Monday, July 31, 2017

If Language is Not an Obstacle to Universalizing a Song, Then What is?

In my nearly one month of travels across South America, there was one thing that was commonly done in every country and city that I set foot in.  That is, the bars and restaurants repeatedly played this summer's (or in South America, this winter's) smash hit, Despacito.  While the Spanish-language reggaeton dance number is just as popular in the US and many other countries around the world, in South America, the craze is at a whole new level, with the song played as part of the pop music hit list so frequently that it is impossible to not go anywhere that plays music without hearing it at least once (if not more).

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Risks and Possibilities of Rap Music Gaining More Recognition in Asia

In the past years, reality shows have become a staple of Chinese television.  In particular, owing to the popularity of karaoke and pop music, American Idol-style programs that seek to discover untapped musical talents in the general populace have become extremely popular and widespread.  Different TV stations and independent media websites have invested and competed to host the biggest, most professional, and most lavishly set "talent search," drawing some of the biggest popstars of Chinese musical industry today to help discover some of the best raw talent hidden in plain sight.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Need for More Accommodating American Policymaking in North Korean Nuclear Nonproliferation

Not a month goes by now without news about the latest progress in North Korean development of weaponry that can pose realistic threats on the US and other countries.  Whether it be missile testing, nuclear weapons testing, or a combination of both, Kim Jong-un has made sure that the world has not forgotten about him and his growing ability to strike the mortal American enemies with weapons of mass destruction.  All previous efforts to reverse the developments, whether they are economic sanctions or diplomatic talks, have largely come to nothing.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Why Decoupling Asian and Asian-American Issues are Disadvantageous for Social Standing of Asian-Americans

There are plenty of groups in America that fights for rights and recognition of ethnic issues in this country.  They admirably devote great energy in ensuring that the general non-Asian public in America become more aware of the unjust treatments individual Asians and the Asian community as a whole receive in this country.  By publicizing issues such as United Airlines' ill-treatment of Dr David Dao, these groups have slowly and gradually changed the misconception among non-Asians (especially whites) in this country that Asians tend to face less racism problems than other peoples of color.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Patience is the Greatest Virtue a Traveler Can Learn on the Road

What is the longest downtime a traveler can have?  For many, the answer would be zero.  Being in a new place, new environment, and potentially new people, there would be little in terms of boredom.  Always something new to see and experience, the traveler should never be bored while being in new and exciting destinations that the traveler him/herself chose in the first place.  Unfortunately, such is but empty speculation from people who rarely travel.  The reality is that traveling, more often than not, involve much waiting and sitting around than the traveler would experience back home.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Pains and Risks of Looking for Public Wifi

Traveling across multiple countries, it often makes very little sense to purchase Sim cards in every destination.  Without it, one's smartphone would not be able to take advantage of mobile Internet networks available to local carriers, instead strictly relying on whatever wifi networks that can be obtained for free and for a fee in public and private institutions.  The constant search and usage of these wifi networks are a unique sight and experience in travel nowadays.

Monday, July 24, 2017

South America in Summary: The Potential for Greater Regional Cooperation due to Shared Heritage

It is difficult to generalize a whole continent, and that is especially true for one as big as South America.  From the north tropics of Cartagena to the Antarctic extremities of Patagonia, the varying climates of the landmass is only superseded in variety by the existence of many biomes, from the frigid high altitudes of the Andes, to the palmy Caribbean coasts, to the humid Amazon, to the Mediterranean weathers of Chilean and Argentine wine producing regions. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Inflation Leading to Supply and Demand Problems in Argentina

There is a weird phenomenon at the hostel that I am currently staying in.  Many of the guests are long-term residents.  And by "long-term," I mean not weeks or months, but years after years.  Some of the residents are foreign students at local universities doing their proper college degrees.  And they tell me that for some reason, it is cheaper for them to stay in a hostel, even with their inflated daily rates, than it would be to find a shared apartment in a decent part of Buenos Aires.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The CCP's Handling of Liu Xiaobo as a Public Relations Disaster

A few days ago, Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo passed away in China, after lack of in-game treatment for cancer that developed unchecked during years of house arrest.  The fact that Liu was gravely ill was not unannounced by the CCP (and thus not known to the international community) until treatment would have been too late.  In supposedly compromising moves at the last minute, the CCP invited foreign doctors to go to China to help with treatment of Liu, an act that was seen as more symbolic than practical.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How Important is Punctuality to Business?

Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.  I have been spending the last two and a half hours waiting for the bus heading across the border to Argentina.  The customers waiting at the bus stand are getting rumpled by the minute, as buses bound for other destinations pass through one by one.  Finally, the right bus arrives, but the customers are not relieved.  The bus opens, and the long luxury bus is crammed full to the aisles with passengers that the bus probably spent way too much time collecting elsewhere.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Why Using Credit Cards in Foreign Lands are Dangerous

Before I embarked on this long trip through South America, I had the fortune to be approved for a traveler's credit card that charges no foreign transaction fee anywhere in the world.  Considering that foreign banks generally charge administrative fees for ATM usage, this traveler's credit card has now become by far the cheapest way for me to access money.  Hence, more than anytime I have in the past, I have been swiping credit card anywhere that the option is available.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

How Public Displays of Affection Demonstrate Cultural Liberalism

If there is anything that surprised me about Chilean culture, it is the sheer openness with which locals show romantic affection to one another in public places.  In subway cars, shops, plazas, and especially bus/train stations, couples casually French kiss, with not a care in the world that there are hundreds of people around that are baring witnessed to their romantic displays.  They just pick a spot, hold hands, face each other, and start making out, loudly and at length.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Where is the Boundary between Graffiti and Art?

Valparaiso, Chile is known unofficially as the mural capital of Chile.  Pieces of art spray painted on walls grace every other building in the colorful hills hugging the Pacific Ocean.  Tourists trek through the hills looking for the most beautiful pieces, snapping pictures on literally every other street in the city's hilly neighborhoods.  Along with the architecture and the natural settings, the murals contributed to Valparaiso being granted UNESCO heritage status.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Why "Beg-Packing" is Completely Unethical Way of Traveling the World

A few months ago, the Singaporean newspaper Straits Times did a great piece on what is  called "beg-packing," a phenomenon whereby foreign tourists, often whites from developed countries, finance their backpacking trips across Southeast Asia by selling knickknacks like postcards or performance arts on the streets of their travel destinations.  Sitting on the street sides, these tourists get handouts from local people drawn by curiosity of foreigners practically begging on the streets.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

To Tip or Not to Tip: That is the Question

Going on tours, I always have a dilemma. Does the tour guide expect a tip, or is the tip included in the service?  Does the guide earn a living from tips, or is it culturally taboo to give tip (yes, in many Asian countries, tipping can be considered an insult).  For a person new to a foreign country, the answer is not a simple one, often requiring careful observation to see how others behave so that one can follow suit accordingly.  But when everyone is looking at others for guidance on the topic, the dilemma becomes a collective one.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How Tourism Helps Increase Urbanization

Uyuni, Bolivia is really in the middle of nowhere.  Surrounding the town is endless expense of deserts, themselves hemmed to one side by towering mountains that separates the area from the mountainous bulk of the country.  From the window of the bus that comes down from the mountains, the town looks like a mirage, a clump of civilization surrounded by inhabitable nature.  Indeed, the town abruptly ends at deserts, overlooking into complete nothingness.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Is The Exotic Presented by the Chinese a Form of Soft Power or Just Blind Curiosity?

Walking down the streets of major cities in Bolivia, one would come across an interesting phenomenon, almost all of the minibuses that serve as the main form of public transport for the local populace is decorated in the front and the sides with a series of Chinese characters, printed on in order but making completely no sense.  These characters add a sense of the exotic to otherwise bland one-color exterior of the busses.  Occasionally, the same is observed for trucks that carry products within the towns or across the country.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The One-upmanship of Tourist-Catered Enterprises

Look at any major tourist site in the world today, there is bound to be an adjacent area with hundreds of shops serving the needs of hundreds of thousands of travelers coming through every year. They do a roaring business.  People need to eat, sleep, be entertained, and have their laundry done. And away from home and unfamiliar with the local prices, the tourists are willing to pay much higher prices than the local residents for services and products, some of them so basic as to not cost that much to provide.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Can the Conquered Provide an Identity for the Conquerors?

Looking various tourist sites around the Incan capital city of Cuzco, it is rather obvious that the local inhabitants take their Incan heritage very seriously.  From the grand citadel at Machu Picchu to the various museums lining the capital city's main streets, the locals have tirelessly presented an image of solidarity with the Incan tradition.  The rainbow color flag of the Inca still fly the streets along with the Peruvian national flag, and major streets still retain their names in Quechua, the language of the Inca.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Spanish as a Foreign Language that Foreigners are Expected to Understand

If there is one thing that world travelers tend to get used to quite quickly, it is the idea of not understanding anything in the destinations that they end up in.  No matter how many languages one learn over the course of one's lifetime, the number of unique languages spoken in different parts of the world is simply too many for one person to speak even the very basics of, not mention really master.  There always need to be some way to communicate with locals that does not involve actually learning the local language.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How Idling Street Prostitutes Show the Economic Risks of Reliance on International Tourism

The main square of the Cartagena old Town is beautifully lit up at night.  Against the background of illuminated clock towers, colonial buildings, and the defensive walls, restaurants, bars, and night clubs throng with revelers from around the world, taking in the beauty of the 16th century architecture over a cold beer or two.  Some walk around the neighborhood, seemingly traveling to the past when the city was the thriving main port of the mighty Spanish Empire in the America's.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How Airlines Can Coax More Small International Traders into Their Customer Base

With increase in global connectivity and the importance of international trade, a new kind of trade pattern is emerging.  Small traders, towing no more than a couple of suitcases each, cross international borders in search of merchandise they can potentially sell back home.  They purchase the merchandise in (rather small) bulk in foreign markets, throw them into their suitcases.  Once back at home, they throw open their suitcases and sell the contents at a margin.  The profits on the foreign merchandise finance their next trips, which hopefully would involve more scale and more valuable products over time.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Is Retiring Early Really a Good Life Goal?

Now as it had ever been, there are many advertisements of get-rich-quick schemes, on TV, on shady websites, and as inline ads for social media.  Along with the texts claiming Mr. xxx had made $yyy in the course of just few years, many of these unbelievable figures also add in that the new wealth allowed Mr. xxx to retire in his 30s or 40s.  Without saying so explicitly, the ads assume that logically, what someone who earned a massive quantity would do is to immediately retire, so that s/he does not have to slave for some heartless employer or work hard for him/herself anymore.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

What Efforts Can External Parties Take to Prevent the Proliferation of Nuclear Materials?

As North Korea steps up nuclear testing in the recent years, the fears of nuclear materials proliferating beyond the control of state-level actors have reemerged.  Not since the mid-2000s, when al-Qaeda sought to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan (primarily via its nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan) has the worry of nuclear proliferation been so realistic, probable, and risky.  The situation in North Korea calls for redoubled efforts to ensure that all the incentives align to prevent spread of nuclear materials. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Can Mitigation Rather Prevention be a Feasible Long-Term Solution for Air Pollution?

Recently, there has been talks of a new way of dealing with growing problems of air pollution caused by emissions of carbon-based pollutants into the atmosphere.  The idea is to install large numbers of large air purifying devices that filter large quantity of air in the surrounding area, removing the carbons in the air that the devices then proceed to pump back into the atmosphere.  Optimists speak of such devices benefiting not only as a scalable mechanisms to rid air of toxic elements, but also as a way to manufacture man-made diamonds with the captured carbons.