For the last two weeks I’ve been volunteering at a children’s shelter full-time and between that and some unexpected but welcomed work I haven’t had much if any time to think about what to post so pardon me as I try to put something together at the last minute. A couple months back I promised some kids that I’d come back to visit them during their school holiday in June. I told them I would only be staying here in Malaysia for one week however when I tried to leave last week I was unable to deny the earnest pleas of a few little girls who really wanted me to stay. Some of them even went as far as vowing to eat only vegetables and to never eat candy if I stayed, haha. I told them such vows were unnecessary and that regardless of whether or not I stayed they should try their best to eat more vegetables and less candy.
I generally take a wider, distant, and more objective view of things and this allows me to escape all of the emotional ups and downs most people experience however it seems my one remaining weakness/soft spot are kids in these kinds of situations particularly ones I can see are benefiting from my time with them and I know will one day help other people and the planet with what they’ve learned from me. Sitting at a table attempting to explain to some of the teary-eyed kids who are closest to me why I had to leave and why I wasn’t sure when I would be coming back almost made me shed a few tears of guilt. Next time I’m preparing to leave I’ll have to arrange for those few kids to be out and surround the table with a few other kids that saying good-bye to would if anything cause me to shed tears of joy.
For now it looks like I’ll be staying here for the summer so tomorrow I’ll be going back to Thailand to get my skateboard, slackline, and other some other things I’ve missed having around the past two weeks. I look forward to jumping into my cold mountain river and enjoying the peace and nature there for around 5 days before returning here for a 7 or 8 week session at a new place I just rented. They wanted $1000 a month for the house which is in a prime location next to a park and a 3 minute skateboard ride away from the market but I got them to rent me a room and give me a temporary two month stay for $250 a month as they search for someone to rent the entire house long-term. I already told the kids I won’t be putting in the kind of hours I put in the past two weeks and they understood. Hopefully I can toughen them up a little over the next 8 weeks and make my next departure go a little smoother.
P.S. Check out this gorgeous red-tailed racer I had slither into my house in Thailand and this beautiful tree frog I saw here in Malaysia.
There was a tokay gecko at the restaurant near my home and the owners wanted it gone because it was defecating all over their kitchen. A couple of weeks ago I saw it on the wall so I grabbed a kitchen towel to protect myself from it’s blood-drawing bite and captured it. I then proudly showed the owners the big gecko and one of them asked if he could kill it which is what they probably do to any tokay geckos that try taking up residence at their restaurant.
I was like why would you want to kill such a beautiful specimen when you could just walk across the street, a little ways into the forest, and release it into the wild. I told them that’s where I was headed and that I first just wanted to show them the fellow that’s been shitting all over their kitchen. The point of this introduction is to tell you that I had no reason to venture out onto the road and into the forest that night and only did so so I could release this tokay gecko.
A man that lived down the street from me died a few days ago. He was conversing with a neighbor near a coconut tree and…, no a coconut didn’t fall on is head, it was even worse, a coconut fell from the tree, bounced off of a rock, and then hit him in the head. He was taken to the hospital where he spent 3 nights before being discharged and returning home for a family wedding being held at his house and right after the wedding he died. There was a gathering all week at that house, first for the wedding and then for the funeral. I thought I’d share this sad story with you and remind you to be grateful you haven’t died in any freak accidents because any of us could at any time. Hopefully we won’t but the low probability of such an event shouldn’t leave you thinking you’ll always have another day to get something done or to mend a relationship with someone.
Enjoy the full moon tonight and this frog photo I took last month.
Today as I was cleaning around my porch I lifted up a plastic crate and gently tossed it over to the side. Unfortunately there was a gecko stuck to the bottom of it which was nearly decapitated when the crate landed. No surgery I could’ve performed could’ve repaired the severed spinal cord of this poor house gecko. I’ve seen paralyzed dogs using dog wheelchairs however for a gecko that makes a living running up walls this was not an option. So I did the humane thing and smashed its head in with one swift swing of a wooden juggling club. I then grabbed it by its still twitching tail and tossed it into the creek next to my house because I knew it would be immediately eaten by one of the snakeheads that live under the rocks and wait for lizards, frogs, and any other edible items to fall into the water.
I’ve performed a couple other mercy killings over the years but the one that came to mind today was one that took place a couple of months ago at a children’s shelter. There was a sick and/or injured pigeon flopping around in front of the building and although I didn’t know what was wrong with it I could tell by its limp neck and the way it was moving that it was going to die within a day or maybe within hour. I already knew my answer but I asked the kids that were with me at the time if we should let it lay in the sun and let the ants go to work on it until it eventually dies or should we put it out of its misery. We went inside to get out of the sun to discuss the matter. At first a couple of the kids were shocked that I, the person that doesn’t even eat animals, would propose killing one however as we laid out the bird’s only options they started agreeing with me.
As we discussed the matter I saw another kid though the window, a 5 year old boy who was about half the age of the kids I was discussing the matter with, approaching the sick and/or injured bird with a badminton racket and before I could say anything to him he smashed it over the head. We all ran outside to find a dead bird and a little kid still holding the murder weapon with a “How am I going to get out of this one.” expression. It was ironic because we had pretty much come to the consensus that the best thing to do was to kill the bird however the problem was the kid that performed the execution knew nothing of our deliberations and just wanted to smash a bird over the head with a badminton racket. I brought him inside and explained to him in simple English that it was wrong to hit animals and that they should be treated kindly but I also told him that he was lucky that that particular animal was very sick and was already going to die.
Happy Lunar New Year! Lantern Festival is tomorrow which marks the final day of the New Year’s celebrations which means I now only have one more New Year’s celebration to put up with, Songkran. As planned I returned to Malaysia in early February to visit the kids at the children’s shelter. A week and a half ago I came across a box of nectarines that were a bit over-ripe but I could tell they were still good so I bought a few of them. When I got home and ate them I was surprised by just how good they were, so good. So I said I gotta go back to that supermarket in the morning as soon as they open to get the rest of those nectarines!
The next morning I showed up just as they were opening and headed straight for the nectarines. I got there just in time because the guy working in the fruit area said he was about to throw them all in the garbage. Instead of throwing them out he gave them all to me, like 30 small ones for only $1.25! After bringing them all home I threw two or three bad ones into the compost bag and ate over 20 of them for breakfast which amounted to a total of 2.2kg of glorious nectarine pulp. Hoooooo!!! Also If you were in Penang last week and lost 14 Malaysian Ringgit (3.50USD) I picked it up on the side of the street and rather than pocketing it and profiting from your loss I used it to buy more bananas for the kids so now you don’t need to feel bad about losing it. Have a nice March, I’ll post again on April 1st.
I returned to Thailand earlier this month and have been here catching up on some thoughts and things that I put on hold while in Malaysia however as promised I will be going back to visit the kids in Penang next week. Before I do I decided to do the 40 hour water fast that I wanted to do around New Years but put off until I was back in Thailand. As I write this 30 hours in I thought it’d be a good opportunity to challenge you to not eat for a full day and to follow up with an improved plant based diet and healthier eating habits. In the meantime here’s a challenge you can do right now.
Enjoy the full moon and I’ll chime in again a month from now,
P.S. Here’s a slow loris photo I managed to get a couple weeks ago with a camera in one hand and a flashlight in the other along with a few recent photos of the kind of habitat you’re likely to find a slow loris or me living in. I also saw a colugo aka kubong a couple weeks ago but I was unable to get a photo. Speaking of forest gliders I had a paradise tree snake on my porch earlier this month and although I haven’t seen any flying dragon lizards this year I did have a couple fly past me while I was in the forest a few months ago.
Snake Takes Flight
Flying Dragons Of The Jungle
Kubong Gliding Through the Trees
The Truth Behind the Slow Loris Pet Trade
I hope you had a good 2017 and I hope your 2018 will be even better. I’ve been in Penang for the past few months because I had some visa issues in Thailand. The Thai consulate here in Penang red-stamped my passport for too many back-to-back tourist visas and told me that if I wanted to stay long-term I needed a proper long-term visa. The problem is such a visa is a bit of a pain to get, much more so than a tourist visa which doesn’t require many documents, a Thai spouse, or a Thai sponsor, e.g., a business or school. The red warning stamp usually means they won’t issue you any more tourist visas at least not for a while or perhaps until you apply in your home country rather than in one of the countries bordering Thailand however I wrote them a letter explaining why I needed one more and luckily they gave one to me. That last 60 day + 30 day extension = 90 day tourist visa finished in October. When I stopped flying in order to do my part to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions I was afraid this would happen. Before I could fly once a year from Thailand to Taiwan and back and that eliminated the need for me to get too many back-to-back visas in either place. If only Taiwan was a short train ride away from my home in Thailand like Malaysia is.
2017 begins much like 2016 ended, rain and more rain. After a few days of heavy rain the once peaceful little creek that ran along the side of my home has swollen into a raging river. I’m not too worried about that however I am a bit worried about all the rain bringing down a large tree on a steep slope that has my roof in its sights. Earlier today I went to pick some fruit but was unable to make it to the orchard due to much bigger raging river. I thought about testing my luck but if the rapidly moving knee deep water that was covering the narrow bridge took out one of my legs the other would certainly follow and I’d be washed off the bridge and pummeled against many boulders as I was sent downstream so it wasn’t worth it, not even for some rollinia.
Today is the first day of the last month of the year and I hope this month will be far less disappointing than last month. I’ve been relatively busy with work and thinking deep thoughts the past couple weeks so you may have noticed I haven’t been posting like I was Pre-Trump. I won’t be chiming in here again until New Years however in the meantime I will continue to try and help get important links noticed on Twitter.
P.S. A friend of someone I buy fruit from got hit by a car a few days ago in front of the fruit sellers home, went into a coma, and died a few days later. It reminded me of a very promising individual who was hit and killed on his bike at the age of 14 by a careless driver so with both of them in mind I say please be careful on and around the road especially if you happen to be in Thailand or in one of the few other places with as abysmal of a traffic safety record.
I went to the beach today in hopes some sun, sand, and salt water would cleanse me of the last 24 hours. I did some snorkeling and saw some beautiful fish as I picked a few pieces of old plastic out of the ocean. Seeing an old and disintegrating plastic bag that has become attached to the sea floor wave back and forth with the currents like an underwater plant makes you realize how easy it is for a hungry fish to nibble away at it thinking it was food and not something that was going to get stuck in its stomach and eventually kill it. The largest fish I saw was only about half the size of my hand probably because like in many other parts of the world people have eaten just about anything worth eating however there were still small fish which came in a variety of shapes and colors.
I wonder if the decedents of these fish will be there when children today are my age or if they will vanish along with most of the world’s coral reefs due to a slight increase in water temperature and acidity as a result of all the carbon released into the atmosphere from all the fossil fuels we’re burning and forests we’re cutting down in order to satisfy our hunger for cheap meat and palm oil? While I was waiting for the boat back I was passed by a morbidly obese man probably in his late twenties. One of the Thai boatmen said “Hey, where you from?” and he replied “New York City.”, then the Thai boatman says “New York City, Mr. Trump!” and the fat guy says “Mr. Trump” as he does a big thumbs up at which time the same nausea and leg weakness I experienced on election night slightly returned as I once again thought about all the environmental consequences of this election. Should have been Bernie however it is what it is, now it’s time to fuel up and fight on!
Yesterday I took what I guess was a 3 or 4km hike up a slippery mountain slope in search of a waterfall. There were no signs just a very narrow path used by off-road motorcycles which the locals use to haul down fruit. However I went late in the afternoon so the motocross fruit farmers had already gone home for the day and there was nobody in the mountain forest and I couldn’t get a phone signal. Although it was only a short hike from 3G and the rest of civilization you could really feel the disconnect. After a bath in what was probably the coldest water I’ve ever experienced in Southeast Asia I headed back just before it got dark to continue working on some work stuff. Continue reading
Yesterday I was working and reading on my computer for most of the day and didn’t get much farther than my front porch so today I decided to get away from my computer and go for a long walk. Today’s walk was around 20km and culminated in a refreshing swim in a cool mountain river followed by some freshly fallen durian. I’m not a fan of dogs or pets in general, particularly those that are more like prisoners such as caged birds that have been robbed the ability to fly, but any dog that loves durian as much as this old stray/abandoned dog did is fine with me.
Last night I was out walking around enjoying the sights and sounds of some of the local frogs and toads. Then today at the market I saw some more frogs but they weren’t making any sounds and I didn’t enjoy seeing them. As far as the locals are concerned there’s nothing wrong with ripping the skin off of a living frog and letting it slowly die over a period of what I guess could be hours. As is generally the case when I see something that is just plain wrong I spoke up in hopes that it will help raise awareness and influence future behavior. If you’re going to eat an animal or its parts and excretions then you should know how it was caught or raised and how it was killed and be alright with that otherwise you shouldn’t eat it.
P.S. If you want to see seven terrible seconds of what I was talking about click here, if not enjoy the happy toad photo below.
I was reminded why I don’t eat eggs when I saw a truck that was hauling plastic crates that were absolutely packed with what looked to be some very unhealthy and sad chickens. I think they were egg laying hens whose worn out bodies could no longer continue laying enough eggs to justify their existence and were off to slaughter and I want absolutely no part in any of that abuse. Just imagine being treated like that, living in your own feces in a crowded dark barn or in a cage so small that you’re not even able to stretch out your arms let alone go for a walk.
I used to eat eggs from sources I could verify were free range and organic thus did not equate to me supporting big agricultural companies that seek to control as much of the food supply as they can by patenting seeds and the pesticides they are genetically engineered to grow with. However I’m often asked about what I eat and when I used to say “I eat eggs that I can verify are free range and organic.” what that translated to for most of the people asking me is “Mr. ethical and healthy diet and lifestyle man eats eggs, eggs are good, and even he admits that you need to eat animals or at least their milk and/or eggs in order to be healthy.”.
Since I don’t in any way want to condone the abuse that occurs during the production of the vast majority of eggs destined for human consumption I essentially stopped eating eggs over 5 years ago. I say “essentially” because since then I’ve probably had about a dozen eggs which I knew were from happy health chickens but I’ve had none this year and I don’t intend on eating any in the future. If you enjoy eggs then eat them, just make sure they come from an ethical source rather than turning a blind eye when you eat out or buy things made with eggs because you can be sure that those aren’t eggs anyone remotely concerned with animal rights and dietary ethics wants to be eating.
What’s so bad about eating eggs?
Poultry and Eggs: Industries That Abuse Chickens
NFL Warns Players Not To Eat Meat In Mexico After It Caused A Failed Drug Test
I was going to spend a night or two away in order to let the paint dry but the fresh mountain air and tree-ripened organic fruit kept me away for three. I slept in a little wooden bungalow surrounded by trees and immersed in the sounds of frogs, crickets, and other small creatures of the night and as I lay in bed last night I wished that more urban dwelling people had the chance to spend a few nights surrounded by nature because it may teach or remind them that they are a part of a world that is much bigger than their country and the rest of human civilization including any of its creation myths.
Here are a few pictures to stimulate your appetite before you lose it watching tonight’s debate and no I’m not talking about the cows because I don’t find slitting the throats of those gentle beasts, gutting them, and eating the human-like flesh off their human-like bones to be very appealing.
Last time on our way back to Thailand we encountered two police checkpoints and our Thai driver had to bribe the Malaysian police in order to pass without being held up and hassled. When I returned from that visa run last July I sent an email to the Malaysian Tourism Authority, Malaysian Police, and their Anti-Corruption Department however it doesn’t seem to have done much good as they are still stopping and hassling Thai mini-bus drivers and probably some other drivers as well. Even though it didn’t seem to do any good last time I emailed another complaint today.
Next time you see or encounter something that isn’t right and could really use some improvement I hope you’ll take a minute to do something, speak up, or write an email because if enough people do these unjust and inconvenient situations will eventually improve. With that said here’s my 4 day visa run trip from Southern Thailand to Penang in 4 photos.
In case you didn’t see it much of the first half was spent arguing about the sexual assault rhetoric and record of one candidate and that of the spouse of the other along with the history of that candidate during her time as a young lawyer and as a wife defending sexual predators and discrediting their victims. Way to go America! That’s the way you promote democracy to the rest of the world. We could’ve had Bernie Sanders debating important issues with John Kasich or some other decent, sane, and somewhat informed human being but instead we’ve got an uninformed guy with a severely inflated view of himself and another phony politician who tries to be all things to all people.
So why bother voting for either of them? Because regardless of whether or not you participate in this election you and your loved ones will be stuck with its consequences so civic duty aside it’s in your personal self-interest not to mention the interest of human civilization and entire biosphere that you not only vote but also encourage others to vote for the best possible candidate that has a shot at winning the election. That candidate is Hillary Clinton hands down. She is intelligent, articulate, and well informed; moreover I think/hope that at this point in her life she really wants to do the right thing for the country and the world and if elected will be focused on doing just that rather than on accumulating more wealth and more power so I’m with her!
If you’ve never tried bouldering or rock climbing you really should and if you have but a long time ago then you should do it more often. I’m still more of a fruit tree climber however I must say that exhausting your hands and melting your forearms on a climbing wall is pretty awesome. I’ve only climbed up high with a harness a few times in my life because I’m not into get-wrecked-or-die-if you-fall heights and I don’t like putting my life in the hands of old climbing bolts. Particularly those on the beach and subject to the corrosive effects of sea mist. However I love bouldering over sand, water, or some other forgiving surface.
After many attempts today, and over the past few weeks whenever I visited that beach, I made it and now that I know how to do it and have developed a stronger grip it should be fairly easy next time. I climbed onto the stalactite in the center of this photo which is about 2 meters off the ground. I did a little jump and grab and then put my foot over my hands and used my heel to allow me to move my hands into a position that would eventually get me high enough onto the stalactite that I could get a foot on the bottom. After I made it I climbed around it once before jumping down with a smile on my face and blood on my hand (small scrape).
Today in an episode of Witness they recounted a story of child abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church. I wonder how many people would continue to stick with and support a secular organization with a deep rooted and dark history of child abuse like that? After that I read about the White House being mad at Israel for deciding to build more settlements in occupied land and just after they closed the deal on 38 billion dollars in military aid. I wonder how much money the U.S. would give Israel and how Israel would justify it’s settlements if it weren’t a Jewish state that based its territorial claims on religious text? I also wonder how strong U.S. support for Israel would be if so much of the U.S. electorate didn’t identify as Christian?
Today I also read a story about a Dutch tourist in Myanmar where it’s illegal to “insult religion” who just got sentenced to 3 months hard labor for unplugging a loudspeaker near his hotel which was blasting a Buddhist sermon in the darkness of the late night or early morning. I wonder how much hard labor he would’ve been sentenced to if he unplugged the loudspeaker a group of people blasting a secular sermon about the threat of climate change and the role and animal agriculture plays in it? I’m guessing the people blasting such a much needed sermon into the darkness of the early morning would be the ones arrested and sentenced to hard labor for disturbing the peace and disrupting the much needed sleep of hundreds of people.
Religion should not be elevated above morality, exempt from laws, or protected from constructive criticism the same way secular ideas and activities aren’t.
P.S. Yesterday I was speaking with a couple from the States who were visiting from China where they had been living for the past few years. The husband was teaching English in a school and the wife taught English at home via the bible. She told me her students all thought that the bible was just some mythology and didn’t know its truth and I smilingly told her I agreed with the students. She seemed a bit surprised that I’d politely just slam it on the table like that as I stretched my wrists after a bouldering session on the beach. I still find it funny when people assume that since I’m white and speak English I must be Christian and talk to me like I’m on team Jesus when the only team I’m on is team Earth.
After she responded by telling me how she was born into a god loving faithful Christian family and disagreed with my assessment of the bible we went on chatting and she told me they had nine children and she made sure to add that they were all theirs, none of that silly adoption stuff for this fertile couple. As if having one or two kids isn’t bad enough they had nine! Moreover they were all home schooled by a faithful Christian mother so I expect those nine will produce many more. Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” With so many people with an arrogant and anthropocentric attitude like that no wonder humanity along with the rest of the biosphere is in the ecological mess it’s in.
P.P.S. Today I saw a monk on the bus who refused to hand his ticket to the ticket lady. Instead he handed it to a random five year old boy who was seated with his mother and then the ticket lady took it from him. It reminded me of a Swiss handshake story earlier this year in which a teenage student refused to shake hands with his teacher because she was a women. I wouldn’t try to force or even encourage anyone to shake hands with anyone else but could some of you devout men please stop acting like any contact or interaction with a women such as a handshake or simply handing something over to them has to have some kind of an underlying inappropriate sexual meaning to it. Grow up, because if I become a bus driver and there’s a lady collecting tickets for me and you refuse to hand yours directly to her because it violates your religious beliefs then you will not ride on my bus.
I started slacklining last year after seeing one for the first time however today was the first time I stretched my slackline across some water. Walking across it was a lot more difficult than I thought it’d be and I think that had a lot to do with how fast the muddy river below me was moving. If you swam as hard as you could you could still move forward but very slowly. I’m not sure I could have even made it 10 meters upstream. Luckily the stream was only about 12 meters wide so I was never too far from the shore.
You’re not supposed to look down when walking on a slackline but I couldn’t help noticing the water below rushing past me and I think it messed with my balance which is pretty good a meter or so above land. There was also the fear of falling but I wasn’t very high above the water so I think the main thing that made it so difficult was all the movement below me. I look forward to slacklining over some still and preferably clear water and seeing how that feels. In the meantime I need to practice looking forward and ignoring what’s below me.
If you aren’t familiar with slacklining know that it’s awesome and that you should buy a slackline along with a balance board today. I consider being able to walk across a slackline and being able to walk on your hands essential human skills. You don’t need to be able to do tricks on a slackline, I don’t, and you don’t need to be able to take a flight of stairs on your hands however if you aren’t a small child, really old, or physically handicapped you really should make it a goal to be able to walk across a slackline and take a few steps on your hands.
P.S. If you want to see just how important vision is to your balance try standing on one leg, shutting your eyes, and then counting down from 20 out loud and don’t forget to do both legs.