Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book: The Geography of Bliss

With a bit more time on my hands, I've actually managed to pick up and read a book for the first time in a while. Anyway, a few thoughts to share:

The Geography of Bliss examines whether happiness is geographic. Visiting the happiest, richest, darkest, poorest places in the world Eric Weiner compares attitudes / world views and their implied impact on happiness.

Having been to a few of the places he visits, the observations certainly ring true. While not particularly awakening, he articulates some things that otherwise don't automatically receive attention. Envy as a detriment to happiness, and how various societies avoid it (Swiss don't act flashy in public, Thais smile and "don't think", etc) was one such point. That Icelanders derive happiness from drinking, I'll have to go verify for myself, but that Moldovans are quite unhappy because they compare themselves to Europeans I'll take his word for.

While it gets a bit lengthy, I would certainly recommend picking it up and reading the chapters on where you've been, or where you're going. I have only recently begun to appreciate researching (instead of just experiencing) cultural differences, and this is a light first step.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Istanbul - Turkey

Before heading to Germany and the US for the holidays, I spent a few nights in Istanbul. The city of 14 million, straddling two continents, reminded me of many Asian cities I have seen in the past year - stumbling over the development threshold without really knowing how to. This creates a mix of very expensive / modern and very poor / run down.

While the Blue Mosque and the Haga Sofia are both stunning, the cistern - an under ground water reservoir built by the Romans (pictured) - was what fascinated me the most. Beyond the Grand Bazaar and a few other sights (as well as an obligatory trip to Asia) the enjoyment of the city came from the hours sitting in a restaurant / cafe, trying the food (kebab as well as great fresh seafood), and just enjoying a break from the ordinary.

While I wont be rushing back, I would certainly recommend it as worth experiencing - possibly at a slightly warmer time of year.

(more pictures in due course)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Happy Holidays

I hope the holiday season finds you well and happy!

As you may know, this past year I left RBS and Asia to move to London and earn my MBA at London Business School. Before leaving Hong Kong, I did have the chance to travel around South-East Asia, and I strongly recommend visiting Cambodia - the temples are stunning and the people are incredibly welcoming. I am now enjoying the experience in London tremendously. The great diversity that both the school and the city offer is unbelievable. The lessons I am learning will stay with me for a long time to come. While London has finally turned into the grey, rainy place I was warned of, I believe I have avoided the November blues by adding a bit of facial hair and leading our Movember team to £7,000+ in fund raising for prostate cancer research.

It is also exciting to share that Claire and I are newly engaged. I proposed shortly after Thanksgiving, and as I'm sure you can imagine, we are both overjoyed.

Hopefully we will be able to catch up soon!

All the best for 2010 and beyond