Monday, March 28, 2011

Potato Dumplings

Decidedly the most boring thing I've ever put in my mouth. The locals drench it with butter or gravy but I can't imagine any possible way to salvage this thing. Sure, the pack I got is frozen from North Dakota. That just makes the homemade version the second most boring thing ever...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mass Evacuation

China, the most populated nation in the world, literally has millions of citizens spread everywhere! I wonder if there is an estimate somewhere for the total number of Chinese people on this planet including Chinese immigrants and transplants in other countries. India might be catching up in population but they've got a long way to go to reach the same world coverage.

Massive earthquake struck Japan over a week ago. 33,000 Chinese people evacuated from the quake zone. Interestingly enough, a smaller earthquake took place in Yunan China just the day before but of course, no reports on CNN.

Now with the Libya air strike, 35,860 Chinese nationals where evacuated within TEN days as of last Wednesday! According to CCTV, this was the "largest-ever withdrawal efforts of [Chinese] nationals from abroad since the People´s Republic of China was founded in 1949." This was an all out air, land & sea evacuation effort. The number of Chinese evacuated from Libya is only second to the number of Egyptians who fled back to their home country (and Egypt is literally right next door!).

Majority of the Chinese people where first transported to Crete, Malta and Tunis, then flown back to Beijing. A group of one-thousand Chinese workers were forced to trek through the desert to make their way back to China. And no camels! The Chinese employer of hundreds of Bangladeshi workers arranged for their passage to Greece. What?! Chinese employer with Bangladeshi workers in Libya? Obviously there's a space issue in China and Southeaster Asia!

Wow! First, that's a really amazing feat! I'm touched to see this no-Chinese-left-behind crazy evacuation program! Glad they were able to get out before the s**** hit the fan. Second, seriously? What the heck were those Chinese people doing in Libya?
Third, I hope they also evacuated the personnel China embassy over there because we know what happened to the China embassy when the air strike started in Yugoslavia in 1999!

Nowadays, it seems that you can't even through a stone without hitting a Chinese person (unless of course, you're in the heartland of America).

Miscalculation

A cloudy Sunday morning, coffee, kindle, Beethoven piano sonata playing in the background. It's a rare moment of relief, solitude and an underlining calmness for constant struggle for acceptance for status quo. What a long way I've came.

The locals have an expression that goes something like, "they setup shop where the wagon broke down." In nowhere is that phrase more true than here. The Norwegian and the Swedes came all the way to America, some of them made it to the west coast, Seattle, while others gave up half way and settled here. Unlike other small isolated settlements around the world, there is no singularly identifiable trade or craftsmanship that ties the residents into an emotionally closely netted community. No fishing village, canal town, miners, iron workers, carpenters, wine country, etc. What is identifiable here is of no special expertise, skill or shared moral value.

There are generally two types of depiction for small town America: the warm and fuzzy "New in Town" or the dark and sinister "Dogville." The reality is perhaps the average of the two plus or minus 10% depends on where the town is and how much you look like the townspeople. It is apparent to me that what is underneath this physically and socially isolated geographic location is as sterile and rigid as a heart of lead.

I have to admit that moving here has finally taken a hard emotional toll on me. I expected harsh winters and limited local resources. However, there are far worser factors that I did not foresee and therefore could not have prepared for. This is starting to turn into a cruel scientific experiment. We all have to make best decisions we can with the information we have at the time.

I guess there is a reason why the expression "Fortes fortuna adiuvat" does not say "semper fortes fortuna adiuvat."

I take chances not because I'm reckless or irresponsible but because I know when fortune doesn't shine on me I have strength and resilience to fall back on. This has been, if anything, a humbling experience. Either I have miscalculates the abrasiveness of the life here as an outsider or my ability to handle it. I'm not by any means a religious person but I do believe with full certainty that I am by design where I should be. It is up to me to figure out the hows and whys.

When all else fails I take comfort in my two furry companions.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hello, Spring Ahead!

Never have I realized the difference an hour makes when it comes to time for Spring Ahead! Wow, when I left work today it was bright outside like the midday sun, enough light to propel me straight to the gym. On top of that, we're into the 30s this week! I don't want to jinx it but hello spring!

And as to the last post, it's true, I shouldn't bite the hand that feeds me. Although not ideal, sometimes a job is just a job and I do strive to be better at it everyday. I've learned my lesson to never mention employer names on my blog. This is after all a public site and there aren't that many people with my name in the world, and most certainly, not this part of the world. One thing I will say is the fact that the company has made thus far with what is here is nothing short of a miracle.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Surfacing

Wow, I ran out of coffee filters yesterday and didn't get go out to get a new box until this morning. I've been having the worst headache since yesterday and now after a cup of coffee it's instantly/magically cured! And I'm motivated enough to go to the gym! Never realized how much I've depended on coffee...

If you thought maybe I've fallen off the face of the planet, you would be correct. People generally dislike their jobs so I'm not unique in that sense. However, when an intolerable job is combined with an intolerable place with intolerable people and no family or friends around to confide in, the intolerability level grows exponentially.

Spring is almost officially here but the weather is barely improving. The temperature is still hovering around zero. The blizzard blew through town so hard on Friday a couple of the fish houses fell over. Ultimately it's not the weather that bothers me but the inability to be mobile. Weekend trips to the Minneapolis last fall made the week more tolerable. My last trip there was over Thanksgiving weekend, where I was able to gather up last bit of city life by going to a nice cafe and have lunch at Fogo de Chao. Gas price is up again but what do I care. I've barely driven a thousand miles since end of November and that include a trip to Grand Forks and Fargo.

Researchers once did a marshmallow experiment with toddlers to scientifically prove that good things come to those who wait. Kids are put in a room with one marshmallow and told that if they wait long enough they will be given an additional marshmallow. The kids who waited turned out to do better in every area of their lives 20 years later compare to those who didn't wait. What's also interesting is that while the kids waited they invented games to distract themselves for the time to go by and not to stare at the alluring marshmallow.

Logically I know there's no point to dwell on what's lacking here but rather to shift my focus onto other things, distractions. Easier said then done.

Here are the things I'm trying to focus on:

Plan a trip -
I'll be flying to Munich on the 1st of April to visit Vienna and meet Rose in Salzburg. I'm usually not one to get excited before a trip but it's nice to have something to look forward to.
I don't know of anyone who truly lives each day as his/her last. The only thing I do know is to take each opportunity to travel as my last. What separates those who travel and those who don't is not matter of luck, vacation time or financial status but the sole determination to travel. Everything has an opportunity cost. For me nothing compares to the excitement of seeing and experiencing things for the first time in a foreign land. There are people who collect things and those who collect experiences. I do a little bit of both. Things parish; what are internal are also eternal.

I do feel a bit annoyed at times because very rarely do people ever validate my accomplishments because they can't be measured in the traditional sense in terms of job, house, kids, etc. I'm not the most employable person out there and I might be a bit behind on my career compare to some of my classmate but there hasn't been a day when I see my travel pictures hanging on my office wall and thought to myself, damn, I could be making 20K more a year if I didn't go on that hike to the foot of Mt. Fitz Roy, or spent that sunny afternoon on the island of Samos, or met Rose in Salon Canning on my first night in Buenos Aires, or danced to live music from Color Tango, the best tango band on the planet, or went hanggliding in Rio...the list go on. I admit that I'm a stubborn person and I hate to admit that I'm wrong. However, I will make a commitment to report to you if/when my feelings on travel changes and that I do come to regret doing all those things rather than diligently developing my career.

After all the only thing I do regret is not having practiced enough in school but that's an entirely different matter. Things might have turned out a bit differently had I known what I know now. What separated me from the guy whose album shares the same name as my blog turned out to be practice and practice alone rather than what my had mom told me, you can't be a musician because you didn't start playing when you were 3. But that's not to place blame on anyone else for me not practicing.


Take up photography -
I finally invested in a digital SLR camera: Nikon D3100 and two start up lenses 18-55mm and 55-300mm. I've always been a shutterbug and now it's time to take it to the next level. With my upcoming trip, I have to be disciplined enough to practice using my new camera enough so it won't slow me down on the road.
Rose is the most amazing travel partner ever. We are the only two tourists who would get on a samba train to a middle-of-nowhere town outside of Rio with thousands of locals and no tourists only to go separate ways later in the evening and not worry about or resent each other. Rose didn't come back to the hostel until late morning the next day. I thought perhaps I would contact the US embassy if she didn't show up in 24 hours. We laugh about it until this day.
As far as I can remember the only time Rose had ever yelled at me on the road was when we finally hiked up to a vantage point in Bariloche, Argentina and I kept asking her to take pictures of me. I can't get yelled at again on this trip! Better spend more time practicing camera settings and assemble and disassemble my tripod...

TV/Netflix -
I didn't even own a TV until a couple of years ago and I've never watched so much TV in my life. The first thing I do when I come home everyday is to turn on the TV. It's nice to hear human voices and occasionally sensible human voices. I watch the Daily Show and Colbert Report online religiously and turn to CBC News on Sundays. It's nice to feel a little blue in a sea of red, good for my sanity.

Online shopping -
It's terrible but I've not nowhere else to shop around here. Disciplined and patient online shopping can lead to great products at bargain prices. I love good bargains!

Read -
I haven't read so much since high school. It feels great to read on my kindle.

Gym -
It's hard to get motivated to go workout because it's so f*** cold outside but when I do I feel great.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Tripod

Now I've got a new camera, there is no shortage of accessories out there to buy. Today I got my new tripod and wasted no time to test out long exposures...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Half Way to Nowhere

Today marks the 6th month since I started my job here. It's a small accomplishment. Hopefully time will go by faster once the weather warms up. One can only hope!