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Correspondent's Vest

The ultimately best traveller's companion and the thing to bring is a correspondent's vest (aka photographer's vest). You know, that often green or khaki coloured multipocketed piece of garment with lots of zippers and compartments. Sure, depending on the design, it might make you look like you're going to a hunting spree. Or just plain country bumpkin. In the best case scenario, you might resemble a foreign correspondent or a photo journalist. But for a traveller, it's almost as useful as duct tape.

No Sweat!
You can stuff loads of your belongings inside the pockets. It's especially useful in the airports, when you, on your way back home, have filled your luggage with all those souvenirs, awful tasting local liquor bottles and presents, and you're way beyond the airline weight limits. The solution is to wear your correspondent's vest and make use of its pocket space. You can fit several books there as well as some other heavier stuff like electric devices, chargers and so on. It's easy to toss the vest with all its contents in the security check box and have the whole entity X-rayed. You will also look rather silly when wandering about the airport wearing a fully loaded vest.

But it's not only the airport where the correspondent's vest is useful. On the road, it's a practical substitute for handbags and backbags, even without having to stuff it full. You will be able to carry your wallet, passports (if you have to keep them with you), medicine, pocket knife, lighter, notes, maps, pencils, phone, camera, torch etc. very close to your body. The vest naturally doesn't give an absolute protection against pickpockets, but it's harder to steal anything from your breast pocket than from your bag. Plus, you have everything handy should you need it immediately. You can also sew a secret pocket somewhere inside for your emergecy money.

There seems to be a very nice quality version of correspondent's vest on sale. I bought mine, a cheapo version, at Cu Chi tunnels in Vietnam. Its design is quite military-esque, but it has served me well for couple of years. (Well, I recently pulled the slider off of one of the zippers, but what did you expect for a 15 dollar vest.) I learned the awesomeness of this fine piece of clothing from the excellent Travel Channel documentary Madventures by my countrymen Riku & Tunna, where Riku's regular gear is the mighty correspondent's vest.


The Little Shop of Horrors

Storefront Scream King
I just came from Rome couple of days ago. Despite the loads and loads of most amazing historical, architectonic, religious and mystical sights and sites of the city, I have to confess one of my main goals of the trip was to visit the shop and museum of the grand-old-man of Italian horror cinema, Dario Argento.

I grew up my teenage years among horror movies in strictly movie-censored Finland. Because of the censorship, all the decent horror films released in my country had been cut mindlessly, not paying any attention what happens to the plot if you take random seconds or minutes away from here and there. That's why we had vivid underground culture of sharing uncut horror movies brought or ordered from abroad. The films would spread around being copied, the copies would being copied, ending up to be 15th or so generation copies with barely watchable picture, occasional lack of sound or colours (we are talking VHS here, youngsters)... That was the time I got acquainted with Italian horror cinema, giallo, Lucio Fulci, Bavas, Ruggero Deodato - and maestro Argento.

The Note from HELL
That's why visiting the museum was almost like a pilgrimage to me. After a short metro ride and a bit of urban navigation we find the Profondo Rosso store. Here we are, at the roots of a Legend. Windows full of scary stuff, much more inside. But what do we find at the site? The not-English-speaking employee gesticulates effectively passing us the information that the Museum is closed. Indeed, the hand-written note at the entrance said in Italian something about the 2nd of November. And it isn't even Halloween yet! We Finns tend to be much more hand-controlled than Italians (at least when sober, which I was. Honestly.) but here I went totally Mediterranean. I spread my arms up wide yelling exaggeratedly Nooooo! and slammed my palms against my forehead recoiling them back up towards the heavens. The employee looked genuinely sorry and I gained my control again, gesturing and saying it's ok, no problem, no can do. Hell, at least I'm going to buy me something as a souvenir. I started rummaging among the eyeballs, monster fingers and vampire masks.

Very soon another man walks into the store. The employee speaks something to him, in Italian, of course. The second man suddenly asks us in English: Do you want to see the museum? Oh, those divine words of joy! The man appears to be the shopkeeper and he explains that the museum is not fully functional because Halloween is coming, and it's the peak season of sales for the store, so there are lots of boxes and other stuff around. But we could go in if we could forgive that and the employee would have to come with us, hope we understand. Understand? I would have danced him trepak half-naked had it occured him to ask. (I didn't do my homework properly, because only after returning home I discovered that the shopkeeper is an Italian director Luigi Cozzi. I actually watched one of his films, Contamination not long ago. Shame on me for not acknowledging. Hell, I could even have asked for an autograph.)

So we buy tickets and descent to the underground vaults of Dario Argento's Horror Museum. It consists of five or six red brick vaulted chambers of Argento movie memorabilia, like the real props and dolls used in making of his films, and other collector stuff like real size Darth Vader and Freddy Krueger. There is a voice-over English speaking narrator from the loudspeakers presenting the chambers in order, so you have to suit your moves in the museum according the narration. The whole place is a bit shabby in a most sympathetical way. First of all, it a very small museum (not the smallest, I've visited, but still). Poor old Darth is quite dusty, and the props actually look quite like what they are: old movie props from the Eighties or so. The narration is very campy with its Italian accent and grandiose horroresque intonation. Priceless. But one can easily see that the museum is built with love, and if you're into horror cinema at all, this is a place to visit.
Search for Dario Argento!


How to Peel a Pineapple

Once you've tasted fresh pineapple plucked straight from the tree and chopped in front of your eyes, you know there's no going back to tinned chunks. Granted, the pineapples they sell in Western greengroceries can be raw and more bitter tasting than the ones you can buy on any decent beach in Southeast Asia. But peeling and slicing your own pineapple beats opening a can anytime.

This seems to be one the most economic (and probably time taking) way to prepare a pineapple wasting the precious flesh as little as possible. It also gives very nice looking groovy pineapple result. I have seen people peeling pineapples this way many times in Thailand, and finally one time in Vietnam I thought of filming the procedure. Notice the disfigured hand of the nice fruit seller lady.

First off, here's a fast version of the video, where you'll get the idea how to cut a pineapple by Fibonacci sequence. Scroll a bit down for the normal speed version.

Starting Another Blog

I have two blogs already. I decided to start the first one, when I booked a Trans-Siberian trip for me and my father last spring. I thought it would be nice to keep kind of a diary about the trip and at the same time keep friends and family updated on it. Now that the trip is behind, I still find that some people actually find their way to my blog when they are looking information on Trans-Siberian railway, Mongolia or e.g. China. So, it appears to be useful or interesting for a number of people.

The other blog doesn't have a clear theme or idea. It is merely a junkyard for thoughts I have at some moment felt the urge to write down. (One can see that I might be slightly obsessed with zombies.) However, I noticed that in that blog I had written some memories of trips I've done in my life under a tag souvenir or memento, as kind of journal spirited entries of some more or less weird occurrences that have happened while on the prowl. As both of the mentioned blogs are in Finnish, I figured that I might as well start a third, English one, that would collect the usefulness-interest aspect and my occasional need to write down travel anecdotes before i forget them, and to enable my dear Finnish-challenged friends and occasional search engine readers to read it. I know, my English skills are far from perfect, thank you very many.

I tweaked the idea of mondo films to name the blog. Jacopetti & Prosperi had Mondo Cane, Russ Meyer made Mondo Topless, John Waters directed Mondo Trasho. Thus: Mondo Memento.