Before I'd returned several miles in the direction of Addis Ababa to reach the village of Tulgit, I had been in the more distant town of Kibish.
If I were to make a list of the most remote places I'd ever been to, that list would probably be my favorite list I could make about my travels. "You never know how far you can go until you go too far," someone once said.
Here was that list ...
MOST REMOTE PLACES
1. Kibish, Ethiopia
2. Multinskyy Lakes, Russia
3. Sherxu, Tibet
4. Orango Grande Island, Guinea-Bissau
5. Ruth's school in rural Zambia
HM: Semonkong, Lesotho
If you noticed you'd been to one of those places, you get 10 points. If you noticed you'd been to two of them, you get my house.
In order to reach Russia's Multinskyy Lakes, I'd had to: cross the Ukrainian-Russian border illegally; hitchhike four thousand kilometers to Siberia; hitchhike many more hours to the gorgeous, unpopulated Altai Mountains; cross a passport control post without having my fake visa detected; and hike uphill beside a raging alpine river, making my own path through a forest populated with bears, until I reached the high lakes. One of the greatest places I'd ever been.
But in Kibish and Tulgit, traditional Africans lived without electricity, mobile phones, or clothing.
The "remote" excited me. When I arrived in these places, if I saw some beauty in them, I began to think that they were perfect. Or maybe I felt that they were perfect? The world no longer needed fixing. Maybe I'd located the utopia I was searching for?
I could relax here, there were no worries. The future was going to be fine. It was great to be alive, not just for me but for all the kids and parents and everyone.
My blood began to boil. It became an animal in my veins. It raced, it growled.
And if one of these Surma women with her left breast showing - for example, tall Nga Bume in her purple cloth with her soft broad nose - were to take me by the hand and lead me through the labyrinthine grasses and into her hut ...
I just might do something I hadn't done in thirteen years. I just might have sex with her.
Of course, if this were the type of place where a girl would lead a stranger through the tall grass to her hut, then it would be pretty close to utopia. But, the Surma region wasn't that type of place. I would learn that Suri women married when they were teen-agers, and after that they didn't speak to men except their husbands.
But usually, I didn't stay in the remote places very long. And I left, still believing they were utopias.
... Ilha do Marajo, Brazil. Tobago. Samoa. Canhabaque Island, Guinea-Bissau. Lakes Isli and Tislit, Morocco. A misty Andes Mountain above Merida, Venezuela. A flower-filled valley beneath the Argentinian Andes. The Icelandic countryside. Darwin, Australia. ...
In only one of these places did a woman appear to lead me by the hand to her hut. That woman was Ruth in Zambia.
We romanced in her hut. But, we didn't have sex.
I often thought, afterwards, that this hut in this village would've been the perfect place to have sex. Even though Ruth wasn't necessarily my favorite girl in the world ...
She wanted to have a baby - something that was important for any African woman. She was thirty years old, and a problem with her uterus had left her childless so far.
In her village, kids played happily with each other and with me. The men sat beneath an old tree and played mancala with pebbles. Ruth worked as a teacher. She earned a salary in a place where there was nowhere to spend money, and the school also gave her a field to grow food in. With or without a man's help, she and her baby would have a good life.
Perhaps utopia was a place where single mothers had no fear of how they'd support their kids? Matriarchal societies. Then, we men could have sex with as many women as we wanted without having to worry about kids. This was what most of the world's men wanted, I had observed.
Not me, of course. I wanted a world where men and women romanced without having sex. In such a world: the genders would be equalized; girlfriend-boyfriend relationships would be as harmonious as mother-son ones; the people's youth would be preserved.
But, that world seemed unlikely. I had never met a woman who didn't want to have sex.
"Can we have sex?" they asked, panting in their huts.
Until I found my remote utopia, my answer might always be: "no".
But why, you might ask, was remoteness so important?
To answer that question, I needed to write a list so large, so massive, so muscular that such a list had never been seen before. You'd hear of MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!!? Now, it was time for MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 10!!!
Even though I was an old and gray-bearded traveler, I still had new tricks!
The completion of my twenty-fifth and final "thrump" (a three-month stay in a country) was only weeks away. It was time I wrote a list that didn't focus on one country, but on the whole world. The Good and The Bad. To begin ...
The Top 10 Worst Things about The World!
1. THE FACT THAT PEOPLE WILL DO ANYTHING FOR MONEY -
Evil, rich, and powerful people loved manipulating the weak, who performed unethical jobs and justified it by saying, "It's my job, I have to do it." Kill. Torture. Make war. Work for the C.I.A. or F.B.I. Collect taxes. Advertise. Do construction work in a land that needed more nature. Etc. etc. etc.
2. HOMOGENIZATION OF THE WORLD
3. SUPPORT FOR GOVERNMENTS -
"'Governing' isn't something that a human should do to another human, nor a group of humans to another group of humans."
"A big man needs no rules."
"It's authority that makes men feel small."
4. POP MUSIC -
The simplicity of this music, I believed, was making people dumber.
Rap and hip-hop music usually sent bad messages: have a huge ego; strive to dominate your fellow man; feel antagonism towards the world; objectify women for sex. Other pop music lyrics sang a naively idealistic praise for monogamous love, and didn't question anything.
5. CHRISTIANITY -
Both Christianity and Islam taught believers to feel that they were separate from the rest of humanity, that their egos belonged only to them forever. Taoism taught a healthier attitude:
"Your life is not possessed by you; it is a harmony lent to you by the universe." - Chuangtse
Islam gave its followers strict rules to adhere to; the Muslims' selfishness was controlled, and most Muslims were humble.
But, Christianity spoiled its believers. It told them, "Followers of Christianity! You don't really have to do much. Just believe that Jesus is God. You'll be rewarded eternally with another world, in which you also don't have to do anything but collect rewards."
Because of this, the Christian teaching that had the most dominant effect on believers' minds was: "You are separate from humanity. What happens to your ego is yours. What happens to them is theirs." And many Christians became very selfish.
In Ethiopia, the Muslims I met had dignity. The others - Christians, except for the Surma tribe - had loud, annoying egos and were fascinated by money. This was a generalization, but it was overwhelmingly true.
By believing that Jesus was a superior being, Christians missed out on the opportunity to learn from his example. The example of what a human being could accomplish.
7. JOURNALISTS AND THE NEWS
8. ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG ADDICTION
9. RAPE -
And sexual abuse and child abuse.
10. ISLAM'S REPRESSION OF WOMEN
Most of the items on my list were spread via globalization. Thus, it was necessary to find remote places.
The HONORABLE MENTION section of my list included: GUNS AND WEAPONS; OVER-POPULATION; SPECIES EXTINCTION; CHINESE PRACTICALISM AND OCCUPATION OF TIBET; RACISM; PESSIMISM; POLICE; and CORPORATIONS.
If you noticed your job contributed to one of those items, you get negative-100 points. If your job contributed to two of them ... please quit and take up subsistence farming.
And now, the second half of my list. Also known as: The Top 10 Best Things about Life!
Well, not now. In the next story.
To be continued ...