Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Monday, October 21, 2013

What Came First The Atheist Or The Skeptic?

We all wear many hats in life, and carry many identities. For some of us, our race is the most important factor in our identity. Some people are black first and then an American or a Christian, or they're Latino first and then a woman. For other people, religion is first and foremost. So they might see themselves as a Muslim first, and then an American, or a Jehovah's Witness first, and then an Australian. Still others identify strongly with their gender. So for them, they might see themselves as a woman first, then a mother or a Latina. And others put nation identity first. So they might see themselves as an American first, or French first, and then male or female. And then there are those who see their occupation first. So they might see themselves as a chef first, then an Argentinian, or as a musician first, and then British.

How we identify ourselves depends on what identities we feel are most important to us. I've always hated the idea of being identified too strongly with what I do for a living because I've never really had a job that I liked a whole lot. In a city like New York, all too often you are what you do. When you meet someone new one of the first questions that you'll be asked is what you do for a living. When I would give my answer I'd feel like that person was immediately coming to conclusions about me based on what I did. I've worked in the IT industry for the past several years and I've had to deal with quite a few people thinking that I must be a computer geek who sits home and plays video games for hours on end. I happen not to be much of a gamer at all, and I'm not even much of a computer geek either.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Godless In Paradise

I am lucky enough to have done my fair share of traveling.

In the summer of 2010 I went to Bali, Indonesia to visit my father, sister and nephew. I had just graduated college and it was an exciting time in my life. I had been there before but not as an adult and I now had the chance to understand its culture and people with a deeper meaning.

Bali is an island in the Indonesian archipelago with a population of 3.8 million people. It is home to the majority of Indonesia’s Hindu population, giving the island a distinct cultural feel apart from the rest of the mostly Islamic population of the country.

Bali is rich in culture and draws millions of tourists every year. Some people who go, never want to leave, and a community of ex-patriots has grown from all over the world. My sister is one of them.

I arrived in the early morning to my sister’s house after a long car ride from the airport. When I got to my room, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The view from the balcony was amazing. It was like being in a dream, a surrealistic tropical dream. The house was situated on a hill overlooking a valley below that contained a stream. Halfway down the valley there was also a swimming pool. I thought to myself, “This was paradise found.”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tokyo For Foreigners

Watching a few documentaries recently on YouTube about the experiences of culture shock of Westerners in Japan got me thinking of the time I visited Tokyo in 2010. Now I love to travel, but I truly hate that experience you get when you're in a foreign land and cannot speak the language. It almost turns you into a toddler, unable to communicate the most basic of needs and wants. I once got terribly lost in the Tokyo subway system and asking people for help was virtually futile as hardly anyone spoke English. Nonetheless, the Japanese people I asked were very nice, and they tried their best. I somehow eventually found my way.

So what was my experience like in Tokyo? Well, I remember the first night in Tokyo I went to the Shibuya district, which is kind of like Tokyo's Time Square. It's a very trendy district and full of Japanese hipsters. I felt a bit out of place because I wasn't stylish enough. I hadn't really brought any stylish clothes with me because the main destination that I was going to was Bali, and Bali is a tropical resort where you really have to dress as minimally as possible because of the heat and humidity.

And so I spent the night ogling at the people...

Now I come from New York, and we have plenty of Asian people, so being around tons of Asians is not something new to me. But in Japan it's a different story. I was on their turf, their land, where their history goes back centuries, uncorrupted by strong Western influence. Although Japan was occupied by America after World War II, the Japanese, being a very secretive people, and living on an island, have been able to retain a strong core to their cultural identity. Whatever American or Western influences you see there are mainly on the surface.

So of course I headed over to Starbucks for a drink.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm Back from the Far East

I just flew in from Hong Kong a few days ago. I'm adjusting back to New York and suffering from some severe jet-lag. I'm up all night and asleep almost all day, there is a 12 hour time difference between the two cities. My time in Hong Kong was fun, I got lucky with good weather considering summer is their rainy season. I was mostly alone by myself just walking around and sightseeing. I got a bunch of cool shots of the H.K. skyline. In H.K. there is pretty much the skyline to see. I wasn't there to spend any money. I didn't buy any souvenirs. I was really there to experience what it's like to walk around on the streets and see the cityscape. H.K. does have a lot of really tall buildings. They say if has the best skyline in the world, better than N.Y.'s. Well I'm not sure about that. I'd have to wait until lower Manhattan is rebuilt to compare them equally. H.K.'s skyline is just as good as New York's is. I'd say N.Y.'s is just slightly better.

H.K. does have a lot of skyscrapers. More than N.Y. Walking around H.K. you do get a real sense of the urbanization and really feel like you are walking in a real city, and not some puny half-ass city. Its streets are tight and development is highly dense. The subway system, or MTR as they call it there is decent. It's pretty fast and smooth. A decent amount of people speak English there. Although it is still considered the official language, you mostly hear Chinese being spoken everywhere.

I went to Mount Victoria and got some cool shots of the skyline from there. The Tram ride up is exciting. It hits an almost 45 degree angle at some points and there's a point when you can feel your ears pop. The view is breath taking.

Final thoughts on H.K. What does walking around H.K. feel like? It feels kind of like Chinatown, Manhattan, when you suddenly realize that you are the only non-Asian person on the whole block. Now just imagine the whole city like that and there you have Hong Kong. Well, not quite exactly. There are a decent amount of Westerners in H.K. most are tourists though. There are these Indian guys who try to sell you suits on the street. I was warned of these guys before I arrived. These guys apparently live there.

While traveling, I did miss New York almost immediately. I guess I'm just so attached to this city. New York does seem so much more cleaner than H.K. Many buildings there look like they are on the verge of collapse. They are either old or poorly maintained and overused. People there are living on top of each other packed in like sardines. Only the financial district downtown can match the density that most Hongkongers are living under. It is more pedestrian friendly than Tokyo is, however I still think that NYC is one of the most pedestrian friendly major city in the world.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


It's been a long time since I wrote. As I write this now I am in Tokyo Japan. I've been here for a few days. It's amazing and I'm not sure if its what I thought it would be. Trying to navigate its subways is an incredibly complex task. I got lost several times. Japanese people don't speak English as much I thought they would. Communication here is almost always a difficult challenge. I guess I should have learned more Japanese before I got here. Actually I should have learned any Japanese.

Tokyo is not really a walkable city like New York is. The sightseeing districts are spread out several miles apart so you have to take a train or taxi to get there. Plus the trains stop running at 1:30 am and some, like the one back to my hotel stops running at 11 pm. Tokyo is not a 24 hour city like NY is. It is however pretty clean and very safe. I was walking around late in the early morning hours and didn't feel afraid in any way. They say that in Tokyo you can leave your cell phone on a bench overnight and it will be there the next day waiting for you. Let's just say that I'll take their word for it.

The weather was decent while I was here. The prices were pretty high. I guess factoring in the exchange rate Tokyo is about as expensive as NY is. The only difference is I don't know the tricks around this dilemma like I do for some of New York's more pricier things to do. There is virtually no diversity in Tokyo, only tourists basically. I did see one black guy, working of all places at a McDonalds. I'd come back here again, with more money and with friends instead of my family.

I'll put up some pictures later.


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