Transport, foods, greetings, terms and translations as needed:

8888 Uprising: The name given to the mass protests across Burma scheduled for the auspicious date of August 8, 1988. As described in Reporting from Rangoon there followed a curfew, a coup and a total shutdown of the country to outside visitors.

Bar de la Mala Muerte: Bar of the Bad Death in Chichicastenango. You have got to wonder what kind of death it was, right?

Barong: A panther-like creature in Balinese mythology. He is the king of the spirits, leader of good, and enemy of Rangda. The battle between Barong and Rangda represents the eternal battle between good and evil. See also Rangda.

The Burma Thing: Visas to Burma were for 7 days and were issued to non-journalists only, though how one could identify was another thing. It meant hot-footing it around the country to see as much as possible before having to leave.

Chaac: The Mayan god of rain, thunder, and lightning. Often depicted with reptilian scales, fangs and a long curved nose. Also known as Tlaloc amongst the Aztecs.

Chángpáo: Traditional long button-down shirt or gown worn by men or women. In Cantonese more commonly known for women as a cheongsam (長衫).

Chapina: Young Guatemalan woman.

Chinese Ghost Wall / Doorsill: A barrier at the bottom of the entrance to a room or building, designed to keep the ghosts out, because ghosts can only move in straight lines! Also handy to keep out the mud and the rain during the monsoons.

Chopstick Death: While sticking your chopsticks upright in rice may seem convenient it is definitely inappropriate in a restaurant. Not only is it a sign for death, but it can also be seen as inviting the spirits to come and eat with you.

Cormorant: A large aquatic bird once prized in Asia for its use in catching fish. Also can refer to a gluttonous, greedy, or rapacious person. Cormorant fishing is still practiced for tourists in places like Guilin, China or in the Gifu Prefecture in Japan. See Ukai for more details.

Daruma: A round papier-mâché Japanese doll painted red and made in the form of a seated potbellied monk. Purchased for the purposes of making a wish, his limbless shape is modelled after a Buddhist monk who meditated so long he lost the use of his arms and legs. Available in all sizes, depending on how serious you are about your wish.

Fajr: The first prayer of the day performed between the break of dawn and sunrise. Followed by Dhuhr, Asr, Mahrib, and at the end of the day, Iesha’a.

FEC: Foreign Exchange Certificates. The official ‘currency’ for foreigners visiting China in the 80s. The other currency ‘RMB’ was only supposed to be used by locals.

Fétard: Party animal.

Finca: Typically a farm or estate.

Fishbowl: The glass enclosure where women line up for selection by visitors to a massage parlour. Each woman has a button pinned to their clothing for ease of identification.

Garifuna: The drummers of Belize, typically located around the mainland area of Hopkin.

Gemu: The Goddess and protector of the Mosuo people, survived the transition from what was originally an animist faith, to Tibetan Buddhism.

Gwang-lo, Gwai-lou, Farang, etc: ‘Foreigner’, or ‘Foreign Devil’. Most countries have an equivalent, e.g. in the US the equivalent might be ‘Alien’! In the examples provided the words are from the Mandarin, Cantonese and Thai respectively.

Hard Seat: The most basic form of train travel in China, your ticket being a spot on a wooden bench for a journey that could last many hours if not all day, given the size of the country.

Jeepney: The favoured transportation of the Philippines. Basically an old American World War II Jeep re-jigged to seat people on benches either side of the back and decorated with fantastic technicolour kitsch, colourful religious and gaudy musical motifs while blaring out good ‘ole Rock N’ Roll.

Karen / Mons: The tribes located around the Thai Burmese border were both part of a general refugee crisis at the time. The Karen then became the largest of 20 minority groups participating in an insurgency against the Burmese military dictatorship that followed the 8888 Uprising.

The Khat Ta Flower: This large white flower, native to Burma, is often presented as an offering to temples and is highlighted by its long red stamens and intense fragrance.

Khmer Rouge: The genocidal thugs who governed Cambodia in the 70s causing that country to disappear from the world map until 1979 when the Vietnamese invaded. They continued to operate as an insurgency up until 1996.

Kidnap Bus: The overnight bus between San Cristóbal de las Casas and Oaxaca. Famed for being subject to ambush whenever a westerner was reputed to be on board. I was advised to keep my head low!

Koi Fish: This beautiful large fish, typically mottled orange and white, is associated with luck, prosperity and perseverance in Japan. Watch two of them float around each other like two halves of the Ying Yang symbol in a koi pond.

Koming: Typically a female name from the Balinese word ‘Uman’ meaning ‘end, remainder’, given to the third-born.

Lechon: Pork served up from whole roast pig in places like Belize and the Philippines.

Lakhon: A traditional Thai dance form where the performers wear exquisite gold embroidered outfits and temple-like headpieces.

Long Necks: The Kayan Lahwi tribe in Burma are notable for their women wearing brass rings or coils around their neck… For the purposes of lengthening the neck and supposedly making them more attractive.

Look and Learn Magazine: This magazine circulating until 1982 was possibly the modernised sequel to the ‘Rah-Rah Empire’ Boy’s Own paper of the 60s. Subscribed to, and seen by parents as better reading material than The Beeno!

Manga: The ubiquitous comics or graphic novels originating from Japan. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki started with the protagonist Jonathan Joestar transforming into himself into a vampire, as you do.

Mamasan or Mama-san: In Southeast Asia a mama-san is a woman who is an authority figure works often in a supervisory role in clubs, bars, massage parlours, etc.

Merengue: Originally a dance form from the Dominican Republic.

Milk / Gold Run: The name given to moving (smuggling?) goods across borders. The Gold Run was obviously gold, the Milk Run just standard goods. Typically done by Westerners because customs would not bat an eyelid if a westerner showed up with more than the allotted amount of gold around their necks!

Models: In Thailand, these are the topmost ranked class of women who show up at the massage parlours. They might also have a high profile presence beyond the prostitution / girlfriend ring.

Mosou Zha or Na: The matriarchal society also called the Naxi, centered around Lugu Lake, known as the ‘Mother Lake’, on the Yunnan, China plateau.

Nam Pla: The Thai fish sauce used in many Thai dishes as a flavour enhancer.

Nasi Goreng: In my opinion, Indonesian fried rice with its distinctive smoky aroma (possibly the shrimp paste?) and served with an egg on top is the best in the world. Argue now?

NGOs: Various Non Governmental Organizations flitted around Central America, much like the American Peace Corp and the UK’s Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) who were also there.

Non, je ne regrette rien: Edith Piaf’s famous song, to which I reply, “Then you have never lived!”

Novia: Girlfriend!

People Power: Whilst a generic term, in these stories the reference is to the 1986 revolution in the Philippines which overthrew the Marcos dictatorship, leading to the rise of a democracy led by Corazon Aquino. Of course as of this writing Marcos Junior is now in power. Plus ça change…

Perestroika: Gorbachev‘s political reform manifesto that possibly culminated with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and led to the dissolution of the USSR.

Ramakien: The Thai version of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Whilst similar to the Ramayana the tales are in the main transferred to the geography and culture of the ancient city of Ayutthaya.

Rangda: The demon queen of Balinese mythology. The child-eating Rangda leads an army of evil witches against the leader of the forces of good and is distinguished by her fangs, glaring eyes and long, protruding tongue. Quite the charmer!

Rijsttafel: A Dutch word referring to a buffet of several Indonesian dishes. Served up mostly outside Indonesia due to cost, nevertheless I came across some considerably scaled down Thali-style versions in Java.

Rudyard Kipling: The renowned writer of The Jungle Book (turned into the marvellous 1967 Disney film), and many wonderful tales based in India and Asia. However, he also wrote The White Man’s Burden.

Ruta Maya: Roughly speaking, the Mayan route through the Yucatán Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, and some part of Honduras and El Salvador. Encompasses famous sites such as Chichen-Itza, Tikal, Palenque and Copán.

Sanook (สนุก): The Thai word for ‘fun’. Fun can mean different things to different people and different cultures however, in Thailand, Sanook is more like a mindset, or a way of life.

Saving Face: The Asian concept of avoiding having people lose respect, by steering away the possibility of humiliation at all costs.

Sì Bǎo (四宝): The “Four Treasures” references the brush, ink, paper and ink stone used in Chinese calligraphy. Also a musical instrument from Fujian province that consists of four rectangular bamboo sticks which make an insect like chirp.

Sideline Girl: Unlike fishbowl girls, sideline girls sit outside the fishbowl and can be approached by anyone. Typically they are freelancers with another day job.

Slinging, Ringing, etc: Google it!

Songthaew: Prevalent in Thailand at the time this transportation was similar to the Jeepney in that it sat people at the back on benches either side, but it was uncovered and it had none of the Jeepney’s flashiness.

Terima Kasih: “Thank you” in Indonesian. Terry McKassie from Glasgow was probably the most popular sign in name in any guest house across the archipelago.

Tiananmen Square: The huge central square in front of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Known as much now for the 1989 student massacre less than a year after my visit.

Tony Wheeler: The god of low budget travelling and the founder, along with his wife Maureen, of the Lonely Planet guidebooks was reportedly spotted from time to time on my routes but I never saw him. His South-East Asia on a Shoestring was my bible for a long time.

Tuba: A Filipino beer made from fermented palm tree sap. Yum!

Ukai (鵜飼): Cormorant Fishing in Japan is called Ukai. To control the bird, the fisherman ties a noose near the base of the bird’s throat. It doesn’t stop the bird from swallowing small fish, but it prevents it from swallowing the larger ones. When a cormorant has caught a large fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat to retrieve it.

Umami: As everyone knows, the four basic tastes are salty, sweet, sour, and bitter. However Umami, a Japanese term is the inexplicable fifth taste, akin maybe to fish sauce, soy sauce or meat extract.

URNG: The Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity was formed as the leftist umbrella group for a number of paramilitary organisations in 1982. Prevalent during the CIA backed military interference in Central America in the 80s and early 90s. A legitimized political party since 1998.

Uzi: Originally used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) these semi-automatic machine guns have spread across the world to be used in almost every state conflict from the 60s to the present day.

Wayan: The gender-neutral Balinese name given to the first born child meaning ‘eldest’. In a nutshell, Balinese names follow a pattern depending on the order of births, and these repeat after the fourth birth (So the fifth is also Wayan!). There isn’t the “I’ll name my child whatever I want,” option in other countries! See also Koming.

Wing Chun: The close-quarter martial art from Southern China as popularised by Ip Man and his student Bruce Lee.

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