Saturday, September 18, 2010

Neue Sparsamkeit

Friends always tell me I'm a lot like the Germans, and not only because I'm such a Nazi about the way I run my company, or only because I like things that only Germans seem to like (white furniture, big sausages, the old Mercedes Benz G-class, and walking).

Lately, I've also been very open about my foray into somewhat Prussian values of frugality, coupled with my usual Fleiß (hard work), punctuality, and Ordnung (order, arrangement, organization).

So naturally, I was amused by this article on Neue Sparsamkeit (meaning "new frugality") from the Goethe-Institut, written for the Brits.

"It is fashionable again to save – and to talk about it openly. "
Except in Manila, that is.

Too many people I know still live way beyond their means and NEVER talk about money. For instance, I have friends who would rather talk about their vaginas rather than their finances. I see some of them get into real estate debt, buying
too high in this bubble, sinking more than 30% of their paychecks into pre-selling condos that frankly won't appreciate as much anymore because the market has reached its peak and because there's a saturation of choices now.

Many of them spend anticipated bonuses -- money that's not even in their pockets yet. What if their companies don't quite do well - especially now that both the US and Europe are in trouble? Will their bonuses ever come?

I was once also painfully nouveau riche. I used to frown at any indication of penny pinching. I still remember being so caught up in my new-found financial freedom; from when I was 21 to 27 -- for 6 years -- I was spending money and not saving. Homes, cars, gadgets, designer everything -- you name it, I spent on it. Looking back, though, it was good that I made these parvenu mistakes while I was still young. I had time to recover before I hit the big 3-0. Not a lot of time, but enough wiggle room to still make changes.

So I've spent the past year attempting to shed myself of all the trappings of an "aspirational" life. I have simplified - I'm down to just a little bit more than 100 things, give or take a few redundancies (I still own too many batteries, but MSP is looking at solar chargers now and maybe I can do that, too. Let's see.)

Financially, I'm still burdened by some of the mistakes of the past and investments into the future -- the parking space bought too late and too high (it's the price of a small house!), money tied up in the expansion of the company, money lent out to relatives who never pay, etc. Scary, scary times. But it should all work out in the next four months, if
my German Ordnung is correct.

Liquidity, simplicity, less stuff, more travel + food. That's still the plan. It's been an interesting journey leading up to "halfway there." I hope I can continue on this path to urban hippie-ness.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

eating the world

I travel to pig out. If you have ever been my travel buddy, you know I start eating the minute I step into the airport. When I'm lucky enough to fly first class, I taste everything in the lounge. If I am in the cattle class, I eat from the food outlets. If you happen to be in the transit area and see a woman carrying a brown leather handcarry bag (with stickers of international flags) and happily munching on something -- anything -- that is probably me.

Last week, I went to the sultanate to try the best flavors that Borneo has to offer. Here are just some of the dishes I stuffed into my smallish frame:

  • Roast chicken laksa
  • Rojak (vegetable dish with sweet turnips)
  • Beef rice
  • Kahwin Cakoi - Brunei's version of the churros
  • Ambuyat - the traditional Bruneian dish / essentially sago paste that you dip into spicy sauces
  • Halal red bean pancakes
  • Ayamku chicken
  • Satays paied with soups
  • Salted lobsters
  • Teh Tarik (lots of this!) HUNDREDS of dishes at Empire Hotel's
sungkai buffet -- a big meal after sunset during Ramadhan.

It can be hard to eat healthy when you're in another country. You may often feel like you have no choice, as though you're a "victim" of whatever it is that they eat there - lard, fat, and all. There's so much joy in being a victim, though. You never really regret eating unhealthy food when you're in another country. It's what you don't eat that you regret.

And that, my dear, is why I didn't hesitate to eat sheep testicles in the South of France and fried cicadas in Cambodia.


Labels: ,