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Mike's Around-The-World Trip Update #16 - 2.27.2005
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apparently osama bin laden has my credit cards.

and my driver's license. and my atm card. he
probably drove his sweetie to a steak dinner and a
movie - all on my tab.

i mean, after all, he could probably get away with it,
impersonating me, because i've been told by some
indonesians that i look like a terrorist. i'm
serious. right there as i played guitar outside a pay
toilet in surabaya, indonesia on the island of java,
between verses of "hotel california", an indonesian
woman pointed to the "wanted: terrorist" poster stuck
to the tiled wall above my head and said i resembled
the man in one of the photos. nope, not me. sorry.
you won't get the 1,000,000,000 rupiah ($100,000)
reward by turning me in.

if they went looking for me they'd find osama anyway.
or maybe saddam hussein. one of those two has my
driver's license and probably has stolen my identity.

i don't know if i believe it though. this is all
according to the chief-of-police on pulau batam, an
island of indonesia just south of singapore. our
conversation went something like this:

"so when i was walking up the stairs of the ferry
someone reached into my side pocket and stole my
wallet. it had my atm card, my driver's license, and
all my credit cards in it. oh, and my boat ticket."

"where from?" he asked.

"from my side pocket."

"no, no, no, " he corrected me, "where you from?"

"america."

"OSAMA BIN LADEN!!!" he shouted.

"uhhhh," i didn't really see how that helped me as he
and his deputies laughed from across the blank desk in
the nearly empty hot office on the sh*tty little
island. "my visa....visa card?" i was there to report
the theft although i knew they wouldn't find it.

"visa? gone? passport gone?" one of the officers asked
as he swallowed his laugh and stared at me with a
wrinkled brow.

"no. passport fine. visa card gone. credit card?"

"oh, ok. no problem, " he said. "no money, no
ticket, no credit card, but have passport, no problem.
no passport, big problem."

ughh.

"you from america?" the chief wanted to nail down this
important piece of information. he had been waiting
to speak since recovering from his first big laugh.

"yes."

"SADDAM HUSSEIN!!!!"

i signaled to the officer who had driven me there that
i was ready to go. we left as the office reverberated
with laughter.

i had to get to the pakistan/afghanistan border to
find my credit cards.

actually i bought another boat ticket and borrowed a
mobile phone to call visa international to cancel my
cards as i crossed the equator on a big boat to
jakarta, indonesia. they sent new ones to bali. i
got them at the ronta bungalows where i was staying
with zac and new friends steve and andrew from
england. got them when i returned from surfing the
big waves in kuta. surfing is great. going to do
more in oz.

snorkeling is another thing i've discovered a love
for. i did some just off shore on the island of palau
tioman in malaysia. zac and i were there with our
friends anna from sweden and yume from japan (photo
#1.) we wound through the coral, trying to avoid the
black urchins, and looked down upon 5 large squids,
tentacles flowing like wild spaghetti. neon fish
darted around. sting rays. man, the sea is
incredible.

so are the rivers. a nice one cuts through taman
negara, a national park in malaysia preserving a 130
million year old jungle. zac and i tubed down the
rapids of that river. we also rode a boat down it
into the jungle and climbed on top of the canopy on
the aptly named canopy walk, 26 meters above the
ground. check out photo #2 attached. our danish
friend louisa is dangling in the middle of the walk in
this shot.

went home to kuala lumpur after that. home. it's any
place you return to. i saw the petronas towers
sticking out of the city, and having been there a week
and a half earlier, felt like i was going home. we
went to a crazy hindu festival there called thai pusan
(photo #3.) i followed the hindus on their pilgrimage
up the stairs into the batu caves, surrounded by
floats and chanting zealots. the folks around me had
swords stuck into their faces, hooks skewered through
their backs, and went into pious trances to express
their devotion to shiva. observing that absolute
dedication to the hindu religion, one that has been
around much longer than christianity, made me laugh
that the christians claim that everyone who doesn't
believe in jesus is going to hell.

come on now. think about that.

the heat of hell can't be much hotter than that at the
equator. someone please turn the thermostat down.
what are pants? can't believe i ever wore those.
being upside down makes me feel strange and the
toilets swirl oddly. all the new stars i've never
seen are incredible. gotta get a star chart.

there are stars on the ground here too. mikko kivisto
is one of those - a superstar, an amazing pal, a
generous sun. my pal from helsinki (photo #4) with
the same name as me, currently lives in singapore.
zac and i visited him and he took care of us.
rollerblading along the ocean, a late night of beers
and jazz, swimming in his pool. he even ordered the
satellite channel for us so we could watch the
superbowl. first superbowl monday of my life. the
patriots won again.

i'm a patriot. love my home country. you won't ever
catch me claiming to be from somewhere else. some
folks say canada when asked (they all ask) but i
won't. if you hate someone because of the country
they are from, you are a nationist - not any different
than a bigot, a racist. judge the individual.
fortunately, most folks do.

no, i say america and then do my best to be an
ambassador to my homeland - the only job most
backpackers have. it's going well. 99% of people out
here don't like our government but they give me a fair
shake. i was warned about indo, was told i'd have a
bad time of it, but the people smiled at me, they
shook my hand, called me "boss", helped me out. only
a couple of them robbed me, but that's happened to me
back home. there they called me kurt cobain and
laughed as they pointed at my case and strummed an air
guitar. indonesians are very friendly and welcoming.
"hey mister! how are you?" they shouted it at me all
the time as i rode on the back of motorcycle taxis
through the islands.

islands? indonesia is all islands. it has one in
particular that i'd dreamt of seeing my whole life:
komodo island; home of the world's largest lizard, the
komodo dragon. andrew, my new traveling buddy from
england, and i left zac on the gili islands where the
sun rises above the mountains in a bold way (photo
#5), and took a boat for 3 days to komodo. we threw
ourselves off the top of the boat on the way (photo
#6) and eventually arrived in komodo where we saw 4 of
the big boys. the one in photo #7 hissed at me as i
snapped the shot.

and then i hissed when i figured out that the
achieving of one dream was the harbinger of another
one ending: i gotta fly. i'm here in east timor where
the atms disperse u.s. dollars and united nations
trucks fill the streets, right across the water from
australia - i can practically see it across the timor
sea - but a boat will not take me there. i am flying.
trying to get around the world without flying, that
was the goal, but i can't do it. gotta fly for 45
minutes. gotta keep on keepin' on though. gotta see
my chicago-buddy jordan in sydney, australia on march
6, so i tightly grip my plane ticket with a small
sense of defeat, and head down the hallway to the air
north plane which will deliver me to the 34th country
of my life.

34 countries....i guess that makes me a global
citizen. maybe next time i get asked the question
"where you from?" i'll answer it in a different way:

"earth. same as you."

keep on keepin' on,
michael

p.s. osama - if you somehow get this e-mail - please
don't get a speeding ticket.

more photos, past updates, random thoughts at
www.michaelkivisto.com.


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