Saturday, January 02, 2010

There are other things besides the masonry that are unsettling

The first thing I noticed in the airport here is that is smelled of smoke. At first I chalked it up to national variations in smoking laws. We lived in Vermont when it became the first (or possibly one of the first) state to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. Libertarian as I am, I opposed these laws even as my pleasure in eating-out rose. Anyway, we would visit NY and MA fairly often and each time would be shocked at first by the smell of smoke in eating establishments. The airport here was like that, but I looked around for evidence: I couldn't find either smokers nor no smoking signage. It remained a draw until we went outside to catch our ride: The smell was just the same, only stronger.

Our guides insisted that this was fog, but my nose said it was some kind of wood or paper burning smell--kind of like what hangs over a campground in the Summer.

It was weaker inside of the hotel and weaker yet inside of our rooms, but never absent. Large metro areas often have air pollution, but the ones I've been too mostly featured the hydrocarbon varieties--diesel soot, gasoline exhaust--that sort of thing. Manhattan was a little of an exception, what with the street vendors cooking out of carts, but this was far stronger.

As we traveled about the city, I saw that people would routinely gather sticks or trash and burn it. It has been cold here, so it may be for warmth, but my in-laws say it always smells like that, so possibly it is just to get rid of refuse.

There are some benefits though: Light rays!

In the masonry belt

Hot places seem to be made mostly of masonry while cooler places use wood. I'm not sure of what the reasons are for this; I presume it is some combination of material availability as well as suitability to the climate. Heavy stone, concrete or brick structures are hard to keep warm in Winter but they are great for staying cool in hot weather. Also, in the US South West, the Medereranian and the Middle East there is not so much forrest, so it all kind of makes sense.

So, I have been in a place where nothing looks familiar, since I have always lived in Northern climes. It is a lot like being around an "announcer". This is a term I just made-up since I don't know if there is an actual name for this personality. What it is is a person that makes declarative statements all the time: It can be very draining in either of the two flavors. Flavor one, they stay things which are true and obvious--the implication being that you are an idiot for not already knowing each fact which is pointed to. The other flavor is worse, they make declarations which are risible, false or wrong-headed. You are left implicitly agreeing to their nonsense if you stay silent, or stuck arguing with an idiot if you don't stay silent. The constant revisitation of (sound) assumptions leaves one tired and wrung-out.

It is sort of similar when you are in a forign place. Nothing looks familiar and so the assumptions about what you will see, hear and smell are not met and you get that same feeling of unease.

Also, when masonry is not properly maintained--it really shows.

Properly maintained:

Not properly maintained.