Your Very Next Step newsletter for May 2008
“The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.”
“Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed.”
“Your Very Next Step” newsletter, published by Ned Lundquist, is a cooperative community, and everyone is invited, no…encouraged, no…urged to participate.
“The longest journey begins with a single step, not with the turn of an ignition key.”
– Edward Abbey
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*** In this issue:
*** Travel News
*** Mike Zimet’s travel advice
*** Airline rankings:
*** Ned’s visit to Addis Ababa
*** Ned’s visit to Djibouti
*** Ned’s visit to Dubai
*** Ned’s visit to Bahrain
*** Ned’s experience on Lufthansa
*** Ned Lundquist interviews Don Gabrielson about Arrowhead 135
…and much more…and it’s all FREE!!!
*** American Airlines is now charging for checked baggage:
*** Aloha, ATA and Skybus all shut down last month. “Skybus struggled to overcome the combination of rising jet-fuel costs and a slowing economic environment,” the company said. “These two issues proved insurmountable for a new carrier.”
Aloha had been around for 61 years. I’ve flown Aloha many times between the Hawaiian islands, and have flown ATA on several military charters as well as some commercial flights. I never scored one of those $10 flights on Skybus, but at that fare it’s not hard to see why that business model might possibly not succeed. Or maybe nobody wants to go to Columbus.
Frontier followed a week later by entering bankrupcy, although Frontier is continuing to operate.
ATA Airlines, an independent carrier based in Indianapolis, has shut down operations.
Aloha Airlines operated its last scheduled flight yesterday, shutting down operations after 61 years of service.
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The government is ordering airlines to double the compensation they must pay passengers bumped from oversold flights to as much as $800 under certain conditions.
Heathrow Terminal 5 – What happened:
*** Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines have agreed to merge.
They’ve created a new website:
*** United and USAirways have been in merger talks. United is also talking to Continental.
*** Advice …for traveling…
Ned, looking at your upcoming itineraries, I see you'll be doing a lot of flight time… so let me share a couple of road warrior tips that will make the agita of flying easier.
First, an airline tip. No, I won't even try to name a favorite airline reservation site — there are dozens, and everyone has his or her favorite.
But here's a site that real road warriors (and flying aficionados) love: http://www.flightstats.com
This site will tell you everything about flying from Point A to Point B. Who flies when (and where), their on-time records, information about each and every airline, current airport conditions, real-time flight tracking and so on.
But their best feature is Flight Alerts. They're plugged directly into global ATC (air traffic control) systems. Program your flights into FlightStats and they'll send up-to-the-minute updates on your flights, right to your cell phone, Blackberry or PDA. Flight delay? Gate change? Equipment change? No problem. In fact, they usually flash me updates before the airlines do. One time, at EWR, I actually told the gate agent about a schedule change before they got it from their own airline! And you can even look up “runway time,” which is when ATC has actually slotted your flight to take off (which often bears no resemblance to the original scheduled departure time).
Explore the site and enjoy. Like JOTW, it's free and comes with a double-your-money back guarantee.
Once you're in the air, you probably want to relax, watch a movie or enjoy either the onboard entertainment or your own iPod or other device. That's when a good set of noise-cancelling headphones is a welcome companion.
Basically, noise-cancelling (NC) headphones use technology to counteract much of the rumbling noise of jet engines in flight. The best way to appreciate them is to slip on a pair, in flight, and then turn on the power. If they're high quality, you'll be astounded at the difference. And whatever audio you're listening to will become much more enjoyable.
The best-known NC headphones are the Bose, which run about US$300. They're very good, but expensive! Fortunately, there are some excellent alternatives that cost much less and are almost as good.
Three key considerations: comfort, noise cancelling and sound quality. Although all are subjective, here's what to expect:
Sound quality should be good, but don't expect it to sound like symphony hall live. Just expect what you'd get from any good pair of headphones.
Noise cancelling is very important. Some models are much better than others. It helps to read credible user reviews whenever possible (you can usually find excellent user reviews at amazon.com; just search on the specific model(s) you're interested in.).
Comfort is the biggest trade-off. Earbuds may be more comfortable, but their very design makes them the least effective at blocking out all that noise. You'll do much better with “over the ear” designs, which may weigh more and be somewhat less comfortable — but the overall listening experience can be awesome.
A good tutorial on NC headphones can be found at The Travel Insider; click here: http://tinyurl.com/2f9fmw
It has a lot of good information plus fairly reliable reviews on a number of different models. I've tried several of those as well as some others that aren't listed, and the ones I now use (and really like) are the Jabra C820s. I've worn them for several long flights; they're fairly comfortable, do a great job of reducing noise and provide very nice sound quality. And when you're done, they fold up into a compact travel case. They're listed on amazon.com for US$99 plus shipping, but you can find lower prices by going to Froogle (http://froogle.google.com) or watching for specials (I got mine for US$40 on special at buy.com).
Whether you choose the Jabra or one of the other highly-rated models, you'll find that good noise-cancelling headphones make those long flights much more tolerable and enjoyable.
Have a great trip!
*** From Ken Jensen:
Doing well, thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed Paris. In my 10 or so trips there for the air show, I've yet had time to really enjoy the city. What I have seen, however, gave me a very mixed reaction. I enjoyed the historical nature, a very expensive expense account dinner at Maxim's and an afternoon at Euro Disney, but remember seeing an awful lot of trash on the streets and sidewalks. The metro runs well, but the infrastructure of the system needs a thorough cleaning. An afternoon at the Eiffel Tower smelled a lot like a urinal.
One aside: I purchased a ham and cheese baguette sandwich at the air show one year. When I opened it, a very large fly was enjoying a ham and cheese lunch inside. I quickly closed the sandwich and returned it to the vendor. He took one look and handed me a new sandwich. I turned back as I walked away to see him reopen my former sandwich and shoo the fly away. He re-wrapped he thing and returned it to the stack of those ready-for-sale!
*** Airline rankings:
SKYTRAX World Airline Star Ranking represents the Quality rating of standards applied across each airline's front-line Product & Service standards – for both ground and onboard operations. Airline standards are Graded between 1 Star and 5 Star.
5 Star Ranking : The “ultimate” ranking, awarded to airlines with the highest Quality performance. 5 Star status recognizes airlines at the forefront of product and service achievement, that generally set trends to be followed by other carriers.
A 5 Star ranking recognises highest standard of Product across the different quality assessment categories, and consistently high standards of Staff Service delivery in Onboard and Airport environments. To view the ranking information, select links below.
5 Star “International” Airlines : 2008
Cathay Pacific Airways
*** World’s worst airline:
SkyTrax lists just a single “One Star” airline, AIR KORYO, based in North Korea.
One colleague of mine says his worst experience has been aboard Camaroon Airlines.
What’s your worst carrier?
*** Ned’s visit to Addis Ababa:
Addis Ababa is a crowded big, sprawling, more than 2,200 meters high in the foothills of Mount Entoto, and the highest capital in Africa. There is much construction, but the techniques used are very basic, with wooden scaffolding, and manual labor in plentiful supply. The city is not ancient, but more or less modern, established when King
Abebe Bikila is an Ethiopian long-distance runner who is revered in his native land. He ran barefoot to win the gold in both the 1960 Rome Olympics and 1964 Tokyo Olympics. He would later be injured in a car accident, and continued to compete in a wheelchair. There is a major exhibit about him at the national Museum in Addis Ababa, the same museum that displays the remains of Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis skeleton who may be related to us all.
In the ethnographic museum at the National University I saw a young woman who was working in the gift shop reading a book in English. It was “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. I opened the book up to chapter 16. “This is all you need to know,” I told her. It said, “Find yourself and be yourself — remember, there is no one on earth like you!”
Up near the top of Entoto, there is the the first Menelik II palace, next to the church of St. Mary where Menelik was crowned Emperor in 1882. There was a funeral underway while I was there, and I could hear the priests and deacons singing for the dead. The palace is located in a beautiful and cool place, but Empress Taitu yearned to be near the hot springs at the foot of the mountain to be more to her liking and so after a while – at the turn of the century – the capital was moved to the foot of the mountains just above the hot springs, where Addis is today. In fact, Addis Ababa means “New Flower.”
Djibouti is a small nation that was formerly a French colony (French Somalia) and later a French territory (the Territory of the Afars and the Issas). Independent since 1977, France still provides for the defense of Djibouti. About the size of Massachusetts, it is strategically located on the Gulf of Aden at the Horn of Africa by the strait of Bab al Mandeb leading to the Red Sea, and bordering Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea.
For a map, drawn for me by one of the night school students taking English at the Djiboutian Institute, see www.yourverynextstep.com.
Most of the half million people in Djibouti live in the city of Djibouti. More than half of the urban residents are unemployed, and an even greater percentage (83%) in rural areas. There is virtually no arable land, nor natural resources. But it does sit in a very strategic location. The Djiboutians understand the importance of the sea, and the critical need to keep the sea lanes open in a choke point such as the Bab al Mandeb.
Djibouti is a stable country in an uncertain region. Civil war between warlords in Somalia has replaced the rule of law from a strong central government, and so pirates from Somalian ports are terrorizing seagoing traffic in the Gulf of Aden. Eritrea has troops contesting borders with Ethiopia and Djibouti. Rebels have entered the capital in nearby Sudan. Violence marred recent elections in Kenya. Many people have come to Djibouti to escape unrest in their own countries.
The navy here has both the mission to defend the country, as well as patrol the vital waters around Djibouti to protect commerce. That includes responsibility for pollution, immigration and smuggling. The strategic value of the Bab al Mandeb will increase when a 12-mile bridge is built to connect Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula with Djibouti and the African continent.
“Djibouti gets along with everyone. We are like the eye of a cyclone,” says Lt. Ahmed Djama, the deputy commander at the Djiboutian navy headquarters. “The center is not moving. But all around is chaos.”
It gets hot here. Up to 135-degrees. “It’s not a dry heat,” says Lt. Omar Perales of San Antonio, Texas, assigned to the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. “You go outside and you’re drinking the air. After 120 you don’t notice the difference.”
*** This comment was posted in last week’s JOTW:
Djibouti is largely undeveloped. No doubt because Djibouti doesn't have
oil, gas or minerals, or trees or fresh water. It has lots of parched
desert, and it has location, at the “Horn of Africa.” It's chief
occupation is nomadic animal herding, but today more than two thirds of
the countries 700,000 people live in urban areas, which means they live
in the capital city of Djibouti. Djibouti is a small nation, about the
same size as Massachusetts, but strategically placed across the Gulf of
Aden from Yemen at the Bab el Mandeb which is the straits that lead to
the Red Sea. France once ruled this place as a coly, French Somaliland,
and then later as a territory, French Territory of the Afars and the
Issas. When the population opted for independence, the Issas opted to
be part of Somalia, and the Afars stayed tied with the French. The
French still have a military presence here. When my plane arrived from
Addis Ababa I watched French Mirage fighter doing touch-and-gos.
While nearby Yemen, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia have “issues,”
Djibouti seems remarkably calm, so much so that refugees from those
places come here for respite. One senior Djiboutian naval officer told
me that Djibouti is like the eye of a cycle. In the middle, nothing is
moving, but all around is chaos.” But even enigmatic neighbor Eritrea
wants some of Djibouti.
I went to the Djiboutian Institute with some American from Camp Lemonier
to join with the students there who take night classes in English. I
though this would be a good way to get to know and understand Djibouti
and it's people. But what I found was that many of the students from
Eritrea, or Sudan, or Somalia- all places where there has been much
strife. One student said “I am from Ogaden.” I knew that Ogaden was
part of Ethiopia, so I said, “You mean Ethiopia,” he looked at me, hard,
and said, “No, Ogaden.”
(Here are some stories about the English Discussion Groups in Djibouti:
Here are some pics from somebody else's 2007 visit to Djibouti and the
CJTF HOA base there:
USAID and Djibouti:
I visited the small village of Nagad (population 300 people, 400 goats,
600 camels). To see a photo of me at the village of Nagad, go to:
*** Ned’s experience on Lufthansa earlier this month:
I was ticketed on LH591 ADD-FRA 10 May 2008 (with a scheduled stop in Khartoum, Sudan), connecting to LH 416 FRA-IAD on 11 May 2008.
I arrived about two hours prior to my flight at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport (having arrived from Djibouti the day before) and proceeded to the gate without problems. At the gate I learned from passengers that the previous evening’s flight was cancelled due to a mechanical problem and that they had spent the night in hotels. As we neared the time to board it became apparent that there would be a delay.
The microphone was not functioning in the gate area, so the Lufthansa ground agent had to make announcements without any amplification. The many people in the gate area had to press very close to the desk to hear her, and most people could not hear what she had to say.
What I heard, I believe, over the course of several inaudible announcements, was that while two aircraft were on the ground, the one that had just arrived, and the one that was cancelled from the previous day, that due to crew rest considerations only one aircraft would be flying to Frankfurt. Subsequently, we were told that the aircraft would fly non-stop to Frankfurt, due to the rebel activity in Khartoum. Because of that situation, the aircraft could not fly non-stop with a full load of fuel, baggage and passengers (even the sanitation system was a limiting factor), so that only women with infants and business class passengers would be accommodated. At some point water was distributed. The first groups of passengers were bussed to the aircraft. We were then told that Star Alliance Silver and Gold members would be boarded. I was able to show my United Mileage Plus Premier card and I was the last passenger allowed down the jet way. At this point everyone was at the end of their patience, and I could barely get through the crowd pressing the entrance to the jet way. However, before the bus could take our final group to the aircraft, the first-boarded passengers were coming back because there was an accident – some ground equipment struck the engine – and the flight was cancelled.
We continued to wait with little or no updates. After a considerable time, some of the flight crew arrived in the gate area with water, juice, dinner rolls, macadamia nuts, and a few bottles of scotch and gin. People who had been sleeping were moved to set up an erstwhile buffet line. Somebody picked up a bottle of Gordon’s Gin and was walking away with it when one of the crew members went after him, and he tried to pour himself a tall one while he was being chased down.
Finally the captain arrived, and he offered some information using a bullhorn that didn’t work very well.
We understood that the passengers would be staying in hotels, and that we would not know anything about when the flight might leave the following day.
We were then asked to sign up for lodging arrangements. Business Class and Star Alliance Silver and Gold were asked to sign one list, and other passengers were asked to sign another list.
We were then told to go out through immigration, collect our bags, and wait in the airport lobby.
I was never sure where in the lobby I was supposed to wait, and if I asked someone from Lufthansa they would usually take a cell phone call and rush off to deal with that urgent matter. I was told to wait in this area, then in a different area. Finally I saw some people down at the other end of the lobby and it turned out that this is where I needed to be despite no instructions to assemble there. We were then assigned to one of two hotels. I asked if we would be able to make a phone call so I could let my wife know that I was going to be late. The Lufthansa supervisor said that I would be able to make one three-minute call from the hotel. When I checked in at the Hilton I was told there was no such arrangement and that I would have to make any calls at my own expense, and it took considerable time talking with the desk and the operator, and finally having to go down to the desk to run a credit card through before they would allow me to call home.
The next morning I was called and told the buses have arrived and I need to report to the lobby. I was not informed when I checked in that I might have been entitled to breakfast, so I had not eaten. I checked out, and was told that the phone call would be covered by Lufthansa, based on a phone confirmation of that arrangement earlier that morning. I got to the airport, proceeded to ticketing, and had a long wait along with everyone else. I understood this, as virtually everyone had a connecting flight that would need to be rebooked.
When I it was my turn to talk to an agent, there seemed to be some interest in my booking, and at one point four agents were looking at the screen. I thought it was mildly interesting that I was getting so much attention, so I took a picture of them. This caused much distress and indignation on their part, and they told me that photography was prohibited and that I must delete the photo. I asked the ticket counter supervisor to come around so I could have her see me delete the photo but she would not do so.
I proceeded to the gate area. When it was time to board, I was told that I could not board, but had to report to check-in in at the counter in the gate area. When I did so, I saw that my boarding pass for my next flight was sitting there on the counter. The agent at the counter told me I had to see the ticketing supervisor before I would be permitted to board. I then saw the Lufthansa supervisor, and asked her what the problem was. She said that because I had taken the picture I needed to talk to the ticketing supervisor. I asked her who the ticketing supervisor’s superior was, and she told me that she was her supervisor. So, I asked her why she couldn’t resolve any problems now so I could board the flight. She asked me about the photo (she obviously knew all about it), and I showed her the photo. “It’s very dark,” she said. “I can’t see anything.”
I deleted the picture. I was then permitted to collect my boarding pass and get on the aircraft, which departed around 1300.
The aircraft made a fuel stop in Cairo that was conducted with efficiency.
The flight attendants told those passengers who had connecting flights to North America the next day to speak with ground staff at the gate upon arriving at FRA. I was told to go to baggage claim and collect my baggage, then go to the ticket counter to receive a boarding pass for the next day’s flight as well as get a voucher for the hotel.
I proceeded through the terminal and saw a Lufthansa ticket counter where they told me to go collect my bags at baggage claim and then proceed upstairs to the Terminal A ticket counter to get reticketed and get my hotel voucher.
I waited until all the bags for the Addis flight had come out, and then asked a Lufthansa baggage service representative about my bags. He quickly gave me a piece of paper with contact information about who to contact to make a complaint.
He then took me into the baggage service office where he checked and told me that my bags were checked through to Washington (I already knew this, seeing as I checked my bags at Addis through to DC, but I was told to go collect my bags at FRA). He offered me a small convenience kit with some toiletries and a t-shirt. He then gave me directions on where to go up in the A terminal to get my hotel voucher and get my new boarding pass. I found the ticket desk and received my voucher. I was also allowed to call home to report my delay. I asked about the business lounge so I could check email in the morning before my flight and the agent told me that I was authorized to use the business lounge, “no problem.” She also said the bus to the Intercity Hotel would be arriving momentarily and came every 20 minutes or so. I found the location where the hotel buses stop (I recognized some of the people waiting as having come from Addis with me). We were waiting for close to an hour for the Intercity Hotel Shuttle to arrive.
I asked about internet connections in the room, and was told there were instructions. The instructions instructed guests on how to configure their laptops to make outgoing calls to connect via dial-up. Upon checking in we were allowed to have dinner just before the hotel restaurant closed. The next morning we received breakfast. I discovered that there was in fact wireless connectivity in the room, at a cost, but not before it was already too late and I needed to get to the airport. This did not concern me greatly as I figured I could connect to the Internet at the Lufthansa business lounge.
Upon arriving at the airport I already had my boarding pass so I proceeded to security check-in. When I finally got to the front of the line the agent asked me if I was a United Mileage Plus member. I said that I was. I showed him my Premier card. He told me I was in the wrong line, and needed to go through the business class line. I walked over to the business class line, which was shorter, but still had to wait, and when I got to the front the agent asked me what I was doing in that line. I told him I was sent her from the other line, and pointed to the gentleman who had so directed me. He points to my ticket and says “This is economy.” I replied that the other individual asked me if I was a Mileage Plus member, and then sent me here. With great disgust he relented and let me through. As for me, I was not really embarrassed as much as confused.
When I found the business lounge I was curtly informed that only “Gold” members would be admitted. I felt that the woman at the counter was quite pleased with herself that I was turned away.
I found the gate, managed to plug in my laptop and connect to the internet using the airport’s pay-as-you-go system. But I was then told to exit the departure lounge as they wanted to check everyone’s passports and boarding passes. So, I unplugged everything, and went outside the entrance to the gate area and waited to have my boarding pass and passport checked.
The flight left on time and arrived on time. So I was just one day late.
My conclusion is that there was a lack of leadership involved in the cancellations and subsequent communications to passengers, and resulting delays and accommodations for passengers as a result of those delays. I felt that notifications of what was going on were either non-existent, late, or inaudible, or made with such certainty that when that information turned out to be completely wrong it was most frustrating.
*** The recycling Merkato in Addis Ababa:
This place is beyond description. It’s a huge open air market,, like what you might expect, but it is also a place where just about anything of little or no value can be brought, sold, reworked, and resold.
*** This comment on Ethiopia was posted in my JOTW newsletter on May 19th.:
I bought batteries for my camera this morning from the shop in the hotel. The young lady was listening to Jennifer Lopez. “She is very good.” “J-Lo?” I asked. “”Yes,” she smiled. J-Lo.”
One of the treats with my breakfast at the Sheraton today was some kind of mango-lemon-mint smoothie. Surprisingly good. The toilet in the bathroom is right next the phone on the wall, which if you inadvertently bump up next to it will do something that starts making beeping noises. Maybe I was calling the front desk, or Rangoon.
There are cabs all over the city, all blue and white. Some are large vans packed with passengers. Others are small Yugoslavian “peoples car” sedans, fashioned upon a long-since obsolete FIAT design that was made by Lada and sold throughout the socialist world.
Speaking of socialism, and communism, my conversations with Ethiopians about the Mengitsu regime were guarded, because politics can lead to trouble if you don’t agree with things. But Ethiopians spoke very negatively about the Derg regime as it was called, and how it resulted in numerous wars and conflicts, suspension of rights, and arrested development of the nation. Even that name, “Derg,” sounds like something evil from Star Trek.
I went to dinner with Brook and Belai. We ate at a traditional Ethiopian place called Hebir Cultural restaurant with music and folklore dancers who were very, very good. Belai invited me to try some mead-like wine called tej, made with honey and hops.
(This is somebody’s home video of Hebir: http://ourboymose.wordpress.com/2008/02/24/ethiopian-tourism-cultural-restaurant/.)
Our waitresses, including Nunu who served us, wore one type of traditional dress, but the woman who brought us our small brazier of incense and out aromatic coffee wore something different. The dancers changed for each number, each time representing a different one of the many tribes of Ethiopia. It reminded me a little bit of the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, except with coffee, and tej. At one point somebody walked right through the performance, and I was puzzled about her costume until I realized she was the toilet lady.
In addition to the fragrant frankincense, our coffee was served with a small herb used to stir in the sugar. It’s called tena adam, says Belai, and every family grows some in the backyard for coffee, and for yogurt. In doing some research online, I see that “The plant Ruta chalepensis, also known as Tena Adam or rue, is a leafy, branched shrublet with an aromatic or pungent odor..
When we left Hebir last night, we were assisted with an umbrella. Could it be raining? No, it was not raining, but it seamed to be doing so if you stood on the steps. In fact, somebody left the water on in an office up above and the water was cascading out of that office’s balcony and down to the sidewalk below. They’ll be in for a surprise when they come to work the next morning.
Mount Entoto is the highest peak overlooking the city of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Mount Entoto is part of the Entoto mountain chain, reaching 3,200 meters above sea level. The air is cool and clean here. It is also a historical place where Menelik II resided and built his palace, when he came from Ankober and founded Addis Ababa. It is considered a sacred location and holds many monasteries. You can visit the church of Saint Mary here, and tour a museum that has many items from the reign of Menelik II.
The mountain is densely covered by eucalyptus trees, from Australia, planted during the reign of Emperor Menelik II partly because they are fast growing; thus it is sometimes referred to as the “lung of Addis Ababa,” I’m told in Wikipoedia. The forest on the mountain is an important source of firewood to the city. Women will hike up the steep road to these forests to gather firewood. It is forbidden to cut the trees, so only “down and dead” material may be harvested. That is a matter of interpretation, as the forests are pretty well picked over because the scarcity of firewood below. We saw three women hiding in the trees when I came to the lookout near the summit. We called to thgem, and they reluctantly came up and talked to us. I shook a woman’s hands and saw how rough they were from her toils. On my way up, as well as on the way back down again I saw streams of women coming down the road which huge loads on their backs. I wondered how much they weighed, and so we stopped by several women who were taking a break along a wall by a switchback in the steep road, and one of them let me strap on the load and try to lift it, something I could barely do. A tourist stopped her car and took pictures of me. She didn’t even pay me anything.
The tomb of Emperor Haile Selassie is revered in Ethiopia
An Orthodox Christian priest at Trinity Church in Addis Ababa stands between the tombs of Emperor Haile Selassie and his wife, Empress Menen of Ethiopia. Haile Selassie was known as the Conquering Lion of Judah, Elect of God, King of Kings of Ethiopia. He was born Lij Tafari Makonnen, and later became a general (Ras), and became Ras Tafari (from whence the Jamaican sect that worships him got its name).
Although I don’t believe I tried this while I was in Ethiopia, I did see it being made by women in the Mercato. It’s called ensete, or 'false banana.' It’s a palm like a banana tree, but the fruit is inedible. The stem and the underground rhizomes produce a starch that is made into a paste similar to yam and taro. It is formed into large clumps then cut to reduce the stringy fibers, then formed up again and cut again. There were women under tables doing this at the market, and many women watching and buying. This was a hot spot.
*** This comment on Dubai was posted in my JOTW newsletter on April 28.
While waiting in the terminal at Dulles I chatted with a woman who was
going to Abu Dhabi to lead a conference on service. Seems many of the
young people today have no concept of serving others. She says she
started the required community service hours in Maryland some years ago,
which is why she was asked to come and speak about it at this
international event. I told her how our children are aware of the need
to serve, and I felt they were good about helping others. I told her
about Tom's Eagle Scout Service Project, where he collected 3,500 books
for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. We traded business cards.
She's in hedge funds now. Her name is Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
I flew here via Doha on Qatar Airways, a 12-hour flight in a brand new
777 with enough empty seats to avoid feeling pressed.
The food was good, and I actually slept for a fair part of the first
half of the flight. My only complaint would be that the map got stuck
over the UK, about the half-way mark, and I could never be quite sure
where we were after that. Doha International Airport, not unlike Dubai,
is an East-meets-West crossroads. It is outstanding for people-watching
I took a cab from the airport to the Movenpick Hotel. There are cabs
with pink tops with female drivers for ladies traveling without men. I
was greeted at the hotel with apricot juice and a cold towel. I awoke
on Sunday to the sounds of construction. Not of heavy equipment and
machinery, but hammering and pounding. I arrived on Saturday (Friday
and Saturday are the weekend). It started promptly on Sunday morning,
the beginning of the work week.
*** This comment on Bahrain was posted in my May 5th edition of my JOTW newsletter:
*** As I left Bahrain very early this morning, I saw two very
interesting things. The first was a woman who sat very still, as if
summoning all of her inner strength. She sat near a man who rally
wasn't paying attention to her, and was busy talking to the airport
security and the gate agent. She was with him, but not with him, if I
can explain it that way. I'll come back to her in a minute.
I sat at the end of the passenger lounge. There was a door behind me,
but it was locked. A woman came down and tried to open the door. She
was persistent. She turned to me and said “Help me open the door,” in
halting English. “It's locked,” I said. “You can't go there. Where
are you trying to go?” “Nepal,” she said.
There were no flights going to Nepal, but she was probably on a flight
to India. There were several leaving that night. She walk away, then
over to the door to the jetway for our plane to Addis Ababa which was
not yet ready for boarding. This excited the gate security people who
told her she couldn't go there. She circled around and went back to
that door. And again was told she couldn't go there. “Where are you
There was another unfruitful discussion with her. She came back to me
and tried the door behind me. “Open the door,” she said to me. “Where
are you going? What airport?” She took out her well-used passport and
pointed to a stamp inside. “Do you have a ticket?” “Friend have
ticket. Plane go. Now.” Then she looked deep into me and said, “NOW.”
She ended up heading back to our gate again, then the gate agent pointed
in another direction and she walked off, then broke into a run.
Finally I see someone walking up the jetway and open the door. There
was a large group of young Ethiopian women talking animatedly. The gate
agent says out loud, “Addis Ababa?” and all of the girls say in unison,
Now the man I was talking about before turns to the woman who was
wearing the black robe and scarf something to the effect that it was
time to go. She refused to get up. H e argued, in a one-way sort of
fashion. She said nothing. He pulled her to her feet and propelled her
to the gate. I did not see him again. When we arrived about 3:30
later, she didn't want to get up. Then she didn't want to get out of
the plane. I helped her with her bag. She resisted getting on the bus,
and then getting off the bus. The other women on the plane were trying
to help her. One of them told me she was Bahraini, and was afraid
because she had no family here, and didn't know if she would not like
the madame. She didn't want to get on the escalator, and she was the
last one through customs. Actually, I was the last, as I needed a
transit visa and they insisted for some unknown reason that I was going
to Saana, Yemen. I never saw her after that.
So that is my story for you of two women and their despair. They are
stories that I can not begin to understand.
*** I am writing this in Bahrain, having just returned from a very
eventful to the North Arabian Gulf, and expect to send it to you when I
get to Addis Ababa.
May 2 – I am writing this from the Commodore's cabin on the Khawr Abd
Amaya Oil Terminal, (KAAOT) about five miles from the Al Basra Oil
Terminal (ABOT) which I visited yesterday. Although sandstorms grounded
aviation on Thursday (Bahrain International Airport was closed) we were
able to fly on Friday and we took the Desert Hawk – one of the HSC-26
SH-60 Seahawks – to the North Arabia Gulf and landed on the Royal
Australian Navy frigate HMAS Stuart, transferring to one of Stuart's
RHIBS (a RHIB is a ridged hull inflatable boat) for a wet and wild ride
to KAAOT to drop our gear, have lunch and then transfer to another of
Stuart's RHIBS to visit ABOT. ABOT is newer, larger, and in deeper
water, able to handle three tankers (there are berths for four but
pressure enough to serve three). KAAOT is closer to Iraq, and Iran, and
has been attacked during the Iran-Iraq war and the first Gulf War. Al
Qaeda tried to blow it up, in 2004, in the incident where two USS
Firebolt sailors were killed. About 90% of Iraq's GNP pass through
those pipes, a serious thought to ponder, and the UN Security Council,
as well as at the invitation of Iraq, have resulted in a very robust
maritime defense of this region in general, and these platforms
specifically.. After a look around, we returned to KAAOT on one of HMS
Chatham's high-speed RHIBs, able to reach speeds of 45 knots, more like
a theme park ride. The Brits don't dispatch any boats without an
escort. They are now very trained and disciplined to make sure the IRG
can't grab them again.
One of the missions here is to prepare the Iraqi Navy and Marine Corps
to take over this mission. And there are Iraqi patrol boats protecting
this platform and Iraqi Marines provided security here.
Today (Saturday) we will travel to USS Firebolt, one several U.S. Navy
coastal patrol boats (PCs) s out here. USCGC Maui is on station as well
but I don't think time will permit us to go there.
After the Firebolt visit we took Firebolt's RHIB to Stuart – the sea was
smooth as glass today – and had a look about before the Desert Hawk came
to return us to Bahrain.
Back in Bahrain I took a stroll down one of the market areas and had
I was unsuccessful in getting my internet connection to work at the Gulf
Hotel in Bahrain. After much discussion and my complaining, and
housekeeping bringing me different cords, I eventually had an IT expert
and two electricians come in a rewire my room on Saturday evening.
Today (Sunday) I will visit commands in Bahrain, and tomorrow morning
very early (3:30) I will fly to Addis Ababa.
*** This comment was posted in the 13 May edition of JOTW:
I am writing this in Addis Ababa, getting ready to see the city
today and then fly to Khartoum, Frankfort and Washington late tonight.
May 9 – Djibouti: I went to the village of Nagad yesterday to see the
Marines meet with the village elder and play with the children. We gave
them some soccer balls and water. Then. last night I went to Djibouti
Institute to join with students studying
English at night school for “English Discussion Night,” where we talked
about social integration, tolerance (their topic selections), and “What
Americans should know about Djibouti,” (my selection). Americans from
the base go there each week, and is enjoyed by the Americans and
Actually, few of them are from Djibouti. They are Somalis, Sudanese,
Eritrean, or Ogadens, all displaced and living here.
May 7 – Djibouti: Edwin McCain was playing here last night
May 5 – Addis Ababa: Cinco de Mayo in Ethiopia is actually April 27,
because they have a different calendar. And it's 2000, so I am much
About 30 people attend the Population Media Center hosted “Experience
Sharing on Media and Business Communication.”
Dr. Negussie Teffera, the PMC country director for Ethiopia, was the MC.
Bill Ryerson, president of PMC, talked about the “Power of
Entertainment Media to Transform Society.” I talked about IABC and
becoming accredited. Ato Hailu Aelachew, senior project coodinator for
PMC-Ethiopia reviewed highlights of PMCs prohgrams in the country; and
Dr. AssefaH/Mariam, a communication research expert, talked about the
key findings of the “Youth focused media communication strategy for
addressing HIV/AIDs, female genital mutilation, and other related social
issues in Ethiopia.”
*** Tom and I will participate in the mega-service project in Wyoming:
*** Free fishing:
VDGIF and Virginia Marine Resources Commission have established June 6-8, 2008 as Free Fishing Days in Virginia. No fishing license of any kind will be required for rod and reel fishing in saltwater or freshwater except in designated stocked trout waters on these days.
For details: http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/
*** Arrowhead 135:
Ned Lundquist interviews Don Gabrielson
Ned: Why did you participate in Arrowhead 135?
Don: This was my second year in the event; it was the fourth time it's
been run, and has been on my list of things to do since before the first
running in 2005. Why? Well, there are only a couple reasons to do
something like this; number one is that I like these kinds of
challenges, things that test both body and mind. Second, the race
passes right through where both sides of my family have lived for a
hundred years so I had a natural curiosity given my familiarity with the
area and history with endurance events. A cousin grooms the trails and
my brother, a snowmobile dealer, provided race support. The racers joke
that I have inside knowledge every year. I've been racing mountain
bikes, triathlons, adventure races, ultra-marathons and other endurance
events for twenty years; I've done just about every race format out
there over the years, many times over. Arrowhead 135 was a natural fit
into my search for a new challenge. It's not excessively dangerous if
you're prepared, and the people are incredible.
Ned: How would you describe the challenge?
Don: Really hard but not unimaginable because it's all in the context of
experience and preparation. If Arrowhead was a '10', then my first
Ironman was about a 4 or 5 on the same scale. These races take years to
work up to because you don't just wake up and decide to take them on.
Fewer than 10 of the 53 racers who've ever finished Arrowhead did so in
their first attempt. These events intrigue me because they're about
much more than making the pedals go 'round. You have to have a lot of
experience just to be accepted into them, and you have to make solid
choices and decisions both during your preparation and during the race.
They challenge your ability to stay calm while things are going wrong,
and help you learn a lot about long-term discipline and goal
achievement. You can't fake it when it's well below zero, dark, and
you're by yourself in the north woods. You have to know your limits and
use your judgment out there. You have to know how to fix things and
make lemonade when it's raining lemons. Being able to build a fire
Ned: How did you prepare for the race?
Don: I approached my first race in 2007 with years of steady training and
experience already under my belt, including multiple long adventure
races and ultra-distance runs, triathlons. In 1994, I was the top Navy
athlete at the US National Duathlon Championships. I dreamed of being a
pro, giving up my Navy career… I decided to turn down an invitation
to the CISM Military Olympics in Rome, and I went to sea as a Department
Head and found my calling. Racing became my hobby. I was lucky enough
to support a professional team in an expedition race around Mt Everest
in 2000 and got my first real taste of these ultra-distance challenges
there. It also cured my desire to climb Everest. I've raced at a
pretty high level for a long time.
As I mentioned earlier, Arrowhead draws on whatever knowledge you
have over years of experience – you look at the results and notice that
most racers are well into their 30's and 40's. The two-time winner and
course record holder is now 51. So experience accounts for a lot, and
the base of fitness that comes with getting that experience matters too.
Everyone out there is an incredible athlete, or “Earthlete” as one skier
refers to himself- tackle whatever the earth places in front of you. In
2006, I started with an Ironman triathlon in April, then followed
through with multiple 200K road bike races. Around Thanksgiving through
January, I was out every weekend on a 10-12 hour bike ride with all my
gear, lugging around 80 pounds of stuff, looking for the toughest
conditions I could find, because even though I live in Northern
Wisconsin right now, I knew that things would be much much harder on the
course in Northern Minnesota in February. At the start line, it was
minus 40 fahrenheit, plus 20-25 mph winds. All those miles meant little
when our equipment began slowly freezing up and failing – so the lesson
was that I had a few bad gear choices. Number one were my tires and
bike – the snow conditions in 2007 were so bad that out of the 90 or so
miles I raced, I pushed 30-40 miles through this crusty, ungroomed crud,
and my tires finally developed a spider-web of cracks and gave up. This
was 30 hours into things without sleep, so I figured with night coming,
another day of walking was a lot less interesting, as the hills were
relentless and the snow got even worse in that section of the course.
We had one racer lose fingers and toes in 2007, although I had no idea
that was happening until later. You have to be comfortable being alone
in the woods for long stretches, confident that your skills and survival
gear are good enough. Some racers travel lighter than I
do- it's an interesting thing, because the lighter you go, the faster
you can go, but the error margin gets thin. There's a balance that's
right for each person and there's precious little information out there
So my first year was an education and that's exactly how I
approached it. The goal was to learn what I could and if I finished,
then that was a bonus. The conditions were brutal. I went 75 miles in
18 hours, then carried on to 90 miles and dropped with little equipment
failures that compounded. For the 2008 race, my approach changed in
some ways. I found that those 10-12 hour rides didn't really add to my
fitness as much as shorter, more intense workouts. My brother helped me
out with a special new bike made just for these kinds of events, a Surly
Pugsley with these giant 4-inch wide tires that you can run down under 5
psi and keep rolling along. I raced a 24-hour solo mountain bike race,
the US National Championships, where I was thrilled to finish, much less
as the only active duty military member riding it solo. A few weeks
later, a friend was riding from Marinette, Wisconsin (north of Green
Bay) back to Philadelphia, so my wife turned me loose for the weekend-
we pedaled 430 miles around Northern Michigan from Friday to Sunday, me
pulling a trailer, sprinting on the last day to get me on the ferry back
across Lake Michigan. Those two events gave me the confidence to know
that my base fitness was solid, so I focused more on adding speed while
maintaining endurance. My longest rides for this year were 4-5 hours,
but hard. I use the latest tools and science to do it, heart rate
monitors with GPS that download to a PC, a virtual-reality bike trainer
that records power output, heart rate, speed, and I regularly comb
scientific journals looking for the latest research on nutrition and how
to get the most from limited training time. My wife is a personal
trainer and nutrition specialist and we do yoga sometimes. For me, this
is a hobby, and it's important to keep a balance in life between my wife
and kids and work, too. Over the years, I've had to let go of my racing
for some fairly long periods and focus on other things. It's all about
the journey to me- my wife was counting race t-shirts a while ago and
stopped at well over a hundred in the dresser. There are two more boxes
in our basement. I love the challenge.
Ned: Did you run, ride or ski? How does the race differ depending on your
method of travel?
Don: I rode a bike both years. I'd love to ski, but skiing is too hard
for me in terms of preparation, and I thought I might like to run
sometime but after seeing it twice I'm not so sure. Those guys are out
there 45, 50 plus hours and that's a long time to pull a sled full of
food and drink and survival gear. I'm not sure I could eat plastic food
for that long. If I get the chance to race in Alaska some day, well,
then, pushing a bike will definitely be in the cards.
Ned: What thoughts were running through your head as you were racing? I
imagine you had serious time to think deep thoughts.
Don: Keep pedaling. Don't forget to drink. Eat. Drink more. A beer
would really taste good about now… My wife often asks what I'm
thinking about out there, too, and it's strange, because I get into this
zone and just focus on the experience. It's really a profound joy,
being so connected to the environment and yourself. Until something
goes goofy. Then you think about that. A lot. I had a flat at 3 in
the morning this year, and then my tire pump broke, the plastic cracked
in the cold, and I thought about who was behind me because the guy I'd
been hanging out with didn't know I was stopped back there. But sure
enough, about 30 minutes goes by and he'd turned around because I wasn't
there any more. He's an aircraft engineer who built parts of his bike
for the race. Another guy, a Brit, trained Bear Grylls in the SAS.
Another one rides his bikes all over the World, through the Andes,
China, Europe. These are amazing people who also happen to have real
day jobs. Engineers, scientists, pharmacists, truck drivers,
geologists, school teachers. They're fun to get to know. You make some
amazing friends through these shared experiences, just like in the Navy.
But sooner or later, you do think some pretty amazing thoughts.
They usually involve how much you love your family, or how lucky you are
to be doing something so incredible. Or what to eat next. At night,
you think about the flickers of light you see here and there- there are
no artificial lights beyond the racers or the support crews you might
see every 5-6 hours. So when you see flickers at night, they're
probably animal eyes watching some crazy human go by.
Ned: Were you focused on the course in front of you, or taking in your
Don: The first year, all you see is trail. As you get more tired, the
distances get painfully longer, and at night your perspective of things
gets skewed. This year, I was surprised to remember how close together
some things were, and how beautiful the back woods really can be, even
in the middle of winter. But you still remember the trail more than
anything, because even on a Pugsley and a groomed trail, it's like
riding a bike through several inches of sand, really pretty challenging
to your balance and bike handling skill. You look around, but not for
long, because the deep snow off the trail has this strange gravitational
pull that you feel more than once along the way. It was up to our hips
Ned: What are some of the interesting things you saw or experienced?
Don: People see things out there at night, and even during the day when
they get severely tired. I was lucky enough not to let myself dig that
deep; one guy watched a jumbo jet take off from the trail, others would
talk to imaginary people here and there.
That's all good fun though. We all go through highs and lows- at
about 10 at night this year, I got behind on nutrition, and it started
taking a toll; you have to know how to recognize the signs and deal
with them correctly or it'll shut you down. You can't eat more than
about 300 calories an hour because your body just wastes more than that,
so the trick is to keep it coming all the time. No breaks, just a
little here and there but without forgetting.
You've never seen more stars on land than up there. And if the
Northern Lights show up, it's breathtaking. People don't realize how
beautiful the countryside really is up there.
Ned: What kinds of critters did you encounter?
Don: There are lots of animals out there for sure. I own land and deer
hunt a few miles from the course, and know personally that you're not
always on the top of the food chain if you're not prepared. During the
race, I saw lots of big deer, moose prints, and countless wolf tracks
larger than my mitts. On top of bike tracks. Cue the odd lights at
night… Add a few sounds… It's cool. I have a titanium knife on my
bike (for myself) just in case the pack gets too close. And a big bag
of venison jerky.
Ned: How was your time/finish? Plan to run again and do better next year?
Don: I was lucky enough to beat my goal of finishing under 24 hours by
about 7 minutes, and was fifth overall. Only seven people in four years
have done that (two guys have done it twice), and I feel great just to
have finished– everyone who finishes gets a trophy, and only about a
third of the people in four years have made it to the finish line. It's
a pretty special race. I'll definitely go back again whenever I can,
but the next couple years at least look harder. Like many things
though, if you're ready, and the opportunity presents itself, you step
up to the plate and take a swing… So you never know.
I have a few other things in mind down the road too. It's about the
Ned: How will you approach the race differently next time around?
Don: I'll take what I've learned, apply it, and see if I can break 20
hours. Be more patient early. Under the right conditions, with some
luck and smarts, I think I could be several hours faster, and it's a
funny thing because in this kind of racing, faster usually comes from
being more patient and letting the race come to you, thinking through
problems and not letting little things become big things by wishing them
away. I fought my tire pressures this year and it cost me early on. I
worked too hard too early because of it. That adds up fast later.
Every race teaches you more about yourself and your equipment and how to
make the most of your time. It makes you appreciate life and what you
have. You bring an amazing number of things back to your day job,
number one is perspective, number two is persistence. The most
important thing I've learned through the years is to never underestimate
the people around you– they're all different from you, but you just
never know when you'll meet someone who'll astound you in a really
unexpected way. One racer I'd met in 2007 went out of his way and made
me a print of his grandfather standing in a giant formation at Great
Lakes, shaped into a massive US Flag in blues and whites. Five thousand
plus sailors. He waited a year to give it to me. It'll be on my office
wall wherever I go.
Travel, Outdoor and Adventure Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities
*** Campground Attendant, SOUTH DAKOTA DEPARTMENT OF GAME, FISH AND PARKS, Belle Fourche (Rocky Point), SD
Assists in the overall operation and maintenance of assigned campgrounds and day use facilities including, but not limited to, cleaning comfort stations, collecting camping fees, cleaning fire grates, managing the reservation system and providing information to the public.
Requirements: Money handling experience is helpful. Ability to work independently, manage time well, and work in a variety of weather conditions out of doors. Uniforms are provided and employees must comply with uniform dress code. Valid driver’s license required. Minimum salary: $7.70 per hour (S02).
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“A smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities.” – Herman Melville