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Easter Island / Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny Visits Easter Island

As I flip through my passport with almost two hundred stamps, and look back on my 185 posts in my WordPress blog, numerous posts on Tripitani or Travel Bloggers Unite, and my 75 reviews on Trip Advisor, I realized that I am living a dream come true. Due to a myriad of converging circumstances, not the least of which is marrying the right woman, I get to travel to exotic locations, luxury locations and mundane locations and write about them. Someday, maybe, someone will pay me to write about their “lodge in paradise with wild animals, white sand beaches, four star service, world renowned food, and free booze”. Until then I do it for fun.

One page of my passport. This is my second passport since 1995, and this one has two sets of extra pages in it, and almost full.

I read a lot of travel stories from other bloggers, some of whom can truly tell a story. I think that is what travel blogging should be all about, telling stories so well that it makes people go there themselves.

Possibly it should be about making then green with envy that they either cannot go to a place like Bhutan, or Borneo or Burma. Or perhaps making them realize that they just lack the gumption to do so. But that is not very nice, is it. Just leave it at this, people who do not have a passport and use it, in my opinion, are self deprived.

Most of all, for me, a good travel story should be funny, or ironic, irreverent. I strive for all three on this blog, and sometimes I succeed.

After my latest review of the posts that make up this tome of a blog, I realized that my own personal favorite travel experience is not documented here. That omission is due to the fact that it happened years before I started blogging, in fact years before blogging started. So, sit back, grab a libation and let me entertain you.

The Easter Bunny

In the early 90’s I was living a fat life as an expat in Chile. Great job, a salary that allowed indulgences, and a boss that let me get away with fun, as in away from work. My then wife, who had the adventurous nature of a snail surrounded by a circle of salt, had decided to take a long vacation in California, stay at her parent’s house and watch re-runs of Lawrence Welk. I decided that an adventure was in order for me.

I walked into my boss’s office when I knew he was concerned about other things and he would not take time to truly consider what I was saying. “Hey big boss man, can I have week off?”

He actually asked “where are you going this time?”

“I’m thinking Easter Island.”

He half nodded yes, and half rolled his eyes, which to me implied I had his permission.

At the time Easter Island was an easy flight destination from Santiago de Chile. The national airline, LAN, made a refueling stop there on flights to Australia. Easter Island is part of Chile, and LAN makes it inexpensive for Chileans to travel back and forth to see family, or buy Pisco. I got the Chilean nationals price by haggling with LAN that I was in fact Chilean because I had a permanent residence visa. So I booked the discounted flight and I was off to solve the “mystery of Easter Island”.

I’ll indulge myself by telling you a few quick things about the mysteries of the island before I get back to the story.

The first thing you notice when you land is that the runway is the widest, longest runway you have ever landed on. I mean it is easily four times as wide and three times as long as any international airport runway. This mystery is easily explained. Easter Island was an emergency alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle.

Long and wide it still serves the island today. It was never needed by the space shuttle, so lets just cal it foreign aid.

The next mystery is, where am I going to stay? In the early 90’s the Holiday Inn had not exactly discovered Easter Island. Well, the inhabitants had that under control. As soon as you walked out into balmy air, and before you could admire the swaying palms,or smell the flowers,  you were surrounded by Islanders with photo albums. They were all trying to get you to rent a room in their home. The albums put in front of your face, two or three at a time had photos of the room, the bathroom, and the meals each served. As soon as you said “yup, I’ll stay with you” they put a lei around your neck to ward off competing families, grabbed your bag and threw them and you into an open air jeep (or some other vehicle without doors or a windscreen), and whisked you off to their home. That beats choosing a place on-line any day!

http://nomadical.wordpress.com

This is not me and I do not know these people but this is what you look like after a six hour flight and getting “captured” by a family. (This photo from http://nomadical.wordpress.com)

However, the common idea of the real mystery of Easter Island is the  Moai.

This is just one set of many sets and many more individual Maois on the island. Remember, I was there BEFORE DIGITAL cameras, so I used this photo courtesy of http://annoyzview.wordpress.com, which happens to be an excellent blog.

Ever since their “discovery” ( I am always amazed that when a westerner or white man first sees something he claims he “discovered” it) they have baffled scientists, ethnologists, archeologists, explorers and mere tourists. The main element of the mystery is “why were they built?”

Mystery Solved

Well, the answer is quite simple. As the population on the island grew before it was “discovered” by the Spanish, the king needed something to keep the people busy. Only so many people could fish or farm. So he invented this need to honor the gods, carve these statues, transport them from the quarries and stand them up to face the seas and ward off evil. Call it industrial welfare, sort of like the arms race.

The moai did not ward off the Spanish who enslaved all but a few of the male inhabitants and shipped them off to work the gold mines in Peru. The small population that remained lived off the sea and the land for hundreds of years before they were “re-discovered” and in turn became a tourist destination.

On with the Story.

After taking all of two days to solve mystery, I had five left to explore the island. Anyone who gets a chance, or can make an opportunity, should go. It is a wonderful place full of warm people. At least it was 20 years ago.

I had seen the whole island, and on my last day I went to the post office to purchase and send post cards. Remember, no blogs back then! The Post Office is beautifully located on a craggy cliff with tables and benches to enjoy the view and compose your post card home. I knew I would be there for a while. I walked in to buy a few cards. I looked at the boxes for the local’s mail and I was amused to see many letters stacked on top of them addressed to;

Easter Bunny

Easter Island

Chile

Of course they were all in children’s handwriting. I laughed and pointed to them. The woman behind the counter asked me “Are you the Easter Bunny?”

How do you say no to that? “Yes, may I have a letter”.

She laughed and handed me one.

It was a sweet letter from a 9 year old girl named Annie who lived in a suburb of London. She was writing to thank the Easter Bunny for the chocolate she had found on Easter morning. She said her mother always made sure she wrote people thank you letters. She asked what it was like to live on a far away island, and did I have any friends.

It was a thoughtful, well crafted letter, and I decided that the girl should get a reply. She had provided a return address so the plot was possible. I wrote the following.

Dear Annie

Thank you so very much for the thank you letter. I get very few of these and I cherish them. Your mother is a special person to ask you to write these letters.

Yes I enjoy living on my island. The weather is great. The only problem is all my friends are carved of stone, and they do not move, or talk, so they are no fun to play with. They all have the same name Moai, so I make up names for them. I will name one Annie in your honor.

I drew her a little picture.

Also, because you wrote me this letter, just tell you mother whatever you want for Easter this year. She can write me, and I will make sure you get it! You want a pony? Just ask!

Thank you

Easter Bunny

Chuckling, I put the photo in an envelope and posted it. I did not think about it for years.

Fast Forward to Y2K

I was now divorced and traveling alone. I found myself in a hotspot of backpackers and hostels called Bocas Del Toro, Panama. There is not much to do there besides hang out in bars, so I found one on the water called The Barco Hundido. A true dive, but the beers were cheap and the view was great.

The Barco Hundido is trashy, run down, dirty, and fun.

I ingratiated myself with a few English girls by buying a round, and we started talking. What do travelers talk about, except travel. We compared stories for a few rounds. When the conversation came around to me, I bored them with stories about Machu Pichu and such, then I mentioned visiting Easter Island.

One of the girls interrupted.

“Oh wow” she said. “my big sister has a daughter who wrote the Easter bunny a thank you letter. Some wanker traveling to the island answered on behalf of the Easter bunny and promised her a damn pony if she asked my sister for it.”

Not wanting to be recognized as the wanker, I just went silent and centered on the irony of a small world, and the wonders of travel.

Did you enjoy this story? Then share it with your FB friends, hit the like button, make a comment, or just finish your beer.

Something Better Than Democracy (?)

This is not a travel blog. But, there is no where else to express this philosophical idea that has been running around in my brain like hamster in one of those wheels. Do not suggest FaceBook. I have tried to post items of FaceBook that do not have anything to do with a mangy puppie, or what I had for lunch,and no one seems to care. In fact, I think I have be defriended  by a few people because I dared to use facebook for something that was not inane. So, I am breaking tradition here, breaking my travel rhythm, to express an idea.

Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the light hearted travel stuff next week.

I think this is a new idea, at least I have never heard it spoken about by pundits or serious commentators. Being at least new to me, it is both historically and philosophically immature. It might get some “hurrumphs” and it might get some people’s ire raised, but you know me, that is what I do. So sit back, have a coffee or tea or a beer or some other form of mind relaxing (but not hallucinogenic) substance and read on.

I have come to the conclusion that Democracy, with a large D, is a joke. Maybe a cruel joke. I have become convinced that it is a conspiratorial enterprise serving  pablum to the masses.

I grew up in what is called a Democracy. I participated in my Democracy at the local state and national level. My political experiences started in 1968. Motivated by, or more aptly put, disgusted by, the Viet Nam war I was looking for something I could do, even though I was still too young to vote. I started by taking Eugene McCarthy flower shaped bumper stickers from the local “Clean for Gene” office and pasting them on the rear of expensive cars in the shopping mall near my home. But the most memorable thing for me that election cycle was that I shook hands with Bobby Kennedy, on the morning of the last day of his life.

The next election cycle I got serious for George McGovern because my future included a draft to fight in a war I thought was just plain wrong. I stuffed mailboxes and made phone calls.

“Hello, good evening, Sorry to call you at eleven o’clock at night. I am calling on behalf of the McGovern Campaign. We need your vote to help defeat Tricky Dick.”

I was now old enough to vote and I was motivated to participate inside the system. St. George could not slay the dragon Nixon, but praise to everything holy I did not get drafted or have to move to Canada. I never wanted to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan anyway. During that election I watched McGovern self implode. I also watched one of his main campaign managers in action, a smart young guy named Gary Hart. I was among the first people to actively (very actively) work for Hart when he formed his “exploratory committee” to run for President in 1984    As a result of my efforts I became a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. We all know what happened to him. Damn, I was hoping to become to cultural atache to Bolivia. Oh well.

My last full blown effort at politics found me the co-manager of a campaign for a bright young man who was running for  a seat in the California Assembly. From that insiders viewpoint, I witnessed Machiavellian  machinations that left me numb. I stopped my active political life. Since then I have donated a few $ to Obama, and yes, I have even voted when motivated.

So do not say I do not know how Democracies work. Also, be slow to disagree with me when I say they don’t. Allow me to blabber on before you call me names, OK?

My first exposure to a democracy being a joke was when I was a 10 year old wide-eyed kid living in Bolivia. They had an “election” while I was there. The parties (about 6 of them) were known by their colors. People voted blue, green orange, yellow, or even red. It soon became apparent even to a ten year-old that there was not a lot of (what I would later learn to be) critical thinking going on here. When the peasants (about 95% of Bolivians can be called peasants without any derogatory meaning, they just are) who were almost all illiterate went to the polling place they voted for the same color as their comrades out of nothing more than peer pressure. They had no idea what Mr. Green or Mr. Chartreuse would do for them, or for that matter why they were voting, except that it made them think they were in control of something. PABLUM.

Since then I have lived in Chile, Peru and Panama. Chile is rather well educated. They had an elction to end the rule of Pinochet (more on him later) and re-install democracy in their country. Pinochet seized power in the worst way, but I was left with impression when he left power that in the end he helped Chile an awful lot. A benevolent Dictator.

Peru had an election while I lived there. Peru, has two faces. The urban educated upper classes, and the rural pablum eaters. On a couple of occasions Peru has gone out on a limb and elected reformers, however the reforms never seem to happen. Just more pablum and frustration for the people.

I also lived in Panama. The educated vote their pocket book, and the indigenous vote with no more discretion than the Bolivian peasants. Sad.

You can look around the world today and see many exercises in Democracy that are just plain bullshit. Iraq? Iran?? Afghanistan??? Southern Sudan? The list goes on. The reason they are bullshit is simple. An uneducated population. At least poorly educated.

Now I am not (as you damn well know) some intellectual powerhouse. But I consider myself an “educated” person. The cornerstone of my University education was a required class (In the California system anyway) called Critical Thinking. It taught me how to read an op-ed piece, an everyday news story, even Hitory. It taught me to take it apart and examine every quote, every supposed fact. Examine who wrote it, to determine the authors pedigree. I can sum up what I learned in one simple question I ask every time I read a politically oriented article or hear a speech or a talking head on TV. I ask myself “He would say that wouldn’t he?” If the answer to that question is yes, then what I just read or heard is useless. However, if the answer to that is no, then maybe I should look into this a bit more. Why would he say that? What is behind the story?

I seriously doubt, in fact I am 100% sure , that the majority of people in “developing nations” (the 3rd world in my day) do not posses this skill. They are led down the path to the polling place by people who want to seize power “Democratically”. All the great intentions of the Carter foundation aside, that is not good democracy.

Now let us look at the United States. Talk about pablum. In this case expensive pablum. I am not sure how many hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in 2008 or 2010 to elect the people now in power. One thing I am sure of is that if all that money went to schools or to feed the poor, the country would benefit a lot more than it has or will from the leaders we now have.

Public Education in the USA was deemed absolutely necessary by  Benjamin Franklin because he knew that no democracy could survive unless the people were educated. I agree.

But lets take a look at the most disturbing (to me) facet of American democracy today. That would be the Tea Party. Even if you ARE a Tea Partier, you must admit that you are NOT analyzing what the likes of Sarah Palin have to say. You just can’t be. So why is the Tea Party still tapping kegs and rolling into the night? Simple. Many people in America have grown very tired of elitists, of people smarter than they are running things  They do not like having to try and understand what a politician is saying, even though they dumb down their rhetoric so a sixth grader can understand it.  So they rally around a dimwit who likes to say “golly gee” and shoot reindeer.

Democracy, yes, even in the USA is a joke.

So what else? Here we go, sit back far enough away from your monitor so you cant’t spit on it or throw it out the window.

Ready?

Benevolent Rulers.

I live in such a country now, The UAE. I lived in Chile under what I call a benevolent Dictator.  I have traveled and spent time in others. The one thing they all have common, and this is a very rare thing, is an incredible amount of natural resources. Here it is of course oil, in Chile it was copper. Having these resources is not the end all. It requires strong man, a ruler, a one stop shopping power source who just happens to be benevolent.

The rulers here in the UAE (all 7 of them), the Sultan of Oman and the kings of Qatar and Bahrain all qualify as benevolent Rulers. So does the King of Thailand.

As an aside, I was in a class last semester with a princess from Bahrain. A real princess, her Uncle is the Benevolent Ruler. I expressed this philosophy to her and she laughed and said “Ah we have brainwashed you!” I laughed and said “By example.”

Thanks for reading. tell a friend. But this is NOT a democracy, so don’t bother commenting.

Just kidding, fire away.

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