Nada é perfeito… Nem a Alemanha!

“Como assim, você prefere viver no Brasil que na Alemanha?“ Nem sei quantas vezes eu já ouvi essa pergunta. Muitos Brasileiros estão fugindo do país deles, ninguém parece compreender como uma alemã poderia preferir morar aqui – Alemanha, para muitos, é visto como um paraíso, me parece.

E eu entendo de onde esse ponto de visto vem – ao final Alemanha é conhecida como rica e desenvolvida e promete uma segurança e economia social para tudo o mundo. Mas é assim mesmo?

Você sabia que…

  • …o fosso entre ricos e pobres é maior que em médio da zona europeia?
  • …aos dez anos se determina sobre o futuro da criança? Os professores e pais decidem se ele ou ela poderá frequentar uma faculdade ou não. (Aqui um artigo que achei bem interessante e que entre outros resume o sistema educacional na Alemanha.)
  • …pesquisas recentes colocam o partido populista de extrema direita “Alternativa para Alemanha” AfD numa faixa entre 7% e 9% das intenções de voto? Esse mesmo partido é contra a dupla cidadania, e afirma que “o casamento homossexual é um erro social grave” só para dar alguns exemplos.

Claro que nem tudo é ruim, tem muitos lados bons na Alemanha – a Oktoberfest por exemplo, ou o bolo floresta negra! 😉

E obviamente também existem coisas positivas que concernem assuntos mais sérios.

Eu não decidi de morar fora da Alemanha por tais lados ruins que eu mencionei. Eu também não quero dizer que a Alemanha é péssima em todos os sentidos.

Eu só gostaria de mostrar aos Brasileiros que nada é perfeito, nem a Alemanha. Mesmo se nas mídias muitas vezes está apresentada como modelo para o mundo inteiro.

Falando dos povos e não da política, eu, pessoalmente, acho que muitos alemães poderiam aprender dos Brasileiros – da vontade de ajudar, da facilidade de começar uma conversa do nada – e assim de fazer novos amigos dum momento ao outro. E vice-versa: Contrariamente aos Brasileiros, alemães geralmente cheguem (na hora)! 😉

Download (1)
Gostoso: O bolo floresta negra da Alemanha!

Brasiliens einzigartiges Gesundheitssystem

Krank zu sein ist nie schön. Und noch weniger, wenn man sich weit weg von zuhause befindet. Ich litt kürzlich an einer ziemlich heftigen Grippe, während ich mich in Rio de Janeiro befand. Doch ich hatte Glück im Unglück: Meine gute Freundin Maíra, bei der ich im Moment wohne, kümmerte sich fast mütterlich um mich und bestand darauf, mich zum Arzt zu begleiten.

In der Regel vermeide ich den Gang zum Arzt, besonders, wenn ich mich nicht in Deutschland befinde und die Rechnung zunächst selbst zu zahlen habe, bevor meine Auslandskrankenversicherung mir die Kosten zurückerstattet. Doch wie ich aus Erfahrung wusste, würde das nicht der Fall sein in Brasilien.

Maíra brachte mich zu dem Gesundheitszentrum, das sich etwa zehn Minuten von ihrer Haustür befindet. Als wir ankamen, zeigte ich meinen Reisepass vor, wartete wenige Minuten, wurde dann von einer Ärztin untersucht und erhielt meine Medikamente – alles komplett umsonst!

Hätte man das gedacht? Brasilien, Schwellenland, bietet mir, Ausländerin, eine vollkommen kostenlose Behandlung an!

Maíra, die sich sonst so oft über Brasiliens politischen Zustände empört, konnte in diesem Fall ihr Land gar nicht genug loben. Zurecht, wie ich finde.

In Kraft gesetzt 1988 mit Verabschiedung der neuen Verfassung Brasiliens, handelt es sich heute um eines der größten staatlichen Gesundheitssysteme der Welt. Es umfasst alle Arten von Untersuchungen und Eingriffe, von der kleinsten Erkältung bis zur aufwendigen Organtransplantation. Und das – unabhängig von Nationalität, Hautfarbe oder Alter – kostenlos für jedermann.

Wie Maíra meinte: „Gesundheit ist das Recht, zu leben. Und jeder sollte dieses Recht haben. Gesundheit ist eben keine Ware.“

Download
Brasiliens “Einzigartiges Gesundheitssystem” Logo

Das Leben in der Favela

Was ist eigentlich eine brasilianische Favela? Kann man sich da reintrauen oder ist sie gefährlich?

Viele schauen mich entsetzt an, wenn ich erwähne, dass ich schon in einer Favela, einem brasilianischen Ghetto, gewohnt habe. Noch verwunderter sind sie in der Regel, wenn ich erzähle, dass ich mich dort am wohlsten gefühlt habe.

Immerhin handelte es sich um Vidigal, eine der neu-modernen und „hippen“ Favelas in Rio de Janeiro, in die sich wohl – sogar – Brasilianer trauen würden. Denn häufig sind gerade die ironischerweise ängstlicher, eine solche zu besuchen, als Ausländer – einfach weil sie ihr Leben lang die angsteinflößenden Stories über die Ghettos gehört haben.

Das Leben dort ist ganz sicher anders, als in der teuren Südzone Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon. Denn diese ist vergleichbar mit europäischen Standards: Entlang der Strandpromenade ziehen sich Hochhäuser, die von der vorwiegend weißen und reichen Bevölkerungsschicht bewohnt werden. Ich wohnte einige Zeit in einem dieser Stadtteile und konnte feststellen: Es lebt sich so anonym wie in jeglicher Großstadt, aber eben ganz anders, als in der Favela.

Denn dort hingegen wohnt die – vorwiegend dunkelhäutige und ärmere – Bevölkerung auf engerem Raum, in oftmals qualitativ minderwertigeren und selbst konstruierten Gebäuden, aber meines Erachtens gemütlicheren Häusern. Man kennt und hilft sich; Türen stehen offen für die Nachbarskinder, die von der Wohnung der Eltern in die des Nachbarn und der Nachbarin, „Tante und Onkel“, rennen und in den Straßen spielen. Es gibt in der Regel eine große, befahrbare Straße, an die mehrere kleine Gassen zu den Eingängen der Wohnungen führen und die man nur zu Fuß erreichen kann. Da Favelas sich häufig auf einem Berg befinden, bleiben auch ältere Generationsschichten dadurch stets sportlich aktiv.

Doch was ist mit der Sicherheit? Sind nicht gerade Favelas die Orte, in die man besser keinen Fuß setzten sollte? Die einfache Antwort: ja und nein.

Wenn man von Diebstahl und Überfällen hört, dann werden die ganz sicher nicht in einer der Favelas stattgefunden haben. „Sowas gibt es in der Favela nicht“, wird einem jeder Brasilianer versichern. Und das stimmt auch– nicht deswegen, weil es dort nun mal wenig zu klauen gibt. Sondern vor allem aus einem anderen Grund: Hier gibt es in der Regel keine Polizeistreifen oder Sicherheitspersonal wie in der Südzone. Wer es wagen würde, jemanden in der Favela zu überfallen, hat mit der Rache der örtlichen Fraktion zu rechnen. Die Fraktionen, das sind in Rio de Janeiro vier verschiedene Verbecherorganisationen, die in unterschiedlichen Favelas das Sagen haben und sich gegenseitig bekämpfen.

„Comando Vermelho“ (CV), das „rote Kommando“, ist die älteste, größte und einflussreichste Organisation. Sie hat die Macht in der Mehrzahl der Favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Das bedeutet für die einfache Bevölkerung: Sich am besten nicht einmischen, aber anpassen. Wie Leandro, ein Bekannter aus der Favela Manguinhos, unter der Führung des CV, mir einmal berichtete: „Mein Bruder brachte vor kurzem einen jungen Mann mit nach Hause. Ich dachte zunächst, er sei ein Freund. Doch dann stellte ich fest, dass er nach jemandem suchte und auf unser Dach wollte, um die angrenzenden Häuser zu überprüfen und auch um festzustellen, dass die Person nicht bei uns ist.“ Ich fragte nach, was denn gewesen wäre, wenn er ihm den Eintritt verweigert hätte. „Diese Option gibt es nicht“, war die knappe Antwort.

Einmal hatte ich persönlich das „Vergnügen“, einem Fraktionsmitglied während seiner „Arbeit“ über den Weg zu laufen. Obwohl ich vorgewarnt wurde, nicht in jene Favela nähe meines Wohnorts einzutreten, konnte ich meine Neugier nicht zügeln. Als ich nur ein paar Schritte die kleine Gasse entlang gegangen war, bereute ich meine Entscheidung sodann. Geradewegs auf mich zu lief ein junger Mann – mit einem Walkie Talkie in der einen – und einer Pistole in der anderen Hand. Wir waren nur zu zweit in dieser abgeschiedenen Straße und da ich nicht weiter auf ihn zulaufen wollte, drehte ich um. Er hätte alles mit mir machen können, doch er lief gemütlich weiter in meine Richtung, trat nach mir in eine kleine Bar ein und unterhielt sich sorglos mit der Bedienung. Während ich starr vor Schreck auf meinem Barhocker saß, stellte ich fest, dass ein bewaffneter Jugendlicher für jeden anderen Anwesenden purer Alltag war.

Später erst wurde mir wirklich bewusst, dass dieser junge Mann mir eventuell das Leben gerettet hat – denn wäre ich munter weiter in die Favela reingelaufen, hätte noch viel Schlimmeres auf mich zukommen können: So wie den vier Argentiniern, die im Februar 2017 ihrem Navigationssystem auf der Suche nach der berühmten Christus Statur folgten und in einer Favela landeten – alle vier wurden erschossen.

„Dich kennt niemand, die Leute wissen nicht, was du dort zu suchen hast. Du könntest von einer anderen Fraktion sein und dort herumspionieren“, erklärte mir später Suzanna, die in der Nähe wohnt und guten Kontakt zu den Bewohnern der Favela hat. Tatsächlich musste ich zugeben, dass die Tatsache, eine angehende Journalistin zu sein, wohl auch kaum zu meiner Verteidigung beigetragen hätte. Suzanna versicherte mir, dass ich zum Beispiel an ihrer Seite ohne Probleme die Favela hätte besichtigen können. Denn sie ist dort aufgewachsen und daher dort bekannt und respektiert – an sie hätte man sich mit Fragen über mich wenden können.

Ähnliches erlebte Leandro, als er neu in Manguinhos einzog: Eines Nachts, als er abends von einer Party nach Hause kam, wurde er von einem Dutzend bewaffneter CV Mitglieder angehalten und ausgefragt.

Die Absicht der Fraktionen besteht darin, sicherzustellen, dass in „ihrem“ Territorium niemand ihre Machtposition in Frage stellt. Das gilt auch für die anderen drei Fraktionen in Rio de Janeiro, „Amigos dos Amigos“ (ADA – „Freunde der Freunde“), „Terceiro Comando Puro“ (TCP – „drittes reines Kommando“) und last but not least – der Miliz, die zum größten Teil aus Polizeikräften, der Feuerwehr und dem Militär besteht und die mit der Hilfe von Politikern rechnen können. Ihre offizielle Aufgabe besteht darin, die Bewohner der Favela zu beschützen, doch profitieren sie von ihrer Arbeit, indem sie diese einschüchtern und von ihnen Geld erpressen.

Problematisch und gefährlich für die Bewohner wird es vor allem dann, wenn zwei Fraktionen um ein Gebiet kämpfen. In diesem Fall gibt es kaum eine andere Möglichkeit, als Türen und Fenster zu schließen, sich auf den Boden zu legen und abzuwarten. Traurigerweise kommt es des Öfteren dann auch vor, dass unbeabsichtigt Unbeteiligte erschossen werden. So erzählte mir Carlos, 23, neulich, dass er, als er nach der Uni nach Hause wollte, erst einmal ein paar Stunden am Eingang der Favela abwartete, da es wieder eine Schießerei gab. „Du musst dich dann mit den anderen Bewohnern zusammenfinden, sodass ihr eine Gruppe seid und die sehen können, dass ihr nur nach Hause wollt und nichts mit den Fraktionen zu tun habt“, erklärte er mir.

Natürlich ist das nicht Alltag in jeder Favela – denn vor allem solche, die in der Nähe der Südzone, also in der Nähe der reichen Bevölkerung liegen, wurden spätestens vor Beginn der Fußballweltmeisterschaft 2014 befriedet, um Touristen nicht abzuschrecken und um ein gutes Licht auf das Land werfen zu können.

Seitdem zählt Vidigal, die Favela, in der ich wohnte, mehr und mehr zu einer angesagten Wohngegend, in der sogar schon Madonna und die Beckhams Häuser erworben haben sollen.

18949510_1213363988790697_8587768713007071232_n(1)
Morro da Coroa – die Favela, in die ich mich lieber nicht reingetraut hätte.

Fußball und Brasilien

Eines der größten Konfliktpotenziale in Brasilien haben nicht etwa Drogenbanden in den Favelas oder aber der Krieg zwischen Teilen der Bevölkerung und der Polizei – sondern: Fußball.

Auch wenn die Tatsache, dass Fußball wie eine Religion in Brasilien zelebriert wird, wohl für die Meisten keine neue Erkenntnis darstellt, ist es lohnenswert, einige Beispiele zu nennen.

Vor meiner Ankunft in Rio de Janeiro befürchtete ich das Schlimmste: Meine ersten Tage hier verbrachte ich im Juli 2014, wenige Tage nach der Fußballweltmeisterschaft, die in Brasilien stattfand und die Deutschland gewann – noch dazu endete ein Spiel gegen Brasilien mit dem berühmten 7:1!

Doch meine Angst war unbegründet: Alle empfingen mich überaus herzlich! Wahrscheinlich waren sie aber auch deswegen so freundlich, da sie sich über die Niederlage der Argentinier freuten. Ziemlich häufig jedoch hörte ich “sete a um”, “sieben zu eins”, wenn ich erwähnte, dass ich deutsch bin. Diese drei Worte entwickelten sich sogar zu einer Art Sprichwort: Wenn jemand ganz besonders beleidigt oder runtergemacht wird, hat er eben ein “sete a um” durchmachen müssen.

Dennoch stellte ich bald fest, dass ich mich auf einiges in Brasilien vorbereitet hatte – nicht jedoch auf die Frage, die mir am meisten gestellt wurde: “E aí, qual é seu time?”, “Was ist dein Team?”. Die Frage der Fragen, wichtiger als meine Nationalität, mein Alter, mein Name – das was zählt, ist die Zugehörigkeit zu einem Fußballteam Rio de Janeiros, anhand dessen man mich einordnen und beglückwünschen oder tadeln kann. Das beliebteste Team sowohl in der Metropole, als auch im ganzen Land – und in absoluten Zahlen sogar auf der ganzen Welt – ist Flamengo, das im gleichnamigen Stadtteil von Rio de Janeiro entstand und  (vor allem unter den Anhängern) bekannt ist als das Team “der einfachen Leute”. Ich konnte schon allein deshalb niemals Fan dieser Mannschaft werden, weil mir genau das immer alle versuchten einzureden! Also entschied ich mich spontan für das erste Team, was mir in den Kopf kam: “Botafogo”, ebenfalls ein Stadtteil. Diese Entscheidung sollte mir noch einige Male zum Verhängnis werden, zum Beispiel als mein damaliger Freund und Flamengo Anhänger bedauerte, er könne mich unter diesen Umständen auf keinen Fall seinen Freunden vorstellen.

Immerhin war die Botafogo Angehörigkeit noch allgemein verträglich – hätte ich mich zum Beispiel für Fluminense entschieden, würde ich klar als Snob durchgehen, oder noch schlimmer: Vasco – bekannt als die Mannschaft der Rüpel und Rabauken. 

Einmal erzählte mir meine Bekannte Dora eine Geschichte, die mich zwar zum Lachen brachte, mich jedoch kaum überraschte. Sie hatte zum Geburtstag ihres Ehemanns eine Menge seiner guten Freunde eingeladen, die dort zu Mittag aßen und gleichzeitig im Fernsehen ein Spiel Flamengo gegen Botafogo verfolgten. Ihr Ehemann, großer Flamengofan, wurde schon nach dem 1:0 für Botafogo recht mürrisch, vor allem auch deshalb, weil einige seiner Gäste Anhänger von dem führenden Team waren und dementsprechend feierten. Als dann aber das zweite Tor für Botafogo fiel, schaltete er wütend den Fernseher aus mit den Worten: “Strom ist ausgefallen. Niemand hier wird mein Essen essen und sich gleichzeitig über mein Team lustig machen” – und warf alle Gäste raus.

Ich als Deutsche kann mit Sicherheit behaupten, dass der Fußball wichtiger kultureller Teil meines Landes ist. Dennoch ist das fast nichts im Vergleich zu brasilianischen Verhältnissen – hier ist die Antwort, “ich habe kein Team”, kaum zu hören und wenn, dann wird sie nur mit ungläubigem Kopfschütteln zur Kenntnis genommen. 

Wie der Schottische Fußballspieler Bill Shankly einmal sagte: “Einige Leute halten Fußball für einen Kampf um Leben und Tod. Ich mag diese Einstellung nicht. Ich versichere Ihnen, dass es viel ernster ist!”

Thailand – about dollar bills and false love

“For Thais, we are nothing but Dollar bills” is what Neil, in his mid-forties and from England, claimed. I had met him in a hotel in Trat, south Thailand and close to the Cambodian border. He had been living in South East Asia since a couple of years. “When I first arrived here when I was 23 years old, young and handsome, a wise man warned me, ‘never fall in love with the girls here. They will play a game with you, pretend big love. And then they will rip you off, they will get all money out of you and finally leave you when you have nothing more to give.’ I followed his advice, and I was never taken in by one of those ladies.” He then told me about a waitress that used to work for him, “she was married to a Thai. At the same time, she had ten lovers, all white, none of them living here. She spent her time with her lovers whenever they were in Thailand so to get money out of them. Her husband even knew about it. I met those poor fellas, who of course all thought they were the only ones, completely fallen for her.”

His words made me sit up and take notice. I remembered James, who I got to know in Vietnam and who had told me a similar story. He had spent a couple of months with a Vietnamese girl, who apparently was married but separated from her husband. He told me that he cannot remember ever having had so strong feelings for a woman in his life, although he had been married before. They had even made plans together for the future – but then things were to turn out quite differently. She somehow changed her mind, got back with her husband and stopped talking to James who, at that time, had already spent several thousand Dollars on her.

James and Neil were not the only ones telling me those things. Of course, I had heard stories like that before, even seen a documentary about German men leaving their country and hoping for a better life with young and beautiful girls in Thailand. When I came to the country though, my intention was anything but getting involved into that topic and I definitely wasn’t going to spend time in Pattaya, Thailand’s party city and famous for exact those stories.

Island Koh Chang – anything but local

My plan was to relax at the beach, discovering beautiful landscapes and learning about local life. That was why I chose to travel to Koh Chang, one of the beautiful islands my travel guide from Lonely Planet had recommended.

Unfortunately, the guide is not appropriate for people who seek places off the beaten track. I had a very good time there, but rather thanks to two lovely girls from Germany/Switzerland, than for the reasons I had chosen this place: Because of its beauty, the island also became a very touristy place and beaches were filled with huge hotels and night bars. What I did not like about the place was the obvious distribution of power between tourists and locals: I didn’t feel that the girls were actually seen as real human beings. When they sat with us at table, it was rare for them to participate in our conversation, and no one really tried to make them get involved. The rule apparently was easy: I pay for you, you look pretty and do what I ask you to.

Don’t get me wrong – I am the last person to criticize that kind of relationship, if both are happy with the situation. But here’s the thing: To me the girls didn’t seem to be happy. It’s just the easiest, if not the only way to make money for themselves and their families. Once again, a proof for the unequal world we live in.

Thailand’s capital Bangkok probably is most famous for these inequalities. My time in the metropolis therefore was accompanied by situations that reflected those extreme contrasts.

I got to know two local girls from Couchsurfing. They showed me the city’s best places to go out, we had great fun together and I slept and their place – for free, the only “payment” they accepted was to listen to my stories and share travel experiences.

Bad decision: Looking for a ping pong show

On my last night however, I decided to go to see what tourists do in Bangkok. It might be inappropriate or morally wrong, but I was being too curious: I wanted to see a Thai ping pong show. Together with two English guys we made our way to a hidden and gloomy night club a man that had talked to us on the street brought us to. He mentioned a “happy hour”, and said that we would pay 100 Baht (about US$ 3) per entrance and per drink. Inside the club except for us there were only a few (old) women, some of them ladyboys. One started to dance on stage, or whatever you might call dancing. She put a cigarette between her legs and asked one of the guys to light it. When her vagina had finished to “smoke” it, she insisted in getting tips which made us feel uncomfortable and we decided to leave the club. At the exit door however they surprised us with the bill: 5200 Baht was what they wanted us to pay! Included were entrances, drinks and the “show” we had just watched. They showed us their price list: First drink 300 Baht, second about 600 and so on. When we refused to pay that huge amount, all women started to get really aggressive and said they would call the police. Insisting that we did not have that money, they finally opened us the door and let us go after having paid 500 Baht each. I spend more than I was prepared to, but it was worth it – now I got an impression about Thailand’s sinister nightlife and I know that it really is not worth time and money.

blog thailand
Bangkok, Khaosan Road

That evening, Neil’s words came into my mind again. Was he right after all? For those people in the club we were nothing but dollar bills. But surely there must be more lovely people like my Couchsurfing friends in Thailand! I was disappointed to have to leave the country with this bad last example on my mind.

Good ending story

The next morning, I had to take a cab from my hotel to the airport. I had problems with my phone, so the receptionist called a taxi for me and made sure that the driver knew where I needed to go. When I sat in the car already, the lady from the reception suddenly ran after us and knocked on my window. I opened it and she gave me my purse – I must have lost it in the hotel! Inside, there was probably as much money as she would have earned during a week or two, not to mention two credit cards. I was relieved and thankful – not many people would have been that honest.

Yes, Thailand is famous for sex tourism, which is a huge problem for many young women, and not acceptable, especially when it comes to children sex tourism. Many women see white people as dollar bills, because this is the way they were brought up. Sad but true, it would be hard, if not impossible for them, to earn enough money in another way. However, my Couchsurfing friends, as well as the receptionist and all the nice and smiley people I had met in Thailand throughout my journey, proved what I actually knew before – there is no “Thais”, just as much as there is no “blonds” or “blacks”. Everyone has their own character and their own decisions to take – and those will define their lives. Apparently, Neil had met so many people all behaving in the same way that he forgot that not everybody is the same and that generalizations never can be true.

I am so happy to have gained these experiences and met these people. Not only the good, but also the bad memories taught me life lessons and always will make part of me.

Positive balance about New South Wales’ Liquor Act

15/09/2016

Eight years ago the government in New South Wales, Australia, decided on a new legislation that should reduce consumption of liquor in public premises. Today, the situation in bars and nightclubs has changed a lot from the years before, as for example in a suburb of Sydney.

Loud music is coming out of the club whenever the door is being opened. The queue of people waiting in front is getting longer each minute, but this does not disturb the doormen of the nightclub “Northies” in Cronulla, South Sydney. No matter how much time it takes, everybody needs to show an evidence of age. Two young men are refused to enter: Their European ID is not accepted. “I really can’t believe they don’t let us in although we’ve got our European IDs”, complains twenty-one-year-old Christophe from France.

New legislation restricts use of alcohol in public venues

However, the doormen act in the right way. On 1 July 2008, the “New South Wales Liquor Act 2007”, the “Liquor Regulations 2008” and the “Gaming and Liquor Administration Act 2007” came into effect. They regulate the sale of Liquor in New South Wales (NSW), as well as “certain aspects of the use of premises on which liquor is sold and supplied”, according to the Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing (OLGR). For instance, one of the laws lays down that there are only three approved forms of proof-of-age: Driver’s licences, NSW photo cards and (international) passports. And the doormen have every reason to check each document twice: A bartender who supplies liquor to a minor on licensed premises can be penalized with a fine of eleven thousand Australian Dollars or twelve months of imprisonment – or both.

But Christophe and his friend, like many other travellers, could not care less about the strict legislation. And they are not the only unfortunate people this night. Many more almost-guests are refused entry, and most of the time because they show signs of intoxication. “We always have to pay special attention to our patron‘s speech, balance, co-ordination and behaviour”, explains George, who works as an RSA Marshal in the bar. Tonight, as a “Responsible Service of Alcohol” (RSA) guard, his role is to make sure that the law is being followed. “As soon as we recognize one of our guests is slurring, swaying or dropping drinks for example and that the reason is a result of drunkenness, we will politely ask him to leave.”

The presence of RSA Marshals is not the only change that has been carried out at the nightclub since the laws came into effect eight years ago: Signage that prevent minors without a responsible adult to visit the premises are displayed at each entrance door, free water is provided at the bar, and employees are instructed to record each incident in a register book, the so-called “incident register“. Violent or anti-social behaviour, people removed from the premises and patrons needing medical treatments must be written down and presented in case the police asks for insight.

Alcohol consumption as a preventable public problem

What is the reason for these strict regulations? According to New South Wales Police Force, alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Australia. Young people are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol, and it plays a vital part for death among adolescents. Alcohol therefore constitutes a serious threat to people’s health. The government’s laws have however shown effect: Statistics from the “NSW Population Health Survey“ prove that the rate of alcohol consumption from 2006 to 2015 at levels that pose a long-term health risk significantly decreased from 31.4% to 25.9% in New South Wales.

Yet there are more considerable negative effects of alcohol: Its misuse has not only economic consequences – in 2013, alcohol related crime cost the NSW Police fifty-five million Dollar –, but also physical and social effects. For instance, clubs and bars have to deal with violent guests who are under the influence of alcohol. In order to reduce this problem, assault incidents should be recorded in all 18 000 venues that sell liquor in New South Wales.

Success of the law in Cronulla

Alicia Pusell, manager of “Northies“, is satisfied with the legislation from 2008: “We have far less incidents to note nowadays“. Indeed, the club’s amount of assaults per year has decreased from twenty-eight in 2007/2008 to less than eight since 2011.

These numbers are quite important because they decide on whether the venue has to face restrictions or not: Licensed venues can be categorised as level one, two or three depending on the amount of alcohol-related incidents. While in 2007/08 forty-eight licensed premises recorded nineteen or more assaults – and were therefore listed in level one – in 2015, the only club in this level is “Home Nightclub“ in Sydney’s CBD. The latter has registered 19 assaults during one year, whereas eight years ago the highest number of assault incidents in one venue was 73. Nowadays, “Home Nightclub“ is the only club that has to obey some special rules, such as a mandatory 1.30 am lockout of guests and no use of glass containers after midnight.

Little by little, “Northies“ became a secure place to go out at night and today, its number of venues has declined to such an extent that it is not listed in any level anymore. “I know what the atmosphere was like a couple of years ago“, remembers Monica, a regular patron of the nightclub, “and now it’s calmer in a way, less aggressions. But I think it’s a shame the staff became so serious. The other day a German friend couldn’t get inside because the doorman thought he was drunk – but it was just his accent that made him believe it!“

Tonight, Monica and her friends were luckier than the French. After all Christophe has learned a lesson: “Next time I will bring my international passport“, he declares, before he leaves with his friend, hoping to find a nightclub that does not take the law so seriously.

Cambodia

I must admit that before visiting Cambodia, I really did not know a lot about it. Now however I understand why this country will teach you so much about history, politics and humanity and why it is really worth going there.map_of_cambodia

From Vietnam I arrived in its capital, Phnom Penh, where I was hosted by Apollo, Nigerian and from Couchsurfing. He and his flat mate live not far from the centre in a really nice and big apartment.

Illegally in Cambodia

Apollo told me something I was quite surprised of: In Phnom Penh there are actually quite a lot of Nigerian people living. For many of them this country is more like a prison though: Back in Nigeria, they sold all their belongings just to be able to live in Asia, in hope of having a better life, which is what migrant smugglers told them in order to get their money.

Once arrived there, they suddenly realize that what people told them was wrong and that they cannot work legally with their visas. After a certain time their visas expire and they start staying in the country illegally, but they cannot return to Africa after having sold everything. And the worst: With each day they illegally stay in Cambodia, their fine when they finally leave the country would get higher – the longer they stay, the more complicated it is for them to leave. Because of their hopeless situation, many Nigerians become criminals or end up in prison.

Khmer Rouge and Autogenocide in Asia

Probably one of the most important things to do in Phnom Penh is to visit its Genocide Museum called “Tuol Sleng” or “S-21”. It certainly will not be a happy day for you, but a very important one.

This museum shows and explains in a very good manner, with audio guides and a lot of documentaries, to what extend their former regime, the Khmer Rouge, destroyed the country and their own population by torturing and killing millions of innocent people.

From 1975-1979, the communist regime under Pol Pot decided that they wanted to change the whole country by destroying anything modern and industrialized and creating a form of agrarian socialism. Academics and people that were considered as being intellectuals, for example if they wore glasses, were tortured and executed in Security Prison 21 (“S-21”) among other places. Any signs of religion and industrialization were destroyed, like machines and temples. People were resettled out of big cities to the countryside – Phnom Penh for example became a ghost town. Whoever was opposed to the Khmer Rouge or being suspected of opposing the regime was tortured and finally killed.

I spend my whole afternoon in the museum, which used to be a school before it became this place of horror. When I finally left, I felt like every smile was a smile too much.

Angkor Wat and temples – more exhausting than interesting

After the capital, I moved on to what Cambodia is most famous for: Its temple complex and the largest religious monument of the world, Angkor Wat.

Since I am the kind of person to never organize my journey, I was lucky to arrive early in the morning in a hostel in Siem Reap and to meet a young American lady, Kelsy, who offered me to share a “tuk-tuk” (three wheeler taxi) to the temples. We succeeded in watching the beautiful sun rise, and then moved on to visit the biggest and oldest temple, Angkor Wat, and two more, one where the film “Tomb Raider” was made, “Ta Prohm”.

angkor-wat-with-water
Again it wasn’t me who took this wonderful picture of Angkor Wat, since with my phone all my photos got stolen, too.

I don’t know if it was because of the sweltering heat, or the fact that we didn’t want to spend our money on a guide, hoping that our tuk-tuk driver was knowledgeable, or even more probable for the fact that I got my phone stolen – this day surely was not my favourite one in Cambodia. I think for a next time I’d definitely pay for someone who could teach us something about the place and even more definitely I would pay more attention to my valuables: It was only when we had left the temple already when I realized that my mobile was gone. At least everything took a turn for the better: In a phone shop in Siem Reap I soon found a new and better one, for which I paid AU$200, worth AU$700. And on my last stop in Cambodia, Battambang, I decided to just relax and watch some documentaries, where I finally learned why those temples are actually worth a visit.

I do not regret at all having visited Cambodia, as I had the chance to learn so much. However, after being confronted with topics and incidents that wouldn’t really make me feel as being on holidays, I was looking forward to doing something more cheerful and pleasant – beach time in Thailand!

The only thing in life achieved with effort is failure.

“The only thing in life achieved without effort is failure”

was what a young man in Bangkok had written on his T-Shirt.

Possible that he did not even understand these English words, but just wore the T-Shirt because he liked the colours. Also possible that this was his personal statement, that these words give him motivation to work harder and that he believed in what the T-Shirt told him. Anyways – I don’t.

I thought about these words for a moment until I realized how untrue they are.

Our world unfortunately works not like that at all, and I realize that almost with every single journey. Here in Thailand I am privileged, because I am white, because I come from Europe – and even more, I come from Germany. What effort did I do except for being born there?

Thailand is the third most unequal country in the world – 58% of its wealth is controlled by ONE percent of the people. How would those people ever do enough efforts to be able to hold more than half of the country’s wealth?

When I see old ladies selling food in the street here in Bangkok, or men working on construction sites, I think, they are doing the best effort they can, for themselves and their families. But neither will they ever achieve real financial success in their lives, nor their children and probably not even their grand children. Just because they were born that way.

Everyday life in Bangkok

Learning shopping rules in Hoi An

From Ninh Binh I took the night train to Da Nang, and from there a cab to Hoi An. First time for me to sleep in a bed in a train, I was really looking forward to it and it was fun I have to say. Better than the bus for sure, at least I could stretch my legs.18160552_405827193119698_342471122995904512_n

Hoi An was lovely and I wished I could have stayed longer than only for one day. Beautiful, empty beaches and a very cute downtown, especially at night when Chinese lanterns light up the town in all sorts of colours. Hoi An also is the right place to buy souvenirs and more – dozens of shoe and clothing shops that produce on your request and to your size for very few money. Although I had not intended to spend money on clothes, I couldn’t help but bought one Asian style shirt and two pairs of shoes.

This shopping trip taught me a lesson though. Since all the shops have so many competitors, it is quite common to negotiate prices. I was looking for sandals and talked to a couple of sellers to know about their prices.

Finally, I found one who went lower and lower with the price, she absolutely didn’t want me to leave without buying one pair. I negotiated with her without really wanting to and finally accepted her very low offer. I felt that I would have been rude to leave although she made me such a good offer.

However, after leaving the shop I realized that I had just negotiated for a couple of dollars, something less I would have spent on a coffee in Australia. I got so much used to Vietnamese prices that this amount of money seemed a lot to me. Later, when I went back to fetch my shoes, I paid her more than I had to and she offered me a big smile, which was more worth than those few bucks.

Discovering landscapes in Sa Pa and Ninh Binh

Having spent a couple of days in Vietnam’s heat, I decided to take a sleeping bus (beds are in Asian size, not so comfortable for me) further north in the mountains to Sa Pa, which is known as one of the most beautiful landscapes in Vietnam, with huge rice fields and lots of green spots.

Unfortunately, I was unlucky enough to spent almost all time in rain. No beautiful sights at all, so no reason for me to stay longer than a day and a half. At least I met James from America who had been travelling for four years and who knew Vietnam very well. He showed me some nice corners in town and shared with me his sad ending love story with a Vietnamese girl who apparently was particularly interested in his money. Later, Dong told me that this sort of story is not the only one she had heard of.

Because of the bad weather I decided to leave Sa Pa earlier and had one day more, which I spent in Ninh Binh. Beautiful little city!

And also the first time for me to try to ride a motorbike by myself. I was quite nervous before I started, since traffic rules do not exactly work as I am used to. But soon I realized there was nothing to worry about as long as you know how to beep the horn.

I think this day was probably one of the best: Even though I got to know a very nice group of French guys and we took a canoe together to discover the cliffs and caves in Tam Coc, 9km from Ninh Binh, I couldn’t wait to be alone on my bike again and just drive without any destination. I didn’t want to follow big streets but rather enter in small lanes, where local life took place. Again, people welcomed me with a big smile and a “hello” on every corner.

At some point I saw a big tunnel and although I was on my way home I changed plans and entered. Behind I spotted a big lake and steps to something that looked like a temple. I climbed the steps and discovered a big cave illuminated with golden lights. Inside there was an altar decorated with Buddha statues and jags, all in gold. The temple smelled great thanks to joss sticks someone had lightened. I was really impressed by its beauty. In front of the cave, from the building I had seen downstairs, I had an amazing view all over the lake and the mountains next to it. I was almost the only person, and it felt great.