On The Yukon (OTY) / On The Ayeyarwady (OTA) – 10

OTY: Splicing cable was not an easy task. It took three of us to subdue the writhing wire snake. Large marlin spikes (fids) plunged into the beast and forced open the gaps to weave in the vicious strands. Finger tips can be lost in this maneuver. Cables hold the barges fast to the boat, so a poor splice might endanger the barge (and all the materials on board) if it snaps. This was essential work. We were boatmen. We could do this before being whiplashed by the tightly wound steel coils. We would survive.

OTA: There are moments when, seduced by the comforts of a tourist bubble, I could exhibit unbecoming frustration with minor inconveniences. In those moments, someone needs to snap you back to reality. That reality check in Myanmar was at times brutal: flooding, earthquakes, military rule, economic disparity, tribal wars, and interfaith hostility among other factors. I was trying to fix my shoelaces for my Arc’Teryx sneakers on the upper deck, while village women are just below on the shore washing their clothes in the river. I might as well been on the USS Enterprise visiting from another planet. The Prime Directive: First Do No Harm. So I would Burst the Bubble. Make worthwhile connections no matter how brief. Our guide said that some crew members had never seen a white person before. My goal: to make solid first impressions with a few locals and try not to scare people. On another expedition (as a roving free-lance cartoonist) years before, I sat near a fire in a remote part of the Philippine island of Mindinao, and heard a startled cry. Apparently the locals coming to the fetch water nearby were frightened by my appearance. They thought I was a ghost. On this trip, I would try to be real.

About Whittoons

Cartoonist, and community organizer who has covered the globe as a doodlebugger, gandydancer, supernumerary steward, Able Bodied Seaman, Wireman, monkey man, Night Baker and dishwasher, Hobo, hitchhiker and husband.
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