Travel To Grow

Understanding The World Through Travel

Polaroid Photo
Tue
30
Jul '13

The Journey to Seda

 

Intro

What my girlfriend Kay and I expected to be a very normal, fun, relaxing trip to Sichuan’s Northern regions turned out to be anything but. Instead this trip turned out to be much more than we expected both in good ways and bad. The story contains laughter, sadness, good times and bad. Everything from meditating with Buddhist monks to fearing for our lives…  and we even some dead bodies!

 

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The Beginning

Our trip began in Chengdu, a nice city full of very friendly helpful people, some of the most beautiful girls in China, and famous for being the Panda center of the world. After staying the first night at a great Chengdu hostel and trying out some of the famous spicy Sichuan food (whose taste lives up to its reputation) our first trip took us to Leshan to see the giant Buddha.

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The whole park around the big Buddha was cool with plenty of nice things to check out. The line to climb down to the bottom of the cliff to see the big Buddha from ground level was quite long though and would take us about 1.5 hours to wait through. Luckily we had our iPad with enough movies and games to keep us entertained. We realized how the iPad would come in so handy during the trip, watching movies on long bus rides, booking hostels, etc and were so glad we brought it. (yes this is foreshadowing)

Big Buddha was very cool… the scale might be hard to tell in the photos but a full grown person isn’t even as big as one of the Buddha’s toes!

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After the big Buddha we stopped for some noodles. While waiting for food at this shop I suddenly had a terrible pain in my arm pit… I didn’t see anything but it seemed something had bit or stung me. The spot got really red and painful and then proceeded to itch heavily at times for the next 5 days. The restaurant staff again showed us how kind people of this region are. They seemed really concerned when we asked them about the bite and they even brought us a bottle of rubbing alcohol to rub on it, even offering us the whole bottle to take with us. They weren’t sure but guessed it was a type of ant in the area that bit me.

The Bag

After our short stay around Chengdu we decided to get the real mission going and start making our way to Seda. It’s a very long journey and we couldn’t find any direct tickets so we had to first head to the town of KanDing.

After checking into our hostile Kay used her awesome social skills to find us a recommendation for the next day’s daytrip and also a place for some awesome food for dinner. The restaurant was Sichuan style where you choose all the ingredients you want, give it to the chef and they cook it all up together for you in a big spicy bowl of deliciousness. We had a strange seat in the corner with limited leg space, and due to this I put my bag to the side of our seat in the corner. After the meal we left the restaurant without a second thought, leaving the bag in the corner. It wasn’t until after we returned to the hostile we realized it was missing. We ran back to the restaurant but it was too late. A misplaced object is never where you left it for long in China. We did everything we could, talked with the restaurant staff, reported to the police, searched the streets with the police, put up posters offering rewards, but it was no use.

Inside the bag was Kay’s iPad, smart phone, digital camera, some cash, and her passport.

I was so incredibly upset with myself for being so careless and losing all of our valuable things that I felt sick to my stomach. Kay on the other hand was smiling and joking not even 20 minutes after it happened. She didn’t show even a moments anger or upset towards me, telling me its only money and not to feel bad. I realized that night what incredibly control she has over her mind and emotions, and how special she really is.

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After searching and working with the police for hours we returned to the hostel. We worried about the passport a bit for booking hotels and flying home but over the coming days tried to re-frame the situation as something that happened for a reason, maybe the loss helped us avoid some bad situation that would have happened otherwise? I guess that’s all you can do to feel better in situations such as those.

The Altitude

KanDing has an altitude of around 2600m the air is just starting to get thinner here. Our next day trip would take us to altitudes of 4300m.

This daytrip was a sightseeing mountain tour to beautiful areas around KanDing. Our driver took us to a bunch of nice scenic spots where we could get a good look at the mountains, wildlife and some local people.

We saw giant herds of yak grazing in the fields. With a few locals who live with them on the fields in tents for months at a time.

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The Tibetan people in the region are very into Buddhism and love to write Tibetan prayers everywhere. We saw a river full of large rocks that stretched for miles with prayers written on almost every single rock, giant prayers were also written on the mountains themselves.

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While walking around outside here I started to notice I was getting out of breath easily. Even while doing basic things. The difference really hit me when I went into a washroom on one of the fields. The washroom was a hole in the ground full of mountains of poop, so I decided to try to hold my breath while I took a pee. From experience I know I can hold my breath for a full pee without much trouble. This time however after taking a giant breath and entertain the washroom I had barely started before I couldn’t wait to breath any longer.

Later we climbed a little mountain at a very slow pace. Every one of us in the group was amazed by how difficult it was and how tired we became after climbing only small distances. I got a whole new level of respect for those who climb giant mountains like Everest.

We read about thinner air effects while planning the trip and had been drinking the recommended Chinese medicine for days before arriving which was supposed to help us combat all the symptoms that come with the high altitudes, but it wasn’t long before we started getting our first headaches. We also both had colds before we started the trip which apparently makes mountain sickness symptoms worse.

While the weather wasn’t great for pictures, the view was quite beautiful. We tried the locally made yak yoghurt, learned some things about the local culture and enjoyed the day.

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Arrival

After a 7 hour ride in a crowded little minivan we arrived in a little town called Luhuo although we were tired we didn’t want to waste any more time so we found another minivan to complete the journey to Seda. We were told it was only about 50 more km to Seda but to our surprise it took about another 4.5 hours to get there. When we asked why we were told it was because the road was so incredibly awful. We couldn’t imagine any road being so bad that a 50km journey would take 4.5 hours, but it was true. It was a dirt road almost completely flooded, full of large rocks and other hazards, without a single straightaway, and with terrain that would put the moguls from any double black diamond ski hill to shame. Needless to say it was a rough ride.

Seda

When we arrived in Seda we were exhausted from our 12 hours of transport, but the sight of the town was so stunning that it forced a smile to our faces.

This area of Seda is a school for learning Tibetan language, culture and most of all, it’s the world number 1 school for those interested to become Buddhist monks. At 4,000 meters the entire town is built directly on the face of hilly mountains, with thousands of tiny homes centered around a few giant schools and temples of study.

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I would guess that around 90% of the inhabitants are Buddhist monks, all wearing monk uniforms, with shaved heads. Of these monks most were Tibetan and only a small percentage were from Chinese speaking areas of the country. There were not many tourists, and in the 4 days I was there I only saw 1 other westerner.

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We needed to carry our big bags from the bus area to the one giant hotel on the top of the town. We were energized about finally making it to our destination but the thin air was making it quite hard to climb. My legs were burning after moments and the monk that was climbing the hill with us said the air made it feel as if we were constantly carrying an extra 35 kilos (77 lbs) with us everywhere we went not including the weight of our bags.

Eventually we made it to the top and got our first view of the city.

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We had arrived late, and since the town only has one real hotel (in which you can’t book in advance) we were worried it might be full. It was and for a moment we were quite worried. Luckily at the last moment they told us they had a storage room with nice beds that we could sleep in, as long as we didn’t mind having no bathroom. We were grateful just to get a bed and gladly accepted.

The Monk

After dropping off our bags we headed outside to look for some food. It was about 9pm then and the town had gotten dark. We walked only for a moment when we decided to ask a Chinese speaking monk for a recommendation.

She told us it was too late and the restaurants would likely all be closed then without missing a beat invited us into her home to share dinner with her.

A dream of mind since childhood was to meet a Buddhist monk on top of a mountain, haha and being invited into her house was so thrilling for me. She told me not to speak until we got into her house because she wasn’t allowed to have men in this woman’s only area of the village.

Inside some of her family was cooking a vegetarian noodle stew. Her house was very small and cosy. It consisted of a tiny kitchen area and a bedroom / living space just big enough for a bed and for each one of us to have a sitting space on the soft padded floor. The house was quite minimal containing a bookshelf packed full of books, a tea preparation area and a few other bare essentials.

She served us first tea and then dinner, and we talked for hours learning as much as we could about the school and the Buddhist way of life. With Kay as my translator I was able to share a few ideas with her about combining scientific understandings with Buddhist wisdom. She flattered me by saying that she saw something great in me, and that I was菩薩Púsà which means something like I am wise like someone who is one step away from the Buddha himself. I told her I am often too emotional of a person to deserve a compliment like that ^.^

 

All This Beauty

The next day we decided to climb to one of the nearby peaks for a nice view. The mountain sickness was a little heavier now so we had to climb quite slowly, stopping for many rests on the way.

The surrounding mountains stretch in every direction as far as the eye can see around the town, and hit you with such a stunning beauty that you feel you are no longer on earth, but instead in some amazing dream world.

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It’s frustrating to post pictures because they completely fail to capture the stunning awe-inspiring feeling the place hits you with as you stand there and look around at 360 degrees of the most beautiful mountains you’ve ever seen. I would compare the feeling of seeing the photos now, compared to the feeling when I was there with, the feeling of looking at a postage stamp of a beach compared to the feeling of spending all day playing and swimming in the sun.

I remember looking at Kay and saying that if I died and went to heaven and it looked like this I wouldn’t be disappointed.

 

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On our way a small boy crossed our path and told us that there was a funeral we could come see and pointed us in the right direction. We had to cross a few more mountains to reach it, and couldn’t come close to keeping up with the boy whose body had adjusted to the altitude long ago. Eventually on the way, gathered on the side of one of the mountains we ran into a big group of birds.

The Vultures

They were vultures. About 60 of them… Powerful, giant creatures, each with a 2.5 – 3 meter wingspan were huddled together on the side of the mountain, with about 20 circling above occasionally diving down to join the group.

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We got close to take pictures of them, but eventually one person with us got a bit too close and scared them a bit too much. What followed was really stunning…  High on the mountain, with the village in the distant background, only meters away right before our eyes all 60 giant vultures took off flying at the same time, filling the sky with their giant wings, soaring in front of the amazing backdrop.

Again the picture can’t capture even 1% of the awesomeness.

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We followed the flying vultures to reach the site of the funeral.

The Funeral

As the final act of those who have died to provide a benefit to the world, and as a way to free the soul from the body for ascension into the afterlife those who take part in this Tibetan tradition have funerals in which their bodies, instead of being buried or cremated are instead fed to the vultures.

When we arrived it had already began. There were hundreds of vultures, all fighting viciously to be the ones to tear the flesh off of the bones of those who had died. It was an ocean of vultures, loud, violent and so tightly packed together that at first we couldn’t see the bodies underneath.

Eventually we could make out flashes of the bodies underneath an arm here…. a foot there… a ribcage… it was quite a shocking sight. I had heard about the funerals a few days before but to actually see animals eating the remains of a real human body really makes you say ‘holy shit’.

There was one man playing a little drum and doing some chanting at some points of it, but overall it was a lot less ceremonial, a lot more violent and with a lot less feeling than I expected. After a while a man casually walked into the center of the pit, and with his bare hands casually picked up the skeletons and began cutting skin and other parts that the vultures were having trouble consuming into more manageable sizes for them to eat. To see a man so casually cutting off parts of a dead body as if he was doing a daily chore seemed really strange to me.

After the funeral we headed back to town.

 

Restful Day

The next day we woke up not feeling to well. Kay’s face had started to swell, my cough was getting worse, our headaches were getting more frequent and we were starting to not feel like eating anymore. The mountain sickness was causing a total lack of energy, and it was also raining so we decided to have a real easy day with plenty of rest.

We checked out the nearby temple where you must walk around it in a clockwise direction while spinning giant prayer columns with your hands. My presence as a foreigner was quite surprising to many people and many said hi, or smiled at me, a few seemed very delighted to see me there and with big smiles and nods moved their hands in a Tibetan respect giving gesture which I thought was really special.

 

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The people we met were all incredibly friendly. They loved to answer our questions, take pictures together and help us in any way possible.

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Later we took off our shoes and checked out one of the schools. We tried meditating in the main hall and took a peak at some of the classes that were in session. Some were chanting classes, others had a speaker talking to 40-50 students. The school didn’t have any chairs and everyone sat on the carpeted rugs.

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Later in the day we noticed a little clinic. We told the ‘pharmacist’ about our increasingly unpleasant symptoms… He told us to take the symptoms seriously then shocked me by saying that sometimes people would come in feeling not bad with symptoms like ours then just die a few days later. He gave us a medicine that he told us would certainly fix us. We had suspicions that the dying part was just a sales pitch for the medicine but it was cheap so we decided to buy it anyway.

We took one each then lied down for a nap. After waking up we felt so much better. The medicine really did work awesomely we thought. We were excited to take the next one and maybe completely cure our health problems.

 

The Police

Foreigners having restricted access to Tibet, but although Seda is a Tibet region it is technically still in the Sichuan province and as such is a gray zone for foreigner policies. We knew there might be a chance we weren’t allowed into Seda when we arrived, and were very relieved when they let us in without issue. We heard stories however that 2 Japanese had been prevented from entering the week before. We counted ourselves lucky for the first 2 days but on day 3 near our hotel, we suddenly ran into a plain clothes police officer. He quickly approached us and told us foreigners were not allowed in this part of Seda. He demanded that we leave immediately. Kay and I had planned to leave Seda the next day, and Kay managed to convince him that it was too late for us to leave today but we would stay in our hotel room until the next morning. The officer reluctantly agreed but warned us that if his leader caught us he would immediately put me in jail.

We waited until nightfall when we decided to head out and use the darkness and the hoods of our winter jackets to hide our faces and avoid detection from the police while we looked for food again. We made it about 20 steps before the same officer this time with 2 friends found us. He warned us that his leader was in the lower parts of the city and we’d risk everything if we went down there, he told us the only place we could go was near the temple. We agreed and then found a nice path behind the temple that lead out into the hills away from the village where we could get a great view of the night sky. It was a really peaceful beautiful walk and the night view of the illuminated village under the stars was really nice.

We returned to the hotel with a sense of peaceful sense of completion. We took one more of the wonderful medicine and easily fell asleep.

 

That Night

Kay and I woke up at what seemed like the same time. The swelling of her face was worse, her cough and headache increased, she was having awful stomach problems, crazy explosive diarrhea, hot flashes, and her heart rate was super high.

I couldn’t breathe properly… even resting in the bed I couldn’t properly catch my breath. Strangely I could hear my heart beating in a blood vessel in my ear. My hands felt very swollen. I had a really strange feeling in my chest, and an intense anxiety running through my body.

It’s hard to describe it now, but we both had a very strong feeling that something was terribly wrong with us.

We checked our phone for more information on the mountain sickness. Before I had just read that AMS (acute mountain sickness) wasn’t serious and that it went away for most in a couple days and that there were 2 more serious things that happened but were rare…   This time those 2 other things really stood out. We had every one of the long list of symptoms of AMS and some of the first symptoms of the more serious lung issue. The swelling of hands and face, persistent dry cough, and shortness of breath even while resting, were possibly signs of fluid accumulating in tissues of the body.

Phrases like “rapid progression”, “descend immediately”, and “often fatal”, lit up the screen of the mobile. Without even talking about it we both reached the same conclusion. Not only would we get off the mountain as early as possible, we’d cancel the other mountain plans for the rest of the trip and instead head back down to Chengdu as soon as humanly possible.

I’ve been terribly sick before, but this time it was different. I’ll try to explain it, but I think it will sound weird when put into words… When I’ve been terribly sick before in the past it merely felt like I had a strong body that was being covered up with a terrible feeling of sickness. As if there is the healthy me, with the sickness existing on top of the healthy me making me feel awful. But this night, I felt like instead of adding a sick element on to my body instead it was taking the healthy part away from inside leaving me with nothing left. That doesn’t really make sense, but it’s the only way I can try to describe how it’s not the most sick I’ve ever been, but it is the night where I felt my life was threatened more than any other night before.

That strange feeling plus the fact that it’s an unfamiliar sickness we’ve never experienced before, plus the fact that the nearest hospital was a 12 hour drive away had us both feeling very afraid.

Kay and I didn’t admit it to each other that night, but the next day when we talked we both said that we actually, not exaggerating or downplaying, but actually thought we might die that night.

Survival

We got out of bed at first light, both still with the feeling that we might not make it back into town. By then my stomach had followed Kay’s and the explosive diarrhea added to my problems. We grabbed our things and after a few more trips to the washroom stumbled out of the hotel. We had a feeling of intense urgency to get lower, but we also had to move really slowly to keep ourselves from getting too tired in the mountain air. The sleep deprivation plus the symptoms was taking everything from my personality and the only thing I could think was get lower, get lower. Kay looked like she was going to cry so I told her our mantra was ‘meter by meter, lower and lower, better and better.’ Repeating it over and over made me feel better.

I couldn’t make it to the bus area before my stomach demanded another immediate bathroom stop. I found the monks male bathroom, a row of door-less wooden stalls, with holes in the ground to squat over. The kind of place you can make eye contact with the guy pooping next to you. I learned how when you think your life might be endangered everything else disappears or becomes meaningless.  During my squat a monk came in and so surprised to see a foreigner using the monk toilets, just stood there with his mouth hanging open and watched me do my business. I was so focused on finishing quickly and getting off the mountain that even pants down to my ankles, completely exposed, squatting over a hole in the ground, wiping my ass, not a single funny or embarrassed thought about that situation even entered my mind.

After 1 more poop break we finally made it to the bottom of the village and luckily found a vehicle that would make that same bumpy 5 hour ride back to Luhuo.

The Road

Either the road had somehow gotten even worse or the car we chose must have had no shocks whatsoever. We sat over the back tire again full packed to the brim.

In China seatbelts are thought of as an unnecessary hindrance that only the ultra-cautious wear, or only if those ultra-cautious sit in the front seat. Wearing a seatbelt in the backseat is unheard of but not only is it uncommon. They also often completely remove the back seatbelts from the car… So if you are a sick desperate foreigner who thinks he’s dying with diarrhea, headaches, and nausea on the worse road in the world, and you don’t want to bounce your head off the roof of the car and the person sitting next to you for the next 5 hours, you are completely screwed.

Kay and I learned what it must feel like to be a popcorn kernel… popping in a microwave… inside a tumble spin clothes dryer… on a roller coaster.

Back when I used to study Muay Thai kickboxing I would go to a sparing class. Inside that class the instructor would make us fight him in the rink, only we weren’t allowed to fight back, we just had to try to defend ourselves for 5 straight minutes while we beat on us as hard as he could. This ride was much more painful than that… and it lasted 5 hours instead of 5 minutes. We held on for our lives as we slowly began to descend.

Escape

The next 7 hour ride was on a smooth road and luckily as we descended lower, our symptoms resided relatively quickly. We spent the night at 2700m in KanDing and by the next day our only symptoms were the stomach problems, and minor headaches. Eventually we reached Chengdu and the relief really set in.

We took it easy for the rest of the trip, staying at low altitudes, cruising Chengdu and Chongqing cities at low altitudes. Thankfully at the end of the trip, even without Kay’s passport we were able to fly home without much trouble.

The End

Although we did lose some valuable possessions, and we got pretty sick, we are both really thankful we went on this amazing trip. One of the things the Buddhist monk told us during dinner at her house was something we both agree with fully. Travel is not about what you see and do, but how the trip affects you as a person. This trip gave me a lot of fresh perspectives on life. I think the way I look at everything from money and my business, to Buddhism, to my relationship with Kay and even my own life has been altered.

I also feel more grateful for all the awesome things in my life and for my lovely home here in Shenzhen.

Here’s a slideshow of our favorite pictures from the trip

 

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Sat
24
Sep '11

Questioning our Culture

I’m always interested in the different ways that we think about certain parts of life in our different cultures.

There are some big differences between Western and Chinese culture that become obvious for anyone that’s experienced both cultures first hand. From dating to personal space to manners to family values the differences are vast and truly show how environment shapes our ideas and behaviors.

We should understand that these differences in ideas and behaviors are not necessary ‘right’ or not necessarily even our own opinions, but instead come to us by default from our cultural conditioning… basically by living in the cultures in which we are raised we are influenced by our environments to have certain ideas about things… and until we realize this we have little control over what we believe… Instead of questioning the ideas that were programmed into our minds we just accept them as ‘normal’ or even ‘self-evident’.

To go against any of these ideas is seen as weird or abnormal, and to follow them helps you to fit in.

This can at times be dangerous though… or at the very least misleading. Many of us currently accept the ideas of our culture as ‘just the way it is’ but if we look back through history we can see many cases where the dominant cultures of the times were completely erroneous.

We once thought that the world was flat, and at the center of the universe… and anyone who questioned this ‘self-evident truth’ was persecuted and punished. This misinformation prevented the progression of science until it was finally accepted and caused harm to those who went against it.

We also at one time thought that illnesses were caused by demons. Instead of looking for various medical cures for these illnesses people instead looked towards different methods of exorcism or purifications. This misinformation prevented advances in medicine and caused harm to many sick people.

More recently we thought that slavery was normal and acceptable… Those who wrote ‘all men are created equal’ had slaves of their own. They just didn’t realize the hypocrisy of it because it was normal and accepted at the time. This misinformation caused mass suffering of slaves around the world for thousands of years all the way up until 1865.

and most recently were the inequalities between men and women and also between white and black people.

I’m sure China also has many examples of this kind of cultural misinformation that I am not aware of. (please comment 😉 )

 

Anyway as these examples show… Merely accepting ones culture can be really harmful to a lot of people, or at least fill our heads with ideas that don’t match reality, or serve us in positive ways.

…Now maybe you are thinking “well of course all those past examples were wrong, but now it’s the 21st century and we are smarter than that! Now our cultural ideas are right!”

Well… I’m sure with each new cultural breakthrough through time the masses thought the same thing as well. Plus we have some clear present day examples.

Besides our outdated ideas about wars and politics and religions, a nice present day cultural example that is quite harmful is our cultural consumerism ideas. We have been culturally conditioned through advertising and the media to want more and more, and have been conditioned to think that the more we have, the more possessions we accumulate the happier and more ‘successful’ we are. This idea is built right into our monetary system, which requires constant growth and cyclical consumption just to maintain itself. It’s this same social conditioning that we accept as ‘normal’ and even ‘self-evident’ that is responsible for the mass shortages of resources, destruction of the environment and terrible waste around the planet.

 

Anyway the point of this blog post is to encourage us to question our cultures and our common ideas.

We can’t help which ideas were planted into our minds by default, but we can help which ideas we keep in there and which ones we remove.

Question everything you think you know, and everything you accept as normal and see if it really is accurate with reality and if it really is serving your own life and the lives of everyone around you. The ideas we hold on to should be the ones that will provide the highest wellbeing and quality of life for us and our fellow man. It’s not always the big things as well, question even the little things, how do you think about dating, money, careers, friendships, talking with strangers, families, adventures? Are your ideas really your own, or are you just fitting in with your culture? Are your ideas making you as happy as you can possibly be? Or are you accepting the ideas of others or hiding your true self because you worry about what they will think about you?

How do we tell if our ideas are accurate or not? The one thing we can trust to always be the most accurate is logic and science, because science is updating constantly and always remains our closest approximation of reality that we currently have. But more simply… are your ideas making you happy? Can you be 100% open and honest about everything about you, or do you need to hide certain things? Do you admit to yourself what you want then really go for it, or do you simply follow the norm?

Our cultures and societies give us a lot of pressure and have a lot of expectations for us… but in the end our lives are our own and we need to choose for ourselves how we think about them and how live them. In the end it’s really all about following your own present and future happiness and not caring about what ‘normal’ people think about you.Follow the rule of ‘do no harm’ but then let loose and be who you want to be and think what you want to think. If you’re doing that you can’t be too far off.

 

Wed
21
Sep '11

Language, Love and Light-switches

Kind of a continuation of my post on how language shapes behaviour I’d like to talk about this idea we have of love.

 

I think how we think and talk about the idea of love… doesn’t really match reality, and it actually causes us a lot of trouble or at least some confusion.

Us humans have a habit of breaking down complex things into simple, easy to digest parts. We take the infinite spectrum of color found in a rainbow and break it down into basic blocks of red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple. We tend to think of things as either good or bad, when we know there is a large grey area in between… and we do the same when it comes to love… either you love someone or you don’t… it’s like a light-switch without the grey area.

Sometimes it’s useful to break things down into their basic parts… it would be a whole lot less convenient to describe the colour of the sky as 236 parts blue, 206 parts green and 147 parts red as photoshop might describe it… but the problem comes when we forget that there are these complexities… and then we are forced to pick the perfect color for the paint on our walls from the basic red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple choices.

In the English language we try to break up the concept of love a little bit… we have “don’t like, like as a friend, like like, love, she’s the one” ect… but these divisions still don’t do a very good job in representing how love really works or feels. They seem to be influenced by fairy-tales and hollywood movies, where the main characters are “just friends” until one day they finally realize they are “in love” (how romantic) and passionately declare it to each other.

It seems to be through logic and experience that love actually works like colors, on a spectrum. It begins at 0 and then has an infinite amount of levels all the way up until whatever the maximum capacity for love is.

In other words maybe you’ve just met someone and you feel a little spark and have a bit of love for them at… lets say… 30 points, then after a few dates when you have a solid crush on them your at a 70… then after being together for a while and really falling for each other your at 130… then when your convinced they are the perfect one and you want to be together forever you might be at a 200… then after a big fight about something important you drop to a 160… or after 10 years of marriage when you have grown in different directions you slowly move down to a 60…

Thinking about it in this way… rather than the light switch on or off way… just makes way more sense…

Love and romantic/sexual interest are also completely different things… we all know you can be sexually attracted to someone you don’t love and vice versa… but isn’t the love the same?

Maybe when you meet an attractive stranger in the bar your romantic interest is at 100 but your love is near 0… or for a same sex friend or family member your love might be at a 100 but the romantic interest a 0…  and maybe when two long time male/female friends get drunk and something romantic happens… they both had a love of 60 and a romantic interest of 30 for each other…. but the alcohol boosted that romantic interest past the threshold.

Imagine that last situation in the old way of thinking about it… and how complicated it would be:

“oh my god… we were ‘just friends’ so we didn’t love each other… but then we got romantic… so… did that mean we secretly loved each other before? does that mean we love each other now? is our friendship ruined now? can we still be just friends after this happened? is our relationship changed now?”

That kind of thinking is so convoluted and restricted and unnatural… it doesn’t make much sense to me.

When I was in China I used to hang out with these 3 beautiful Chinese girls. Each one of them had boyfriends, so nothing ever happened between us… but if I were to be honest I would have to say I loved them all as friends… let’s say at a 70… but I also had a romantic interest in them all as well… maybe a 60…

In the ‘normal’ way of thinking this might have been a complicated situation… hollywood would say that you can’t love someone and also be fine with being friends at the same time… I would have to either put my feelings aside and just ‘be friends’ in order to prevent the friendships from being ruined… or else I would have to just go for it and confess my feelings and try to win them over…

…This is total nonsense though… Why would it have to be one or another? Why are we programmed to think this way? I was completely fine loving these girls as friends and also being interested in them romantically… why not? I think this concept only seems so strange because of how we try to put the ideas of love into such restricted categories.

The truth is, when you stop your mind from trying to categorize everything, and to fit everything into its box… the alternative seems so much more natural.

I hope it seems pretty obvious at this point that love and romantic interest works more like a spectrum than a light-switch… but how often does our habit of treating it like a light-switch cause trouble or confusion?

How about in new relationships? As this clip from ‘How I Met Your Mother’ shows, we put so much weight on the first time someone says “I love you” and if they say it too soon than its super weird!

How about after a breakup… for a couple that still wants to remain friends afterwards… The question that inevitably comes up at some point “Do you still love me?” is so tricky to answer! This happened with my ex… and the problem is… because I didn’t want to continue the relationship… I had to say “No” even though I still love and care about her a lot. I later then settled with “I still love you as a friend.” but like… who am I kidding? It’s not like she became fat and ugly instantly and I lost all romantic attraction for her… The truth is more complicated… Perhaps I once loved her at a 150, and now it’s more of a 90 or something… and logically I know I don’t want the relationship to continue… but I still have romantic interest in her, and care for her…
… but its obvious how complicated and restrictive and unnatural trying to answer these light-switch love questions can be.

 

How about love for strangers? I’m a big fan of the idea of loving ones neighbour, spreading peace and happiness and kindness to strangers… The whole oneness we’re all in this world together, love for the human race thing… But like, even writing this makes me sound weird because of the whole lightswitch thing… I’m only talking about like a 5-10 on the love scale… it’s nothing serious! 😛

I was doing a free hugs event in Toronto during the summer. Spreading the happiness of hugs to strangers… But then one guy came up to me and said “Sorry dude, I don’t love you, I only like you.” And instead offered me a handshake. It was fine and all, but it made me realize the light-switch categories in his mind… In his mind its weird to love strangers, but fine to like them… and on top of that… hugs are only reserved for people that you love… hmmm…

Here’s another question Chinese girls like to test me with when we talk about culture and dating. They always ask me… “Is it okay to have sex with someone before you fall in love?” Then I am severely judged by whatever answer I give.

The problem is that the whole question is flawed! First it assumes that love is either on or off… and secondly it assumes that love and sex are interdependent. Large judgements of my character are being made by these girls… when the sad truth is their entire method of thinking is based on false assumptions.

 

So why do we try to fix these complex ideas of love and romance into little on or off categories… Well like I mentioned at the beginning, humans love to do this in all areas of life because most of the time it useful… but secondly it because of the influence of our language like the last post talked about. In our language its either “I love you” or “I don’t” we’re either “Just friends” or “We’re dating”… The truth is… unfortunately due to our language its hard to talk about love any other way… None of us want to rate how much we love our friends on a number scale… and of course the numbers would mean different things to different people… But the key is to not let the simplifications of our language let us lose sight of the underlying complexities of these things… to not lose sight of reality and the truth of our feelings because of some holly-wood ideas of what love is… and to try our best to stop thinking in these restricting confusing on and off terms…

…and perhaps instead… just honestly and openly follow the true feelings in our hearts… without any restrictions, expectations or rules.

Tue
20
Sep '11

How Language Shapes Behavior

Recently my study of the mandarin language has lead me to a new theory.

As I’m sure you know, different languages have different ways of explaining certain concepts and ideas… and even have different words or concepts that are completely absent in other ones…

I was talking to my Chinese ex-girlfriend today and asking her how to say ‘casual dating’ in Chinese… where you are casually dating 1 or more people, but your not serious yet… your not at the exclusive point yet… before there’s a need to worry about commitment or anything like that.

and to my surprise she told me… “That’s literally impossible to say in Chinese.”

She said “we only have jian mian which means, to meet up with someone (but is mostly used for friends nothing to do with dating) or we have yue hui which is like serious exclusive boyfriend and girlfriend dating.”

Then I realized… (from my experience living in China) this is exactly how nearly all Chinese people think… you need to really really like someone before you can go on a date with them… and it needs to be exclusive and serious from the get go…

This then reminded me of all the times I tried to talk about the idea of casual dating with Chinese girls and had them accuse me of being a dirty foreigner who just wanted to play with girls… 😛

…So I thought… even though the Chinese culture is exposed to this idea of casual dating through the media and all their American tv shows, most of them still don’t understand the idea… or think its totally strange and unacceptable.

So my theory is… is that language is more important than we think… that language itself is actually creating/maintaining this cultural behavior…and that because they don’t even have a word to describe this… it is automatically such a strange foreign thing… and it make it seem normal, is nearly impossible.

If the idea itself is not even present in their language… how could it be a normal or natural thing? How could it not automatically labelled as strange by default?

It works the other way too… in China they have something called shanghuo 上火 (begin-fire?)… and because we don’t have the words to describe this concept in our language its nearly impossible for us to get it…

It has to do with the balance of Yin and Yang and is a symptom that occurs when the balance is out of wack… resulting in sore throats and other things… and has to do with certain dietary choices… and also has to do with getting angry about things… It took me like a week to understand it by that definition and it still seems so foreign to me.

But this idea of shanghuo is such a big part of their daily lives. Everyone understands it and accepts it as self evident. When I tell them we don’t have shanghuo they likely think its as strange as, how strange I think it is that they don’t have casual dating.

I think it’s likely that originally the culture created the language, but now i think the language is maintaining the culture.

Another example is “Wenti”It means question, and it also means problem.Chinese people really don’t like to question things or their bosses or authorities… They aren’t encouraged to ask questions in school, or to question the ideas of others… Perhaps because each “question” has the same meaning as being a “problem”

How much of our own behaviour is shaped by the language in which we use. We can see clear examples of this when it comes to abstract concepts such as ‘Love’… based on our language we tend to talk about love as either being an on or off switch. Either you’re in love or your not. But things in reality are never really that black and white, there are always so many shades of grey… but you can see how our behaviour within relationships is affected by this idea.

When we realize that every single thought and concept inside our minds is verbalized using the language we were raised with, the importance of our language becomes more apparent. How many real world concepts are out there in other languages that we don’t have terms for in English? How many times do we oversimplify abstract concepts like good and evil by using single words to describe them? As a world full of blind people would never know they were missing sight… What kinds of concepts and ideas are we missing because we don’t have words to describe them?

Studies have shown that language affects not only how we think but also our motion perception, emotion perception, object representation, and even memory.

One of my favourite books by Malcolm Gladwell titled “Outliers” shows that speakers of Cantonese Chinese have a much easier time remembering long strings of numbers because each number has a shorter pronunciation that its English equivalent… allowing their short term memory to hold more digits in a short amount of time. I tested this out while in China too and got crushed by my Cantonese friend!

Whether language really shapes behaviour or not, and to what extent has yet to be proven, but it makes a whole lot of sense, and can help to explain some of the troubles I have in understanding my Chinese friends and how they think.

Interesting stuff… tell me your thoughts~

Thu
8
Sep '11

Understanding the World through Empathy

An important part of understanding the world and all of its crazyness is empathy.

If we can put ourselves into the shoes of another, and understand life from their perspective we can take great strides in understanding the behaviour of people around the world.

We should try to understand that all people are just doing what they think they should do to be happy. It’s the goal that everyone shares, however countless environmental influences can affect how it is expressed in different people.

The money hungry CEO, the terrorist, the corrupt government official, the martyr, the nun… If we want to understand these people we need to understand where their current mindsets came from. and to do that we need to understand the various influences that have shaped who they are during their entire lives on this earth.

Besides minor genetic influences which can be overcome, people are not born good or bad, corrupt or pure, or any of the characteristics we attribute to personalities. They are shaped by the world in which we live, the information they have, the skills they have developed, the mindsets that have been programmed into them through their experiences and the situations they have been exposed to.

Unfortunately we can’t take a person and experience what they have experienced and seen what they have seen and have our minds shaped the way theirs have been… however we can do little thought experiments, to imagine for ourselves what it would be like to grow up in different times or situations and to be shaped by different environments.

Through this empathy we can begin to understand the behaviour of others… that is not to say, we should excuse, condone or condemn the behaviour, but at least we should understand it.

An amazing talk in this area that I have seen recently is by Sam Richards called A radical experiment in empathy.

Check it out below.

Does this talk help you to understand your fellow humans a little better?

Fri
2
Sep '11

My Theory about Money and Freedom

We’ve all heard the question before:

“Does money bring happiness?”

and we’ve all heard the various answers. We’ve heard of millionaires being miserable, we’ve heard of people with nothing being incredibly happy. and on the other side we see happy wealthy people with wealth in all areas of their life, and people who are so poor they suffer endlessly because of it.

Many of us feel that if we had more money we would be happier… almost all of us get excited about the idea of winning the lottery, a substantial raise always seems like a good thing… Yet we also realize the best things in life are free. We go camping to get away from the material world. We see the problems the lust for money creates in the world.

So what’s going on here? Why is there such conflict between the idea of money and happiness?

It is my theory that the problem with asking the question “Does money bring happiness” is that the question is flawed. My idea is that money does not directly relate to happiness at all… and if the relationship does exist, its very weak at best.

Money does however seem to have a direct 1-1 relationship which something similar… Something that when used effectively can create happiness, or when limited or not exercised properly can cause unhappiness… which in turn would explain why people with similar levels of money can be on such opposite sides of the happiness spectrum.

This 1 to 1 relationship, is the relationship between money and freedom.

Think about it. The more money a person has, the more freedom they have. And the less money a person has, the less freedom they have. The relationship is direct and complete.

On the poor side of the spectrum you loose the freedom to live in the kind of house you want, drive the kind of car you want or even own a car, put your kids in the types of schools you want, receive adequate healthcare (in some countries), you have no freedom to travel, and if you get poor enough you might not even have the freedom to buy food and survive. When money drops to 0 and without other intervening factors, you loose even the freedom to live, as hundreds of thousands do around the world every single day.

On the opposite side of the spectrum you have those free to see the world, buy the things they want, make more money rather easily, have the best healthcare, the safest security, get the best education, have the most free time, have the best experiences, control others, with enough money they may even be able to transcend the rules of the law by paying off the local law enforcement.

and those in the middle will have an average degree of freedom in these areas.

Now of course some of these freedom factors can relate to happiness, but you can clearly see that the relationship between money is directly to freedom and the rest is just an after effect of that.

Now when we accept that money = freedom and lack of money = lack of freedom we can begin to notice something rather off putting. We are all born without money, so we are all born with a serious lack of freedom, (apart from the freedom our parents provide to us)… essentially we are all born into a world of slavery where we must earn our freedom through countless hours of education and hard work.

Now of course some of us are lucky and born into families that already contain a high level of freedom, so we can have a lot of our freedom easily given to us… or we can be given great opportunities to earn a bit of our own freedom quite easily…  But the sad truth is most aren’t so lucky and a great deal of the planet is born into families who have little or no freedom to spare.

Based on this understanding we can see that our freedom is directly limited by the amount of money that we have. Now while the majority of us in the rich countries have a large enough amount of freedom that we don’t really feel our freedom is all that restricted (except for our 9-5 jobs in which we have accepted as normal and necessary) we are around the world beginning to see the problems with this correlation. The big problem with this relationship is the idea of debt that we have created.

Money is essentially created out of thin air through the fractional reserve banking system, and must be repaid. However once the application of interest is put on top of it, there is less money in existence than that which needs to be repaid. This results in the necessity to add more and more money into the system resulting in less value for each dollar, and a need to accumulate more and more to maintain our level of freedom. In turn this creates higher and higher debts and less and less worldly freedoms.

In case I’m not being clear… “If all debts in the world were paid off, there wouldn’t be a single dollar in existence”

This of course helps to explain why the US debt is over 14 trillion dollars… and rising.

One of the questions I hope this article raises is: “What type of freedoms should be universal for human beings?” and of course, this question must be considered from the perspective that money = freedom. Should human beings be born with the freedom to have access to food and water? Or should that be a freedom that has to be fought for and earned? Our current minimum level of freedom on earth, is welfare in some countries, a couple homeless programs and stuff like that in the rich countries, and practically nothing but the occasional food drive for the hundreds of thousands in poverty around the world. With technologies in existence such as hydro/aquaponics, earthship homes, super-capacitors, renewable energies, and countless countless others, should we really have such a low default level of freedom on earth?

Another thing to consider is our maximum level of freedom. Currently our maximum level of freedom is based on how much money we have. The estimated number of millionaires in the world, (people with a good deal, but far from limitless amount of freedom) is 10,000,000 which is only 0.15% of the worlds population. Is this the best system we should be basing our freedom off? One that only provides a good deal of freedom to 0.15% of the world?

So how can we do better?

What if instead our freedom was not limited by money, but instead limited by the state of our technological advancements and the resources of the earth. What if the freedom to eat was not based off of how much money a person had, but instead how much food the combined efforts of the world could produce through advanced technologies? What if the freedom to travel was not based off money but instead how many automated renewable energy transportation systems we could create?

This is just a vague unexplained surface scratch of the ideas this train of thought produces, but the rest is far beyond the scope of this article. One thing we can see is that instead of our freedom being based off of money and the growing debts that are plaguing the system, if our freedom was based off of advances in technology and science it would always be growing and evolving. Essentially all people on the planet would become more and more free as our technology improves further and further. Now that’s interesting.

The train of thought I’m referring to of that of a Resource Based Economy. An intro to these ideas can be seen here:

In-case your not buying the whole ‘we are kind of slaves’ thing, here is another interesting perspective about the idea of how we are not very free:

Tue
30
Aug '11

Returning home after almost 2 years in China

Near the middle of June, I returned home to Canada after 1 year and 9 months in China for a nice Canadian summer vacation.

I really wanted to refresh my mind with the familiar after spending so much time in such a different culture, and I really wanted to see my family and friends again.

Coming home again was a strange experience. They call it reverse culture shock, but for me it was so much shocking as it was just strange. Coming home was exciting in some ways and unsettling in others. The whole experience of coming home didn’t feel real at first. The best way to describe it was that I constantly felt like I was dreaming and that any second I would wake up and be back in China.

China had become my reality, and Canada, although familiar, felt different. The empty streets, the wide open spaces, the nature, the peaceful residential areas… it all felt a little bit new to me. I definitely appreciated certain things before that I had never really cared about while in China. I was dazzled by how nice the neighbourhood around my house looked. I noticed how many more birds and squirrels and stuff were around. For the first time I could understand the conversations of strangers, and the small talk from the people around me we’re talking about became very interesting.

Going into a store felt really strange… I could talk to the cashier in English fluently… She would treat me just like anyone else… It was completely normal but felt really special.

My home town is full of many cultures and it was cool to see so many different looking people in the same area… In China most people look very similar. People seemed much heavier as well as Chinese people are nearly all super skinny.

Going down to Toronto I was so intrigued by all the interesting looking people with tattoos and dyed hair and piercings and alternative fashions I wanted to talk to all of them just to see what they were about.

Seeing my family and friends was really nice… most of them stayed exactly the same, but some had changed in pretty big ways. The question I got from everyone ‘how was China’ always felt so impossible to answer. I knew from my time in Thailand that I would never be able to pass on my experiences in China to anyone else… telling stories about China pass on no more of my experiences than hearing news reports pass on the experience of the events.

Coming home, besides giving me a greater appreciation of Canada actually gave me a greater appreciation of China as well. Running into situations like a needing to go to a beer store… or getting a fishing licence or fire permit… or dealing with bouncers at clubs… and the vast space between everything making cars almost a necessity… or not being able to walk out of my house at 1am and find something to eat or drink… all made me appreciate the convenience and casualness of China a lot more. Canada has so many rules and regulations and restrictions and social expectations and… well these things just don’t exist in China… I told many friends to their surprise that so called communist China feels a lot more free to me than Canada.

After about 3 weeks all the strangeness of Canada began to disappear. Canada became my reality again, and now China seemed like a dream. I caught up with all my friends and family, ate all the foods I missed, did the things I hadn’t done in years… Then really just enjoyed my vacation while it lasted. I tried not to spend any money whenever possible because of how expensive everything is in Canada, and still ended up spending way more money than I would have liked. I cringe on the inside every time I have to share a $15 pitcher of beer as my mind compares it to the 10-cent beers that I had while in Aojiang or the 90-cent pints we used to get at the bar in Shunde.

I spent hours and hours on youtube relishing the freedom of unblocked youtube videos… and am happy that after 2 years of not having access to it, I now only use facebook about 10% of the time that I used to.

People say I pronounce some words with an accent now… I don’t really notice it.

I decided to really improve my Mandarin during the summer, so I began studying a few hours a day on it. This makes the idea of going back to China much more exciting as it will open up a lot more possibilities for me.

People have asked me how I’ve changed the most since before and after my trip… but I’ve had a little trouble answering it. The changes from my perspective have happened gradually and its hard for me to really remember exactly what I was like before I left. I’m sure if I could teleport my mind between the pre and post China Devin the difference would be pretty staggering. I think if I tried to some it up into a few points I would say.

  • I’m far more confident. I care what other people think about me a lot less than I used to.
  • I totally embrace all the strange things about myself now, and have little interest in normal people.
  • I’m far more educated and interested in world issues. Understanding human behaviour and the workings of society is really interesting to me. I question everything now and try to get a root understanding of it all.
  • I feel more easily frustrated with other people and the way they think and act in (from my perspective) detrimental ways.
  • I approach things from a much more scientific logical mentality than I used to.
  • I value unique people a lot more
  • I’m into many new types of music and lost interested in some of my old favourites.
  • I now know I can never go back to a typical 9-5 job.
  • I try to remove all aspects of my culture from who I am and instead just look at logic and reality and what works and what makes people happy.
  • I’m no longer sure if I ever want to get married.
  • I think I also feel the heaviness of the world a lot more strongly now.
  • I have better social skills, and more interest/enthusiasm in social interactions. I really enjoy a good deep discussion with people.
  • I try to cut through all the BS out there and live in really authentic honest ways. I’d rather be honest with someone and have them not like me than keep my feelings to myself.
  • I’m a lot less patriotic and a lot less into following sports.
  • I have a bigger appreciation for the simple things, playing volleyball with friends, sitting around a campfire with a nice drink, walking at night, looking at the stars, and stuff like that.

I think that’s about it.

Looking back on China I feel a lot of strange feelings about it. While I was in China I lived for an extended period of time in 5 different places… plus the countless travel experiences. In each one of these places I did different things for money, had different friends a different environment and different experiences… It really feels like I lived 5 or more different lives while in China… and now that I’m back in Canada looking back on them all is a bit of a mind trip. In each new place you settle into, it becomes your new reality. Your mind adapts to it and it is your new situation and the you inside that situation is the new you. Sure we have memories that link it all together… but the feeling of each place, seems to be lost after each time you go somewhere new… That feeling only comes back to me if I smell a certain smell or hear a certain song that I strongly associate with each place, and it only comes back for a moment. It’s hard to explain and maybe needs to be experienced to be understood. I wonder how many different lives most people live… how often they just pack up and move across country away from their homes… maybe in these 2 years I experiences as many different lives as some people do in their entire lifetime? Now that each of these lives are over and I’m back in Canada, trying to remember them makes each one of them feel kind of unreal… Did they really happen? Of course they did I have pictures, and friends and blog posts… but besides these little mementos what is really left? I don’t expect others to understand the strangeness of it… but writing about it makes me feel better.

I lived mostly out of my backpack in China and the freedom was wonderful. I wonder how many different lives I will live this time I leave my home.

It’s been 2 and a half months now since I’ve been home. A part of me is really eager to go back, and a part of me wants to stay in Canada and hang out with my friends forever and give up the whole crazy idea of making it in another country again…

…ya right!

We all know which part of me will win :)

My flight is booked for Sep. 26th 😉

Tue
14
Jun '11

What to do when your feeling down

Like anyone, sometimes I can get a little down.

Sometimes there’s a good reason for it, and sometimes there isn’t. The real question is, what should you do about it? If its a situation that you can take some sort of action to fix, then go for it, take action, make some changes. Other times it’s not so simple, maybe there’s nothing you can do about your situation, and perhaps you don’t even know why your feeling down in the first place.

That was the case with me the other day. I was feeling down for no good reason, I didn’t really know why, and I didn’t really care. I just felt mildly depressed, and the truth is I didn’t even feel like cheering myself up. For some reason it felt as if wallowing in my blue feeling was the only thing that I should do. Logically I knew I could probably cheer myself up but it was almost as if I didn’t even want to feel better.

I think these are the times when your emotions kind of feel like a drug. You feel addicted to them and you don’t really want them to go away even though you know the alternative is better. So there I sat on some stairs in Guilin, with my head resting on my fist, looking out into the world I wasn’t happy in, feeling miserable.

Just at that time an old lady walked up to me with a huge heavy looking bag over her shoulder. She had a back problem and was bent over at the waist, almost at a 90-degree angle and walked slowly under the weight of what she carried. While I should have thought something along the lines of “well at least I have my health to be happy about, not like this poor woman” instead my thoughts said “oh great, here comes an annoying beggar to bother me for money.”

The lady walked up to me and held out her hand, and just as I was about to turn away I noticed that she simply wanted to collect the empty water bottle I was holding. She was one of the ladies that made their away around town collecting hundreds of plastic bottles in order to trade them in for enough to get by. I handed the bottle to her and expected her to then ask me for some change, but she didn’t, and instead she thanked me twice… and with a really sincere, appreciative look in her eyes and walked away.

I felt a stroke of admiration, this lady has serious health problems, but instead of sitting down on the street and begging for money like so many others in China she trucks on, and carries heavy bags of what she collects around the city, working for herself to get by. I sat there a little stunned as I watched the lady slowly walk away carrying her heavy load with her.

“I want to do something nice for this lady,” I thought.

She put her bags down next to a building and hobbled down the street looking for more bottles to collect. I realized if I wanted to make this woman happy I couldn’t just go give her some money, as she might feel insulted since she works hard for every penny she gets without being a beggar. Instead I had to think of a way to give her what she needed without her knowing she received any charity. I formulated my plan.

I waited for the lady to enter a small ally before I made my move. I sneaked over to where her heavy bags were and took some money out of my wallet. I lifted up the corner of one of her bags and slid the money underneath, and ran back to the stairs before being seen.

For the next 10 minutes I sat there with absolute focus waiting for the lady to return. My mind was clear of everything as I waited in excited anticipation. Eventually she made her way back to the bags. I stood up with excitement ready to see if she would find the money or not. I went behind a pillar for a better view. After 1 more minute of resting she picked up her heavy bags, then stopped. She reached down and grabbed the money I had hidden, and although her faced was turned away from me and I couldn’t see her, I imagined a big *lucky* smile shine upon her face.

The lady had found more money in that lucky second than she would likely find all day. I imagined the rest of her day would be easier. Her bags wouldn’t feel so heavy, there would be a lightness in her step because she had luckily stumbled upon some money. It must have felt like the universe was smiling on her. I felt great.

I would never see that woman again,  never receive her thanks, or even see her smile but it didn’t matter. I felt like I did something good for someone less fortunate than me, and it didn’t contain any of the usual gratitude, which surprisingly made it feel really really good! The depression I felt earlier in the day was a faded memory. I was refreshed and renewed, the rest of my day felt sunny.

So there you have it. When your feeling down, instead of trying to make yourself feel better, which can be difficult or which can even feel undesirable… instead make someone else feel good. Help cheer someone else up, or help someone that needs you. Lending a hand to someone less fortunate than you can give you a wonderful feeling, and if you make it into a fun event like I did it can completely lift your spirits.

Until next time, feel good!

Wed
8
Jun '11

The Guilin Rice Terraces

Recently I’ve had the absolute privilege of checking out one of the most amazing places I have ever been in the world.

The Guilin Rice Terraces.

Rice Terraces

The Guilin Rice Terraces

My girlfriend Jen’s mom decided to take us on an awesome trip to see the terraces in a small town that was about an hours drive from Guilin.

After driving on a windy mountain road for a long time we reached the base of the village where we were approached by a bunch of girls with turbins and huge baskets on their backs.

Long hair ladies

The baskets on their backs are used to carry heavy things up the mountains

Upon closer inspection however I noticed they weren’t wearing turbins, but instead had incredibly long hair! In this village the tradition is that the longer a woman’s hair, the more beautiful and worthy she is for marriage.

Long Hair

Brushing her hair our of the window

Long Hair 2

2 of the older village girls showing off their hair with us

Next we did the long hike into the village which was tiring with all of our heavy bags. When we reached the top however, to the little guest house on the mountain that we would be staying in, we were all blown away by the absolute beauty!

beautiful rice terraces

The view!

These terraces are used for growing rice, and have this distinct shape to make them efficient for watering (and also to allow the rice to be planted in such a remote location) each level of the terrace is flooded with water which trickles down to the layer below and to the layer below giving all of the rice on the mountain an even level of water. You can see a guy working on the field here:

on the rice fields

Working hard on the rice fields

The entire experience was really nice. It was great to simply be secluded from the city, surrounded by mountains in all direction. Even just breathing the fresh air was incredibly refreshing to my system after spending so much time locked to my computer working on T-Shirt Design World.

The people of the village were very friendly and took wonderful care of us. The entire trip and guest house room was also incredibly cheap, as a single night was only 80rmb ($12.30). The food was wonderful, they had some really unique and delicious rice wine, and simply standing on the balcony and looking out at the marvel the rice terraces were, which must have been crafted into the mountains over generations… was truly phenomenal.

After visiting these rice fields, I officially declare Guilin my favorite travel destination in China. Not only does Guilin have these rice fields, they also have the amazing mountains and rivers of Yangshuo, Stunning caves, waterfalls, white water rafting, and so much more to see and do. It really is one of the most beautiful destinations on earth.

In my usual fashion I’ll leave you all with a slide show!

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Tue
7
Jun '11

The Launch of T-Shirt Design World

I have to apologize for the lack of updates to this blog, but for the last couples of months I have been working diligently on creating my new business!, and when I say diligently I really mean diligently!.. and have been putting in about an average of 10-12 hour work days nearly every day.

All the work however has produced a result that I am rather proud of, so I am excited to share (drum roll please)

T-Shirt Design World . com

T-Shirt Design World is a t-shirt website with a unique angle. It’s about bringing together only the highest quality designs, made by artists who come from many different countries from around the world, with really affordable prices.

Right now at the time of launch all of our tees are $7-$10 and we already have 11 designers from 6 different countries!

The cool thing about having different designers from different countries is that you get a lot of different styles. Already T-Shirt Design World has cute silly tees, funny creative shirts, colorful bright t-shirts, cool stylish designs, and more.

Designers

How it works for our designers is that we pay them 40% of the profit for each shirt of theirs that we sell. When a designer is interested in joining we have him send us at least 5 samples of his work. If our T-Shirt judges approve at least 5 of them then we create a store page for them, with cool banners showing their style, and make their tees available for sale.

Check out our Design 4 Us page to learn more.

The Future

As with all new companies we expect the beginning of our store to start slow, but we hope to see continuous growth into the future. We have tons and tons of plans for how to make the store better and we will be working constantly to see it expand.

We hope to get designers from most countries of the world, and become the authority when it comes to finding interesting tees made from the people of the earth.

I personally also have a future vision for the website that is unfortunately too early to act out… and that is to have the website, once it is more successful, act as a sort of service to humanity. My future plans involve donating a percentage of all money made to help set up ‘sustainable future’ projects in the individual countries that the designers of the shirt come from.

This can be something as simple as, for example: 20% of all profit from t-shirt stores represented by Indonesian designers will go to a project of installing a windmill to help power an Indonesian orphanage.

While this example is a small one, it is a realistic one… and while the energy generated by a single windmill will not make much of a difference, the point is to raise awareness of the worlds needs to move towards implementing renewable, sustainable technologies.

 

Check us out!

Anyway, enough talk! I’ll go ahead and post a slideshow showing different collages created using some designs from each artist.

or you can simply view the main website here

and if your a facebook junkie, View and ‘like’ our facebook page here!

here’s the slideshow:

take care!