Camino de Santiago illustrated book

I made this short illustrated book about my walk on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I spent 30 days walking across the northern "French way", a challenging eye opening walk.

Some UK facts! (debatable)

On the workaway I’m doing this month, were asked to write 10 facts about our countries to share with those who come after us, to help our host and each other get a better understanding of each other.

So here are my facts, please commen if you would like t debate about them, or simply disagree.

1/ We the British are on the brink of leaving the European Union, personally I hope we don’t, mainly because I believe we are better at cooperating, with freedom of movement, the ability to travel, work and get to know as many people from different countries as we can is only a god thing, for progress and harmony, in our greater society and locally.

2/ There are 4 Nations in the UK, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, though this could soon become 3 as Scotland has a few years ago had its own referendum on leaving the UK, this was just before the UK had it’s Brexit referendum, and perhaps if we do leave the Euro, Scotland will choose to separate and remain in Europe. Wales has been domintated by England, due partly to its relatively small population, so I don’t see anything similar happens with the Welsh, I do have a strong affinity and identify myself as Welsh, though not born there and with English parents I guess I wouldn’t be considered native Welsh, tough this has never caused me any issues.

3/ London is an amazing city for museums, art, science, hisory, etc, they are donation based museums, (you can chose how much to give, or not) and there are normally also special visiting shows, which charge roughly 10 pounds per person. The quality is spectacular, works are mostly breathtaking.

If you are going outside of London, the smaller cities and towns also have their own museums and these are also generally also well worth visiting.

4/ Cardiff is the capitol of Wales, it is one of my favourite places to live, there is a castle, its close to the sea and mountains, not too big, you can get to somewhere green in less than half an hour, but mostly I love the people, I have many good friends, and I spent 8 years living there, it is my UK home, where I return to when I take trips back, and I’m sure where I’ll eventually return from my world explorations one day.

5/ The UK climate is mild, with four seasons, though generally not too hot or cold, there are brief spells of extreme conditions, I can remember my home town in the West of Wales experiencing flooding one year as a child, people were canoeing in the town centre and also a time when a hurricane blew down many trees, but these extreme conditions are rare, especially in comparison to tropical Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, where the rainy season would bring almost daily flooding and the extremes of Beijing, from stifling and dry heat of 35+ celcius, in the summer, to lows of -16, when lakes and rivers freeze solid, and you can see happy skaters enjoying their free ice rinks and I took many trips to the mountains for skiing, on fake snow.

6/ The World Wide Web was invented by a British scientist, named Tim Berners-Lee, we als invented TV, the telephone, trains, stereo, photography, jet engines, the electric motor, computers, radar, the light bulb, etc, quite a lot of stuff, there is some dispute over some of these things naturally, add your comments if you have any.

7/ The reality of Britain is that the population has faced many challenges throughout history, the population itself is a mixture, Romans, Celtic, Vikings, Roman Saxons, Normans, war, trade culture, religion, moving people, have all had a big influence on British history and innovation.

8/ Hedgehogs are cute and prickly, soft underside and sharp outside, I guess, as I have never touched one. They are a little bit like a rat but much rounder, shorter tail, lighter colour and don’t live in sewers, also they are not associated with the Black Death.

9/ Pembrokeshire is the most beautiful and diverse place I know, thanks in part to the nurturing of the environment by the British people, there are many spotless beaches, mountains, forrests, woods, rivers and lakes, islands and estuaries, there is so much to experience and enjoy, the area is protected as a National Park, which provides some protection from pollution and industry, which might otherwise destroy this amazing natural place. The nature of Pembrokeshire is really what inspired me to take up photography in my youth, I would ride around on my scooter with a camera in my space time, walking secluded paths deep into nature, it was very easy for me to become an explorer of that world.

10/ Fish and chips is one of our favourites, there is normally a chippy within walking distance of our homes, and will often be available in Chinese restaurants and pubs, it is a comfort food, and no doubt there is a certain nostalgia attached to this, so that even after tasting a vast array of dishes, from around the world, it still remains one of my favourites, beside pancakes, bananas, and my adopted favourites of Chinese dumplings and a range of Vietnamese dishes.

So that’s it for my 10 facts and thoughts about the UK, I hope you found them interesting, and please share your thoughts using the comments.

Thanks for reading, Sam.

Camino de Santiago

In my life have taken on some big challenges, courses, jobs, teaching, facing difficult decisions, but nothing can compare to walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, (oh except doing a 10 day water fast). Walking along hot dusty roads, 6 hours a day, with the same scenery mile after mile, one of the biggest challenges was boredom, followed closely by pain, thirdly annoyance, getting up at the crack of dawn day in and day out seems like any normal way of living, like working five days a week doing a nine to five, though in comparison, most jobs you do get two days off a week, on the Camino I walked everyday for a month, I had only a couple of days out, but then it was a big change in what I did with my time, a change is as good as a break they say.

Dwelling on the daily grind got me down and distracted me from all the great things happening and opportunities that came my way, whilst on the way, if only I could stop complaining enough to be able to focus on them.

I remember walking one day and feeling very bored and disheartened, I asked myself, what was the point and why continue on that seemingly never ending road, I wondered if there was any way to make the most of things on the road, and if I found a way then, perhaps I could also use it when I returned to normal life, after the Camino.

I decided to focus on the nice things around me, that my senses were experienceing, such as the crunch of stones as I walked, the wind brushing around me, the sound of birds and the view, over time I realised that not thinking was allowing me to be peaceful and really experience the moment.

These days I continue to walk the Camino in my daily life, it is often difficult and I regularlh forget to stop and smell the flowers, to experience the wind and many of the other opportunities to be in the moment, but it is always there for me when I need it, and I do everyday.

Thanks for reading, Sam.

Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 – Transparency International

Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.
— Read on www.transparency.org/cpi2018

This seems very biased and even corrupt itself, created for ‘developed’ Western countries to look better than less developed countries, but does not seem to include wars, weapon selling and the environmental havoc, caused by those from western countries, the index should be updated to be more truthful, i.e. each country should also be measured to include companies based on its shores and individuals from, who trade and use corruption in other countries to their benefit

Is it corrupt for companies to use images and words to sell products in a false way, to seem healthy, or necessary to life, or to be a successful member of society you need this brand or that, this is to me also a corruption, a dishonesty to exploit people, through physiological means, and people are not educated about these types of manipulation, it’s legal so therefor I guess not classes as corrupt, but no doubt has the same effects as what TA uses to measure their specific types of corruption, for some people to gain through the exploitation of others.

Please comment if you have ideas, and especially a positive angle on this.

Thanks for reading, Sam.

Trip to the mountain

I like to go on trips and hikes, and being right next to a mountain, naturally made me think about going for a walk up it, or at least part way up. For the past three weeks I’ve been staying in the shadow of this mountain, I see those tree lined slopes everyday, watching over us people, often hidden by clouds of mist, almost hiding the whole mountain at times.

I asked my host Cheng-Han, if he could recommend any walks in the mountain, he was not keen to give me directions to our neighbouring mountain, instead directed me to another, some distance away, saying the local mount was mainly accessed only by farmers, but as I am not one who gives up easily on some exploration opportunity, and especially as I am regularly reminded by its presence, I sought for more advice, naturally Google maps was helpful in seeing the locations, but ultimately local knowledge and a tourist information offices local map helped me pinpoint where exactly I wanted to go.

Looking at the tourist map I found several mountain roads, highlighted as trails, so I chose one called Paoma History Trail, as it is the closest one, and so sought a way to get there, I took the bus, to cut a long story short I waited an hour for the bus, but quickly discovered the trail began only ten minutes walking distance from the bus stop, time for lunch in the park and a chat with the locals.

Eventually arriving at the mountain road turn off, at the edge of Jiaoxi town, I first came to a street food vendor, barbecuing, with people hanging about and eating, I decided to continue, it was too early for food.

After walking for a while I was overlooking Jiaoxi town, the view was great, surprised at how the houses simply kept going across the horizon towards and along the sea, with green fields, gardens and trees, nestled between the houses, villages and towns.

In the distance is turtle island, from this angle it looks more like a shoe, but I have been told the name was started by local fishermen, from different angles it is more turtle shaped, people like turtles here because they are regarded as lucky.

During my walk down I passed a lot of other people walking up, so seems to be a popular road to walk for locals, it was hot and exhausting walking up there in the afternoon, but well worth it to get some interesting shots to share and write about, make the effort and have an experience, is always worth it.

Thanks for reading, Sam.

Ants

If everything is as it is meant to be, then how do we make the most of any given situation, the sometimes immense suffering life and other people throw at us, which we seem to have no choice in, it can seem unfair and intolerable, a horrible child hood, poverty, cancer, death of loved ones, job lose, homelessness, maybe life is all about different degrees of suffering, the challenge of continuing in an ambiguous quest to find our purpose, but there seems to be no solid answer to this question, and that often is the biggest demotivator, in my experience.

Are we demotivated by not having an answer to the question “what is my purpose?” or are we demotivated by the need for an answer to that question, it seems that the answer is ambiguous, there is no definite answer, maybe the answer is the question, our purpose is to find our unique purpose, or perhaps a more accurate answer might be, too learn to listen to that inner voice, constantly telling us our purpose, and it has always been doing so, since we were children, beneath the din of school, parents and society, the universe has been telling us all along.

The big challenge is really to have faith in and fully follow our purpose, the thing that we really enjoy doing, which grows us and communicates ourselves to others, if only we could be true to ourselves and not swayed by those who have lost their purpose, and instead spent their time on distractions, the shallow and wonderful things made to keep us focused on mass consumption, convenience and passivity, an inability to face difficulty, seeking the quick fix, disposable cups, gloves, plastic trees, a sea of entertainment.

It seems we are meant to face the difficulties head on, in order to learn how to over come them, but we will keep facing a new set of challenges, once one has been overcome another will appear, this is our fate, so perhaps the solution is to accept and learn how to better deal with these lessons to benefit from them and then let them go, to make room for the next.

Thanks for reading, Sam.

Lize Puppet colony

On the weekend I visited the Lize Puppet Colony, a Taipei puppet production company that moved to Wujie Township, Yilan County, TAIWAN twenty years ago.

Lize creates and does shows around Taiwan and internationally, here you can see a video of their performances. The puppet style is contemporary, so you will not see much traditional puppetry here, which for many is perfect, If you love to see a diverse and innlovative approach to making. You may be interested in traditional styles, but I would like to learn more about advances in puppetry. If you would like to see more traditional puppetry in Taiwan then in Taipei there is a traditional puppet museum. Often contemporary arts will mix the traditional with the contemporary, allowing the viewer to get a feeling for the culture and how it has changed, creatively, through what has been created in the arts, especially when commercial conformity is reduced.

Taking a tour around the workshops is a great way to meet some of the key members of staff, as well as the stars of Lize Colony.

This is Chi Hsuan Lin, she is a choreographer and puppeteer, along with Jimmy Chen a puppet maker and puppeteer. Jimmy spoke very good English as the main guide, showing and teaching visitors about the spaces, the different types of puppets, ways to make them and how to perform with them, it was very interesting and inspiring, thanks Jimmy.

It seems maybe destiny to do a residency at Lize one day, they offer those who work in puppetry the opportunity to spend more than a month based at their workshops and performance space in Taiwan. Not having so much experience with physical puppetry but instead a digital skillset in animation, aswell as an art background and some performance experience, perhaps this is a very good direction for the future, and enough to be able to do a puppetry focused residency, let’s see.

There are two possible projects for making a puppet show that come to mind, both have been written more as books, now it is necessary to consider which might work well as a puppet show and what needs to be done to make that happen. The two potential projects are Camino and a Dragon story I have been recently working on, take a look and provide your comments and insights if you would like, I really appreciate any ideas for improving these stories.

Thanks for reading, Sam.