An open letter to the world

Trip Start Oct 21, 2006
Trip End Mar 21, 2008

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Flag of Slovakia  ,
Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An open letter to the countries of the world

Dear Countries of the World -

Over the last year or so we have travelled to and through a good number of you. We have noticed how different you all are from one another and your positive and negative features. Accordingly, we would like to suggest some idea-sharing between you, for everyone's mutual benefit. Imagine a kind of international 'Secret Santa' of ideas. Below are some suggested exchanges.

*   India, meet the supermarket. For what is soon to be the world's most populous country, it might be a good idea to have at least one of these. Currently you have about 500,000,000 little stores that sell exactly the same thing as the little store next door - i.e. chips, samosas and pan (that horrible red chewing stuff that people spit everywhere). If you somehow got two or three of these little stores to combine their resources and open one larger store, this might lead to a supermarket, which would benefit your people and, more importantly, tourists like us.
*  To Europe and North America, we offer the 'daladala' or 'matatu' or 'servees' or 'microbus' or whatever it is called in the various countries of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This is simply a van that picks up and drops off passengers along the road, like a large shared taxi. It is more nimble than a bus and much cheaper than a taxi. In some places the number of passengers allowed inside the vehicle is regulated (usually holding around 12-14 people) but in others, like Tanzania, the number is only limited by the space inside (as many as 25-30).

*  To almost every country we visited, we would like to introduce the shower head holder. This basic and inexpensive concept involves affixing an attachment to the wall on which you hang the shower head while you shower. This leaves your hands free to do what you went into the shower to do - i.e. wash yourself, rather than spend the whole time trying to do everything one-handed.

*  While on the subject of showers, we are amazed how few of you have thought of actually cordoning off a part of your bathroom for the shower, whether with a glass or plastic wall or simply a plastic curtain. Instead, the shower just sprays all over the bathroom, getting the floor, the toilet seat, all the towels and anything else in there completely soaking wet.

*  To any country where water usage is a concern, please find enclosed the idea of the partial-flush button. Again, simple and inexpensive, the partial-flush button is found next to the full-flush button on many toilets around the world and is designed to be used when the size of the deposit into the toilet does not warrant a complete emptying of the cistern, thus saving water.

*  To North America and Australasia, from England (and others probably), we present the orange traffic light. Not the one from green to red but from red to green. This allows your drivers to start their engines as soon as they see the 'get ready' light so they are almost in motion when it does turn green. The result is smoother traffic.

*  Special bonus traffic idea - the roundabout. How this one has never caught on in the US I don't know but it makes for smooth traffic and without the unnecessary delays that pre-programmed traffic lights can cause.

*  Rubbish bins. This idea is specially for the attention of India and Nepal, two beautiful countries that have been spoiled by indescribably massive amounts of litter. For goodness sake, India, you have ten guys doing one job in every other government position, put up some rubbish bins and send some of these blokes out to empty them every day. It won't solve the problem overnight but at least it will look like you are trying.

*  Turkey, here is an idea for your train service. Instead of making the entire train empty out at the border for customs, have the border guards get on to the train while it is moving, go through the carriages checking passports, then get out at the next stop. That's what they do all throughout Europe. This should be a requirement from the EU before Turkey can become a member.

*  Hey, USA, here's the metric system. Use it.

*  To sign-writers in every country where English is not the first language, we offer the dictionary. I don't understand how you can get something published or put up in great big letters on a sign if it is spelt wrong or makes no sense. If you are just jotting it down on a piece of paper, no problem, but in public - look it up or get it checked first.

*   Japan is always a great source for ideas. Here's one: wind-powered highway lights. These are little round disks (about the diameter of a grapefruit) perched on little poles along the side of the highway. The wind created by the cars and trucks that speed by spins the disk, thereby powering a little light to guide night-time drivers.

*  For drivers of night-time buses everywhere, from the passengers - we do not want loud music or loud movies at 3 AM!

More as we think of them.


Jim and Jane
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