Mikes Thoughts

News, Views, Subterfuge

I am at middle point in my Taipei times. I have two weeks to see whatever things I think are worthwhile and there are more than a few left I have marked on maps or kept. Many of the last week things are museums so will spend a day at each getting to them, seeing them, wandering around and taking photographs. Other places include one night market to see and the Taipei 101 World Trade Center area. I also may walk up Elephant Walk to see the sunset if its not too crowded.

Today though is Sunday and I did plan out an endeavor for today. I want to make it to the Botanical gardens here today and then wander around the area its in. My rule is to not get off on the closest station but to walk from whatever station looks good at the time. Any time works since I don’t go by time any longer.

steps and moments will rule

My favorite things are the steps and the moments. Each thing lets me see a place that perhaps is hidden in plain sight. Taipei is full of them really. There are the small blocks of shops and restaurants and the big blocks of shopping centers and malls. Each thing though has a thing next to it that may not be found. Maybe I won’t find them either. It’s hard to only have a month in this city. There is just so much of the ordinary to see. I told my friend L that Saigon is like that. You can go for a week and see the sights. Visit Independence Palace and Ho Chi Minh Square. Maybe see some museums. But let’s face it. Saigon is vast. It’s so big that big does not work for it. It’s Fucking Big! My darling L, who is Vietnamese and lives there, does not know the city’s intricate passageways and secrets sometimes although she can take me to places I would never reach without her. Restaurants are wonderful with her since I get lazy and her English is good and she just orders for us and talks with the folks waiting on us. She also guides the Grab drivers in Vietnamese which is quite handy. But yet I tell her of a place I am at and she does not know it. It’s because Saigon is so F’ing big.

But the real steps and moments for me in Saigon or not are the little steps and moments. Coffee shops like Lousia’s here down the street where I am so warmly welcomed and the latte and breakfasts are so damned good. The little breakfast places like Yummy Burger where the food is cheap and the menus have pictures. I like pictures. Easier to order. The places that serve American style breakfasts are varied here but I skip around to always get back to my favorites which are the up scale coffee shops. I just like those moments more here. In Vietnam though its the local coffee shops with the Iced Coffee with Milk that I love. So moments are moments and cities are cities.

Moving on is moving

I also know moving on will happen from Taiwan. No matter how much I enjoy the city and will soon see the 4 different cities I picked along the High Speed Rail route, moving on will happen and the moments will dwindle to a flight to Manila next. I don’t have any feelings about Manila at all. Not good or bad. I am just going. We shall see what three weeks is like in Manila, Cebu, and Davao. I do have friends that live in Manila to hopefully see. Friends from the other days. The .com days and the startup days from the way back machine. Will I see them? I don’t know. Moving on is moving. Sometimes I feel that those friends are the most transient and least established. With my wonderful L its easy to put a value on what we share. She is a dedicated, warm, loving person that will always call me, message me, ask how I am and worry about me at times. Those other friends have crossed the line to the other kind of friendship I think exists. They want to not hear firsthand but FB is fine. If I visit perhaps they will see me. I have two weeks in the US; anyone wanna bet how many of those friends I will see? I also want to see some work colleagues at my last place before I retired and left the US for good (almost).

But then I move on. Across the US on yet another thing I have wanted. To Florida to see my daughter force and then on to the Middle East for months. I end up back where I basically started from — Phnom Penh Cambodia. Just in time to see my friend AV there and take her out for a dinner. But I know that my moments are limited in Cambodia. I go for a few reasons but then I leave again.

Because moving on is moving and I feel I must slowly move. I own nothing of value. No home, no car, no pets. No big things to worry over or to get back to. So I move on.

And on. And its good.

It seems the longer I stay the less I feel inclined to do. Perhaps it’s because I just arrange the places with no real things to see or do. I arranged a month in Taipei awhile ago. Then I looked for an Airbnb that would be close to some things but without the usual backpackers and their sounds. So I found the Sanchong district and a place there for about $400 for the month. I get a basic room with AC, some really good WiFi, and I’m close to a MRT station. One of the things I wanted. No backpackers. A thing I also wanted.

Now it’s my second week in Taipei and I have a SIM card for a month with unlimited data and a MRT pass for a month. Restaurants are all around me and I’ve settled in to life. Found a local market I like with just about everything in it. Today I bought more fresh fruit. Then I stopped at this Taiwanese coffee shop where some of the baristas are from Vietnam. That’s fun! Then back to my room for awhile. And lovely messages from my L.

Now I’m gone again and writing this on my iPhone 11 in a digital mall downtown. I stopped and ate some cheap Chinese food that cost about $1.00 USD. Soon will go to a park I want to see.

These days it’s all possible but nothing is planned. The walking is everyday and the beer is every night. Life has only moments and experiences for me in Taipei. I know in weeks I will leave. Will I have seen it? No. But neither will the backpackers that spend three days or a week here. The difference is I don’t try. I just go. Trying is for wimps. Clocks don’t count. Schedules and instagram places don’t exist in this life.

Give it a try sometime. Vagabond so slowly you can see the gap between the seconds. After all, it’s not the number of countries and continents seen. It’s not pinning the number in your Twitter. It’s the experiences you have. So what if you only see 5 countries or 3 in a year? Who is to say the better experience and moments?

You won’t though. You will forever hurry and meet the challenge. But what if there was no challenge and no one cared. What if the only thing was you and the streets you got lost in. Then what?

There’s a hue and tapestry to life. Sometime the colors astound. Other times you are subdued by their dark shadows that only hint at things. I’ve been watching the changes for almost 2 years living in Southeast Asia and now leaving for some months. I called living there the edge. It’s the edge of the “feel good, pho cheap, banh mi for less than $1” times. Plenty of backpackers will visit Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia looking for the cheapness. I heard one person haggle over the price of food in Saigon once. We are talking about a sandwich that costs about $1 at the most with a lot of meat, a fresh baguette, vegetables, and chili on it. I could not help but wondering what in hell you can find to haggle about? But there are colors to it all I have found. On the streets of Saigon, down the alleys of Hanoi. Here in Taipei with the rush of people, the evening coming alive with street food stalls and people going for a dinner. It’s a vivid burst of color of a life and lives in the evenings in Asia. Often the night markets splash with bargains, food, and lots of people. The night markets in Taipei are intense for the most part. I have one across the street from my airbnb. It’s a unique blend of colors. I can find socks, shoes, sandwiches, noodles, satay. Even more. There is nothing about it like a Farmer’s Market or flea market or other places. If you ever visit the Central Market in Phnom Penh, you will be assailed by the unique colors. A wet market thrives. You can find fresh vegetables and produce. Ropes and locks. Metal ware of a lot of different kinds. Then there is the clothing. This is where I buy my stuff. I don’t want to spend a lot of $$ for a t shirt or shorts. Underwear too should be cheap. I mean no one sees it so what’s the deal?

Now as the evening sets its pace on Taipei and I approach the halfway mark to my month in this city, I see a more sustaining color. It’s more of the day by day sunrise to sunset colors except I don’t see many sunrises. I try to sleep past that and tonight I will imbibe some cold beverages later to help it along. But these more sustaining colors and their different shapes show a world you will not see in 5 days with 3 tours or finding the instagram places. It’s this ebb and flow of the colors underneath it all. The little things you never see when you only have 3 days. I’ve blogged before about the Hems in Vietnam. The adorable sights and sounds and colors and expressions of small life with beauty salons, barber shops, stores and market fronts. People sit out in front and smile and wave. In Da Nang the shape is even more exotic and the color more striking. In my favorite town, all the hues of a life down a small street run together. Children playing, dogs barking, a woman singing. It’s a story in search of a person. And it enthralls me each time to see it and hear its drumroll of life. The colors here are more subdued and are not dynamite bursts of difference. It’s a sedate feel in this neighborhood in Da Nang I will one day live in longer. It’s the hum and feel of the bars and coffee shops, the friendly Vietnamese shop owner waving and those young men seeing me offering me some of their beer. The same in Cambodia holds true. So many places wandered where the Khmer people will call me over, smile, shake my hand and promote one of their colorful colleagues to try English. Better perhaps to find a student at a public or private school I always think. They are all gifted in English.

But you get the idea in Southeast Asia. It is the edge of life. It’s the bounce of the colors and the warmth of the hues of the people that smile, laugh, wave, and offer that beer or three. I have not seen its like anywhere else. Some would say Thailand is the “land of smiles”. I never saw that there. More like Bangkok is the land of the dollar sign and I did not like it from the very first day there.

But its like all the edges of Southeast Asia. There are the places that astound, that you marvel at. I always marveled at Kuala Lumpur. This is a city with the edge come alive. It’s a mix of colors of bright and subdued hues all contained in diversity and food and fun and shopping malls. Yes, shopping malls. A Grab driver told me there were over 70 malls in KL. I believe it. So all of it comes alive and its there for you to grasp or miss. You may miss it with only a week in KL. KL will be shocked you spent such little time at it. Hanoi will look astounded that you could not find more or less of value. Saigon will think you did not see 5% of it.

So grab all the colors and the life you can. Take the moments and experience over the dreadful tick tick tick of the clock. Slow down and the colors will astound you in their depth. Oh yeah, Try meeting some Khmer people. Try meeting some Vietnamese people. I am blessed particularly so in Vietnam. So many friends there now that all ask about me.

So Life is in colors and rich and royal hue. It may unfold before you in the dry dusty lands of the western Mojave Desert where you think there is nothing but wait until spring when the wild flowers run. Or maybe the sedate quiet of the Eldorado National Forest at 8000 feet up. Maybe at last, like for me, its the edge of Southeast Asia. The gritty place far from the romance of the magazine writer and round the world and gap year and digital nomads. The real world under the color.

Check it out if you can.

Its the time to consider the moments to come and find the path you need. Some would say the end of a week. Others the beginning. Here in Taipei it’s the start of my second week here. Staying longer in places means slowing down. It means finding the regular places where you can sit awhile and meander the thoughts.

Take a moment on a Sunday and look around. I see a coffee shop in busy Taipei. A large latte awaits and the day stretches out to nothing in particular. I can ride the MRT later down a few stops and wander the places. But now it’s only a quiet moment. The year is almost up. Two years doing this. Slowly moving as I want. I dreamt many Sundays over decades of this. I got it! It took awhile. Now I can wander as I please. No rules besides my rules. No time allowed. There are only moments and experiences allowed in this pleasure dome.

Happy Sunday you all. Enjoy it. Spend it wisely or foolishly. I always do some of each.

I’ve spent the last 6 days walking the New Taipei City district seeing parks, city streets, small and large markets. It’s been a lot of fun. I really enjoyed ending up a few times at the New Taipei Metropolitan Park which is a series of inter-connected walking trails and mixed use areas. Today though will change things up and begin seeing downtown around the main subway station in some direction. I will be getting a 3 day pass to ride the MRT and then journeying forth for daily walks from any of the subway stations I happen to stop at. Today though will see the main subway station and find the high speed rail office there. I need to buy another 4 tickets after getting the first one at a 7/11 last night which was interesting and somewhat challenging since the machines to get the tickets are not in English and the folks working at the store had to help. Next time will get the tickets downtown after I buy them online.

I also have spent my first week at the Airbnb in Taipei which has been really good. It’s a cheaper and basic place to stay but yet has the comforts like really good WiFi and a washing machine and its a block from the subway station I need. The coffee choices are really good here too. I would not have thought that Taiwan has a very established coffee culture with small and large shops dispensing food and a variety of iced and hot drinks. Nice to find!

What the move also means is its time to give the iPhone 11 some new sights to see with the photography and continue to test the twin lens that it ships with for capturing urban, city, park and nature scenes. Overall I am very happy with the ease of its use and the quality of the photographs it takes. I don’t really need the 2x zoom at this point since I can crop pictures and get pretty amazing quality or just walk closer to a thing. Kinda like what happened with the FujiFilm X100F. I still would not want a dedicated camera back for my uses in this experiment. It’s just too much to carry around each day.

Also a little progress report on only carrying a iPad Air 2019 and the Smart Keyboard perhaps. If you are looking to replace the laptop with the iPad and perhaps you fit my category which is to slowly move around countries but want a way to record, document, blog and journal things; the iPad Air with the keyboard is a good move. Some of the things I’ve enjoyed with it include easily watching YouTube videos in bed or on buses or trains, using on an airplane is easier and transporting across flight security has become so simple, and finally are all the cables and charging and dongles and things I lost by moving to the iPhone and the iPad. I won’t try to make a list because to me the weight loss is significant. You basically get back the ability to hobo around cities and have a digital companion if you want in a small messenger bag but still carry both iPhone and iPad.

Finally in this move to Taiwan and onwards, I have simplified the every day carry bag to a cross shoulder daily carry messenger type bag that my darling L got for me in Saigon. The bag has numerous zippers and pouches and will easily carry wallet, passport, tickets, pens, iPad and iPhone and it fits easily under the seat or slung over my shoulder like a messenger bag is supposed to work. I am never told to take the bag off my shoulder or put under the seat. This means I also lost the dedicated daypack and its heft to things in favor of a daily carry bag which will double for all transit and movement through terminals with tickets easily reachable. I still carry the Tortuga Outbreaker 45L travel backpack. It’s the best I have found for what I do. I did drop the numerous packing containers and settled for just one for small gear like underwear and socks. I can pack better without packing containers that just add more to weight and limit the size of things.

I’ve been carrying the Tortuga bag for just about two years and its also a carry on bag. If I want but I have gotten lazy of late and check it in. It will fit in overhead compartments easily and it has no stupid wheels. Have I mentioned I hate roller bags immensely?

So anyways, that’s the story for today and the next few weeks in Taipei plus the no plan plan I always settle on. I have some more tickets to buy on Taiwan’s high speed rail so I can get around to the cities in some weeks and then get back to central Taipei for two days before flying to Philippines for three weeks. Thanks to Taiwan for giving me 90 days free of charge on a visa exemption to enter. I will use up 60 of those days gladly.

Now in a bit on to breakfast and coffee and then the subway to downtown. New adventures await!

Today was a pretty good day. I went for coffee at Louisa Coffee and the manager gave me a free scrambled egg on my bagel. The bagels there are just the best! They put on the ham and cheese, tomato and cucumber in large slices. I really like the coffee shop and its close to my Airbnb. I walked through a day market which was fun. Got to see all kinds of stuff on sale including really nice fresh fruit and veggies.

Taipei is a fun city to wander in. It’s very concentrated and the change from day to night is a lot of fun. Street lights come on and the night markets get going. Last night I visited one that had blocks and blocks of everything. Hats, pants, socks, shoes, and so much street food! I had some satay at the end of the main area. The fun part though is that down the side streets there is more and many people join up by walking down side streets first.

A really nice thing is that Taipei seems very safe and traffic laws like red lights are pretty much obeyed except every so often by... Motorbikes! Yes those damnable motorbikes will routinely break the law by running a light or riding the sidewalks. But really its a rare occurrence.

I’ve walked the Sanchong District of New Taipei City for 5 days now. Tomorrow will do a walk by the river and park areas and then start Saturday exploring the main area from the Central MRT Station out in different directions. I don’t have a plan or a place to go so I will just go there and walk that city to the monuments, parks, museums, temples and the city streets, alleys, side streets. Whatever really takes my fancy. I booked my Airbnb for a month primarily because visas coming in are not required for US citizens and I got a 90 day exemption stamp for sightseeing free of cost. My take is I should use up as much as I want or desire since the country gives away such a nice entry exemption.

I’ll finish up a month in Taipei and then take the high speed rail to 4 different cities and spend a week in each city seeing the sights. At the end I will catch the high speed rail back to Taipei and spend two nights before leaving for Philippines. Philippines will put an end to my 2019 moments and I’ll leave in January for the US.

learning and loving the iPhone 11

I have been playing with the iPhone 11 a lot for photography both with the default App and the Halide pro app. To me, and for what I choose to take photographs of, the iPhone 11’s wide and ultra wide angle lens work perfectly. I like to take street shots, buildings, parks and people. It does all that very well and the color quality is very nice. If you are looking for a single device and want to lose the camera gear for awhile, and you really want the single device, I would recommend either the iPhone 11 or 11 pro. The pro has the 2x telephoto lens but you can crop the photographs or buy a case and lens like that made by Moment and still be cheaper than the pro phone. I may do that when they get closer to shipping and have it shipped to my ex-wife’s house.

All in all, for the casual photographer who wants to share images on Facebook and Mastodon, the iPhone 11 works very well for me. I don’t have any desire to edit photographs or do much with them besides have a recording of where I went and what I saw. The weight difference alone after getting rid of the camera gear, lens, chargers, body; is nice.

no laptop and loving it

I also got rid of my Macbook 12 inch laptop and got the iPad Air 2019 with the Smart Keyboard. I got the 256gb version in Saigon and I really love not having the weight and frustration of the size. I can hold the tablet on the plane, extend the keyboard and use to type like now, or read so easily on it. I gave some thought to just using the kindle app on it but I don’t like the distractions. If I am reading, I really do not need notifications about mail, news, etc coming in. The kindle is a single use device and its probably the only one I have left. The laptop did a multitude of things for me but I believe for someone going like me, its not needed.

finally its the workflow dammit

The workflow with the Notion app also has made things better with the iPad and iPhone. It’s a nice wiki and note style application which has the features I want to write notes, keep wiki style information, write a journal entry. It’s all in one for me and I have not found things it will not do yet. I do miss Day One and its focused diary approaches but I don’t like separate buckets.

When you combine all the things and add in a simplified photography workflow which is completely empty, the enjoyment of the walking, the recording afterwards in Notion, and extemporaneous writing I like to do; is all there now with two devices with such similar application functionality.

It’s really worth it when you consider the workflow if you decide ever to leave and not come back. Consider the workflow of the things you buy and need, the electronics, the charging, the clothing. You don’t need a heavy duty jacket in Saigon. You probably don’t need jeans. I see so many people that look kinda miserable dressing way too much. If you go to a temple which has a dress code they all offer rentable clothing to cover up. Just consider your own workflows and then cut everything down to a minimum. I just use cheap souvenir T shirts from the places I have been. They cost about $3 each and my wonderful love L will buy them for me if I mention I need them. Consider your needs and really consider your workflow if you ever decide life is too much where you are at and perhaps you want the crazy, sometimes strange, but wonderful life in Southeast Asia. One day I will write a more detailed post on all the things I did to try to make it easier on myself and others. It’s not just packing and going if you want a decent experience. You have to build a basic workflow for what remains behind and things always do.

It’s kind of the rule of life vagabonding I think. Consider the requirements, lessen some of the things, understand the other things and what you want out of them and then build the workflow and implement it. Make it simple though. You don’t need a complex flowchart of things. You just need the right things.

In the end

Tomorrow is the end day of wandering here. I will get done and start going to downtown Taipei. Down where the tourists roam I believe. I’ll spend days there riding the MRT here and there and all around with a 3 day pass on the system repeated a few times. I have three more weeks to get it all wrong :–)

I bet I get more than my fair share of it wrong no matter what. Perhaps I miss a thing but I bet I got to see more meaningless things than the rank and file digital nomad or round the world BS artist.

Just walking down any street in Taipei is food. Today is breakfast. Waffle made in a beautiful old waffle iron and latte. Nice!

going on

There is no rush in the mornings to go on. The latte is an anchor and the waffle was so good. Served with honey! Warm honey. Yum. Last waffle for me was in Siem Reap Cambodia months ago.

Hello and goodbye waffle!

This is my third day here in New Taipei City Taipei Taiwan. This morning discovered how to use the washing machine in the Airbnb. The instructions were all in Chinese and then asked the host to annotate in English the buttons so I could have some fun with laundry too. There are basically two buttons to push. Power and Start. You put some dirty stuff in and add in some detergent and push power and start. Another small moment and a big discovery! Clean clothes ahoy.

Since I have no real discoveries to make today and all day to walk as I please I will probably wait and leave after I hang my clothing in my room to dry. It will take all day long I am thinking to get through the drying cycle hanging up. At least I don’t have to wash by hand. But I digress. There is a need for coffee this morning so will try a new place down the street. Today I am not sure in what direction or what I will see. I think I will just point my nose and follow it. I try not to make momentous decisions in this post since I am all after the smaller moments that may then all combine to big discoveries (or not). It does remind me though of a moment in archeology in the Mojave Desert; so indulge me.

Wandering the Desert in Search

Some decades ago I worked as a project archeologist at Edwards Air Force Base in the Western Mojave Desert. The base is huge and the prehistoric cultural resources can be immense properties and the base really had no idea then how many it had or whether there were properties in the way of engineering, Air Force, or other projects. I walked one project which was a electrical transmission line which had a right of way defined for a road and then the power lines. We added a few hundred feet on each side of the right of way.

One day as I walked along I started seeing flaked stone artifacts on the ground in front of me. The rule was to stop and flag the spot and then start wandering perhaps in circles to find some kind of geometry to the site. I saw more and more and the project right of way dissected the site. I tied some yellow caution flagging perhaps and then notified the base archeologist of the find. Rick came right out and we scouted the site area or what we thought was the area. He went in a different direction and disappeared over some dunes. Then he was yelling excitedly. He had a found a series of hearths and burned bone most likely bunny bone. The site dimensions had grown again and was far beyond the right of way of the project. We had a few days of work ahead of us mapping the site and how the project transacted it. We had to notify the State of the find and the project impact as we saw it and provide some mitigation measures.

Since the site was so large and the project cut the site nearly in half as we found out doing more mapping, we had decided to test the site as part of the mitigation. We contracted with a cultural resource firm after proposing and getting acceptance from the state on our plan. The test would determine if the site was eligible for the National Record of Historic Places. The project would halt and the project proponent would wait until we determined the impact by limited testing along the right of way.

The site was immense and was judged to be significant and potentially eligible for inclusion in the NRHP. I was very excited! Probably the most significant and beautiful yet strange site I had found on the base. I could wander a direction and find signs of human habitation like smaller warming hearths, larger cooking hearths with burnt bone, flaked stone artifacts, ground stone tools in many directions.

In the end, the project looped around the site to limit the impact because the cost of mitigation was deemed more expensive than changing the right of way but of course then we had to test along the new right of way too since it was close and very feasible to have cultural resources under the surface. We would then excavate test pits every so often and see.

In the end all was good on the new path and the site was protected and no more excavations done. It was marked as potentially eligible and the base elected to not impact the site based on our recommendations and conclusions.

a small thing leads to a big thing

So a few flaked stone tools led to an immense discovery that changed a highly expensive project. We protected a huge site but it all started finding a little stone tool and then another and another. An amazing concentration of facts!

It’s true in life too though folks. A small thing you happen to see in a moment you wander may lead to bigger discoveries. You may find a life or a time patiently waiting for your excavator’s touch. It may lie hidden right there in a moment ahead of you. Turn left or right at an inopportune time and it’s missed. Here’s the wonder of this to me though. Another valuable thing may suddenly turn up. Maybe I would have found yet other things had I walked to the left or right or turned around. The prehistoric site was huge but it came on a single little discovery. I submit often life is like that too.

When I wander here in Taipei I don’t look for the big things. I like the little geometry. The little tool on the ground. The old chairs left behind that make up a small moment to capture with the camera. They often lead to something else or maybe not.

One thing for certain you can find the small things that make up the moments and see for yourself. Perhaps you don’t need the big things. In that case welcome to my world of small moments!

I like reading a bit on different blogs and news sites and even Apple News. Mostly in the mornings, wherever I am, I have nothing really to do besides read or listen to music and conspire to write more. There are two perspectives which I’ve always thought a lot on and my progress or lack thereof I’ve tracked against some balance sheets. Here are the two perspectives. I’ll present them in reverse order than in the title.

Gaining. I would say for about 23 years I gained. I gained a house, a nice family, a wife, some social standing, two different careers. I also gained some moderate successes in the second career. I would do the difficult programs and many times heard,

give that to Mike, he can do the projects or programs which are not working

I managed to gain on a few of them. At one program in Cisco, several program managers had attempted to work with the business unit and failed. For whatever reason I showed up and the business IT Program Manager and I hit it off so we made it work and she trusted me. That was a gain!

At the last job, I only did three projects but each did not have enough time to get done, resource conflicts, different and untried vendors and sub-contractors, technologies never before used for the particular endeavors we needed them in, and company leadership up to the CIO and my VP just let me do the work and only responded to escalations. You know when the CIO is in your escalation chain with vendors and partners, it might be a gain. I mean, right?

I finished the last thing in February 2018 and retired a day after a last meeting and I was on the plane for Japan for some time. Mostly though I was moving from the gaining to the losing side of things which comes next.

Losing. Some would argue and I have read on Facebook that losing the material gains such as a house, being wealthy in real property, owning acreage, having relationships that line up, all are gains. For me, I wanted to lose so many of the things that hamstrung me. I wanted no house, no debt, no car, no recurring payments for electricity, internet, water, gas, trash. So I lost all those things. I also did not want property. I was not a minimalist which I consider to be a title people take on blogs and Twitter and Facebook to show they have a socially acceptable method for downsizing or losing. I prefer to call myself a realist. I had to lose things because they would not fit in the 45L backpack I would carry. Clothing like collared shirts, extra jeans, nice socks and underwear. Small furniture items like an end table, a bed, a nice coffee maker, small odds and ends had to be lost. They simply would not fit. So I lost.

But perhaps as the philosopher would say, by losing I gained. Each thing I lost was something I gained. Now my life abounds in loss yet I gained a relationship with L which I treasure. I had gained 23 years of a relationship which ultimately failed and then I lost on. The loss of property, debt, responsibilities, schedules, milestones, acceptance, plans has really been a gain hiding there in plain sight.

My life now is simpler and I have so few possessions to speak of that still fit in the 45L backpack which carries the sum total of a life spent gaining and then losing.

In all, the losing has been the most valuable. I imagine my mentor RWR telling me,

how would you know you gained something without losing

And I don’t know. I feel that the less I have the better. I had decided not the old maxim that “less is more”. Nor did I downsize or minimize really. I just applied some realism and I knew by losing more that ultimately I would gain something in Southeast Asia. Not permanence. And at first I did not want to find a relationship. I had gained so much and lost so much there that I felt liked damaged goods around others. Then I met this wonderful Vietnamese woman L. Then I met more wonderful friends in Cambodia and Vietnam. Gone with the faulty gain and loss measurements of the decades. I did not want all the permanence of homes and cars and debt and property. I wanted less and I got less. But less is not more folks. More is more. Less can be elegant and easy when you get older. I don’t need kazillions of dollars to live because I have less. Less has not been more for me. That saying does not mean anything at all to me. What does mean something is that less does not equate at a negative level to quality of life. You can have much less and live out of a 45L backpack in a airbnb wherever the hell you want to be. I also found after 10 years something that would for me with another person. Enter my L. She is so much more to me. There is less there too. No guilt, jealousy, hatred, envy, fear. There is her. Her meeting me at the airport and waiting for 2 hours for me to come back. Her never insisting on guilt but always giving me what I consider to be the best for less. The love and acceptance and dedication which now feels so good.

I could never go back to having more. I’ve had less and lost and it’s more fun.

It’s only my second day here actually. I walked over to a nice park called the New Taipei Park which is a large mixed use area in Sanchong District. It has beautiful grassy open areas with a slope that kids slide down on cardboard, lovely walking trails, and then a river walk area with km’s of trails to bike and walk. Simply a beautiful city area! I did not see any western tourists until this evening outside a convenience store and then saw like 5 of them. Pretty sure that’s enough for a day :–).

The weather here is really nice this time of the year. Much cooler days. Only gets to about 26 degrees here during the daytime. At night down to 20 or so. Makes for very nice walking weather for me. I did about 6 miles today all around the part of the city I just decided to walk on the spur of the moment.

There was also a flea market under one of the bridge overpasses with clothing, jewelry, street food stalls. Very nice little market area. Very crowded though so I only spent a few moments seeing it. From there I walked over to the river walk area which like I said is km’s of paved trails all along the border of Sanchong District and beyond to other mixed use areas. Walking it is very peaceful. There are mostly bicyclists along the trail.

I did not go to any temples or historic or cultural sites today and will not tomorrow either. Tomorrow I will explore in the other direction I believe after some coffee. I am having a cold Taiwan Beer now called Gold Medal Taiwan Beer. Very nice end to an evening after eating dinner at this beef noodle restaurant that I walked over to. There are lots of restaurants but many only have signs in Chinese so I am not sure what it is they have from the outside. I got really spoiled going out with L in Vietnam translating all the stuff for me and AV in Phnom Penh always doing the ordering for us.

Trains, and trains, and more trains

Soon I will be able to order my four train tickets down the western coast of Taiwan for 7 days in each place and then back for 2 days in downtown Taipei before going to Manila. I don’t know that I will know the city any better. It’s a huge and very concentrated city and if I did not have a phone with mobile data, it would be easy to get turned around here. As it is, I got a 30 day plan with unlimited data and some talk time. I cannot top up or recharge the card, so at the end will find the next cell phone shop and get another 30 day plan. For US citizens visiting on tourism or sightseeing, there is no visa here. I got 90 days for free here but will only use 60 of them so two SIM cards will work out just fine.

The train trips I just selected on the spur of the moment because I wanted to ride a high speed rail here and then decided to go down the coast on the train. It should be pretty cool since it goes almost 200mph. I just have to wait for 4 weeks before I can get the tickets.

kicking the can forward

I always think of kicking the can forward a bit but I try to not plan too much on a day of walking and photography with the iPhone. I always think its up to the day to tell me where I go next. The plan always is to get the 5 to 7 miles every day walking in and then relax with a few cold local beers of wherever I am. There is something of balance and equity walking the miles and feeling so used up and then enjoying the beverage.

I may not see all the places here on the A list but I will see a lot of alleys that are not I think. I don’t really do the big attractions usually until the last week or so. I want to kick the can down the street or streets for a few weeks of wandering with no goals before I measure up a museum, temple, or historic site. This works for me because I get to see the things in no order or balance at all and its kinda the way I go at things anyways.

Now its about 7pm and my legs tell me I did good today out walking. The relaxation of the beer and the beef noodles and the time to kick back and not forward is right around the corner. I did want to mention how much easier it is doing this wandering thing with just an iPad Air 2019 and the Smart Keyboard to do things along with the iPhone 11. It just makes all the difference in finding things to tell you about. It’s a lot easier load to carry as well. The laptop and power brick, the camera and all its gear felt rather substantial at times. L asked me if I would be happy without the camera and I have to say that the iPhone 11 satisfies my desires to find and record things. I only really want to share the albums and then photographs on Mastodon and Facebook.

So there you have one day in the books. No temples, wormholes, time space continuum devices. Just a city that shows itself block by block to me and only asks me to walk another block to see. Tomorrow will come and I will that can down the street and then tell you in the evening perhaps awash in the beer glow of my adventures with the can.

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