witty landscapes!

After months of travel I find it wise enough not to name favorites. Take for a minute the food and wines of France, the everyday Confucianism of China, the coffee of Ethiopia, the palm trees of California, the eleven time zones of Russia, the melody of India or the harmony of Japan, just to name a very small few, and yes, one can put to bed the notion of favorite and happily switch to the handful of different.

In the words of a Mexican anthropologist I met in la ciudad, we’re though living the times of synthesis. You know, the often-basic three (3) tips for a happy life, the four (4) top skills for decisive leadership, the undisputable five (5) tips for a healthy life alongside the six (6) secrets to grow physically younger or, for example, the seven (7) witty tips for a SPECIAL travel! There are all kinds of lists trying to reduce the complexity of every system to a tangible solution. (recommend TEDxter Tim Harford on trial and error and the god complex)

Hence, against all odds and logic, here my top 10 landscapes of today:

1. Orthodox church complex, Lalibela, Ethiopia


Ethiopia is an astonishing surprise to the amateur traveler. It comes in all forms and formats, yet this fingerprint of devoted Christianity is surprisingly overwhelming even for a devoted atheist. Under the tyranny of the African sun, many images you’ll never forget.

2. Marine Drive, Mumbai, India


India is probably the most intense love-or-hate syndrome I know of. There is not half-way through India, in every aspect to it. And, the endless sea!

3. Volga view, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia


Russia is the whole notion of prejudice. The opportunity to bump into the harshest behavior or the nicest welcoming regards of all makes you a pendulum wanting to know more. The cult of individuals, in this case Gorky’s, in a land of lost collectivism is, at the very least, intriguing.

4. 21.000KM by train, Ukraine, Russia, Mongolia, China


Arriving at Ekateringburg, the monotonously relaxing view from the last carriage of a long distance train. There aren’t many chances in one’s life to run through this sort of mileage by train, one of this typical occasions where the power of dis-connectivity meets joy. Recommended.

5. Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Russia


Russia, really?, you’ll ask! Isn’t surprising the 30-million years old lake was home to many landlords amongst the Russians, Buryats and Mongols. It will feel like yours too. If you take your notebook, regardless of what you write, it will sound inspiring.

6. Terelj, Ulanbaataar, Mongolia


Reach true Mongolia within a marathon-running distance from Ulanbaattar. Terelj natural park gives you the opportunity to joyfully unplug, galloping the never-ending mountain landscape many have imagined and written about, ‘disconnect to connect’ as I’ve recently heard someone very intelligently put it. It is by far the place where disconnected felt the most in touch.

7. Great wall, Beijing, China

Great Wall

A remarkable handful of civilization. I wonder why this feeling! When put side-by-side with so many other noble military and fortress engineering (each with it’s spectacularity, and many portuguese-inspired :) it is not, after all, an one-of-a-kind architectural doing of all times. Still, you’re likely to be blown away by the feeling that it actually is. Funny enough, I still don’t know why, and that I believe is what makes it to the list.

8. Li River, Yangshuo, China


Crusing the Li River is one of the many ‘hidden’ treasures of mainland China. I could pick 100 plus other spots that are breath-taking and most-likely unknown to conventional tourist routes, moreso than the obvious acknowledgment that millions of those will come here in the very foreseeable future for a myriad of rmb exagerated smiles.

9. Longji, Guilin, China


Rice fields. Nothing compares to agricultural serenity. Combine it with truly secular practices and habits. Add an astonishing landscape and cap it with yummy gastronomy. You’ve just arrived to Longji.

10. Divisadero, San Francisco, USA

Divisadero with Pacific

San Francisco. Lovely, the urbanity, cosmopolitism and relative well-being of an American city. The US is lagging behind every day, not as much as the EU, but at an incredibly fast pace. The reminiscence or, better said, the sparkling presence of a creative magic, birthplace to world changing ideas, makes this an awesome place in shaky America.

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witty maps!

We’ve talked about borderless worlds. We are border-full maniacs, though, and so are pretty much all the different nations around the world. There is a very funny observation about world maps: we tend to stare into one’s own navel, and often forget there is a world out there too. In the process of looking inwards, we end up placing ourselves at the very middle. That is why in my simple, history-validated and recurrently reproduced vision of a world map Europe has always been at the center. Guess what, the others thought the same too! J

My first “aha” was at the Chinese National Museum in Beijing, at the side of Tiananmen square, where all the visualizations of China (or Zhongguó – again, the “empire of the center”, using a rather literal translation!) featured China at the very heart of the map.

China isn’t a rare example, now obviously, I say! At the headquarters of Toyota, in Toyota, Japan, a very prominent map shouts aloud the ability to see the world through the lenses of a global car manufacturing empire, with Japan at the very core. Obvious!

Walking down the streets of downtown Los Angeles, there it was, an ever-refreshing random piece of art, lost in the thousands of bustling expressions of a defunct-yet-once-very-alive urban territory. Defunct or not is a broader and more complicated topic, I know that, but I insist with the term. Regardless, the map did have the will to push America’s’ to the right making it a good inch more central.

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And so on and so forth… Every continent does the same. Almost every nation, should they be able to. One could say this is simply how it is. True, it is! It is also, you may reason, the nature of mankind. Nations want to be in the center, the middle, the virtue. This is all good, as long as constructive, which is not always the case.

I wish the European continent, proudly able to once design its own representation of virtue, could now avoid all the useless, helpless and disgraceful course of action it’s taking in what EUROPEAN INTEGRATION (aka: debt) is concerned. These days, and I wish I could soon eat my sour words, really better put someone else in the middle as we cannot even help ourselves!

I wonder how the Eskimos would ever describe their lonely piece of Earth?

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witty leaders!

We keep hearing a zillion speeches, articles, lessons, trainings and workshops on leadership, recurrently over-powerpoint-doses one sane brain can hardly take (without fundamentalism ;-)!

Met recently with an academia director, Mr. Yi Zongyong, from Guangdong University (leading public Chinese University and Research Center) and we had a super interesting conversation over many topics, some off-the-record as I slowly learn no journalist, even the fake ones, get anything interesting on the record! Take it back, you can always interview Berlusconi.

Anyway, after recurrent under-statements of the obvious power China holds today, Mr. Zongyong had a refreshingly non-business oriented (NULIS SECUNDIS!!!) answer on leadership. “We don’t like to be number one”:

Interesting thought, I thought :)! Still, there are various leadership styles, countless leaders, leaders-to-be and leaders-to-be-born, so all in all, interesting thought, true enough many situations call for different skills. If you think about it, you may be number one just exactly because you don’t need that to happen! It is a powerful enabler, it makes sense.

Now, what about concealing? That gets more interesting. It’s exactly the same insight though, but taken in this case to a state-level. Of course China wants to be a leader, of course they know what that means and what responsibilities it carries, and without a mere shade of pink they truly believe the best way to get there is by following a long standing principle, one step at a time.

Of course this whole observation has a lot more to Chinese culture than I knew. It is not about being number one or number two, or three or four, it is not about hiding or promoting or playing around, it is the fundamental mindset that Lao Tzu puts in ‘words’: “Superior leaders get things done with very little motion. They impart instruction not through many words, but through a few deeds. They keep informed about everything but interfere hardly at all. They are catalysts, and though things would not get done as well if they were not there, when they succeed they take no credit. And, because they take no credit, credit never leaves them.”

“Nulis secondis”, our fashionable version of modesty.

From here, we went to G2, the ‘outside’ world, the civilization, the reforms, the current ideological paradox of closing the eyes, the ears and everything else to ideology! The famous Deng Xiaoping guidance on: “Let some get rich first”! Last question was on whether China still had an ideology at all and kindly stopped the recording to get a better answer.

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seven witty cents: travel tips!

I’ve been gathering a lot of tips. Everybody does, and the more you travel, the more useful and relevant tips you’re able to share. Truth to be told, you will surely find the majority of the practical tips I’ve been writing down in a bunch of really cool websites for travelers, but typically shared in a much nicer and structured way, by people taking traveling professionally.

Therefore, I focus purely on the ones I think are less obvious for one to take onboard from the very beginning. These are the seven tips I feel are the most critical to make your travel S-P-E-C-I-A-L. So, here it goes:

S stands for the most valuable resource you’ll carry along the way, and that is your Smile. The cool thing about smile is that it will always be with you, so even for very distracted people it will be hard to lose it. Also, it doesn’t take space. No weight on your backpack. Believe it or not, it is a fundamental part of your pharmacy. It doesn’t cost a cent. It can solve half and improves the other half of all your travel hiccups. Quite frankly, focus on this, it will make you SMILE.


P stands for something many people hate, others spit on, quite some enjoy and finally, those like me, love :o)! I am talking about PLANNING. Planning is an important part of any travel. (please take planning in the proper sense, I am not talking about a list of day by day activities from light to dusk). I am talking about you knowing what you want to achieve out of your travel (even if it is specifically not to achieve), what do you need to do to get there, and at what cost you are willing to go (at least those who aren’t budget-free). Planning is also about knowing something before of the places you will go, the culture of the countries you’ll visit and the habits and practicalities once there. The actual travel is going to open you up to all of those properly, yet, in the age of Google, Lonely Planet and Wikipedia, (amongst a zillion alikes) there is not one single reason to go by Athens and miss the Acropolis! Or, to take a taxi from the airport in Beijing. Or… endless little enormous things just a little bit of planning will do for you!


E stands for something that goes hand-in-hand with planning, and that’s the ability to properly ENJOY living outside of your plan. It is a fact, there is very, but really very little, in true traveling, that will go by a plan. And that is absolutely gorgeous. Now, in my view, you can only really enjoy it if you initially had or knew something about your travel, if you know where the boundaries are, if you’re ok on missing a lot of things because you are getting a million others. You will enjoy a lot more being in the know, and then either diving or literally let yourself be pushed into the entire unknown every corner in the world, everyone you meet, the weather that day, (whatever, you choose!), is there to offer you. ENJOY!


C stands for COMPROMISE. You’ll have plenty, so get ready upfront to treat it properly. It is part of planning and living outside of the plan to compromise fully to an extent you’re happy to enjoy. Forget the optimal solution, the optimal train, the optimal deal, the optimal meal, compromise all along and you’ll see the optimal will happen massively the moment you don’t look for it deliberately. It is hard to get optimal in a place you don’t know, it is hard to pin-point that exact experience you’ll want to have that day, yet, if you are able to compromise, it is very likely that things will happen suddenly. Very powerful, COMPROMISE!


I stands for the human’s most powerful differentiator, the power of great IDEAS. I’ve always been amazed when coming across a great idea, hence, when traveling, it is obvious that are plenty to appreciate and learn from. It is your role to simply open your eyes with a sharpen mind, beware they are not always the easiest to see, and do never forget they can travel as much as you do. MAKE IDEAS TRAVEL, and one day, we may discover that’s where civilization hope lays.


A stands for your ATTITUDE. Think your values, your principles, think you as an individual should be no different from you as a traveler. Therefore, never do out of home something you wouldn’t do at home, don’t judge too fast cause you’ve just arrived, and, importantly, don’t do more just because you’ll do it for a week or two, do more, always, and as you see fit, but do it forever. Also, ATTITUDE is about sustainable travel. Think carbon when you can travel land. Think future when separating garbage. Think planet when traveling the world.


And, at Last, finally, puff, it was Long,

L stands for LEARNING! “The further one goes the less one knows”. Bring it on, let it in, take as much as you can and, this is important, do check whether you’re throwing some chunks out of the window.


Huummmmm, and then again, is this only about traveling? :o)

Ahhh, and: http://inside-digital.blog.lonelyplanet.com/2011/06/17/how-travel-makes-you-smarter-sexier-and-more-productive/?affil=lpemail

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witty brutalities!

The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of the global household wealth. The richest 1% of adults alone own 40% of global assets, and the richest 10% of adults account for 85% of the world in total. In contrast, the bottom 50% of adult population owns barely 1% of global wealth. Hum! Ah, and if you have assets worth $500.000 you are part of the 1% (a loan doesn’t count)! The global wealth Gini for adults is 89%. The same degree of inequality would be obtained if one person in a group of ten takes 99% of the total pie and the other nine share the remaining 1%.

Dr. Mani Mala, Research Principal and Director at the New Delhi’s International Centre of Gandhian Studies and Research brings in the needed term. How brutal is the disparity today and, simultaneously, how rounded are poverty-ending policies at a global level?

What will we do today? What can we do, often times one thinks! Nothing? It’s not up to you? Is it far away? Is there a broader plan where we fit in? Do you have a plan? Do you have to have a plan? Will it get better? Well, isn’t the trend worse? Reframe wealth? Smart west!

For further reading:


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Wnited Россия!

It is interesting how distance helps looking back at what you see. Also, there is probably no better place to look at former Soviet Union, and, to some extent, to current Russian Federation, or Единая Россия (if you will!), than from the lands of Chairman Mao Zedong. It is an incredibly interesting task to compare Russia/USSR with China, in all respects, but let’s leave that for the post-China travel time.

With all due respect for such an amazing country, Russia, home to 143 million people, largest in the world with 17 million sq km (!), unique with 11 internal time zones (or 10, or 12, I think nobody knows for sure!), most importantly, home to a geographical hardship very hard to compete with in scale, beauty and ice, I cannot equal Russia as part of the BRICs the same way I surrender to the BICs’ power.

If anything, look at GDP growth perspectives for 2006-2050 (thx to GS):

  • Brasil: 1068% (-5,9; 2.4; 2.8)
  • Russia: 874% (-3.4; 10; 7.2)
  • India: 4144% (3.4; 2.3; 7,7)
  • China: 2636% (2.3; 7,6; 10.1)

If that doesn’t help, because they all just look significantly high, give a look at the second set of numbers, representing for each country, their respective 1990, 2000 and 2006 GDP per capita annual growth. Russia is slowing down massively, mainly because the so-needed economical reforms that brought some years of progress stagnated into a political conformism I can hardly see anywhere else.

You could also look at Poland (a former USSR’s republic), and compare it with Russia. The polish have been doing a fantastic job and the difference has a name, the name is democracy. I may be stating the obvious here, but the broader point I want to make is that democracy is yet to come to Russia and, probably worse, today’s autocracy from United Russia, Единая Россия, the ruling party, is as relevant as that of communist times (with the obvious differences!). Will mister Putin become president again and, if so, is it normal that a country with 143 million people needs him to go on the task of being prime-minister just to keep HIS president’s sit? How many more gas and oil lords will there be to maintain the status quo? How much more of the Russian people is there to be taken away?

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I am still arguing over email to be able to post two of the funny conversations I had on this topic. Is there freedom of speech? Hum! There is more to United Russia than only not liking Gorbachev. Is that a crime to like Gorbachev? Is it ideologically a mistake to like those who have an ideology? Did the flags just came out of the closet?

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witty thanks!

Many, many, many thanks for all the birthday wishes! I had a fantastic day, and you made it even better! Muitos beijos e abraços de Beijing!

Legal note: used quick handy pictures from my laptop so many of you are missing out :-((( !!!

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witty unions!

There is no way to handle this theme easy. Therefore, let’s break it down into three posts. Soviets, first, Russians, after, and ideology, at the very end.

I think the division is helpful because I see too much of western rightists and/or Americans (rightists or not, and for different reasons!) stamping Soviet Union too fast. There is more to Soviets than Lenin, and there is more to Lenin than failure. Otherwise, you better call the whole of these people dumb:

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Along the same lines, I see too many leftists stuck with their utopian and nostalgic dream of equalitarian civil societies. I still prefer the dream, I confess, but just because it is a rather appealing idea, more so than a practical and sensible way of reading civilization. In very simple terms, yes, but those are my terms! In any case, Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, other evolutionary forms, socialism, communism, historical materialism and alikes are widely mis-interpreted, so, who cares!

We could talk forever about this topic, let alone the endless boring writing to be produced. Hence, I’ll just leave two pluses and two minuses that shout too loud to be overlooked. Always, pluses first:

+1: qualifications! There is one way to go about this: well done. I wish all nation-states would think the same way Soviet Union did about education. Regardless of all other topics, and here we are looking upon this in isolation, it is a plus. One could also mention Iuri Gagarin’s achievements, or Mendeleev’s (ok, before!), but take Lvov, Vernadsky, Chersky, Dokuchaev, Middendorf, Bolotov, Pavlov, Euler, Sobolev, quite frankly, it is a stupid exercise to list some, there are way too many more. A plus you can still see, appreciate, and look at the cultural consequences in every-day life, civility and societal behaviors. I will skip health in the name of un-reliable soviet statistics.

+2: women! One could think undisputable Slavic beauty is the plus :). It is a fact, but it was already there. And, rest assured, it still is, quite bluntly :)! The plus I mention here is the first significant effort to promote gender equality and properly argue women’s equal role in society. Yes, Stalin and all soviet leadership were guys, but so was Churchill, Roosevelt and pretty much the entire Western cupola, with some years  left for the same constitutional rights and statements of equality. Alas, until the present day, and that is why women empowerment and gender equality still are two of the most important civilization breakthroughs to be achieved.

Now, the bads! I am afraid it won’t fit in writing because they are as much factual as they are emotional. Trying to focus on the facts (let’s skip the grey and far-away facial expressions for the time being):

-1: initiative! I have a devoted passion for human empowerment, something the soviets killed at the very root and for generations to come. Above all, I rate this as the most detrimental legacy of soviet history, hampering their fellow citizens belief, initiative and self-confidence. In a soviet lived the eternal respect for their ideal alongside the forced ambivalence of state-dependence. You can still see it today. One could argue, and many do, that Russia (and at the time, Soviet Union) had never experienced democracy and the average Russian Peasant always saw his aspirations diminished. OK, fair enough, regardless, it is a Soviet legacy.  Later on, let’s talk about Putin-Medved Russian pro-soviet “””democracy”””!!!!

-2: marshall-less! Just like initiative, this minus is huge and with many consequences. I call it marshall-less but maybe a fairer designation is stubbornness: the confrontation of ideology and stupidity. Here the soviets have many examples proving their ability in making ideology grayness succeed.  The most important to me, the inability to understand the very core of the Marshall plan, which marked the beginning of USSR’s very long economical disaster. Secondly, the Sino-Soviet split with the Chinese understanding of INITIATIVE, with the necessary reforms empowering people. You can just experience the casual day-to-day stubbornness in trains, parks, supermarkets, operas, companies, you name it. This is how it is, “the Russian way”, punto!

Puff… I wanted to make this shorter. Arrrhhh!!

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growing Ukraine!

There is one topic about development that I find truly remarkable: how similar the stories are, around the globe, when it comes to the barriers, the challenges and the path to successful social and economical development policies.

There is a myriad of differences, that is clear, to the background, the starting points, the real way of actually implementing policies, yet, if you dig down on important themes like infra-structure, qualifications, industrial establishment, market regulations, political, judicial and institutional reforms, then you get to the 80/20 in a blink of an eye (but yes, there are important 20s!).

Ukraine, as a country, is 20 years old and I am amazed with the growing foundations of a post-soviet nation-state, struggling to find its path in between a neglecting and politically empty European Union (relative to resources, not being negative!) and a still-to-be-understood post-soviet Russia (this is a big theme for later!).

Out of all the similarities, I am calling out the one that makes me the happier: the factor time! We all know we cannot change a man or a woman’s mind from night to day, let alone the structural deficits of a country. Still, the simple ability democracies have to exacerbate the will to drive change faster is a tremendous enabler no other political system was yet able to find. That’s why conformism and alienation are the single most dangerous realities for a would-be-healthy democracy.

Mr. Andryi Sadovyy, an outstanding mayor of the Unesco protected city of Lviv, of whom we will talk more, also reflects the limitations time imposes.

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witty global politics!

Mr- Rashid, business man from Nepal, politician, and one of the kindest and warmest individuals I’ve met so far, brings up an important topic on global politics, vested interests… in a very funny and honest way, I thought!

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