Monday, August 16, 2010

As Promised

A man had me follow him around and document his gym and life for the day. I promised I would post these photos quickly. Here they are:

On The Ganges

I can feel the city breathin’, chest heavin’, against the flesh of the evenin. Black Star ft. Common, Respiration

I visited India to see Devin and go to Varanasi, the religious heart of the country. The river Ganges is extremely holy to all Hindus and Varanasi is the helm.

I realized that something was wrong en route to Varanasi from Delhi. The man seated next to me had overdone the cologne and it began to make me extremely nauseous. By the time I got in my taxi, I thought I was going to faint. The people on the sides of the roads looked miserable. Kids were covered in dirt and flies were buzzing around them. I was dropped off far from the hotel. And began my search for an internet cafe.

Devin had set me up with a friend of a friend who works for the Varanasi tourism board. Sure enough, I had a hotel waiting for me at Ajay Guesthouse. I started my walk in the direction of the river. I was gulping down as much water as I could, but it didn’t seem to help. I was covered in sweat, and was constantly blacking out. I kept sitting down trying to catch my breath, but it didn’t help. I trudged on looking for my hotel. Soon enough I was followed by a flock of scammers all trying to get me to go to different hotels. “Where are you going?” they would ask. Each person gave me different directions to the guesthouse, or tried to offer me better digs. My entourage grew by the minute. They wanted a commission any way they could get it. They would stop and wait for me while I would try to ditch them, but they wouldn’t back off. “Go away” meant nothing to them.

I kept stopping to catch my breath and would almost vomit on the side of the road. I had stepped in so many random piles of shit that I could smell it and it made me gag. I knew I caught whatever Devin had. At that point it seemed like food poisoning mixed with heat exhaustion and dehydration. After two hours or so, I found the guesthouse thanks to a family of tourists. My entourage of scammers followed me to the desk and begged for a commission. I checked in and slept for a few hours.

I woke up to a man offering to clean my room. I had only been there for an hour or two, so I was surprised. When he was finished he told me that I needed to tip him. I started feeling very defensive again. I hadn’t eaten all day and had no appetite at all. I wandered the riverfront in amazement. For the first time everything seemed to come together.

At first glance the city is an amalgamation of flies, cows, lizards, monkeys, and goats and people, people, and more people. Everyone was celebrating now. Music was playing and you could feel the religion. I thought that I had stumbled upon a special festival, but I was wrong. What I was seeing happened every night. The river was lit with lotus candles floating downstream and everyone was smiling. A man asked me if I wanted to take a yoga class. I told him I would and followed him to his home and studio.

He educated me on yoga, and promised to heal my stomach. I was of course skeptical. He asked me questions I couldn’t answer about energy, nature, soul, and life-force. He explained what Aum was.

In short Aum or Aaaaaaaaa-Uuuuuuuu-Mmmmm is the sound you make during meditation. “A” is the beginning of life, “U” is the middle, and “M” is death. It all seemed simple enough. After a brief explanation he rubbed my stomach and had me perform some stretches while meditating. He claimed that he had given me his good energy and taken my bad. I’m not sure what he did, but for the rest of the night my stomach was fine. When I returned to my hotel, I slept plenty and even ate half a piece of toast.

The next morning greeted me with the usual sickness, but I decided not to let that affect me. I just started walking along the river taking photos. Various guys tried to take me to their restaurants, deal me hash and pot, and tried to sell me scarves. I decided to get out of the main area and walked along the narrow avenues avoiding cow shit and thieving monkeys. A man invited me into his gym and made me take photos for more than an hour. I was happy to do it, but it began to get overwhelming. Everyone was posing and lifting weights for the camera. The gym owner took off all of his clothes and asked me to take some photos, I respectfully declined and tried to leave.

He wasn’t about to let the camera man go. He took me down countless avenues searching for a computer to print my photos and even into his home, stopping constantly to have me document his every step. I tried to explain how to use a computer and he didn’t seem to understand, but as promised the pictures are up now.

I finally recovered and spent the last few days enjoying the city.I visited one of the infamous burning ghats where you can view a cremation. Its tough to watch a body burn, but it was explained to me as only being sad when the deceased is a young person. The death of a person who has lived a full life is something that is celebrated rather than mourned. floating your ashes in the Ganges river is a way to give you rest, and break the cycle of reincarnation. The families are very happy to celebrate to next step for their loved ones.

On the last night, I took a boat ride down the river and watched the festival from the water. It’s something truly amazing. I hadn’t felt an energy like that before. Everyone was so happy and in touch with themselves. As cheesy as it sounds, India beat me down pretty hard, but finally revealed itself to me. At that point I understood the relevancy of Aum. I’ll be back in Varanasi soon enough.

First Glance at the Subcontinent

"One week isn’t enough” was a phrase I became extremely familiar with while I prepared to visit India. I didn’t expect to see the whole continent, but rather to see Mumbai and Varanasi. I already had plans to revisit the country to explore the Himilayan region in December. Devin, one of my closest friends from home greeted me at the Mumbai airport. It had been more than a year since I had seen him last in Chicago. He had been living on and off in India and America for a few years now and had a cab waiting to take us to Colaba. It was really late and Mumbai was already asleep, so after we woke up the hostel owner we went straight to bed.

We started our day at Leopold Cafe, a spot made famous by the novel Shantaram. I had become familiar with the bar and restaurant by watching a documentary on the terror bombings in 2008. The bullet holes in the walls were still visible, but business was booming despite the massacre 2 years ago. All of the major attack sites were walking distance from our hotel. The Taj was directly across the street. We drank our first day away in the upstairs bar at Leopold. We conversed about culture, politics, sports, traveling and even football hooliganism with an Englishman named Aiden who footed our 200$ tab at the end of the night.

In the few days we spent in Mumbai, we saw a great deal of the city. The Gateway, Haji Ali Mosque, Bizzares, and Collaba were all buzzing with scammers and beggers. At one point a man followed us for a really long time offering drinks with “swell guys.” “It’s all above board” he claimed. “Last night we had 3 boys going for the world record!” I still don’t know what he wanted from us. At one point he told us that we could pay him to come drink with us. We couldn’t shake him off.

It’s easy to get defensive in a place like India. It can really sour the experience. When you give it a chance it will surprise you. The people are very warm hearted and have a great sense of humour. The waiters at Leopold offered to pay for our meal one night because they loved Devin so much. They were extremely impressed that a white guy could speak such excellent Hindi. All the men were gathered around him conversing in Hindi. They were all extremely blown away. We even recieved an invite by our neighbors to join the dance party in the room next door by three sweaty boys with no music. Allthough we turned it down, I appreciated being asked. It was a great introduction to the remarkable country.

Mumbai gave me exactly what I wanted. I didn’t see everything, but I had a chance to catch up with an extremely close friend, eat some great food, and relax in Colaba.

I left at 4 a.m. to catch my flight to Varanasi. Devin was puking his guts out in the bathroom. He had caught something. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I caught something too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Japan: The old Capital

We departed the overnight bus from Tokyo and greeted Osaka. Without wasting time we made our way into Kyoto with hordes of business people getting ready to begin their day. Right off the subway from Osaka sits a futuristic complex across from Kyoto tower and tall buildings that boast the names of the most famous video game creators in the world.

As one wanders down the sometimes beautiful, sometimes decrepid avenues you may pass a McDonald’s or perhaps a Unesco World Heritage Site. Kyoto’s temples blend into the neighborhoods with a seemingly nonexistent line of demarcation. Delicately placed Cherry Blossom trees litter the vibrant temples, while other ancient structures boast nothing more than a barren yard of dirt and gravel.

After a long day of cycling around rock gardens, shrines, temples, statues, and palace’s, we returned our bikes and made our way to the city center. The streets were devoid of any people aside from the occasional businessman frolicking around or the lone Geisha or Maiko scampering through a back alley.

Our time was running out, so we relaxed and had a drink on the roof of the giant train station awaiting our bus back to Shinjuku Station. Not a deplorable way to finish up our night in the old capital.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

North Korea Edits The World Cup

According to this newscast, North korea defeated Brazil 1-0:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


It was three days until my vacation began and i hadn't decided where I wanted to go. I had planned on going to Guilin China but had waited too long to get my visa. I scoured the usual air sites and came across cheap flights to Vladivostok Russia, Bali Indonesia, and Osaka Japan. I really wanted to go to Russia, but I didn't have enough time for the visa again, so I decided to go to Osaka.

My vacation to Japan in February allowed us a brief glimpse of Osaka when we accidently got off of the bus at the wrong stop en route to Kyoto. It seemed really similar to Tokyo. I figured it would give me a chance to check out Hiroshima for a few days as well. I finally scrapped that idea because I was low on money and took a last minute cheap flight to The Phillipines. Sandra and i had different vacations, so she planned a trip with Shauna to the same country. She was already there when i paid for the tickets and started planning.

I checked the weather and it was supposed to rain the entire time I was there. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting much from my trip. According to a few weather sites, Coron was supposed to get the least amount of rain. I really didn't want to go to the same exact place that Sandra had gone, but I figured that it would be my only chance to avoid a dismal vacation. I knew that we would visit again from Vietnam, so it wouldn't hurt to retrace her steps if Im going with her again anyway.

At the time I didn't realize what i was getting myself into. First of all, the average weather in ulsan was a dry 55 degrees farenheit. I said goodbye to the long cold Korean winter and hello to the most humid and disgusting 100 degree weather imaginable in Manila. I was already sweating through my shirt before i had even picked up my bag and was dying of thirst. I was hounded by taxi drivers on my way out of the airport, but I had heard enough horror stories to know that I needed to find a metered cab stand if i didn't want to pay for the ride in installments.

Soon enough i was on my way to Malate. I had read about drivers stealing bags from tourists, so i was a little uneasy when the driver popped the trunk and placed my back inside. He asked me what hotel i was staying in.

"Don't have one yet" I answered.

"No hotels left man" he countered, "The elections are tomorrow so the hostels and hotels are full."

I started to worry, but knew that I could just try a different part of the city for a room. Manila can't be entirely full. He stopped the car in front of a boarded up building and told me to get out of the car, and that he was taking me to a travel agency. My heart started pounding. I was sure that he was going to nab my bag. He walked me inside and introduced me to a young woman named Nal. She somehow knew that I needed a place to stay without him telling her. The driver left and got back in his car. I assumed that at any moment he would peel out with my passport, netbook, and camera in his trunk.

"The hotels are all full. Only way to get room is we find it." I knew she was lying, but I was scared that if I didn't succomb to buying a room, I wouldnt have anything but the shirt on my back. They found me a nice place with air conditioning. She gave me a price, but I didn't have a grasp on the currency yet, so I couldn't do the math in my head. I ended up paying 80$ USD for the night. I emailed the hotel later in the day and inquired about the same room. Apparently I could have paid the equivilent of 10$ for the same place.

The driver spent the rest of the time, talking about the election. He hoped that someday the country would get a good leader who cared about the people and did his best for his country. "They're all the same" he said. "A bunch of guys who try to reach in your pockets and steal all your money!" At that point, I knew exactly how he felt. When he dropped me off, he asked "Is this your first time in Manila?" When I told him that it was, he acted surprised. "I thought that you had been here before, man" he replied. What a liar. I was feeling really savvy for getting myself into this stupid situation.

When I'm back, I'll have a hotel booked in advance, or at least pretend thats the case. He stopped me on my way out. "Sorry, one more thing I gotta ask man... do you want girls?" I answered no, and he interjected "how bout' a boy." I shook my head and walked away.

The room was nice. I dropped my stuff off and took a quick shower. I turned on the t.v. to a channel where lonely people were trying to find love. "Man looking for boy 18 years old for one night and maybe more. Dinner included." I found HBO and they were playing Band Of Brothers. My room was nice and cool and I was extremely tired. I had to force myself to go explore the city in the heat.

My second impression of Manila was perhaps worse than my first. I was in search for a good place to eat. Korean Restaurant, Korean Restaurant, Korean Restaurant... where were the Phillipine places that i had heard so much about. On every corner I was faced with the same problem. Nude children with their ribs showing would come up to me with there palms out begging me for money. They looked like they had been working in a mine, as they were completely covered in soot. They didn't even have a rag on their body. Their shy mom would be watching from behind a dumpster. This coupled with the extreme heat and the smell of rotting garbage and pollution was overwelming. When I wasn't approached by naked starving children, I was harrassed by a pimp of sorts asking me if i needed a girl.

"Yo man! You need a lady?"

"No thanks."

"How bout two or three girls to walk with you and go to your hotel?"




"I got 12 year old girls buddy!"


I kept worrying about my wallet and bag with my camera and computer. I hated manila. I just wanted to go. I suddenly understood culture shock. I walked back to my hotel dripping with sweat, with black marks under my nose from the pollution and bought a snickers bar to at least eat something. I had no appetite, but i choked it down anyway with a bottle of water because i hadn't eaten in 10 hours.

I calmed myself down and decided that i wasn't going to let manila get the best of me. I locked my camera and computer in my bag and set off again. Among the dozens of Korean restaurants, I managed to find a traditional place and ordered the Chicken Adobo. The food was delectible and the San Miguel went down like water. I felt great for the first time since i stepped off of the plane.

I set off again. It was getting cooler out and I came across a bar. It seemed completely packed when I walked in, until I realized that everyone in the restaurant were waitresses. There must have been five waitresses to every patron. I sat down at a table alone. It was an outdoor patio style bar with metal picnic tables. Some people smiled and waved and a watress gave me a San Miguel. The band began to play some metal and the guitar player rocked a 10 minute guitar solo. They weren't the most creative band, but the guitar player was incredible. They followed up their original with some requests. Soon enough "Nobody" by the Wonder Girls was being performed followed by some other random 90's hits.

I really liked the atmosphere, but the music was getting worse and worse. And all of a sudden, the singer asked me where i was from. The last thing I wanted to do, was draw attention to myself. I told him I was from America and lived in Chicago and he started chanting USA USA USA and screamed "I love America!!!" I was humiliated but I wasn't being hounded by pimps, so the night looking up a little bit. I finished my bucket of beer and decided to move on.

En route to the next place I was confronted with more people trying to get me to buy a prostitute, but i was in a much better mood and brushed it off. I wanted to get away from all of the pimps, so I ducked into the first bar I saw. Three girls immediatly pulled out a chair for me, and handed me a beer. One of the girls began to rub my shoulders. Once again, I was extremely uncomfortable. two girls struck up a conversation with me and the female bar tender joined in. "Want some girls?" they inquired. I was faced with the same uncomfortable situation everywhere i went. I said no dozens of times, and changed the subject a dozen times as well, and eventually they let their hair down and hung out with me.

I bought all four of them a beer and we had a real conversation for once. I talked about my family that i miss, my girlfriend, and I learned a lot about them. They were all in a very tough financial situation that seemed impossible to overcome. They had kids to take care of and bills to pay. My new friend explained "I worry that when I get old and lose my looks, i won't be able to make money anymore so i am saving." Eventually politics took over the conversation and they all voiced the same opinion that they were trapped. Education was too expensive. Every president had been corrupt as long as any of them could remember, and they didn't anticipate any change. They just accepted the eventual dimise of their country. It was really tough. I gave each of the girls a tip and made my way back to the hotel. I had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and check out by 5:00 to make my flight and it was already past midnight.

Manila is a terrible and beautiful place. I never felt safe, there was so much begging and prostitution, and i couldn't trust the drivers, but deep down the people were great. the food was incredible too. I'll be back some day to give Manila another chance. This time I'll be ready.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Im Gonna Be Rich

A recent email. I love some of the word choices:
Hello My Dear Friend ,

I got your contact from this; Before I proceed further, please permit me to introduce myself to you. I am Mrs. Tarina Qnsillano. A complete citizen of Philippines, 42 years old living in the Philippines, widow to the late former minister of finance in Philippine who died on 21th of August 2006.

I inherited a total sum of $21.5 Million American dollars from my late husband, the money was concealed in a metallic trunk box and was deposited with a security and finance company in Abidjan Cote D' Ivoire, that was because I needed a maximum security/safety of my consignment and no body nor government organization can trace the where about of the money until I am ready and prepare to claim it. but the Secuerity company didn't know the real content of the box, because it was deposited as a family valuables.

My main purpose of sending you this mail is because of the way I found you and perhaps trustworthy to give you this priority of shipping the box of money to any address that you think is very secure and save in your country for onward lodgement your account for the purpose of future investment with your percentage of which we shall chat on soon. I will send you the Authorization Certificate to call them in my next mail which is the Certificate of deposit that they gave me on the very day when the box of money was deposited under their company. I give thanks immensely for your co-operation as I look forward to hear from you for quick conclusion of this business.

The percentage will be your reward for all your moral and financial assistance during the period of moving the money to your country.Please if you can assist me I will be very grateful. And repay you many times over. declaring your willingness to assist me in this venture.
Waiting for a very quick response from you so that i can send you my photo to you to see me in my next reply as soon as i hear from you again. Have a nice time and remain blessed.
Best Regards,

Mrs. Tarina Qnsillano,

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Legend of Matt Holmes

We went to Seoul for the weekend to check out a lantern festival. It was a little overcrowded and pretty cheesy even for Korea, but we made the best of it. Matt Holmes as usual, turned an ordinary night into mayhem.

It all began at Oi bar in Hongdae. Hongdae is the University area of Seoul and Oi is one of those places that you gotta see at least once. Aestheticaly awesome, but lacking in other ways. Its more of a late night spot, but we were there early for the hooka. The DJ was blasting deafening sub-par dance music to an empty venue. Matt's hijinx started with some serious dancing. It should be noted that Mr. Holmes isn't a follower. He doesn't dance to make people laugh. He doesn't go with the flow. He doesn't adhere to social norms and personal space becomes a myth to him. To Matt Holmes, body moving is no joke.

Soon everyone had followed suit and everyone was shaking a leg. Perhaps i should preface this story with a quick rundown of another interesting night to give you a preview of what he is capable of. We had a night in Daegu that began on a bus at 10am with a few beers and ended at a Mcdonalds when breakfast was being served. I witnessed Matt rolling around on a slanted roof nearly falling 15 feet to the pavement, riding a stranger's bike, and grinding on every man, woman, and child at the club. After a few drinks, you can assume Matt is functioning on pure id.

(Back To Saturday)
1. He jumped into a moving car through the passanger window outside of the bar.
2. He noticed that he was sans phone and made a call to his cell from another line.
3. The driver answered as Matt handed the phone to his cabbie and they tracked the poor guy down.
4. He wasn't back for ten minutes before he was dancing on a 5 foot tall apple with door guys pleading for him to stop and trying to help him down.
5. I commented on a flyer and he decided to give it to me.
6. He had just pulled it down and handed it over in mint condition when a bouncer yanked it out of his hands and ripped it in half. His whole face was red and he was panting. So Mad.
7. We decided it was time to go.
8. I can't go into detail, but there was a bathroom incident with nudity involved
9. Matt dissapeared.
10. Everyone recieved a text at 11:24 a.m, the next day stating "Sorry everyone but its gunna b ok"

From what his girlfriend Emily can piece together, he dissapeared for a really long time, but they decided to wait it out for awhile at the hotel. Morning had come and he hadn't returned yet, so Emily decided to try to find him. Sure enough he was sleeping on the sidewalk outside the hotel.

This is a real man. This is his life. He doesn't kowtow to social constructions of whats wrong and right. He doesn't care about what your comfortable with. This is Matt Holmes. Take it or leave it.

Friday, May 14, 2010



Akihabara: The birthplace of Manga, Anime, and many modern videogames

Cherry Blossoms at the Imperial Palace:


The old capital of Kyoto is still very modern in some parts: Geisha sighting? Probably an apprentice:

Kyoto is great by bike:

Golden Pavillion, one of the most photogenic spots in Japan:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Monster

My assignment was to create a monster. These are a few of the best descriptions:

My Monster is never end. He is very very most. He eats people and he killd people. He lives in the zoo. He loves people. He can copy his body.My monster has soft teeth and loves to go shopping. He lives in Jungle and desert. He eats meat and eats anything. He lives in the sky and mountain. He eat everyone. He just eate...d you dead. He is just regular monster. He lives in city with people. His face is beautiful.
Matt Manderson
Matt Manderson
My after school class is designing monsters.
April 20 at 5:47pm ·
Rob Bruce
Rob Bruce
Must have a shit teacher
April 20 at 6:07pm ·
Devin Peipert
Devin Peipert
April 20 at 6:24pm ·
Devin Peipert
Devin Peipert
soft teeth and loves to go shopping?
April 20 at 6:27pm ·
Elaine M. Grimm
Elaine M. Grimm
He eats meat and eats anything.
April 20 at 6:29pm ·
Elaine M. Grimm
Elaine M. Grimm
Sounds like he's never end--very very most, that is. He can even copy his body?!! No way.
April 20 at 6:31pm ·
Matt Manderson
Matt Manderson
My favorite is that "his face is beautiful."

Another person just wrote "He likes watching Friends t.v. show in the woods. He can choke slam."
April 20 at 6:54pm ·
Joe Ratermann
Joe Ratermann
I'm confused about where he lives. Can you ask your student to clarify?
April 20 at 7:02pm ·
Matt Manderson
Matt Manderson
My monster's name is Emerald Dog. He have many knife. but when emerald dog is happy he can hide knife. He live anywhere. he has wings. but he can hide wing.
April 20 at 7:09pm ·
Patricia O'Leary Dehner
Patricia O'Leary Dehner
April 20 at 7:39pm ·
Devin Peipert
Devin Peipert
I love these. They're amazing.
April 20 at 8:18pm ·
Devin Peipert
Devin Peipert
He just eated you dead. Even while you're reading that story, the monster eats you and you die, which you find out about (I'm assuming) by reading the story.
April 20 at 8:22pm ·
Elaine M. Grimm
Elaine M. Grimm
Not only does he eat you, Devin, he eats people and he killd people. He eat everyone.
April 20 at 8:24pm ·
Elaine M. Grimm
Elaine M. Grimm
But he has soft teeth and his face is beautiful... Man. This is just too awesome.
April 20 at 8:53pm ·
Valerie Premore
Valerie Premore
Thanks awesome! I love those stories!
April 20 at 9:08pm ·
Kelsey L. Connett
Kelsey L. Connett
clearly has a broken home living situation since he tends to live everywhere... That was awesome!
April 20 at 10:31pm ·
Dennis McNelly
Dennis McNelly
Awesome. How old are these kids Matt?
April 20 at 10:43pm ·
Lizzy Randall
Lizzy Randall
so great! i really like watching tv in the woods. that slays me. choke slam is not bad either.
April 20 at 11:27pm ·
Matt Manderson
Matt Manderson
Ha Ha thanks. These kids are 11 years old. They are pretty smart.
April 21 at 9:50am ·
Randy Pulayya
Randy Pulayya
funny stuff!
April 21 at 10:35am ·
Jordan 'Tuna' Narancich
Jordan 'Tuna' Narancich
Just make sure that none of their Ninja's capture our President...