Thursday, May 15, 2008

Journey

You have just arrived. This place you haven’t been to before. It is called Aswan, and it took you 16 hours to arrive by train. You exit the station and attempt to find your hotel.

“Hello? Do you need help?”
“No.”
“Are you sure? Do you know where you are going?”
No.

Finally you arrive and are greeted by the hotel reception. No sooner after you set down your luggage do they ask if you are interested in a day trip to Abu Simbel. You are, and now have arrangements to go there the next morning- at 3:30am.

You locate your room, meet your new Japanese roommates, and attempt to make yourself at home. It is hot, but it could be worse. There are fans, and faucets full of cold water. Soon, you feel hungry and you wonder how you can find food.

“Do you know any good places to eat?”
“Don’t eat out there. If you do, they will shit you. I will get you food.”


You agree, because you knew what he meant. The local people take joy in charging foreigners an arm and a leg. The receptionist (you never learned his name) comes back with enough boiled eggs, bread, jam, and spreadable cheese to last your for three days. You devour it in different combinations and think you like this place and could stay for a while.

Abu Simbel

Abu Simbel is one of the most well-known sites to visit in Upper Egypt. It was created by Ramses II and was dedicated to the gods Ra-Harakhty, Amun, Ptah, and the great pharaoh himself. It was designed as a symbol of strength as the four colossal statues of Ramses overlook Lake Nasser. Since its construction, the temple has been buried by time, as well as rediscovered, deconstructed, and reconstructed due to rising water levels from the Aswan dam. It is truly a magnificent sight to behold. If only there weren’t so many damn tourists.

The only way to travel to Abu Simbel these days is by police convoy. Everyone leaves around 3:45am from their hotels to gather up people from other hotels and are grouped together in a large tourist bus parade. The buses arrive together and everyone is given the same amount of time to explore the great temples. Inside, it is extremely hot and humid from the dense layers of tourist-breath. You shuffle along, trying to absorb the first temple’s beauty, admiring every inch of the hieroglyph-covered surfaces, and struggle to breathe at the same time. Pictures are forbidden inside the temples, but you manage to snap one- to spite them- and also because the inside is just as impressive as the outside.

The next temple has a line to get inside. You don’t have much time to explore, so you pop in, and wait.

The second temple is a Temple of Hathor and is dedicated to Queen Nefertari, Ramses’ wife. On the outside there are six standing statues- four of them represent Ramses and the other two, Nefertari. Inside there are pillars with detailed carvings of the goddess, Hathor herself. You try to snap a picture, but a monkey put his hand in front of your lens just as the shutter opened.

After exploring the inside of both temples, you are not sure if there is more to see, but you have about half an hour left. You find a shady spot to sit down, and pull out your sack-lunch, provided by your prestigious $1.25 per night hotel. It consists of two pieces of pita bread, a boiled egg, a triangle of spreadable cheese, and a container of jam. Hmm. You ate this yesterday already, but it was good. You eat some more. Your water supply seems to be diminishing, and you see people heading down a shady cement path. You decide to follow them and hope there is water somewhere along the way.

You realize that the shaded path is just the way out, and it looks like the only water supply is cold bottle drinks being sold in coolers for 5 times the price or inside the bathroom, for which there is a 10-meter line to get inside. Unsure of what to do, you walk around and see a small, air-conditioned enclosure marked “Visitor’s Center”. You decided to visit it. Inside is a display telling the story of the deconstruction and reconstruction of the temples which many countries and organizations took part, in order to keep the great monument from drowning. With great precision, it was dismantled and then reassembled in the same geographic location, but about 100 or so meters higher in elevation.

Soon, you finish your visit at Abu Simbel, are able to get some more water, and climb back in the micro-bus to be taken to your next destination. About three hours later you stop in a place that familiarly looks like town. That is because it is town. Some people on your bus tour only signed up for the “short trip”, but you are in for the long haul. About half of the busload departs, and you happily stretch your legs out in the empty seat next to you.

“Now we are going to switch buses. Everybody off!”
You knew it was too good to be true.

Unfinished Obelisk

Your next destination is to see the “Unfinished Obelisk’. The obelisk is a large granite rectangoid of rock. It was abandoned because a flaw appeared on the rock, and left without any indication of what it was for. You heard from others that this abandoned monument is not worth paying to look at, but you had to see for yourself. It looks like a long rectangle of granite in a ditch, but you are glad you saw it.

Next is the Aswan Dam. You heard from even more people that this is really not worth seeing, and you aren’t as enthusiastic about seeing it as the obelisk, so you choose to stay behind.

Philae

After that is the Temple of Isis on Philae (Agilkia) Island. This temple was also rescued from the rising water table created by the Aswan Dam. It was disassembled and reassembled at a new location, 20 meters higher from its original position. This temple was built in honor of the goddess Isis, and was visited by pilgrims as late as the year 550.

Wandering through the halls, temples, and sanctuaries dedicated to noteworthy Ancient Egyptian gods feels magical, and it is more pleasant to be in the sun during the later hours of the day, with less tourists bumping into you. You soak up every minute of your time available to spend here before it is time to take the motorboat back to shore.

The microbus takes you back to the vicinity of your hotel and you conclude your “long trip” with a glass of fresh sugar cane juice. Later, you collapse on your bed, eventually take a shower, and eat leftover bread, cheese, eggs, and jam for dinner.




Coming Next…
“Okay! Halos! I found my own trip. Maybe next time you shouldn’t lie! Goodbye.”

???


Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Answer

It’s a colorless, odorless predicament that is slithering under our noses. Its tiny tendrils have been developing into a single entity. This is the world’s food crisis.

It is difficult for developed countries to comprehend the idea of an insufficient food supply. In countries such as the United States cities are littered with restaurants and caf├ęs; supermarkets and convenience stores. Eating is a hobby for some. Daily media advertises food in brightly colored packages. Developed countries have a surplus of food and yet people are worried about eating less and are never worried about eating at all. Other countries are not quite so fortunate. For example, this year Zimbabwe had a significant grain shortage due to poor weather conditions, the value of the Zimbabwe dollar plummeted to Z$25,000,000 to 1USD, and the cost of food has inflated 100,000%. The average family needs to earn about Z$875,000,000 in order to survive, while still living in poverty, but most families earn only Z$1,000,000 per month. Needless to say, mere survival is a challenge.

A world report about this dire situation aired on Aljazeera news and a few days later, continuing the article, another report aired on April 22nd, 2008. A short film segment captured a cargo ship as it chugged its way through murky waters. News reporters informed the world that it was on its way from China to Zimbabwe. What was on the ship? Rice? Flour? Corn? Water? No. Weapons.

The cargo ship from China was filled with three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades, more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes, and more according to the inventory report of a South African newspaper. Why would China be sending Zimbabwe weapons just after a violent election and in the middle of a severe food crisis? It turned out only to be an unfortunate coincidence and bad timing for a “perfectly normal trade” as stated by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. Due to the radical situation that exists in Zimbabwe, the cargo was not accepted and the ship returned back to China. This occurrence inspired more research.

According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global food prices have risen 35% in the last year, and 65% since 2002. The price of wheat has doubled, maize increased by 50%, and rice by 20%. The cost of dairy has risen a staggering 80%. Prices of food have increased by 18% in China, 13% in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10% or more in Latin America, Russia, and India. Meanwhile, there have been reports of death by starvation and riots in Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Indonesia. What is the cause of this?

“There is no one cause but a lot of things are coming together to lead to this,” stated Ali Gurkman, head of the F.A.O.’s food outlook program. The rise in oil prices, farmers switching to grow bio-fuels instead of food, extreme weather conditions, and rising demand are all contributing factors to the current world crisis.

We are all aware the use of fossil fuels around the world has created turmoil and war between countries. As part of the plan to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, some countries have initiated a plan to produce larger quantities of ethanol and bio-fuels. For example, this year the United States is planning to retain one out of every four bushels of corn produced in order to manufacture ethanol. Similarly, it has recently been discovered that palm oil can be used to create bio-fuel. The use of this staple, for countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, has taken a toll on poor families and has displaced the land normally used to grow crops exported for human consumption as well as animal feed.

Some possible solutions have been speculated in order to pacify the world’s hunger. The first, and simplest, is for markets to readjust prices when there are shortages of certain items to make it more profitable to grow crops for people rather than cars. Second, if people around the world reduced the amount of meat they consumed, more land could be used to produce food for the world’s populace rather than livestock. Not to mention that a decrease in the world’s population growth would naturally ease the pressures on the food market.

However, one other solution surfaced after watching the muddy waters curling underneath the cargo ship of weapons: cannibalism.

Cannibalism is a taboo subject for many cultures, yet it has been prevalent as a last resort and even a preference in some cultures, throughout history and even today. It is thought to have existed during the Lower and Middle Paleolithic Era due to food shortages. In Ancient Egypt, thousands of mummies, preserved in bitumen, were ground up and sold as medicine. Mummies were thought to have medicinal properties against bleeding and were bought and sold until two centuries ago. In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote A Modest Proposal in which he proposed poor Irish families sell their children to be eaten, in order to earn income.

Even as late as the 21st Century, a man in Germany posted an ad on the Internet requesting “a well-built, 18 to 30 year-old to be slaughtered and consumed.” The ad was answered, and, as a result, the German man was eventually convicted of murder. Last year, a Danish artist hosted a dinner party for his closest friends. He served pasta with meatballs made from his own fat, which was removed in a liposuction operation earlier that year.

Do you think cannibalism is wrong? The Christians don’t. In a bible story (2 Kings 6:25-30), two women agreed to eat each other’s children. The first woman cooked her child and the second mother ate it, but then refused to fulfill their pact by cooking her own child. Cannibalism is even present in children’s stories and mythologies: the witch in Hansel and Gretel, Baba Yaga in Slavic folklore, and the Greek mythological stories of Thyestes, Tereus, and Cronus.

Do you not think the taste of another human would be pleasant? New York Times reporter, William Buehler Seabrook, described the taste of human flesh as “mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork have,” after he obtained a chunk of healthy human meat from a hospital for research purposes in 1931. He also stated that it was like “good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef,” and that “veal is the one meat to which this meat is accurately comparable.”

As one can see, this final solution to stunt the world’s food crises is the best. Not only does the demand for livestock around the world decrease, but so does the population growth. The land can be used to grow bio-fuels as well as other crops, and the world can be a prosperous place once again. Cannibalism is the answer to end world hunger once and for all. Will you join to be part of the solution?

To apply to be a meat donor please complete the following information and include a blood sample:
Age:
Weight:
Body Mass Index:
Diseases?: y/n

All donations are appreciated and will be reciprocated with a small stipend to your next of kin.