Dealing With The High Price Of Food

The Food is too high

The food is too high!

Food prices are expensive in North Dakota. I never really paid attention to regional food price differences when I regularly traveled in the US 20 years ago. Maybe they didn’t exist back then, but I suppose they did. I do know that I wasn’t prepared for this.

When we first arrived back in the US in Washington state, I saw that prices were higher than I was used to in Asia. Big surprise there but it was something to deal with because that was the price of living in the US. After about a month in Washington, we moved down to New Mexico. Everyone seemed to tout how cheap groceries were in New Mexico but I was really unimpressed. Sure vegetables and fruits were a little cheaper than Washington, but some things were more expensive, like milk. I thought it evened itself out pretty well.

North Dakota has been a different story. We aren’t even living in the oil patch. We live in the eastern part of the state near the border with Minnesota. Grocery prices are at least 50% higher than in New Mexico, probably even higher. We didn’t have to seek out good buys there, but here we had to get a membership in Sam’s Club and buy in bulk to try to put our food budget under control.

Now that we are here in North Dakota, we are eating at home exclusively vs in China where we would eat out a few times a week. Moreover, we are spending more on our food budget and probably eating less healthier food.

Just another thing that I am at a loss over back in the US of A.

23.3% Of The People Are Jerks Or Have The Potential To Be Jerks

The Married With Luggage blog just wrote up a blog post about what they have learned from 3 years of traveling the world. I am laughing off my rear right now reading the unscientific opinion that 4% of the world’s population is comprised of jerks.

When I first saw that figure thrown out, I thought about a friend of mine from Indonesia who liked to make up fake statistics all the time. My favorite of his was 33% of the people think …….. It really didn’t matter what the statement was but how do you argue with something like that?

Luckily I have more experience traveling, living and actually earning income abroad and I think that 4% figure is a bit of an understatement. As a teacher, I deal with a fairly good local population sample wherever I teach. Classroom dynamics can be dramatically affected by the actions of just a few students so identifying the disruptive students can go a long ways to managing classroom order. In an average class of between 30 to 50 students, I’d always find I would have at least 1 disruptive student and usually 2 or 3. In extreme cases there would be 10 or more. I’d say the average was 2 for every 30 students. This didn’t differ by age or even socioeconomic level. That puts the number of jerks at about 6.7% of the population, but that’s not the whole story.

There are the potentially disruptive students. These students are ones that are generally good but act up at the encouragement of disruptive students. The number of potentially disruptive students is always dependent on the number of disruptive students. I’d say that for every disruptive student, you have 2 or 3 students with the potential to be disruptive. Let’s use the ratio of 2.5 to 1. That’s 6.7% figure increases to 23.3%.

I know this isn’t scientific but it sure sounds a lot different when I say that 23.3% of all people in the world are jerks or have the potential to be jerks. That actually sounds like an overstatement when I think that 1 in every 4 people are jerks or have the potential to be jerks, but when you look at the figures in a sober light, you see that it’s 6.7%(one in 16) who are jerks. The others are generally good but are just waiting to be jerks.

That makes sense and I think it applies everywhere…..

Want to make your travels better? Discover and avoid the jerks and deal effectively with the potential jerks…and everything else will just fall into place.

Back From Hiatus?

I’ve been on a hiatus as of late. I found that I got so busy living life and getting trapped in all the stupid BS that I lost track of where and what I was. I guess I can’t complain about some the events that have pushed and prodded me into different directions, but some of them have revolved around pure laziness or lack of direction. I feel that is the path I am at right now.

I am back writing on this blog and being involved on places other than Facebook on the net. I have found that Facebook has been an enormous sinkhole of time and ambition in this time for varying degrees of depression. I could be writing my thoughts and observations here, but I haven’t been. Instead of being a lost American, I have become more and more typical American, something I loathe to ever happen to me.

When I wrote my last post here*, I was living China getting ready for the birth of my daughter. As I write this post, I am sitting in a bedroom in North Dakota. I think that signifies the enormity of the changes.

Back to my hiatus, notice the asterisk in the previous paragraph? Well, this post is my first since December 2012. That’s almost a year. I’m planning to write some posts about the time between now and December 2012 because there is a lot that needs to be said about my journey. I’ll be backdating those posts to that time period so that they fit together with my journey. Yes, I know that’s not completely honest but by posting here I am making you all aware of it.

Why go back and write stories from the past? Well I realized a few days ago when reading Wade’s Vagabond Journey blog that while he is great at telling people’s stories, he can’t tell everyone’s story. I have been very selfish over the last few years because when people or things tell me a story, I keep it to myself. I don’t bother sharing it to others. That’s selfish of me. I need to change that right now and go back and share things with people.

Granted, no one may be reading this but I frankly don’t care. Someone may read this at some time in the future. It is not for me to keep these all to myself and if I share them then I am off the hook.

Why Are We Playing Games Instead of Solving Problems?

Let’s talk about something real for a change. I’m tired of hearing about the evils of Obama and Obamacare and how he’ll be a socialist that will change everything. I’m tired of hearing about how Mitt Romney sucks and it was good that he lost the election. I’m tired of the same old liberal and conservative dogma that gets bandied about so easily. All of that BS distracts us from what we really need to be concerned about and what we really need to do something about.

Before I start into that, let me say something: Republicans suck. Libertarians suck. Yes, I most closely identify with them, but not so much that I can’t call them as I see them. They don’t have a real message behind that appeals to those who want to change the world for the better. On the surface, they seem like they are into regression. Democrats and liberals, on the other hand, talk a good talk about changing the world for the better and even throw money at organizations doing this, as long as they tow the party line.

I’m for real change, change that I can believe in. I’m against regression. I’m a progressive(maybe not in the way you think) in that I think we all need to be progressing, not just individually, but collectively. We got so many real, honest to goodness problems in this world and what are we really doing about them? I can’t believe that such a large percentage of the world’s population is without adequate drinking water, proper sanitation, adequate nutrition, proper cooking fuel, and basic education.

Think about it? These are real problems that can be solved, right now. What are we doing about them? Nothing, we spend our time ranting about how Obama wants to take away our guns or how he’ll increase taxes. You go on and on about so many problems that really can’t be solved and really are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Think about it, what is more important, a new flat screen TV or a child learning how to read or write?

Conservatives and Libertarians like to retort that people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and forego government assistance. I agree with that, mostly, but they don’t have any real answer for the children who suffer because of bad choices that their parents make.

These real problems are solvable if we put our minds and hearts into it. We have to playing political games and brinkmanship and instead we need to focus on doing what is right. We need to use our knowledge and our capacities in whatever way we can in reducing the suffering of our fellow man. I really think that the ways the liberals are trying to “solve” the problems are just plain wrong. It’s time, and that time is now, that we use true and eternal principles to help our fellow man reach his full potential.

Envisioning My New Mission

Missionary work, missionary work, missionary work. As I made have said before on this blog, I was a Evangelical Christian missionary in Thailand. I don’t talk about it a lot because I’m embarrassed of that time. I have strong opinions about Evangelical Christian missionary work and they are negative, but this post isn’t about that. It’s about what missionary work should be like.

Missionary work should be about helping people achieve their full potential. I think this fits in well with the Mormon model, though I don’t know if it’s said quite like that. If we spend our time helping our fellow man reach his full potential, think about what great things we could see in the world. Think about how much awesome talent is being wasted in this world. Think about how many have decided to either ignore their real and genuine talents or have decided to utilize them in ways that lead to destruction.

Someone who doesn’t know the Gospel is not just an “unsaved” man, but he’s a man who is not reaching his full potential in at least one area of his life. If he isn’t reaching his full potential in one area, then there are probably other areas in his life that are lacking as well. Think about that for a moment.

Did you think about it? In that respect if you help someone reach their full potential in correct principles then you are doing missionary work. That’s what I think. Yeah, you’re right. I’m probably wrong, but I don’t think so.

In that sense of a mission, I’ve had the potential to be on a mission for the last 15 years, but I haven’t done nearly enough. I can’t think that I’ve done a lot to help people reach their full potential in correct principles. That changes. It changes now.

Don’t look at a man as he is right now, but envision a man at his full potential.

My mission from this moment forward is to help the people that I can help reach their full potential. I’m not going out to convert people to my religion. That’s not my thing. There are other people to do that. I am going to help people solve real problems in their life so that they can increase their potential. I’m going to teach with a new vigor, knowing that my teaching is helping them increase their potential in a part of their life.

How Do I Carefully Slide?

When you live abroad, you get a chance to see lots of different signs that make you say huh?!!! Case in point would be the picture below.

I took this picture on the stairs of a local restaurant and this brought to mind several questions. Is the guy in the picture carefully sliding? Should I do the same instead of normally going down the stairs? Is carefully sliding a skill akin to surfing or skim boarding? Do I get an award for carefully sliding down the stairs? What about careless sliding? If I careless slide down the stairs will I get in trouble?

Unfortunately, the waitress was unable to answer my questions and I have to accept that I’ll never know the answers…..

Them Cows Were Stoned

I go out walking every morning here. I usually try to go out at about 8am, but sometimes I find myself out walking a bit later. I try to do at least a mile, but often walk at least three miles. I find it really helps the body get ready for the day and put a focus on it. If I don’t get up and moving then I find it hard to ever really get in gear. With my busy schedule this fall, I need to do it. The 30 minutes to an hour spent walking repays itself dividends throughout the day in terms of increase productivity.

But increased productivity is just part of it. Things are interesting out here and you never know what you are going to find on a morning walk. Just this morning, I was walking along and in the back of a small trucks where these two cow heads. I assume they are cows though they could have been bulls or whatever. Let’s just call them cows. Anyways, I couldn’t help but stop and look at these and pull out my camera phone for a picture.

As I looked at them, I realized two things. They seemed to be happy and they seemed to be content. After looking at the picture here on the computer, it was apparent that these cows look stoned.

Yep, walking around in the morning allows you to see stone dead cow heads.

The Canadians Are Tired

Once you’ve lived abroad a few years, some aspects become second nature. From dealing with culture shock to dealing with the idiosyncrasies of your host country to dealing with other expats who know it all. You see things in a different light and events that might upset you back home become opportunities to get a good laugh.

One case in point is the dinner we put on last night. We decided two weeks ago that we’d have a welcome dinner to get all the foreign teachers in Karamay together. This year brought in a new teacher from Australia and 5 teachers from Nova Scotia in Canada. The Canadian teachers are working for a government program to replicate a Nova Scotia curriculum and give students a high school diploma from Canada. From my understanding, it’s their first time living and working abroad. The Australian has two years in China under his belt. Our goal was to get together and have a good time getting to know each other, both the new teachers and the experienced teachers.

My wife spent the whole day cooking a large dinner with lots of great dishes. She even went on the internet to find some Canadian recipes. Two other teachers went out and bought food for the dinner as well. It was really a sight to behold.
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Waiting For Gas In Karamay

In the city I live in, natural gas pipes are being installed in older buildings. This is by edict of the local government. Good news, no longer do LPG gas tanks need to be delivered to homes. This is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly development…..on paper.

Like many foreigners in China, we live in an apartment rented by our employer. We are about 3 or 4 layers removed from the actual owner of the building. Any problem takes a long time to solve. Do you see where this is going?

A natural gas pipe and meter were installed in our apartment back in July and we were told to await the forthcoming installation of natural gas in just a few weeks. Our existing gas tank was just about empty so I went ahead and ordered a replacement because I know a few weeks can turn into a few months. July and August passed without natural gas being turned on. I wasn’t surprised at all.

As September dragged on, it was clear that we were running out of gas. I asked for a replacement and then got the unsettling phrase “big problem.” If you are abroad and someone tells you something is a little problem, you can expect it’s a big problem. If they tell you something is a big problem, then Katy bar the door. Getting a replacement gas tank was going to be a very very very big problem.
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Positive Change: Why I Returned To University

I want to talk today about going back to university. I haven’t really talked online seriously about the changes and plans that I have been making over the last year or so. Sure, I have alluded to them, but haven’t really talked about them. I have many, but today I’m going to talk about going back to the University.


Let me start with some background. I went to college in 1990 right after I completed high school. I was gungho about studying and planned to study for 2 years at a smaller college and transfer to another school after a few years to study Engineering, particularly Mining Engineering. This was my goal at the time, but like many goals that I made, I couldn’t focus on it the right way. I did push forward with heavy loads though and did manage good grades.
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