Monthly Archives: April 2008
I was checking out my Google Analytics stats (it’s not that I care about tracking you, I just like the pretty graphs) and noticed that in the last month I’ve had 4 views from China. That is 4 more than I’ve had since June when I turned on the feature. I’m not sure if the Chinese have begun to allow blogspot through their Great Firewall or if these viewers have found a way around it.
Interestingly, from looking at the data it appears to be three different people. There are three browser languages, none of which are Chinese – all western European. All four views have come from Yahoo or Google on keyword searches, three about Shamian Island and one about the Kunming Cloudland hostel. Three of the hits came from a Mac and one from Windows.
So welcome, viewers from China! If you have any questions that the blog posts don’t answer, feel free to post a comment here or email me at the address in the upper right of the page.
PS. To the person who appears to be looking for a way to get to Shamian Island from the metro, it’s not that far as I recall. Wikipedia gives some more detail: “A metro station (Huangsha) is located within a short walk from the island.”
It was raining in Atlanta this morning when I left for Portland, Oregon and not when I landed there. How appropriate. I was headed to the Pacific Northwest, widely regarded as the rainiest place in the continental US and the rainfall was backwards.
But you can win a lot of bets by disagreeing with that. For example, last year with the heavy drought that Atlanta experienced, Portland only managed .2″ more precipitation (they were about 4″ short of average). Sounds weird but its true. On average, Atlanta gets 14″ more rain a year (50 vs. 36).
So bookmark this entry on your cellphone’s browser and prove you’re right when you make that bet. Then post a comment and brag about it.
As we were flying in, we flew over three majestic snow caps. As we passed by them, I marveled at how they seemed to just stick straight up out of the surrounding land. Then I realized that these three mountains rise up from other mountains and seem to watch over them. It reminded me of the way the 8000 meter peaks stuck out so distinctly in the Himalaya. It was breathtaking.
I plan on doing some more sightseeing and hopefully visiting a brewery or winery. But time is short and I’ll be catching the red eye Thursday night. Yuck.
I went back to Indy again last week. Last night I had some free time so I went out. The following account was written on my iPhone. Please forgive the misspellings and nonsensical portions. It’s hard to type properly without whittling down my thumbs and it’s hard to make sense when I had to take a break to drink beer or walk to a different bar. The names have not been changed to protect the guilty and the editing has not been done because I’m lazy.
The dancers were as enthusiastic as you’d find at a dry wedding. Mostly mid 20s and trying to relive their college youth. As Sir Mix Alot comes on there is a vague rwsembelance to Rump Shaker but with a sack of Vienna sausages. The white women had found their “back.” As the DJ was tipped by an appreciative patron for never having exited the golden 90s I observed that the mass of people resembled an undulating cup of kefir on a Eurail train. It was then that “Ride That Train” was chosen by the DJ as the most appropriate tune to exhume. Remember people, I brave these wilderni for you.
At some point the undulating mass began to assemble like a video of toppling dominoes ifalling n reverse. Going from no structure or pattern to an organized line quivering and swaying in time with each other moreso than the music and seeming to defy gravity, this mass flowed.
And then the crowd split like an amoeba. Keith Sweat’s “Too close” was a poor choice, as half of the dancers were in elementary school and when the song came out in 1993. Music from “Off The Wall” brought some participants back, but the spin doctor had lost his core crowd already. They were soon to do a buttery nipple shot and call it a night. Bobby Brown solidified their choice.
I left and went to have a nice day cafe Indy. The people dancing weren’t so much dancing as they were swaying. This would have signaled a bad night but all of the “bikini girls” were backstage preparing for the contest. Yeah, this was a younger crowd.
I grabbed a bourbon & coke for a drink. All beer was 25 cents so that had Natty Light written all over it.
So I went back to that first place. Cause I had. Stamp ok my hand to prove I’d paid the $5. And cause i had no shame and didn’t want to to to bed. Now the dance floor was moving more. Like a thermal pool you might say. Hands were up and heads were bobbing and there was much rejoicing. The median age swelled to over 25 and I grabbed a beer. Drunk 30 year oldy are entertaining, and I don’t just mean me.
In between bars I ended up sitting on a bench. A guy was walking down the street talking to the people he met and handing them something. He looked at me on the bench and kept going. I went and asked him what the story was and he said he didn’t want to tell me. He said he thought I was in town for the po-lice convention. I assured him that I wasn’t and he still didn’t trust me. He asked if I was SURE I wasn’t a cop and why I had followed him. I told him it looked like he was giving out CDs. He said he was homeless and that he was throwing a benefit for him and his friends and could I donate. I told him no, that I wasn’t interested. He scoffed at me like I had offended him and that I should be ashamed of myself. I went back to the bar.
After I wrote the last line of my tale above, I ended up meeting a very pretty young medical student and we chatted for a bit. The conversation turned to baseball and I found out that she’s as big a fan as I am and can even score a game! But she’s a Cardinals fan. C’est la vie.
Me: I’m shopping at Aldi right now in an anti-Chinese protest.
Me: So if the boycott has less effect the Chinese will feel like the paper tiger they are.
You know the scenario: You see a dingy old man with a gray-yellow beard in tattered and dirty clothes standing on the corner and you cross the street to avoid the possibility that you’ll have to deal with him. Just then you’re confronted by another similarly shabby person who asks if you have some change to spare. Your fingers play with the quarters in your pocket and you wonder if you should keep walking or if you should drop them in the fast food cup in outstretched arms. What should you do?
It’s a question I have wondered many times. A lot of people have some pretty set responses to the question, either one way or the other. But for most people it’s probably not that simple. They question their choice each time they are presented with it. Here is what I try to keep in mind when I face that dilemma.
1. Above all, remember that they are humans. The Dali Lama is fond of saying that all humans are searching for the same things: happiness and an end to pain. Recognize that they are the same as you in this way, even if they choose to go about it in a different way. This is something that you should try to internalize. You may not want to walk a mile in their shoes, but understand that they probably don’t want to either. Many times they see begging as the best of a number of bad alternatives. Making them feel like outcasts is the surest way to guarantee that they’ll stay that way.
2. Treat them kindly, within reason. Most of them are not bad people and don’t deserve to be treated poorly. Hey, maybe some of them are just bored and are begging to pass the time before going to do something. Show them that you recognize them by at least looking at them and addressing them. Just give them a smile, politely decline, and keep on going. Odds are they’re not going to harass you. But use your own judgment here; if you’re get a vibe like they might be dangerous, do whatever you think is best.
3. Remember to respect their culture. Not all beggars are here in the US. When you’re traveling abroad, remember that in some cultures begging is a way of life for some. In the far east, for example, beggars are commonplace and are not treated quite as badly as here in the western world. Eastern religions teach compassion for all mankind and helping your fellow man when you can. Come to think of it, I can think of another religion that teaches the same thing, but that’s for a different post.
4. Beggars in different cities have different personalities. It’s not as strange as it sounds. Remember that people are at least partially a product of their environment and that behaviors are rewarded selectively. In other words, what works in one city doesn’t in another so the beggars are likely to behave differently. In the midwest they tend to be polite and friendly. In the south they tend to plead and play on your compassion. Other places, beggars will likely act differently.
5. If you’re going to give something, do it wisely. When you give to a beggar, you are rewarding whatever internal and external behavior he is performing and has performed recently. So if he’s doing Charlie Chaplin impressions of the Little Tramp and gets his desired outcome, he’s more likely to move onto Buster Keaton. Likewise, if he’s just stumbled out of the alley after finishing off a bottle of MD 20/20, he’s more likely to go buy another.
6. Money is not the only thing you have to give. Sometimes the beggars aren’t looking for money. Sometimes they’re ultimately looking for a bite to eat or some way to pass the time. Though most will take money in lieu of whatever they really want, give some consideration to the idea that maybe you could give them something that you want them to have. Maybe something like the leftovers from your meal that somebody else might enjoy having.
These are the things that always run through my head when I see someone on the street begging. I won’t say that I always do the right thing or that I always even follow my own advice. But I do try to consider more than just my own convenience, comfort, and sense of smell.
One thing I’d like to do but haven’t yet is to find a guy who’s asking for food and buy him lunch and talk with him. I’m sure I could learn something or at least just spend a few minutes doing something different. But then I do spend an inordinate amount of time walking through downtown areas just Meandering along. Maybe I feel a little bit of a kinship.