Going Public

My tulips in the Spring.

Upon last week’s advent of Spring, I realized that New Year’s day would be more appropriate to occur in March. Spring symbolizes life renewed, rebirth, new beginnings, and things blossoming.

To inspire me to join in on Spring’s activities, I am now reading a book called “The Good Book” by A.C. Grayling. The book is diversely inspired and is deemed as the “Humanist bible”.

The Epistle to the reader introduces:

“All who read this book, therefore, if they read with care, may come to be more than they were before…Seeking knowledge of that good cannot fail to have a great influence on life. When archers choose a target to aim at, they are more likely to aim true; shall we not do likewise by having as our target the discovery and doing of what is right?…For this is a good book as well as a book of the good, its words from mighty pens, its thoughts from votaries of the right and true.”

I also finished the graphic novel, “Stitches” by David Small, in one short sitting and extracted the only quote I liked:

“Nobody heard her tears; the heart is a fountain of weeping water which makes no noise in the world.”

Although the graphic novel was a small rest for my weary eyes, “The Good Book” is comparably thicker, so I will share more quotes with you once I have finished.

Another reason I rejoice at the start of Spring is end to winter! Growing up near the beach has left me unaccustomed to cold weather. Such weather debilitates me:

  • The cold debilitates my grammar because when I step outside I start cursing at the sky.
  • The cold debilitates my picture taking because I am too cold to stand still.
  • The cold debilitates my fun because when I am back in Oahu I cannot surf longer than 90 minutes because of my shivering.

When I catch myself complaining too much of the cold I think of my coldest winter experience to remind me to be thankful of my current lack of warmth. Such a memory takes place in a remote town in Czechoslovakia when my friends and I got lost and had to wander so many kilometers to find the nearest transportation hub. The sheer freezing wind blowing snowflakes on my face left me slurring my words as if I had just drank 10 shots of vodka.

Well, a recent trip to Japan this winter was not as chilly and luckily the sun was shining for mild respites of warmth. Even better was the public transportation not skimping on the heating. I am a huge proponent for public transportation because:

  1. It’s better for the environment.
  2. It’s better for the safety of other humans because I am a bad driver. As I described myself before — “estar en las nubes“.

If you visit Japan, I recommend getting the JR rail pass which provides unlimited rides during a specified amount of days throughout Japan — even the shinkansen!

At the train station, in the back of the line. When is it my turn?

I expected the public transportation to be clean, but I did not expect it to be immaculate! Japan’s facilities far exceeded that of Switzerland’s and I kept repeating my disbelief at such comforts almost every time I stepped onto a JR car. Even the CEO of JAL airlines (one of the top 10 airlines) rides a bus to his office. You can check out more of this CEO who slashed his salary to save his employees’ jobs during budget cuts at a blog that I frequent.

I was impressed to see that although Japan is deemed a technology-crazed country, I did not see one iPad or E-reader on the railways. It seemed that Japanese are still reading books the “old-fashioned” way and I thought this was pretty neat! Personally, I feel that the physicality of reading is lost when using one of the E-readers.

Read the Printed Word!

Now if Japan could have only one rail company…that would be less confusing for visitors.

Another public transportation mode that pleasantly surprised me was the MRT in Manila — and helped me realize the untapped potential of the metropolis, and I do not mean this solely on capitalistic terms. One of the times of visiting a Philippine island, I thought it would be a nice idea to try the MRT in Manila. I rather prefer the views of the city from the metro than from one of the annoying taxis stuck in traffic — and the very inexpensive ticket price is an added bonus. No, it is not the most fanciest of accommodations but it I felt comfortable riding it because it reminded me of the B line in Rome I had to take Monday – Friday as my daily commute during morning rush:

  • No air conditioning (unless in the air-conditioned women-only car in Manila)
  • Crowded
  • Sometimes on time
  • Trash on the floor

Yet I never warmed up to the idea of riding the smoke belching jeepneys and refuse to ride them because of the pollution they contribute. I know, who am I but a little pebble expecting to make waves upon impact with the ocean? I will not go into one of my environmental rants, but you can proceed with the name calling if you wish — I’m used to it. I’ve received “hippie”; “treehugger”; and “string bean” (particularly clever since it is a play of words meshing my physique with my beliefs in living green). I was excited to learn about the launching of new electric jeepneys!

Crossing the street is something I found to be different between Rome and Manila. In Rome, I would walk across the streets to arrive at my Piramide metro station by looking straight ahead and just crossing — cars will stop without vulgar words and typical hand gestures even though I am not walking in a designated cross walk. In Manila, if I utilize this same behavior, I end up running because the cars do not stop for pedestrians.

Nevertheless, my favorite mode of transportation is walking — especially when traveling. Which makes me think of my favorite music video of all time.

One last picture of spring. I do not know the name of these flowers, but I first saw them in Tokyo. To the tulips, these nameless flowers are my second favorite:

By the way, are you watching how the world says farewell?