Friday, January 29, 2010

Finally, A Real Beginning

OK. Alright. I've thought about all this blogging strategy (read from how to's)...all this 'I want to blog'...and 'I just need to do it' but it never amounts to anything. How, just how can I get myself to start blogging? And not just blogging to rant, or complain when I'm depressed, but to create something regularly that others can relate to?

So I asked my friend Rashi, 'If you needed advice, info, or just needed to talk, what would you come to me about?' She smiled like she knew just what to say. 'People,' she said. 'I would ask you about what people were like in different parts of the world that you've seen.'

Thinking over what she said, I finally settled that she was right. In my travels, in my urban explorations of New York, in my unemployment, I was out discovering everyday stories of people and how they came to be. I--think it's my constant quest towards humanity, to find struggle, tension, triumph, agony, happiness, defeat, and exhilaration in all its different forms in all our lives.

Afterall, Subwayland, a collection of stories of people who meander through the NYC subway system, is one of my favorite books. And today, I did wonder about the homeless woman sitting across from me in the subway. She was lying across two seats, with a big black jacket wrapping wher baby tight to her bosom, huddling her face and baby behind the depths of her fur lined hood. What was her story? Where did she come from?

I have a lot of questions unanswered. And I would like your help. Maybe you could tell me whether most of the homeless guys on the subway grew up autistic, or with mental disabilities, or just had neglectful parents. Or whether my perceptions about our world and it's environmental problems are wrong. Or how it's possible that people in third world countries don't need to brush their teeth.

My hope is that you might put in your two cents, provide your insight and knowledge. Educate me. Spare me from being the most clueless person ever.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Directions

'How we react to and handle events is determined not by the events themselves but by how we view the events, often through the prism of our deeply held irrational beliefs.'

I've finally come to terms with not finding a job soon--not that I've given up, or stopped looking--just that I am no longer waiting to 'settle down' and 'settle back into the US' in order to start on the tasks I've been thinking about for the past two and a half years.

I've figured out that my main problem in 'settling back into the US' is communicating. You ask: Why? Aren't you always meeting new people and talking to them?' Yes, when I'm traveling, I have to talk to people, different people: farmers, herders, hippies, young Europeans out for an adventure. But it's not the type of lingo that goes into trying to find yourself a job, or talking about your professional interests. Being where I am now (graduating, traveling for 2 years, and having no concrete work experience), that question of professional interest BURNS in everyone's mind. To go from a world with no money at all, to a world where money governs where my communication has gotten stuck.

So here is to my new goals, new directions.

I've decided I need to start writing for an audience again. If I want to work in policy, I need to learn to speak 'USA style' again, speaking so that people here care and listen to what I say. I need to rebuild this blog to share the projects I'm working on, my 'irrational beliefs' (aka my philosophical discoveries), and knowledge related to environmental sustainability, local foods and bikes! And I will be sharing African experiences on bikesinafrica again.

2) Local Foods and Urban Farming
Stemming from my WWOOF experiences in New Zealand and Australia--the newfound awareness that I gained of the importance of food on human health and the environment--I am going to work with local community (wherever that may end up being) groups to address food health and environmental issues. In essence, I want to find a way to apply that awareness at home.

3) Fixing Bikes
Have to find some way to nurse the bike touring withdrawal, right? Besides, I want to become better at bike mechanics

3) Reading about the History of Africa: African leaders, the land, modern development, culture. Maybe even finding African communities. Any suggestions?

4) Learn Arabic

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Road to Failure? or Success?




at what point do you stop continuing to pick yourself back up?...and drop the subject all together? the first time there are a few that reluctant souls that help you, then they go on with the better things they have to do with their lives. by the third or fourth time, there's no one there to help you up. you're all on your own.

so, at what point do you stop continuing to pick yourself back up?...and drop the subject all together?

my biked-across-africa soul says, never! never ever stop trying! how could you betray yourself? goddammit, you die trying!

and my cynical mind says, you can't keep going on like this, unless you don't want to ever land a job. you're wasting your time. getting nowhere. no results. nothing to show for.

out of all the odds, will it ever be:
trying, trying.....(1 billion times), SUCCESS?!

ah, one of the biggest questions of life. i think i just realized the fine line between failure and success.

maybe i'm thinking too much---about writing cover letters

Saturday, October 03, 2009

free spirit

Roaming through Peach's Outward Bound: Book of Readings, a few favorites:

'I think', said Christopher Robin, 'that we ought to eat all our provisions now, so we won't have so much to carry.' -A.A. Milne

'We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.' - E.E.Cummings

'When angry, count four; when very angry, swear' -Mark Twain

'"Look here!", said the water rat. "If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?" The mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, spread his chest with a sigh of full contentment, and leaned back blissfully into the soft cushions. "What a day I'm having!", he said. "Let us start at once!" -Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows)

'The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.' -Anne Frank (The Diary of Anne Frank)

'For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.'
- Ecclesiastes: 3

'When you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep is...a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow.' -Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Apparently my name appears in Nuclear Technology!! For my thesis work on making transport fuels from carbon dioxide emissions and nuclear hydrogen!

No one told me about this, but i guess it's just one of those crazy things you find out when you randomly google your name.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Composting toilets are just like those cute air fresheners in asian people's cars, where the plastic character poops out used pellets.

What's so fascinating?

First, the poop. pellets. see the relation yet?

Second, the smell. in successful composting toilets, the bottom layers that are extracted to be used as fertilizer don't smell! (the poop has been broken down by microorganisms and becomes as good as good ol' dirt) in air fresheners, the small pellets that are pooped out don't smell! (they've released all their fresh smell)

Third, the poop/pellets break down over time (through some chemical process) in both cases, and the fresh poop/pellets push the old stuff out to some place for 'collection'. composting toilet: poop becomes compost. air freshener: the small pellets are scattered around the car.

Isn't that GREAT? This inspires me to build a composting toilet in the form of a cute asian animal character. any suggestions?

totoro? pikachu?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Flash. Back. Track.

June 22, 2008 Taranaki Environment Center. New Plymouth. New Zealand

In order to learn a community, it would take a lifetime to understand its complexities; but it doesn't mean I'm not going to try. How do you bridge the gap between intellectuals and those who just want to make a living?

Everyone has their place in society. In the world there are too many misunderstandings. And I want to help bridge some of those misunderstandings.

When I was with the Malaysians, they saw me as someone special, a unique resource. I noticed that everyone looked at me with a funny eye: many people, even travelers, have never seen an Asian American before. Someone at Central Oasis backpackers recognized me from 8 months before, because I was an Asian who spoke perfect English.

Now what use would all these open minded people in the States be, if they don't go out and spread the knowledge, or bridge gaps between people in remote places? It's like Jim O'Bourgman saying he wants to teach wwoofers because then they go out and spread the knowledge. People like Jim are stuck to the land.

Thing is, once you become part of the intellectual community and lifestyle, it is almost impossible to come out, so this knowledge never gets transmitted to the people who really need it. A bit like money, once you have it, it's very hard to distribute that money and go back to living poor. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the money that the rich get never trickle down to the poor.

Lucky for me, I have MIT on my side. MIT is like an American passport. I can go anywhere. Even if I go to the dumps, I can always return. If I had a North Korean passport, I'm sure I would have gone through many security restrictions, and have to prove myself much more. Let's just hope this gets me far enough in the world


June 23, 2008 Taranaki Environment Center

I am feeling much better today. A few day's time always helps. Although there were times today when I was absolutely bored, and didn't know what to do with myself, (i wanted to sleep but didn't want to be anti-social because I'm here to talk to people and learn as much as I can), I'm discovering more purpose in being here. It's really nice that I can be by myself, in my own world, have the time to myself, not having to worry about where I'm going tomorrow, whether I have a bed to sleep in , and getting low on money. Sometimes you just need that time to stop and reflect, give myself that time and space to just breathe.

Outside was thundering and lightning, how grateful I am to be inside, with a roof over my head, with no grave danger. Remember that bike guy at Cornell who got hit by a drunk driver in Arizona? it's a big, scary, dangerous world out there. And right now things are ok; I'm in a safe place.

Sometimes I'm afraid, knowing that I'm alone. I know people back home think of me. But they lead such busy lives, and I feel so forgotten, because I was almost like the runaway child. I know I'm not, but it still feels that way. I'm carrying this backpack with everything. I haven't changed clothes in the past two weeks because it's too cold to take off, wash, and wait to dry.

And yet, I don't know what keeps me going.

Maybe it's that spark of light I have inside, that never ending flame inside, resistant to blow out, that little flame that shouts 'I can do it!' It's a small flame so overwhelmed by my insecurities, emotions, and lack of sureness in speech. People put me down, situations throw me down, another few punches in the face, but I know something is inside, something that maybe people can't appreciate. I am just going to keep trekking, not going to let anyone or anything overcome me, because this is my calling, this is my path.

I hear an echo in my ears: 'what are you doing? that's useless!' i bet that's what artists hear all the time. but they just follow their hearts, because there's something there that hints a faith, a passion that makes you feel like a completely different person, in a different world, a comforting one, that speaks to you in a special way. Watching my professor Junot Diaz's talk:

'If your book doesn't do well with the literary community, it doesn't mean much, because it just means you fit a profile of what critics need right now. I write for the readers, the people who just love to read; they are much more unincumbered, free, because they don't have any considerations. It's not that I'm against academia, but if you work for the intellectual community, there is so much at stake: tenure, relationship with professor, critical climate, publications...'