It's yours truly, back again from beyond the sea and distant lands in pursuit of global amity, understanding and loads and loads of filthy, oil stained, environment despoiling lucre.
I had fully intended to chronicle my travels on my ever present laptop and upload the mess to the 'Smoke upon my return, but I never really got around (read: sobered up long enough) to doing it; 'sides, Herr Comrade Styx might bristle at his echo being turned into a travelogue. To remedy that, I'll just hit the high points (if you're not interested or you're a fulminating fundy, please hit the "N" key, besides, your mother is a cow) that actually do have something to do with religion, or, it's lack thereof.
I left Houston, via British Airways (I do so love BA...they even now stock bourbon, not that awful loch water and humic acid concoction formed up north on the island, on the "Texas Express"), en route to London. After a series of games of Cricket at the Horse and Groom (and not just a few pounders of Guinness), I was off to Tashkent via Uzbek Air.
Now, Central Asia (the 'Stans, that general region) is very heavily Muslim (mostly Sunni, not the Shi'ites). In fact, Ali and Mullah (my confidant and driver) were quite active Muslims. I thought it was a bit weird to stop the car in the middle of the roadway to get out for a quick prayer, but, when in Rome... They knew I was an infidel (not a derogatory term at all, just someone not of the Muslim faith), but were aghast when the found out that I was an atheist. They were very curious in my beliefs (or lack thereof) as I was of theirs, and a great amount of time was spent in theological discussion (usually at dinner when we were all rather well lubed).
I found that they were as devout as any fundy found floating around this forum, but so much less vocal; and surprisingly much more tolerant of others (i.e., infidels). They reserved their ire for fallen brothers and other offshoot brands of Muslimism. Seems that the strongest wrath was saved for the in- house groups as opposed to infidels and the like.
In Bukhara, I visited the equivalent of a monastery. Here, kids are specially "chosen" to live in abject abjection in a tiny room with very few comforts. It is supposed to be a great honor to be chosen to study here, and the lack of amenities are to enable the student to focus more on the Qu'ran and less on the necessities of life. Curious, to say the least.
Well, in my travels, I visited 11 countries, and racked up some impressive frequent flyer miles. I jetted down to Dubai in the UAE to visit another oil-rich scum of a geologist who I used to work with. After all this country hopping, I had some R&R time coming. I flew over to Ankara, and overlanded it to Dogubyazit (at the foot of Mt. Ararat, fast becoming one of my favorite travel stopping off places). I roamed around the bazaars and stopped to chat with some locals about the trade in Arkonauts. I will post some of the funnier comments and diversions if there is anyone out there with a mote of interest.
I rented a Zhughli (Russian made Fiat knockoff) and took a 3 day car-hiking trip in and around the mountains of Ararat. As luck would have it, I met with no crowds of earnest American arkonauts nor found no fossilized pitch, no rusting brass ship hardware nor any "gophery" wood. I did see some supposed "anchor stones", one of which was being carved as I arrived. Amazing how these old supposed "ship anchor stones" are being recycled into "sheep anchor stones". The local shepherds use them to tie a ram to, and the flock hangs about the ram for some unknown reason.
I did collect a bit of andesite from volcanic Mt. Ararat, so I can hurl it at any fundy who claims that the lavas of the mount are pillow basalts (andesite is not basalt and only submarine basalt forms pillow structures.)
I stopped in at the Ministry of Geology in Turkey for chat before I departed for the west. I asked them about the various nutso groups out looking for the ark. The Chief Geologist grew rather angry: "We have a limited budget. Since they come here often under some guise of science; when they get lost or fall off the mountain, we have to go get them. It just chews great holes in our budget. I wish they'd just stay the hell away." I told him that I couldn't agree more.
After mucking about in Adzerbaijan, Siberia (I took the LONG way home), Moscow (great bar in Moscow: the Irish House...about more later...), and Stockholm, I had a brief layover in Amsterdam. Too bad it wasn't longer or I'd have looked up Fred Rice; in fact, if the weather in London wouldn't have been any better, I would have spent a day or two there, instead of the 3 hours in the airport lounge.
So, I'm back. I see we have a new crop of fundies; complete with the same old tired arguments. Ah, well. Let the weary infidel have a stab at 'em. It's been weeks...