Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An act of pure kindness

I was very upset with myself shortly before leaving Zürich because I lost two post cards that I had written and addressed, but had not yet stamped and delivered to the post office. Even worse, I was leaving Zürich and didn't have time to buy more and thought my message would be lost forever.

Amazingly, I just checked my email and received a thank you from one of the people that I addressed the postcards too. Some amazingly thoughtful and generous person must have found my postcards, paid the postage and sent them. Whoever you are, thank you. I'll never get to directly thank you for your kindness, but it did not go unnoticed. I'll make sure to pass the kindness on. Friends, I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Eating Water

How many litres of water do you think you drink per day. Honestly...stop and take a guess, then check out the mind blowing statistic below.

Face: While the average human being requires between four and five litres of drinking water a day to survive, it takes 2,000 3,000 litres of water a day to produce the calories that same human being needs to eat every day. Producing the meat and other proteins prevalent in the modern diet requires even more water. We may drink only a few litres of water a day, but we "eat"as much as 15,000 litres of water a day.

More at the extremely interesting World Economic Forum website.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Mullets de Madrid

I know that I've been slacking on the mullet photos. To make it up, I'm posting 4 photos, all taken during my recent visit to the lovely city of Madrid. As you can see, they know how the rock the mullet...

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Triple Kiss

Nice to meet you I said right before I kissed his left cheek. I went in for the obligatory second and final kiss on his right cheek. Contact! Another successful euro double kiss I thought to myself as I started to pull away. But wait, at the very same time that I was pulling away he went in for, gasp, a THIRD kiss! What was he doing I thought to myself. Did I just make a social mistake that I would not be able to recover from? Confused and not sure what to do, I started to greet the other people as if nothing happened. Quickly adapting, I made sure to follow the lead of the second person I was greeting and successfully made three cheek contact. Three people, 9 kisses and several minutes later I was embarrassed, exhausted and still confused.

I learned later that Swiss custom dictates that the typical euro double kiss morphs into a triple kiss in Switzerland. Take a few seconds and think about the consequences of the triple kiss. It's bad enough when you're greeting 5 people and must give 10 kisses. In Zurich, those 10 kisses would turn into a startling 15. Nice to meet you…Kiss, Kiss. Pleasure…Kiss, Kiss. Good to see you again, Kiss, Kiss. Hi, Kiss, Kiss, Kiss, Kiss, Kiss, Kiss, Kiss, Kiss, Kiss. Imagine my excitement going to a small party of 10 or 15 people and well, you get the idea. Lip balm is an absolute necessity.

I wanted to share just one of the many subtle, yet important cultural lessons that I encounter and must navigate every day. Kiss, Kiss………..Kiss!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Alchemist Thoughts and Reflections

Last night I was at a friends house here in Zürich when I noticed a book on his kitchen table. I was very intrigued after reading the synopsis on the back cover. He hadn't read it yet, but was very surprised when I said that I hadn't heard of it.

Yes, it's true, until yesterday I had never heard of The Alchemist or its author, Paulo Coelho. That's pretty sad considering it has sold over 30 million copies and was translated into 61 languages. It's a modern classic. A modern classic that I had never heard of.
Thankfully, my friend let my borrow it because I agreed I would finish it in one night.

As I read, I always jot down interesting or otherwise thought provoking ideas so I can reference them later. The Alchemist had several, which I've typed below. If you haven't read it, go do so immediately.

< - The Alchemist Thoughts and Reflections - >

  • If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.
  • When you search for your own personal treasure, you’ll discover things along the way that you never would have seen had you not had the courage to try things that seemed difficult, crazy or even impossible.
  • People are afraid to pursue their most important dreams, because they feel that they don’t deserve them, or they fear that they’ll be unable to achieve them.
  • Your eyes show the strength of your soul.
  • There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.
  • Why is it that through death, we become more aware of life?
  • When we strive to become better than we are, everything around use becomes better, too.
  • Life is the moment we’re living right now.
  • In the depth of your eyes, my own beauty is reflected.
  • What may seem like a burden now may be a godsend later.
  • It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting. Are people afraid that once their dream is realized, they will have no reason for living?
  • Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives but none about his or her own.
  • The world’s greatest lie: "That at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate." Are people so afraid of disappointment that they don't following their dreams?
  • To realize one's destiny is a person's only real obligation.
  • What most people never realize is that they are capable, at any time in their lives, to do what they dream of.
  • Don’t allow what other people think about you to become more important than finding your destinies.
  • In life you often have to choose between what you're become accustomed to and something you want to have.
  • Every blessing ignored becomes a curse.
  • Sometimes when you make decision, you are diving into a strong current that will carry you to places you never dreamed of.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Marrakech , Morocco

I just booked what could be my last trip outside Barcelona before I head back to the U.S. Then again, something may change in the next 6 months. I love the unknown. I'll be going with my friend Jose, which will be great. We leave on April 19th and return to BCN on the 24th. Apparently the weather is nearly perfect around that time of the year in Marrakech. What gets me so excited about Marrakesh is that it will be completely different than all of the other cities. No more European vibe. Oh, and the tea, fresh orange juice and more! Mmmm....

Apparently the Djemaa el-Fna square is an experience in itself.

"It is the Medina and in its central square Djemaa el-Fna that will undoubtedly fire the imagination. Djemaa el-Fna is the heart and soul of Mariachi life and which really comes alive with the setting of the sun, when a caravansai of food vendors, selling all manner of Moroccan delicacies descend on the square. These are accompanied by snake charmers, wide eyed story
tellers, musicians and performers that lend a medieval scent to the night air. To the north of the square are the important religious buildings and the souqs whilst to the south are the imperial quarters where the palaces and monuments of past rulers proudly stand." - Wikitraval

Please contact me or leave a comment if you've been to Marrakech and would like to pass along any tips. Again, my email is chrisrako at gmail dot com. Thanks!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Zurich Initial Thoughts

I arrived in Züri after what was the worst landing that I've ever experienced. Europe had record winds that wreaked havoc throughout central and eastern europe.

Initial Thoughts

  • The wealth is totally obscene. I started to count the number of Porches and stopped at 10 in less than 1 hour. Shortly after that I saw a brand new shinny Rolls Royce, followed by a Bentley just a few minutes later.
  • The city is very clean, almost to the point where it makes the city feel sterile.
  • The tap water is very good. Over 1,200 fountains are scattered all over the city. It seems like they are everywhere.
  • I've been lucky because the weather has been mild with no snow.
  • The breads, jams and deserts are extremely good.
  • As expected, things are very expensive.
  • I've just been taking it easy and enjoying the tranquil feel of the city.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I think, I believe

Now that my readership has expanded beyond close friends and family, I've been receiving more emails from several people asking more about my background, thoughts on certain issues, what made me want to move, along with some other "who the hell are you" type questions. Below is an image that I created to give ya'll a pretty good idea. As always, click the image to enlarge.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The weight has been lifted

I've been unplesent to be around the past few days due to the stress of finding an apartment in the two days between coming back from Madrid and leaving for Zurich. Well, I'm extremely happy to report that I've secured one as of today. It's an amazing apartment in the heart of the city. Click here to see the apartment on the map. I'll post photos when I get back from Zurich.

Knowing this is done, I can now feel good about going to Zurich (which is in just two days).

Friday, January 12, 2007

Barcelona Apartment

Madrid is very nice andll write about it later, but right now I have a more important issue...finding an apartment.

I need an apartment starting in early February. If you or someone you know has a room availalbe for rent please contact me as soon as possible so we can talk. I´m hoping to pay around 300 - 350 euro per month for 2 months to 6 months. I´m flexible and don´t require anything special. My email is chrisrako at gmail dot com.
Thanks much!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hello Madrid / Lisbon Photos

I'm off to Madrid tomorrow through the 15th, so I"m not sure if I'll be able to update. Until then, feel free to check out more photos taken in Lisbon over Christmas and New Years. The street art in Lisbon is simply amazing...very creative, often political. Links below.

Lisbon General

Lisbon Street Art

Monday, January 08, 2007

Technology & the Future

It's been said before but it's true that the world is becoming smaller and increasingly interconnected every day. The way that we live, work and communicate has drastically changed in the past 10 years. I continued to be amazed by it all. A friend recently showed me how he accesses his 150 digital TV channels (from his house) on his mobile phone via the internet. The quality was perfect. I was stunned.

All this makes me wonder what the world will be like in 2015. Below are a few things that amazing me, along with a few predictions for the near future.

Wow! No Way!

I’ve sat in a coffee shop in Paris and received and proceeded to reply to an email that a friend in Zurich sent. Total time between him sending and my reply? Try 2 minutes. It’s funny how normal this seems today. Think back even 5 years.

I carry over 400 CDs with my on my MP3 player that is 2 inches by 2 inches. Think about that….400 CDs…well over 4000 songs.

I have over 5 years of documents, photos and videos stored on my computer. Image if it were to get destroyed, deleted or corrupted by a virus. It’s why I’m crazy about backing up all files on my computer. I don’t cry easily, but losing the past 5 years of files would make me weep like a baby. Do you have personal files on your computer? If so, what do you do to protect them? Do you have files on your computer that you have other copy of? Scary stuff.

I stay in contact, make plans and share files with friends from all over the world via instant messaging.

I don’t have a LAN line (house) phone, only a cell phone number. This is true of 90% of my friends as well.

There are entire generations that have never sent a fax or created a memo at work. Talk about generational gaps.

My thoughts, photos, videos and more are saved to this blog within minutes. Miraculously, my blog has been viewed by people in over 30 countries, speaking over 50 languages. This number continues increase.

Using Skype, I can talk with friends and family thousands of miles way in the United States for hours and hours and it’s 100% free. If we wanted, we could always see each other live via webcam.

My videos are captured using my digital camera, uploaded to my laptop and uploaded to YouTube for the world to enjoy (or hate). Totally time between capture and availability: 20 minutes. Imainge when video becomes more people on mobile phone. People will need to REALLY watch what they do in public. Imagine a stranger taking video of you hitting your child in a store and then sending it to child protective services instantly via the internet or to YouTube for the world to see. HHhmmmmm…

A 20 year old high school senior made $1,000,000 in less than 6 months by thinking of a new and unique advertising site. No lie.

The LoveBug virus was created by one person sitting in their basement and cost BILLIONS of dollars in damage and lost productivy.

I upload photos to my Flickr site and they can be seen instantly by anyone in the world.

I search for the best fare and book my travel online and print out my boarding passes from the comfort of my couch without any need to wait on line.

No way, it won’t happen!

The world is going to be a much difference place in 10 years. I hope that you can not only deal with change, but embrace it.

  • Your refrigerator will tell when you your milk is too oldto drink. It will also tell you when you need more chicken and when you’re just about out of orange juice. It will recommend what to make for dinner based on the food you have available.
  • It will be normal to view TV on your cell phone.
  • Your cell phone will also become your wallet, digital camera and camcorder.
  • Stores will no longer have cash registers that you’ll have to wait in line for because RFID will recognize what you bought, including the quantity and charge your credit card automatically.
  • Your cell phone will be the next target for spam and othermalicious activity. This will create a boom for (mobile) security companies.

Is all of this a bit too much….a bit too intrusive? Maybe. Will the increase of information become unmanageable, or is it already? Maybe. Would I have it any other way? Not for a second. We live in amazingly interesting times. Smile, you’re alive.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Time to Rebalance???

2006 was an incredible year of personal growth with numerous gifts of insight and understanding. It was also an extremely fun year that I look back on and think, wheeeeee!!!.

Living Well vs. Doing Well

I believe there’s an important distinction between "doing well" and "living well".

I would say that in early 2006 I was "doing well" (nice job, $$$, apartment, car etc). During the first 8 months of 2006 I was working for an insurance company implementing large computer systems. This involved writing system specifications, detailed requirements, test scripts and attending meetings, meetings and, oh, more meetings. It was a very good job in a great company. I was extremely bored. I needed a significant change.

In the last four months I've been "living well" (amazing experiences, adventure, travel, etc). It’s funny…I still have no idea how to respond when people ask me “what I do” here in Barcelona. How should I answer when my life has consisted of traveling and partying? Cop de rauxa is Catalan for a moment of chaotic ecstasy. A constant feeling of chaotic ecstasy sums up my life very well in the past 4 months. I’m not complaining at all because all of this time to think, relax and have fun has contributed to my growth of 2006.

I've been able to live so well here in Barcelona because I saved while I was doing well financially and am a saver (family helps too). I think that being on either end of the “living well/doing well’’ spectrum for too long is unsustainable. Live on one side for too long and you're probably financially well off but unfulfilled and/or bored. Live on the other side and you'll probably have an amazing time, but probably won’t have a strong sense of real purpose and contribution to society.

The question becomes how long is too long on either end of this spectrum? Perhaps 2007 should be geared towards better balancing the chaotic and the boring..."doing well" and "living well". Time will tell what will occur in 2007...

Image by Hugh.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Help is on the way.

A common condition occurring in people between the ages of 21–121, marked by chronic dullness, mild depression, moderate to extremely high stress levels, a general fear of change, and, in some extreme cases, the inability to smile. Patients can appear aimless, discontent, and anxious about many things. Onset can be accelerated by an excess burden of bills, overwhelming responsibilities, or a boring work life. Generally, individuals in this condition are not fun to be around. It's called Adultitis and you may have it.

If you feel like you have symptoms of Adultitis and are ready to do something about it, click here for information.

Dr. Seuss Quote

''I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life's realities.'' - Dr. Seuss

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Back from Lisbon

Lisbon is an absolutely stunning city. It's a city where color dominates. Where small is big. It has heart and soul that makes you feel very welcome. The multiple barrios (neighborhoods) are situated on 7 hills which test your legs as you walk the viciously steep hills. All of the barrios have their own feel and are worth walking, but I especially loved the quintessential cool district, Barrio Alto; the up and coming fashion district, Santos; and the very trendy Chiado.

The narrow streets of Barrio Alto have countless stores waiting to be discovered. It’s overflowing with artistic creativity and brimming with life, both at night and day.

Chiado is home to stores like Hermes, Diesel and many other local and international shops. It’s also lined with countless cafes and restaurants.

Right next to the waterfront, Santos is in the process of being redeveloped and my guess is that it will be the place to be in 5 years. Many of the old factories are in the process of being turned into art and furniture galleries. Very cool.

I wouldn’t hesitate in going back. Lisbon, I think I love you. Below are a few more photos. More on Flickr.