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Current Topic: Travel

What Does a 'Thumbs Up' Mean in Iraq?
Topic: Travel 3:16 pm EST, Mar 29, 2003

] Iraqis are giving passing Americans the "thumbs up" sign,
] which the troops interpret as a symbol of support. But
] many veteran travelers insist that the gesture is a crass
] Middle Eastern insult. How should coalition forces take
] those skyward thumbs?

When I saw the pictures of Iraqis giving the thumbs up to American GIs, this came immediately to my mind as well. Maybe they really are trying to indicate support with an American hand signal. Or maybe not.

In my own travels, I've learned that the difference between giving a positive hand signal and nonverbally cussing someone out can frequently change by no more than a few miles across a border. The "thumbs up" sign is indeed an "Up Yours" sign in many countries. In other areas, the "Okay" signal of making a circle with thumb and forefinger is equivalent to telling someone to go jack themselves off. In Thailand, it's not so much hands, as which ways that someone's *feet* are pointing -- crossing your legs in such a way as to point one foot towards another person nearby is considered a huge insult. And in Malaysia, when I was chatting via sign language with the deaf community there, I soon realized that the reason they kept jumping every time I made the sign for "teacher", was that what in America is the fingerspelling sign for the letter "T", in Malaysia is basically telling someone that they're a piece of excrement!

Indeed, when I arrive in a new country now, one of the first things I do (after learning how to say "Thank You" in the native language), is to doublecheck which hand signals are positive, and which are negative. Otherwise, the first time a local asks me if I want to go to dinner or something, I might be responding unwittingly with "F--k you, sounds like a great idea!"

What Does a 'Thumbs Up' Mean in Iraq?

North Korea Is Dark
Topic: Travel 6:37 pm EST, Mar 26, 2003

] This amazing image is included in the standard US
] Department of Defense briefings on North Korea. It was
] mentioned in a news briefing on 23 December 2002 by
] Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who stated that "If you look
] at a picture from the sky of the Korean Peninsula at
] night, South Korea is filled with lights and energy and
] vitality and a booming economy; North Korea is dark."

I've been looking for a good link to meme this image for awhile. It's a satellite view of the night-time landscape in eastern Asia, including Japan on the right, and the Chinese coast on the left. In the middle is the Korean peninsula. What's remarkable is to see how lit up the southern part of the peninsula is, and how completely dark that the North Korea part of the peninsula is. It's a dramatic indicator of the differing economic and technological levels between North and South.

North Korea Is Dark

Directory of TCC Countries
Topic: Travel 1:01 pm EST, Jan 16, 2003

] Here is the Travelers' Century Club's official list of
] countries, a total of 317 as of January, 2003. Although
] some are not actually countries in their own right, they
] have been included because they are removed from parent,
] either geographically, politically or ethnologically

To belong to the TCC, you must have traveled to at least 100 countries. Some of these areas are highly debatable (for example, they'll even give country "credit" for traveling to remote areas such as Hawaii or Alaska). But I still think it's a useful list, because of its thoroughness.

Directory of TCC Countries

Planetary Society Antarctic Expedition - Elonka's View
Topic: Travel 10:17 pm EST, Dec 16, 2002

I've been to every continent, including Antarctica, which I visited in 1999. To see pictures and an FAQ about my trip, check here.

Planetary Society Antarctic Expedition - Elonka's View

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