ວຽງຈັນ is the capital city of Laos.

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Life in Laos

I thought I would start my blogs again, now I am living in Laos a lot. But what to start with?

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Risk management

After a few days in Nepal I am both pleased with my risk management of the trip and disappointed at how overwhelming the task has been. And it makes me reflect on an idea that came to mind that Nepal and the Nepalese people are not managing risk, there is an absence of plan for risk management so that when things go wrong things go badly wrong.

I am pleased that my packing and sorting of things, taking things out and putting things back in bags, for several days, has lead to loss of just two handkerchiefs and one water bottle and some notes on paper, so not so bad. Twice I have panicked that I have lost something only to find it in the mess that packing and unpacking creates. After several days the packing and unpacking process has become chaotic, greater self discipline was required and it became overwhelming, in the end everything was being taken out of bags and not enough planning for putting it back again (as there was for the first pack. The trouble is tiredness after flying, the sense of what to do when and how gets lost, so the packing plan needs to be written down, not just something carried in my head. Next time I will do better.

Nepal is wonderful, well, what I have seen so far, great people, great food, lovely cool rain, which starts and stops with a little warning, but not much. But it is very clear from the moment you arrive that things are not planned, lots of signs that mean nothing to the the weary traveller, lots of people who want to be helpful but the processes, for example, for immigration, and way too complicated than seems necessary. Why did they not seem to think that anyone would buy a Visa on entry when all the indications were this was the easiest thing to do? Why was the man for the buying of Visas not there when the plane from Singapore had just arrived?

Then there is the chaos on the roads, being dug up but not covered, anywhere it seems. Maybe they did them up in the wet season and lay them in the dry season, but that seems a bit crazy to me. So the holes in the road are not just the rains, they are from people with shovels who have dug holes so big that cars have to avoid them, yet no-one is anywhere fixing them, not as far as I could see.

And then there is the problem of the rubbish, things get dumped, on the roadside, in the river, even down the hillside by the Stupa. There are not enough waste dumps I am told, but it needs more than more waste dumps, it needs management of risk, it needs planning.

I have talked about plans with my new friends here, and planning for personal life and for business seems not the done thing. It is not the same as in Spain, que sera, but more, and I need to think more about why. I need to understand the people more. But this will be a returning theme I think. For now, Dhaneyabat, thank you, to all my neew Nepalese friends, for their wonderful hospitality.

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Travel is not only physical

I think one of the anxiety elements of travel is that actually you know it is your mind travelling, as well as your body.

And ‘though you might get a bit anxious about how your body copes, really it is how your mind copes that worries us most. We are scared more by how we think we might think than we think we might do.

In going somewhere else we become the alien, we usually start to see ourselves as someone on the outside (unless we are just totally egocentric, like ‘English rules’ OK?).

The answer probably lies in just being. If we can just be who we are, then almost everyone will be welcoming.

Mostly, I think, the human race is universally accepted. We share the same planet, we are all the same people, really.

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Crime and punishment

Yes, this is the title of one of Dostoevsky’s books, but I found this written in The Brothers Karamazov:
“Why,” began the elder, “all these sentences to exile with hard labour, and formerly with flogging also, reform no-one, and what’s more deter hardly a single criminal. The number of crimes does not diminish but is continually on the increase.”

When you think that 130 years has passed between this view explored by Dostoyevsky and now, with all that has changed, we seem no further in our exploration of the issues than he was, and I would guess that you could find similar passages in Plato, with Socrates challenging the Crime and Punishment agenda.

There is that lovely saying that if you always do what you are always doing you will always get what you always get. I don’t have a clue what the answer is but I know what the question is: What can we do differently for the Crime and Punishment Agenda?

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Possessions possess

I’ve been driving a box van lately and it is a very interesting process how you have this inner sense of where the extremities of the van are, apparently the mind extends your ‘body image’ so that it becomes you, though being a box van I find this harder than if it had sloping shoulders like the Mercedes Sprinter I used to drive for our Farm Fresh Express food business.

I am not quite sure how I made this leap, but I was asked about whether I had bought all the presents I wanted to buy for Christmas gifts and initially felt really guilty being such a scrooge as to buy, well, just one. Then driving the van came into my head, and I realised that the connection was about how things you possess eventually become internalised, they become a part of you, and the more you possess the bigger you get, but also the less manoeuvrable, in mind and spirit. That’s connected to the recent discovery of many people who are truly huge hoarders, they must be so connected to their possessions that they can give nothing away, or even sell it.

I’m pretty minimalist in my possessions now, but the hardest is books, maybe down to 200 or so, which given my Kindle is really odd.

So I realise how it feels, I just don’t like that feeling when it comes to furniture and clothes and stuff. With the end of the world now put off till the next doom-monger predicts some new date it seems sensible to work on how we shift away from being possessed by our possessions, the world cannot afford that kind of consumption. We need to challenge the idea that Christmas is about giving things to each other and encourage the idea that all we should give is our love and friendship to each other, we don’t need presents to do that and we don’t even need Christmas cards or any other kind of Festive Season cards. We need to encourage the understanding that we are working to possess things which will possess us, which has got to be crazy and certainly is not healthy.

So, this Christmas, make a resolution, for the year ahead, your mission is to reduce you possessions, by at least 10% a year, give them to Charity shops, give them to friends, but mostly, stop buying, stop being possessed, give your time and friendship freely, that is the best gift you can give.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

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You get what you pay for but what you give freely comes back in abundance

We buy cheap and regret later, whether it is a business purchase or a birthday present, a big saving or just a bit off, we get the message, you get what you pay for.

This seems a core idea in business when it comes to salaries. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys, justifying huge salaries for people leading companies, who then justify paying peanuts as cost cutting? Hmmm. But they get wages, not salaries, so maybe the rules are different.

I have known people who always give their time and even their goods freely, and who seem to live in abundance, certainly an abundance of happiness. Give freely you get back more than you give, give meanly and you get just what you pay for.

Returning to yesterday’s theme may help develop this line of thinking, are you running on empty?

Another expression is cut to the bone, meaning there is no fat left, no reserve, the next stage is failure, collapse, the end.

Our political leaders have toyed with the idea that if you work rather than live off benefits, then you should be entitled to more income, seems reasonable, but more means, well, anything above zero, and the benefits system works it out at £5 per week, yes, that’s £1 a day, for going to work, a pretty minimal incentive when the bus fare may cost more than that, or the money for canteen coffee, or, well, going to work costs.

Whether you are running on empty or living a full life is not going to depend on that £5 per week, it is going to be more about family, friends, and what you have in reserve from previous times, including your knowledge, your skills, and your attitude and temperament.

The welfare system should be about what the State gives freely, and in abundance, not just the benefits cheque but the roads, schools, the parks, the health services and the community events which all help us live fully, whether low income or not.

We have had several years of ‘austerity’ now, so services are being cut to the bone, there is a lot less reserve, and with that reserve gone, those who have least will be more and more running on empty, and then will deliver at most what they get paid for, and often a lot less. Good will goes, if what you get is meanly given then it becomes damage limitation, survival.

It seems to me that in times of ‘austerity’ what is needed is a programme to rebuild the fat in the system not cut it, so people give freely and more comes back in return. The rebuilding is not spending, it is investing, and can be accounted for, if those who run the system of accounting can only get away from beans and count nourishment instead.

So what we need is a nourishment programme, we need more libraries not less, we need more smaller schools which are community resources, not more academies which run their own affairs away from the public view. We need more community health programmes, programmes which are about building a physically and mentally healthy community, not more operations per £1k.

We need fewer millionaires, thank you not National Lottery, we need more people to give not gamble, and on the basis that what you give freely you get back in abundance, here is one idea:

What about all big businesses declaring that they will release their ownership of the business within 50 years maximum! So they will then act on the basis that they no longer have an infinite amount of time in which to conduct their affairs, they are leaseholders not shareholders, so the best thing would be to give freely bit by bit, instead of dropping it all at the last minute it would make sense to slowly hand over the company to the community, to become embedded in the community.




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