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.

A post shared by Carolyn Go (@carolynluu) on

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.

A post shared by Carolyn Go (@carolynluu) on

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

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. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Stocking Up The Book Shelf - Recent Reads

Keeping up with my goal to read more books, here's a quick summary of what've I've recently read, am currently reading, and having a hard time reading. Not everything is as enjoyable or easy to read. But I'm trying to get through them to improve my ability and learn.

Currently Reading: 
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bardberry & Jean Greaves

My wife and I came across this book on the shelf of Hudson News at the airport recently, and she recently joked that I need to improve my emotional intelligence, my EQ. Knowing that I am more of a stoic person with challenges in displaying my emotions, I decided to give it a go. I'm looking forward to emoting more in the future. 

Recently Read: 
The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason

A book that is on the reading lists of many successful investors, entrepreneurs, inventors, and intelligent people alike, I had to find out for myself the reason why. And now I know. The book is written in parable form. And each parable relates to a lesson to be learned about how to earn, save, and invest money. It teaches personal finance at the most basic level, so basic that ancient Babylonians who adhered to the advice provided became the wealthiest and most successful people of their era. 

This is a book worthy of a college reading list or before entering the workforce. If everyone read this book, we'd all be rich in knowledge and money.

Another book by one of my favorite economist authors is not an easy read, but is easy to read. In other words, the topics are difficult, deeply related and important to many factors in our lives, but written in a way that can easily be understood by you and I.

His thesis: to understand the twenty-first century, you need to understand that the planet’s three largest forces―Moore’s law (technology), the Market (globalization), and Mother Nature (climate change and biodiversity loss)―are accelerating all at once. These accelerations are transforming five key realms: the workplace, politics, geopolitics, ethics, and community.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Soon to be a major motion picture by Steven Spielberg, this book is for those nostalgic for the 1980s. With it's unending references to pop culture, games, movies, music and other random '80s stuff combined with the technology inclined, you're bound to enjoy this read. If you're a millennial born in the late '70s/ early '80s this book is right up your alley. 

Futuristic but realistic is how I describe the story line. Many concepts are plausible and some inevitable. The story highlights one of the biggest downsides to technology. Don't get trapped in the black hole of the internet. 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Auggie Pullman is no ordinary kid. He's a wonder. This is the story of a boy who survived a birth defect and underwent physical pain in his early years of childhood, only to suffer the worst pain of all: bullying. But his perspective and the support of his family and those closest to him help him overcome the meanness of children and adults alike. He is the poster-child of the #ChooseKind movement. 

Read the book and watch the movie. I assure you waterworks are in your future. Find out for yourself #thewonderofwonder

Not exactly the title of a book that I'd go for, but I picked it up on the suggestion of a friend who thought I'd enjoy it because of the references to Antarctica. She knew we'd been there and thought I'd enjoy the book. She was right! Haha. Although the story is sad at some points, the story depicts a very possible family drama that could engulf anyone as quirky, opinionated, and intelligent as Bernadette Fox and family. But the idea of family and battling the sometimes difficult world we live in together are the overarching ideas. 

I'm looking forward to watching the movie when it comes out. 

A collection of insights and comments about experiences, lessons learned, and what she knows for sure - Oprah shares her life in a series of short stories that gives a glimpse of what it was like to be her, growing up, and living through her challenges. She wasn't always rich or famous and getting there wasn't simple. 

What she knows for sure is that any reader will benefit from her experiences, as long as we take the time to read about them. 

Like Oprah's book, this is also a collection of life experiences albeit a bit more entertaining and funny. Ellen has a way of writing that you can imagine in your mind. You can hear her voice in your head as you read each word to yourself. You can almost read each line and predict her delivery. It's written in the manner which she speaks; it's colloquial. And like Oprah, she's human and relatable. Maybe that's why we love them both so much. 

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

I read his other 2 books (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns), and I think I liked this one the most. 

Another story about love, the strength and bonds of a family, being separated by distance and time, and the difficulties of 3rd world countries (in this case Afghanistan), this book was a page turner. 

I feel like I have to read the other two books again to have a better appreciation for them. Maybe I'll put it back on my reading list. 

This trilogy was one of the quickest reads I've ever had for two reasons: 1. All of the food references kept me hungry to turn the page, and 2. Rich people have some ridiculous problems. I have a gut feeling that the super wealthy Chinese Singaporeans are really like this. The stories seem creative, but I bet it's all based on true events. Haha. 

Books That I've Started But Can't Seem To Finish:

Friday, February 16, 2018

If I Only Kept Doing This One Thing...

When I was young, my dad made me write everything down. I kept a notepad to keep track of my nightly homework assignments. I had a daily planner to write down things that I did and reminders of important events. And we had an actual calendar (one of those given away by the church every year) to record what days mom and dad would be working for the week/month. It's funny because we kept that calendar in the bathroom, behind the door, in front of the commode. Everyone goes to the toilet, right?

I wish I had been more consistent in my writing, note-taking, and calendar updates. And more significantly, I wish I had kept all those journals, planners, and calendars. It would have been cool if I had them electronically.

There was a point where I kept an electronic journal of daily events, but I think at one point in my life I thought it was too boring, that I wasn't as exciting as I thought I was. Now it's becoming hard to recall all the activities, achievements, accolades, experiences, and encounters that I have made me who I am today.

I am in the process of trying to write an autobiography. (To be fair and honest, I keep telling myself this and have been trying to accomplish this for many years already.) And calling to mind the millions of facts, events, circumstances of any kind of memory I had of the past is a near impossible task. But I'm going to try to document as much as my brain can muster in clarity.

Hopefully, one day I will have a book of stories, lessons, interesting facts, realizations, insights, and hidden facts for my child(ren) to one day look back on and read in amazement their cool collection of dad.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Day 245

This morning as I was walking the dog along the usual route, I bumped into my neighbor Martha. She often asks me how things are going, and we get into lengthy conversations just standing outside in the parking lot. It's possible to discuss your entire life with Martha before heading home. But she's a wonderful lady to chat with.

For an elderly (65-70+ is my guess), widowed woman, she seems to be in very good spirits all the time and quite capable of nearly everything still. (I sometimes help her clean off her car and plow her spot when it snows.) Martha still drives her well-kept Toyota Camry, parks in the same spot everyday, and maintains a very regular schedule of things to-do.

Today, she was coming home from a grocery shopping excursion to Costco. And we talked about that for a bit. We both like picking up the berries, other fresh fruit, and vegetables there. Trader Joe's is another of her stops, but she prefers to do all her shopping before 10AM.

Anyway, we got to speaking about my employment situation. As usual, she provides the utmost confidence that a job is out there for me, spouts out some positivity, and reassures me that it will be ok. But before we parted ways for the day, she reminded me...
"Good things come to those who wait.
I quipped that I have no choice, and wanted to ask her how long but refrained.

Thanks Martha! I kind of needed that. Time to continue with the rest of Day 245...

Prayer Flags - Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal - April 2013