Category Archives: World Travel

Postcard from South Africa

We’ve finally made a safe return from our recent trip across the Middle East, and boy, are we glad to be home. No more sand, no more heat, no more staying up all night, no more Ramadan, no more baksheesh… We’re happy to be back to the life we want to live, going to shows, sleeping until noon, blogging and tweeting, and running amok right here in Baltimore.

This trip took us to Aqaba Jordan, Jeddah Saudi Arabia, Karachi Pakistan, Dammam Saudi Arabia, Shuwaikh Kuwait, Shuaiba Kuwait, Umm Qasr Iraq, Dubai UAE, Manama Bahrain, Karachi again, and (oddly) Port Elizabeth South Africa.

Rather than try to sum up all of that travel in one blog post, we’re just going to give you the barest little impression of the Streets of South Africa, which is kind of like Oakland, but even blacker.

Port Elizabeth’s old colonial city hall is still a functioning municipal building.

The colonial era Library, across the plaza from city hall and complete with a statue of Queen Victoria bustles with uniformed school children.

Virtually every flat surface in Port Elizabeth is completely covered in adverts for quack abortion services. Penis enlargement is also offered while you wait.

South African medicine is obviously much more highly evolved than our own. Their doctors can get you a promotion, help you win the lottery, recover stolen property, bring back lost lovers, and cure Aids, all for 50 Rand.($6.50)

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The Chop Goes to the Middle East… Again

It’s the last week of June.

Do you know what that means?

It means we’re going to do the same exact thing we did in the last week of June last year…

which was to go to the desert for several months.

The Saudis are known for their playful sense of humor, flirtatious women and joie de vivre... right?

We’ve got bills, you know?

Grown folks’ problems.

And blogging doesn’t pay those bills. Doesn’t solve those grown folks’ problems.

So we’re gonna put the blog on hiatus until October.

We’re gonna go over to the desert and sweat our ass off and try not to get it shot off.

Wish us luck.

See you when we get back.

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The Chop Returns From Ascension Island

Okay, so we actually returned from Ascension a week ago. We’ve been keeping it low key ever since. We haven’t fully been back in the swing of things since we’re just now getting our internet connection and cable re-installed. It’s troubling how bored we’ve been this past week without them, especially since we didn’t have either for the duration of our trip. On top of that, we’re already looking for another job. This should be more of a brief stopoff between trips than an extended vacation.

We could tell you all about Ascension, but the truth is that it makes Lake Wobegon look like Las Vegas for all the excitement available there. It was, however, the first trip we’ve taken since having access to a half decent camera phone, so we’ll let this selection of photos we took describe the trip for you. Enjoy.

(Click on the images for larger versions.)

A view of the island from 2 miles offshore, NE of Georgetown.

What you get in the way of a welcome.

Everyone is very happy to be British.

The Old Marine Barracks and former Exiles' Club.

A ship riding at anchor.

The island's tiny church...

...Which may or may not be made of gingerbread.

"Long Beach", which isn't particularly long, is where giant sea turtles come to lay their eggs.

The Obsidian Hotel. Finest lodgings for a thousand miles around.

The Ascension Government. All of it.

A sample of the decor at the Saints' Club.

The Royal Mail.

A random mosque site on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Where the USAF Space Command goes to get drunk.

Prickly pear cactus. One of the few things that will grow in volcanic rock.

Skittles is the island's major drinking diversion.

The Saints at the Two Boats club take it very seriously.

Don't blink, you'll miss it.

The former site of a WWII era US Army field hospital.

The entrance to Green Mountain National Park.

A parting shot of Green Mountain from Two Boats. Look closely for the colony's flag flying over the house.

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The Chop’s Souvenir Giveaway Contest

Well, we’ve returned from poaching giant sea turtles on Ascension Island just in time for our birthday weekend, and all of the well wishes and liquor and cake has us in a generous, giving mood.

Everything in the gift shop had a turtle on it. Everything.

Roommate is officially gone from the Chophouse, and with him went the cable and internet access which were in his name, and which he had been paying for per our agreement. It’s kind of hard to write a daily blog without the internet, so regular postings will remain suspended while we wait impatiently for the Comcast installer to show up late this week. in the meantime, please be pleased to occupy yourselves with our first ever BLOG GIVEAWAY CONTEST.

We bought an extra souvenir on our trip to Ascension, and we’ll be giving it away to one lucky Chopper. this shot glass (pictured, approximate retail value £2.) could be all yours. All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment under this entry naming the most exotic place to which you’ve ever traveled. If you’ve never been anywhere more exotic than say, Delaware, then just put that. The winner will be chosen at random. We’ll contact the winner by email, and send you the glass via US mail.

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The Chop Goes to Ascension Island

Yes, Choppers, The time has come for us to once again leave you high and dry for a while. Our bags are packed, our affairs are in order, and our blog is on hiatus for the next several weeks.

It’s been pretty sweet hanging around this winterlong, doing the whole home for the holidays, eat a ton of food, drink copious amounts of booze and sleep 12 hours a day thing, but it’s time we got back to work. After all, this whole blog business is less than lucrative and the mortgage here at the Chophouse isn’t going to pay itself. Tomorrow we’re going to get on a plane, and eventually end up on Ascension Island. We’ll probably be back in 5-8 weeks.

Ascension. 7° 56′ 0″ S, 14° 25′ 0″ W

A lot of you were more than a little curious when we turned up at Diego Garcia last year. These places are insanely remote and inaccessible to just about everyone. Up until now, we’ve kept our occupation a secret as part of our identity, but the time has come to make it known.

The Chop is a poacher of exotic endangered sea turtles.

We go to the ends of the earth with an Ahab-like obsession to track, hunt, and destroy as many sea turtles as we can find. This enables us to maintain our luxe Baltimore lifestyle for months on end without working. A couple of giant shells and a few pounds of turtle meat can keep a man in the finer things for quite some time. That’s why we spent so much time in the Emirates and Bahrain on the last trip. Where do you think the market for endangered trophy turtles is? America? Oh hell no! Those Arab sheiks and princes eat that shit up though. They love it. You haven’t lived until you’ve dipped turtle-hummus out of its own shell or seen an 18 year old Arab belly-dancer raqs sharqi on the back of a gilded loggerhead. Trust us, you’ll never go back to the Hustler Club again after that.

Look at those beady little eyes. Pure evil.

But why do we do it? How could we sink so low as to prey upon these defenseless, endangered, majestic creatures? (You mean, aside from the money and exotic travel and thrill of the hunt and general Hemingway-esque appeal of it all?) We’ll tell you. We HATE turtles.

We hate their little turtle faces. We hate that they’re hiding in shells all the time. We hate the fact that they have flippers instead of legs. We hate that they’re all old. We hate that they’re slow. We hate that they lay dozens of eggs at a time. Delicious eggs. We hate that they look like dinosaurs. We hate that people think they’re all wise and shit. Shut up turtle! You’re not smarter than me! We hate that they’re not mammals. That’s cold blooded, yo. We hate that they spend 100% of their time eating and sleeping. Get a job. We hate that they can hold their breath longer than we can. We hate Charles Darwin because he was a turtle-lover. We even hate the Terps. Go Duke! We hate that that captain from Whale Wars loves turtles. Fuck that guy too.

The Chop's most painful childhood memory.

But why hate so much? It’s personal. A turtle killed the Chop’s father! And not how you think either. It wasn’t choking on turtle soup or being crushed to death while sunbathing in the Bahamas. It was the assassination of Papa Chop by the coward Michelangelo. He posed as a pizza delivery boy and nunchucked our father to death, escaping down an open manhole. Ever since then, we’ve pursued him with futility to the far reaches of the globe. It is our life’s work to seek him out and make him pay with his life for that hateful deed. Him, and all testudines cryptodira everywhere. Revenge, thy name is Chop!

Seriously though: We’re going to Ascension tomorrow. We’ll be off the internet for a while, but we’ll try to take some better pictures now that we have a half decent camera phone. We’ll post them when we return.

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On the Chop’s Visit to Diego Garcia

As you may know, we spent most of the summer working overseas, mostly in Bahrain and the Emirates. One of the highlights of our travels though was the couple of days we got to spend on the island of Diego Garcia.

For the unfamiliar, Diego Garcia is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. It’s little more than the tiny outline of a footprint (literally, it’s footprint shaped) in a vast, vast ocean. The whole of the island is given over to a joint UK/US military base, and as such it’s not only one of the most remote, but one of the most unique inhabited places on earth. It didn’t take us very long to see that Diego has its very own culture, which is an odd mixture of naval regulation, British propriety, Filipino culture, and Margaritaville, which is wholly unlikely but highly functional.

This is a pic from our crappy obsolete cell phone taken outside the Diego Garcia USS. And it

The island itself is literally a tropical paradise. It’s a ring of pure white sand surrounded by bright blue waters which are swim-able every day of the year and which provide some of the best sport and recreational fishing in the world. Exotic crabs scuttle everywhere, and coconuts fall to the sand and lie undisturbed long enough to split and sprout. You can literally see new trees growing out of coconuts.

As beautiful as is the island, most of its buildings are equally ugly. The architecture is as drab and uninspired as any other military installation. Most of them are little more than a box of cinder blocks with a number painted on the side.

Outside the px downtown they have one of those mileage signs. Bottom line, you're a long way from anywhere.

A free bus line runs around the island, and will take you Downtown from any point on the road. Caution is necessary though, since a first time visitor may have a lot of trouble recognizing his destination as any sort of proper ‘downtown’. What passes for Downtown is just a few squat, nondescript buildings, not very close to each other. A hapless bus rider could easily miss it and see the bus turn around, and then miss his original stop again since the bus will not actually stop unless you yell “BUS STOP!” at the driver.

Once you get downtown though there actually is plenty to do, even if you can knock it all out in a day or two. There’s your choice of 4 different beach bars (although beach bars are less fun without any women around, but the drinks are surprisingly cheap), the Diego Museum, a couple of restaurants, the old sugar plantations and cemetery to tour, a bowling alley, paintball, a free movie theater, basketball, softball, etc. and of course, the fishing.

In fact, if we were to go there permanently and attempt to write a daily events blog, there’s be not shortage of material. The Navy has something planned for every day of the month, boat races, volleyball tournaments, dominoes, organized tennis, and so on.

Oh, the places you'll go!

Still and all though, we’re glad we got to see Diego the way we did… in 2 days. It’s the sort of tiny little town where once you’re bored with it, you’re really, really bored.

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We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Chopping

And we’re back.

After 3 months of sweating our ass off in the deserts of Fujairah, Bahrain and Kuwait, the Chop is now officially unemployed once again! We’re back to living life the way God intended; Sleeping until noon, drinking coffee and goofing around online until evening, then switching to whiskey and painting the town.

Unfortunately, the real Bahrain is not so cute.

We’re looking to spend the next few days decompressing after all that, and after 36 hours of air travel. We’re also especially looking forward to updating our wardrobe for fall after wearing nothing but working clothes for 3 months, as well as making a tour of inspection of all the spots that have popped up since we left (looking at you, Johnny Rad’s and Bluegrass).

Good food and booze rate as high priority now, since we’ve had little other than canned and frozen veggies, bland salads and instant pancit noodles while we were gone. Liquor too can be pretty hard to find in the desert, especially during Ramadan, and we’re mighty thirsty. Don’t bother looking for pumpkin ale up at Wine Source from now on, since we’re going to be buying all of it tomorrow.

There’s really not too much to say about Arab countries. We don’t recommend going if you can help it. The most interesting part of the whole summer was the brief side trips we got to make to Djibouti and Diego Garcia, which we’ll talk a little about in separate posts later this week. If you’ll excuse us now though, there’s a bourbon and cider with our name on it.

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