From Kiev to Carolina

November 1, 2010

(Part One of Five of my Carmen Sandiego series, wherein I compare my travels to that of the fictional villainess)

Well she sneaks around the world from Kiev to Carolina,
She’s a sticky-fingered filcher from Berlin down to Belize,
She’ll take you for a ride on a slow boat to China,
Tell me where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

Kiev = yes

Kiev is the capital of Ukraine. It’s more Russian-speaking than Ukrainian-speaking. It’s the place where the Orange Revolution kicked off. And not too long after, it sort of got rescinded.

Highlight: Trying to find where Biden was going to be staying.

Lowlights: Having to leave one of my favorite hosts (Luda, who also got me hooked up with this Kyiv Post article.)

Kiev has a Roni On Location episode, found here and above.

Carolina, surpringly = no

North and South. I haven’t been to either. You hit the Carolinas on a standard NY-Florida roadtrip. But having been born in NY, but not growing up there, I never did such a trip.

Berlin = yes

4 times.  More than I’ve been to a lot of U.S. cities.

1) 2004

Smack dab in the middle of my first big solo trip. I stayed there for a week, one of only two places (the other being Prague) where I hung out for that long in, due to having a crew of people that I was hanging out with (that I met at the hostels therein).

It’s also the site of my first karaoke experience.

2) 2007

Before my first English teaching gig in Italy, I hung out for a bit in Berlin with a girl that I had known briefly from a job in CA. It didn’t go so well.

3) 2009

After Moscow, before heading to Frankfurt to fly to Alaska for my road trip with Tav, I stayed with Julia, a girl that I had previously met in Sarajevo, via CouchSurfing.

4) 2010

Thinking that it was central and accessible (via low-cost airlines and trains) for people all over Europe, I scheduled a party and invited everyone that I knew in Europe.

Highlights 2004-2010: Hanging out with a group of cool folks during my first trip in 2004. Getting worldclass treatment from my good friend/host, Julia.

Lowlights 2004-2010: Inviting everyone I knew in Europe to have only one dedicated Swiss friend (thanks, Pascal) make the trek to my European Shindig. Realizing that no matter how accepting I may be of my gay friends, gay clubs and I do not get along.

More pix of Berlin without me in front of the Berliner Dom (or holding a popsicle with a squinty look) can be found in my Berlin Flickr set.

Belize = no

With my Spring 2011 Latin America trip, I should be hitting this tiny, sub-Mexico (in geography) country.

China = yes

Harbin, China (the city where my grandfather was born)

You know about China. It’s big and it has a huge population.

And when you go around in it, you feel like you’re in a massive Chinatown.

Highlights: Sneaking into the Forbidden City. Sneaking onto the Great Wall.

Lowlights: Some of my worst CouchSurfing experiences (or at least references), back to back.

You can see my excitement at sneaking into the Forbidden City on my sizzle reel.

The series will be continued in Part Two: “Steal their Seoul in South Korea

All pictures can be found at


Roni a la Carmen Sandiego

October 28, 2010

Roni in 6th grade (1993-94) (top right corner)

From 1991 to 1996, nerdy kids learned geography via a game show featuring child detective wannabes chasing an imaginary criminal. That show was the PBS series Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? based on the computer games by Broderbund software. (Each verse is its own entry, clickable in its own right.)

Well she sneaks around the world from Kiev to Carolina,
She’s a sticky-fingered filcher from Berlin down to Belize,
She’ll take you for a ride on a slow boat to China,
Tell me where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

Steal their Seoul in South Korea, make Antarctica cry Uncle,
From the Red Sea to Greenland they’ll be singing the blues,
Well they never Arkansas her steal the Mekong from the jungle,
Tell me where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

She go from Nashville to Norway, Bonaire to Zimbabwe,
Chicago to Czechoslovakia and back!

Well she’ll ransack Pakistan and run a scam in Scandinavia,
Then she’ll stick ’em up Down Under and go pick-pocket Perth,
She put the Miss in misdemeanor when she stole the beans from Lima,
Tell me where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
Oh tell me where in the world is… Oh tell me where can she be?

Ooh, Botswana to Thailand, Milan via Amsterdam,
Mali to Bali, Ohio, Oahu…!

Well she glides around the globe and she’ll flimflam every nation,
She’s a double-dealing diva with a taste for thievery,
Her itinerary’s loaded up with moving violations,
Tell me where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

Over this series of entries, we’ll see how I stack up to Carmen Sandiego. Along the way, geography nerds can either be informed about stuff they don’t know or scoff at rudimentary explanations.

(Lyrics via

Roni Sings

October 13, 2010


Australia - 2007


I really enjoy singing, but I’ve never had any training. I studied Drama at the University of Washington. I was in a few plays in school and it always surprised me how much I sang, despite never having lessons and not being in any musicals. For Orpheus, I even wrote the song that I sang as Charon, Ferryman of the Dead.


Cast of Blood Relations - University of Washington, 2001



My first experience doing karaoke was at Circus Hostel in Berlin in 2004. I sang “Man in Motion” from St. Elmo’s Fire. It was totally out of my minimal range and was a miserable experience. I said that it felt like stepping in dog shit. You feel the nasty squish and then question, “How did I not see that coming?” The people at the hostel bar thanked me, because my performance made other people feel more comfortable that they couldn’t really do worse than my red-faced act (due to lack of oxygen, not embarrassment).


Berlin - 2004


Further experiences in karaoke were in Vietnam and Japan.


Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - New Year's Day 2008


In Asia, karaoke isn’t a bar-wide event; it’s something you do with a group of friends in a little rented karaoke room.

1) Vietnam: I was in such a room with some Vietnamese people who sang a fairly simple song about a Vietnamese village. (Bimbo? Something like that?) It was fairly easy, so I started singing along a bit. Turned out (not very surprisingly) that it was an anti-American song from the Vietnam War. An odd song for me to be bouncing along with.

2) Japan: I went with a Bangladeshi lung surgeon and a Japanese woman. The Bangladeshi guy and I belted out duets. Great fun.


Nishinomiya, Japan



Nishinomiya, Japan


My first experience busking (performing on the street for money) was with Sarah, a girl that I was working with in Taiwan. She played guitar and backed up my singing of 4 songs. The three that I remember singing were Phantom Planet’s California, Deep Blue Something’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Leaving On A Jet Plane. It was a blast. We made enough money for a couple meals and even had one of Sarah’s former students show up and cheer us on. I always say that I would busk again.

Bar performance

My first time performing in a bar was in Izmir, Turkey. Ozan, my host, and I went to a bar wherein various singers and bands performed. While we were hanging out, we talked to a guy that was either an owner or manager. Ozan talked to the guy about us performing. I said sure, not thinking it would ever actually happen. That’s the only one with photographic evidence.

The shortened one is here:

The full version is here on my Facebook fan page.

So, a progression, of sorts. I imagine from here it is American Idol (as kind foreigners and delusional Americans have said I could succeed on) and stadium tours (something no one has suggested).

ROL Moment: Roni’s 27th Birthday

October 10, 2010

Roni gets a birthday treat from a random Turkish family, when he gets lost in a tiny coastal town.

Roni Weiss’ Sizzle Reel

September 27, 2010

Here’s a video of some of the best of my adventures abroad.

Let me know what you think. And for those that have watched ROL for a while, what clips would you expect that you didn’t see? What has stuck most in your mind from ROL?

Profound thanks to Sharon Burian, for the extensive editing help/work.

Roni Weiss is Exotic

September 25, 2010

But only in the UK and Asia.

It’s the oddest thing to me. Everywhere else in Europe, I am, at best, an ambassador, but when I’m in the UK (or like the one time when I met Brits in Andorra), I’m an exciting rock star.

Walking in Southampton with Adie, my host, we found various people that were stunned and excited to meet their first American. I found this particularly odd, as it’s a college town. One would think there’d be some level of exchange. And time after time, the Brits are stunned to hear my accent and try their hand at their own garbled version of an American accent. “Totally awesome” is usually their go-to phrase.

As for Asia, 3 times I’ve had randoms ask to take pix with me (presumably due to my height?)

  • Sentosa, Singapore: At an aquarium, a random woman asked to take a picture with me. Threw me off.
  • Jakarta, Indonesia: Walking by Monas, someone ran to catch up to me. I thought maybe I had dropped something and they were bringing it back to me. Nope. Picture time.
  • Boracay, The Philippines: After not having worked out for about a month, I thought I might as well go for a shirtless run on the mostly empty beach. After coming back, sweating, a guy insisted that I take a picture with his sister. I think the picture was more for him.

But the only reason I am writing this post is because I promised the following nameless two (who I met on the Aberystwyth-Birmingham train) that I would put them on my blog. So here they are, surprised that Americans don’t know about “Sunday roasts”, but excited to meet a real-life American, like they see on Friends. The one on the right had heard of the Cubs. She wanted me to tell you that. Ah, and she thinks American girls look older and are more mature than British girls. What’s your take?

Roni Responds: Malaysia and Singapore

June 21, 2010


hey fellow traveler! any advice for malaysia/singapore. we’ll be flying into KL and will have about 7.5 days to do stuff…hope all is well!



I liked KL. If you feel the need, go up the Petronas Twin Towers, but know that you only can go to the middle of the towers to see the view.

Petronas Twin Towers

It’s still all right, though. Make sure you check out the Batu Caves.

Batu Caves

As much as I hate monkeys, they are an experience.  Plus, it’s Hindu, which makes it different from the rest of KL.

Batu Caves

I found Penang to be boring. Kent Foster’s favorite restaurant is there, but I didn’t find it to be so mind-blowing.


Remember: It’s a Muslim country. Just so you don’t get surprised. It shouldn’t really affect anything in what you do or how you carry yourself.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

(I don’t know of how much use they are, but here are two vids from Malaysia.)


I like Singapore. Make sure you check out the different areas.  The food in the Indian area is good. The mosques are nice.  It’s a varied sort of a place. By the water is cool. I think, by now, they might have casinos?

If you want something touristy, you can go to Sentosa. It’s like Asian SeaWorld.

(More YouTube vids of probably little use.)

1st, my 11,000+ hit controversially titled vid:

More of Sentosa:

After the dirty bustle of a lot of SE Asia, Singapore can be a boon, but

Remember: No matter how nice and clean it seems, there are lots of basic freedoms that are lacking, such as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. They keep a tight rein to keep it nice. 4 official languages (English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil), but the people are mostly Chinese.

Hope that helps.

All pictures/videos in this entry taken by Roni Weiss.

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