday, January 15, 2006

From the Cave: Snow Exuberant

Snow Exuberant
In Vienna, is it possible that the Turks themselves had more to trade than battle? Who had destroyed the libraries of Alexandria? The Greeks and the Romans? The Barbours, the Berbers, the pirates, the Nubians? From what sources, other than the European pen did the Italianates muster up some great feast, or merely retain the oldest of celtic traditions? One of many. It is only in the western world, where congregations grow old, where churches close, of any religion. In the rocky hillsides of the tea countries of Aramaic Extraction. Here do we not have an oral tradition of great depth. The movement of the deserts and the movement of man upon the grounds of jungle. Where few marks were made to tell a purist history’s story. Cathedrals carved into bedrock granite. Since the birth of Christ. Places where hand painted motifs of a higher order are still kept. The life in that art alone might merit worship in some tribal groups. To see the disintegrating Medici Tomb built for St. Francis Xavier, where his bones are kept, and paraded around every seven or eight years. Fascinating. There is enough mouldering away history in the Catholic Church to support the lives of many poor, irregardless of their faiths, mere kindness and concern, often enough converts a dying human. As opposed to that, in some countries of a cow. Pursuits of a Christ like figure often when the desperate poor are being pursued by despair. It is just easier not to turn around and look at it again.

What fleece or fleecing did take place? Even one hairs of the fleece? Was Mozart not in fact a mere copyist, his one proof edition of all of his compositions, without a single flaw in any of them? In some countries that would insist upon worship. Religion has always been the pursuit of the poor, and I guess that means that we are no longer. Who would heal the leper otherwise? I remember Twohig the philosopher, and the friend, there are worse fates than death. There are immortalizations, of man and art alone. The consciousness of world community, the birth of conscience, in many faiths lives. A big difference between practice and preach. Some of the most unintelligible of lessons taught without communicative abilities. It is basically about being a vocal presence or not, for what cause or not, and as I know a little too much and a little not enough to be overwrought. A little too heavy on the crenellated smith work am I thought. Some spare the sides of trees for scrap metals.

I’ve never understood the gold markets of North America. There are only so many football field sized piles. The diamond merchants got smart, and fully control their monopoly on the precious stones. What westerners don’t seem to understand is that certification of diamond products is probably fairly easy to counterfeit, as in laser cuttings on smaller and smaller facets, identification, bar-coding can all be done in the slums of Guangzhou, or the nicer areas of Budapest. The essential qualities of value and pricing among diamond merchants, is a small number of high profile buyers and sellers, with reputations to up-hold. In China and great continental reaches, gold remains the insurance of the lower and middle classes, and should be encouraged to increase in value, so that somewhat, demand outruns supply. Gold treasuries spanning several families are often simply deposited into the rooms of various Hindu Temples and such. Such a market of gold should be of a higher value. Gold is often simply melted down and reworked from one generation to the next. It all depends upon whim and fancy.

What do the Canadians and Americans do? They simply open more gold mines? It does not make sense. Buy them and close them, at the same time buy up a few gold supply companies in India, and close them. That is effectively what each individual buyer has been doing to the gold market since Columbus. Then would it be prudent to see how many Indian banks fell like dominos, then Western banks could enter the market, thus somewhat stabilizing it through IMF, World Bank dictates. Effectively cutting off the military possessions of both rival territories as part of the agreements. These people always know how to sell, I fail to see what Western countries can hope to benefit from the parting out sale taking place in Pakistan for the last twenty-five years, at throw away prices. Economic invasion is not only welcomed, all of we in the west also pay for it. So many of the economies that consume American and European weapons, as well as the engineering technology, the portions contracts, the scientists, the profits, all funnel back through the sponsorship systems in so many American tax payers dollars. Whether the money is spent by a particular regime as tribute, or as development funds, or as weapons for their own use, or if not then to be used against them. I wonder why America receives so much of the blame for these issues. Of course the Soviet Union is also a little bit closer, still has some supporters. Kalishnakov himself was visiting the Gulf nations recently. What kind of morality could a man feel who had designed a gun that murdered millions of people? In effect, do we in the west venerate our weapons creators, if not then, our warriors? Was the world ever so civil?

Some of the places I have walked I seem to think so. Some people wanted them to be. I guess you really cannot protect the lives of others sometimes without losing a few of the defense. On a tribal scale, offering up such human sacrifices, are fairly recent in western traditions, in particular our bleaker and blacker times. I consider the act of drinking blood and body to be on a par with most of the Barbarians, those poor lost little tribes on volcanic islands. Or even among the ritual gift giving ceremonies of the Nile River’s Temples and Tombs. But as generations pass, we lose the perspective of the depths of our cultures. We are all living on top. But our roots flow below, sometimes we abandon things simply by choosing to live, forgetting the old languages, these are the days, obliterating our sacred places simply by overcrowding, the days of the tourist. We grow in fear of places in our own labyrinths, such processes and procedures. Until we know each stone. We imprison ourselves. But there may be a selection of cages, or abodes. One must choose that one with the most resilient of windows. They beauty of which cannot bear destruction. What we carry from one generation to the next. The same as any other. Children and art.

Snow Exuberant

Extroverts sometimes make good leadership. The path they make on the Korean mountain is easily followed. They sometimes make such steps out of good quality stone embankments, irregular, mud set stones, and cleared growth from the managed reserves, some plant box style steps. Once a forest fire burned through a section of the Gak Mountain in Samchonpo. There are plenty of volunteer wardens around to try to control access during dry seasons. But thanks to ritual ceremonies and tree planting festivals, erosion was averted. The leper colony on the seaside of the mountain was spared the construction of their berm; the fishermen contributed loads upon loads of various clamshells in mesh bags. A natural calcium enriched fertilizer.

Never is a Korean rice field necessarily to be stepped in. All embankments have been fixed for mostly a thousand years, so safely navigatable bicycle path/alleyways/field embankments connect the pathways across most of the country. There are no official addresses. So many plots and house allotments are irregular and streets/alleys often reconform. The postman, once regular, becomes virtually indispensable when lost, and can often pilot strangers to destination merely on a quadrant or landmark location. A population density of 3500 per square kilometer well ordered to witness it. But most of these people live within a reasonable distance to Korea’s major cities. Some mountainside developments are by western standards inaccessible due to daunting forty-five degree roadbeds. Where often the only vehicle worthy of the trip is a four-wheel drive. Some central Pusan Valley Mountains have cement/concrete roadbeds all the way to the top. Having a view of twenty million at your feet is pretty incredible.

My first encounter with sacred Buddhist visitation sites, as in, the Buddha himself visited at one time, were on beautiful sunny days, high near the clouds. To arrive at the Peak of Gold Mountain was not a Saturday routine. Most mornings I would sit out on my balcony, and have coffee and breakfast. If it wasn’t raining the peaks of North Mountain held my right shoulder, the low rise of Samchon’po beside it did not obliterate a view of the sea. Every major street led straight to it. The authorities had published a map, with a bridge connection, which did not exist, until clearly eight years later.

A small ancient landing craft, which could hold about six cars, negotiated the three to four kilometer, heavy current strait from the harbour to the islands. I am sure it arrived with Douglas Macarthur, or the Koreans stole the technology to build it themselves. On the way one could see the idyllic seacoast of Hallyosan. On fast express hydrofoils and catamarans it is also impressive. But the slouching boat to Namhae Island had an indefatigable quality to it. The first island was in fact not Namhae itself, but the name escapes me. A walking passenger could merely wait around for the bus or wander up the road to stop for tea or coffee, the bus usually hung around until it was full. Little old grandmothers often stooped and bow legged farmers wives, living in the little tile roofed cottages of Old Korea often took the bus. As well as students, teachers, soldiers, anyone not in an official position rides the bus. In Korea, it is almost just never necessary to be on time, but once you’re there, you’re there, perhaps for the day and maybe a couple more. Especially if you have to travel on a holiday forget about fixing a time. Meetings and activities were never less than an entire day from dawn until dusk. But a lot of good living exists in between. Young people starting out often work every day, taking up the slack and being given assignments by seniors. They generally have one day off a month. Unless they are farmers or students they work like robots.

The farmers themselves are often quite nice people and of course among them are the best cooks. Vast quantities of rice are generally consumed at every meal. But the odd traditional service meals in finer establishments can literally go on for the entire evening. A ritual of eating and drinking, when the drinking is simply to accompany the meal, the foods served vary but are invariably well seasoned and of the freshest qualities and cuts of fish. In general, some Korean cuisine consists of what we wouldn’t consider giving to cats, and then even the same ones we do. Those little dried fish at the pet store often make up some of the finest traditional meals. Home made rice wines can be semi-sweet, with a mineral quality, plum wines, and home vodka preserved fruit berry wines are also served. Hangovers are mitigated by consumption of the hangover fish, basically a muscular looking sculpin, not well first fired before popping into the soup. Various skates and rays of small sizes are pan-fried and dipped in hot pepper sauces, along with preserved cockles in the half shell, a favourite staple. Mussels themselves are not recommended in the peninsula. But other hardier meats can be obtained. For starters, fire beef.

Korean farmers of dairy cattle often operate with a mere handful of cattle. The same occurs with beef farmers. Not usually far away are the best bulgogi restaurants. Located in the countryside, a short drive from major centres, or in the densest habitation in some districts of Nampo Dong in Pusan. It is best had at such a restaurant that provides comfortable well ventilated private charming dining rooms. The rooms and service are impeccable, even the most worn of restaurants are usually spotlessly clean. It is a popular winter dinner. First the particular styles or cuts are seasoned in a medley of marinades, usually in the platter provided for cooking. The low table has a central gas or coal fired briquette holder. The briquette is coal dust, compacted into a coal about the size of a flowerpot, with radiating holes through the ends. Grills come in various shapes, and are changed frequently, the cooking of the bulgogi takes a very few minutes. It is wrapped, with various preserves, and bean pastes in grape leaves. It various in flavour from wonderfully satisfying to unbelievably good.

Before reaching Namhae Beach, get the bus driver to stop on the ridge. Cross the road, and prepare your rations. Your water bottle is full. Crackers and cheese, mandarin oranges, chocolate, or if you want a barbeque on the summit, then your sterno, your cold packed pork, a satchel or two of kimchi, and a couple bottles of soju. Cooks tend to make friends on the mountains. One fellow I knew, lived in a hovel with a smoked pig’s head on a hook near the door, as he would normally collect a guide or two through the day.

But the Peak of Golden Mountain contains the sacred arches of Buddha’s Stone Boat. The site of what must have once been an ancient animist site. Those of the countryside remain, which worship the tree or the rock. Conveniently Buddha visited the place and claimed it for his own special kind of worship. It commands one of the most supreme mountain views I have yet seen. It is also the site of the supposed immortal weeds sought by the ancient Chinese. They sent five hundred men, and five hundred women to the islands to discover the mysterious plant. Also nearby is a Founder Sect Temple, they worship not Buddha, but the founding mythological Korean King Tangun.

The more natural extrovert, does not lead, at times, and does not follow, at times. Tethers across the rivers are only sought when the river itself is not the goal? What if by chance, some herd of cow do cross, some camel, some sheep or goats wandering aimlessly about or with aim, on the choicest snacks.

The high-spirited gods delivered a dearth of frigid goodness. Imagine what waters would do in the middle of the Gobi, or The Nube. In small desert towns, water like that would be collected on the roof, and filtered, percolated down into a standing pond or tank. The wilderness of sand dunes, brittle and blackened stumps of trees, where even the best seasons will be rain once every six or seven years, for twenty minutes. Enough time, and enough water, to at times cover the ripples of sand, with little prickly pears, not even pears, thorn trees not even as thorns, scrubby flowery blossoms, and roots fifteen metres deep. The gradients of the desert are such like carpets, of consistency and the percolator system of running moistures drifting through the gravels, sands, and rocks, like a kind of macro-diffusion. Ten to fifteen kilometres lengths of dunes exceeding one hundred fifty to two hundred metres, on an incredible forty-five degree angle illusion of solidity, in which each placed step displaces the sand around the body, like a lotus blossom in ascent. Slow pace may be maintained or races performed to reach the summits, where thirty to fifty year old trees can often be found. But these are mere bushes, a desert cousin to the alder.

Under the proper sound bending conditions, in convoluted banks of various grades of sand, the inner reaches can provide the marvelous singing sands. The ultimate effect of audible illusion is cousin to the didgeridoo. But more like the bass. The ascent of such mammoth dunes can be achieved by simply riding a dogged Land Cruiser in conditioned comfort from the lower plateaus. With proper training and practice, with a minimum 6.0 litre engine, facilitates the near ability to circumnavigate upon both sand or ice and snow. The conditions being similar in their opposite medium. Certain biologists have discovered cavernous prehistoric relics, camp sites, limestone caves, and previously unknown species of mice, snake, and mangrove swamp inhabitants. Many species of gecko and African cockroach or similar-like dung beetles proliferate among the dunes. In the Northern Ranges, corals located in various qualities and quantities, but at times with challenging currents. Similar to 2-4 kilometre per hour drift currents. Night fishing is excellent on the coast in winter.

With twenty five to thirty pound steel hook and test line, similar weight barracuda can be taken, freshly cleaned and sold wholesale officially, or under the table with local permit holder. The most prized of fish in the region, a large mouth bass variety, three to four foot sharks being easily let go. A similar variety is prolific in the Red Sea. Many species of porpoise and whale, many green turtles, a cross selection of grosbeaks, herons, flamingo, hawk, Afghan doves, desert fox, horned serpents, skinks and various lizards, where profusion of continental flowers easily germinate, and flower, with vast quantities of expensive but subsidized filtered and mineral waters.

The most easily accessed supermarkets include Carrefour, Spinney’s of the U.K. and various incarnations of Christian Lebanese Abela’s, and the local Co-Op Stores. The UAE is a former British colony with many formerly British conveniences. Arguably the most Shanghai-like a city or country could become in the Middle East, which is about as good as it gets. Depending upon age of vehicle and quality of private mechanic, in the border town mechanical colony, where the roads are merely ideas, older model Porches and all manner of British or German sports-car can be seen simply fading away in the dust of the labour camps. Mussafah looks like Road Warrior. Some of the folks walking around there look a lot like Afghan farmers.

With the right military guide, the Karakorum Valley would be my choice of a dream destination. Basically it would be a trek up by train to Peshawar to pick up a couple other military buddies. Eunice was a good man, especially well though of in Karachi, soft spoken, good negotiator, intertribal conflict resolver in all cases. Tacit, and organized, shift scheduler, well turned out, healthy and well kept. Haider was a wiry and fluent Pathan, literate in English, especially manuals and radar tracking. A zippity doo-daw character, the desert kind of man, he was a proven tracker, with a calculating mind.

Once he came after hours and took a newspaper, I wanted to flog him for thievery, as we had had many thieves those weeks. Stealing sugars, water, and Maxim Magazines. Many suspected the students. I suspected another petulant little Pakistani Staff Sergeant. When it was all finally sorted out, I apologized more than once. He continued to protest. I finally said, “Look, I only apologize once.” From then on Haider and I were like brothers.

For mere cordiality, Rashid of Second Division Operations would be my choice for general morale. Just jolly, confident and respectful of people first and religion/nationality second. For a small honeymoon party of two, such an expedition would require little provisioning, as no high altitude or rope climbing would take place. The base camps of all major local attractions would be accessible. The views are astounding and highly undeveloped when considered among many other similar types of scenery. Recent funding drives and sponsorships for major non-profit organizations have included a few groups from Dubai.

The weather being most pleasant in the winter, least humid, fairly dry, the upper reaches not attained quite as often by climbing expeditions as the season is short and slow, the burros and shepherd guides would be desperate for business. Only the best could be had, in a small negotiating group, thus loss control renegotiation procedures reduced bargaining rights of smaller number of porters. Prices are only fixed for those without good Beluch/Pathan language abilities. Quite simply if someone does not look good to you, you don’t do business with him. Go find the blind man, in some cases, a very good judge of character.

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