Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Kim's Convenience

How accurate is Kim's Convenience, the Netflix show at portraying the family dynamics of the Westernized Korean family living in Toronto, Canada?

So far, I've found it really comical and seemingly true, which is why I like it. I feel like despite not being Korean, I can understand the gestures, the thought process, the values, the perspective of the family members. I think that the portrayals are applicable not just to Korean / Korean American / Korean Canadian people, but to a broader swath of Asians who generally (wrong or right) have the same or similar attitudes and cultural backgrounds. At the very least, the show definitely creates a cultural curiosity, doesn't it?

What do the Koreans out there think?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Good Is The Enemy Of Great

I’ve been reading this book called Good to Great by Jim Collins. It’s about research that was done to determine if there were factors that made companies go from good to great. The book is obviously about how companies go from good to great, but all the same characteristics that these example companies have are applicable individually.

Of the few resounding traits that great companies possessed, one of them was the idea come to be known as the Hedgehog Concept. That is, “a simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of the following three circles” that ask / answer the following questions:

  • What can you be the best in the world at (and equally important, what can you not be the best at)?
  • What drives your economic engine? 
  • What are you deeply passionate about? 

Consider this excerpt:
Suppose you were able to construct a work life that meets the following three tests. First, you are doing work for which you have a genetic or God-given talent, and perhaps you could become one of the best in the world in applying that talent. (“I feel that I was just born to be doing this.”) Second, you are well paid for what you do. (“I get paid to do this? Am I dreaming?”) Third, you are doing work you are passionate about and absolutely love to do, enjoying the actual process for its own sake. (“I look forward to getting up and throwing myself into my daily work, and I really believe in what I’m doing.”) If you could drive toward the intersection of these three circles and translate that intersection into a simple, crystalline concept that guided your life choices, then you’d have a Hedgehog Concept for yourself. 

I reflected on myself and thought, “I have always been good… but will I ever be great?”

Currently, I have 2 possible options in front of me for work if both paths continue to unfold. I’ve recently interviewed at a company (let’s call it “L” for now) for a Tax Manager position. It’s my line of work. I’ve done it for 13 years. It’s my background, and I’m comfortable continuing my career earning a very good salary. I hope to be given an offer to join the company soon.

On the other hand, I was recently introduced to a Community Director here in Houston (at a place we’ll call “WW” for now) by a great friend. WW is looking to open a location close to home in the very near future and are looking for a Community Manager to run the operations. The job is very entrepreneurial and runs the gamut of hiring, firing, making decisions, earning revenue, spending to run the day-to-day, and everything in between. It’s the type of work that I’ve always dreamed about. I always wanted to run my own business, and this is kind of like that opportunity but with the backing of an established organization, so I wouldn’t be going at it alone.

I could continue to be good at something, a career that I started over 13 years ago. Or, I could try something new, love it, and live it.

Is this the breakthrough that my life was looking for? Is this the tipping point where I go from good to great?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Social Fabric - What Cloth Are You Cut From?

Pretty interesting show on Netflix that I found recently called Social Fabric. A play on words, this is a docuseries about the culture that clothing creates, represents, and develops. Kyle Ng's perspective as a young fashion designer helps connect the world as it is today to the world from where the trends in streetwear and style came from.

I initially didn't think I'd be interested, but after the first episode I was kind of hooked on the way the show was produced / directed. It's very hip. The language is colloquial and his background really connects with me, maybe because we're around the same age or maybe because we're Asian or maybe because we listen to similar music or experienced the same things when we were younger. Maybe.

Anyway... thought it was worth a mention. And Kyle Ng is getting a 2nd season of Social Fabric to delve in to more in depth views on other clothing styles. Carry on Kyle. Carry on.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Overheard At A Cenote in Mexico: One Of Life's Many Lessons

In Tulum, while swimming at the Jardin del Eden (Garden of Eden), there was a young Mexican-American family who were enjoying the cool, refreshing waters of the cenote. The family consisted of 3 children and 2 moms. At this particular water hole, there were different points where you could jump off the cliffside into the deep. The family did a jump together, but the youngest boy (maybe 6yrs old) was reasonably afraid just before this first jump. But his sibling, cousins, and mom were able to convince him that it would be fun. So he eventually made the 15ft plunge into the blue-green waters.

In the water, after the jump, they were all wading around in the shallows where we were hanging out. I heard one of the moms speak, in Spanish, to the young boy about the jump. I found it really interesting. Now my Spanish isn’t the greatest, but if my translation is correct, then her words of explanation were some of the best I’ve heard from a parent.

She said something to the effect of… fear is like any other feeling you have. It is natural. It is how you handle it that matters the most. When you feel hungry, you eat. When you feel cold, you find warmth. When you feel tired, you sleep. When you feel sad, you cry. When you feel happy, you dance. Y cuando tiene miedo, tiene que tener cuidado - when you feel afraid, you have to be careful.

What a great way to make your child understand the feelings he’s having. I’ll be keeping this in mind for when the time comes that I have to explain the same to my child...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The City Of Lights - Delicious Diversity

This past weekend we took a trip to Paris, France - The City of Lights. It was the first vacation I’ve taken since we got back from our 6 month journey. Carolyn, however, has been on a couple of vacations without me (Hawaii and Costa Rica). I’ve been spending my time worried, sad, mad, applying for jobs, studying for the CPA Exam, working on buying our new house, and trying to sell this current one.

Paris is similar to New York in so many ways. The streets are all walkable. There are plenty of different neighborhoods with different cultures and characters. The people and food are an eclectic mix. The history is evident in the architecture, statues, and monuments. It’s another melting pot of today’s society, despite some of the French displeasure with how open its borders have been. And I think I can understand why.

Our visit to Paris was filled with expectation, I suppose. We knew the food was going to be great. That’s what this trip was for. But I don’t think we thought we’d see such diversity in people. I think we imagined a very white, Christian / Catholic Paris. But what we experienced was the cultures of a variety of ethnicities. From the Senegalese to the Middle Eastern to the Asian and even South American, many countries were represented. Not just the people, but their food and lifestyles. For example, a section in the 4th arrondissement, Le Marais, was of Middle Easterners. There was literally a street with a whole lineup of kebab, falafel, gyro, Israeli, Lebanese, and other ethnic foods. And the Gare du Nord train station was a hub where many backgrounds, income levels, and cultures collided. Just walking around the city, we saw so many children of mixed decent too. Like I said, melting pot.

Anyway, back to the real reason we visited Paris - the food. France is known the world around for being somewhat of the epicenter of the classically trained chef. Culinary artists from every corner of the globe make it a point to learn, grow, and work in Paris. Some may say this city might be the culinary capital of the world. French cuisine is rich in flavor and delicate in nature. The refinement of their food embodies the class and style of their creators.

A post shared by DrunkEats (@drunkeats) on

We had the opportunity to dine at a number of places, adding to our own experience-list of either Michelin-starred restaurants or San Pellegrino’s World’s Best Restaurants. This time around we had the pleasure of seatings at Le Cinq and Epicure. Both were wonderful in the fine dining sense - from the service to the ambiance. And both provided some of the best tastes we’ve had. Like all the other award winning dishes we’ve eaten, I could use so many different adjectives to describe our meals but none would do the flavors any justice. If only someone could invent the scratch-n-taste picture / photo or smell-o-vision, that would be awesome.

A post shared by DrunkEats (@drunkeats) on

Needless to say, we had a fun, delicious, and entertaining time in Paris!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Where Did Spring Go?

I used to have really bad Spring-time allergies. Watery, itchy, swollen eyes. Stuffy / runny nose. Constant sneezing. If you’ve got allergies, you know what I’m talking about.

Strangely, I have not suffered from the itchy eyes recently. Although, I have been sneezing a good amount and blowing my nose constantly. So I have some symptoms of the pollen-driven reactions, but not all of those I’m used to experiencing.

I narrowed it down to 4 possible reasons.
  1. After LASIK eye surgery, the laser must have burned off the ability to sense irritation in my eyes. 
  2. I have spent so much time outdoors and being exposed to different environments that my body, eyes specifically, has developed an immunity to the irritants. 

  3. My mostly organic diet has improved my resistance to pollen allergies. Specifically, my consistent daily intake of carrots has strengthened my eyes in more ways than one. 
  4. Climate change is real. Spring no longer exists or has been severely curtailed. Pollen is not as abundant in the environment, leading to less plant life that would normally absorb the CO2, in effect allowing greenhouse gases to grow in the atmosphere, leading to global warming. 

Or maybe all of the above.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Climbing The Sand Dunes of My Mind

I need a mental break. My mind is so tired of thinking about all the negative things in my life currently. My brain is stressed from learning / re-learning information for the CPA exam. My thoughts are clouded by the if / then situations regarding (un)employment, potential interviews, or even just applications. And then I get the occasional detours to consider the new home, moving, rising interest rates, and new home expenses. Last, but certainly not least, I continue to consider my parents situation regarding retirement, finances, selling their current home, and moving to a new home. I’m exhausted.

My only reprieve is the reading I do daily. Non-fiction to educate myself. Fiction to take me away mentally, however, only temporary.

I feel as if I’ve sacrificed myself for nearly a year with nothing to show for all the efforts yet. When will I attain what I've struggled for? 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Substance Over Form

For the past 2 weeks, I have not been buying my usual loaf of whole wheat Italian bread from my local grocery store. That's $3.99 that I've been saving. But it's not because I'm trying to save money. It's because I watched a docuseries on Netflix called "Cooked", and it inspired me to bake my own bread.

Check out the trailer here:

There are so many positives to baking my own bread. I know exactly what's going into it. There are no artificial ingredients. It's as simple as flour, salt, water, and yeast. The process is not labor intensive nor does it take too much time. And it's fresh.

For me, bread is life. It's sustenance in the very simplest form. It's science at work in the processing and in the consumption. I love bread so much that it's the one thing that I try no matter where in the world I am. I must try the local baker's bread.

And I've tried it everywhere, in different ways. They've had different textures, moisture levels, shapes, sizes, flavors, colors, consistency, and even accompaniments. The forms are literally endless. It only matters where you are that determines what you get. And what one considers bread, another may not. But here, like in accounting, it's the substance over the form that matters.

This week's loaf didn't turn out as great as the first week, but I learned from it. I learned that it matters how much effort you put into it. You can't just half-ass the baking process. It's a science, and like all scientific processes, it's exact. And the slightest deviation will change the outcome.

Baking my own bread is something that I will continue to do going forward. I think it will give me discipline, grow my patience, and allow me to reap the benefits of my work. I know that I'll appreciate it more than just going out to the store and paying the nominal $3.99 for ease.

Other things I've been watching: 

Something I'm looking forward to watching: 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Before the Flood

What if there were other planets that were once like ours? Abundant, full of life, and intelligence. What if they lived the same life path as we have for thousands of years? What if they too destroyed their own being through poor politics, greed, and ill paid attention to climate change and global warming? Maybe they wouldn’t be the deserted, barren, lifeless planets they are currently with only traces of a life once lived before the gases choked the atmosphere and caused a chain of events that might have been stopped if it weren’t for politics. Maybe Earth’s future is in the stars…

These thoughts came after I watched a documentary produced by Leonardo DiCaprio called “Before The Flood” on Netflix. It was another documentary on Climate Change and the harmful effects. I think this was just as good as "The Inconvenient Truth" and it’s sequel.

Here, check out the trailer:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Down, Read, Laugh, Up, Repeat

Just a random thought that cross my mind today.

I was so free and unrestricted while traveling the world for those 6 months. Now, I am imprisoned in my home without a job, studying for an exam that doesn’t guarantee anything with a passing grade, cost cutting to make myself feel better, and continuing to be depressed about my situation. I was given the opportunity of a lifetime, temporary happiness, everlasting memories and in return, karma has reared its ugly head in the form of depression.

Good thing I read this after that thought...

You can work hard. You can be talented. You can know all the right people. You can follow all the right lessons. You can be smart, rich, beautiful, everything - and still, life can deal you a bad hand.

So what are you to do in the face of a reality that can be indifferent, cold, even cruel? All you can do is play the odds. If you choose to give up, you can be fairly certain that life will pass you by. But if you choose to try your best, you can at least tip the balance significantly in your favor.

I Can’t Make This Up by Kevin Hart

Thanks @KevinHart4Real

Monday, April 9, 2018

Excerpts: 2 Books Down, 47 To GOjesseGO

It's been just about one month since my birthday gifts arrived, and I am through 2 books completely. Here are a few excerpts from the books that I noted along the way.

How Champions Think by Dr. Bob Rotella

Dr. Rotella uses golf as a vehicle for conveying his ideas. The book is full of golf analogies. This was one that struck me particularly as I was studying for part of the CPA Exam that I recently sat for.

He only knows he will accept the shot he is about to hit, find the ball, and go through the same routine for the next shot. He visualizes the shot that he wants to hit and makes all the necessary judgments about the club to use, the wind, the break of the green, and any other factors that might affect it. Then - and this can be the hard part - he trusts that his body can execute the shot. He turns off the conscious brain. He lets the subconscious - where the best control of fine motor skills can be found - governs his movements. He looks at the target, looks at the ball, and swings. He hit the shot without consciously trying to control his body. He play instinctively, athletically. 

Nervousness can disrupt all this. Nervousness prods the conscious brain to keep control of the proceedings because of fear. The performer is afraid that he’ll mishit a shot and humiliate himself on television or miss the cut and lose his playing privileges. If he succumbs to nervousness, he’ll let his conscious brain have control.

Moral of the story is learn what you need to as best as you can. At some point, it will be second nature and you have to trust your subconscious to guide you in the right direction. 

Let's say I tested it out this past Saturday when I took my exam. I'll let you know how that went and if we should rely on this method. Haha. 

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

This came as a suggestion from 2 people, so it was atop my list of books to read. There are plenty of things that I agree with but also think that most of the advice and suggestions are not for everyone. 

Even still, I found a whole host of quotes that I really liked. Whether Tim Ferriss himself said them or it was something he quoted, it was worth it for me to copy it down for myself. 

All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.” - Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rule of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time.” - Chinese Proverb

Just because something has been a lot of work or consumed a lot of time doesn’t make it productive or worthwhile.” 

Pride is stupid.” 

Don’t confuse the complex with the difficult. Most situations are simple - many are just emotionally difficult to act upon.” 

Until the question is clear - each term in it defined - there is no point in answering it. The “meaning” of “life” question is unanswerable without further elaboration… Before spending time on a stress-inducing question, big or otherwise, ensure that the answer is “yes” to the following questions: 

  • Have I decided on a single meaning for each term in this question? 
  • Can an answer to this question be acted upon to improve things?

“What is the meaning of life” fails the first and thus the second. Questions about things beyond your sphere of influence like “What if the train is late tomorrow?” fail the second and should thus be ignored. These are not worthwhile questions. If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it.

So be bold and don’t worry about what people think. They don’t do it that often anyway.

Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time.

Besides studying for the CPA Exam, I've had to relax my mind by reading. And just to keep things interesting and varied, I've also started and am in the middle of the following:

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Challenges Allowed Me To Appreciate Other Things Still

Despite all the hardships and challenges that we had to overcome while traveling through India, we still came away with a number of positive memories and and heart-filling experiences.

We met and spoke with awesome "sheroes" at at cafe named after them, Sheroes Hangout. The cafe, in close proximity to the Taj Mahal in Agra, is run by the female survivors of the terrible acid attacks that were rampant in India at one time. They were amazing people who sought nothing but to continue their lives in peace. The environment they created for socializing allows others to learn about the victims and at the same time builds the confidence back in the women who were so viciously harmed. The cool thing about the cafe is that you pay what you feel is appropriate. There are no prices on their menu. And inevitably, you end up making a donation towards the cause and get the satisfaction of doing good and having a tasty snack to go along.

In another instance, in Vrindavan, we were visibly challenged by the Holi festivals activities. A wonderful couple noticed how out of place we were and our frustration, then offered to allow us to accompany them around Mathura (birthplace of the Lord Krishna) to observe more of the festivals and visit the local temples. The man, a professor at a college in another Indian state and his wife took us for a day-long adventure. And our experience wouldn't have been the same without them.

All of this just to say that the fondness of those experiences has given us the interest to watch some Indian / Indian related movies on Netflix. Haha.

Dhobi Ghat was a film that we stumbled upon by just flipping through titles Netflix suggested based on our watching habits.

It was an easy movie to watch because of the back and forth flip between Hindi and English. With subtitles, it's no issue. The class distinctions and the challenges that some people encounter when lines are crossed are distinct here. And the cross cultural interplay between native Indians and an Americanized Indian is also an interesting depiction here. Worth a watch on a Friday night.

Daughters of Destiny is a must watch Netflix series because it provides a real insight to the problems of education, poverty, village life, and women's rights in India. The documentary is amazing! And the idea of Shanti Bhavan is something I've always imagined creating for underprivileged children and students in the Philippines. The 4 part docuseries really struck a chord with me, and I know it will do the same for anyone who has interests in education, mentoring, development, and working with children and students.

Check out the Official Trailer here:

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Ugly Delicious

Ugly Delicious is a new Netflix series that I started watching recently and is worth watching for foodies and non-foodies alike. It's a great mashup of different perspectives of chefs, culinary writers, actresses, actors, entertainers, home cooks, and anyone else Dave Chang seems to have a connection with/to. I mean, he is one of the most famous restauranteurs in America (see: Momofuku), so I guess that shouldn't be surprising. (Side note: still need to eat at one of his restaurants.)

The documentary series covers a variety of dishes / foods on an individual basis (dedicated episodes) filled with opinions, history, and often times deep conversations about who, what, when, where, why, and how these foods started, evolved, and what it's future may be. I enjoy Chang's curiosity and ability to ask difficult questions. I applaud him for being so outgoing and dedicated to the ever-evolving / innovative craft of the culinary arts.

The connection between food and geography is also highlighted, making this double-y interesting for me with my passions for travel and food. From local to regional to international, the taste comparisons and impressions from the world 'round are bound to make you hunger and salivate.

I've enjoyed the series so far. And I think many of you might too. It's very creative and well produced.

Check out the trailer here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

35 Is In The Books

Yesterday, I was surprised by my beautiful wife in collaboration with my ever-engaging, well-read family and friends. Together, they all conspired to amass 35 or more books for my 35th birthday. I have to say, it was an elaborate scheme, and I am the lucky beneficiary. In total, I received 49 books.

Apparently, this started back in January after a conversation that her and I had in passing. We were on the topic of gift giving, and I had said something to the effect of... "the only gift I want for my birthday from you is a book from my Amazon Wishlist."

Well, she got me a book alright. And a whole host of friends and family joined the campaign.

To organize the efforts, a set of instructions were posted to a Google Docs Sheet:

Everyone chose a book or two or three or 10 and listed them on the shared document to avoid any duplication. Smart. Over the course of 2 months, Lucy and Jake (Carolyn's accomplices lol) accumulated packages on my behalf in their apartment.

Then this past Sunday afternoon, Lucy, Jake, and Carolyn somehow coordinated during a window of 12 minutes, while I was out of the house walking the dog, to unload a trunk filled with boxes full of books from all corners of the country traveling by USPS, Amazon, FedEx, or UPS into our garage and managed to escape without being seen. The rest is history. And a world of thanks goes out to them for helping execute the plan. Without you guys, I would have known about the secret back in January. LOL.

There are two awesome components to each gift I received.

First is the idea that the gift giver has to read the book so that we can talk about it at some point in time. I like this because it offers me an opportunity to communicate more often than I normally have in the past. We'll have something to chat about (not that we don't already), and hopefully become more regular about it.

Secondly, the inscriptions that people left me on the inside covers have turned a relatively inexpensive commodity into a priceless possession that I will keep until death do we part. Some notes offer advice, insight, and reminders. Some jog the memory of time when. Some are like journal entries. But all of them touch the heart. Truth be told, I held back some tears. 

All in all, this is one of the most thoughtful gifts with use and purpose. I hope to continue to improve my reading habits and vocabulary. I look forward to reading each of these texts to learn more about the diverse topics they cover. I look forward to chatting with everyone about the books they selected. And I am so happy to have a wife, family, and friends who support me and my literary adventure. 

Thank you all so much! 

35 is in the books!

By the way... if you're wondering where I'm starting, it's with: 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Sunday, March 11, 2018

2 More For The Reading List - And Taking Suggestions

Adding to my collection of books. I'm currently reading these two:

Boomerang: Travels In The New Third World by Michael Lewis

A very interesting read on the goings-on around the world leading up to and during the financial crisis of 2007-08. The book depicts the bad actors, poor decision making, immorality, and opportunistic attitudes all in the name of making it rich. There were many contributors to the economic turmoil of these times, and there are just a few interesting and humorous examples of the finance debacle.

I'm only three quarters of the way through, and I'm looking forward to finishing this book in the near future.

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

It's yet another one of those books that is on so many investors, entrepreneurs, and wise people's lists. I figured I need to see what it's about for myself. I mean, if Warren Buffet swears by this text, then it's gotta be a must-read, right?

I've just started it, and I hope to keep interested to make it all the way through. It's somewhat intimidating, but it was written to teach and inspire right?

I'm sure I'll pick up good value investment concepts by the end of the read, if not immediately.

I'm looking for a new fiction book to read and add to my list. I often pick up non-fiction books because of my interest to continuously educate myself, but I know I need fiction in my life to stoke the imagination, creativity, and add some color to my otherwise black and white disposition.

Can you offer up any suggestions to beef up my fiction reading list?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Reduce Plastic Use - Receive Compliments

I was recently at the checkout line of my local grocery store, and I was paid a very nice compliment by the cashier.

She said, "I like your shopping bag. It's the good kind. Very durable."

I thanked her for the compliment, and took it as an indication that I've been doing the right thing.

Over the past few months, we have trimmed our household use of plastic as well as increased our habit to recycle the plastic we do use. At one point, we used to collect plastic shopping bags after each grocery haul. In a single trip, we might have accumulated 12-15 bags because we'd ask to double bag the heavier items. Now, we're down to nearly nothing, thanks to these bags. (I will occasionally use a plastic bag if we've purchased meats to avoid any leakage issues.)

Also, if you recall, I helped implement the plastic recycling initiative in our condo development. A couple of my neighbors have actually thanked me for that as well. Another good sign. Not sure why they didn't start the movement, but glad it's caught on. I often seen the dedicated dumpster filled with recyclables.

These habits have become seamless to us. They are a part of how we carry our lives now. It's just a matter of making the change / transition.
This post comes on the heels of an article that I recently read about the consumption of plastic by marine animals. It was a reminder that we have to do better to protect wildlife around our planet. It was a reminder that plastics can be harmful. And it was the 3rd sign that our household's determination to curb plastic use is a step in the right direction.

Next step... composting?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Pen Pals

Did you ever have a pen pal?

It's not so common these days. But back in the day, there was simple entertainment and fun in having a friend on the other side of the globe. It was usually someone your age (if done through a school exchange program) or someone you knew from a random trip and the both of you decided to keep in touch. It started with the exchange of addresses. And every once-in-a-while you'd send each other a letter in the mail. Yes, snail mail. You'd pay the postage for wherever far off land you new friend was, and you'd exchange stories about your lives.

My first pen pal was my aunt! She was still living in the Philippines at the time. This was in 1989. I was in first grade, and we had just gotten our first computer and dot-matrix printer. The operating system was MS-DOS, and there was a very crude word processing program available. I'd type up a short letter for her, most likely about nothing special, then print it out and mail it to her.

Some weeks or months later, I'd receive a hand-written letter back from her. It was always written on yellow legal pad paper in her excellent, teacher-like penmanship. She wrote in script, so mom or dad had to read it to me.

I will never forget the one story she relayed to me. A typhoon had recently passed through the area and severe flooding was occurring throughout. My aunt and family owned and lived on a farm with various animals. She described to me how terrible the weather was for the animals and what sacrifices she made to secure them. But at one point, despite her efforts, the pigs escaped! And they were swimming in the flood waters. My aunt had to swim after them to save them. What a story!

Back then, that was part of their livelihood. The enormous pigs were cash cows, figuratively and literally. The sale of a pig could generate a considerable sum of money, so saving the 100+ pound beasts from raging flood waters was imperative. I remember the written descriptions made me feel fear; then it made me smile and laugh. And the story taught me a lot about life in a different place.

I digress.

Since those days, it's been so much easier to keep in touch with people you've befriended. The internet has simplified it through email, text, chat apps, Facebook, Instagram, and the like; and to some extent has made it more safe. (Although you've all gotten that email from the Nigerian Prince or the Prince of Zamunda, right? Haha.)

I have new pen pals these days. People we've met along the way throughout our travels - we try to keep in touch with. We exchange emails every so often coordinating potential joint trips, checking in on the goings-on of their seemingly close locales with regards to politics / economics / stability / tourism / etc, and asking about their families or significant others or spouses. Pen-pal-ing is much easier to do in this day and age. Although, should we coin a new name for it? Hardly anyone puts pen to paper anymore for these purposes...

Did you have a pen pal? Do you still keep in touch with them? If not, aren't you curious who they've become and what they're up to now?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Update: Walk For Health

...and the environment!

On alternate days of the week, I have continued to walk to the gym. Yes, I'm still doing that. And yes, even through the winter. I'm always prepared to trudge through the cold, wind, rain, and sometimes snow. I just layer up and protect my otherwise exposed skin. I walk the 1.1 miles in 15 minutes, workout for an hour or so, and then walk the 1.1 miles back.

Here's a breakdown of just my walking to/from the gym for the past 9 months:

  • June - December 
    • 4x per week = 8.8 miles per week = 35.2 miles per month = 246.4 miles
  • January - February 
    • 3x per week = 6.6 miles per week = 26.4 miles per month = 52.8 miles
  • TOTAL = 299.2 miles
I've lost 1 gym day per week due to the studying I've been doing. Not bad for just walking to/from the gym! 

And according to the carbon footprint calculator I would have emitted 0.11 metric tons of CO2 had I driven the 300 miles. That's like releasing 242.5lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. So not only do I continue to benefit my health, but I've also continue to consciously help the environment around me. 

Have you been doing your part? 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Put The Camera Away -There's Plenty To See Here

There weren't many places we couldn't / didn't bring our cameras during our 6 months abroad.

And for that reason, I do not have a photo to associate with this post. It's also a test to see how many of you read this without an image to lure you in. Haha j/k (maybe). And it'll give you a chance to use your imagination (or your Google skills).

Of the places I can think of, the easiest to remember are all the museums and the dozens of temples or other religious sites in India, Myanmar, Bhutan, Vietnam, and Morocco. I suppose most of the religious places of worship don't really allow photography or videography within. And so those visuals are for our memories only, and we're unable to share with you the beauty and grandeur of some of the images ingrained in our minds.

But the other area where we didn't really unsheath our camera was during our walking tour through the slums of Mumbai. Officially called Dharavi, it is the second largest slum in Asia (after Orangi Town in Pakistan) and the 3rd largest in the world (after Orangi Town in Pakistan [#1] and Ciudad Neza, Mexico City, Mexico [#2]).

How such an enormous population of poor people could be corralled into a geographic region is beyond belief. What's even more disturbing is its proximity to one of the financial capitals of the world, Mumbai.

We were advised not to photograph during our tour for safety concerns. Typically, we don't photograph people / people's faces anyway. We know the etiquette. But I recall they just didn't want to expose the neighborhood and it's ongoings. So we respected that, and took the tour anyway for our experience.

What follows is my attempt to allow you to visualize what we saw.

We walked deep into the slums. But to get there, we first had to cross a foot bridge over a set of train tracks. Below us passed commuter trains coming into and out of Mumbai's famous Victoria Terminus. You're probably thinking that you're not familiar with it, but you are. It was the train station in Slumdog Millionaire. See, I told you it was famous.

Anyway, once you cross over the tracks, it's like you've "crossed over" to a different world. There's a mix of dirt and paved roadways. After walking a little further, you are "in" to the slum. You stand amongst shanties of mixed use. Corrugated metals, wood, and other materials of a variety of colors are used as walls and roofs. Some are living quarters, but where we first came in are all the "businesses" are carried. You couldn't tell the difference because it was unclear where one "property" ended and the other began. Some were almost 3 stories high and most others were single level.

As we walked through the streets, many people bustled about in all different directions. Most had "normal" clothes. If you disregarded your surroundings, you couldn't tell that people were poor based on their clothing. Jeans, t-shirts, saris, tunics, and other wrapped garments were common for most people. The poorest of the poor were easy to spot, but strangely more out of place than anyone else.

Children ran through the streets and alleyways. Some playing soccer and others cricket with makeshift bats and goals. If anyone looked poor, it was the children. They suffered the most probably. With barely any clothing or shoes, they were the most susceptible to the grime of the slums.

The alleyways were so tight. If you could fit 2 people side by side, it was considered wide. Our young guide at one point even asked if we were claustrophobic and warned that if were had the least bit of anxiety about walking through close quarters we shouldn't proceed. But we didn't have the fear, so we set off even deeper than we thought we'd get.

Even in the dead of summer, there seemed to be so much moisture on the ground. We learned first hand that it was a mix of liquids. Anything from used cooking oil, to animal pee, to dirty dishpan water, to spit, to human relief could be found anywhere along the way. It was clear that the few communal latrines were not enough to support the population.

Garbage is literally everywhere. There's nothing you can do but walk through it, over it, in it. For all you know, it could have been above you. The random canals are filled with trash with a stench to make you puke on sight. And strangely, it was possible for you to see people searching for something to find in them, or children playing in and around them.

Despite all that, I think what was amazing were the businesses that were established in the slums, most of which were mini factories churning out various goods. Of all the businesses that surprised me though were the little stalls that sold chapati, an Indian flat bread. Somehow, they found a way to be clean enough to make and serve a staple food to most Indians. Other businesses included pottery makers, various garment makers, and a variety of other manufacturers. It was quite amazing to see some of them first-hand. Considering the lack of potable running water, reliable power supply, ample drainage, and other sanitary concerns these businesses seem to do fairly well with clientele all over Mumbai (and some even say all over the world - not sure how true that is).

We were never once hassled in the streets of Dharavi. We probably could have gotten away with a few snaps of the camera here and there. But I'm glad we didn't risk it. There would have been no way to catch any thief who could have escaped easily by running through the maze of backstreets and alleyways.

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Memory = Storage | Mine is either corrupt, overloaded, or error prone.

My memory is awful! I've been researching way to help improve my memory. And these are some of the things I've found:
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Drink coffee
  • Get more sleep
  • Eat more berries
  • Chew gum
  • Eat more fish / take fish oil
  • Listen to music - (ie. Mozart)
My mind on a daily basis

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Disconnectivity = Anxiety Free

On a daily basis, I feel overly connected to the internet and often feel FOMO if I don't read up on the latest news. If I don't pay attention to the stock market, I feel like my investments lack care. If I don't check my email, it seems like I'm missing something important. If I don't check my notifications, anxiety hits me. Why am I so super connected? This can't be healthy.

One of my favorite parts about traveling around the world was the off chance that we would be disconnected from the internet for more than a few days. This happened a couple of times along the way.

It really allowed us to not worry about the happenings of the online lives of our family and friends. Being distanced from the internet of things we were able to focus on the locales we visited. We reflected. We contemplated. We observed our surroundings. We talked amongst ourselves and with the friendly faces who crossed our paths. We shared meals with other foreigners. We learned customs and offered up local beers as a toast. It was fun and anxiety free.

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The most disconnected of all the remote locations we visited was village of Pan Pet. You have to drive off-road just to get here. It's where the Kayan long neck women are from. You may have seen them in Thailand, but they originate in Myanmar. The women ventured to Thailand for work purposes, leaving their families behind, and essentially displaying their long necks as a site to see just to make money. Pretty sad, but they do it to survive; these women brave the unknown to send money back to their families in the poor villages. And I mean poor. As an example, one of the shanty homes we visited received artificial light by electricity for the first time ever. Talk about disconnected.

The village of Mrauk-U in the Rakhine State of Myanmar (Burma) was just as disconnected. Just to get here, we had to fly a couple hours Northwest of Yangon (the capital) to the town of Sittwe on the West Coast of Myanmar, then take a 4 hours slow steamboat upriver to arrive at the tiny village along the riverbanks.

Known as a major archeological site, the Buddhist temples and pagodas and town itself have been nominated for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dirt roads are common here. Bicycles are the major mode of transportation for most people.

And another 2 hour speed-canoe ride (canoe with a weed wacker for a motor) further North on the river takes you to the Chin State where one of the last tribes of tattoo-faced women reside. These women were so friendly, normal, and lived their lives free of worry. Everyone lived off of the land and trade along the river. Life is simple here.

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Sometimes I wonder how simple life should be or could be. I know it's not possible given our circumstances. So I just hope and look forward to the times we can be disconnected from the reality of our daily lives. I think that's why we travel. To get away. To allow our minds and bodies to roam free from limitations, problems, negative thoughts, and struggle. But sadly, travel is only possible after we've been challenged physically and mentally for long periods of time. And travel is only a break from the nearly constant stresses that we subject ourselves to to fit in to society's molds. I digress. Maybe it's time to disconnect again soon.

How often do you disconnect?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cutting The Cord

For months I've been toying with the idea of disconnecting the cable television and parting ways with our landline. And I think I'm getting very close to pulling the trigger to "cutting the cord."

I'm sure many, if not all, of us have done the analysis. It's simple to see that getting rid of cable and landline phone will save more than half of our monthly expense for the typical trifecta (cable, internet, tv). All we really need these days is internet. 

Once you have a connection to the World Wide Web, you can make phone calls using a VOIP and watch videos, movies, news, sports, and shows using any of the streaming platforms (ie. Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc.) available nowadays. 

For us, we don't really watch too much cable programming, so we won't really miss cable that much. It won't be necessary to subscribe to one of the television programming platforms to catch up either. We do watch movies and various series, so lucky for us, we already have Netflix and Amazon Prime. I think the only thing I'll really miss is sports programming. But I don't even really have time to watch live anymore anyway. So maybe I'll just get my fix through highlights on ESPN.com

The one kind of saving grace is this HDTV Antenna that I purchased on Amazon. It will allow us to get the basic local television channels (ie. CBS, NBC, ABC). And that's really good enough for me. As long as I can watch a few of my favorite shows (ie. The Big Bang Theory, Jeopardy, and The Voice every once in a while then I can be satisfied.