I saw a news story on New Zealand national news the other week about an incident involving a British comedian interviewing a supposed ‘terrorist’ for a new film called Bruno. The gist was that comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (of Ali G fame), playing the part of Bruno, a gay Austrian fashion presenter, was interviewing a supposed leader of a supposedly active terrorist group, al-Aqsa. The ‘leader’ of al-Aqsa however is a local business man, and the ‘active’ terorist group named al-Aqsa was disbanded years ago; the local man, Palestinian man Ayman Abu Aita, has never had anything to do with the now defunct terrorist group.
You can see the TV3 News story here: Controversial Cohen Targeted by Terrorist Group
Apart from the fact that Sacha Baron Cohen has manipulated the trust of Abu Aita, I am dismayed at how Channel 3 News in New Zealand could be so incredibly lax in their fact-finding. Their report about the interview stated that Cohen has now beefed up his personal security because the terrorist group has been sending threats to him. Where does 3 News get this information from? How can a defunct terrorist group send threats? As you can see in the following video clip, the interview footage has been purposefully edited to create a different story to what actually happened.
Sky News Story (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZheYqoKtt60)
Of course, I should not rule out that this could just be all an elaborate haox, and perhaps Sky News are the ones being taken for a ride. Perhaps Ayman Abu Aita is in cohoots with Cohen and him sueing Cohen is just all part of the deal…
Which is why, we should all take news stories with a grain of salt.
Some readers may recall that way back in Uzbekistan, the un-thinkable happened. I was using a small portable hard drive to back up all my photos and videos, and on the very day that I decided I would back the drive up (all 20GB of it), it stopped working (http://14degrees.org/en/?p=199). I thought all was lost, until the other day, my brother Chris calmly and confidently ripped the hard drive to bits, exchanged the small 1.8 inch hard drive from my portable unit with the 1.8 inch hard drive in his Ipod, and promptly proceeded to download all those lost-forever photos and videos onto my computer.
So here is a wee taster for what is to come. When I get the inspiration and time, I’ll put a couple of full edits together. Most of the footage is not particularly good (I have come a long way in video skills), but should make for some interesting videos.
Youtube version here: http://nz.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoWvGvHHAb0
I’ll let the video tell the story. Once again I apologise for the lack of the Youtube version of this video. Uploading to Vimeo has proved to be more reliable than Youtube, and as I type the video is still uploading to Youtube. So without further adue…(direct link: http://www.vimeo.com/2347163)
I awoke this morning feeling jaded after far too much excitement over the last week or so. Not that I was complaining. The week spent with the girl I met in Blenheim was fantastic, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
I was on the road early today. About 7am. I woke at 5:30am in my tent and I was instantly aware that this is the last day on the road. There would be no sleeping in this morning. The first 30km towards Christchurch was spent in a daze of euphoria. I had to remind myself to stop and eat. Excitement doesn’t last long when the body is demanding sustenance. Landmarks sped by one after the other, my mind reminiscing of adventures I had had in the past in each location. The turn off to Hanmer Springs (I once did 160km/h along that road in my Aunty Les’s car) . The small town of Amberly (always went through this town on the way to Hanmer Springs). Leithfield Beach (had bonfires there during a Christian camp at university). Woodend (good old Woodend!).
Before I knew it, I was entering the outskirts of Christchurch. Suddenly the rush wore off as the reality hit that it was almost over. My mind was awash with thoughts and fears…
Wow, Christchurch has changed, I thought as I cycled past gated communities of all things on the outskirts near Kaiapoi. Gated communities?! I thought. What is this, the paranoid USA fear of the boogie-man? I had seen plenty of gated communities in the US, guarged by 24 hour security. That would never happen in New Zealand, I thought way back then. So what has happened here in Christchurch? Is there such a culture of fear developing that we all of a sudden need gated communities?
Speaking of fear, anxiety is at an all time high right now. What is causing that? I probed deeper into my psyche and realised that I had an almost paralytic fear of normality. Does this end to my journey mean that I will slowly just ease back in to existing rather than living?
But this is reality! I suddenly realised as I watched people going about their business. Shopping, driving, walking…our real life tangible existance, this is our reality. For the last 2.5 years I have witnessed humans of every culture in wonderful vibrant existance. The passionate Chinese couples making love noisily in the next room over in the small inns in China. Old men dragging me out of the cold into a tea house full of laughing, cursing people in Turkey. Achmed in Tajikistan, struggling to support his family on the meagre income from his electrical repair business, but still smiling and exuding life and showing generosity and hospitality. North Florida ‘rednecks’ enjoying Christmas with family…I could go on and on. This, this is it. Family, friends, community, our planet. This is it. I spend so much time looking to the future, when here is what really matters. Now is what really matters. We are reality.
I also realise that I have been globally stimulated. I can no longer consider New Zealand as the only potential concept of home. While I am ‘coming home’, I am not coming home to a family home. Of my parents, my brothers and my closest extended family, only two individuals still live in the same house as when I last lived in New Zealand five years ago.
As I cycled through downtown Christchurch, I felt a detachment from everything and everyone else around me. No one knew that I was completing such a huge adventure. Even my Mum did not know that I was arriving. My cell phone was out of battery power, so I couldn’t tell her that I had arrived a day earlier than anticipated. I arrived in Cathedral Square in the middle of Christchurch, and I felt nothing. I had arrived at my physical ‘destination’, and essentially the journey by bike and skateboard was over.
I sat there for a few minutes, saying nothing. And then, in a profoundly Forest Gumpish sort of way, I muttered under my breath “Well I suppose I should go home then.”
I cycled from the city center out to Aidanfield, a super new suburb on the outskirts of Christchurch city. So new in fact, that maps at service stations for the area did not show my parent’s street on them. After a short search, I got some directions, and made my way to my parents house. Sound planning, wise decisions, and hard work seems to have paid off for them, I thought, as I surveyed their typically modest, but well laid out new home. Set on the edge of a reserve, there are pukeko, phesants, ducks, hares, magpies and wrens that wander across their back yard.
After calling Mum to get the combination to the key holder (and her spouting her surprise at me getting home sooner than expected), I settled down into a comfy couch over looking the reserve.
To clearly convey how I felt at that moment, it is important that I relay an event that happened a few days ago. I didn’t get around to blogging about this, but on that day a cousin of mine forwarded me a link to The Zeitgeist Movie. “I’m afraid that much of what is in the movie might be true,” my cousin, a regular church goer, told me. “It has shaken my faith, and I am in a major Christianity crisis,” she continued. She said she was concerned that her faith that she had been brought up on was not true. We were chatting on Gmail chat at this time, and I told her to wait for two hours. I was going to watch the movie there and then. Watching The Zeitgeist was perhaps one of the most important things that happened to me while on this journey of mine, and it had everything to do with my faith as a Christian.
The Zeitgeist is a movie about “What does Christianity, 9/11, and the Federal reserve have in common”. In the first part of the movie, it more or less deconstructs the Christian religion as a myth. Much of it I agreed with whole-heartedly. The scare tactics and false teaching and un-loving nature of the church. Terrible stuff. I have always disliked fundamental Christianity for that very reason. What came as a surprise was the movie’s arguements for how the historical Jesus may never even have existed!
In any case, I was left shaken, and unsure of my belief in the bible any more. I started to think about all that I had been taught in church.
This I think sums up what I couldn’t figure out about Christianity. Yes, Jesus taught love. Yes I believe that love (love for other human beings, love of your body, love for the earth…) is the healthiest and most pure principle that us humans can live by.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
But what about that niggling wee issue of salvation and heaven and hell and damnation and non-acceptance of certain ways of life (read homosexuality)?
So, back to me sitting there on my parent’s couch. I was feeling anxious, because I was fairly certain that I was going to have to tell Mum that I could no longer accept the Christian faith. Son gets back from life-altering experience and has rejected all that he has grown up to accept and know. How tragic for a parent could that be?
In reality, I neededn’t have worried. After discussing the issues through with my Mum and Nana, I was feeling better not only for having the courage to air my doubts and confusion, but also feeling better in that my Mum and Nana’s sanity was intact. They had thought about these same issues, and I gathered this as the general response:
“The older I get, the less I realise I know about God,” said Nana. “He is far too magnificent and his ways are far too mysterious for me to know fully. He knows the heart of every person, and he is the perfect judge. Neither I nor anyone else can see the true intent in a person’s heart, so who is anyone to judge but God.”
So I wouldn’t say that my existential spiritual crisis is entirely over, but things are better in my head. I cannot accept that there is no God (I have seen way to much of His creation to doubt that existance), so “there is a God” it is. And if I can learn more about the heart of God through biblical scripture and honest truthful teaching, then so be it.
No one said it was going to be easy coming home. And I can testify that it ain’t no walk in the park so far.
A big thank you to the New Zealand Academy of Sport in Auckland today. Joe McQuillan, a sports physiologist at the institute put me through my paces to see how fit I really am. TV3 National News was there to record the pain! Click on the text link below to view the video.
From the TV3 News website:
In the great tradition of Kiwi adventurers, skateboarder Rob Thomson is back in the country after having completed the longest skateboard journey ever recorded – 12,000 km across Europe, the USA and China.
What does it take to travel under your own power for so long? Does it make Rob Thomson an elite endurance athlete?
Rob took himself and his board to be tested by the New Zealand Academy of Sport.
The epic solo journey took Rob more than 12 months. When he got back to New Zealand, he was curious about what it had done to his body.
New Zealand Academy of Sport physiologist Joe McQuillan agreed to test Rob to see if he had become super fit.
It is the first time anybody has skateboarded for more than six months in a row, so physical endurance data does not exist for that kind of discipline.
The tests included a skin fold test and a strength test, but the key test involved something the Academy of Sport has not done before – pushing Rob to his aerobic limit – using his skateboard on a treadmill.
The results showed he was probably at the same fitness level as someone who competed in iron mans in their spare time, but did not focus on it completely.
Rob was not surprised he would not be considered an elite athlete, as he could take breaks whenever he felt like it on the journey.
“My focus was to travel by skateboard in a human powered way an environmentally friendly way but still have enough energy to communicate with the local people,” she said.
Now he is back in New Zealand, Rob intends to find a job at home in Christchurch.
A few weeks before arriving in Shanghai, on the last 300km stretch of the skateboard leg of my journey, the mood on SkateFurther.com was buzzing. An online home for distance skateboarders in the UK and around the world, SkateFurther was alive with talk of the next 24 Hour Ultraskate.
An Ultraskate is where skateboarders skate as far as they can within a 24 hour period of time. It’s really quite simple in the concept. The concept was pioneered by US skater James Peters of PavedWave.org, and he blazed the way with a raft of 24 hour world records including a scorching 300km plus score in 2008. The current world record is now held by Barefoot Ted of the US, with a massive 390km skated.
Anyway, with the Ultraskate phenomenon going global (UK and US skaters would stage their 24 hour events almost simultaneously), I foolishly thought that getting some New Zealand skaters involved would be a good idea. I say foolishly, because at the time that I suggested the idea (http://www.neednotollie.com/node/242), I knew that I would only have been back in New Zealand three days before the event.
But, I was keen to give it a go, and the thought of skating simultaneously with other skaters on other sides of the globe really appealed. For once, I would not be skating alone.
So today, seven longboarders, gathered together through New Zealand’s most active online longboarding community, NeedNotOllie.com, took part in New Zealand’s first ever 24 hour distance skateboarding event; The CanTeen 24 Hour Ultraskate New Zealand. The YouTube version of the video below is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfD_zysfPjg
Despite my fatigue, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ultraskate. We skated a total of 15 hours back and forth along Tamaki Drive in Auckland, with the other 9 hours somehow being eaten up with breaks. I certainly felt like I needed them. We skated though the night without sleep.
Despite vowing later the next day that “I will never skate again,” I would love to be a part of the next Ultraskate. Three of us managed to skate 230km, with one other skating 215km, and others also pushing further than they ever have before. My previous best was 121km (http://14degrees.org/en/?p=699) on a downhill tailwind day towards Lanzhou in central China.
Thanks to PavedWave.org for such an awesome event!
Without adue, footage of the final 1,200km or so of the longest journey by skateboard. You can watch it on the Vimeo video below, or see the Youtube version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O36qc1ufk9o. What’s the difference? On some computers, the Vimeo version can be a little jerky and slow loading. But, it is much better quality than the Youtube version, which loads quicker…nothing like more choices to make life more complicated, aye?
I have really been enjoying spending time with Michele and other English speakers here in Shanghai the last couple of days. I have loved skating without a heavy trailer attached to my board. I have relished in spending some time cycling around central Shanghai while Michele skates on my board. I have devoured delicious western food. I feel revived with some cooler weather for a change.
Righto, to complement the recent batch of photos and stories, here is the action from the wee Qinghai Detour in technicolour! Watch it on Youtube here
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzBujRmo1Y4), or on Vimeo below.
I apologise for the dramatic start…I was watching Andromeda on the internet cafe’s internal movie server (http://www.51kkl.com/html/movie_10948.shtml) while I was editing the footage…
Compare this video with the last one from Xinjiang and Gansu. Such stark differences in environment!
What a whirlwind! The 30 hour train ride turned out to be 42 hours, but I made it to Rob Luxton‘s place in Hong Kong unscathed…well, mostly.
I got on the 11.22pm train from Lanzhou to Guangzhou with little drama. My skateboard and trailer snugly stowed under the lower bunks, I climbed into my top bunk and dropped dead for about 10 hours.
I slept well on the train, and only got out of my bunk a few times during the 30 hours I thought it would take to get to Lanzhou. In the morning of the second day in the train, I asked a fellow passenger when we would be arriving. 5pm, was the reply. A tad bit longer than I had expected.
So I spent another few hours tossing and turning in my bunk.
Arrival in Guangzhou, I fought for a ticket for a train to Shenzhen, the border city with Hong Kong. Got on the train, arrived Shenzhen 5pm. Stopped in at an internet cafe, had dinner at an Uyghur restaurant. The restaurant people were confused. A guy with long stubble – almost a beard – not Chinese, comes in wanting beef fried rice. They figure I must be Muslim. A Xinjiang local at least. No, I tell them, wrong on both counts. They still look confused. Then I tell them I am skating across China…
I got across to Hong Kong by 8pm. Not before I was held up at the Chinese border. The immigration officer was not happy with the amount of visas in my passport, for some reason. 30 minutes worth of waiting, my passport was registered and I was interviewed, and then I was allowed to exit the country.
At the Hong Kong border, “How long will you be staying in Hong Kong, sir?”
“As short as possible,” I reply. “How long am I allowed to stay?”
“How about 90 days?”
So….I leave China. I am now in….China.
With 90 days stamped in my passport. For free. 90 days…in…China.
Yes…yes, I am confused.
I don’t stop to argue, and I follow my nose and Rob’s directions to his place on one of the outlying islands, a 45 minute ferry ride away, managing to get on the very last ferry for the day.
I am greeted with this on the door of his 1/2 bedroom apartment:
Well, I guess I am a ‘trans-continental longboarder’.
Rob is not here. But I am. Phew. Made it.
And today I made a video of the last few weeks action. Sorry about the terrible quality. Had to do it on a Mac, and couldn’t figure it out proper. The Youtube version (which is even more terrible quality) is here (http://youtube.com/watch?v=OpJMcWQRLjg).
I guess I should be out exporing the city. I’m not. I’m in an internet cafe watching streaming new release movies for free. How this works, I do not know, but it does. See if it works where you are:
Click on the ‘Play Movie’ button at the bottom of the movie you want to watch, then click on the text link in the second box at the left of the film graphic. It will have a number with some Chinese characters in the link, like this:
In fact, by clicking that link above, it might even play Battle for Haditha for you, which I have just started watching. You may need a special codec to view the movies, but I am viewing them on the Media Player Classic.
I’d be interested to know if you can watch them overseas, and if so, how the heck they get around copyrite laws.