Sunday, August 4, 2013

Yemen, The Congo

A couple years ago I read a book about the origin of AIDS. It's called The Origin of AIDS. True to form, the book is a straightforward analysis of all the facts, in detail that leads the reader to think about other things. Honestly, a lot of important aspects of the development of the AIDS virus are at first glance pretty tangential. At any rate I'm now reading a book which covers the Belgian colonial period, filling in a large gap of history that The Origin of AIDS left me with. It's called King Leopold's Ghost. I recommend it. Both authors make very incisive points about the personalities and situations in their books, which lend themselves to a deeper understanding of humanity (or lack thereof in some instances).

The twin cities Leopoldville (modern Kinshasa) and Brazzaville were the seat of both the origins of colonial rule in the African interior, as well as the origin of AIDS. Interesting! And not entirely coincidental.

At any rate, these books have made me intensely interested in Africa, a place which I had up to this point written off as a horrible place that I would never visit. I probably still won't visit Africa, but I can at least learn about it with satellite imagery and Google searches.

Google is good, but I found this music on accident. It is excellent but not African. Play this as you look at the rest of the collection I've made below.

It turns out that there is a subculture of "Sapeurs" who dress up in suits in the equitorial heat. Very interesting.

This slum I found in Brazzaville is almost entirely abandoned, its roofing tin having been salvaged leaving husks of former households. Literally hundreds of former households, now empty. I would really love to know why. This is the sort of question the Google cannot answer. I mean, they didn't even street view it. My guesses include outbreak of disease, or perhaps government eviction of squatters.
*Probably due to the fallout from the Second Congo War.

View Larger Map


I eventually panned over to western Africa, and then onto Yemen by accident, as it's really close by. Yemen is interesting for a few reasons:
  1. It's basically a desert, but people live there.
  2. It is incredibly politically unstable, and there have been numerous civil wars since the early 1990's. Currently the federal government only has control over about 1/3 of the country's territory.
  3. Apparently the US' eye of Sauron is turning on Yemen due to a resurgence of Islamic extremism. Sometimes I think they deserve each other. Blech what a mess.
  4. There is some strange shit you can see in the satellite imagery, discussed below.
First off, this courtyard is severely funky. It reminds me of wasted space, like a graveyard in Florida I camped next to one night. You get the feeling that people don't actually go there, but it looks immaculate. View Larger Map
This is a village outside of the main southern town in Yemen. Its intense imagining the lifestyle there. Seriously poor. Maybe it's cool, but I bet it just sucks. View Larger Map
Then there is this stadium, in the middle of nowhere. The parking lot is just desert with a road around it. It is about 45 miles away from the nearest city, in a place where there is obviously plenty of open space right next to the city. It reeks of royal excess but there is not a royal family in Yemen. View Larger Map
Socotra is an island south of Yemen which is actually closer to Somalia. It has really unique wildlife, with heaps of endemics, in a similar fashion to Hawaii. However, it is not volcanic, which means that at some point it was connected to a continental body. This means that Socotra probably started out with significant diversity, which ended up speciating from the mainland flora and fauna. It is beautiful, but I think I'd rather go back to Fiji for diving. Also you can't just go there and explore, as it is ... well I don't know what it is but there aren't rental cars.