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Old 02-19-2007, 03:52 AM   #151
adsman
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Re: On Changing your Life

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Did you, or have you ever considered carrying a gun in case you are somehow the victim of an angry mob? I mean, if they are not the party directly wronged, do they still want to risk their lives to get somebody?
No, I mean you'd need to carry an AK47 to have any effect. Ugandans are the nicest people, but get them in a mob and it's trouble. An example;

A thief was apprehended in the center of Kampala. This just means that somebody grabbed someone else and started screaming thief. He might have been a thief, he might not have been. Anyway, instant mob forms to partake in the ritual beating to death of said thief. This is right in front of the main post office on the main street. Two uniformed policemen happen to be there and go to rescue the thief from the mob. I've seen a mob in action. They aren't angry as they kill some guy, they're usually laughing and having a great time.

The mob is not happy that their fun is about to be taken away. The mob turns on the two policemen. The two cops are in serious trouble. They take the only option available to them - they start shooting with their AK47's. The final balance is something like ten dead and a bunch wounded. There were so many killed because the cops had to keep shooting to save their lives. The mob wouldn't stop even when bullets were flying. The next days newspaper had a tally of the dead with photo's. There was a lawyer, an architect, a local businessman, an off-duty cop, women, children, you name it. The newspaper was calling for the heads of the cops for killing these 'fine', innocent, upstanding citizens.

So really, carrying a gun was not an option. I much preferred to rely on my wits to get through these situations. Safer in the long run.
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Old 02-19-2007, 10:05 AM   #152
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Re: On Changing your Life

Our new general manager didn’t fool any of us. We knew he had no interest in promoting Adrift. He kept up the marketing charade for a few weeks and then it was left to the guides to do the real marketing. We would go to all the hotels in town, handing out flyers, trying to drum up business. One of the better marketing tricks was to just hang around the Sheraton pool. Meanwhile, the GM ordered 500 more T-shirts. At least that was the official number. The real number was much, much higher. The T-shirts were very high quality and were manufactured and printed in Kenya. They cost around $3 each with shipping, and they sold for $20. He was making a killing selling them out of his shop. We were making feck all on the river.

Things couldn’t go on this way forever. He had to show some progress to the owner. I was his very vocal opponent. I called him out regularly at staff meetings for being an out and out crook. He tried to cut back on costs. Apparently instead of three safety kayakers, now we only needed one. So we had this photo-shop owner trying to tell us how to work on the river. Most of the guides muttered and complained behind his back. I preferred to do it to his face. Because I was out of control. Africa had gotten to me. I was pushing the boundaries too hard. I was becoming very antagonistic on the street. I got involved in more and more hairy situations. I wasn’t drinking too much, taking too many drugs or banging hookers. No, I was trying to take on the whole country.

One night we were at some crappy club. Full of the Ugandan upper and middle classes, but the girls still came right up to you and asked you for sex. Because you were a mazungu. And when I brushed them off they got pissed with me. Their faces turned to sneers. They joked with their male friends that I couldn’t get it up. The males laughed and scoffed – these pathetic losers who were happy to watch their women throw themselves at whites and then degrade themselves even further by joining in the jeering. All so that they might have some slim chance of getting their dick wet. I said to my mates that I was going. I couldn’t stand being in the club any more. They said that they would be right out. I walked outside and stood off to the side of the club, leaning against a wall. There was a line of people waiting to get in. I was nowhere near them. A bored bouncer thought he could have some fun with me. Show the waiting Ugandans how to boss around a mazungu. He had a pump action shotgun. He walked over to me and told me to get away from the wall. I just looked at him. I didn’t say a word. He pointed about 50 meters down the street and told me that I could wait over there. I kept staring at him. He started getting worked up. Didn’t I know that I had to do what he said? I remained silent. It wasn’t going the way he wanted. He was looking like a [censored] in front of the crowd. He un-slung the shotgun from his shoulder and let it hang down by his side. He repeated again his demand for me to move.

I looked down at his gun, looked back up at him and said, “What the feck do you think you’re going to do with that?”

He came right up close. Our faces were inches apart. He told me that I had to move now. I told him to go feck himself. By now there was a big crowd. Everyone was watching. Some of them began calling out; “Mazungu, you move! You do what he says!” I ignored them. I just stared this prick out. I wasn’t moving. I had my piece of wall. It was a nice piece of wall. It felt comfortable behind my back. My arms were loose by my sides. I wanted him to start it. I was prepared to ram that gun down the back of his throat. All my time in Africa, all the crap I had put up with, all the frustrations, it was all right there below the surface, itching to get out. And he knew it. He saw it in my eyes. At that moment I was prepared to do anything. He backed up a few paces. He jeered at me, called me some names. The crowd made disparaging noises. But I wasn’t moving from my stupid piece of wall.

My mates came out about five minutes later. They walked over to me, unaware of what had just happened. I started to walk away with them. The bouncer called out some comments. I didn’t care. I was just sick of the place. I’d had enough.

We had a staff meeting. I don’t remember the details. All I know is that I was angry. I was angry at the way we were being treated. I was angry at this moron thinking that I was really that stupid to not know what was going on. We had an accountant from New Zealand. He was a good kayaker. When he had first come out we had had high hopes for him. We thought that a kayaker would be on our side, would understand how things worked on the river. We were wrong. He was a typical accountant. For him there existed only numbers. It was impossible to reason with him. He was also a fool. He truly believed that our GM was a good guy. So when he thought he had found evidence of someone stealing he went straight to the GM with his findings. The GM was delighted. He immediately emailed the owner, informing him that he had discovered that one of the guides was a thief. The owner was happy. Progress was obviously being made. He told the GM to deal with it. The thief was me.

After the meeting the accountant and the GM invited me to go up to the office upstairs. The other guides were outside playing some volleyball. They presented me with their evidence. It was nonsense. It was easily explainable. I wasn’t a thief. I clearly explained what the discrepancies were. The GM was not happy. He had found a thief, he had contacted the owner, the thief had to be fired. He was realizing that he had acted prematurely. But then I did a very stupid thing. In my naivety, in my misunderstanding of how the world worked, I found myself volunteering to resign. I have no idea why I said this. Perhaps I thought that it would prove my innocence. Who knows. Looking back I think that it might have been a part of me that knew I had to get out. I had to get out of Africa before I got into some serious trouble. The GM accepted my resignation. The guides were stunned. They demanded that I be reinstated. He held firm. He had been offered a way out of his predicament. He wasn’t silly enough to throw away such a gift. The guides demanded that I be given time to save up for a ticket out. He gave me two months. Then I would be without a job. It was February 2000. I had been in Africa for a year. Now I had to find a way to get the hell out.
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Old 02-19-2007, 11:32 AM   #153
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Re: On Changing your Life

what year are we in in this last part?
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Old 02-19-2007, 12:14 PM   #154
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Re: On Changing your Life

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what year are we in in this last part?

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It was February 2000.
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Old 02-20-2007, 01:15 AM   #155
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Re: On Changing your Life

keep going man, great work so far!
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Old 02-20-2007, 01:18 AM   #156
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Re: On Changing your Life

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keep going man, great work so far!
we aren't doing these posts anymore
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Old 02-20-2007, 02:13 AM   #157
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Re: On Changing your Life

Wooww. Really good stuff here. You should write a book.

Thank you for sharing
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Old 02-20-2007, 06:06 AM   #158
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Re: On Changing your Life

There was no point in getting out if I didn’t have a destination. Australia was out of the question. It would be too much like giving up. But I was in a bit of a panic. The poker game had ended some time ago due to several diplomats and UN boys being moved around. I had about $150 to my name. I would need at least $800 just to get a one-way ticket to London. I went into the main internet café in Kampala and emailed my dad. For the first time since leaving home I was going to have to ask for some help. My dad replied to the email the next day. It was curt and to the point. He had remarried a few years previously, and at the tender age of 55 had begun the whole family thing all over again. When I dropped into Perth on my way to Africa I had met my baby sister for the first time. They had just had another daughter a few months previously. He gave me the bad news. She had a heart defect and required radical new surgery to correct the problem. He had a great deal on his plate. He did give me an option – he’d pay for a ticket, but only to come back to Perth.

There was no way I could do it. I was blown away by what I felt was level A abandonment, but at the same time for worry for what was going on back home. I had a few black days and then I started to get my act together. First I needed a job. I narrowed it down to three options. I could go back to Canada and work for the dude who originally wanted me the last time I was there. I contacted him and he was extremely keen. Jeno had two good contacts as well. The company he had previously worked for in Norway, and a company in Italy where a friend of his had just done a season. The problem with Canada was the distance. It was going to cost a lot more to get there. I asked them if they could help spring for the ticket. The response was cold. So Norway or Italy it was.

The decision that swayed me was the chance to learn a language. The idea excited me, and put down as a choice between the two I felt that Italian was a more useful language to learn. I contacted the company in Italy. They were looking for two guides. Jeno decided to come as well. He’d had enough of Africa. We hit the company up for two jobs and a few days later they email their confirmation. Destination and job resolved. Three things remained – the cash, the work visa, and revenge.

I began my now long and familiar relationship with Italian bureaucracy. There is an Italian embassy in Kampala, and Jeno and I spent a great deal of time there getting next to nothing achieved. On top of this, the other guides were slipping the two of us as much work as they could. Colin had been running some kayaking courses down at Bujagali, and he kindly swung most of the work my way. I was slowly dragging the cash together. The accountant had become a non-entity amongst the guides. He lived with us, he worked with us, he went paddling with us, but we only acknowledged him on a professional basis. He couldn’t understand why, which spoke volumes.

Mick was gearing up to the launch of his new rafting company. He offered me a job, but I turned him down. I was now focused on getting out. There was just one other little problem. I had been seeing a Spanish girl who was a diplomat in Kampala. Spanish girls are awesome, just awesome. She was a tidy little number and a whirlwind in the sack. She was also good to talk to, held her drink, didn’t nag and had realistic expectations of life. She was a good thing. I told her that I had to get out, but that I was going to Europe. She understood, and we made plans to meet up as soon as we could.

I was hell bent on planning out some elaborate revenge on the GM, when his brother died in mysterious circumstances of a heroin overdose. The three brothers ran the shop together. I started picking up on disturbing rumors, and after a chat with Mick I decided to leave well enough alone. I felt that I was getting out at just the right time. Sometimes the Universe gives you a sign, sometimes it gives you a nudge as well if it thinks you need it. I have learnt to listen to these hints, as you ignore them at your own peril. What in the short term could be construed as a disaster often turned out to be a blessing in the greater picture. I have had this happen to me often in my life and travels. It is best to be calm in these situations. Sit and think things over without emotion. Work out what needs to be done. Change is often painful, as we do not like the unknown, even if the known is not a good place to be.

I went into the South African Airways office to find a ticket. I got extremely lucky. There was a nice Ugandan girl working there and I happened to get called up to her window. She possessed a rare ability not found often in Africans – initiative. I explained my problem. I needed the cheapest one-way ticket possible to London for the beginning of May. There was a special on. There were 10 seats available for the special and about 250 people had applied for them. But she liked me, and god almighty I liked her. I went into their office on the crucial day. She saw me and gave me a big smile. I had jagged the last ticket for the princely sum of $650. I had my ticket out.

My last night in Kampala I spent with Mick and Amanda. Mick and I dropped some excellent acid and we went to the Kampala casino. We got slaughtered. Amanda got slaughtered. We were so off our faces that we started taking other peoples chips when we ran out of money. At one point I remember leaning over towards this very large South African and telling him in a serious and confidential tone that I was on drugs. “No sh*t”, came the reply.

On leaving the casino at five in the morning Mick drove his car through the plate glass window of a jewelry shop. We sat there pissing ourselves with laughter amidst broken glass and jewelry, while alarm bells shrieked into the early morning hours. Mick put the car into reverse and we just drove away. We were driving back home when we got pulled over by two policeman. Mick stopped the car as they had guns and a radio. We were drinking bottles of beer. Amanda was unconscious in the back. The policemen saw the beer and their faces lit up into huge smiles.

“Ah, mazungu’s! You are drinking! This is very bad! We must arrest you.”

“No, no, no, no, no,” said Mick. “You don’t want to do that.”

“Oh yes I do. You are drunk and very bad people. You must be punished!”

“We’re not drunk!” said Mick. The cop pointed at the bottles of beer. “Well, maybe a little bit, but where we come from that’s ok.”

I looked at Mick with some confusion. It is?

The cops looked equally dubious. “This I cannot believe. You are making fun of me.”

“It’s true!” Mick protested.

“Where are you comes from?” asked the cop with great suspicion.

Mick and I answered together with enthusiasm, “Australia!”

The other cop sneered. “This is not possible. I cannot believe that in Australia you can drink and drive your car.”

“Well,” Mick began, “It’s like this. In Australia, if you drink a lot and get drunk, then you have to drive more slowly, because it’s harder to drive, so we drive slower, and then we have less accidents, so drinking and driving in Australia is encouraged and we have very, very, very safe roads.”

I looked at Mick. He had to be kidding. The cops looked at Mick. The cops looked at each other. There was a long silence. And then the first cop said;

“Okay, you can go.”

And we sped off into the night, pissed out of our minds and laughing like crazy. And Amanda slept through the whole thing.
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Old 02-21-2007, 05:58 PM   #159
Holden Caulfield
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Re: On Changing your Life


The thing I don't understand is, how come everyone hated the accountant? How come he was so oblivious to the fact that you all disliked him?

Great post, looking forward to more.
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Old 02-21-2007, 06:22 PM   #160
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Re: On Changing your Life

I just sat here at work and read that whole thing, its awesome obv. I believe everything that you wrote but one detail seems kinda cheesy to me. When you go to find the kid who stole the stereo, does a cobra really come out from under his bed? Once again I'm not calling you a liar, but doesnt that seem like some sort of allegory in a fictional story?
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Old 02-21-2007, 06:42 PM   #161
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Re: On Changing your Life

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I just sat here at work and read that whole thing, its awesome obv. I believe everything that you wrote but one detail seems kinda cheesy to me. When you go to find the kid who stole the stereo, does a cobra really come out from under his bed? Once again I'm not calling you a liar, but doesnt that seem like some sort of allegory in a fictional story?
Yeah, it really happened. There were cobras everywhere, plus black and green mambas. Boy, those things were freaky nasty, and I'm used to snakes. We actually had a rafting customer bitten by a baby cobra that swum up through the drainage holes into the raft. We completely immobilized the limb. She kept saying that she was fine. We got her back to Kampala, they took off our splint, the blood started to flow and she got hit like someone punched her in the stomach. Then they shot her full of anti-venom.


Thanks Teddy and the rest of you for the kind words. It is nice to hear the occasional encouragement, so I know that I'm not boring you guys.



I got the midnight flight to London. The plane was jam-packed full of screaming kids, angry parents, and people panicking because they’d never flown before. But I was sweet. I felt a moment of nostalgia as the wheels left the ground. This was it. I was gone. Outta there. I nodded off to sleep as the kid next to me drooled over my arm. We flew into London in the early morning. I got my bags and took the underground into the city. A real train. Nobody was hassling me. Nobody was trying to be my friend. I was being completely ignored on a packed commuter train. I had a huge grin on my face.

But damn it was cold. It was raining. There was mist. I’d forgotten what mist looked like. I didn’t have any warm clothes for this weather. I was getting a bit of attention, which I put down to the fact that I had a tan that was as deep as any white dude can ever hope to get. Surrounded by pasty faced poms. I had relatives in London whom I’d never met. The sister of my dads second wife and her family. I had their address and phone number. I had to get the tube all the way out to New Cross Gate, which I did. I found a public phone and called her. She said to stand out the front and wait for her. A few minutes later a lady who looked just like my dad’s second wife pulled up.

“I’m Lindy. You must be Adam. Jump in.”

We took off through the traffic and she said that she had to do some shopping, was that all right? I said sure, no problem. It was amazing driving down a street with no holes in it. We pulled into a huge supermarket, Tesco’s or Safeways or something. I followed her into the store. I spent the next 20 minutes wandering around in a kind of daze. Food. Real food. Australian beer. Meat. Pork chops. Chocolate. Mustard. I picked items off the shelves and just stared at them in my hands. It was then that it really hit me that I was out of Africa.

Lindy found me and had a laugh. “My husband Steve is from South Africa,” she said. “He’ll understand what you’re going through.”

We were driving to her house when I saw a sign for a McDonalds. “Stop,” I said. “I hate their food, but I have to have a burger. Just a Big Mac.”

We pulled into the drive-through and I ordered. I held the package in my hands and opened it with care. There it was. A Big Mac. Lindy was watching me with an amused grin. I took a bite. It seemed to be the best thing that I’d ever tasted. I ate it all without a word. Now I was really back in the First World again.

They were very well off, had a lovely terrace house. She showed me to my room. I sat on the bed and stared out the window. I was in London. I had about $100 and no ticket to Italy. But I knew that if I could get out of Uganda, I sure as hell could get out of London. The rest of the family came home later. Steve was a lovely chap, a bio-chemist. He wanted to know all about my adventures in Uganda. We talked into the night, drinking from his excellent collection of wine. They had three young children that were constantly fighting and carrying on, but I didn’t care. I felt at peace. At one point Steve asked his eldest son Matthew if he wanted to go out for a drive the next day, which was Saturday. Matthew made a face and ran off.

Steve sighed. “I’ve just bought a new car and I wanted somebody to come for a spin with me.”

“I’ll come,” I said.

His face brightened up. “Really? You’re not just saying that?”

“No, no. I’ve never been to England. I’d love to have a zip around.”

The next morning he opened his garage to show me his brand new Porsche 911 Turbo S. Oh yeah. Lets go baby. We high-tailed it out of London and sped off through the countryside. It was a beautiful Spring day. He took all the back-roads he could find. Narrow lanes that drifted beneath oak canopies. The car was amazing – like driving a train on a road. It just glued itself to the tarmac. We stopped at a little pub and had a gourmet lunch. He insisted on paying, and I was grateful for it. We got back to London at a reasonably late hour. Lindy had dinner on the table, and we spent another night hitting up his reds. Since I was going to Italy we had to drink Italian wine. I can’t remember what it was, but it was sensational.

The next day I phoned a contact that I had. A pilot who worked for British Airways, Captain Paul. He’d been out to Uganda a few times and we’d struck up a friendship. He lived in Maidenhead, which was just outside London. He told me to come out. He had a few days free. I caught the train out to Maidenhead and he met me at the station.

We had a few beers and chatted about my situation. He had been trying to get my on a cargo flight out of Uganda but the contact hadn’t paid off. At one point he just came out with; “Do you want to go up for a spin?”

“In what?”

“In my plane.”

So it turns out he’s a stunt pilot in his spare time. His plane turns out to be the most powerful two seater prop plane there is; a Russian somethingorother. I get to sit in the front. Captain Paul sits in the back. We’re on this old airfield that looks like a relic from WWII. He fires it up and we catapult down the runway. We’re flying over little English villages when I suddenly realize what he’s up to. He’s getting me back for all those times I flipped, surfed and pounded him on the Nile. And that’s when we start doing tricks. Upside down, looping, diving at the ground, spinning around. It’s all I can do to clench my stomach and neck muscles and not throw up. And then I hear his voice over the two way go;

“Okay Adam, you’re now going to become one of the few people in the world who have gone backwards in an airplane.” What the feck? “What we’re going to do is to climb vertically into the sky until we reach a height of such and such. Then I’m going to turn off the engine…” WTF?? “…and we’re going to keep going up until we stall, then the plane is going to drop back down and flip forwards, where I will restart the engine and we will fly away.”

And God help me, that’s exactly what we did. The really freaky part was when the stick came alive in my hands. “Okay, Adam. You’re flying it. Do what you want.” I have to be honest, I didn’t do much. When we got back down he happily informed me that I’d pulled -2G to +8G, or something of the sort. The mechanic was impressed. “He really threw you around up there, eh?” I didn’t throw up though.

Captain Paul then did a very nice thing. He organized me a flight to Italy with BA. Told me not to worry about it, I could fix him up when I was able. I thanked him profusely and popped back to London. Another day to sort some stuff out, and then I was in Gatwick taking a flight to Italy. I was essentially arriving with no funds at all. Heading into Milan. I didn’t speak any Italian either. Jeno would be arriving a couple of weeks after me. I felt like I’d been doing this for far too long.
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Old 02-21-2007, 07:12 PM   #162
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Re: On Changing your Life

Life is to be lived,and you sir, are living it!
This account of you changing your life,is I am sure, an
inspiration to many would be adventurers.
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Old 02-21-2007, 10:54 PM   #163
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Re: On Changing your Life

Thanks for the story - keep going!
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Old 02-21-2007, 11:14 PM   #164
fm191124
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Re: On Changing your Life

awesome thread adsman

- wondering if you have any pics (current or old) so i can associate a face with the story i check 10x a day

- also i see that you associate the x-girlfreind in the beggining as the chism that started your journey and that triggered your story, but after you broke up what made you stay in sydney? opposed to going back home and living with your folks?

- do you have any instances or in depth stories throughout your journey where one of your buddies got greedy/backstabbed you (or other freinds) over money/women other issues. i know you argued with GM but he wasnt a freind. (and you gotbecame freinds with mark after your radio music fight)

thanks,,,,
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Old 02-22-2007, 12:23 AM   #165
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Re: On Changing your Life

I actually got caught by my boss 3 times reading this at work today. When she finally threatened to write me up for being on the internet, I copied and pasted your story onto Word, printed it out and told her to read it. She ended up reading the whole thing and apologized to me. I never got written up, but still got a stern warning about being on the interent.

Your story and writing style kind of reminds me of Ernest Hemingway with all the adventures in Africa and traveling. Even though it takes place in Cuba, Islands in the Stream, is the Hemmingway book that comes to mind while reading your story.

One suggestion, if you want others to share their stories, you might want to start another thread. I for one was going to write mine, but after reading yours, I felt too intimidated knowing that anything else that follows you is going to be a disapointment.

BTW, awesome paragraph "Sometimes the Universe gives you a sign, sometimes it gives you a nudge as well if it thinks you need it. I have learnt to listen to these hints, as you ignore them at your own peril. What in the short term could be construed as a disaster often turned out to be a blessing in the greater picture. I have had this happen to me often in my life and travels. It is best to be calm in these situations. Sit and think things over without emotion. Work out what needs to be done. Change is often painful, as we do not like the unknown, even if the known is not a good place to be." I definitly wrote this down to refer to.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:00 AM   #166
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Re: On Changing your Life

Quote:
awesome thread adsman

- wondering if you have any pics (current or old) so i can associate a face with the story i check 10x a day
I'm a bit reluctant to do this. I'll have a think about it. It means a bit of effort too, as I don't have any photo's of myself on the computer.


Quote:
- also i see that you associate the x-girlfreind in the beggining as the chism that started your journey and that triggered your story, but after you broke up what made you stay in sydney? opposed to going back home and living with your folks?
When I left I quite my job, sold everything and took off. What would I have gone back to? I was determined not to fail.

Quote:
- do you have any instances or in depth stories throughout your journey where one of your buddies got greedy/backstabbed you (or other freinds) over money/women other issues. i know you argued with GM but he wasnt a freind. (and you gotbecame freinds with mark after your radio music fight)
Mark and I were always friends, that was just a little blip. In fact, he's flying in from Australia to stay with me for a few weeks today. Uncle Mick got in yesterday. I showed him this thread and he's threatening to register and write up his version of the facts.

The GM was the worst backstabbing situation. Perhaps I didn't make it clear that he was somebody that we hung out with before he became GM. Before that situation happened I just assumed that if you did the right thing, others would do the same back to you. It was a good life lesson that you always have to watch your back.


[/quote]



I was standing at the baggage carousel in Milan when I noticed a young guy who had to be a riverguide. Apart from the fact that he was deeply tanned, he had a whitewater helmet clipped to the back of his backpack. I walked over, introduced myself. His name was Zane, he was a Kiwi, and could you believe it, he was walking for the same company that I was. He had also brought a guitar with him. We shouldered up our kit and were heading out through the airport when we heard some music being played. There were people singing as well.

“That’s Kiwi music, bro,” Zane said. “Lets check it out.”

Sure enough there was a group of about 15 New Zealand Maoris jamming together amidst a big pile of bags. Turns out that they were a famous traditional music group over in Italy for a tour. We sat down, and Zane pulled out his guitar and he began jamming with them. They were very welcoming. One of the girls asked me where we were going and I explained what we were in Italy for. After a while I asked if I could have a guitar and somebody passed me one. Then we really got jamming. A big crowd began to form and we played for about half an hour until finally I said that we had to be goiong if we wanted to get up to our base that night. We fare welled the group and headed out to the bus area. Both Zane and I agreed that it was a very cool way to start our Italian sojourn.

We got the bus into the main train station in Milan. It was quite imposing, in its neo-gothic-fascist style architecture. I found a phone and called the rafting base. It was five in the afternoon. The phone was answered by a nice lady called Carla who spoke English. After some hasty conferral we worked out that there was no way we would be able to reach the valley that evening by train. She told me to call back in five minutes. I called back and she told us to get the next train to Verona. One of the Italian guides who worked for them lived there and he would pick us up and look after us for the night.

We hopped the train to Verona and got there around 8pm. We were standing outside waiting when a young guy in a little Fiat 500 came to a screaming halt. He jumped out and introduced himself as Tobia. We piled into his tiny car and he rocketed off through the narrow cobble-stoned streets, weaving violently in and out amongst a horde of scooters and luxury cars. He pulled up outside a picturesque apartment building and we dragged our gear upstairs. He had dinner waiting for us on the table, and a big carafe of red wine. We dug in with gratitude. He rolled some joints. He was 21 and looked younger. He’d been rafting since he was 15 in the same valley where we’d be working. We asked him about the river, and the company we’d be working for.

He laughed. “Charlia is the big boss,” he told us. “Very strange man, crazy sometimes, he can be good, he can be bad. But lots of work, money is very good.”

Zane and I were both keen to learn Italian. We got Tobia to teach us some words. He got us both to memorize a phrase which he told us meant something fairly innocuous. Turned out that he was teaching us how to say, “I don’t speak Italian very well but I love blow jobs.”

The next day he had to work in the city, but he dropped us off in the center after we went to the station to get our tickets and stow our bags. We had about four hours to kill in Verona. We wandered into the historical center and just walked around with our mouths open. Finally we took a seat an outside bar that was one of many that ringed the huge piazza around the Verona Arena. The Arena is a small version of the coliseum, but still incredibly imposing. We sat there and drank our first Italian cappuccinos. It was a beautifully warm Spring day. The girls were incredible. Hottie after hottie walked by, all dressed like they had just stepped off a Milanese catwalk. Zane began to tell me about all the hot girls he had had to leave behind in New Zealand to come here. I was starting to get the impression that Zane was a nice guy but he had a tendency to exaggeration. Whatever, I didn’t care. I was just so happy to be there.

We took the train up to Trento. We left the Lombardian Plains and entered the foothills of The Alps. This was the valley that led to Austria, the route Napoleon had taken when he had invaded Italy centuries before. The mountains got higher and higher as the train sped North. We arrived in Trento an hour later. Our directions were to walk a few hundred meters up from the main train station to a smaller branch line called the Trento-Malč. This train went directly to our valley. Our destination was a little village called Caldes, in the Val di Sole – The Valley of the Sun.

The little electric train finally left and we headed into the mountains. It was a real cattle-train. It stopped every five minutes on the way. It took us almost an hour and a half to get the Caldes. We got off the train and looked around. We were high in the mountains. There was a good deal of snow on the immediate peaks, and it was much colder than Verona had been. We shouldered our gear and walked into the little village. There was nobody to be seen. Dogs barked at our passing. The village looked like it hadn’t changed for a thousand years. We headed down out of the village towards the river. We figured that the rafting base had to be down there somewhere. We came to a bridge and got our first look at The Noce River. It was a narrow, rocky river, only about 100 meters wide. The water thundered under the bridge. It was quite a high level. We stared at the river for a few minutes looking at the obvious lines through the rapids and then we continued over the bridge where we found the rafting base.

There was a little office with a smiling, chubby lady behind the desk. She came running out with a big smile on her face. This was Carla and she apologized profusely that nobody had been at the station to meet us. We told her not to worry about it. Charlia wasn’t there, but she got someone else to mind the office and she took us back into the village to the guides apartment. It faced onto the main piazza. It looked to be about 500 years old. We walked up the lobby stairs and she knocked on the door of the apartment. The door was opened by a young, smiling Aussie guide named Josh. There was also a young couple, Nick and Emma. Nick was the guide, Emma was his girlfriend. They were very young and had bagged the main room. The house was cool, there was a mural on the ceiling of the living room. We dumped our stuff on our beds. I’d sort out the accommodation later. All I knew was that I was buggered if a bunch of young kids on their first trip overseas were going to grab the best rooms.

There was another guide as well, but he was up in the village bar getting wasted. They told me his name and I couldn’t believe it. I wandered up to the bar and sure enough it was Maz. I’d worked with him in Cairns years before.

He saw me and let out a huge sigh of relief. “Thank Christ you’re here. I’m going insane hanging around with fresh-faced youngsters. They’re doing my head in.”

He bought me a beer, and we caught up. He’d spent the last six months rafting in Peru, and had come straight from there. “I’m going into coke withdrawal,” he told me. “I spent six months with a couple of grams up my nose every day. At least they’ve got pot here.”

Maz was in his late thirties. He had dreadlocks and a scraggy face. He had a joint hanging out of his face. He was disreputable. He was not to be trusted. He filled me in oh how the base worked, the different personalities and possible problems. There was a South African guide called Ralph who was here with his wife. They had gone away for a few days. Maz was skeptical of his abilities on the river.

The next day we met the boss, Charlia. We took a raft and went down the entire 25km section of river, taking turns on the stick so as to show him we could actually guide. The river was non-stop rapids for its entire length. It was fun guiding a technically challenging river again, having to actually zip through large rocky sections, as opposed to just punching through enormous waves and holes on the Nile. The boss seemed to be a head case. He was weird, moody, and his English wasn’t any good so we had problems communicating. The South African got back and we did another trip down the river. It was obvious that he was doing what I’d done all those years ago – he was faking it.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:13 AM   #167
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Re: On Changing your Life

ads,

It's pretty awesome (and I'm pretty jealous) that your latest installment seems almost boring and ordinary compared to some of your exploits so far.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:18 AM   #168
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Re: On Changing your Life

Quote:
ads,

It's pretty awesome (and I'm pretty jealous) that your latest installment seems almost boring and ordinary compared to some of your exploits so far.
Ha, that's what I'm afraid of. I think I should have changed the order to Italy - Africa.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:27 AM   #169
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Re: On Changing your Life

ads,

Just include many tales of hot Italian and Spanish chicks and all will be good.
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Old 02-23-2007, 11:59 AM   #170
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Re: On Changing your Life

Poster: El Diablo
Subject: Re: On Changing your Life
02/14/07 09:13 PM
Quote:
mazungu,

Awesome stuff.


Poster: El Diablo
Subject: Re: On Changing your Life
02/15/07 05:09 PM
Quote:
Guys,

Speaking for everyone, this is awesome stuff and we all want TONS more, but I think that's been said enough times now and is starting to clutter up the thread a bit, so please don't respond just to write "awesome stuff, want more!" - I think by now we can all agree on that. Of course, feel free to make comments/questions and whatever else about the posts.
Poster: El Diablo
Subject: Re: On Changing your Life
02/23/07 02:13 AM
Quote:
ads,

It's pretty awesome (and I'm pretty jealous) that your latest installment seems almost boring and ordinary compared to some of your exploits so far.
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Old 02-23-2007, 03:39 PM   #171
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Re: On Changing your Life

well done detective
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Old 02-23-2007, 04:35 PM   #172
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Re: On Changing your Life

AEKD,

5 minute ban for insolence.
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Old 02-24-2007, 12:43 PM   #173
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Re: On Changing your Life

Quote:
ads,

It's pretty awesome (and I'm pretty jealous) that your latest installment seems almost boring and ordinary compared to some of your exploits so far.
ya, I feel the same way. Living in a place like Italy would probably be the pinnacle of excitement in my life.

Adsman,
I get the impression that living this way, you have to sacrifice the chance for real money, education, and probably a chance at a family (or most guides choose not to). It sounds like you will always end up where you started, just older with a lot of great experiences. Agree/Disagree?
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Old 02-24-2007, 03:02 PM   #174
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Re: On Changing your Life

Thought people might like this link to a bunch of scenes from Blood Diamond since you'd mentioned its depiction of life for whites in Africa was pretty accurate.
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Old 02-24-2007, 03:08 PM   #175
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Re: On Changing your Life

BTW: I bought a one way ticket to Tokyo last night. Leave on March 14th.

Japanese school year starts in April and I'm going to try to line up a teaching gig.
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