Friday, January 20, 2006

Reflections On Another Year

To be honest I couldn't remember where I was on my birthday last year until I dug into my records and realised that the reason was probably because I was alone in Germany for work. The night was an uneventful one, spent at a hotel in Coburg. I guess the company bought me dinner though. But its always better to spend a birthday with at least one person that is truly important to you. This time I spent the evening with my friends John and Mel in Dashwood, so it was time well spent. Actually this birthday turned out really good, as I got a wonderful surprise in an email. Anyway, this seems like a good time to be introspective, and to ask how I've bettered myself.

Some good things I've done:
Important lessons I've learned:
  • Don't forget to talk with the people you care about regularly
  • Not deciding something is a decision in itself, and usually its a bad decision
  • Work is important, but not the most important (I only put the second half of this into action recently)
  • Accept your feelings, and don't suppress them
  • Recognise when you've received a gift - It's too easy to fail to see the ones that are not wrapped
  • Don't be afraid of love
  • Confidence will greatly enhance your life

Now, to establish goals for the next year!


Friday, January 13, 2006

There is Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

I was recently thinking about the struggle between fear and action. Sometimes, I find that when trying to make a decision, I put too much pressure on myself. I can convince myself that something I want to do must be arranged perfectly or else it will fail. But this is simply negative thinking. This is fear controlling me.

It is by doing the thing that we are afraid of that we can conquer our fears and pursue the great things that we wish for ourselves. And if it goes well, we learn much. And if it goes badly, we learn even more. I must constantly remind myself that I do not know exactly where my life will go. And I must remind myself that it is not necessary or good to know. In life, circumstances can change. People can change. Hearts can change. Climate can change. Everything can change at a moment's notice. How can we predict the way things must be or will be? It is almost foolish to try!

Things will never be exactly as I imagine them, so it is useless to pressure myself to choose certainty over uncertainty. Certainty simply does not exist. Life is a path that either you can choose, or your fear can choose for you. We can be our own worst enemies. If we have a chance to do something important, it can be so important to us that we are afraid to even try.

Maybe this stems from a fear of failure or inadequacy. We don't pursue the possibilities of so many greater things, because we create mental roadblocks for ourselves. It is so easy to remain in misery for which we refuse to take responsibility. But it is truly scary to admit that we cause the very fear which makes us unhappy. As Nelson Mandela said: "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure." Have no regrets, but never make the same mistake twice. Fear and faith struggle against each other at all times. As humans, we would do well to understand, conquer and learn from our fears so that we can achieve our potential. I'm starting now. Again.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Fleece Me, Please!

Making purchases in India is vastly different from what I'm used to. Certain things just don't exist, generally, like price tags. The main reason is that you never pay the asked-for price anyway. Unless, of course, you're a tourist... in which case, get ready to be cheated, or "fleeced", as my sister and I now call it.

The first few days, we were always busy calculating what the asked-for price converts to in Canadian Dollars, (multiply by 0.036) and we thought to ourselves that the deals were better than home. What we didn't know was that first, the price was inflated as a matter of routine, and then, inflated again for us. The latter is what I refer to as Tourist Tax, which is often between 100% and 3000%, and is levied as soon as they see that I speak English instead of Konkani. For example, early in the trip, I was buying a gift for someone and they quoted me something like 1000 rupees (almost $35 Canadian) which seemed high, even to me. I bargained similarly to this:

Me (in tourist english): 1000?! How about 800?
Them (with a smile I didn't notice): No, no, give me good price... see high quality, ya? ...okay, best price 900.
Me (thinking I'm doing pretty good): Hmm... 850?
Them: OK... You take. (as they think "Ka-CHING! What a sucker! Lets take a vacation!")

And I thought I fleeced him! I suppose its happy when both people thinnk they got a good deal. Us Canadians are way too polite.

Of course, the next day I saw it for 600 rupees (first price). He was even willing to give it to me for 450. Later on, I was able to make an offer on another one for even less. It seemed that every day we were getting smarter, but then we'd realise that we still weren't very smart because we had begun from a point of complete ignorance. We've figured out that once we start saying "Well... its still good in Canadian Dollars!", then we've probably been fleeced pretty badly. My sister really hates getting cheated (especially when we know we're getting cheated). Personally I consider it the price I pay to get educated. And hey, maybe I'm doing my part to further fair trade, or something.

We've since come up with a few methods to help us get good deals:

Method 1: Take our grand-mother with us. She once bought me some tea and then fleeced me by 600% when I wanted to reimburse her (as a joke because we're so bad at bargaining). I totally fell for it.
Method 2: Ask "How much?". Then whatever they say, just laugh really hard. Then cut it by anywhere from 60% to 90% depending how bad it was (just guess). Then whatever happens, walk away if you're not satisfied. This has worked a few times, but we learned it way too late. Laugh shows that we know about the Tourist Tax. Still it's no guarantee to get a good deal.
Method 3: This method is 100% effective -- don't buy anything!

So for all you people who I bought gifts for, I paid way too much! Unless I got it right at the end, in which case, I hope I got a good deal. So I guess you'll never know. But its the thought that counts right?