Scattered thought that would suffice as 2018 resolution

Today my freshman brother came home telling me their teacher asked him to write a letter to their future 12th grade self… this suddenly jolted my memory: my wise friend (actually so many of them are so wise indeed!) once told me “to do my future self a favour” when I was making a decision that I’ve now forgotten but must have been significant at the time.

It’s basically a reversed perspective; instead of using the logic of my (too young too simple sometimes naive) present self as the basis of decision making, I think about what my definitely older and hopefully wiser future self would do 5, 10 years down the road.

The way human brains work is that it is always flawed no matter how we meditate or train up; with our upbringing our cultural background and our education etc, we form certain filters that led to biases when we view things which in turn also impact how we make decisions. It always help to view things from multi angles hopefully reducing our blind spots.

Aside from using others as sounding boards, perhaps it would also makes sense to consult the person who knows you best – your future self. And that, is something I’ll try to do in 2018🖖🏻 and here are two perspectives of the world, deep under the ocean and high up in the sky.

other random wise words that suddenly came to my mind:

“Always assume the best intentions of people so you will in turn treat them kindly too and hopefully that gets a positive cycle going because the world has enough negativity going around already”

“no one is responsible for your happiness but yourself”

“worrying doesn’t stop things from happening”

“only do things with upsides to yourself but never at the cost of others”

“what you see reflects what your heart feels”

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The Sunny side of Sydney

The Sunny side of Sydney

If you’re thinking in my last post, hmm criminals, prostitutes and sailors are not quite what I had in mind when I think of Sydney, you will love this one. Because Ta-Da, here is the signature Sydney!!

Freaking Harbour Bridge and Opera House, you practically see these twins EVERYWHERE you go! I mean don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful on first glance, and may be also on second glance. I was super excited when I first saw it but it gets boring after a while and Sydney is SO much more than that.

I have had delicious burger, coffee (FLAT WHITE, is what they drink here, a stronger version of latte/ no foam version of Cappuccino) and brunch! (Although I think these same items I had in Melbourne beat that :P) I mean the crispy bacon in the roll will probably get me cancer, but it’s just heavenly delicious so who cares.

 

I have also been called darling/ dear by strangers more often than the entire 2017 combined. I guess this gives you a rough idea of how great the city is, and how sweet the people are but if that’s not convincing enough, here are my top Sydney spots:

Top of my list is definitely the botanical garden! I know you may think oh that’s so boring, plants are for grannies… Let me tell you, coming from a densely populated urban city (Manila/ Taipei/ Hong Kong) filled with smog, polluted air and noise, I just couldn’t have enough of this open space, the fresh air and abundant privacy you get here!

You have no trouble finding a bench, a patch of lawn or a corner at the beach all to yourself to sit for a few hours. You get to thrive in your own personal bubble without being eavesdropped because you are so removed from the crowd.

Also flowers are just my favorite. They are so rich and saturated in colors of different shapes and forms; when I look at them I could just hear them singing different yet harmonious tunes as they happily receive the warm sunshine, gentle wind and occasional rain that nature so graciously provide.

Then there are the amazing (and free!!) art galleries. I love how they transformed the art museum into lively events that everyone can drop in and enjoy. Every Wednesday night, the NSW art gallery opens until 10 pm with a variety of interesting things to do.The night I went, there was sketching workshop accompanied by a strings quartet! I am so surprised at the number of people who showed up and the quality of the art work they produced. Mine on the other hand was only worthy for the rubbish bin 😛 but I enjoyed being part of this artistic circle and there is a different kind of joy watching others do things they enjoy 🙂 Passion is contagious!

Lastly, I was very lucky to visit the Bondi Beach and walk along the coast when the weather was postcard grade. It was like any other beach except for its wide strip of sand and strong waves! It was until now that I realize water changes color depending on its temper.

You see, as perfectly illustrated above, calm water is dark blue and agitated water is white! Why is that you may ask, well 😉 of course I also know the answer to it after consulting a chemistry expert (I guess he could somehow qualifies as that…) “The way liquid H20 align themselves (oh my god molecules are adorable) allow light to pass through which makes it transparent and therefore it’s blue because that’s the wavelength of light that escapes. On the other hand, angry water (waves) has bubbles into which breaks up the smooth matrix of H20 (aww poor molecules, say bye to your buddy) and thus create an imperfect surface but without any contaminants to absorb the light, it sort of perfectly reflects light in an imperfect way. blah blah blah Ok, well I am totally lost here so if you have a better explanation, do share with me 🙂 Personally I just think water has a bit of temper that’s all, you and I both turn pink or scarlet red depending on how embarrassed or furious we are.

On a more serious note though, water has recently became my favorite in a way that I want to “live” like water. First of all, water doesn’t overreact to external factors or stimulants, yes there are ripples but it just calmly accepts it and return to it’s peaceful, still phase because that’s when it can be “reflective”. If we are always distracted by the day to day mundane chores and noises, we could hardly reflect upon what really matters in life. So I shall end this thought upon the famous Bruce Lee quote “Be like water, my friend.”

Sydney reminded me so much about London, the “rubbish bins”, the Queen statues and the right drivers’ seats. Then Martin Place reminded me of Wall Street New York as the important looking men in suits wave each other off with “flat whites” in their hands pretending they are busy going nowhere. (except the suits weren’t as nicely tailored.)

The weather and the hobos on the other hand reminded me a lot of Market street in San Francisco. But then Sydney has this more relaxed, safe and comfortable vibe that makes it unique. I think it applies to every city you go. You are reminded of other places by the little things here and there, but this mix of familiarity conjures up a completely different feeling that makes this specific place special.

What was extra special is that Australians recently voted Yes because love is Love. Love in itself is extremely hard to come by and to keep, so wherever or whoever we find love with, it is precious and equally worthy. Simple as that. I have realized in my trip to Germany last year that you can fall in love with a person, an idea, or even a city. I hope you have found love somewhere in this isolated and vast world that we live in because love is all you need 🙂

Last random fact about this statue of the Queen: it was moved from Scotland all the way to right in front of the QVB because, who wouldn’t choose Sydney over godforsaken Scotland right?

The Dark Side of Sunny Sydney

The Dark Side of Sunny Sydney

G’day mate! I hope you’ve missed me 🙂 It’s been a while since I’ve written about my travels but I have not stopped traveling! I still can’t believe I was able to squeeze in a personal trip right between 3 other business trips but I’ve made it! Dozens of flights and repeated destinations later, I finally visited a new country this year!

Last year I did Germany and UK which were both very nice but it’s nothing compared to this time because I’m stepping foot into a whole new continent too! It’s been a pretty short trip for 2 amazing cities but I think I made a good call to focus on the city and save the outskirt day trips for another time. I got to see everything I wanted to see, and everyone I wanted to meet 🙂

9 hours later, I landed into Sydney with a clear blue sky and big fluffy white clouds. I have probably taken 500 more photos than I need but I simply couldn’t get enough of these gorgeous cities. Yes! It’s just starting to get warm down south and the weather just couldn’t get any lovelier.

Everything seemed pretty central so I ended up walking 30 mins to places without realizing all these short walks add up to 6-8 hours of walking daily. My legs are still sore as I write this but it’s just hard to resist when the sun is being so welcoming and the wind so gentle (the expensive transportation costs is a big push factor too of course).

1788, prisons were starting to get crowded in London so basically this city started off as London’s offshore jail! Even until the early 1800s, 75% of the population is convicts! They also relied on food coming from London every few months so life was very tough. The prisoners who got exiled weren’t even deadly villains, but rather guys who stole horses and girls who shoplifted hair brushes who get sent off all the way to Australia on a 6 months journey by the sea.

Over 1000 convicts would get shipped off at a time but since the businessmen get paid up front, the money always get spent on prostitutes (for themselves of course) instead of basic supplies for the convicts. By the time these ships get to New South Wales, only 10% of the prisoners would still be in heathy conditions. I think my 10 hour flight wasn’t so bad given that 200 years ago people had to travel 6 months with no clean water and food crammed in a ship with half of your buddies dead on the way there.

Lucky for the ones that actually gets here, they can roam around the city freely! Because a) it’s an isolated island so you can’t escape to anywhere b) you either get killed by poisonous snakes, crocodiles, weird beasts, gets drowned or all of the above if you’re unlucky c) everyone’s a criminal so locking everyone up won’t even make a difference anyway. So these convicts were mostly building a life around this hilly area called the Rocks.

Back then the gender ratio between convicts was about 4 guys : 1 girl. I mean heck if I was a Londoner back then single at mid 30s, I’d steal a few breads just to get shipped off here considering how cute the guys are 😉 😉 And just imagine, an entire city run by convicts, with alcohol and rum especially as the unofficial currency. Life must have been pretty fun back then. What’s most interesting of course was the crimes there were committed on this convict island!

After a few decades, Sydney also became a port where sailors would stop by. If you’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean you’ll probably know sailors are good business! You can sell them food, drinks, shelter, clothes and of course, prostitutes! But you know what is most profitable? Don’t tell that I told you this, but stealing is a pretty decent business with no overheads and costs 😉 You can also sell these sailors! What happens is they go to bars and they were told the drinks are free!

Drink as much as you want. The next thing you know, you woke up in a dark room, found yourself chained or shackled on a rocking ship heading to god knows where or enslaved on the ship for eternity! Apparently, the bar owners would just place these drunkards in wheel barrels, roll them downhill and then directly load them onto ships. Oh what a easy and good business sailors were.

As the society developed, banks and courts were also established as part of the system. And when there are banks, there are robberies 😉 On a normal weekday, the bank opened up its vault for the usual check ups and saw a big hole on the wall while 20M AUD (in today’s value) was gone. The police (yes, there were police) snooped around to no avail. It wasn’t until a few years later, when the court sentenced a random William Blackstone to hanging did they get a tip on the case in exchange for lighter punishment. Turns out William and a few friends discovered the direct wall to the bank’s vault and simply dug for 3 Saturdays in a row to break through and got all the money! The police went out and arrested all these people BUT they were unable to convict them because the tip came from Willian who was a criminal. Back then, if you’re a convict, your words do not count in court! So they never recovered the money and these bank robbers just went free as a bird.

Speaking of birds, do you know that it is only in Sydney that you see these silly birds with long beaks (Ibis) roaming around, fighting for food with pigeons and sparrows? Imagine you’re a tiny sparrow from Sydney, sigh, your life is even tougher than if you were living in say Hong Kong. How do you get any food from the bin (British 😉 when your competitors get this unfair advantage of freakish long beaks!

Random thoughts on a 14 hours flight

 

3I have always liked turbulence on planes (writing this on the flight to SF may be jinxing it since the entire plane is shaking even harder now). It’s like you always get it when you fly over Japan. It has just the right dose of danger within comfortable range that in those few seconds, you suddenly realize that your life is only hanging by a thread. There is no guarantee that you’ll live through the next millisecond.

4Despite knowing all the statistics about how unlikely the odds are, there is still that tiny sense of uncertainty, a hint of doubt no matter how many times I fly. Just WHAT IF my plane is the one that crashes? (at least I’d have higher chances of surviving since I’m poor I get to “avoid” the most dangerous front rows of the plane) What if this is the plane where co-pilots have high power distance? (No worries, even Korean Air has fixed this for a while now, I took it just 6 months ago) What if this is the unfortunate flight where someone absentmindedly brought along a Samsung Note 7? Or the one where mechanical teams made just a bit too many little mistakes that adds up fatal? If you are reading this now, by all means, I survived J and it wouldn’t even be surprising because you know and expect flights to land safely. Yes, we all take that for granted. A gigantic machine with WINGS that carry hundreds of people, fly over tens of thousands of kilometers over the ocean, the snowy mountains and the continental plates at 40 thousands feet altitude somehow made it to the destination! HELLO? How amazingly wonderful is that? Instead of complaining about the cold bread, the lack of wifi or bad taste in flight entertainment; shall we just be grateful that we reached our destination SAFELY? This not so simple act is almost a miracle in itself! And just because something incredible happens often doesn’t make it any less magical. Don’t wait until your plane flips over and land on the Hudson River to realize that.

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So perhaps just this thought of how fragile life is, just how easy we could vanish from this world, makes me treasure every single touch down and appreciates my presence in the world (however light weighted) to a greater extent. As I picture my not so perfectly shaped heart pumping just the right amount of blood that circulates my entire body with every pulse; I feel that much more alive.

Written on the 5th flight in 2017.

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Hola Barcelona Part 2 – Catalonia Culture

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Please excuse the title which lacks in creativity but honestly, who wants to spend hours dwelling on the perfect title? Let’s just get rolling 🙂 Barcelona is such a colorful city bursting with beautiful cultures and stories, desperate to be unfolded.

Festival

Let’s begin with my favorite story which is about love 🙂 Instead of Feb 14th, Catalans, like the Chinese, celebrates a different Valentine’s day which is Apr 23rd, St George’s day. A day where men give women roses, pretty standard procedures, and women has to return the men with a book. Yep, not a typo.IMG_3129

Once upon a time, there was a handsome young man on a white horse (duh, his name is George) who rescued a beautiful damsel in distress (argh, woman who always get themselves into trouble) by slaying a dragon on this day. So there you have it, Prince + Princess – Dragon = cliche, but no, the story doesn’t end here. As the dragon’s first drop of blood oozed out and fell to the ground, the vicious droplet transcended into a blood-red rose. George picked it and gave it to the princess and they lived happily ever after. So there we have the rose. But why a book? I don’t really think it make sense but our tour guide said it’s because Shakespeare was born and died on this very same day…erm either way, I’d love to receive a book as present in any day 😉

Religion

Christianity has always been a fundamental part of European cultures . You may notice that ancient Catalan chapels around here look quite different from how you picture a church traditionally. It is much more modest and squared; rather wide than it is tall. This is because 1) they wIMG_8184.JPGere poorer at that time, and 2) they believed these structures symbolize that God’s power is pressing down from above whilst more modern interpretation is that the taller a church rise and stretch towards the heaven, the closer we are to god.  That’s the beauty of religion; everyone can interpret it differently yet getting the same kind console from it nonetheless.

Going along with religion, let’s talk about death. The tower here is where the executioners lived in the old days and there is an interesting tale behind it. They have to live away from communities as his job is highly sensitive. He does his job IMG_8186.JPGwhile covering his face so no one actually knew who the executioner was. The bonus point about this job is: you get to keep the dead body you killed! YAY. Why? Because dead bodies are priceless back in the days. Especially the feet…creepy, but it’s because of a tradition where people keep dead people’s feet next to their door so bad spirits will walk away from their house. Hope that gave you a good visual 😉 Human bones, eyeballs and all sorts of weird parts were made for other useful charms too, well I mean back then it’s not like people can donate and transplant organs yet, so might as well put them into good use I guess?

Rituals

An interesting catalan tradition is the human tower. And it literally means, people stepping on each other’s shoulder to form a tower up to 8 storeys high! How tall is that you may ask, well check out the sculpture below.

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This practice is usually done next to the City hall or other government buildings as this signifies that when the working class unite, they can rise up as high as the Government/ upper class. This is serious business as people have died from it. Note that the person at the very top is always a young child, 7-8 years old who will climb through the adults without any safety equipment but a helmet. To me it sort of symbolizes that the kids, our future generation, has the ability to human race’s advancement and evolution. Not through pressurized, elite education system but their immense imagination and hopes that children are naturally gifted. (Yes, my dear twin bros, your sissy have high hopes for you dummies.)

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Food

I’m only good at eating, but not describing flavors, so just take a min and imagine the divinely salivating dishes by starring at below photos. Of course, there were much more but I was probably too hungry and forgot to take a photo14054631_10154026245151713_1913292151_n.jpg

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One last fun fact to end the post, did you know the Eiffel Tower was meant for Barcelona originally? The Government at that time thought it too ugly and out of place so they told the designer to bring it elsewhere. Well, now Paris has the Eiffel Tower forever 😉 Also goes to show persistent is the right attitude, if Mr. he-who-built-Eiffel-Tower gave up when he was rejected, the world wouldn’t have this iconic landmark today! Note to self: it’s always too early to quit what’s worth doing.

 

 

Hola Barcelona Part 1 – IESE MBA Summer School

(yes, the title rhymes on purpose :P)

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Introduction

After a rather dreadful long haul flight (which I normally enjoy; the undisturbed self selected movies watching and books reading, but Air China didn’t have that luxury and I forgot to bring a book -_-), I landed into Barcelona again after 3.5 years under the blazing Catalunya heat! I promised to be back but indeed it has been too long… I barely remember the places I have been to but Barcelona’s food and culture has yet again imprinted a flavorful and charming impression in my heart. It was and still is one of my favorite Europe cities 🙂

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Thieves, thieves everywhere 

Nonetheless, a city with thieves…sometimes I just ponder, what life scenario must they go through, to convince and justify themselves to cheat and steal? Lucky enough, we only ALMOST got picked pocket. It wasn’t a pleasant experience of course, considering we were at that time walking in a rather wide street with passerbys at merely 10pm or so. However, I think it is worth recalling the details to learn their stealing patterns to be more alert next time round.

First he asked if we have fire for his cigarettes, then he quickly came close and asked if we’re Koreans. We tried to ignore him and walk quicker but he just leaned in and started doing random soccer kicks…and there it was, the moment of truth.

I saw the guy’s hand was on the wallet already! Then I shouted and he just laughed and said he was joking…at the moment it was hard to react because we were both shocked. Anyways, note to self: STAY ALERT when in Europe! Or basically just anywhere you go unless it’s Taiwan 😛

IESE MBA Summer School

More updates are coming up now that I have completed the primary reason on why I am in Spain: IESE MBA summer school! Sadly, the 5 days course flew by quickly, but the great thing is I have met new people, made new bonds and germinated new thoughtsIMG_8324.JPG 🙂

It was also a long 2 years since I was in a classroom again so I really treasure the time I had in class: learning new thoughts from Professor (like the implications of Brexit from Econ and ethical motivation from management prof etc.); spending hours and hours on discussions that are otherwise meaningless if not for the case presentation (but I really enjoyed the collision of ideas with my team from different backgrounds). All these are luxuries that I simply do not have anymore now that I started working. So this week-long experience together with the career advisor of IESE go me thinking about “career”. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but aside from that, there isn’t really anything else going on in my life.

I always knew that your 13730655_10155030589992785_1428188748_olife only really begin after you go through the set path of academics: Kindergarten to Primary School, to Secondary School and higher education. Because once you really graduated from your basic “teachings” and enter the real world, you are solely responsible for yourself. You are basically free to choose from anything and there is no one for you to follow behind anymore. I used to think that the hardest part is getting a job, then I know the toughest thing is finding a job you love. But now I realized, THE million dollar question is: what else are you gonna do for THE REST of your life? Because a job is only a part of it. I am thankful for this week of learning because now, I am beginning to have some idea and will continue to work towards it.

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The Prologue (or wechat pay “THE GREAT” customer journey)

Let the writing spree begin again! First of all, let me provide some context to this travel. I am going to be a student again although for just a week. IESE is a top business school that currently provides a summer week of MBA experience in BARCELONA (wooooo!) for young graduates around the world. With a kind scholarship in conjunction with my university, I am heading off to a week of 8am – 4pm cases discussion. Oh, how I’ve missed school 🙂 can’t wait to feel like a sponge bob again.

So thanks to my understanding boss and a luxury of paid dayoffs, I get to do some travelling as well after Barcelona in Sevilla and London, two brand new cities I have never been to!

So now is a good time to write a little prologue as I have already experienced so much before even stepping foot in foreign land!

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Right now is 10pm and I am waiting to board my first Air China flight from Shenzhen airport. Shenzhen airport is way better than I expected. It is like the HKIA T2, both in size and traffic. Except police here are on Segway!

Did you know there are shuttle bus that brings you directly from Times Square to Shenzhen Airport? Actually there isn’t. You have to get off at Shenzhen bay anyways, get through immigration and take a bus to airport again. Luckily, I have buffered plenty of time and got to airport 3 hours ahead. This gave me the luxury to have a good leisure dinner.IMG_8156

Then I remembered, I didn’t bring any renminbi… but well we live in a digital era so I will just use a credit car…but oh wait, I saw a little sign saying they support wechatpay and other electronic payments hmmm interesting. Given that I have collected so many red packets through wechat, I have a good 200 something renminbi in my account but never knew how to use it; this seemed like the perfect time to try it out! I quickly entered my credit card details, and went to order food with an experimental mindset. I ordered my food and asked can I pay with this? (gesturing my iphone

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Then the cashier lady looked at me like I’m from the stoned age and just scanned right away with her barcode scanner. Voila! And it’s done! I was still in shock when my food came. I mean…this is not the China I know…since when do they have more advance technology than Hong Kong? I’m sure this isn’t rocket science, but such adoption is still relatively low in Hong Kong. Imagine Chuiwah or Taihing supporting wechat pay 😉 I am still glad to feel like I have not paid a penny for this $41 RMB meal which tasted better than it looks! It was also such a seamless payment experience, without having to even reach for your wallet, let alone touch those disgustingly dirty full of germs and god-knows-what coins and notes.

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Dinner at this Chinese fast food chain “Real Kungfu” (which I highly doubt they own the IP to use Bruce Lee’s image but we are in China after all, so what’s an IP anyway :P)

Boarding soon and hopefully both the inflight meals and entertainment is good! (updated: meals were okay but entertainment system was shit…same as the ones I had when I was 8, fixed low res programs that kept looping -_-)

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P.S. ANOTHER equally if not even more mindblown moment: Wechat pay works on vending machines too! But instead of letting a barcode scanner read my wechat code, I use my wechat QR code reader to scan the vending machine screen. THEN magically, I got a bottle of water…what is this, a wechat marketing campaign to capture authentic customer satisfying journey in airport hahaha?

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P.P.S I couldn’t upload this in Shenzhen airport as I don’t have a China mobile no. to verify for wifi nor would it recognize my boarding pass…huge minus point for this shitty airport. LUCKILY I have wechat on my iphone, so I could verify via the mighty mighty wechat. At least got wifi on my phone.

Has anyone tried electronic payments method and how did you feel about it? 🙂

written in Shenzhen airport, updated in Frankfurt airport.