Say Yes

Now and again you just have to say yes. You find yourself in an alien situation and you open the future for no understandable reason to a stranger, a situation, an opportunity by just saying yes. Yes has to be one of the most powerful words out in the human vocabulary. It’s short. In every language I’ve learned the word it’s always clipped and to the point. A sharp syllable appropriate for rallying cries and gasped responses. DSC00957

Saying yes to the foreign and the unknown can be difficult. It must be practiced, consciously. Make the decision once and resolve to stay with it. The more times you have to say yes to the same decision, the more chances you have to run. If you’re in a program, a structure, a foreign country even, where there’s no where to run, you have to stay and face it, on some level. The crucible is often needed. It can be worth it, to design our own crucibles, like a ten mile hike out, and ten miles back still facing us, forcing us to push the boundaries.

There are many ways to run away from yes even after you’ve said. Think of the social parties you’ve attended where you found the one person you knew and didn’t talk to anyone else. I’ve seen study abroad students who were always running to the local MacDonald’s when there was perfectly good local food across the street.  Walking through popular tourist destinations, I’ve witnessed large bands of tourists traveling in mass, talking to each other in loud voices completely missing out on the local interactions as they bussed themselves through high level attractions and back to their chain hotel. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a place for mass tours and lots of reasons to recommend chain hotels when traveling in unfamiliar territory. But if that’s all you do, then you’re not saying yes. You’re window shopping the exotic. The foreign is being well contained behind the glass of your tourist budget.

As you’re reading this today, think about saying yes. Smile at someone in the coffee shop. Trade comments on the weather with that lady standing in front of you in line. Ask the back packing couple in the airport where they’ve been. Volunteer when you see the flyer. Take that vacation day, go to the fair, the community meeting, or that workshop. Step outside the assigned route on the tour. See what you run into.

I’ve never regretted walking up to someone and asking their name. I have, however, wondered about the people I’ve been too scared to approach, the connections I didn’t follow through on, the places I was too tired to visit.

Try it. Say yes.







Caichang’s and the International Market

This piece was written in 2012. Since then, China has only moved forward and chain stores like Wall Mart and others innovations have  continued to advance. The rise in websites and networks in the organic farm industry in the U.S.  leads me to believe that the situation will come to some sort of balance, given time. Judge for yourself.

I visited the local farmer’s Market in Port Orchard this past weekend. It was their first opening of the year and there were less stalls than I remembered from previous years. There were quite a few people wandering about. Many people were walking their dogs. One young Newfoundland, an affectionate pup, held our attention for several minutes; true beauty and a heart of gold.

The first stall I stepped into disturbed me. The elderly lady in a long indefinitely colored skirt and fuzzy vest over conservative shoes explained proudly that her materials came from all parts of the world, including several countries in South America. A hat went for the bargain price of 90 dollars. A two-foot by two-foot rug was 200 dollars. In a city with a per capita income of 25,004  dollars per year, or just over 1,200 a month, purchases of this kind will be carefully considered and far between. It’s definitely not a goods and staples market for weekly shopping.

Compare this with my experience in China.

The caichang in China is an exciting, diverse and very thoroughly local market space. Farmers and intermediaries sell their meat, fruit, vegetables and preserves to city folk at prices that practically everyone can afford. Although I never shopped for all my produce at a caichang, I definitely enjoyed and appreciated their function in city life. The restaurants where I usual ate definitely shopped in these places Prices were significantly below that of large chain stores. The sanitary levels varied significantly, but it was usually not an insurmountable challenge.

The caichang in China has a rising competitor, the large chain stories. Much of the U.S. has already fallen under the onslaught of lower mass negotiated prices with international sourcing. I walked every row in my local farmer’s market, but there were at most four stalls that qualified as selling goods from local farmers. It would have been better, I think, to rename the market the local craftsmen’s market, or maybe, the local artesian market. We turn to our local economies for extras and the international conglomerate for necessities. What will China look like when it has reached the same point on a national level? Is it ready for that?

Like everything else, the answer is probably yes and no. People who made their living at the caichang will go through a period of hard transition, social networks will be broke, drift apart or morph. Eventually, economic imperatives and social choices will lay a path for the future of the caichang, whether it becomes a crafty, artistic shadow of itself like my U.S. farmers market or something else entirely.

Life Hacks

Today I’m combining two things for your viewing pleasure, life hacks for technology and the vibrant world of Pinterest. For those of you who may have had a similar idea as I did, that Pinterest was for arts, crafts and planning a wedding, it’s time to wake up and smell the roses, because Pinterest is definitely so much more. I’ve run into TEDTalks, Design Milk pieces, and post on how to solve binomials. If you search for it, you might just find it.

To share with you all, I put together some of my favorite life  hacks on a board. Click here. My favorite pin is the TEDTalk by David Pogue, although charging up an smartphone through the hotel television USB port is also something I’m going to have to remember. It may not all be genius but sometimes it feel like it. The things you wouldn’t think of, but find sensible once you know them.  Love those haha moments!