Information hacks for people who like to read

Let me share one of my ”information consumption” hacks. I often come across books at a library or while reading an article. I am intrigued by the book, but I may not have the time to buy/borrow and read the book right then. I search for the name of the author or book on the iPhone Podcast App. There is a good chance that I will find an interview featuring the author. I can listen to the audio later on and get a gist of the authors' idea. The audio also helps me decide if I want to read the book. If you are on Android, you can use the excellent site to search for audio clips related to a particular keyword. This hack has helped me make my commutes and queuing up fun.

Finding Russia in Vietnam

Many in Asia follow Western or Japanese or Korean popular culture but some of us cold warriors, we miss Russia - remember all those inexpensive and colorful science books, Tarkovsky movies and upbeat Tsoi music videos. Fortunately for us, these days Russia can be found easily in South East Asia - all you have to do is to go to certain beach areas. 

Notes and translation for the photos below

  1. Russian travel agent welcoming newly arrived tourists
  2. And if you miss the Vietnamese fare, there are always small alleys you can walk into.
  3. This place is popular with the Chinese too, with several direct flights from smaller cities in China.
  4. Most street signs in the couple of streets along the beach are in Russian and Chinese - here is a pharmacy, next doors is a Russian restaurant. This city also has food from Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and other former Soviet republics.
  5. Heavies - perhaps former inter-agency colleagues
  6. Celebrating Russia-Vietnam friendship. And of course, wi-fi everywhere.
  7. “Russian spoken here” at a travel agents
  8. This shop can copy any bikini design in one day.

A Central Asian cafe in Nha Trang

I found a Central Asian cafe in a small lane in Nha Trang. I got Okroshka - a cold soup with kefir (a fermented milk drink) or kvas (a beer like, but non-alcoholic drink prepared by fermenting rye bread), cucumber, spring onion and bits of meat. There was a man from Tajikistan, we could exchange a few words in Farsi - Tajik and Urdu have several common words. This lane has backpacker places, and the guests seemed to be independent travellers from China. The flavours and sounds - a mix of China, Russia and Central Asia reminds me of the silk route.

When I grow up

As an educator, I find traveling in Vietnam inspirational. I often meet young people who are interested in sharing their knowledge and learning from each other. When I was in Nha Trang, local students invited me to join their learning meet. I was impressed by the organisation ability of Tra and her friends, and also the interesting topics they discussed. When I grow up, I wish I could be as smart as them.

All is not so quit on new year's day

Just as I hum U2's "All is quiet on the new year's day", I find the small alleys busy as usual. Mobile shops are busy sideloading apps and videos for the last few who do not have mobile data. Streetside gambling is probably the only thing as addictive as the phone.

Playing with a stegosaur

As I sit in this cafe, I feel a little stegosaurus loiter behind me. No, I am not drunk, I have not even ordered a drink yet. Turns out to be a poodle donning a dinosaur themed sweater. His owner, sitting at the far end, was busy on the phone. So, he came back to play with me. He is so tiny, almost like a cat. Guys please send more WeChat messages to the owner and keep her busy. I wanna take this dino-poodle with me.

No more things

I do not collect the swag they give out at conferences. Swag piles up, taking up space, and at some point in time, we end up throwing this stuff. At the risk of appearing rude, I refuse gifts from people who invite me to give some talk or presentation. And I will never bother you with stuff at a meet or event I organise (unless it is something that you can eat). There was a time when I liked these things, and I would hoard them along with everything else. But then one day Geoffrey Cain took me on a visit to a landfill outside Phnom Penh. After seeing the amount of garbage, I lost my appetite for things.

On a related note, we have to start reducing the garbage we produce.

The fans

If you were near the airport in Saigon last night, you might have heard two sets of teenage shrieks. The second, louder and the longer one was for some Korean band. Let me unravel the mystery of the first one. As I finished immigration and coming down the escalator, I saw the viewing area of the airport jam-packed with hundreds of teenagers. One look at them and you could tell that they were waiting for a band landing soon. It was a party atmosphere. I figured it would be good to put them through some warm-up exercise. So I waved at them and did my best celebrity impersonation - blowing kisses et all.The kids at the front were stunned for a moment, but it didn't take long them to reciprocate. Soon enough the whole crowd went wild screaming and waving the flags and banners. I was in half minds to do some Kpop dance steps, but that might have been too much for the stern looking airport security and would have surely made me a YouTube meme. You can travel half the world, but there is no point if you can’t make some little girls smile.

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