Posts Tagged ‘India’

Backpacking in the News: Google CFO Quits Job to Go Backpacking

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Patrick Pichette, former Senior VP and CFO of Google

I wanted to blog about this when the story broke two months ago but life got away from me.*

Confirming my previous statement — to truly be free to fuck off and travel for an indefinite period of time, you must either a) just finish school, or b) quit your job — Google CFO Patrick Pichette chose Option B.

On March 10, the 52-year-old Pichette posted a resignation letter of sorts to Google+, saying he simply couldn’t tell his wife it wasn’t “their time” any longer. The experience that set this realization into motion was a recent trip he and his wife, Tamar, made to Tanzania. While watching the sunrise atop Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tamar asked him why they wouldn’t simply keep going, on to other parts of Africa, and then East to India, the Himalayas, Bali and beyond. His response at the time was that he wasn’t ready.

“I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road.”
– Patrick Pichette, Former Google CFO

“It’s not time yet,” he wrote, in hindsight. “There is still so much to do at Google, with my career, so many people counting on me/us: boards, non-profits, etc.”

A few weeks later and back at work, the Montreal-born Pichette says he couldn’t shake his wife’s question. Their kids are grown up: two are in college and another already graduated. He realized he’s been working for 25-30 years straight. He also pointed out it will be his and Tamar’s 25th wedding anniversary this summer.

“Allow me to spare you the rest of the truths,” he wrote. “But the short answer is simply that I could not find a good argument to tell Tamar we should wait any longer for us to grab our backpacks and hit the road — celebrate our last 25 years together by turning the page and enjoy a perfectly fine mid-life crisis full of bliss and beauty, and leave the door open to serendipity for our next leadership opportunities, once our long list of travels and adventures is exhausted.”

He goes on to gush about his peers at Google and wax philosophical about balancing family and a career (*the irony that I delayed blogging on this topic because I was too busy is not lost on me), only to end his frank and endearing letter with two words: “Carpe Diem.” Yep. He fucking wrote that. I mean, good for you, man. But come on.

I hope Patrick and Tamar don’t get matching Carpe diem tattoos on their anniversary, but they probably will. It’s a mid-life crisis after all.

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49. Photos with Local Children

Saturday, June 2nd, 2012

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Why do backpackers insist on taking photos of children wherever they go?

Sure, foreign kids are cute. I’ll give them that. But they’re also often super dirty and smell funny. I suppose all kids are dirty and smell funny though, not just foreign ones.

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But do immigrants come to Canada/U.S./U.K./Australia, wander onto a schoolyard and have someone snap photos of themselves with their arms out, surrounded by white children? Just wondering.

The following is a journey into the mind of a backpacker taking photos of local children, particularly in the developing world:

  • “OMG look at how cute these local children are!” (snap)
  • “Look at these kids. they live in tin shacks, but somehow they’re so happy.” (snap)
  • “Look at their genuine smiles and the joy in their eyes. These kids literally have nothing.” (snap)

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  • “I’m honestly shocked they’re not asking me for money or trying to pickpocket me…” (snap)
  • “…like those damn gypsy kids in… Hey, kid. Take your hand outta my pocket.” (brushes kid’s hand away) (snap)
  • “Look at this one, touching my face and my hair. Never seen skin or hair like mine before. WOW!” (snap)

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  • “I am so enlightened by this experience. More enlightened than my friends back home.” (sigh) (snap)
  • “I am so glad I came to (developing world country). I appreciate (developed world home country) more now.” (snap)
  • “Seriously. Look at these children.” (snap)

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  • “I don’t want to say that I’m like Jesus. But I love little children, just like Jesus, which explains my arms-out messianic pose.” (snap)
  • “I hope their parents don’t come out during our photo shoot. I don’t want them thinking we’re exploiting their kids.” (snap)

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  • “Hurry up, Kevin. Take the picture. I think that might be one of their parents.” (snap) (takes off running)

For those of you interested in “The etiquette of photographing strangers” (of any age), check out this article by Lonely Planet author Richard l’Anson.

“Photographing strangers can be daunting, but it needn’t be,” he writes. “Most people are happy to be photographed. Some photographers ask before shooting, others don’t. It’s a personal decision, often decided on a case-by-case basis.”

But approaching foreign strangers and children in a palms-out messianic stance certainly can’t hurt.

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43. Reading the book about the place

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

alex-garlands-the-beachBackpackers are a pretentious lot. Actually, people who travel, in general, are full of shit. Some will tell you they’ve lived somewhere, but they were really just visiting. Or they’ve been to a place, but were actually just on a layover there, and didn’t leave the airport. These types of people insist they are into photography, global culture, art, film, music, and of course literature.

They’re remarkably insecure, which is why they constantly attempt to reaffirm their sense of enlightenment on all topics. “Have you see that movie?” Oh yeah, it’s fantastic. “Have you been to…” Yes, three times. “Have you seen Buddha?” Mm-hmm, when I was in Cambodia. “Are you better than me?” (Unspoken: Yes.)

Just as they will refuse to see the movie before they read the book, they won’t travel somewhere without having read THE book about it. Some will be leafing through the book while on the plane, train or bus en route to the place. But make no mistake, there is only ONE BOOK you simply must read before you go somewhere. Some examples:

Thailand: The Beach
No book has tickled the global backpacker imagination as much as this Alex Garland neo-classic, and the Leo DiCaprio movie didn’t hurt either. Poignant use of Nintendo metaphors amid differing interpretations of “paradise” and the “parasites” trying to find it ring true for anybody born after 1970. Ko Phi Phi has the movie to thank for the millions of parasites that descend upon it every year.

Spain: The Sun Also Rises
What Garland has done for Generation X, Hemingway did for young people in the 20s and 30s, members of the “Lost Generation.” His book is still doing it today. After all, the book is about love, partying and living overseas in France and Spain, so it should come as no surprise that it inspires countless readers to pack up and give it a go. Just as DiCaprio put Ko Phi Phi on the map, Hemingway informed the world of Pamplona’s frenzied San Fermin Festival.

India: Midnight’s Children
I tried reading this a few years ago and couldn’t get past the first 70 pages. If Rushdie were employing his own version of “magical realism,” I wish he would have used less magic and more realism. I didn’t know what the hell was going on. It was convoluted and senseless. Maybe if I finally get to India, it will all become clear… or at least I could find some enlightened backpackers who would be able explain it to me.

South America: 100 Years of Solitude
This book confirmed it for me: I’m not a huge fan of magical realism. Too much extraneous detail. But just like you have to try the chicken feet at the dim sum restaurant, you have to read Marquez if you want to do right by South American literature. Thankfully, the copy I bought didn’t have the Oprah’s Book Club logo on it. I’m pretentious like that.

Vietnam: The Quiet American
Like Hemingway and Orwell, Greene is a foreign correspondent-turned author who likes the sauce and in this case, opium. F.E.T. enthusiasts (i.e. white guys who like Asian chicks) will dig the protagonist, who locks down a primo local gal and enjoys the spoils of expat life and moral superiority during Vietnam’s French colonial war in the early 1950s.

The United States: On The Road
Garland to Generation X = Hemingway to Lost Generation = Kerouac to Beat Generation. The underlying theme to this wanderer’s journal is that it’s fun to hang with arty rich kids who drink booze like it’s water, listen to black music and drive wildly down the open highway. Sounds a lot like the backpacking scene to me. Oh and that San Francisco was the shit in the 50s. Still is today.

Any other geographically-specific books you’ve seen while traveling? There are tons. Please post comments to let me know which ones you’ve run into.

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39. Lost in Translation

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

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For some time, I’d intended to write a post about signs, menus and other printed materials that featured funny, ridiculous or nonsensical translations to English.

But upon finding a NY Times slideshow (accompanied by an article by Andrew Jacobs and a readers’ gallery of submitted photos), I’ve resigned to the fact that I simply couldn’t do a better job than hundreds of people at once. Check them out.

There are some real gems among the submitted photos, such as:

#9: “Decent Public School” in Varanasi, India (taken by Justin Hefter).
#20: “Careful Drowning” in Putuo Shan, China (taken by Jonas Crimm).
#43: “Genuine Fake Watches” in Instanbul, Turkey (taken by Jules Villamor).
#44: “Each hour takes about 1 hour” in Seoul, Korea (taken by bmarconi).
#59: “Stay away from the deer with ANTLERS!!” in Miyajima, Japan (taken by cesse123).
#82: “No Wasting GARBAGE!” in Indonesia (taken by Anthony Zak).
#88: “Sorry we’re open” in Instanbul, Turkey (taken by Skidel).
#151: “Wikipedia fried with eggs” on a menu in Beijing, China (taken by cohenhead21).

Some highlights that come to mind, from my travels, include:

  • “Beatiful ladies” outside a strip club in Tijuana, Mexico [Beatify: to declare (a deceased person) to be among the blessed and thus entitled to specific religious honor].
  • “Sea products” and “Shepherd’s bag” on a menu in Bratislava, Slovakia.
  • “Meet balls” on a menu in Bangkok, Thailand (see above photo).

If you have any you’d like to add to this list, feel free to post them (with a link to the photo) as comments.

Taken in Spain by Rhett Larsen

Taken in Spain by Rhett Larsen

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Backpacking in the News

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Link to article: Parents’ plea to Miliband over jailed backpacker

patrick-malluzzo

British backpacker Patrick Malluzzo has been jailed in India since 2004, when, in what Fair Trials International calls  “a travesty of justice,” he was convicted of smuggling drugs.

Malluzzo’s parents recently met with U.K. Foreign Office offials, asking for help from Foreign Secretary David Miliband in securing a him new trial in Indian courts.

Apparently, while backpacking in India in 2004, Malluzzo gave his bag to a friend, who was travelling from Rajasthan to Goa, so he could travel light. “The friend accidentally left three bags, including Mr. Malluzo’s luggage, on a train,” wrote the BBC. “They were found to contain about 42 lbs. (19 kg) of cannabis resin.

“He has maintained his innocence but claims he confessed after police burned him with cigarettes, beat him and subjected him to sleep deprivation.

“The prosecution at the trial, which was conducted only in Hindi, decided not to use the confessions.”

Malluzzo’s predicament is yet another cautionary tale of backpackers caught smuggling drugs, similar to those revealed in the late-90s films Return to Paradise and Brokedown Palace. As did the “wrongfully” jailed culprits in these movies, Malluzo violated two known commandments in the backpacker credo:

  1. Thou shalt not trust everybody.
  2. Thou shalt not take your eyes off your shit (wallet, moneybelt, passport, luggage).

Dec. 15 – Related news: Young Australian backpackers becoming drug mules, bringing drugs home

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26. The Light Skin Paradox

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

india06nw1When you visit a country of colored people colonized by Europeans (i.e. any country outside of Europe, North America and in most cases, Russia), you quickly realize that locals do not want to look like locals. They want to look like their former masters, their former invaders and slave masters: white people.

A recent Globe and Mail article about this desire among Indian men should be poignant to backpackers, who flock by the millions to developing-world countries.

In these dark-skinned countries, where people’s skin is dark because of a genetic adaptation to increased exposure to sunlight, backpackers (most often white) notice that the predominant image of beauty is a colonial one.

It’s a lot like Chris Rock’s recent movie, Good Hair, which explores the head-scratching (pun intended) phenomenon in which African American women prefer having white women’s hair: The grass is always greener. It’s human nature to want what you can’t have. Curly-haired people women want straight hair, and vice-versa. Big titted-women want smaller tits, and vice-versa. Fair-skinned people want to be tanned.

The post-colonial ideal of a light-skinned, European-looking halfbreed exists all over the world. Television ads, fashion mags and billboards  promote uncommon specimens of beauty, unrepresentative of the greater population. Consider models in Brazil, Bollywood stars in India or celebrities in West Africa, Mexico, Cuba, the Caribbean (Sosa, see below, is Dominican), Colombia or the Philippines. Whether these countries were colonized by Spain, Portugal, France, Britain, Holland — whomever, the mulatto or mestizo is on TV. 

The paradoxical desire for dark-skinned people to have fair skin, while white people fry themselves in tanning beds, is something that I — as a Filipino-Canadian — am all too familiar with. Like many Asian women, my mom carries an umbrella on sunny days, so not to get a tan and, God forbid, be mistaken for the poorer, more indigenous classes of Filipinos who slave away in the rice paddies and plantations all fucking day. My mom has a bottle of Eskinol in the medicine cabinet. Granted, I’ve never seen her use it, but she has it.

Skin lighteners and bleaches are commonly used by females in places like the Philippines and India, but the Globe and Mail‘s Diana Coulter reports that a growing number of Indian men, both urban and rural, have recently adopted the practice “in the belief that a pale complexion brings sucess in life, love and business.”

This isn’t some either-Michael-Jackson-bleaches-his-skin-or-he’s-got-vitiligo type bullshit. This is real. (Nov. 12, 11:00 p.m: My ESP is kickin’ in again. As my buddy Rhett just informed me, Sammy Sosa is apparently the new King of Pop.)

My brother has lighter skin than I do. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for a local Canadian newspaper about my brother’s mercurial rise to stardom in Southeast Asia. He was first discovered as a model in the Philippines and eventually became a VJ on an international music station. When I asked one of his producers what about his audition convinced her that he would make a good VJ, she listed his bubbly personality, his genuine demeanor and his “pan Asian look.” As the music station’s lineup of VJs indicates, “pan Asian” can be translated as “half Asian.”

So to be or look half Asian is to be better looking, right? Apparently not in South Korea. Two days ago, I came across a NY Times article about how Hines Ward was reaching out to fellow point-five Korean kids who’d been bullied or discriminated against by their full-blooded Korean counterparts. I guess the Tiger Woods look doesn’t fly over there. (My buddy Mike points out, though, Ward and Woods are half black and darker. Big difference.) Then you come to North America where biracial, dark-skinned models are sought after, sometimes to the point where being weird-looking or “exotic” is celebrated. Like I said, the whole light skin/dark skin thing is a perplexing phenomenon.

Nov. 28 – Here’s another NY Times article, about the integration of point-five children in South Korea.

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