Vacation

Mahi Mahi BBQ in Double Bay, Sydney
Having the chance to visit Australia, I made sure to meet up with a couple of friends there: Paul (first met him in Bukit Lawang’s jungle, watched wild Orang-utans together, and made our way out to paved grounds), Charlotta (a colleague from uni, been studying and partying together in Linköping) and Emelie (met her once at Pablo’s place, and listened to her fascinating year driving, literally, around Australia).

My cousin André (who’s been living in Australia the last year) happened to be more than a thousand kilometres north of my destinations, thus we will catch up back in Sweden instead. And last but not least, my friend and colleague Olov (see last post for picture), who is also part of the graduate progamme that brought us ten time zones from Sweden.

Really nice to meet up with all of you guys!

Picture of Emelie and Byron preparing for a lovely BBQ dinner in their garden, in Double Bay, Sydney.

Remote friends

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Olov driving in Adelaide - Erik WInther 2014
I got really challenged in March; a continent to grasp in just a week. Adding to that, four domestic flights and the fact that I worked overtime all five weekdays.

Yet, I do my best! And as usually when there are lots to do on the agenda, I reduce the number of hours in bed and strive to experience as much as possible. Love it.

Picture showing my trainee-colleague Olov, temporarily based in Australia, as he took us to a after work swim on Adelaide’s white beach.

10 days and 4 cities

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Chilling at the pool in KL - Erik Winther 2014
My trainee-colleague Johanna has already left KL, and Angelica leaves Bangkok in a few days.

It is not without mixed feelings I realize that the first quarter of 2014 is coming to an end, implicating that my stay here in Thailand is facing the same fate.

So with only a few weeks left, I look back and enjoy my fantastic memories, while at the same time try to maximize the remaining days by ‘acquiring professional help’ from Stockholm. In practice my good friend Johan is visiting; a high-performer who rarely omit a party or social gathering. I think we will have lots of fun on Bangkok’s dance floors!

Picture of Johanna, Angelica relaxing in front of Petronas Towers (background), shot from the pool area on 22nd floor at Johanna’s residence in KL during our visit there in February.

Q1 2014 is coming to an end

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Nodding on Koh Samet - Erik Winther 2014
I’ve never been good at Soccer. Never even tried to become good at it. Moreover, I don’t like watching Soccer on TV. Generally no other sport either.

But on one of the lazy days on Koh Samet in January before vacation became work, Frida decided that I had to practice headers. While my skills improved fast, joy was the most important outcome; as the picture probably reveals. A social long-shot that worked, who would have guessed?

Soccer

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Saab APAC Trainees - Erik Winther 2014
Realized that I haven’t posted this picture earlier. I shot this photo in my Bangkok apartment in January, when Frida’s and my adventurous vacation in Thailand and Laos was coming to an end.

So we made our way back to Bangkok, where three of my trainee colleagues had just flown in from Sweden. From left: Johanna (based in Kuala Lumpur during her months abroad), I, Angelica (Bangkok), Cathrine (Jakarta) and my travel companion Frida (Linköping).

Colleagues in Asia

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The Monk, the Tiger and Erik - Erik Winther 2014
Jenny, Henke, Angelica and I visited a wildlife sanctuary last Sunday; similar to the one Frida and I visited outside Chiang Mai in December. They both host numerous tigers, and one get to meet them inside their cages.

No doubt there is a certain adrenaline rush when the 160 kg beast you’re cuddling with makes sure you remember what he is. And that his necklace isn’t chained.

Picture from today, when the monk and I took one of the tigers for a walk outside the cage.

The Monk, the Tiger and I

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Sydney Opera House - Erik Winther 2014
Compared to most of my friends, I have been travelling Asia a lot. But unlike me, several have been in the odd country named Australia; either as exchange students or enjoying Australia’s favourable one-year work-and-vacate-visa.

Not that I haven’t been inclined to go there, but it has always seemed like a place one need more than a month to visit in order to have a fair chance of getting a grip of what it is all about. And I haven’t had such timeslot available yet.

But then work gave me the opportunity to go there for a week, starting yesterday, and guess what: I didn’t hesitate!

Probably not worth mentioning, picture shows Sydney Opera House.

New Continent

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Sumatran fisherman smiling - Erik Winther 2011
Thailand greets you with a great smile when you arrive, when you leave, when you help and when you misbehave. Thai people smile when they get tip and when they trick you, and when you bust them for it.

In Sweden, the last example would be considered very offensive and some people would loose their temper because of such obvious disrespect. But in Thailand, just as most countries in this region, such smile is the best way for both parties to jointly agree on what happened, that it was wrong, and a way for the busted person to show regret.

However hard and uncomfortable it feels, do yourself and the other party the favour to remind yourself of this next time you find yourself in such situation – regardless if the smile is yours or not!

The happy fisherman in the picture lives in Indonesia, on the south coast of the vivid island in the middle of lake Toba in Sumatra. I met him there during Kyung Hee University’s winter vacation 2011/2012.

Smile through life

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Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, standing tall in the night - Erik Winther 2012
My colleague Angelica and I visited Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, KL, last weekend (and our friend Johanna of course!). Despite the fact that Malaysia’s labour force is just a third of Thailand’s, their economy (GDP) is almost as big. The difference is obvious when strolling downtown; Thailand’s sidewalk-life with hawker stalls and salesmen all over is completely gone.

Just as Norway and unlike Thailand, nature gave Malaysia oil. Black, shiny liquid gold. It rarely get as obvious as on the border between oil-rich Brunei and rural Sabah; even though Sabah belongs to Malaysia. But what characterizes non-renewable finite resources, such as oil, is that today’s consumption rates are in practice borrowing wealth from coming generations as the resources’ reproduction rates are much slower.

Thus a great deal of consideration should be made when regulating the usage of natural resources. In that sense is Malaysia far behind Norway, as they spend 30% of the oil’s value as soon as is pumped up to the surface. Norway, indeed having far higher living standard and a GDP per capita ten times as high as Malaysia, are spending barely 2% of the value and put the remaining value in two sovereign wealth funds (known as the Oil Fund); which happen to be the world’s most valuable funds.

Picture from a previous KL-visit in December 2011.

Petroleum

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Koh Samet Ao Phrao - Erik Winther
Adjacent to the last post, I want to bring up something that bothers me a lot these days. Because who or what is it that gave me all opportunities I experience in life? Why?

I am both grateful and humble to all of it, but keep reflecting as I walk past several prostitutes on my way to work every day. Passing people who are just as good as me in all aspects, but who were less lucky in life’s lottery of opportunities. Where are the drawbacks and the unacceptable fine print?

And what more is, who am I to decide whether I rightfully can and should continue this awesome journey through life in the fast track? Would the world become a better place if I said ‘no, thank you’ instead? How can I make others share the joy?

Picture of the Gulf of Thailand shot from Koh Samet’s beach Ao Phrao last weekend.

…then again

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Chang beer in Hua Hin - Erik Winther 2014
Things can change swiftly, but returning from the most amazing dinner, I have to be honest to myself and conclude that things are far more than good.

Picture of me enjoying a Chang beer in Hua Hin.

La Vita è Bella

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Erik surfing at Flow House in Bangkok
To exchange Linköping’s cold and dark climate for Bangkok’s warm sunlight and energizing tempo is really a good deal. Sure it wouldn’t be for everyone, but this time a year and at this time in life; it really fits me well.

Picture of me surfing on the artificial wave at Flow House here in Bangkok. Photo credits to Henrik Wetterling.

High life

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Frida sipping whiskey in Laos - Erik Winther
Sorry for the Swedish heading on this post, it’s just that the well-suited expression makes no sense direct translated.

As earlier mentioned, my colleague Frida travelled with me during this Asia-visit’s first sixteen days; which took us to and around the perfectly-averaged Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, to calm, healing and beautiful Luang Prabang in Laos, and lastly to warm Koh Samet in south-eastern Thailand before we returned to Bangkok.

During our stay in Laos, we went on a full-day hike. As we passed through a small village, we got to try the locals’ rice wine as it is supposed to be served: filtered through sawdust in a large clay jar and drunk with a super long bamboo-straw. With such hospitality, one does not remind them that strong alcohol at 9 am is a little so-so.

Picture from the mountains south of Luang Prabang, with Frida sipping liquor for breakfast.

Morgonstund har guld i mund

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Kuang Si Waterfall - Erik Winther 2014
I used to swim. A lot. 20 hours a week. But just as the Swedish Speedway legend Tony Richardsson did, I too quit for real when I quit with competitive swimming. Thus, I haven’t swum at all the last three years.

But nowadays, with a roof top infinity pool within an elevator-ride, things have changed. To start the day with a refreshing 30-minute crawl session is quite something.

Picture shot by Frida of me swinging into the water in one of the basins below the mighty Kuang Si waterfall outside Luang Prabang, Laos.

Swimming

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native-tribe-woman-in-thailand
I am currently thinking a lot. Trying to find the global optimum (i.e. the best solution, for those of you who does not speak math) to a question with no/one/two/multiple (I don’t know which) correct answers.

To live a grandeur and exciting life in interesting places with people like oneself; or to live a much more down to earth “Svensson-life” with lots of “must-do’s” in a colder, darker and more boring place but with the advantage of having old friends and relatives closer? What is worth the most to me? That is the question.

Picture shot in northern Thailand on December 31, 2013.

The known versus the unknown

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Pad Thai at soi Rambuttri
Across the road from the world’s backpacker hub #1 (Khao San Road, Bangkok) lies a small street, soi, named after the colourful and sweet fruit Rambuttri. The name couldn’t be better chosen, as this is one of my favourite places in Asia.

Walking from Khao San, a temple is hidden in the flourish vegetation on your left while cosy restaurants and €5/h-massage saloons limit the soi on the right side. Between these boundaries you’ll find shopping stalls offering all clothing, books, gears, food and drinks a happy life can ask for. Add to that a bustling crowd of smiling and extrovert travellers who gladly share experiences and memories over a few bottles of Chang beer.

In case you’re still not convinced, Rambuttri’s motorbike-restaurants offer Thailand’s best Pad Thai (picture) and my favourite dessert: Mango w/ Sticky Rice. Awesomeness, for less than five bucks.

Soi Rambuttri

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Korean Hiker
The mountain hike mentioned in last post was organized as a group tour; hence four Korean teacher-students on winter vacation accompanied us. They reminded me of my dear friends Sun, Yonghak, Min, Jin, Chan and all the others; and all the good times we shared.

Frida and I then got the opportunity to have an interesting discussion and comparison the definition of success & joy, school systems, and international politics with them. I was happily impressed by their objective reflections, yet reminded of the effort it takes to counteract strong traditions; whether they are for better or worse.

Korean teachers

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Fascinating Smartphone
We spent the trip’s third night on a mountain top two hours northwest of Chiang Mai, in a Lahu hill tribe village. As the locals were used to the stunning views that surround their everyday lives, the children were far more interested in the games on Frida’s smartphone. Until the battery ran out.

Watching ten year olds who have to sleep on the floor, and whose parents earn less than a dollar a day, play ‘Candy Crush’ is really empathizing what I saw and studied last year in Africa: undeveloped rural areas are leapfrogging compared to the western society when it comes to digital adoption. I wish them good luck and cheer them forward!

Fascinating smartphone

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Convertible in USA
Dear reader,
It has been a while since I wrote to you lastly, thus let me give you a short summary.

I returned to Sweden from Ghana in December 2012, finalized my thesis (see DareAfrica.com if you are interested), graduated and started to work. With exception for a bunch of great weekends and vacations in Finland, Estonia, Netherlands and UK, and of course the amazing roadtrip along the US west coast, I stayed working in Sweden until December 2013.

After lovely days around Christmas with family, relatives and friends in Lund, I left Europe for Asia once more. Twenty days of backpacking in Thailand and Laos with my colleague and friend Frida followed, fantastic days that this blog will return to several times. Meeting up three other colleagues, I made myself ready for a couple of months’ work based here in Bangkok; this bustling and smiling city!

Picture of me in our rented convertible from Highway 1 in July 2013.

Asia 2014Q1

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Landfill worker in Accra - Erik Winther 2012
I signed an agreement a few days ago, making me Scandinavia’s Volunteer Coordinator for the NGO Solid Rock Association. I have mentioned them here in the blog earlier, and the part of their social contribution that I am most happy about is the ICT education. The organization teaches Accra’s poorest children how to use a computer; which most of them have neither seen nor used before.

George Osei-Waree and Fred Abban, both successful Ghanaian entrepreneurs with careers in west, have returned to Accra and are now starting a non-profit organization that help Ghanaian ICT students becoming experts in their field.

Both organizations are in constant need of devices such as computers and mobile phones, so before you throw away your replaced equipment; contact me and I’ll do my best to get it down to people I know do a good job for Africans. Africans, such as the guy I photographed in his “home” on the landfill.

Give your old mobile and laptop to Africa

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Interest in Amsterdam - photo and retouch Erik Winther 2013
We have received lots of interest for our work from all types of actors since the academic presentation. It feels good, as we’ve been frustrated so many times – both by the many business opportunities that are just waiting for westerners, and because of the unnecessary inefficiencies in development aid. I’ll tell you about the spin-offs when we get closer to practical details.

Beside the leverage on our message, I think the best kudos came from Swedfund themselves, as they have requested us to continue on the same track on part-time as consultants. Feels like an indirect “well done”.

Interest

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Toothbrushing outside the tent - Erik Winther 2012
When I scout around in the world, I try to smile and say hello, be open and encouraging, but also critical and objective. Whether I succeed is for you to decide, but I always find it interesting to hear or read what others think and say about things – and I’ve been raised in Sweden with Swedish values and priorities; which of course affects my perception of things.

So in what way does this affect my evaluations? Anders Fogelström has lots of experience of living abroad and gives lectures in intercultural management, and wrote about the Swedes from an outside perspective in Bearing Consulting’s blog. Quite informative and fun, yet including some significant generalizations that demand you to be a bit critical. As always.

Swedes, from an outside perspective

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Amsterdam by night - Erik Winther 2012
2013 started on a bridge in central Amsterdam, after the lovely three course dinner we arranged for fourteen persons, and before we entered the club.

Amsterdam has shown itself from its best side, and the days spent there with good-old Liv, Lisa (our great host), Karin and Lukas were really nice and relaxing. A beautiful city with lots and lots of tiny but ever so cute boutiques, out of which ‘360 Volt’ is one of my absolute favourites.

Happy New Year

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To all my friends out there, may you have a joyful and merry Christmas with your near and dear!

Love from a snowy Skåne, Sweden, with a warming photo from the canopy walk in Kakum National Park, Ghana.

Merry Christmas!

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Eleven hours after I said goodbye to Lisa in Amsterdam, my Finnish Korea-colleague Lena arrive in Linköping. Great to meet her again! She came to visit Jonas, Mattias and me since it will take time before the four of us will be on the same continent again.

Because of the guys’ upcoming exams and my thesis not getting completed on it’s own (strange, isn’t it?); time was sparse. But with restaurant-lunches and Lena cooking dinners for us, we all managed to share tons of laughs and have a great time. Welcome back any time, and see you in Österbotten this summer :)

Moomin-Lena

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We have visited and helped out as much as possible during our visits at the Ghanaian grass-root NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) called Solid Rock Association. They are teaching slum-children how to play on and manufacture instruments, stitch/make clothes, and to become familiar with computers.

Our contributions, beside the monetary aspect, were IT-support and especially help with the structure and design of their Volunteer program. If you yourself or anyone you know might be interested: check out the site and/or drop some questions to me at erik@ewco.se, or Kofi & William at info@solidrockassoc.org.

Thanks for caring & sharing!

Volunteer at an NGO

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We have our drive and source of energy sorted out, made -rather- obvious by the picture. Are you aware of your(s)?

Photo form last weekend’s visit in Krokobite. Just found out that the ‘chilly’ water held more than 28°C; I will most certainly die promptly in Sweden.

What’s your drive?

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Woke up with ocean view, had Tribes’s famous ginger jam on the breakfast pancakes, sunbathed until lunch, walked within the presidential palace’s restricted area, and met up with some random -but super nice- rasta-guys in a cemetery.

Ended up in a nice discussion about the upcoming election (6 days left) with them over some beers at a sidewalk of bustling Oxford street; the place to be. Right now we’re back on a quick stop at the hotel (of course still on Oxford st.) before we head back out to the 28°C-evening air with them to Independence Square; where the party won’t stop before 2pm.

But first: shower and opening of the first slots in the chocolate-calendars I’ve brought along from Linköping :)

December 1st; 1st day off in Ghana

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We see a lot of potential, and it is more than clear that today’s Africa is what China was 30 years ago: the place to be for fast economic growth and help-to-self-help. Which, in the end of the day, is what really matters – to me.

A few examples of what we have seen ourselves in Kenya:
• IBM recently opened their office in Nairobi, their first R&D department in the developing world, 9th in total
• MIT-students start their companies in Kenya’s Nairobi because of the buzzing creativity and potential on Ngong Road.
• Google’s grand office opening-party in Nairobi took place when we were there.
• We’ve met traditional Maasai men that lived far, far out in the bushes without electricity; yet greeted us “Hey, give me your mobile and I’ll send you some nice tribe-songs via Bluetooth”, and did it.

..and in Rwanda:
• Rwanda’s backbone of optical fibre for broadband is better than many others’, e.g. France’s.
• Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is just as clean as Singapore, and their roads are equal in standard.
• Carnegie Mellon University has a campus in Rwanda, their first in the developing world. “Things are too slow in US and Europe”, their director told us.

Our findings, so-far: Africa is on the move

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Beside the academic aspects, the outcome our project creates is at best a decent report with reasonable findings, which we ourselves own the immaterial rights to. So really, why is someone else paying for all expenses during our weeks in Africa?

Just as most other westerners, Swedes are -sorry to say- still considering Africa as a homogenous piece of land, from which the everyday headlines contains the words war/death/poverty/HIV/unemployment/rebels/pirates, but rarely opportunities/economic growth/skills/stability. Hence, most companies are of the same opinion.

But this is not the case. It is actually far from the truth; a result of the negative signals that meet media’s short-term incentives easiest. So the objective of our project is to get an idea of the business climate and opportunities (if any), findings that are to be shared amongst Swedes and Swedish companies in order to raise awareness. Hence, we’re hired as messengers.

Infographics by Kai Krause, which needs to be shown frequently.

Our project

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So we didn’t actually reach Ghana today. The flight got cancelled and we were eventually driven to a hotel, paid by Kenyan Airways. So despite that I only got half an hour sleep last night, the extra day in Nairobi was a quite nice break; meeting up with Malin and Frida again, and swimming in the five-star hotel’s rooftop-pool. A significant standard increase compared to what we pay for with Swedfund’s money.

Oh, if you doubted; the picture shows my room, Wille stays in his own next-door.

Country 1: revisited

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The last five days have been spent here in Kigali, Rwanda, full of exciting meetings for our research. My good Rwandan friend Charmant that I met in Korea is unfortunately not here (still studying at Kyung Hee University), but connected us to his brother Nepo and friend Emmy (see picture). They have shown Wille and me around in Kigali today, Saturday, and will join us tomorrow when we are heading northeast for the scenic nature and lake Kivu.

In Rwanda!

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The last Kenya-weekend was just as exciting as the first ones, but much more touching.

Our new friend Simon, an indigenous Maasai warrior of Christian beliefs, has done more than most for Kenya’s and Tanzania’s rural population: building numerous churches, schools and drilling water wells, beside spreading wisdom in his role as bishop.

The funding comes from American churches, via Derrick who actually also linked me to Simon. I find it fascinating to hear Simon explain how it makes sense that they train their warriors to never fear or doubt. A parallel society with very different values than ours, which include much tighter bonds within families than average western citizens have.

Wille and I got to stay the weekend in his house in a remote Maasai village. We got to meet and talk to so many nice persons from his tribe and were shown a school he built, visited one of the water wells, shared a meal with a Chief at a big political meeting, spoke to his friend John who works at the president’s office, and waived to the gazelles and giraffes that walked past us. An unforgettable memory; thank you for showing us all everything Simon!

Picture showing John, Simon, me and the driver Joshua at the rand of the Rift Valley close to Ngong and with their village and the volcano Suswa in the background.

Simon the Bishop

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“Nä, nu är f*n sympatin för gnuerna slut! Kan de inte bara börja hoppa i och dö??”
– Wille, som fått lätt solsting efter att i timmar ha väntat på lite action vid flodbädden där de otaliga gruerna ängsligt kikar ner mot floden de måste korsa; vars vatten hyser tjogvis av tålmodiga krokodiler som i sin tur sällskapas av luggslitna gamar i de kringliggande träden.

Sorry about the temporary change into Swedish.

Wille, dejected

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Once arrived, we got an offer we couldn’t refuse: a 160sqm luxurious villa with huge garden, swimming pool, gardener and housekeeper for $40. That was for both of us, for two nights.

Despite that, and having wild monkeys and turtles in the garden, the best thing was one of the garden’s trees: the Baobab tree. If you look closely (or click to enlarge) on the picture, you’ll see Wille relaxing in the centre of the photo. Now that’s a huge tree!

Baobab tree

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This weekend we decided to get a glimpse of the Indian Ocean, and got on the Friday’s night bus to Mombasa. Strolled around in town, visited Fort Jesus, and got surprised by the extent of the Arabic influences. A few hours later were we in having lunch on Diani beach, a truly nice break from the hectic (but lovely) environment in Nairobi.

The morning-hours of the second day were spent under water, scuba diving. Octopuses, stingrays, frog fishes and a beautiful leopard moray eel greeted us before we were (almost) attacked by a spear gun-fisherman. Lazy afternoon on the endless beach and at the pool area, before dinner at Forty thieves.
Pure awesomeness.

2nd weekend

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Today is Father’s day (at least in Sweden) and since I cannot be there, I’ll dedicate him a post here instead :)
Thank you for being the best of fathers! Kramar

Picture from April, when he took the detour from Russia to visit me in Korea. I brought him to a traditional restaurant and tricked him to order iced noodle soup with the traditional swimming egg in it; probably the hardest thing to eat with slippery Korean (=stainless steel) chopsticks. Great days!

Father’s day

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Maasai Mara is cut of by the Tanzanian-Kenyan border, where the national park Serengeti continues. Because of this, we reached the country border when we drove around in the park. Not that I consider a few minutes across the border without legal permits as visiting the country, but it still felt quite nice.

Tanzania

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At last! A post presenting my superb companion and friend out here: Wilhelm. We have the same background; both of us were born and raised in Lund and moved to Linköping for university studies. The project we are here for makes most people surprised since it is our master thesis; often written individually elsewhere. But writing in pairs of two is the common way for Linköping’s IEM students and we both really appreciate it because of the benefits from discussing ideas in-between.

The Rift Valley’s volcano Suswa covers most of the picture’s horizon, which is close to the village we will live in before leaving for Rwanda. Far more important is the foreground with Wilhelm, who is he called Wille by Swedes (including me), but presents himself as William in English by linguistic reasons. Follow him and our journey via twitter: @HenrikssonW.

Wille

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Next to the national park was a traditional Maasai Village that we visited; their income comes practically solely from tourism, which might make it all a thin façade. But they are the most conservative civilization I’ve ever heard of, and they still live their lives just as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago which made us learn lots despite their shift of primary income.

When we got back to the guesthouse yesterday evening, Simon (the Maasai with 56 churches that I’ve mentioned earlier) invited us to stay with him in his village; a “real one” that never takes tourists. So the last weekend in Kenya will Wille and I spend in a house made of cow-dung and sticks, far away from what we would call civilizations. I feel very honoured and really look forward to get there and meet all -real- Maasai.

Picture: Me showing an unconvinced smile wearing a hat made of the mane from a male lion that was killed by some of the villagers as part of the ritual that turns boys into men.

Maasai Village

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The safari in Maasai Mara was awesome, Wille and I went there in a shared 4×4-van (those Nissans are driven without hesitation as if they were tanks!). So when the car picked us up there were four Swedish volunteers inside; originally belonging in Linköping. Sometimes the Earth feels tiny as a pea.

The six of us were all stunned by the wealth of amazing animals, and we had great fun throughout the three days :) Now we are back downtown interviewing people, and they’re back in the giant slum of Kibera where they help those in need. I’ll tell you more about their project when we have visited them there.

I shot the picture above in the wilderness this Saturday.

Safari

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The picture was shot last January when I just had reached the top of my second mountain in Asia and realized that the visibility was as good as on the first: 5 meters. Behind the fog in the photo you can see the sun rise over the active volcano Bromo on Java, Indonesia; a sight I had travelled 30h straight in an insane tempo to admire, and the 4°C fog that soaked me on the motorbike ride thereto made the feeling last longer…

Kind of the same thing, just opposite, happened today: the travel agency offered us to stay in Masai Mara an extra day with all expenses covered for $60. Now I feel sorry for myself ;)

Oh no ;)

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As mentioned in the post “Progress”, our Thursday was all about planning and arranging meetings. But no matter how exciting the project is, are business meetings on weekends not an option. So today’s biggest issue was ‘What to do during the weekend?’

Thus, our driver for the weekend will pick us up on early Saturday morning, and we’re off for Safari in Maasai Mara; the national park that is called Serengeti on the other side of the Tanzanian border. Looking forward!

Off for Safari

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Just received a call from number 501. Answered sceptically since it is midnight. Heard Johan & John in the other end! A happy surprise from my friends in Stockholm :)

An hour earlier I got a confirmation from Ali (entrepreneur in NYC) that he is well and happened to be in Miami during the storm; good! Too bad everyone wasn’t as lucky; inside US and outside.

Picture showing one of Indonesia’s volcanoes with me and a local travel-mate in eastern Java.

Hello?…!

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Week 41 (now)
Linköping – Thesis work, Korean evening and rehab

Week 42
Lund – Thesis work, hello to mom & dad and representation at LTH

Week 43
Stockholm – “Innovation in Action” symposium for the thesis
Linköping, thesis wrap-up, exam and removal of sutures

Week 44-46
Nairobi – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and safari

Week 47-48
Kigali – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and look-around

Week 49-50
Accra – Interviewing entrepreneurs/CXOs/governmental officers and water sports
Amsterdam – Hello Lisa!

Week 51
Linköping – Thesis writing

Week 52-1
Lund– Christmas
Amsterdam – New Years Eve

Exciting schedule!

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I’ll head south on Friday. Not to Africa, but back to Lund to stay at my parents place for a little while. Nice and kind of convenient now that most things are a bit harder to do on my own.

Wille was also up for going down, so we will study from the campus of Lund University instead of Linköping University next week. Thereby we can meet some old friends, perhaps get new perspectives and, of course, test the quality of their IEM-program ;)

LiTH & LiU becomes LTH & LU

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I want to share an advice, which is not my own and one that you’ve probably already heard before. Even though “fake it” is a very charged word, the speech is masterly formulated and argued well with hard science; and the topic cannot be stressed enough.

So watch this month’s TED video by Harvard’s Amy Cuddy: ‘Your body language shapes who you are’.

A golden advice

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Since I may not carry even a pocket camera in my left hand the upcoming two months, my plan to cross Africa with a backpack had to be reconsidered and revised. And as the Indians in the picture have realised, in some cases are four wheels better than none. Thus, I will employ my turquoise Samsonite instead.

Revised: Suitcase

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We had our half-time seminar today. Okay, it’s a bit too early compared to the generic outline, but still. Got great feedback from both Fredrik & Raoul and Ya & Anna, but are we already halfway thru? Yaiks.

I rounded off the day participating at a leadership (UGL) session hosted by Gozinto and renting out my flat for the upcoming weeks. Niceu, as they spell it in Korea.

Picture from Stora Alvaret, Öland’s limestone barren plain.

½ way?

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So, we localized the passports: inside Ghana’s embassy in Cph. But. They hang up on us when asked what day they are sending them back…

We are currently evaluating the best choice of Plan B, and as Wille stays over in Stockholm might four capitals in four days just be it. So while keeping it cool, am I hoping for the best; one has to have faith, no matter if one prays to God or embassies.

Photo from Chamonix, shot from Brévent, on a ski trip with 720.

Passports cont’d

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My parents sent me LP Africa, probably the worst thing they could have done to support my proofreading. Thanks! :)

Priorities

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To what extent is a backpacker defined by the explicit fact that he or she is carrying his or her belongings in a backpack instead of in a suitcase? Or flashpackers for that matter, the more ‘luxurious’ way of doing it?

I don’t know. I just know that I will be traveling across Africa with a rucksack on my back, and two suits cased in it.

Suitcase

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The last weekend included high-class student partying, with CM’s event Dra´t I Spa´t on the schedule; a team competition in rope-pulling where the losing team get to swim in muddy water. As a member of the IEM program is my joy not complete; we lost the final and did it because of a back-injury that probably resulted in a herniated disc. I feel you bro’! But the weather was amazing and the winners, the Mechanical engineers, were as happy as can be.

Picture with representation from two CM generations, of which Stina acted judge this year.

Dra´t i Spa´t

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When I came back from Seoul in late June I missed the people. Of course I missed all my friends, who wouldn´t, but also the crowds. Hanging out in Hongdae or Gangnam 11PM – such a lovely pulse!

So I went from sleepy Lund to central Stockholm, and thought I’d get a glimpse of the feeling again. But no; even Klarabergsgatan in Stockholm seemed just as small, empty and deserted.

Stockholm – the least crowded capital?

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There’s pros and cons with everything. They usually stay balanced; like taking a swim (pro: refreshing, con: cold the first seconds, pro>con=nice in total), but then eventually they rebalance; the temperature falls and the inequality is turned around.

As most other thesis writers have concluded; being this left out to strangers (for interviews etc) is really to expose oneself for such rebalancing acts. Often.

Luckily, the pros have so far been restabilising things quickly each time there’s been movements, and I recall the days of 2011 when I shot this photo of Manhattan. High life!

On top of things

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An early question that had to be addressed was where we were going to call ‘home’ this semester. The decision wasn’t obvious, considering we have our university and supervisor in Linköping, Swedfund’s central office in Stockholm, our opponents in Geneva and most interview subjects spread out all over Africa.

The solution we chose was to stay in Linköping during the pre-study and the finalization of the report, in-between which we conduct six weeks of field studies in the three most interesting regions; Nairobi in Kenya, Kigali in Rwanda and Accra in Ghana.

The tickets just got booked, and since we are flying with KLM is the transit in Amsterdam enabling me to stop by and say hello to my good-old friend Lisa. Nice!

Picture of the volcano Sundoro-Sumbing, shot from the 9th-century monument of Borobudur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Location

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KHU main gate at full moon
So, the time has come. After waiving off all the exchange students, one at the time, am I now waiving bye to Korea myself.

This has been a truly amazing year and I am filled with gratefulness to all of you who have shared those experiences with me. The biggest and most important gift of being here is obviously the wealth of perspectives, and the friendships themselves, by spending time with amazing people from allover the world.

A deep, humble and happy thank you to my new friends from
Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Ghana, Guatemala, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mongolia, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Rwanda, Sweden, Tunisia, UK, USA, Vietnam…and of course everyone from Korea.

You will always have a place in my heart.

Goodbye

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Outdoor is the weather like any awesome Swedish summer day; 27 degrees and clear blue sky. Having dad here was great, and in just a few days will some friends that I stayed with in Singapore come to Seoul. Sounds great doesn’t it? There is just one problem; their 4 month long summer vacation, has already started while I am still studying for a midterm exam.
Hence, these days are spent indoor – struggling to keep sharp in mind and the focus on how to best implement kernel density gradient estimations, the pros and cons with the generalized Hough transform and how to describe those hidden virtual layers in artificial neural networks.
Now, don’t get me wrong; it is interesting, just not exciting enough to make me feel “Yay!”…

Stay focused

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After yesterday’s two exams am I excited to meet up dad on the airport now! He has been on a business trip in Khabarovsk, east Russia, and scheduled the trip back to Sweden via Seoul. Looking forward to spend the weekend with him :)

Detour

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Casino Galaxy in Macau
Today is my birthday! Koreans consider me to be 26 already, and not changing age today, but in most parts of the world is this the day when I get closer to fifty than zero: Wow, how time flies!? But having 25 years to look back on with happiness and pride is not really a bad thing :)
Picture by Mattias, after winning a game of Baccarat in one of the world’s largest casinos; Galaxy, Macau.

25

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Five million inhabitants squeezed together on a piece of land smaller than half Öland (a Swedish island). Still – considered to be the tidiest and safest country in the world.
I thought I should share some slightly intricate thoughts about this ‘Asian Tiger’, instead of just compliment their economic growth. So for all of you who might have second thoughts about the safety in poor Asian countries; it was in Singapore I got my phone stolen, the only thing that has gotten lost since I left Europe in August.


Singapore is founded on blame rather than praise. Doing something (or rather anything) that isn’t considered to be good manners is strictly forbidden and will result in high fines; e.g. €3000 for accidentally pressing the escalator’s emergency stop button. But I found one exception where Swedes are more conservative and strict; sex. In S’pore is prostitution legal and handled far from murky alleys.


I relate it to the fact that this metropolis for business and finance is built up by (financially) and for the rich people; 20% of the population consists of dollar millionaires. But despite Singapore’s impressive 3rd place in GDP PPP per capita are the majority not earning record high salaries, or for that matter happy about the litter-free and perfect façade that strikes you on arrival. Behind it lives a concealed truth that the over-fifty-years-in-power-party has managed to keep quiet enough to earn them a press freedom index at Uganda’s level.


Singapore is fantastic in many ways and a great hub for backpackers in need for a few days off the beaten track, or for the driven white collars that are looking for a year with high salary and tropical weather. Have a drink and enjoy the magnificent views from the skyscrapers in Marina Bay, but don’t forget to scratch a bit on the surface; speaking with Singapore-born locals reveals so much more…

Photos from Coron, Singapore’s Chinatown (x2) and the awesome pool seen from Joel & Co’s crib. Thank you Joel, Stina, Julia, Lotta, Erik, Adam and Tor for housing me those lovely days of Lunar New Year!

Singapore

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I stayed in Yogyakarta (inconsequently spelled with J’s instead of Y’s) for 32 hours, drove to their two great temples; Prambanan and Borobudur. I recommend you to visit the prior in the morning, since all tourists tend to visit the latter then – which meant that I could walk around there more less alone. Perfect.


Got to the latter and drove just a little bit further, so that you get the bigger picture summarized: tourists’ camera flashes sparkle although the sun stands at zenith, some locals offer the same ‘local’ handcrafts as sold for multiple the price on Bali, while most Indonesians don’t really bother – spending their time on the rice fields that surround the area. Business as usual.

Business as usual

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As you frequent readers out there have noticed long ago: these posts have been all but frequent lately. But instead of properly documenting all stunningly amazing, fun and thrilling things I get to do while being out here (presently in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines), is the answer obvious for me: keep exploring while possible! This inflow of new experiences, meetings and perspectives is nothing but lovely.

The route has, eventually, become a closed circuit – on the planning-stage. Updated version is shown via the ‘Map’-button above or via this link.

Photo from northern Bali, Indonesia, taken by Anass.

Massive inflow

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One of the more odd countries I’ve got to encounter is Brunei Darussalam. Not just because it took seven stops for passport controls to get back to Malaysia, but rather from their employment politics.


Because despite the ego of their Sultan (living in a palace four times the size of Versaille), he actually let some oil-money filter down to the man on the street. As long as he is Malay and Muslim, of course. Though if you happen to find yourself having Chinese parents, the golden spoon and thumb twiddling, lifelong, governmental employment are not intended for you. Neither will you, as otherwise, raise your kids with three shiny 4×4-cars in front of your villa.


My conclusion compared to what I expected is that the average citizen of Bandar Seri Begawan seemed to be much more satisfied and overall happy with their Sultan and the revenue share he supports them with (in terms of free education and healthcare plus pension after 65). Which, sadly, makes their way to equal rights even longer.

Brunei

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It has been quite some hours on motorbikes in Indonesia, which I find great fun and a good way of exploring local culture and habits. A few glimpses are shared below.


Saw the spiritual ceremony when holy water was gathered from underneath a sacred tree while driving along Bali’s coastlines, which takes place only twice a year.


Passed a market in Denpasar where the bicycle-based shop offered you to choose any color on your chicken.


Joined the traffic style and tempo in Yogyakarta, which would make me lose my driving license a couple of times per hour in Sweden.


Passed remote villages on the southern tip of Samosir island in the Norwegian Fjord-like area of lake Toba, where the children waved and cheered as if we were walking on water.

Motor biking

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Not without doubt did we try Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, on Bali. But the Asian Palm Civet really seems to be a master in finding the best beans, resulting in a very smooth but still strong and tasteful brew. Probably the best coffee I’ve had, fully comparable with Vietnamese Phin filtered coffee from the Annamite plateau.


Stage one.


Magnus taking a sip.

Kopi Luwak

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Boy it has happened a lot since last post!

My beloved family, see picture above from Gili Trawangan, has returned to Sweden after two weeks of relaxing together with me: great days!

However to travel solo is quite convenient also; no limits! (except money, time, visas, etc etc..) Well well, one of the first things I did was to rent a scooter and drive along the Bali’s coastlines. Stopped in Tulamben for diving, snorkeling and a nice meet up with Hajer and Anass (co-students in Korea).

More pictures will be added, but it was time for a status update since I have finally made up my mind: Visited the volcano Bromo on Java today, and will move further to Yogyakarta for some cultural experiences in two hours.

30 hours there, and I’m off to Sumatra: will “chase” Orangoutangs in the north. That means passing the Equator, which is a bit sad: feels like I’m on my way back already!? But still several countries to visit and approximately fifty days of traveling left. Phew! :)

Solo in Indonesia

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New Years Eve. The day have been spent reading, playing cards, sunbathing – yes, I’ve got my red color back :) – and now is it time for me to join my family before the fireworks start at the beach. But before that, let me just wrap up what’s going on.

In two days have my traveling schedule reached it’s end, and I´m free to do just about anything :)
So what are the options? Presented as negative as possible in order to eliminate the least favorable;
• Go South: Fly to Australia. Closer than ever, but probably worth a whole trip on it´s own?
• Go West: Take the land-way through Java and Sumatra to Singapore and Malaysia. Great way to get to know the more populated parts of Indonesia and be able to meet up Kai and Ramona, but maybe too tourist-dense?
• Go North: Straight north as short as possible means staying on Indonesian ground, in Sulawesi. Beautiful and rather low tourist density, maybe too slow moving and focused on relaxing?
• Go East: Jump towards the Maluku Islands via Lombok and Komodo Island. A true scenic adventure, but long hours on bumpy boats. Which is not really my cup of tea.

Seems like my way onwards is a bit unclear, but looking back at 2011; I like the turns it took!
And with that conclusion would I just want to wish you all a Happy New Year :)

2011 becomes 2012

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Today I went diving, fist time since 2009! Time truly flies… But the conditions here on Gili Trawangan Island could not have been better, having company by my brother Magnus (picture) while introducing our father to the wonders below surface.

A lovely dive swimming alongside with giant turtles and stingrays. Next dive in eight hours :)

Diving

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Arrived to Indonesia on the December 21st, for two relaxing weeks in great company: my parents and brother flew down here to celebrate Christmas and New Year with me. Really nice to see them again! :)

A couple of minutes ago the clock turned twelve making it Christmas Eve, so I just wish you all a Very Merry Christmas!

Met up with my family!

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Now I’ve been living the life of a backpacker for a week, in China! A really interesting country that I obviously have just gotten the chance to scratch on the surface.
Through the intense days in Shanghai and Beijing have I found a couple of significant differences compared to Korea:

• The prices are much lower! Divide by three and you have a clue
• China is accustomed to tourists –so phenomena such as beggars, nagging and people trying to fool you into shops do exist
• People are not at all as friendly here as in Korea, and lack skills in interpersonal behavior
• Koreans are more beautiful. That is both the widespread opinion here (according to Johan) but also consistent with my personal verdict
• One thing that I r-e-a-l-l-y miss from Korea is their total absence of robbery, pickpocketing, etc. In that sense is Korea totally fantastic
• Everything is so clean! The only cigarette butts I saw were still smoldering.

Hard to say which country I would like best if I had spent the same amount of time in them, but right now I prefer Korea. Luckily :)

China

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After this holy day that got celebrated with two exams, and due to the lack of updates here recently, is it time to share my present status:

3 of 5 final exams handed in
6 of 7 parallel courses completed
1 of 2 semesters of hard but fun studies passed (ok, soon!)
1 exam scheduled tomorrow
1 apartment to empty and leave tomorrow
…and for the observant mathematician (3+1<>5) can I add that my last exam will be less ordinary; I will take it on an altitude of 10 000 meters, on the flight to Bali. Hope the grade will be high too ;)

But most important of all: <30h until my arrival in Shanghai! Bye bye Korea, see you again around February 25th :)

Saint Lucia’s Day

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I’m done with the final exams for this semester on the 14th of December.

My plane to Shanghai has scheduled take-off four hours after the last exam. Not that I don’t like Korea, but it’s time to say goodbye for a while; the spring semester doesn’t start before March and I intend to experience as much as possible until then!

The planning is made on a web based map, and will take form along the way. Having it online enables me to zoom conveniently, at the same time as both my fellow travellers and you can follow my trip step by step.

Destination tips and Do’s and Don’ts are greatly appreciated!

Vacation Voyage

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The first course (and the only one from this semester that I can make use of in my MSc-exam); Corporate Strategy is as good as done and dealt with.

Those lectures have made it more and more obvious; corporate strategy and management is my answer to “What do you want to do for a living?”, so it felt really nice hear the professor declare that I was best in class.
…and I usually think I’m humble. Gosh.

Now is it just to prepare for the upcoming weeks of final exams; five exams in less than a week. But hey, the weather has been much friendlier since my last post; 14-20 degrees at daytime – and it’s all over in less than two weeks!

Picture of Kai and Sun on Jebu Island.

Countdown!

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The global climate change is a frequent visitor at Swedish “Fika”-tables. But in Korea is the presence of climate changes not limited to discussions.


I happily concluded that shorts, t-shirt and slippers were the proper clothing during the first days of November. Now, less than three weeks later, are people dressing like Eskimos and today I was greeted by a few dozens falling snow flakes!

So despite that Seoul and Madrid shares latitude, and Korea’s lovely fall with its beautiful colors and warm weather, are the facts doubtless: the temperature drops comes in 10 degree-steps, and it might be time to reconsider Korea as a four season-country…


On the other hand –not saying that the global warming is a good thing!– are there some positive spin-offs, such as the one Mr Putin commented in NY Times a month ago. Not least Korea will gain from this, placed next to the new passage and having the world’s 6th largest shipping industry in terms of merchant fleet tonnage (2007).
Data from Korea Maritime Institute, map of maritime transportation borrowed from MarTrans.

Seasons

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During one of October’s two cloudy & rainy days (damn..) I, Kai, Mattias, Jonas and Yonghak climbed Seoraksan, Korea’s third highest mountain and its most beautiful National Park (according to Lonely Planet).


With only 50 meters of visibility one can think that the weather was a disappointment, but to be honest; we had full focus on the walking/climbing itself as it was rather hard because of the steepness – 34 degrees in average all the way from our (bed-less) motel which we started from.


Ten hours of hiking and half an hour bus ride later we reached Sokcho, a harbor city at the cost to Sea of Japan/East Sea (the Koreans are of course not that happy about the first, and most widespread, name..).

We ended the day with at couple of hours at the Osaek Hot Spring Spa, where the 39-degree pool of red rose water was my favourite :)

Hiking

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Five ordinary written exams, one research proposal, one proper home exam and a finance presentation – DONE and DOWN!
Feels so good :)

Now it’s time to take the weekend off, leaving in half an hour for hiking in the mountains of Seoraksan.

Done!

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We (a 20-person mixture of Koreans and Europeans) went on a relaxing vacation before the midterms, to tiny Jebu Island, just south of Seoul. A lovely trip with lots of new experiences;

Renting a room and finding it well equipped; e.g. both stove and separate rice-cooker – but since the lack of beds, chairs and tables, we slept ‘Korean-style’ on the plain (but cozily heated) floor.

Had a great morning-swim in the Yellow Sea before the Island woke up. Conclusion: the water is neither yellow, nor does it smell yellow. However, the taste did I leave for you to examine…

Played ‘Soju-Monopoly’, a nice evolution where all investments and fees are paid in shots. My tactics worked fine and we got to see the other two teams empty one bottle after the other :)

Yellow Sea

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Erik Winther sun on shoulder
The sunny Monday in Busan gave me the opportunity to practice one “hobby” of mine. That is to change color, and later on also skin.

Back in 2009, at the astonishing Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I got just a little bit too much; ended up with a four days long feverish delirium and a girlfriend who seriously thought that I was about to die in Malaria. Therefore had a pause last year, but since I’m back in Asia…

So now, two weeks after that Monday, most of the skin on my shoulders and torso is renewed. A bit funny; to compensate for the lack (total absence actually!) of “After Sun”-cream in Korea, I got loads of creams and products from Body Shop after the photo shoot :) I think next skin renewal will have to wait around three more months, until I am in either Vietnam or Philippines. Looking forward!

Healing

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