Friday, March 31, 2017

The World's Poorest President

The end of March has rolled around and it has been 3 weeks in China. Maybe it is the whole "wow time flies thing" and I can say nervously that I do have my bearings. The subway is brilliant and cheap. I do find myself going for monstrous 2 and 3 hour city walks and I am never disappointed with the new and odd things that I stumble upon. The most common thing I see is people. They are everywhere. Not in a "China has 1.3 billion people everywhere" but in a people walking, exercising, dancing and simply enjoying themselves. Night time at the East Gate has become my favorite place to be after dark. The wall is lit up mystically and it is  lined with pretty parks and trails. I am usually the only foreigner around and that leads to odd looks but warm smiles. My new go to phrase is bu ke chi,  wo long de (sorry, I don't understand). The fact I say this in Chinese will illicit excited chatter and giggles.

Just a Dragon hanging out in a Qing Ling park

Maybe it is still fresh and everything is exciting and that is a great thing. The day I wake up and am not impressed with a new found temple, the city wall, the street food, the kind people or any other myriad of experiences here it will be time to leave. I will take it one year at a time but depending on how much I get out and see the country I believe this job has a 2 year shelf life. Again, one day, week, month and year at a time.

I had a decent night out with a few co-workers and locals in the tourist area of the South Gate which is creatively named  "Bar Street". If you feel the need to meet Expats, tourists or travelers and speak English then this is a good starting point.  Be prepared as this is a huge tourist area and pricing reflects that. It is common to pay 50 RMB for a beer (C$10). I still have my Mexican $1.25 for a litre of great beer rattling around in my head. Of course nothing would be complete without a Top 10 List of Bars in Xian.

A wall of imported beer in Barlandia. I had a VB from Australia and Ashai from Japan

Like any other place I have been I visit "tourislandia" once or twice or when the moment calls for it but it is never my first place of choice. As an aside, one of the main beer here is Tsingtao and calling it water is giving it to much credit. Coming it at a robust 4.8% it has a real light lager taste, Check that!. No Taste. Again with the great Beers of Mexico still rattling around in my head I have made it a project to find a better beer in this country, if one exists.

The thing is Tsingtao was a German company up until 1914. There is a good bit of information here if the history interests you. The brewery at Tsingtao was build and run by the Germans so I guess I was expecting more. Regardless it is what I have at the moment.

I have been out and about with my Canon 1300D getting use to the features and functionality.  Fully auto mode is great to take an easy photo and move on to the next one. It is when you challenge yourself to go into manual mode that you realize what a decent camera can accomplish. I have leaned the relationship between ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture and when you change one setting it effects the other 2. The Tripod of photography as it is called. The Tripod of photography, what a stupid name.

José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano who was the 40th President of Uruguay between 2010 and 2015. He was the world's poorest president. 

"I'm called 'the poorest president', but I don't feel poor. Poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more," he says. "This is a matter of freedom. If you don't have many possessions then you don't need to work all your life like a slave to sustain them, and therefore you have more time for yourself," he says. "I may appear to be an eccentric old man... But this is a free choice."

I first read about José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano when I was wander-lusting (is that even a word?) in Uruguay in 2012. I incredibly moved and had another "ah ha" moment while on the road. I realized that my personal journey of minimalism that included the reduction of consumerism was still in need of work.

Fast forward 5 years and I have improved in my efforts. I am not inclined to move myself into complete poverty just to prove a point. What I have done fairly well is to have reduced my consumption of goods. I tend to buy used products whenever possible (again within reason. No I do not want the slightly used underwear at a discount price). I eliminate most uses of bottled water and support local economies. Do not get me wrong I am not preaching to anyone about their life choices. I still stumble into Wallmart when on the road usually for its comfort factor. I also keep myself fairly up to date with electronics for a variety of personal traveling reasons.

I am not professing to be José Alberto "Pepe" Mujica Cordano or his disciple by any means because as Springsteen has poetically professed "blind faith will get you killed". What I did find when I rediscovered this video was that I on a better path than I was 7 years ago and mindset has changed. Completely changed? I am not sure that will ever happen but my small steps along the way have proven positive in the long run.

If you can make it to Antarctica you can travel to anywhere on this planet
Five years ago while atop a glacier shirtless in Antarctica I had a moment when I realized that I can indeed go anywhere. Today I woke up and as I looked out the window of my apartment and as I watched a group of elderly do their morning exercises in the courtyard it dawned on me that I was living and working in China. Yes I have been here a while and am not just getting around to realizing I am actually here. "I am no genius with all that book learning". 

I like that feeling.

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