Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Neun und Neunzig

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I found out what the song is about. Growing up in a communist Romania, I turned 17 in 1984. It was probably the first year of dancing, clubs and interest in music hits. One of the best songs of that year was Nena's "99 Luftballons" and ever since the number 99 has a special significance for us. The song it's a fantasy about children who release a bag of balloons in Cold War era Berlin, soldiers think it's an incoming weapon, trigger a nuclear war and in the end one of the children stands in the rubble of the city and finds a single remaining red balloon (wikipedia). It was a protest song, I guess, we didn't know but we loved it.

There's still some room in these bags for a few items.
Ninety-nine days until we leave. We almost finished the luggage, we are ready. Six bags lined up, just a few more items to add.

We had several setbacks and turnarounds but the general attitude is that no matter what it will be fine. Just realized that the China visa will limit us to 30 days at a time. Considering that the time in Tibet is already tight there has to be some sacrifice somewhere. Still trying to get to China from Japan, I found a mysterious airline that flies from an obscure Tokyo airport to Shanghai. We didn't want to go to Shanghai, but we'll take it. It should save at least $1000 for the tickets, but it is another city, another stop. What do we cut?

We bought our tickets from Australia to Hawaii. Eleven days, two 10-hour flights, another expense, two more crosses of the Equator. We'll be there at the end of March and back in Sydney on April 1st. Don't ask why, it could be a never ending discussion. Why do we need borders and passports?

So we swapped Hawaii for New Zealand's Northern Island. What would you do? We'll take it and have a fabulous time.

I booked the campers. Apparently this is the way to go in New Zealand and Australia and for us it is surely the cheapest accommodation. But it's more than this, it is one major attraction for all of us. Two weeks in New Zealand, supposedly giving us the freedom to not plan ahead. Two weeks in Australia, two bookings, a 4WD for Uluru that should let us get off the sealed road and a fancy camper that should take us to Darwin. With a pretty tight schedule we couldn't wait for an unlikely deal at the last moment, just got the early booking discount.

No further plans after Kuala Lumpur on June 1st. I tried to believe it, I said it out loud, shared it with everybody and it didn't work. The word "Paris" has some special power over me, I feel it in my chest, I choke and my knees melt. And more. AirAsia had another sale, we thought for a few minutes and we'll be in Paris in June 2012. It was one of the options in the first place, Paris, London or Johannesburg. It's all about visas, embassies and flight connections. Don't get me started.

I'm wondering if I'm over-planning. I never bought a plane ticket at the last minute, I would love to go to the counter and get whatever is left, any destination available, just go. I will do it at some point, but for now it's just not realistic. I made a lot of reservations and our schedule is filling little by little. Almost all of the hotel bookings are for the cheapest price in a great location with free cancellation. Almost all the plane tickets are for a fabulous price and non-refundable. We'll just forfeit something if it doesn't work. I'm not over-planning, there's just so little time left and I really don't want to spend this trip looking for Internet and accommodations. I already lost a great apartment in Kyoto by a few minutes. Only ninety-nine days. I have to learn German. Neun und Neunzig.

This is the English translation of the song:

German Text: Carlo Karges
Translation: Hyde Flippo
Musik: Uwe Fahrenkrog-Petersen

Have you some time for me,
then I'll sing a song for you
about 99 balloons
on their way to the horizon.
If you're perhaps thinking about me right now
then I'll sing a song for you
about 99 balloons
and that such a thing comes from such a thing.

99 balloons
on their way to the horizon
People think they're UFO's from space
so a general sent up
a fighter squadron after them
Sound the alarm if it's so
but there on the horizon were
only 99 balloons.

99 fighter jets
Each one's a great warrior
Thought they were Captain Kirk
then came a lot of fireworks
the neighbors didn't understand anything
and felt like they were being provoked
so they shot at the horizon
at 99 balloons.

99 war ministers
matches and gasoline canisters
They thought they were clever people
already smelled a nice bounty
Called for war and wanted power.
Man, who would've thought
that things would someday go so far
because of 99 balloons.

99 years of war
left no room for victors.
There are no more war ministers
nor any jet fighters.
Today I'm making my rounds
see the world lying in ruins.
I found a balloon,
think of you and let it fly (away).