Happy New Year!

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.

I’m not a fan of Malaysia, but I guess I wouldn’t call myself a “fan” of any country, however I told myself I better get used to staying here since staying long-term in Thailand isn’t really an option at the moment. I’ve been staying in Penang which is where I usually go for my visa runs and soon after I arrived and found a place to stay I started volunteering at a Children’s Shelter. At first it was just for a couple hours a day everyday however this past month I’ve been there for many hours a day everyday. Besides working with the kids I’m also trying to help the the staff improve their management of the place, e.g., how they train and evaluate staff and how they arrange the children’s meals and interact with them in general. It’s been a learning experience that confirmed what I already knew which is there are too many kids/people in general on this planet and not enough good parents and teachers. I really like children in need having a place like this to go because a place like this can help them break out of the cycle of ignorance and poverty they were born into so they themselves don’t end up having 9 children by age 30 from four or five different men none of which they can properly care for. Did you know that some religions are not only against abortion but also against birth control? Crazy!

Anyway I won’t get started on religion or politics just yet however I will make an effort to breathe some life into this blog by posting on the first of each month until I’m ready to start posting weekly. I’ll probably start posting more after I return to Thailand which might not be until Thai New Years which is in April. In the meantime stop by on the first or second of every month and I’ll try and have something for you. The New Years Eve fireworks are now going off and I’m headed for bed, I promised the kids I’d hook them up with an awesome fruit breakfast to get 2018 off to a good start and after that I’m taking a few of the older ones to climb to the top of Penang Hill. Weather permitting I encourage you to get out and do some hiking, biking, swimming, or whatever you prefer however be sure to fuel this increase in physical activity with some fruits and vegetables or some other plant based foods rather than meat, dairy, and/or eggs from abused chickens. Over the past few months I’ve shared my views with the kids and staff regarding many issues, particularly diet and health, and this evening one of the older girls told me that she was going vegetarian starting January 1st and another one said she was going to give it a five day trial.

How about you? If you don’t want to commit to going vegan this year could you at least commit to giving up beef if not all meat? Doing so would significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions which means a lot to the biosphere and the future generations that will inhabit it. Abstaining from meat would also significantly reduce the cruelty inflicted on your behalf which means a lot to the animals and all the people who care about how they are treated. Instead of using “What difference can I as one person make?” as an excuse not to take action and make the small sacrifices that we all should have made a long time ago, e.g., giving up meat and minimising our consumption of fossil fuels, realise that your positive impact will be multiplied as you become a positive example for others, an example that shows you can be as happy and healthy as anyone on this planet and without over-consuming, abusing animals, and destroying the biosphere. Good luck getting 2018 off to a good start and I’ll talk to you on February 1st.