“So I mean in terms of frustration level or irritation I mean, how do you feel about that? That you know my passport allows me to go to Uruguay on the hydrofoil for the day trip from BA and just because you were born in Thailand you are not getting that same freedom or flexibility.”
Ric Gazarian asks this question to Pongtharin Tanthasindhu, a Thai, on the Counting Countries podcast. (Around 47-49 mins) And Pongtharin answers:
“It is what it is and there's nothing I can do.”
It is what it is???!!!!! It is what it is?!... Is it what it is??!!!
I mean, sure, it is what it is, BUT it shouldn't be what it is. Because what it is is the most ridiculous concept in the world that we all somehow keep on believing!
It shouldn't be what it is. Because it's wrong. It's wrong as in capital letters WRONG! And capital letter wrongs need to be changed. Not accepted as they are.
But how can things be changed if even the people who are discriminated by the system do not feel there is anything wrong.
It despairs me. People's belief in this anachronistic concept of statehood, citizenship etc.
I understand in a way, because I did not see it this way until I travelled to about 110 countries myself on a Turkish passport. We just are raised in this world to believe it is the way things are. But it shouldn't be so.
I hate it that these “shoulds” and “shouldn'ts” eat up my life. But I cannot help it. I suppose that's why I was put on this earth for and that's something I have to and do accept as “It is what it is,” as in “I am what I am.”
But I'm not accepting the unacceptable. And the current political structure of the world is unacceptable.
The economic structure is unacceptable too, but that is another long story.
Pong then says: “There is nothing I can do.”
Sure, there are things that you can do. You can at least start saying that this is UNACCEPTABLE and start banging this being unacceptable in people's heads. At least put a question mark in that place.
At least grab the opportunity to talk about it when somebody brings it up, not brush it away with “It is what it is!”
Oooh, you can tell my frustration and irritation on this matter is danger level high!
I'm the RED ALERT :)
This was the first time we separated from my husband. He went home to Rome a week before us; after all, he is a slave, making money for our family, and needs to go to work.
Atatürk Airport had been bombed two days before his return. We were a bit worried; yet, a bit secure as well, since security is tightened after such incidents and the chances of a re-occurrence in a short time is low.
He had made it back fine. Now, it was time for our return. Lara had gone to bed an hour ago. We had only nine hours to our flight, the taxi was supposed to come in six hours. I had just packed the bags and was hoping to crash for a short rest. As I was zipping up the last one up, my phone rang. It was Carlo. He said “There has been a coup in Turkey.”
I said “What?!” I was dumbfounded. What was to happen now?
“Don't tell your mother,” Carlo advised. Of course I wasn't going to, she'd be too worried.
Right after hanging up, I opened up Twitter to follow what was going on. Then I got an sms from a worried friend asking what I was doing. And before long, my mother's phone rang too. It was my brother. Telling her about the coup. So much for keeping it from my mother! Well, I suppose there is no way to hide such things for long.
My mother's response was a bit different than mine; you see, her source of news is different. She went and turned on the TV. We were now glued to our screens. I was trying to keep up with both the TV and the internet through my phone. Jets started flying around. They were passing so close by that I worried if they'd be falling on us. Plus, the noise was so loud, it could wake Lara up. Indeed she did. She woke up and asked me what that noise was. I said “Some planes are flying. Go back to sleep.” Luckily, she did go back quick. She had had a long tiring day.
After a while, the azan (the call to prayer) started. Not the usual one but one of the prayers we are very familiar with. The loudspeaker of the mosque had been upped. And they wouldn't just finish. There was a short break and it would start again. There was a short break and it would start all over again. I wished they would stop. I didn't need dealing with Lara up all night with this stress. I prayed and begged them to stop while grumbling that there were sick and old people and children sleeping and they had no respect. Well... I don't know if one thinks of others in such situations. Yet, I certainly couldn't see the point of all this noise made by these prayers.
Luckily for me and for all of Turkey I suppose, the coup ended up as an unsuccessful one and we knew it before the night was over. However, we also knew we weren't going to be able to fly out the next day. I called the taxi-driver, he told me about how there were gunshots in the taxi station, how his friends got stranded at the airport. We both agreed there was no way they were going to open up the airports in the next couple of hours and there was no need to even attempt to get there.
So we resigned to our fate and being stuck with my mother for some more time. The flights were to resume from the next day on. However, there was no seat on our Alitalia flight for the next three days. As I did not wish to stay longer in Turkey but wanted to be with my husband, I checked Pegasus. They had a flight the next day out. They were not cheap, but still reasonable. So I bought the tickets and we flew back. Reuniting with my husband after a stressful episode.
Yeah... So why did I write about this after such a long time? Ahhh... It's another wonderful airline story! Read the wonderful here to mean awful.
In such force majeure situations, the airlines refund the ticket money to their customers. This is done without any questions or conditions. It is supposed to be automatic. However, this turned out to be another snake story. I am fed up with these snake stories with institutions.
Anyway... I had bought the tickets with miles from my credit card. So Alitalia had to return the miles back to it. However, to do it, they said the agency who issued the tickets had to ask for a refund, they wouldn't do it with my asking for it. Now... There is no way my mind can grasp why such a thing should be necessary. We didn't take the flight, they know it, and they know that they are obliged to refund us. But no, they asked me for the request from my bank. So I contacted my bank. They said they had already sent the request. Now... What do you do in such situations? I mean what can you do? You are just stuck. One unresponsive institution against another unresponsive institution. And you are left in the middle.
As this is Italy and Alitalia, my husband took up the task. I don't know how many calls he made over two years, only to be told “Oh sorry”, they'd be getting back to him. Guess if anybody ever got back? Of course not! They've pocketed the money. (Just like Turkish Airlines.) Why should they do something to give it back? You are stuck in limbo. Waiting and waiting. Then calling up again, being stalled again, and getting no result again. This repeating until you give up.
Well... I'm not someone who gives up. But from now on, I will try to avoid such situations and try to overcome my sense of “right thing to do” and trying to make people or institutions “behave”. It takes too much time and effort, drains all your energies and is definitely not worth it in the end. I wish I could learn this lesson. Of course I wish more that I did not need to learn any lesson and instead everybody behaved decently in the first place. Without force.
In short, this calling Alitalia and not getting a result went on for two years. Twice, my husband said he came across a very understanding person who promised to solve the situation, twice more nobody ever got back to him. It was all a pretense.
After two years... I mean can you imagine?... I feel exhausted even writing this. This should be such a shame on a company's name. Whenever I was saying that Alitalia was a flag carrier of a European country but their services could not even match up with a low-cost airline of Turkey my husband retorted: “They are going bankrupt, what do you want from them?” I mean he was the one making the calls, being held up on the line, writing the emails, he should have been angry. I suppose he was; yet, there was also a sentimental attachment to an institution relating to his country I suppose.
In the end, my husband came up with another idea. You see, he is a public relations man. He said “I never do this, I never use my colleagues, but I'll call the public relations of Alitalia to see if they can do anything. They wouldn't want bad press.”
Not that he would threaten. Oh no, not my husband. He is so unlike me. I get heated up and hurl threats, even though I know they are going to be of no use. My threats are ineffective as I am a nobody. I am just like a helpless child, throwing pebbles to big dogs that got my candy and walked away. Yeah, I am a child whose candy has been taken away and is crying to get it back. (Writing this, I wonder if such a thing happened when I was a small child. I wish my mother had kept a diary. God knows what kind of insights I might have got to my psychology from those pages. We all might benefit from such documentation.: As I believe childhood is a very determining part of our lives.)
Anyway... My husband talked to someone from the public relations of Alitalia. The man profusely apologized and said someone would call him back. It took a week, but someone indeed called him back. The woman explained that Alitalia had gone bankrupt last year, that is 2017 April. That was probably why nobody knew what could be done and they didn't answer. Well... This is not an explanation, if they didn't know what to do, they should have told us the situation. The woman said she'd be having a look at what she could do. A week later, she came back with an offer of giving us 5000 miles per person. I want to write this out in letters so that you don't think there is a zero missing. Now that's an insult! It is just mocking you! With 10.000 miles I cannot even get one one-way ticket to Istanbul, let alone two. Besides, when they give miles, you still have to pay the taxes and to use those miles with Alitalia, it would be costing me more than buying a ticket from Pegasus!
So Carlo wrote to the woman saying how belittling this offer was, Alitalia being Alitalia and the fact that we have waited for more than two years, wasted so much time to get a refund, add to it all the energies let alone all the frustration. Besides, I was upset that they were trying to sell us something instead of giving money back. It wasn't even something that cost them anything. What's more, they didn't fly to Turkey anymore. So they couldn't compensate on the same route. Checking out the destinations they flew to, there was only Algeria I could be interested in. I checked. Rome-Istanbul is 857 miles, Rome-Algiers is 616 miles. So they could just give me a free return ticket there. It's even a shorter distance. So we asked for that. They came back saying they couldn't give free tickets, they could only give miles. 20.000 miles for Algeria. Again... This doesn't really help me. I can get a return ticket with Air France much cheaper than I need to pay for the taxes with Alitalia. Sure, the flight would not be direct but I do not care much about that. Besides, I do not wish to pay any money out of my pocket for a ticket that should be reimbursed in total by them. Isn't it only natural that I shouldn't?
Meanwhile, I checked their Miles Program and it actually was 30,000 miles to Algeria and we could actually pay taxes with miles. The representative said that Algeria was currently 20,000 miles for return, the program that listed it as 30,000 was to be valid after November 2018. We could pay for the taxes only partially. They could issue me 30,000 miles to cover that part of the taxes, but I still needed to pay 80 Euros for the ticket.
That wasn't really satisfactory for me. I'd only be getting a compensation of 50 Euros in such a case. And even at the lowest promotional prices, such money would never get you two flights to Rome from Istanbul. So we would still have lost money. I tried to find another option.
When visiting Alitalia's website I had noticed there was a promotion of 20 % off to Male, Maldives. That was a ticket we could use. If they could give me 80.000 miles, we could buy two more tickets for Carlo and Lara, Alitalia would be making a profit, having sold two tickets, we would be getting back what we paid for the two Istanbul-Rome tickets moneywise. Fair deal. 80.000 miles might seem too much to ask, -in fact Carlo objected to it when I told him to propose that,- however, given that we'd still be paying for the taxes we would have just compensated for what we had paid, it wasn't as if we were ripping Alitalia off or profiting from the situation. What's more, they weren't taking money out of their pockets, just giving miles which can be used only when seats are available.
They refused. Their answer being another insult, a condescending option. “You can either take the 30.000 miles or just get in line with the list of customers waiting for a refund from the bankrupt Alitalia.”
Of course the latter is out of the question! Get in line for a dubitable refund that may or may not come, with us having to call God knows how many more times. What's more, what we might be getting has already lost more than half of its value with the collapse of the Turkish Lira. Under the circumstances, getting just a fraction is better than nothing.
Ahhh... You would think they put in the miles right away! Oh no no. It was already almost the end of September. I needed to know and make plans to get the ticket before the end of October when the miles would be increasing, I needed to arrange for the visa as well, and I had very little time left as we have a big trip coming at Christmas, so I had only November to travel.
Under the circumstances Carlo was, once again, obliged to write to the customer care asking what had happened. This was 27th of September. We waited for some time. There still were no miles on my account. Finally, on 9th of October, the woman answered. Again saying sorry, -Aah! As if their sorries was worth any currency! We would have been so rich by now. They would be putting the miles in a couple of days. So now it's the 12th of October, still no word or movement on Alitalia's part. My husband calls again. The Customer Service agent apologizes... -We know that story very well by now, right? Insincere sorries that do not serve anything. Customers need action, not words! If only these institutions got this.- He says he sees the request and that it is under process, but he cannot say when it is going to be put into the account. My husband says this is not acceptable, that he will be calling again on Monday. Oh my life... wasted after all these pointless struggles because of people's/instiutions' incompetence. (or unwillingness to give back what they did not deserve to get in the first place.)
But it doesn't work. I may get to make them act in the right way. I may “win” and get what I want. But in the end, I lose. I have already lost so much of my life, so much of my life devoted to a useless/unfruitful task. Because they may give me what I wanted in the end, they will just say “Oh, this was a tough nut” but they do the same thing with the next client they encounter and mostly get their way. Overall, they are the ones in the plus. A lawyer even told me companies even make calculations taking into account any losses they may incur, any extra costs they may need to pay lawyers or as court fees for insistent clients, then they report to the CEO bragging how much they saved because 80 % of the clients they cheated did not seek recompensation. They may have paid 10 % more to the 20 %, but they are still in the plus.
It's 21st of October now. So the month finishes, the miles necessary to fly to Algiers increases to 30,000. Then, it will be as if I did not get any monetary refund for the flight me and my daughter did not use. Not even 50 Euros. I will have just gained about ten hours of flight time because I'd flying direct instead of with a stop-over. Of course, we have spent way much more time on trying to get Alitalia to do something simple, like refund an unused ticket. It's just so annoying: the helplessness of the individual against companies. It's been more than 27 months since the coup and the cancelled flight, no result from Alitalia. A European flag-career! Shame on you!
I will try not to fall through these rabbit holes again. But living a life you inevitably come across such situations. What do you when that happens? Am I supposed to give it up and not try from the beginning, or should I try a bit and give up if I don't get any result in a certain time or after a couple of attempts? What is the strategy, what should be the strategy?
Yeah, I suppose come to a decision about a certain amount of effort before you start and stick to it whatever response you get. You may be feeling you are very close to a result, but if the time is up consider the game over and move on. Otherwise, you waste too much of precious life. It's like waiting at the bus stop. If a certain bus does not come within a certain amount of time, get on a taxi and head to your destination. Or start walking or hitch-hiking, just head for any other transportation or even take a different road, the important thing is to get moving again. People get stuck because of the amount of investment they put in a task, in a goal, on a person. That's where you start stagnation and rotting. Put a Stop-Loss order and move on.
If you do not, if you choose to continue the fight, may God help you.
There are a group of people who count countries, countries that they travel to. Of course, what's counting? How do you count?
There are many different ways of counting, there are many clubs and groups separating the world to a number of regions ranging from 193 to 1281. 193 is the generally accepted minimum taken as the standard as it is the number of UN countries. There is no argument in that number, which is also what Guinness counts for “travelling the world” records as in first American, youngest black etc.
Jorge Sanchez, -who is #1 traveller on Nomad Mania, a site that lists the different categories,-
likens countries to books and says “You have to read the books, it's not enough to have them in your library.” That's a very good point. He is criticizing, albeit indirectly, those country “collectors” who just step a foot across a border and say they've been to a country. However, there is still a big point he misses too. And that is:
What people call countries are artificial borders, the real countries are people.
7 Billion Countries
So we have 7 billion books to read now. Ok, let's cut out the children, but perhaps not even them. They may have had short lives, therefore short stories but their stories might be amazing. Some books are long but boring. Yet even those ones have something interesting in them. Maybe just a line. A line worth reading. Some books invite you in and you may enter with caution, others grab you by the hand and drag you in, yet others take time to get into but once you do, you lose yourself in them. Or you just get to see a reflection of yourself in them.
As we cannot read all the books, books in the literal sense, i.e. published books, or all the people in the world, we have to choose. Travel exposes us to books which we won't be able to find at home or books that we may not pick out of the shelf ourselves but may find interesting and worth reading if we find it in our hands. Or we at least get to read a chapter of those books.
By passing through the lives of people in unknown far-away places you get to get a glimpse of a cross-section of their lives.
Nowadays you get to read about many books online as we have the chance to learn about so many people through their blogs. The downside of the internet is that it is mostly dominated by the “Western” world and mainly to the “haves” who get to tell their stories and put out their opinions. The “have-nots” do not have much of a say in this world. They are too busy trying to survive. They don't get their voices heard. Their voices are so weak. If ever, it's the foreign agencies who speak on their behalf. Or rarely, a few remaining real journalists out there give a voice to them.
So to me, travel is perhaps getting to find the real stories. But travel is not an
imperative. There are wonderful books that can introduce you to the “culture” of a place. I'm not saying reading a book replaces seeing and experiencing things for yourself. However, it is important to keep this point in mind: Someone having travelled to a country, even be it for a long time, DOES NOT necessarily mean he knows the “culture” of a place or has gained a lot of insight. Travel is an important part because of first-hand knowledge, however it's not of the greatest import as some people try to make it be.
Travel is creating your adventure, travel is making yourself open to serendipity to whatever may come your way, travel is learning and growing through interactions that you would not get at home living your routine life. Travel is “on the road” education. But it's not the ONLY way nor the foremost to be revered. There are many ways of experiencing and acquiring knowledge. Even knowledge is not enough, wisdom is what we should aspire to acquire.
There are other essential traits of paramount significance that should accompany travel: like the capacity of logic and reasoning, like a good-heart, like a deep and intense care for the world, for people.
There are, -I might say many- petty people who are only obsessed with themselves and their exploits, not caring about the world they claim to have seen extensively. So reading the 193 books, or even the 7 billion ones is not enough. The important thing is if we can live in harmony, or at least without hurting others, and add some value to the world we all live in as we pass by.
Hear it from a social outcast ;)
7 Billion countries is an impossibility. So let's try a different approach:
To look at it from another point of view:
As in the dictum of the Baha'i faith, THE EARTH IS BUT ONE COUNTRY.
Then, of course, that would leave people without any competition at all as everybody on earth has been to that one country ;)))
As for the fastest to having been to that one country... Well, we'll need to decide if it is the shortest birth counting from the start of the contractions to getting out of the mother's womb -sorry, any Cesarean sections are disqualified for this category- or the shortest gestation period. The poll is out on that ;))
Counting to 193+2
Counting to 193 (or +2) is the worst definition of a country. Think of it. How are borders defined? Either by bloody wars or by bloody politics. As Manny Neira puts it:
“To be recognised by the United Nations, all that matters is that a government hold power: it doesn't matter how it is held. Indeed, so non-judgemental is the UN that should a coup d'etat replace one dictator with another, after a reasonable delay to ensure that the new thugs are securely in office, they too can join the club. The UN doesn't ask embarrassing questions about how you came to govern. The currency is pure realpolitik: if you rule, you're in.
In fact, United Nations is a cartel for the world's ruling classes...”
It's all about power, not upsetting the big thugs. What's the fault of poor Somaliland that not a single country recognizes it even though it's been running a rather peaceful place for about what, 27-28 years now? UN is a club of thugs.
Yeah, I'm using these thugs' definition as a guideline too, but it is only to spotlight the idiocy of this antiquated and anachronistic belief or faith in borders. It is to ask for the abolition of statehood/citizenship as we know it.
We need a new political organization.
Oh well... Until then, we enjoy this game we are playing. I wonder what future generations will think when they look back at us.
Everybody agrees that the Holocaust was and is a horrible crime. I mean I suppose every decent person would see it that way or at least speak of it as so. Of course there are those who deny the Holocaust, claiming it did not happen or was greatly exaggerated; but I’m not talking about that, I’m just saying that everybody would agree that genocide, or any kind of discriminated mass killing is an awful act if not a crime against humanity.
On the other hand, what you call genocide is debatable. It may be so, I’m not going to discuss that here either; what I wish to do is use the Armenian issue of Turkey as an example.: without taking sides. Thing is… We, the Turkish, may not have killed Armenians in furnaces like the Nazis but as far as I know, we have driven them out of their homes in the dead of winter. -When I say we, I’m not taking it as a personal issue, I have a problem with such pronouns identifying with a crowd. I believe We to be the Biggest Lie and the Most Dangerous Word in the World. So I use it cautiously, I’m just using it as a way of saying here. Going back to the main point…- What happens to people who are pushed out on the road in the snow without any provisions? They generally die of exhaustion, cold and hunger, or diseases. So the Turkish government of the time may not have killed the Armenians directly but have certainly caused their death by its action, i.e. sending Armenians in exile.
In the first case of the Holocaust there was a direct killing; here, there is an action causing deaths indirectly. Now let’s come to what is happening today with migrants… As this website is devoted to freedom of movement on the world we are born, you know I’m going to connect the topic there somehow. So… What happens to people who are trying to move from one place to another in the world? They either succeed, or they suffer and go back, or worst case scenario: They die. And why do they die, why has the Mediterranean turned into a graveyard?
Because borders block their movement. Because there are invisible lines being protected. Because countries apply visas according to people’s place of birth and citizenship. In short, because “Western” “modern” governments are not doing anything to actually stop the deaths. By going on with the status-quo, instead of changing the Political Construct of the world and by resting and falling on the safety net of convention… Convention of the Refugee Convention. This Convention is really convenient for them, they save face. It’s just not so convenient for the people it was supposed to be written for: Refugees
Yes, our “civilized” governments and society may look like it’s saving its face and keeping its respectful image… But they do not fool me or the people who can see through their hypocrisy. I’d like to emphasize that they are just as much responsible and guilty of “killing” these people like Hitler. (And just as deplorable if I may say so.) What’s the main difference? Hitler did it on ethnic grounds, the states of today are doing it on the grounds of nationality or rather on wealth of a person. Because you sure can get away from the confines of your nationality if you have money. Even European citizenships are for sale. The most popular is the Portuguese. People with money get away with many things. So it’s not only Birthplace Racism or Global Apartheid, it is Economic Racism and Economic Apartheid as well.
Let’s be honest here. It’s not only the politicians, it’s also us, it’s all of us who “kill” these people. They are dying because our politicians are “protecting” us.
Well… I don’t want to be protected if it’s going to mean the death of so many innocent people whose only crime is to wish to move around the world they were born on. I don’t want the responsibility of their blood on my hands.
I don't even know why we are helping the poor, saving orphans or dying children when we let them die in the end because they don't have enough money and we don't care about them. Or we don't care about them enough. But we still save them, perhaps it's because we like this white-savior feeling, it makes us feel special, so we can gloat in our glory. But we let them die if they try to get into our territory. No no no no, we don't want those poor uneducated people around us, they are inferior. Their inferiority is only good if it serves to boost our egos, awful when they want something better for their lives and go searching for it. Oh, they are going to get our wealth. They are going to get our jobs. That's not okay. What is more than okay is if they do the tough, unpleasant, thus unwanted jobs for dirt-cheap for us. Then we approve, then they get a big thumbs-up from us!
If I need to summarize:
Holocaust: Direct murder
Exile of Armenians: Indirect murder through an action
Migrant Deaths: Indirect murder through inaction
I don't know the law exactly but if Holocaust is First Degree Murder, and Exile of Armenians is Second Degree Murder, then migrant deaths, be it at sea, in the desert, in a detention center or wherever, it is Third Degree Murder; i.e. it is murder after all.
And we are all complicit in these murders. It's only a matter of degree. In the end, we are all Hitlers.