Tag Archives: Travel

Conversations in Japan

I had two very interesting conversations while in Japan. They were with the same person and were not exactly separate from one another. In fact, it’s incorrect to consider them ‘two conversations’. Instead I might say that two very important points were raised during one conversation.

First, intrinsic motivation came up. A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to properly appreciate a conversation about intrinsic motivation, and I can thank my teaching degree for changing that. Essentially, we humans are motivated in one of two ways – intrinsically or from within – or extrinsically, by outside factors.

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Somehow, as only conversations with strangers in a hostel can do, a relatively deep issue was raised…. The psychology of why I started blogging. And in that moment I realised, or finally admitted to myself, that documenting and sharing my life of travelling had more to do with the recognition than intrinsic motivation to do so. Of course I might be selling myself a bit short here, a huge factor was that I was and am completely inspired by the new, intense, experiential nature of being abroad. I wrote because of that. But the gratification from climbing stats, likes and shares was a solid feeling. Ahhhh sweet recognition. (Is this delayed middle child syndrome?)

Ultimately, extrinsic motivation rather than motivation that comes from deep inside you will almost always run out, fall short. While it’s 100% true that I don’t have it in me to be a ‘struggling writer’, it is also true, for this time of my life anyway, that I’m in a motivational lull. A point where the extrinsic motivation has exhausted itself. It’s had a good 4 years! The aim is to find that internal, substantially more powerful, internal will to write and share.

No more blaming Hong Kong for sucking my creativity dry.

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The next point raised was the importance of experience. Not the kind of experience needed to grab that mid-level job; rather the idea that living vicariously through instagrammed photos is just not enough. It’s plain, old uninspiring. Perhaps I speak for myself, but I don’t think I do, when I say that scrolling through all the social medias hardly ever leaves me feeling inspired. It’s all just so abstract, not even real. And how sad because pictures are supposed to speak a thousand words and nothing is usually more real than a photo. (debatable with Photoshop) But en-mass they become overwhelmingly untrue.

“The Grand Canyon was the wind in my face the birds swooping into the gorge, thunder rolling in the distance. When I looked at a 2D picture of it afterwards I thought – this isn’t where I went.” Wouter. The Netherlands. Spoken in Japan.

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Of course I’ll probably never stop sharing my work. There’s absolutely zero to gain from that! And as for social media – streamlining rolls of beautiful imagery into your brain isn’t always a huge bore 😉

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What I Learnt That Time a Publishing Company Made me Cry

I’ve realized something about myself lately and it’s that I’m the type of person who chooses the path of least resistance. Quite a random self-realization admittedly, but not completely out of the blue.

You see, I arrived home the other day to a parcel waiting for me. A long awaited parcel. A parcel that contained a coffee-table book I’d been published in, called The Journey. It’s a photographic Journey showcasing a range of amazing train trips across the world. My very own train journey, documented and previously published on my blog, had been hand-picked to feature.

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Imagine my surprise when, after ripping open my parcel and excitedly paging through the book, I could not find my piece. It featured nowhere in Asia, where an Indian rail journey would be found. Naturally it occurred under none of the other continents either. Anger, then disappointment, then sadness, the anger again. Had they really strung me along for almost a year? The emailing back and forth, captioning photos, doing a write-up, signing permission forms, sending my address to receive a free copy. Only to axe my contribution at the last minute? Or whatever the hell happened.

I get it – not everything makes it through the editing process. But this experience confirmed something for me, something I’ve know for along time: writers, or any creative for that matter, can be summed up in just a few words – disposable, undervalued and beat down. Of course there’s the constant rejection from magazine, book and online publishers we have to deal with, and lets not forget the fact that as ‘contributers’ we are expected to give our work away for free 95% percent of the time. I’d gotten used to all that. But the lack of decency to remain the least bit honest or transparent on the issue of ‘we know the deal was signed to publish you but unfortunately it won’t be happening this time’ completely bowled me over.

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So the path of least resistance comes in where you ask? Well, besides the anger and disappointment, one of my first reactions to this came as a flashback of me trying to organize a second Colorado ski season. It was looking impossible visa-wise and my dream of another season drifted further and further away. Eventually it would seem my only option would be to do it illegally – arrive and remain as a tourist and (hopefully) work cash in hand. I was so desperate to go I considered this option for a bit. But I eventually realized it could all go horribly wrong so I went back to the drawing board to map out a new plan, in a new country.

As it turned out, the path of least resistance in this case was to move to Chile and teach English. There was nothing complicated about the process and I was making a conscious effort to ‘go where I was needed and wanted’ and the USA could stick it.

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That year in Chile did two things for me: further fuel my desire to travel and spark my interest in teaching. The desire to travel was the stronger of the two and was accompanied by an equally strong desire to write about those travels. ‘I’ll become a travel writer’ I said. Turns out, travel writers are expected to contribute in exchange for the grand total of zero dollars – and as for making money from a blog…. Lets just say that’s not exactly resistance free, to say the least.

And so, over the years, I’ve leaned more and more towards the teaching. Because, who would ever think of asking a teacher to contribute to society without monetary reward? Of course, a child’s education is of greater importance than an entertaining or insightful written piece. I get that, I really do. But so do the publishers. They know very well that writers are desperate for recognition. They know they’ll contribute for free thinking that one day it’ll pay off with some recognition and maybe a measly payment. I’ve known this all along, but my recent ‘here’s your free copy of a book you’re actually not published in’ experience really just put things into perspective for me. The world, especially publishers, don’t give a shit about writers. They care about money, and their business models simply don’t not include paying the talent.

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At the end of the day, the path of least resistance works for me because I don’t have it in me to be a struggling writer. The way I feel today after receiving an amazing book that was supposed to feature my work but didn’t is not a way I’m keen to feel very often. I know I have it in me to be a writer, but I don’t have it in me to be a struggling, depressed one.

 

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Someone I Once Met: Mr. Marijuana

Let me begin by excusing myself for allowing my wanderlust and creative writing to fall by the wayside. I also want to take my hat off to anyone who has ever worked full time and studied on the side. Or even better, anyone who has worked full time, raised a family and studied on the side. I have no family to raise and still I find it tough to find time for creative projects. So here’s to all you go getters doing all the things to better yourselves, altering priorities and giving things up. For a while.

So in today’s short little introduction to someone I once met I bring you Matt. Matt sprang to mind the other day when I was pondering my new and improved mindset regarding my stance on the legalization of marijuana. For those of you who are not yet aware, I recently decided to be more vocal about my position on the topic of legalizing pot. I’m all for it. I have many reasons and perhaps I’ll focus more on them in future posts.

I realized that the reason Matt holds a special place in my memory bank is because of marijuana. You see, once upon a time in 2013, I arrived in Barcelona for an extended vacation. I booked into a hostel and continued to stay there for a little over a month. At some point, my path crossed Matt’s.

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Barcelona is one of Europe’s biggest tourist attractions. Everyone comes to admire the works of Gaudi and the fantastically historic gothic architecture. What people don’t realize is that Barcelona is the new Amsterdam. One is able to buy marijuana over the counter so long as you’re a member of one of the many ‘clubs’ (Think ‘Amsterdam coffee shops’). The laws regarding pot are hugely relaxed in this area and as a result there exists an intriguing and ever-growing cannabis culture. For this reason, I beg any potential reader to understand that my, or anyone’s use of pot in Barcelona, is not an illegal activity.

(For a better understanding of Barcelona’s weed scene- I go into more detail here.)

Matt is a fan of weed. I realized this when I walked into our shared dormitory and was hit by a pungent, yet not offensive aroma. Matt, the culprit, had been puffing on the balcony. At some point during his stay we must have had a conversation about it and our respective stances on the plant, although my memory of it seems a bit fuzzy.

Since no-one’s hostel stay was as long as mine, Matt and co. came and went. I didn’t get to say goodbye, but under my pillow I found a small gift. Since he was flying out and since one can legally transfer the toxic liquid that is alcohol from one country to another but do no such thing with marijuana, He left me a little surprise.

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There was no accompanying note and there was no need for one. Matt had left me his pipe and left-over ‘stash’ as a parting gift. All I have is a faded memory of him, in and out the dorm room, and a strong appreciation for his simple gesture. I don’t have much more to say about Matt or our mutual experiences, it’s literally that small little anecdote. But I do think the fact that it has stayed with me regardless (the impression not the weed), speaks volumes for how much this subject means to me.

Marijuana/weed/pot/The Devil’s Lettuce is completely and utterly a symbol of peace and healing (and friendship), and so far from the demonized ‘drug’ we’re made to believe it is. If I think about it, I’m actually impressed by the power of propaganda- because that’s all it is. False information fed to the masses which we in turn lap up. But let me leave you with this; if you truly believe in the offensiveness of marijuana then you’re showing the same ignorance as Nazi lovers did when they blindly followed Hitler and his colossally unfounded bullshit. And I think Matt would agree. *Ends rant.

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Bringing You Bingin – Finally! Indonesia 2015

While I wait patiently to finish my teaching qualification (that I’ve only just started), I will continue to enjoy only 13 days annual leave on account of not working at a school. When Chinese New Year came along this year, and all the teachers enjoyed their extended two or so week holiday, I put in for some leave and got the hell out of the city to enjoy a week on some islands.

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Indonesian Islands to be exact. There had been some discussion about where to jet to but we finally settled on Indonesia and put Malaysian Borneo on the backburner for a bit. A quick outline; we spent 5 days on Gilli Trawangan. Note: It’s very hard not to say ‘island Gilli Trawangan’ but this would mean that you are, essentially, saying the ‘island island Tranwangan’. Not dissimilar to ‘tea tea’ when you say ‘chai tea’.

Anyway, after that we headed back to the bigger and better known island of Bali to enjoy three days in a pretty sweet surf spot. This spot was carefully picked out by my other half, the water-baby who lives for waves. Today I tell you about this second half of the journey and leave Gilli T and my PADI open water dive course a mystery for now.

So, about Bingin, Bali. Bingin is famous among surfers for the sublime waves it has on offer. According to a non-descript Bali and surfing related blog, “Bignin is one of the famous surfing breaks of the Bukit Peninsula. The short, fast barrel is a joyride for those who dare. Its ideal for advanced surfers and has a beautiful wave, that works really well during the dry season (June-September).”

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The observant reader, or someone who knows when Chinese New Year takes place, will realise that our trip to Bingin fell nowhere between June and September. And thus nowhere close to the time when Bingin enjoys that famous fast barrel ideal for advanced surfers. Unfortunately, we were stuck with very unpredictable, small waves. I say ‘we’ but really ‘he’ because this part of the trip was all about views from balconies and 400 pages of a cringy chick-lit book (that I found).

Those three days were so relaxing time almost went backwards. We did manage to fit in a cultural activity in the form of a visit to a nearby temple in Uluwatu.

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We also managed a walk along the beach to neighbouring Dreamland which is less like a dreamland and more like a package-holiday for taking selfies and hanging out with friends from China and India. No, Dreamland was a nightmare and we were eternally grateful to be strolling back to our Bingin ten minutes later. Other than those two strenuous activities, I sat, lay, swam, photographed, read, ate and drank smoothies. All while watching my man trying to find a good wave with about twenty to thirty other surfers. I shudder to think how difficult it is to get a wave to yourself in high season.

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Arriving to Bingin is interesting. Its not the easiest place to find and I was happy to sit back and be guided by my surfer who’d actually been there before. After the narrow winding roads come to an end and cars can go no further, you get out and walk the rest of the way. Winding through small concrete paths shaded over by great big leafy trees.Eventually you’ll start your decent towards the beach, and you’ll arrive there through the back doors of various accomodations.  

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Bingin is small and set against a cliff which means you don’t have to go very far to find a place to stay, everything is very much layered and within arms reach. This can all be pretty ideal if you arrive looking for a bed. Note; this is a dangerous way of going about it if you’re visiting in peak (dry) season. I don’t expect you’d find a bed as easily as we did out of season. The place is tiny and popular so keep that in mind. 

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With all the doing nothing I couldn’t help but imagine myself at Bingin as a teenager. While I felt completely at ease there now, I know the young me would have been unnecessarily self-conscious and constantly aware of how I paled in comparison to everyone else. Literally. I would have felt uneasy about my lack of knowledge and involvement in the world of surfing and sat watching from the sidelines as the more bronzed and toned surfer girls rubbed up against their male equivalents. 

I suppose what I’m saying is I’m stoked I got to experience Bignin going on 27. I soaked up whatever unwritten surfer rules came my way from Reece and enjoyed my first attempt at surfing photography, although nature wasn’t on my side. Things are always better experienced hang-up-free. In some ways, being on the dangerous side of 25 is so much cooler than being a youngster. Young me was always questioning….. older me is very stoked on life. Not that younger me wasn’t.

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Faces That Say “I Just Finished the Hong Kong Marathon”

As a tidal wave of marathon finishers surged past me, I waited for my marathon runner to appear. Unfortunately we were not able to find each other in the sea of 75 000 people and had to rendezvous back at home a couple blocks away.

I had an inkling this might happen but I also had a feeling I’d get in some good practice with the zoom lens I hardly ever use. Asians to the left and right of me obviously put my weighty lens to shame with their stereotypical telescope look-a-likes. With the zoom I was able to put faces to the otherwise faceless crowd. I found Caucasians, Asians, Africans, celebrants, wincers, stretchers, sitters, elders and all the combinations of adjectives you can think of from ecstatic to defeated and everything inbetween.

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How to Grab Some Quiet Time in Hong Kong

There’s not much opportunity to get away from it all in Hong Kong. It is the most densely populated part of the planet and boy can you really feel it sometimes. Every now and then you’ll find a place all to yourself – but you’ve gotta make sure of a couple things first.

Don’t go in search of quiet time on the weekend. Seriously- rather just stay in doors or you will be competing for sidewalk space with the rest of them. We went to the seaside village of Shek O last Monday {which we’re lucky to have off every week}. Everyone else is working which kind of makes up for having to work Saturdays.

Go in winter. In the summer, Shek O will be crawling with people- Monday included. Like anywhere else in the world, summer means no school and no school means packed beaches and other fun places. Winter vacations seem bearable since everyone heads out in search of snow…or sun for that matter. Neither of which Hong Kong tends to offer in winter.

Not a long list but a fool-proof one. See how uninterrupted and glorious it all looks? The sun coming out to play helped a lot too of course but that’s not something us mortals have much control over.

So just remember- if you’re looking for some quality quiet time outside of your house in Hong Kong – make sure its a Monday, absolutely not during summer vacations and organise some elusive wintery sunshine and you’re good to go!

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The View’s my Muse: as Seen From the 21st Floor

A few weeks ago I came out and admitted that I feel Hong Kong is stifling my creativity. She’s a lovely city with many strengths like banking and shopping, but her ability to feed (at least my) creative side is a little lacking. Then one day, while working from the home office, I looked up and realised that I needed to open my eyes. This is not Barcelona who throws herself at creatives, begging them to use her assets to fuel their imagination. Its not India who’s poverty, overflowing religions, customs, cows and enlightened-wrinkled-half-naked men are available on every corner to photograph.

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A deeper look and a sharper eye will go a long way in Hong Kong if you wish to capture its soul and share it with the world. And then came my epiphany. The apartment I live in is the apartment I live in simply because of the view. We chose it based purely on the fact that it had a great view (and it fell into our price range). The ktichen’s not great, the bedroom only fits the bed, its generally pretty f*cking tiny- but that view!

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IMG_0866Cliche as it sounds, sometimes the things you’re looking for really are right in front of you. Just like my view of Victoria Harbour. Hong Kong is said to connect the east to the west, two worlds far apart in almost every respect from geography to culture. All this connecting is naturally going to keep its harbour operating at a maximum 24/7. While a busy harbour means a fruitful economy, for me it simply means a view that is in a constant state of flux. There’s not a minute that my view remains the same. In the time its taken me to write two sentences its changed again.

IMG_0882It changes with the weather, it changes with the sun, with the vessels that pass, the ones that anchor within sight and even the buildings change. The ICC is the tallest in Hong Kong and if its not disappearing into the clouds and smog, its constantly showcasing impressive moving, 3D images. Sometimes it tells me when its going to rain by way of a stormy rain cloud. In fact as I write this the whole building, from top to bottom, resembles a peppered TV screen that’s lost signal. You know how they go all black and white and make a god-awful noise? Its hard to explain.

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Christmas is fast approaching, and more than ever, you don’t have a choice in staying ignorant on the matter. Way before December arrives, the decorations, sales, and all round madness begins. If, for a moment, I wanted to gaze out my window and forget about it all- the consumerism, the red, green and white, the fake snow splashed all over the tropics –  my eyes would rest upon a festive, christmasy, Hello Kitty building across the water. I do wonder what their electricity bills must be like.

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I’ve always maintained that a good view is imperative. It does something for the soul, and at the very least it gives you something to do if the electricity goes out. Its true, one fateful night while home alone, the electricity failed and I had nothing but a half cooked meal and a dying phone to keep me company. The bright lights only kept my attention for so long before I resorted to creeping out the inhabitants of the building opposite. It really is a different life here- single apartments for whole families including grandparents and maids. Its enough to keep a creepster like me entertained.

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Someone I Once Met: The Great Dane

I’ve always said: when travelling solo you are never really alone. Unless of course you head off the beaten track and away from anyone – traveler or otherwise. But my month long trip to Bolivia and Peru came with a certain amount of responsibility to stay out of trouble, or at least alive, for the sake of my concerned family.

That’s why on the very first stop of my trip, after a 24 hour bus trip to Chile’s Atacama desert, I alighted with bright eyes in the hope of finding a new friend ASAP. That person came in the form of a young, gay Dane with hair as white as a snow. Having arrived on the same bus with a relatively similar agenda, we sourced a cheap hostel and a Salt Flat tour to start the next day. Next stop – a three day jeep tour through Bolivia’s high altitude desert, complete with volcanoes, geysers, lakes of all colours and finally the star of the show- the Uyuni Salt Flats.

IMG_4454Cristian and I managed to share a jeep with two of the unfriendliest people to have walked this planet- French of course. The first two days and nights passed with relative ease; minimal effects from the high altitude, only one breakdown and constant wind.

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Early on the first day we passed through border control (in the middle of nowhere) between Chile and Bolivia. It was here that I realised Christian was special and gifted. I winced as he whizzed through passport control and I struggled to interpret my next mission – ‘you must complete your border crossing and visa process in the next town.’ You see, Christian’s Danish passport is also his stress free ticket around the world. It must have been my fascination with his wizardous passport that got me looking at it…. and then feeling a whole lot better about things when I realised he came from Middlefart.

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Christian and I were exceedingly eager for day three, the day we would reach the world’s largest salt flat and photograph the shit out of ourselves playing with perspective like thousands had done before us. In anticipation of being in front of the camera all day we had already decided what we’d wear . In an unfortunate turn of events, our cameras weren’t able charge that night.

We arrived at the salt flats at the crack of dawn with only a smattering of battery left on each of our cameras. I think Christian’s camera was completely broken if I remember correctly. Perhaps I was put off (and pissed off) by the battery situation, but I didn’t bring my A-game that day. I wasn’t able to come up with 100 fun and creative perspective photographs like I had imagined doing for so many months.

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On a lighter note, there had been a group of Hot Danish guys doing the same tour in a separate jeep. The tour follows a specific route and the list of things to see is limited. Thus, it would happen that mine and Christian’s paths would often cross with theirs. Christian came in handy as my eavesdropping translator-  who knew why or what I was so interested in hearing.

I am very thankful for having had Christian as my buddy over those three days. They were the first three days of my first solo journey in a very strange place. And he made the transition easy and fun. By the time we reached the town of Uyuni our adventure together was coming to an end. I had limited time which meant I had to crop a couple must-see’s from my itinerary.

IMG_4811But before the Great Dane was able to rid himself of me completely, he accompanied me to the building where I had been instructed to ‘complete the border crossing process’. To my absolute horror, the place was all locked up. It wasn’t even a weekend! Eventually someone pitched up, unlocked the doors and led us inside to a dingy room where he asked for three times the amount I knew I had to pay.

Luckily there isn’t much to do in the hell hole that is Uyuni. Its a pick up and drop off point for the tours so it see’s a lot of tourists – but believe me they’re only looking for the next ride out. So I guess there were worse things to do than sit in an internet cafe searching for proof of the amount I had to pay. Poor Christian was right alongside me doing the exact same.

Armed with our new ammunition, we went back to battle with the moron who was trying to rip me off. He wasn’t budging. I’d hardly made any cash teaching English in Chile for a year and I wasn’t about to pay it all to this opportunist. Then out of nowhere someone else showed up. He ruffled through some papers and found a list outlining the country categories and what their visa fees were. There was my South Africa, listed in group B. Not a country able to enter visa free but also not a country that pays an exorbitant price. FYI; Bolivia is one of the few places it doesn’t pay to travel on a US passport.

Thanks Christian- you’re the best! And I hope people have stopped pestering you on a daily basis about how you get your hair that way. Its natural people!

 

 

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Hong Kong, Occupy Central and the Struggle to Maintain Democracy

In the wake of back to back days of bumper to bumper traffic, Hong Kong slowly tries to readjust to life as it was pre-Occupy Central. Protester numbers fluctuate- still far from zero- rising mainly over the weekends when the dedicated find each other, once again, in the streets.

But for the most part, main arterial roads are again available for motorists to use as they were intended and Hong Kongers might let their minds flitter back to the hours and days spent in the unforgiving heat, fighting for an ideal they believe in. Others will reminisce less romantically about what it all meant for their daily commutes – if indeed they want to remember at all.

Photo from The Straits Times

Photo from The Straits Times

If nothing else, the far reaching headlines might leave a trace of curiosity in the minds of many about the world class city that is Hong Kong. Who is she exactly, this gloriously tall city? Is she China? Is she single? What is she on about and why?

The reality is that when, how and why Hong Kong came to be is often not widely known. Although the same can be said for the history of any city, thanks to our disinterest in the past and perpetual concern for future. The future in a personal capacity of course- not necessarily in a preserve-our-world kind of way.

The truth is that Hong Kong has a narrative. It might not be the longest or the goriest, but it is a rich one that is probably more relevant to now, and the future for that matter, than any other city’s history. Hong Kongers should, for all intents and purposes, suffer from an identity crisis. And a unique one at that.
Once ruled and shaped by the British Empire, who bred ideas of democracy and capitalism, Hong Kong emerged as a world leader, a gateway to the east. A vibrant port city and banking hub. When their work here was done and it was time to retreat, Great Britain and China came to a complicated agreement. Hong Kong would remain a semi-autonomous region for 50 years, during which time the People’s Republic of China and her socialist system would keep their distance. One country two systems.

Photo from International Business Times

Photo from International Business Times

Just less than twenty years into the agreement, an uneasy mass of Hong Kongers assembled in their thousands for days on end to protest against the lack of independence from China and her policies. The democracy introduced and instilled by the British almost centuries ago, a local might argue, is slowly slipping away as China begins to play a bigger role. Puppet master if you will.

There is no better insight into the minds of the masses than through the mouths of their children. In contrast to the Catalan, who inaccurately lead their young to believe that Catalonia is indeed a country, Hong Kong appears divided in its opinion. Or in its dedication to the cause anyway.

A classroom filled with children from top earning families, offers an interesting cross section of opinions. ‘What’s the point? Nothings going to change’ shows what has to be parental apathy. A yellow ribbon sitting over the heart shows support for the cause, most likely not obtained and attached by the 11 year old himself. ‘I’m on the police’s side’ means mom and dad have obviously cheered on their efforts to rein in the protesters and their growing negative effect on the city’s functionality. Which is really quite a short sighted goal.

Photo from EJ Insight

Photo from EJ Insight

These folks owe their riches to the capitalistic economic freedoms that Hong Kong has relished in for decades. Might their children enjoy the same opportunities when China takes full control in 2047? If she can bare to keep her distance that long.

But fair enough, the average parent doesn’t dream of their child becoming a revolutionist – waiting for that phone call saying their baby’s been arrested and jailed. A parent wants the best for their child. And in Hong Kong, more than anywhere on earth, the best is seen as a high paying job in a well renowned company. Climbing that ladder as best as you can. But will that ladder even exist when China comes? Its easy to avoid revolution, but it’ll be hard when oppression arrives. Because lets face it, having something like democracy and then losing it is the epitome of persecution.

Photo from Time Out Hong Kong

Photo from Time Out Hong Kong

Of course China is petrified of her own people catching on to the unrest. Not unless a mainlander pops over for a shopping spree would they ever be aware of the battle against Beijing. Only those who happen to be around during Occupy Central are privy to the details, either staring them in the face on the street or on TV. Its preposterous to think the people of China are in complete agreement with their government’s limiting socialistic policies. China knows it and will naturally keep her people uneducated on the topic.

Unfortunately, never has freedom been won peacefully. Starting out, Occupy Central’s protesters were commended on their behaviour- composed and mostly unagitated. But will their efforts ever come to anything without a fight?  As Occupy Central becomes weeks old, clashes between protesters and police intensify. While numbers have dwindled, passions soar. Parents are starting to receive those dreaded phone calls from their handcuffed babies, with 30 arrests made this weekend. Should Hong Kong buckle up for a bumpy ride? What is it going to take and will anything ever be enough? 27 years to go.

photo from abc.net.au

photo from abc.net.au

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On eating my weight in cheese and other French stories

With anything in life, things have to be pretty great to keep people coming back for more. If she’s good looking, you’ll be back for more. If her brain’s pretty good too – we know where to find you. And if she can cook! Well now there’s almost 100 percent chance of this hypothetical relationship working out.

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Countries are no different. Take France- people come, go and come back again for more. So much so that it is by FAR the most visited country in the world. It’s 84 million tourists per year way surpasses the US as runner up with a measly 15 million. France has earned it’s position!

The cafes, the pastries, the notoriously cute pastel coloured shutters, ancient alley ways and cobbled streets. Well perfumed people. Chic looking infants out-growing their Levi jeans faster than you can say ‘baguette’. Their equally as stylish parents. Free wifi at McDonalds. Good McDonalds. Macaroons. All French Food. The language. Overflowing national pride. And you can’t ignore the animal lovers. There must be more animal lovers per square kilometer than any other corner of the earth.

In the same breath, it might be nice to see fewer dogs in prams. When did dogs stop running alongside their jogging owners and be pushed in prams instead?

While we’re here, I personally (physically) could do with less pastries made up almost entirely of butter. Here’s looking at you croissant (remember to rough up the back of your throat when you say that).

Also, just like I could do with less Capetonians going on about their fantastical…… everything,  French people could tone down the ‘can’t beat our food and wine’ attitudes. Ze wine, ze cheese, ze Fois GROIS! Ze best! There’s something quite obnoxious about it all- be you Capetonian, French or just a nauseatingly proud mother. I dunno, to me, hyper-nationalistic people are about as annoying as someone who can’t hide the fact that they find themselves attractive.

As a possible after effect of all this love, the French have developed a unique character trait whereby they prefer to speak French and only French. As a country that attracts more tourists than any other in the world, it might be in their favour to be more open to the English language. And I’m not saying everyone go and learn it all- I’m just saying don’t treat it like an infectious wound that might take over completely if you get too close.

To ensure starting off on the wrong foot –ask a Frenchman if he speaks English. Then watch for that split second of what looks like a mixture between discomfort and annoyance before they say ‘no’. At this point try and work into the conversation that you are South African and not in fact British. This might salvage things a bit and prevent you from being shut out as effectively as the pastel shutters do the sun. Ze French don’t like ze Roast Beef.

But when you think about it, if you’ve got the world falling at your feet, jumping through hoops for their visa in the hopes of eating their weight in cheese – you can do and be whatever you like. And even though I’v successfully ranted and lets be honest, generalized, there are a number of French people who occupy a special place in my heart. You know who you are- please do not be offended. There might not be a more picturesque and cultured corner of the world, you guys have every right to be proud.

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