Posts Tagged With: New York Times

My Sixth Sense

I have a sixth sense.

But if only I could learn to read it and harness its power, I could use it for evil. Joke.

This week, I had that strange feeling I’ve had many times before – about a person, a place or some thing. A person or place or thing for no apparent reason suddenly pops into my head and lingers for hours, sometimes days. It’s like that obnoxious song you can’t get out of your head. It happens at the most random of times and try as I might, I just can’t rid my thoughts of him, her or it.

Generally, the thoughts are of someone I know, but more often they’re of some celebrity or public figure. Sometimes they’re of a country or more specifically, a city or town, and not necessarily some place I’ve already visited. The strange part comes into play when a day or two later or within the week, boom! Big news breaks about that person, place or thing. Then I think to myself, I was just thinking about that person or that place or that very thing.

Will and Jada

I’m not sure it’s some sort of superpower or how is it even useful, but I almost always dismiss such nagging thoughts of whomever or whatever and go on with my day. Much more pressing things going on in my head push those seemingly mundane meanderings aside. It’s only after the news emerges about that thing, person or place that I then recall how much I had that subject on the brain only hours or days ago.

So I ask, does this ever happen to anyone else out there? Am I unique in this regard? Is it just all coincidence?

On Tuesday, I had a feeling something was up at Apple Inc. I don’t know why, I just did. It was a strong feeling that popped into my head. I wasn’t reading about Apple or doing anything that would make me think about Apple. I was simply tidying up my room, doing some other household chores. Then wham!, here comes Apple and its CEO Steve Jobs into my head. As always, I pushed the thought aside – or at least tried – but it kept coming back. It lasted off and on throughout the day, well into Wednesday. It was so strong that at one point I thought maybe Apple was about to make some big announcement about one of its popular products and my sixth sense was in high gear. A new iPhone? A significant product upgrade? Maybe a new iPad? An iPad 3? Ah, that’s it. Ah, yes, that’s it, a new and improved iPad, maybe one that finally supports Flash, good heavens!.

iPod Touch

So now I had the iPad on my mind. So much so that while I was on Facebook I began to update my status with: “Look for Apple to soon announce the iPad 3! If you’re in the market for one, wait.”

But before I posted the admittedly bold statement with no backing or sourcing other than my wild intuition, I stared at what I had written for about a minute and thought, “no, that’s not it,” and erased it. Still, I launched Google to double-check how long the iPad 2 had been on the market. Just maybe it was time for a new version of the iPad, no?

So why was I now obsessing about Apple. I like Apple products – own some of them myself – but I am no Steve Jobs “fanboy”. Those who shed tears when Steve Jobs walks on a stage to plug his products need to have their heads examined or at the minimum to get a life. Or just get a grip! [Where is slap-happy General Patton when you need him?]

The fanboys may think Steve Jobs is the Messiah, but he is – gasp! – not. Talk about belonging to a cult, not knowing it, and attacking as stupid anybody else refusing to join!

Cult Leader and Apple CEO Steve Jobs

When Wednesday came, I woke up very early in the morning to get to work, and after the routine swearing at the alarm clock, I took a shower and prepared a light breakfast. Somewhere between pouring the milk and the Mueslix, guess what popped into my mind? I then tried to explain it away: last week I had lost my iPod Touch at work, and I had been thinking about it off and on. I wasn’t so much obsessing or upset about it as I was thinking more along the lines that all my precious data was stored in that little glass and aluminum device. Who, just who had it in their sticky hands and were they using it for evil? No joke.  The very act of keeping what is so not yours is evil. Looking at someone’s private information is evil. Any person who does that is evil. Oh well, an excuse to buy the latest generation iPod Touch, was my thought. Move on.

I walked in to the cavernous building at work, made a cup of Ceylon tea, and sat down to figure out the student lineup. Then as I walked to the office of my first eager-to-learn-English junior executives, one of the department managers – also a student of mine – approached holding up an iPod Touch. “Is this yours?”

Never thought I’d see that iPod again. It had been more than a week. It had mysteriously appeared on his desk, left there in plain sight. My iPod was reportedly spotted on the desk by another mining executive, not one that I teach English to every week. How had the iPod turned up on this desk is still a mystery. I suppose I could have security review the cameras, but who cares. The important thing is I got it back.

I think the person who found it and kept it had remorse and decided to return it, slipping it onto the desk while no one was looking. Just about everyone at the company knew I had lost my iPod and would ask daily if I had found it. They were genuinely concerned about finding it. This isn’t a company where stealing is tolerated, one of them said to me. From the security staff the housekeeping staff, they all were on the lookout. The messages I sent to the iPod’s screen may have also scared that person into turning it in.

For the uninitiated, if you lose your iPhone or iPod Touch, you can engage a feature called “Find My Phone” that locates it via GPS just about anywhere in the world. You can also remotely through Apple’s Mobile Me Website send any message you want to the screen -“Hey, you #$@&!! return my iPod! – or  instantly slap a password on it to lock it and prevent its use. And in a final act to preserve your privacy, erase all the data. All this remotely from your home computer or laptop.

My messages that the device belonged to me and that it be returned or face doom, may have scared the person into doing the right thing. At least I’d like to think so. One thing: the GPS-backed function to locate the iPod on a global map did not work. Otherwise, I would have known where to go find the device. A chemical engineer at the mine, a pretty smart guy, attributed the GPS failure to our desert location where there isn’t a strong signal. I don’t know. It worked great elsewhere, most recently in Chicago when I misplaced it there. A map popped up on the computer and zoomed in on the building, and voila! Found it. Amazing technology and smart thinking from Apple.

So on Thursday morning, I had my iPod back in hand. By Thursday night, on that very same device came a breaking news alert from the New York Times: “Steven P. Jobs Is Stepping Down As Chief Executive of Apple.”

Say what?

The iPad

“I have always said that if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs wrote in a statement released by Apple. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”

So iPod Touch back in hand, it alerts me of the news from…..drum roll….Apple! There’s the big news, is what I thought, of course. Bigger news than the release of an iPad 3. Hey, I never said this mind power was about predicting the future. Just that some event – good or bad – is about to unfold in involving the people, places and things that invade my thoughts.

The very same week, I had actor Will Smith on the brain, but not to the degree of Apple. Then word comes the next day and spreads by Facebook and Twitter that he and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith are getting a divorce after 13 years of marriage. Okay. Coincidence?

I think that’s all I will reveal about my superpower…err…gift…err…weirdness.

One thing’s for sure: when it comes to travel, I do listen to my sixth sense. We refer to it as a “gut feeling”. But my gut tells me this sixth sense is about something more.

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What Has Stuck With Me About This Place Peru

EAT, SMILE, EAT, REPEAT:

The New York Times said it a bunch of times. Other newspapers and magazines have been saying it. And a gazillion trillion others have continued to echo it: Peru has the best cuisine in the world! But don’t listen to any of them. What do they know? Listen to me. It’s true! I may not be able to cook a lick, but I know food that goes beyond the ordinary when I see and taste it. I have not had one bad meal in Peru. You just have to know where to look, but you don’t have to look very hard or even far. Just about anywhere you turn in Peru, you will bump into great cooking. People who know a great deal more about food than I do credit Peru’s diverse cultures that have borrowed from each other – a spice or two here, a cooking method there – to create unique dishes and presentations. So Europe meets Africa meets Asia meet Indigenous meet in Peru! And Le Cordon Bleu Peru continues to crank out skilled chefs in the great tradition of the acclaimed Gaston Acurio. I had the pleasure of dining at two of Acurio’s restaurants – Tanta in Lima and ChiCha in Cuzco – and it made me happier than a fat kid in a bakery. The dishes were a burst of flavors. At ChiCha  where I struggled to get a table, I had a seafood risotto that was killer. I ate every grain and wanted more. And just as ChiCha, I found Tanta purely by accident: I was walking around looking for a place to eat and noticed the crowds. If you don’t take my word for it, listen to the New York Times and the gazillion trillions. And the other newspapers and magazines that have continued to extoll Peru as a gastronomic powerhouse. It truly is.

WITHOUT ME YOU ARE NOTHING!: 

Peru has a race and class problem that has led to a bit of an  identity crisis. You see, white, wealthier Peruvians tend to look down at the Afro-Peruvian and indigenous populations. They don’t value them. If anything, they treat them as a thing to be scorned.  Of course I’m not talking about all Euro-Peruvians, those with Spanish backgrounds. Just some. It’s not talked about much. But ask any Peruvian about it and they will open up about it. A great deal of this disdain is reserved for the indigenous population. You hear the word “cholo” directed at the indigenous population and you know it’s not exactly a compliment.  This has lead to young descendants of the Incas denying their heritage. Some refuse to learn or speak Quechua. They are conflicted about who they are. They want to be identified as anything but from indigenous stock. And yet, were it not for their culture and the heritage that their ancestors built, Peru would lose a huge chunk of its tourism. You think the tourists are coming to see white Euro-Peruvians dressed in their suits and ties? No, they want to take home photos posing with indigenous people in Machu Picchu. Snap your finger and rid yourselves of the indigenous populations and Peru would be just another mediocre country known for not very much.  Well, except it’s good eats J Anyway. It’s time the indigenous populations of Peru – Cuzco, by the way, is somewhat of an exception – start fully embracing who they are and that white Peruvians stop painting them as low class nothings.

THAT’S SO RUDE!:

Okay, so I completely understand that what works for the United States and other supposed “civilized” and “refined” countries doesn’t necessarily work in other countries where chaos is somewhat of a norm. But rude to me is rude. If I’m standing in a crowd watching a parade and you come along and shove me aside to get a view of the parade with not an “excuse me” or “sorry” you are rude! rude! rude! Pushing and shoving people to take their spot was a daily occurrence in Cuzco. I thought at first it was an individual and isolated thing but it just kept happening. So I asked several Peruvians from Cuzco about it and they all said the same thing. That they were aware of this rude behavior and that it was due in part to people simply not being taught manners at home. It’s accepted behavior. Other outsiders – i.e. visitors – experienced this and also wondered about it. Sorry to say this behavior was largely in the indigenous population, i.e., poor and largely un- or miseducated.  Now, I’m taller than most in Peru, so being shoved to the back didn’t trouble me much. I could still get a good view over the people in front of me. But still, manners, manners!

THE PRICE IS WRONG!:

Cuzco is so expensive  it has priced out even Peruvians. Many Peruvians are poor and can’t afford to travel beyond their borders. But I found it interesting that many Peruvians can’t afford to visit Machu Picchu and never have. The entrance fee, the transportation and other related costs put Machu Picchu and other Inca sites out of reach. I understand that governments try to squeeze every dollar or euro out of tourists, but they some seriously need to evaluate the money they ask their citizens to pay. This is especially true of Peru. One of the employees at my hotel said he had been to Machu Picchu only because someone else paid the costs, but his wife – a Peruvian born and raised in Cuzco – had never been to the site. They simply could not afford it. Just about every South American country has two or three different prices – one higher price for tourists, one for citizens of the country and one for locals. Galapagos, for instance, has such a system in which locals pay no entry fees or very little. Peru, it’s time you get a clue.

WARTS AND ALL:

With all its faults, Peru is magical, breathtaking, beautiful, fun, and rich in Pre-Columbian and colonial history. And the civilization that the Incas built is everywhere, not just Machu Picchu. I loved Peru!

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