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?