Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How a More Relevant UN Secretary General Can Reduce Global Conflicts

The recent years have seen renewed prospects of regional violence.  Just in Africa, internal repression of Eritrea, disorder in Burundi, and tense standoff between Muslim and Christians in Central African Republic, to name a few, continue to disrupt the normal livelihoods of millions.  One point of commonality among these conflicts has been an acute lack of international intervention to prevent escalation.  The lack of international interest has been most visible in these conflicts’ lack of appearance in global headlines, where international conflicts of choice have largely been those in the Middle East. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Feeling Human Fragility Revisited: How Breakdown of Authority Leads to Breakdown of Ethics

In the novel Blindness, Portuguese author Jose Saramago describes a world where a sudden epidemic of unexplainable blindness that struck an entire population led to sudden collapse of human civilization.  Amidst the disorder of a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is reduced to blind savages only concerned about procuring enough food for survival, the lone woman who can still see witnesses how quickly human morals can fall apart, just as quickly as physical infrastructures and institutions.  Yet, the stories of camaraderie among strangers in distress also speak to the power of human bonds in collectively overcoming difficulties.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Does "Ethnic Convenience" Make Cultural Integration More Difficult?

There are certain areas of San Diego one can go to feel completely Asian.  Beside the palm tree-lined boulevards, Asian supermarkets, restaurants, and living goods stores completely fill malls and shopping centers, with only the ubiquitous American fast-food chains (which are also ubiquitous in major Asian cities these days) the only non-Asian physical presence.  Signs in Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean predominate, with English signs in much smaller fonts as translations for the Asian language signs.  Asian cars carrying Asian families stream in and out of the parking lots.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Pros and Cons of “Primitive” Primary Care in Rural Africa

If there is anything positive about living in rural Tanzania, it is the low price and availability of medicine.  Even in the most remote village, there tends to be one pharmacy that sells everything from Band-Aids to tablets that treats malaria.  With many generics that cost no more than a few USD for something that would cost many times more elsewhere, it makes sense for price-conscious foreigners to purchase medicines in rural Africa rather than in their home countries.  What if one falls ill?  In market towns across the country, district- and regional-level hospitals exist to provide basic treatments. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

English Use in Foreign Setting Revisited: Is Forceful Use of a Foreign Language Leading to Cultural Conflict?

One of the most difficult things about working in a foreign setting is the need to communicate with locals in the local language.  Many people are not talented in the art of learning new languages, and many locals have not had experience having to slow down their usual ways of talking to accommodate nonnative speakers of their local language.  The result is frustration on both sides.  For the learner, it is a daunting experience of facing an unknown tongue spoken with plenty of ridiculous speed and incomprehensive slangs. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Case against Donations: Short-Term Gratification for Long-Term Damage

As noted in a previous blog post, one of the most admirable feature of American society is its charitability.  Not only is there ingrained culture of charitable giving among a significant portion of the local populace, there are physical institutions, ranging from tax reductions on donations to multiple large nationwide organizations that take in donations, that allow people to act upon their charitability in highly convenient fashion.  The result is a highly efficient and productive charity sector.  On global rankings for charitability as measured by percent income donated, America consistently rank at the top of the table.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Comparative History of Human Development Can Provide New Clues for Explorations of Extraterrestrial Life

In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Prof. Jared Diamond argues that the different levels of development among modern human societies, in terms of institutions, wealth, and technology, are ultimately due to different environmental conditions faced by their historical predecessors.  The availability of wild plants/animals for domestication and fertile climates/soil for food production enabled some societies, more than others, to adopt agriculture, explode in overall population, and create non-food producing specialists that enable innovations and complex society-building.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Parents as a Source of Reassurance as My Little World Crumbled

The year 2000 started well.  I was an ecstatic little boy graduating from elementary school in provincial Japan.   Finally, I was joining the “big boys” at the middle school across the street, donning the cool uniforms that I observed in pure envy for the past six years.  Change was afoot, and I was so ready to embrace it.  Instead, the change was much more radical than I had ever imagined.  Instead of moving across the street, father came home one day and notified that our whole family is moving to the USA, thousands of miles away. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Is Inequality a Prerequisite for Economic Development?

In the previous blog post, I discussed the potential correlation between economic development and presence of nationalism at a state (rather than tribal) level.  But of course, to incentivize economic development requires a whole host of different factors, the presence of many at the same time in equal importance, rather than any particular dominant one, allow for an economy to take off.  I have no illusion that nationalism is the most important factor, and for many poor countries where nationalism is a fact of life, its presence is not even the obstacle holding back development.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tribe-Level Nationalism as a Disincentive for Economic Development

Some months ago, this blog argued that a distinct lack of optimism among Africans is a root cause for governments not putting in the effort to develop their respective countries.  However, in the process, that post never clearly defined exactly what is the root cause of that lack of optimism, aside from making vague statements about historical circumstances that both the African peoples and leaders not emotionally tied to their particular countries, thereby precluding any conscious efforts for development in the long-term.  This post seeks to make clear what that "historical circumstance" really is.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Experiencing Suffering of the Poorest Firsthand is needed for Even the Richest

I write after two years in the depth of rural Tanzania, where I have worked for an NGO.  Our clients, a group of farmers scattered across a series of remote villages, struggles to make ends meet as changing rain patterns and dearth of high-quality fertilizers keep their farms unproductive.  It was a tough two years working to reverse these struggles.  Idealism turned into cynicism, hope into disillusionment.  For failures, I found myself becoming too quick to blame others, whether it be government absence, unmotivated staff, or refusal for organizations, including ours, to prioritize projects that are realistically feasible rather than glamorous for publicity. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Is Book Buying Also a Sign of Materialism?

What is the most visual sign of an intellectual?  For many people, the answer may be an obvious one.  The person must be well-read.  And what better proof is there of a person being well-read than having a study full of bookshelves, completely filled up with good books?  It is unsurprising than, whenever the average media outlet go conduct a face-to-face interview with scholars, professors, and experts, they are often conducted in their offices, flanked by bookshelves full of books related to the topics at hand and the person's field of expertise.  Having many books has become equated with knowledge.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Can Reducing Focus on Finding Good Food Lead to More Productivity?

There is no doubt that that rural Africa is not a desirable destination for food-lovers.  This blog has reiterated that fact repeatedly in previous blog posts.  So, logically speaking, someone who loves food but have not had the chance to enjoy many different kinds of it should make every effort to enjoy that great variety after leaving rural Africa.  Without going to excess, the person should be finding the most delicious spots around town, so that s/he can make up lost times of eating rice and beans everyday in rural Africa.  And the person would absolutely enjoy that exercise.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Why an International Tech Firm Should be Taxed and Tariffed Like Any Other Multinational

Surfing the Internet around the world is often an exercise in homogeneity.  With the exception of China and a few other countries restricting Internet access to certain sites, every country in the world popularizes the same website and Internet services.  Facebook is used by people around the world in dozens of different languages to connect with friends, while Google and Wikipedia are nearly unanimous as the first sources of knowledge.  On the mobile phone, the likes of Uber and Tinder have provided people in all countries with similar services, despite different on-the-ground conditions.

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Reforms Are Urgently Needed By Modern Education

Today’s students ought to be anxious.  As technology develops, many cushy jobs are in the process of disappearing and being replaced by robots and computer algorithms.  Government policies, from increased tariffs to fickle visa regimes, make employment in an increasingly interconnected world volatile and unpredictable.  To counter these constant changes in the overall economic environment, Educational institutions need to restructure their curriculums and mindset to help students develop a diverse set of knowledge base.  Only with varied set of skills will students, upon graduation, be able to weather changing employment patterns as well as rise and fall of particular industries. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Person's Past Should Not be Simply Dismissed as Static History

It has been some six ears since I was last at my parents' house in San Diego.  And it has been more than ten since I properly lived in it as a high school student. Returning the place where I studied, slept, and waited for news of being able to finally leave for school somewhere else, I noticed, before everything else, just how little the place has changed over the last decade.  The same books I read then, the same furniture that I sat on, and the same decorations that I stared at still grace the house, with all of them in exactly the same places that I would have found them a decade ago.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How Technology Assists the Blocking of Alternative Political Views

For first time in perhaps months, I sat down to read a newspaper.  For all its conservative leanings, the local paper in San Diego tries its best to look well-balanced, providing views from across the political spectrum on its op-ed pages.  Big bold titles with completely diverging opinions line side by side on the same page, giving the audience scanning through the content an ability to look at every view possible at one-go.  Even if a certain reader does not have any particular affinity toward a particular piece, s/he is bound to look at it somewhat simply because it sits next to another piece that s/he would agree with.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Is the Inability to Easily Fire Workers a Reason for Rural Africa's Lack of Formal Jobs?

"The guy was not doing so well, so we had to let him go..." casually quips the converser when speaking about the recent going-ons at work.  Back here in California, firing incompetent people is an everyday phenomenon that one simply lives, so much so that no one assumes that s/he would not be targeted by managers when periods of low performance and intra-office conflicts persist.  Even when one performs well, structural changes or financial problems at one's workplace is enough of a reason to fire people, and people, while angry or anxious, simply get on with their lives afterwards.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Visual Effect of Asian Increase in a Californian Airport

It is the author's first time in San Francisco airport (SFO) in perhaps 8 or 9 years.  The airport seems have gotten much cleaner, brighter, and bigger than before.  But amid the positive first impressions of the place, one other visual cue that stood out, maybe a bit too much, was just how many Asian people can be found in the airport.  The majority of people at the airport was Asian, from guys assisting passengers at the luggage scanning machines, the people guiding people around airports, to, of course, passengers themselves.  Even immigration staff, generally pretty multiracial, tends to be heavily Asian at SFO.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Why is There So Little Serious Discussions of Africa's Economic Falling Behind among Expats on the Ground?

This blog has not been kind to rural Tanzania or Africa in general.  From criticizing the people's flippant attitude toward money to oddities of everyday life, it has made no effort to conceal that fact that it has portrayed the locations where the author has resided and traveled to in an overwhelmingly negative light.  In the process, much doubt is cast on the future of the continent, much in contrary to the more and more common thesis of "Africa Rising" narrative that is growing prominent in some quarters of popular media and academic world.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Taiwan's Social Progressivism and Impact on New Southward Policy

In one day, there was two polar opposite news coming out of Asia on the issue of gay marriage.  One is the de facto legalization of same-sex marriages in Taiwan's highest court, making the island the first place in Asia to expliciting state that homosexual marriages are as legal as the heterosexual kind.  The other is the public caning of a man caught for gay sex in conservative Aceh province in Indonesia.  The young man is humiliated in front of thousands of spectators, and Western media outlets and general public wasted no time criticizing the act as immoral and barbaric, much to the chagrin of the Islamic local population.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is Cryptocurrency a Threat to National Sovereignty?

For those interested in the world of investing, the growth in value of BitCoin in the past months and years have truly been exciting.  The virtual currency is not only become well-known through its meteoric growth, but is gradually becoming accepted as a form of payment across multiple businesses in multiple countries.  With increase in confidence that virtual currencies are now being treated much more than just an investment vehicle (like gold,silver, and other rare precious commodities) but a real currency with real transactional value in everyday life, the number of people holding cryptocurrency like BitCoin is bound to increase.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Psychology of Owing and Being Owed

A few months ago at the G20 Summit held in Hangzhou, China, Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, gave an interview to China Central Television on the Summit's sidelines.  One of the key topic of the interview was the recent economic troubles faced by South Africa, especially pertaining to the financial downgrading associated with the recent sacking of the reputable finance minister Pravin Gordhan.  The interviewer questioned Zuma on how the lack of confidence international markets and rating agencies toward South Africa will impact the South African economy in the coming months.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

How the Free Market Improves the Service Industry

China, today as it has nearly always been, is a land of food.  People are willing and will spend excessive ants of money on good food, and tend to seek out the next best restaurant that is coming up.  Tens of thousands of restaurateurs battle it out in a city of millions, where good food is rewarded with constant line of patrons willing to wait for hours and days for a taste, while mediocre ones close down in matter of months as they can no longer afford to pay high rents in a expensive real estate market like Shanghai.  The sheer competitiveness of the market means that only the most delicious will survive.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Economic Doubts behind the “One Belt One Road” Initiative

Turn to any non-entertainment TV programs in China these days, and most inevitably touch on a common theme: that of the “One Belt One Road” initiative.  Endless interviews with experts and common people across countries that will benefit from the initiative, coupled with news stories and detailed analyses of the latest projects coming online, give a strong indication that the government, and the government-owned media sources, wants the initiative to be the defining economic and political movement of the country and the wider region in the next decades.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Benefits of Not Being the Family's Embrace

This author grew up around the world.  From taking his first trip outside the country when he was age five, he has rarely stayed in any place for more than a few years before moving to the next location with his family.  Courtesy of such experiences, he never had the opportunity to meet many of his distant relatives, many of whom are still in China, nor had he the chance to step into his ancestral hometown.  One reason among many that pushed him to attend the wedding of his cousin (who he has also not met more than once every half a decade or so) is so that he can at least say hi to these relatives he has only heard about but never met.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lessons from Watching Japanese Porn for Money

Life is about experience, and that experience can come in many different ways, in work, in recreation, and in entertainment.  Sometimes, the boundaries of those three things blur, giving new realizations of how one perceives work, of entertainment, and of what is the difference between "work" and "life."  A paid translation project that the author completed in the last few days is a perfect illustration of this blurring.  Required to submit English subtitles for Japanese adult videos, he was quite surprised, in a brand-new way, of just how porn, work psychology, and a bit more subtly, how human desire and work ethic works.

Below are some of the main lessons learned from this little paid exercise:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Why a Village is “Culturally Purer” than a City

As even the least developed corner of the globe undergoes continual shift of populations off farms and rural villages into the embrace of concrete jungles of urban society, the influence of cities on the overall outlook of the society and its future trajectory is becoming more and more significant.  However, to say that major cities are the primary indicator of a society’s characteristic would exaggerate the role that such cities may play in the overall economic and cultural development of the society in question.  Instead, the primary focus should be on small towns and rural villages, where the poorest of the poor continue to reside.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Is Competition or Cooperation Better for Leadership Development?

In the capitalist societies of today, often winners in the race to the top, of wealth, prestige, and power, is determined by constant competition for limited resources among all capable actors.  Many have been taken aback by the ruthlessness of such constant competition, arguing that the hostility of the competitions bring out the worst in our leaders, prioritizing success over ethics and goods human relations.  However, examples can demonstrate that for the youth to become good leaders, competition is still necessary for honing their necessary skills, including the very ability to seek cooperation in order to achieve certain goals.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Hey, Looks Like the Rain is Coming on the Other Side!"

This blog discusses rains quite a lot, and perhaps that is unsurprising given how central rain patterns are to the agriculture-centered local economy.  Indeed, when in villages, one of the most common topics of conversations is whether or not rains have come, when did it come, how long it was, and how strong was the downpour.  In a place where motorcycles are the chief mode of transport, the coming and going of rains is not just important to gauge the success of crops, but when and how long trips to the next village or market town can be.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

How a Geopolitical Alliance of China and Russia is Exploiting the US's "Imperial Overreach"

A hundred days into Donald Trump's presidency, it is almost comical to see how his foreign policy has deviated from what people thought it would be when he was first elected.  People thought was going to make amends with Putin, only to see him profess that Russo-American relations has "reached an all-time low."  They thought he would pressure hard on China for unfair trade practices, only to see him profess his "good friendship" with Xi while refusing to label the country a currency manipulator.  They thought he would take America out of foreign entanglements, only to see military presence increased in Syria and Korea.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Media's Sensationalization of Voicing Asian Injustice as a Threat of a "Fifth Column"

The incident involving police brutality against Dr David Dao, an Vietnamese-American passenger in the United Airlines flight in Chicago has sparked widespread outrage among the general public in the US.  The Asian-American community has especially been up in arms about the fact that the passenger in question may have been selected and roughed off because he is of Asian descent. Media outlets both in the US and across the world has been quick to cover the story, with several videos emerging out of the incident to evidence the level of what is perceived as unnecessary force by the police throughout the incident.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What is the Perverse Incentive behind “Close Enough is Good Enough”?

A few months ago, there was a good article written on the prevalence of chabuduo (roughly translated as “close enough”) mentality in China.  A mentality widespread among the nation’s craftsman, it is responsible for countless examples of shoddy manufactures that together plague the reputation for “Made in China” both at home and abroad.  The article argues that the persistence of the chabuduo mentality, so ingrained in modern-day Chinese economy but largely absent historically in its ancient civilization, presents itself as a massive obstacle for the country to move up the value chain.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Key to Ending Ivory Trade is not Bans, but Increase in Supply of Ivory in the Market

In economics, there is a type of product called "Veblen good" that does not contradicts the normal supply-and-demand relationships.  For a normal good, a decrease in supply corresponds to an increase in price, leading to a corresponding drop in demand as consumers reduce consumption and/or seek out cheaper substitutes for the now more expensive product.  But for a Veblen good, while decrease in supply also leads to a price increase, demand actually surges, with consumers assigning higher value to the good due to the higher price of the good.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

What is "Proper" Customer Service for an "Outsider"?

The author has been living in the town of Iringa for so long that, not entirely deliberately, he has become a frequent customer in many of the town's local eateries.  Given that it is rather unusual to see Chinese people hanging out in local eateries to begin with, he has become a largely recognizable face among the staff of these eateries.  And as a recognizable face, he is often treated with smiles, handshakes, and quite a bit of eagerness with it comes to being informed of what are on the menu and recommended for the day.  For the longest time, the author simply thought such behaviors are just the norms of how staff in food places talk.

Friday, March 17, 2017

「学生」という身分だからこそできる世界の「巡り方」

たぶんご存知でない方もたくさんいらっしゃいますが、著者の学生生活は日本で始まった。5歳で中国から移住していた著者、言語が分からぬまま入れられてしまった石川県金沢市のとある保育園は実に最初の学校経験であった。その後もそのまま隣の小学校に入学し、両親が学術研究で忙しいため、放課後には町が運営する児童センターで毎日何時間ほど過ごした。そのおかげで、12歳にアメリカに移民する前にはすっかりごく普通で日本っぽい小学生になっていた。

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Can Honesty be a Trait not Developed but Enforced?

A few years back, the author was traveling through the city of Hamburg in northern Germany during his vacation days as a Master's student.  Perhaps one of the most shocking (at least to the author) was how the subway trains crisscrossing the city did not have actual entrance gates in most stations.  Instead of a series of gates where commuters had to stick their train tickets into before emerging on the other side so that they can proceed to the train platforms, the Hamburg metro simply had ticket machines inside the trains to validate tickets, while the stations themselves simply connected to the outside without restraint on entry or exit.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

How Does an Unusual Practice Become a Norm?

About a year ago, the author wrote about how few people here in Iringa carry umbrellas and do not mind being in the rain.  It was just another when the author was taking a motorcycle taxi across town when the rains started to fall heavily.  The author did have an umbrella in his hand, but the motorcycle was going way too fast for it to be opened.  Even as the drizzles turned into downpours, the author did not even attempt to get the motorcycle driver to slow down or stop. As his clothes grew wetter from the rains, he realized that he stopped minding being in the rains...in a way more Tanzanian, maybe.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Nationality as a Practical Tool: Is the Future of Citizenship not Tied to Patriotism?

What does being "American" mean?  When hearing the word, one can usually conjure the pictures of loud being with distinctive accents proudly talking about the wealth and power of their home country, the global ubiquitous pop culture, and voicing their worries at the current political directions.  Inevitably (and often quite obviously), these same people will have citizenship of the USA.  Without the need to elaborate, the fact that they have the citizenship of the USA makes them America, and entitle them to speak of the country's culture, politics, and wealth in a matter-of-fact, this-is-my-business manner.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Journey Outside the USA Continues....

Many readers of this blog may or may not realize that the author of this blog is actually an American citizen.  Yet during more than six years of this blog's run, the vast majority of posts are written in locations about topics that are distinctively unrelated to the author's country of citizenship.  Even when written, America only exists as an elusive point of reference for other countries, a passive player looming large in the background that features much in the collective psyche of the local populace, but not nearly as much in the workings of their daily lives.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Is "Enough" Really Enough?

When the author was traveling around Eastern Europe a few years ago, a Chinese man met on the bus told him of a Chinese friend who used to work on a potato farm in Russia.  The man said his friend was busy gathering potatoes during the season when all the sudden, the boss of the farm told him to stop.

“Hey, we got enough potatoes for the season, so you can stop now,” the boss said in a rather matter-of-fact way.

“Wait, so what do we do with the rest of the potatoes?  We still have many hectares that we haven’t harvested,” the friend was positively confused by the boss’ order.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why Speculation Makes for the Best Political Propaganda

To anyone outside the highest echelons of North Korean political hierarchy, the Hermit Kingdom's state-directed intentions remain completely opaque.  Any provocative moves emerging from the country almost often come as unpredicted and surprising, giving major media outlets all that much more to work with when they think about breaking news headlines.  In the past years, that usually meant the next missile or nuke testing that raise the blood pressures of the Japanese and South Koreans.  But apparently the North Koreans have other initiatives up the sleeve that change up the pattern a bit.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Can A President Trump Spark a Massive Increase in South-South Migration?

An immigrant leaves his/her homeland for a reason.  For some, different political and religious beliefs opposed by the ruling establishment force them to seek more tolerant host societies.  For others, familial ties and international romance must be maintained through physical relocation.  But for the vast majority, migration is about economic opportunities, a chance to escape relative poverty by heading toward destinations that offer better-paying jobs and a safer, more orderly, and more entrepreneurial environment to realize unfulfilled dreams of individual prosperity.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How Lack of Financial Discipline Fuels an Explosive Growth of African Government Debt

In his work Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki attempts to dissect the mentality of the poor, the middle class, and the rich.  Among all the differences he notes of the three, one is constantly repeated and stands out as pivotal in the difference.  The rich, he argues, invests in assets and not liabilities.  And when the rich makes these investments, they do so through incomes earned through assets, and not by taking on more liabilities in the form of loans to be repaid.  By wisely investing in income-generating assets within their means and then reinvesting resulting incomes in more assets, a small initial capital can quickly turn into a large sum.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Is Lack of Optimism a Bottleneck for Development in Africa?

There is an interesting fact that few foreigners know about Japan.  That is, the biggest ethnic population of Japanese people outside Japan live in Brazil, numbering more than 1.6 million for a diaspora that just 2.6 million strong worldwide.  From a modern-day perspective, the oversized presence of the Japanese in an economically struggling and geographically distant country like Brazil seem rather strange, especially when Japanese migrant populations everywhere, including in US, Europe, and Asia, are shrinking as fewer Japanese seek to go and live abroad.

Monday, January 30, 2017

"丟東西"對國民性的啓示

著者幫助建立的幾家小店中有一個共同的現象:開店不過幾周就有十幾張客戶的身份證被遺忘在店員手裏。雖説本店需要用客戶證件作爲貸款的前提,但這些證件衹需要被看到而完全無需留在店裏。當然,店員也從來沒有想要任何人的身份證。對他們來説,額外保存這些東西沒有任何實質上的意義。可也就不知爲什麽,多個客戶在知道身份證忘在店中也沒有着急,以至於即便店員多次打電話給這些客戶,這十幾張身份證還是遺留在店中達幾個月之久。照此下去,可能這些證件注重會在繁忙的店中丟失。

Saturday, January 28, 2017

When the Atmosphere Determines a Holiday

Chinese New Year, come to think of it, can be a very elusive holiday.  Since it follows the lunar calendar that shifts back and forth relative to the Gregorian calendar in use today, the exact date for it fluctuates every year.  There simply is not a clear reminder that "ah, it is Dec 25 today, so it is Christmas" or "ah, it is Jan 1 today, so it is New Year's Day."  Instead, to remember Chinese New Year's, one often just go with the flow as everyone else celebrates.  The local malls and streets, and at home the dinner table and the decorations certainly would not have one forget the important day.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Enviable Professional Freedom of an Academic

Many people see one's academic and professional lives are two separate,distinct phases.  Schooling is something done in young age, a process of learning that culminates in certifications that signify one's ability to think critically and apply certain skill sets.  Those skill sets are prerequisites to a second phase, professional work that apply and further enhance academic knowledge that can be directed and sharpened to achieve certain goals that are worthy of financial compensation.  For most, one leads to the other (sometimes in reverse), and the two rarely, if ever, crosses paths.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"So, What is the Real Africa Like?"

As predicted in the previous post, the author's time in Japan cannot possibly pass without having to answer some questions about Africa.  The questions are really as general as the title of this post suggests, and the inquiry usually comes with unusual solemnity incompatible with the rowdiness of restaurants filled with drunken salarymen.  A deep breath needs to be taken before an answer is given.  The inquirer is expecting some serious details, and with so much seen in Africa, it is difficult to select for which details that will most interest the inquirers within their short attention spans.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Art (and Lack Thereof) of English Language Meetups in Japan

Despite the continued doubt about exactly how useful English language really is in Japan, there is no denying that there is in fact an active, if small, segment of avid English learners in Japan.  To call them "avid" does not imply half-heartedness.  Instead, the avidity comes from the fact that there really is no urgent need for them to learn the language at all.  They do not use English in their jobs, they have no need to travel abroad for either work or pleasure, and indeed, they have no need whatsoever to interact with foreign persons or cultures if so they wish.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

What Does a Korean Hostel in the Middle of Tokyo Says about Internationalization of Japan

The author is a big user of hostels.  Being cheap locations with many people to meet and relative safety of numbers, they generally fit the author's intention to travel on the shoestring and bump into random people in random places.  Interestingly enough, the author had never before stayed in hostels in Tokyo, despite having lived in the country for over seven years.  The current trip gave him that particular opportunity, as he specifically sought out perhaps the cheapest place to sleep in central Tokyo, with the price tag of about 180 USD for a whole week and a half of stay.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

How Does Old Age of Its People Transform An Economy

Japan is a country of old people, the stats are very clear on this point.  With one of the world's lowest birthrate and the highest median age, the country is set to become more and more elderly in the coming years and decades.  But those numbers do not really sink in until one hits the streets and sees the country at work.  Especially on menial public services jobs (such as street cleaners, trash pickup, train station maintenance staff), the average worker is definitely no less than 40, and more realistically (averaging) somewhere in the 50-60-years-old range.  It is sad to see such old folks bending over to carry large bags or wipe low places.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Ringing in the New Year's in Rural Tanzania

Looking at international news on New Year's Day, they are filled with the revelations of big ities around the globe.  The massive firework displays, the pulsing light shows emerging from skyscrapers, and the thronging crowds counting down in joy, the big city celebrations certainly deserve the coverages they get for their sheer scales, efforts, and mass participations.  Here in the little frontier Tanzanian town, the same, of course, cannot be expected.  But in its own, much more toned-down way, the people did go out to usher in the New Year, with drinks, food, and more reasonably scaled gatherings.