Posts by terence

Growth@Grain.com.sg

A tribute to the Road

I remember having a conversation with a friend many years ago, who reminded me how blessed we are for winning the birth-lottery in Southeast Asia. On the world map, if we were born inches away from Singapore in a country like Laos or Cambodia, our lives would have been completely different. I have been tremendously blessed.

As I turn 30 this year, it is timely to look back at the past decade of traveling the world, and the freemasonry of the road.

It all started in 2006. The males lucked out that year when it was announced that National Service was to be cut down to a 22-month stint. Between the end of our obligation and the start of college, what started out as a plan to do the Angkor Wat marathon turned out to be a two month sojourn around our backyard in beautiful Southeast Asia. My first backpacking experience, the travel bug bit, and I never looked back since.

[Sending well wishes to Andy and Joses!]

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River at Kampot, Cambodia

In the winter of 2007, I had one of the richest study-abroad educational experiences in Salvador de Bahia under the guidance of Professor Luciano. This was also my first encounter with Capoeira, which is now a big part of my life.

[Sending well wishes to Prof Luciano, Michelle and all!]

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My host family in Salvador de Bahia

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NYE – Wear white if you’re spending New Years in Brazil

Travels changed course in 2008 after I picked up Spanish during the summer in Middlebury – one of the best summers of my life in beautiful Vermont! This guy probably sums up the 7 semanas de locura, period.

[Sending well wishes to Harley, Katherine, Andres, Andres and all!]

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#mostepic character Harley

During thanksgiving break of 2008 I took the chance to visit the crazy Masters-program students in Madrid/Barcelona, and finally got to put my Spanish to real use in Spain. I also got to see Gaudi and Calatrava’s work which I studied in Archi-101. It was breathtaking.

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La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Winter of 2008 took me on a journey to learn about microfinance in Peru. We visited a rural village called Casa Blanca near Ica and finally understood the gaps and opportunities of microfinance in the field. I spent some time after that backpacking around inner Peru from Cusco to Lago Titikaka (where I also experienced the worst case of altitude sickness at Puno – 4000m. It is the feeling of having your head in your stomach, absolutely horrible).

[Sending well wishes to Allyson and Rhiannon!]

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Uros people of Lago Titikaka

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Indescribable. It still feels like I was just there.

Winter of 2009 was a big window of opportunity to head down south again. We embarked on a month-long trip down to the end of the world – Ushuaia in Tierria del Fuego (trips to the Antarctica begin from here!). From there we worked out way northwards through Patagonia and western Argentina, witnessing some of the most amazing piece of nature’s artwork.

[Sending well wishes to Joyce and Jonathan who survived the longest of bus rides ever with me]

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Torres Del Paine, Pantagonia Chile

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36 hour bus rides across Mountain Passes like these

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Rio de Janeiro – She is as crazy as it sounds

2010 was senior year, and that also meant the real world was calling. Before the final exam period, we took a week off to spend spring break in Puerto Rico, and it sure was rico! (too much rum)

[Sending well wishes to the Illini crew!]

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the Caribbean sea!

After graduation, Dan and I stuffed all my belongings into my humble Eclipse, drove halfway across the country to Palo Alto. We survived 40-degree camping (we gave up after one night), tornado-warnings out in the Dakotas, Badlands National Park and 2 nights in Vegas.  Stanford plans changed course eventually, but the 2500-mile road trip itself was worth everything!

[Sending well wishes to Dan, and Vegas]

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There is no other reason to drive to South Dakota

The transition back to Singapore was rough, and I had the travel bug to thank for tiding me through the bulk of those years.

In March of 2011 I found the most ridiculous flight tickets on Air Asia X – SGD$500RT from KL to Paris. Jumped on that flight, and spent two weeks from Paris to Granada and managed to visit Liz in Morocco for a few days. First time setting foot on the African continent!

[Sending well wishes to Hee Jeong, Liz!]

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Don’t go to Paris alone.

That same year, Andy and I had the idea of during a re-trip together, and we spent some bromance time out in beautiful Yogyakarta.

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2012 was a pretty ridiculous year – almost like travel on crack. It was a combination of needing to escape the corporate life and plenty of cheap budget air tickets coupled with multiple long weekends. There was also the big trip to Mongolia which I took in-between jobs. It remains one of my top travel experiences till date, with the best story of a motorbike break-down and being helped out by the nomads in the middle of nowhere.

[Sending well wishes to David, Angeli, Sebastian and our Motorbike story, Johanna, Kim, Kyla, Cori, Kelly, Isabelle, Melanie, Leandre and how we survived the Russian Mafia, Steffen and Hannah, and the British couple I met in Sirigiya and later ran into 8 months later in Lago Atitlan, Guatemala… ]

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Go to Mongolia if you have the chance

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A beautiful country with beautiful souls – Sri Lanka

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Dan’s first time in Asia

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On this particular trip to Krabi we almost got murdered by Russian Mafia

2013 was an interesting change! I met Lysia, and found a life partner to share my travels with. I dragged her along to see Mount Bromo in Surabaya, kite-surf in Phuket and explore one of my favourite travel destinations till date – Guatemala, also where we met a god-send, Shelby 🙂

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Antigua, Guatemala

Prior to our relocation to America, I also got to spend a week out in Myanmar with Ivan, again, one of the most authentic travel experiences I have had. First hitch-hiking experience!

[Sending well wishes to Ivan!]

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Bagan, Myanmar

2014 was a lot of America. We love Austin, TX!!! Of course we filled it with more roadtrips that we could ever imagine, including a 20-hour roundtrip from Texas to Alberquerque and back, just to catch the hot-air balloon festival. We wrapped up the year in Mexico – beyond the drugs and border violence, Mexico is truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

[Sending well wishes to Shelby, Nick, Ben, Tristan and the Capoeira Luanda Austin Crew!]

In 2015 I got admitted into the Kiva Fellows program and relocated to Tajikistan! Central Asia is mountains-on-crack, and I loved every single bit of it. I also managed to visit Kyrgyzstan (visa free!) during my time out there, and captured two of my favorite photos, ever.

[Sending well wishes to KF26, the best housemates ever Anna and Emily, Joe who survived the longest hitch-hike ever across Kyrgyzstan with me, Bren, Luna/Lea/Floria and the house cat, Sonya/Ciaran and the longest snow trek to Altyn-Arashan]

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The beauty of the most remote of bus-stops, Kyrgyzstan

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Road to Murghab, middle of nowhere

En-route back to the US from Tajikistan, we had a little tete-a-tete in Turkey – a country which I didn’t think much of to start with but then just blew my mind as I started to find out more about its long history…

[Sending well wishes to Josh and Myri!]

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Sufi mystics – humankind is fascinating

Prior to our relocation back to Singapore, our final sojourn was to the enigmatic Cuba. We have always heard a lot about this little island, frozen in time mainly due to political backlash; but we got to experience a very special piece of history – travelling to Cuba was like visiting living museum.

[Sending well wishes to Jayce and Kawa!]

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Vinales, Cuba

We started off 2016 with a trip back to a country where Lysia spent a significant of time at during her college days – Japan! Overall a very unique society with loads of strange peeves, including the concept of capsule hotels, which was very, very strange.

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Our recent trip to The Philippines this past week marks the conclusion of my last decade of seeing the world since the first backpacking trip through Southeast Asia back in 2006. We were rewarded with the most beautiful of waters, and wonderful Filipino hospitality.

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Coron, Palawan Islands

This year also marks my 30th year alive! What a blessing to be able to breathe and walk and BE ALIVE!

What have I learnt over this past decade?

  1. Hitchhiking is one of the best adventures in life, and a stranger is a friend you just haven’t met
  2. The more you travel, the more you will appreciate of the little things in life
  3. The more you explore, the richer you become

God knows where the next decade will take us all in life?  Whatever the route, thank you everyone for being part of my journey!

Reflections: Cuba

37 countries later, I finally set foot on Cuban soil.

Cuba is a fascinating place where the Spanish guitar probably first fell in love with the African drum, creating the most interesting genres of music which we all dance to today.

It is also a place where the story of colonialism, neo-colonialism, revolution and progress unfolds in such dramatic fashion, and is still a work in progress.

Overall, a country with friendly Cubanos, passionate music, frozen-in-time street-scenes and in my opinion, an impending paradigm shift in how the country will progress towards the latter half of the 21st century.

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Logistics: If you are travelling from the US, the most convenient points of transit are Mexico or Canada (direct charter flights from the US are increasingly available, but still tremendously expensive). Bring Euros or Canadian dollars to exchange at a local cadega (money exchange). Speaking Spanish will be very helpful, although most tourist-related infrastructure in Havana will be able to communicate in some form of English.

You could probably read guidebooks online or your Lonely Planet to get an idea of what to see/do in Cuba, so I will instead share with you 4 random things you probably should know, from my experience…

  1. Taxi particulares – these are the local taxis (basically any 1950s-looking car with a taxi sign up top) that you should definitely be taking because they cost about 10 times less than a “yellow taxi” which I presume caters to foreigners. The local taxis do, however, go on certain routes and so prior to hopping on, you will need to ask if the driver is going in your general direction. Each person needs to pay 10 local pesos (~0.50 euros at time of writing). If you get a chance to, peer under the hood of one of these old 1950s Chevrolets, you will be surprised to find a retrofitted Nissan or Toyota engine in there!

    My 1950s ride

  2. Local food stalls – the prices in Cuba, especially where tourist volumes are high, can vary significantly. I have paid as much as 15 convertible pesos, and as little as 1 convertible peso for the exact same meal. Speaking Spanish will help, because you can walk around and ask for directions to local eateries. Trust me, you will know right away when you are in a local eatery – there will hardly be any foreigners around. Make an attempt to stray a little off the beaten track/tourist hot spots in Old Havana, and you will be sure to find plenty  of local options around every corner.

    Distribution centres for subsidized food supplies

  3. Drink the coffee (from the local street stalls) – Cubans brew their coffee along with molasses, which produces a bitter-sweet concoction fit for kings. They cost about 1 local peso per tiny shot, so a full cup of coffee may set you back a whole 5 local pesos. You can also have the same drink in a restaurant at about 10 times the price at a local stall. Go figure.

    Cubans are pretty damn good at chillin’

     

  4. Go to Trinidad – period. One of the first things you will notice about Trinidad is the sound of horse hooves against the cobblestone streets and peddlers hawking bread and pastries from their bicycles. I have been to a few colonial towns (San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, Pelourinho in Bahia Brazil etc) and none have come across more real and pure as Trinidad. Although tourist infrastructure such as restaurants, bars and hotels have sprung up, most of Trinidad still remains in its tranquil form, with Cubanos living their lives as it seems to be half a century ago. Again, veer off the Main Square into the side streets and you will find the true Trinidad sitting there unblemished. Also, hike up the track past the bar-in-a-cave to the top of the cerro where the communication tower stands, chat up the security guard and he may just let you into the compound where you can get a 360-degree birds’ eye view of the entire valley. 

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Cuba moving forward… will be an interesting story to witness!

From what I have noticed, the socialist state does a pretty decent job in providing free education, healthcare and subsidized sundries for every Cubano. Roads are good, most people have a roof over their heads, and general happiness is still derived from family ties and social activities (dancing, music, sports etc.). However, the growing income disparity is becoming a sizable issue at the back of everyone’s mind. Although tourist-serving establishments/ jobs pay a higher tax to the state, the prices being charged are ~10times higher than the local equivalent, and this provides a select group of the population with higher purchasing power to enjoy modern luxury goods (think smartphones, new cars etc.). Imagine the monthly salary of a state-worker of 15 convertible pesos, which is the equivalent of a single meal at a nice restaurant.

To quote my taxi driver:

“… development for Cuba is good, but development will also bring in maliciousness, greed, and other related things that will eventually harm a big part of our society, like what it does with most capitalistic countries.”

The ability of the next government to help spread the fruits of growth and development to all the Cubanos will be critical to the survival of one of the world’s last remaining bastion of Socialism.

 

Valle de Vinales, worth a visit!

 

A 3-week social experiment

If you have been around the Internet lately, high profile sharing-economy type companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart etc. should sound pretty familiar to you. This post isn’t about how insane their current valuations are, or about their amazing office-designs, but the one thing that actually helps them run – people who are willing to trade their time for money in the “sharing economy”.

In the increasingly “Uber for everything” world, we have seen everything from on-demand oil changes to in-home massages. We have arrived in the “future”. Today, you can turn on your phone, click on an app, and start working for a monetary return. Empowered by technology that basically does a very fundamental thing that helps markets run – connect demand with supply, instantaneously. Out of curiosity, I ran a 3-week social experiment where I signed up to drive for Lyft (giving someone a ride), Postmates (delivering food) and Instacart (delivering groceries) to (i) figure out how much one can actually make (ii) understand the last-mile customer experience in the “sharing economy”.

Everyone loves numbers, so let’s start with numbers:

Charts charts charts

Charts charts charts

Some brief conclusions (Again, these insights are specific to Austin in the month of October, and only represents one possible interpretation of reality):

  • It is difficult to breach the $25/hr barrier that most of these companies tout as an hourly minimum
  • Services that allow for the customers to tip is generally a better option to work for as there is potential for greater upside (note: Uber does not have a tip function)
  • If you consider cost of gas, the actual hourly wage could be 10-15% lower

Random notes: (i) The $44.22 average total hourly wage is the result of a supply acquisition promo which Lyft is currently offering in certain cities across the US. Use this promo code to be eligible for between $500-$1000 bonus(depending on your city) after giving 50 rides in the first 30 days! (ii) Instacartv2 is their latest revision to their payout structure which raises the average hourly wage by about $8

Money aside, the experience of working for these “sharing economy” companies is actually quite interesting. Through the 3-weeks, I got to interact with many customers that use these services. I now understand who they are, why they use these apps and basically how technology has improved lives (… in some cases solved first-world-problems). Here is a brief description of each of them:

Lyft

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By far my favorite of the three, Lyft users are generally super friendly and are looking to interact with you (and not their smartphones) during their ride. It is common belief that Uber users tend to see their drivers as just a cab driver, while Lyft users tend to view the entire ecosystem as more of a community. From my limited experience, I tend to agree! Over the course of the Lyft rides I gave, I managed to learn about a range of topics including how to publish a book (from a novelist), the burlesque scene in Austin (from a, well, Burlesque dancer), how to detect skin cancer (from a dermatologist), how transgenders get their names changed in the eyes of the law (from a UT Law student), things to consider before applying to an MBA program (from a first year MBA student)… Beyond learning about the most random things (did I mention that the Burlesque dancer was specifically educating me about the plus-sized Burlesque scene, which is very, very interesting to say the least), you are also likely to start to discover nook and crannies of your own city – unknown restaurants, hidden bars, new neighborhoods etc…

Most importantly though, it is the use case for ride-sharing. Ride sharing does the critical thing of unlocking supply of available transportation at an affordable rate for others. In the case of a recent Lyft ride I gave to someone with a leg injury, we figured that in the world before Uber/Lyft, his only alternative was to take exorbitant taxi rides to get from work/school-home and vice versa.

Instacart

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While Instacart sucked at compensating well, the interesting thing was the use-case for having groceries delivered to a customer. I cannot imagine paying money for someone to do my groceries and deliver them to me; I love grocery shopping, and I guess I have time that I can dedicate to this particular activity. However, through interactions with end-users, I guess I figured out that there are clearly others who disagree, and here are the various reasons why:

  1. Too busy – This applies especially to moms who have to take care of their young children, and going to get groceries could be a complete nightmare. Moms represent a sizable portion of the userbase.
  2. Too difficult – This applies to folks with disabilities/mobility challenges. When I delivered a bag of groceries to an old lady in a wheelchair, I had the AH-HA moment that made me believe in the power of technology again
  3. Too far – This generally applies to distance, especially for folks such as college students who do not own cars. The state of public transportation in the US is pretty dismal, and here is the gap that needs to be filled. The other interesting case is where a family who lives three hours away in Houston decided to order groceries for their daughter who goes to college in Austin to make sure that she was eating right. All this empowered by technology.

Of course, there are cases of the wealthy folks who are just too lazy, and can pay anyone to do anything for them. Story – I actually delivered a bag of toilet cleaning materials to a housecleaner for her to clean this huge mansion. So basically the owner on-demanded toilet cleaning materials to his cleaner, to clean his house.

Postmates

postmates

Postmates provides the highest potential for compensation because generally users tip very well based on typical food-delivery type rates. So if they ordered $50 worth of food, they are likely to leave the Postmate with a $5-10 tip, on top of the delivery fee. However, the Postmates service is very much your typical food delivery service, helping to unlock more revenue for restaurants who do not offer delivery. The craziest thing I found out is… COLLEGE STUDENTS forking out $20 for a sandwich ($10 sandwich, $10 delivery) delivered to their door.

Conclusion

What a learning experience! Of course, I got to walk away with some extra $$$ (especially with the Lyft promo which again rewards an additional $500-$1000 bonus after you give 50 rides within the first 30 days using this promo code), which will come in useful towards our next big travel adventure in Cuba. Most importantly though, I came to appreciate a little more of the world around me, learned random factoids and trivia about the people of my city, understood the challenges of hour-wage workers (+ how important tips are) and came to appreciate the helpful side (and in some cases… obnoxious users) of the Uber-for-everything world.

Lifehacks – Free food from Tech start-ups

Let’s face it, this whole start-up revolution is great. Now, you can have shavers sent to your mailbox monthly, 1-hour groceries brought to your doorstep, cleaners at the tap of a button, a licensed masseur throwing down a deep-tissue rub in your apartment on-demand… the list goes on.

I shall ignore the philosophical debate of whether such “innovation” is worth the incessant pursuit, or if we humans are just running out of ways to be productive and have to resort to building the next “uber for anything”. Well, first-world-problems do exist, and if solving one helps you make a profit, I guess why not? I am personally guilty of attempting to solve one of them myself in Singapore, gladly.

Venture Capital money is awesome. It is BIG, it is FREE and as a potential customer you have the right to make full use of this money, if you know how to work the system. Whether it is a free ride with Uber or free ride with Lyft (or free rideS depending on how creative you are in gaming the system), 2-hr home cleanings at subsidised rates of less than $10 an hour, or a bunch of free food delivered to your doorstep.

Yes, free food.

I am a huge fan of the bunch of new start-ups seeking to solve a very specific problem in the market – folks who long to make their own meals, but cannot afford the time to pick out different recipes and go grocery shopping for the unique items. Enter these start-ups, with the common tag line of “helping you get more lazy” “helping you eat and live better”. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

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Most of all, I am a huge fan because they feed me for free. Back to VC money… one way of acquiring customers in a very competitive market is to put the product in your customers hand at a reduced cost, or no cost at all. This is exactly where the following start-ups come into the picture. They want to give you free food and recipes, at least for the first order. Let the millions of VC dollars do the job, think about it as the cash-rich Wall-street type companies doing good, by subsidising your first experience with these products. Well, if you do it in a disciplined fashion, you are guaranteed a month’s worth of free groceries (1 week each for the 4 companies below) delivered to your doorstep. By disciplined I mean, be very disciplined. The critical thing to do is to turn off the deliveries for the subsequent weeks after your first order (they will be turned on automatically for sure), and cancel your subscription after receiving your first order. Cancelling a subscription is not easy, as there will never be a direct link for you to do that; most of the time, you will need to email customer support to cancel your subscription. Hey, for a month’s worth of free/subsidised groceries with cool recipes and “feel good” photos sent to your doorstep, why not?

Of course, after you have tried the product, don’t be lazy. Google recipes, create shopping lists, go to the grocery store and live like a normal human being. Do not be fooled by these beautiful high-dev perfectly positioned photos, you are not eating photos.

Plated

Plated

Blue Apron

Blue Apron

Green Chef

Green Chef

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh

Do you have more start-up hacks to share?

Austin? Boulder? Portland?

If you want a San Francisco vibe (stereotyped: organic food, good coffee, hippie-culture, good music and chill communities) without the baggage of one of the most insane rents in the world, three American cities typically come to mind: Austin, Boulder, and Portland.

Having spent significant time visiting San Francisco and lived in Austin for the past two years, I can confidently say that Austin gives SF a good run for the money (except the year round 70 degree weather which is hard to replicate honestly). Most Austinites will agree, along with the 150 new people who move into Austin every single day.

I have always been curious though – what about the other two? Portland? Boulder? I have heard great things about them both. Portland still remains a mystery until I get to visit, but I finally got to experience Boulder first-hand this past weekend. The verdict? If you want a “perfect” life surrounded by the most gorgeous hiking trails, then yes. Otherwise, Boulder is nowhere close to Austin in terms of a good balance in all areas of the scale.

Here are a couple of reasons why Boulder < Austin, in my humble opinion…

One. Boulder has one of the most homogeneous communities I have ever seen. Ok, put in another way, everyone is white. The lack of diversity in today’s world made Boulder feel like an extremely foreign place. In contrast, both due to Austin’s proximity to the border and the ability to attract internationals, one will find a wider spectrum of diversity in Austin that is represented through food, culture, and people!

Two. Boulder is too perfect. Everything is nice, neatly laid out and generally perfect. That’s the issue – it is too perfect! It felt like a Hollywood set, artificial to a certain degree. If you live in Austin you will under this reference – Boulder represents just Terrytown, period. In contrast, there are parts of Austin which are slightly less-than-perfect, but along with that comes character and “grunginess” that allows one to feel a lot more relaxed, even if you’re wearing pajamas to your favorite grungy dive bar.

I could come up with another ton of reasons why Austin > Boulder, but I also wanted to give Boulder some credit for some pretty amazing things!

UC-Boulder: Yes, my thoughts exactly – why didn’t I go to school here!!!? 

This view, a 30min drive away.

Legal dispensaries: #4/20win

General craft beer, valet bike parking and other #hippiethings

What do you think?

Axé; good energy, life force

I first encountered Capoeira back in winter of 2007, as a freshman at college. Professor Luciano led about 20 of us on a tremendously educational trip to Salvador de Bahia in North East Brazil, where we got to immerse ourselves in Bahian culture, food, beats, and even experience Candomblé and Capoeira. Candomblé deserves an entire post on itself, as a fascinating religion practised by the “povo de santo” (people of the saint) most common among people of African descent. We had the chance to witness a full Candomblé ceremony, which was a fascinating experience. Bahia was unforgettable, and Capoeira was definitely the highlight.

Class of LAS 199 in the Bahia coast, 2007

Class of LAS 199 in the Bahia coast, 2007

As procrastination will have it, I only became serious about Capoeira a whole seven years later after I moved to Austin. I got to meet contra-maestre Esquilo serendipitously while standing in line at SXSW, and some time later I found myself part of the Capoeira Luanda community. Capoeira is beautiful; the history, the sounds, and the art of this ancient dance-fight preserved by generations of Capoeiristas. Many argue about it’s true origins, but in an oversimplified nutshell, think about it as the African slaves masking self-defense into a dance to avoid the suspicion of their Portuguese slavemasters. Along with this comes heritage, beats, song-style (call and response) from the African continent. You can take the people out of Africa, but you can never take Africa out of their soul.

Capoeira Luanda Austin! Come check us out.

Capoeira Luanda Austin! Come check us out.

In class today we learnt a new song “Estrela que brilha no céu da Bahia”, which translates to the star that shines in the sky of Bahia. To provide a little more context, many people trace Capoeira back to Salvador de Bahia, the first port of call for African slaves who arrive in Portuguese Brazil to serve their senhors (masters). Today, if you get the chance to visit Bahia, you will notice a lot more dark-skinned Afro-Brazilians than, well, white Brazilians.

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class scribbles

This song though, was so beautiful. In just four stanzas (two lines each) and a chorus, it captures the essence of Capoeira in a single tune. Many Capoeira songs were written by the Capoeiristas who lived during the early days, and they tell stories of Capoeira Masters, the context of slavery, the beautiful beaches (and women) of Bahia and the soul of Brazil. In Estrela que brilha no céu da Bahia, each stanza recounts certain pieces of Capoeira history, paying respect to Maestre Bimba, describing Maestre Pastinha pointing to the stars on his deathbed saying “I will always be by your side like the shining stars in the Bahia sky”, and the most beautiful of all, depicting how the night stars that used to illuminate the farms (where the slaves worked on), will continue to shine and show the path back home to Bahia for all future generations of Capoeiristas.

The history that is encapsulated in Capoeira songs will continue to cradle the dance-fight, and with each new roda played in every part of the world, the art is given a new lease of life.

and just because.

and just because.

I get fascinated by technology, again.

I must admit, sometimes I get annoyed by technology. In recent years, fascinating apps like Uber and AirBnB were created to plug huge gaps in the market, but do we really need another app to connect me to someone who would do my laundry?

I have yet to get on the Twitter bandwagon, and Lysia calls me a tech-dinosaur for refusing to use Snapchat as well. Mostly because I noticed how I unknowingly allowed Facebook to integrate itself into my life, and that I could really avoid racking up more daily “screen-time” by staying away from both Twitter and Snapchat.

… and then I came across Periscope, which was bought by Twitter for a reported $100 million earlier this year. (granted, I am a few months late but hey I spent the bulk of Spring in a country called Tajikistan where getting updated on the latest apps were probably the last thing in my daily priority list, which included figuring out how to stay warm without heating.)

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After downloading Periscope last night, I decided to explore the app “for a few minutes”, but ending spending an entire hour on it. A shady description of Periscope could read like such “twitter meets chat roulette”, or the layman description as quoted on Periscope “discovering the world through someone else’s eyes”. Here’s a detailed description of the app on Wired. The UI is fascinating, because the first thing you see is a giant world map, with live feeds buzzing from countries all over – Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia… You have the ability to “teleport” to another country, right there, through the lenses of someone else’s smartphone. #mindblown

Granted, many of the feeds were completely random nonsense – this one guy was just reading out user comments for a good 10 minutes, another was petting her cat, and you can imagine other potential abuses of Periscope (go figure). But it also has the ability for folks to broadcast live events from concerts, to World Cup matches, the Olympics, and the list goes on. Last night I watched a morning prayer session take place in Indonesia, and because the smartphone is often recorded from a very “intimate” point of view, I literally felt like I was there, except I was lying on my bed in Austin, TX. Just a couple of minutes ago I witnessed the Dalai Lama celebrate his birthday at the Global Compassion Summit, LIVE! It is one thing to see video footage retrospectively through the TV, Youtube etc., but a whole other experience to witness it live; and wow, we can do it on our smartphones. How awesome is it that we live in the 21st century!

Another beautiful use-case of Periscope is for the aspiring polyglots out there. One of the first continents I zoomed into when I opened the app was South America. I was immediately getting live feeds of people “periscoping” in Spanish, and exchanging comments with the community in Spanish. It was a great resource for learning, as you start “interacting” with native speakers, listening to the language through the voyeuristic use of the app. Brownie points for interesting live feeds, including a random guy that taught me that Rosario, where he was periscoping from, is the birth-place of the legendary Messi.

I plan to Periscope my Capoeira class tonight, and hope to see how the community responds!