Least Friendly Countries In the World

Least Friendly Countries In The World

“I’m a stranger in a strange land.” Carson McCullers 

As any world traveler knows, not every country offers tourists a warm welcome. Everyone does not “like to practice their English” for you English-speaking tourists. Everyone does not like foreigners. Friendliness is rated by attitudes toward foreigners. Here are the least friendly countries in order.

10. Mongolia is not a nation of smiling quaint little Asian people. They come from warrior lineage and showing emotion to strangers is a sign of weakness. It is a cultural difference and that is the way it is. They often seem rude and unfriendly, especially in cities. Once you go out of the city, this is not the case. The challenging nature of nomadic life has shaped the need for the unique hospitality and genuine warmth extended to all travelers and pilgrims. Mongolians believe that the welcome offered a stranger today will be repaid in the future. This concept is at the very root of Mongolia’s centuries-old culture.

9. Bulgaria is about as East as Eastern Europe gets and Eastern Europeans are not friendly. They don’t smile and I don’t speak Bulgarian. I don’t know much about this country. It is not famous for gymnasts or shooting dictators.There is a lot of stuff on the internet about people being rude and ripping off tourists when possible. Least friendly does not mean unsafe. I guess I will go and see for myself and bring a book.

8. Slovaks are not friendly to people they do not know. I am not sure if this reserve is a Slavic trait or a product of the Socialist regime that they lived under for so long. Smiling customer service will not be part of your shopping or dining experience in Slovakia. They want tourism but they can’t figure out how to market themselves. If you need help in English “ask young,” The older people working in train stations and bus terminals do not speak English. There have been several racist incidents in this homogeneous white society that make people not want to return.

7. Latvia is a good place to not ask directions because no one is going to help you. I have been there. The locals are not friendly and if anyone is friendly to you they want something – so be careful. It is my least favorite of all the Eastern European countries that I have been to so far.

6. Pakistan is a country rife with crime and terrorists. Home to the Taliban and other extremist organizations, Pakistan is unsafe and unfriendly.

5. Iran is a tough one. I think it is on this list because it is ruled by savage mullahs who sponsor terrorism. But from everything I have heard, Iranians are welcoming to visitors and happy to see travelers in their country. The President leads chants that say Death To America. There are posters that say Death to Israel and We Have No Homosexuals. This definitely makes it unwelcoming, yet by all accounts, the people are kind and friendly.

4. Kuwait is incredibly hot which probably makes people irritable. Do not expect a warm welcome here. It is a conservative Muslim country and from being around conservative Muslims in my travels, I notice that they avoid eye contact with anyone in Western clothes. There is not a lot to do other than eating vast amounts of food, smoke shisha (hookah) and walk around luxurious shopping malls. Apparently, the locals don’t seem to want foreigners to do that.

3. I was in Russia a while ago. No one spoke English and at that time every sign was written in Cyrillic. It was hard to get around and I tried to learn temporary Cyrillic as fast I could. The no smiling, no small talk is standard Russian behavior. It was still early in the post-Communist era and people were adjusting. The life of a Russian person in Russia had always been hard and a constant struggle. When I was there, they had many issues between this new “free” life and the feeling that life under Communism was easier. It was what they knew. I found the people cold, rude and unfriendly but I never found that with the many Russian immigrants I have met in the States. I understand why it is listed as the third most unfriendly country in the world because that was my experience as well coming from a completely different culture. 

2. Venezuela is a country in crisis.  It is socially, economically, and politically in ruins. Venezuela is full of violent crime, inflation, and corruption. The local people spend half their lives waiting in line at empty supermarkets, bus, train and gas stations. Hospitals are empty because there is no medicine in this oil-rich country.  The black market is so much cheaper than inflated prices so everyone carries cash. Tourists are robbed by both criminals and police. Traffic accidents are common because cars don’t stop at street lights for fear of being robbed. Protests are daily and often turn violent. Venezuela is a dangerous country and not on most people’s list to travel to right now. Everyone is way too worried about their own safety and precarious future to be friendly to strangers. 

1. Bolivia took the dubious honor of being the most unfriendly country in the world. I know you probably thought it would be the French. I’m not sure I get this one. The only Bolivians I have met were in Northern Argentina selling hand-made souvenirs and coca leaves for altitude sickness in the Altiplano. It is the most extensive high altitude plateau outside of Tibet -4000 meters high. Chewing coca leaves and drinking coca tea is very helpful for avoiding altitude sickness. The legality of coca leaves in Buenos Aires is questionable but it is medicinal in the Altiplano and they bring it in from Bolivia. Some Bolivians were friendlier than others but no one was rude. I’ve always found South Americans to be kind and helpful and I can’t find any information on why it is number one. It is an odd choice for a poor, beautiful country that needs tourism. I’m definitely going anyway.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Staying Sane In An Insane World

“The most insane things can become normal if you have them around you long enough. A mind can’t seem to hold anything too crazy for too long without finding a way to make it seem normal.” Deb Caletti

You can get used to anything. You think you can’t but you can. When I came home from New Zealand I had horrible anxiety every time I turned on the TV. There was another Presidential order that was always badly rolled out and more protests. There is way too much bad news bombarding us twenty-four hours a day.

A few weeks later, I just feel numb. I am becoming desensitized. Things were said today  that went almost unnoticed. A month ago they would have been front page news. What is going on in America is wrong and it takes all my sanity to get through the day. In the midst of all this I am trying to live a conscious life of kindness and intelligence. Just because America is going insane does not mean that I have to follow.

The cause of these external events have been a long time in the making. They did not just happen. There are no simple answers. Finding a scapegoat to blame sounds very fascist to me. It’s the Muslims. It’s the Feminists. It’s the Immigrants. It’s the Jews. It’s the NRA.  It’s the Whites. It’s the Blacks. It’s ISIS. It’s the Environmentalists. It’s the Left. It’s the RIght. It is so convenient to have someone to blame – especially when said in a confident, authoritative voice. It’s becoming really hard to separate the real threats from the manufactured ones.

Here are some real threats. There are 117 suicides in the U.S. each day compared to 43 murders. There are 129 deaths from accidental drug overdoses. Ninety six  people a day die  in automobile accidents (27 of whom aren’t wearing seat belts)There are 1,315 deaths each day due to smoking, and 890 related to obesity, and all the other preventable deaths from strokes, heart attacks and liver disease.

I need meditation and yoga in my life now.  I can’t exhale this out. Beaches and travel help. I allow a short time period to watch the news and take days off. It looks to me like all this fear mongering is illogical. We are the biggest threat to ourselves.

Fly safe,

JAZ

If You See Something, Say Something – Living In America

If You See Something, Say Something – Living  In America

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”Martin Niemoller

I always said that I would be the first one out of Nazi Germany. I would have been gone as soon as I heard the hate rhetoric. Germany elected a monster with a lot of charisma. He told the people what they wanted to hear so how could they resist.

The economic crisis helped Hitler to come into power. He was democratically elected.
I’m not sure that you can blame the German people for that. Hitler did not campaign on the premise of starting a holocaust. He didn’t sound much more radical or antisemitic then any of the other candidates.

The collective crime of the German people was that they supported Hitler and his party even after they had started committing unspeakable crimes and that a sizable fraction of the population supported him in committing those crimes. The difficult thing about Democracy is that majorities are sometimes wrong and you have to decide if and when it is your moral duty to follow the wrong decisions or when to fight them.

I learned about the Holocaust as a little girl living in a refugee community of Holocaust survivors. Of course I would run. Now I am a grownup. I believe in the Democratic process of voting and the person that was supposed to win, won.

There are signs that are troubling. The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, which acts as a check on the power of politicians and the government. Trump has already punished news organizations for critical stories by revoking their press credentials to his events and as President-elect continues to threaten them and deny access. I don’t think certain members of the press were particularly impartial during the election but that is one of the freedoms our country is built on.

There are things that were said in the campaign that breed similarity to a dictatorship. He talked about purging the government of all officials appointed by Barack Obama which is what Hitler did two months after getting into office. He is creating a tribe of people based on mutual hate and resentments. He is continuing to hold rallies (as did Hitler and Eva Peron).

I’m withholding my personal opinions and giving him a chance. I have to support the process of a Democratic election because I have seen the governments in Third World countries. I hope he does the good things that he says he will do. I’m reading and learning.  There has been a definite increase in racial harassment and xenophobia since Trump was elected. I understand that if an innocent Muslim or Latino is unsafe here, then I am also unsafe here. My new mantra is taken from homeland security. “If you see something, say something.”

Fly safe,

JAZ

Petra, Jordan

Petra, Jordan

Joke I heard in Jordan “ Two Arabs are speaking. The first one says, “I love living in Washington DC, I can say anything I want about President Obama.” “ It is the same in Damascus,” said his friend. “We can also say anything we want about President Obama.”

Petra was not on my bucket list and it should have been. It is a city of rose-colored stone, carved out of rock by the Nabateans in the 3rd century BC. Like Macchu Picchu, there isn’t a lot of information known about it. It is one of the dryest places on earth and how they got water for the thirty thousand people who lived here is a mystery.

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Stephen Spielberg brought it to us in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It is one of the more amazing places I will see in my lifetime. To the American press, Jordan is a country surrounded by evil, but there is no State Department warning at this time about traveling to Jordan, so I decided to go. 

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There are different ways to get to Petra. It is a four-hour drive from Amman airport or a two-hour drive from Aquaba airport. I crossed at the Eilat Arava crossing from Israel. Petra is about two hours away by bus or taxi.

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if you plan to cross into Jordan at the Aqaba/Eilat border crossing, you have two options as of January first  2016. You either need to have a pre-arranged Jordan visa (at least two weeks in advance) from a consulate or embassy elsewhere, or you can travel with a qualified tour company on a tour. In this case the tour company can vouch for you at the border. I decided to do it at the last-minute so my only option was to join a tour.

 I traveled with Tourist Israel. https://www.touristisrael.com/. I googled tours to Petra and contacted a few but they were the best fit for me. The agents were professional online and answered my many, many questions promptly.  You have a choice of different tours – one or more days. All the Israeli tour companies work with  Jordanian tour companies on the Jordan side. The drivers in both countries were excellent. The border crossing  is smooth on both sides. The people on the tour were interesting and from all over the world so that was fun.The tour guide was informative and funny. My only caution would be in the store where the money goes to the Women’s Development Project (hopefully, because I saw no women and assumed that was cultural). I was given prices in dollars but charged the same number they gave me in dinars (which is a lot more) and I didn’t catch it so be aware of that. 

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Remember that It is a border crossing in the Middle East  and information can change at any time so check right before you go.There are visa fees and border crossing fees. You actually walk across the border here. There is a few minutes of no man’s land between the countries  and it is little surreal.

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The Jordanian guards seem bored and relaxed. The Israelis are serious and vigilant. The border closes at 8PM ( we got there at 745). Borders are serious business. Follow the rules.  Answer the questions and  no joking around.

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The best time to visit Petra is in the spring or fall because it is very hot. I was there in October but there was a heat wave so it was summer hot.

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Petra stretches over a massive 60 square kilometer area and you’ll end up doing a lot of walking with very little shade. Dress appropriately for the heat but also remember you are in a Muslim country. Always be respectful of local culture.  if it gets too much there’s a choice of camels, donkeys and horses to do the hard work for you.  It involves.negotiating with kohl eyed Berber men on a price.

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The city was built in a canyon for protection.

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The Siq is the main entrance to the lost city of Petra.

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In my  opinion, the Siq is one of the greatest attractions of Petra. The gorge stands between 91-182 meters high and is no more than 3 meters wide for the 2km it takes to reach the city.

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The Treasury will be the very first thing that you see when you reach the end of the Siq. You can’t miss it. As you walk through a passageway big enough for one camel , someone will be playing the music from Indiana Jones. As with all World Wonders, it feels very touristy.

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The Street of Facades is a walkway with various cutouts that have been weathered by the elements and time. Stroll along this walkway imaging what it would have been like to arrive into this great city at the height of its power.

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The theater is small by Roman standards, but still worth checking out as it is carved out of the pink stone, right into the wall. You are not allowed to enter the theater, but you can climb up to a viewing platform to get an unobstructed view and some decent photos.

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The royal tombs are coolest place you can visit in the lost city of Petra. Be sure to make the climb up to the top for a fantastic view of the city. Take your time to look at the market stalls along the way for some interesting souvenirs. The view inside the tombs is stunning as well.

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  I did not get to the Colonnade Street or the  Monastery. It was very hot and our tour guide was discouraging the donkey and camel rides. I think he was worried about the time and getting us back.

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 Petra is a huge site. There are many day tours but I think one day is simply not enough time to explore this massive, beautiful ruins.

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You need two days at a minimum. Two full days would give you the perfect amount of time to see all the sites at a pace conducive to photography and enjoyment. Stay over night in Wadi Musa ( he nearby town) or under the stars in the Wadi Rum. The Wadi Rum is the desert of  the Bedouins and Lawrence of Arabia and I definitely should have stayed there. It looked amazing.

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We were driving back through the Wadi Rum at sunset. It is “vast, echoing and godlike”said TE Lawrence ( of Arabia).

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Fly safe,

JAZ