Drink, Dive, Dance 3: Laurence

August 17, 2017

Laurence is French, albeit an atypical one. When nobody is around us on the snowy Annapurna trail, I’d tease her about her Polish accents. She’d lower her head as a reflex and then sneak a peak at me in between her bangs, eyes betraying her anger while simultaneously trying to hold back a laughter. For the French, my Quebec accent is just way too funny to remain serious with me for long.

She is the first French traveler I’ve met who wanders outside of the French circle and mingle with everyone else. Not only that, she is perfectly fluent in English (with that Polish accent). A walking Oxymoron for those of you familiar with how typical French travelers act.

Laurence, revels in finding the cheapest place to eat and then proceed to negotiate the price down. We’d often find ourselves in some hole in the wall local restaurant to eat; grimes on the wall with a fan that’s older than my grandma. She’d sit down after ordering, napkins on her lap, back straight and then proceed to eat her Dal Bhat with the most elegant command of the fork and knife I have ever seen.

Dining, it seems, is a very important event in her blood. I’d learned the difference now her different needs after a while. “Quelque chose à manger” means, let’s grab something on the go and keep sightseeing. “Bon! On trouve un resto là.” means I need to sit down and go through the proper routine of dining à la Français.”

For her, my ability to barter even better than her was the biggest turn on. We’d often have bartering matches where we take turn at different shops to get the same items at prices lower than the other was able to get. Each one of us is fully capable of planning the whole trip by ourselves and is able to get the best deal out of it while the other person can focus on whatever frivolous adventure that we want to try. The complete trust in each other’s abilities as travelers is unprecedented.

Laurence, for me, is the perfect traveling girlfriend… except for her quirky need to experience proper dining from time to time, as if straying away too far from “culture” is too painful. But its the memories of these quirks that brings a smiles to my face.

Whenever I miss Laurence, I’d visit a high end French restaurant, lean back on my chair and just close my eyes.

 

 

Drink, Dive, Dance 2: Alessia

August 6, 2017

The strange thing with me and diving is that I never experienced any anxiety at any stage of the diving experience, even when I was just a beginner. During my travels, I noticed that I have a natural affinity with anything water related.

The beginners nervously threw a glance my way from time to time, double checking to see if they are checking their own equipments properly. The new ones never just ask, somehow fearing that we’ll look down on them. They also, always ask how much air is left in the other diver’s oxygen tank.

If diving is meditation, then prepping the equipment is like the ritual you go through to get into the flow state before entering meditation. I enjoyed every bit of the the process as it is my own life and I am the sole person responsible for its outcome,  whether I fuck up or not.

Breath in, breath out, left hand at the back of the head, right hand on the BCD and lean back. One by one, we flopped backward into the water into the famously cold arctic water of West Coast Canada. My world blacks out as I instinctively closes my eyes. For some reason, I can never keep my eyes open when entering the water. Probably a reflex from the shock of suddenly being overwhelmed with cold water…

Exhausted from fighting against the famous strong current of Komodo island’s dive sites, I grab hold of the ladder as I await the others to climb up first. The dive master called the shot and we made the emergency ascent after only 40 minutes as the others are now too exhausted to fight the current. It must be because of the timing of everything together, but when I looked up into the boat, Alessia stood by the railings in her red bikini and flashed her big white smile at me. I had neglect to get to know Alessia before as she is a shy girl and I spent most of the time chatting with Leilani, an advanced diver whom I’ve been traveling with for the past 2 weeks, about the beautiful dive sites around Komodo Island. However, during that moment of exhaustion and delirium, seeing that welcoming smile, was like seeing an Angel smile.

Alessia is an Italian to put it simply. Dig a deeper into her roots and you are dealing with multiple citizenship and genes. But for the most part and simplicity’s sake, she is a traditional Italian who’ve had a protected upbringing and I am the dishevelled Vagabond, free and fearless. Alessia with the little curve at the end of her lips, long and shiny curly hair, the wider jawline from her other lineage and her propensity for single minded pursuit of something once she decides she wants it in her life. All of these combined made her a refreshing breeze for the me at that moment.

The trip around the nearby village with flat and dusty, nothing exciting, but we had each others company, the sun and the ocean whenever we got too sweaty. I would often tease her about her binary conflicting internal struggle. That of her clear desire for jumping me and her traditional upbringing of being a good girl before marriage.

Besides diving, suntanning and making out after beer with Alessia, there wasn’t much to do at Labuan bajo. Leilani and I already went to the Komodo islands on our way east towards Labuan bajo, so there’s really no interest in taking that trip again and beside that and the diving town of Labuan bajo, there isn’t much else to do. So like that, we spent three day at this little unknown tropical paradise until Alessia had to leave to travel with her father. It was supposed to be their bonding trip.

Nothing further happened between us in those three nights. We’d always come back to find Leilani going at it with some guy she picked up from “Paradise” (if you go to Labuan Bajo, you will know this place) and a sock on the door knob. Besides, Alessia is still mentally panicking about the whole issue. I was in a good mental place at this stage of my journey so I didn’t push any further. Then, two more days later, after saying goodbye to the other vagabonds I met on the way, it was my turn to step onto the propeller plane back to Bali. You know you are in a very remote place, when the planes are small, propeller based and your luggage cannot be heavier than 10kg. It really brings about the feeling that you are on an adventure and along with it, all the things that make your heart skip a beat, like the huge dive your propeller just took because it couldn’t fight the strong downward air stream. I shut my eyes thinking “this might be it, I am going to die a happy man.”

And that’s how I am brought back to the current reality. The freezing cold water of the North. A different climate and a different reality. Every time I do something that I did on my long journey, I get flashbacks of a different place in a different culture. Feels like a lifetime, but happened in an instance with all the feelings compressed to a second. An explosion of nostalgia. I will meet Alessia again though, in another part of the country but I didn’t know it back then. Like all the people I’ve met on this journey, our stories continues on just as our lives continued on.

Travel anecdote: Labuan Bajo is an interesting little diving village, what surprise me is how the people I met on the way there seem to throw away their inhibitions once at this place and openly hook up without any fear of shame like in other places. Other than that, there’s really not much to do here. I would recommend every diver to go there to experience the dive sites as this place is, so far, the site with the most marine life I’ve seen.

 

Drink, Dive, Dance 1: Prolog

July 26, 2017

Every once in a while when I close my eyes and lean back on the chair, I get catapulted back to a different time, different place to relive a small part of the journey I had. Little insignificant things will trigger the memories, It can be a familiar tune I heard while somewhere, it can be the familiar feeling while crossing the street on a red light or it can be the silence from the absolute absence of civilization. Whether the memories were good or bad, I’d stop whatever I was doing in order to cherish the once forgotten experience.

I slowly opened my eyes.

Kathmandu, deep past the chaotic Thamel. The plan was to walk until we don’t see foreigners anymore. That has always been the preferred travel style of Laurence and I; two veteran travelers who met each other while wandering around the Annapurna circuit randomly. Tagging along are three newbies we picked up along our journey to join us in the excursion into chaos.

The smell, the donkey carts, discarded food on the street and people everywhere alongside  the safety of a group of similar minded travelers who are open to experience a place instead of passing judgment. This, to me, was the height of traveling experiences.

From time to time, we’d lose sight of each from being swept away by the crowd or some over zealous barter session with a stubborn shop owner, but we’d always end up finding each other. No man left behind, was the unwitting rule between us. Not that Kathmandu during the day and smack in the middle of the local maze is any danger to any tourist, but we didn’t know that back then.

The fun lasted for the whole day until Matt, one of the tag-alongs, decided to try one of the delicacies from a street food cart. I cringed at the thought as Matt is from England, where food safety is paramount compared to Nepal. “A boy has to become a man one day” I thought. Just as one of the traveler’s rite of passage is to taste the local street food.

Needless to say, our excursion didn’t last too long after that. I closed my eyes and shook my head in laughter at the memories of Matt semi running towards the direction of Thamel where we were all staying.

When I opened my eyes again, I am back where I am. With a cup of coffee in my favorite cafe but sans Laurence.

Travel Anecdote: I didn’t write about the women I am/was with in my life out of respect for their privacy, just as I don’t write about my friends or people I live with nor visit their blog because I want the interaction to be real. But the stories of my journey cannot be complete without including the adventures I had with them. Laurence was an integral part of this part of my journey. I know will meet her again in future flash backs.

On housing

July 18, 2017

The last two decade saw the invention of the ex-pat lifestyle which advocates a minimalist lifestyle that shuns possessions and a permanent residence. I went full retard on it, hook, line and sinker.

That was when I had no choice because I had to optimize for only one lifestyle from a cost perspective. Also, I knew I was leaving for at least 1 year, so the cost analysis really favors to just sell everything and terminate all ties before going on the adventure. Well, after 5 years of wandering and finally getting a bit wiser, I now favors a hybrid approach.

The reality of long term traveling is that there will always be big issues that require in person meetings back at my home base at the rate of around once every 6 months. Especially so, if someone is sustaining this ex-pat lifestyle with a business that throws off passive income or a remote work gig that doesn’t require the physical presence in the office from 9 to 5.

So from a time and cost perspective, it takes about one month to move out and one month to move in while still expending the time and energy to generate that income. Which means, 2 out of 6 months is basically thrown out of the window to redeploy the previous lifestyle.

The solution I am trying out now is a one bedroom rental at the least expensive option with the inside kitted out in the most outrageously lavish fashion. On site manager, security key fob entry, and maid services on bathroom.

It is also a good place to display the trophies of my travel while simultaneously gave me something I haven’t felt for a long time. Comfort at home. The feeling of a space designed solely for myself and fits perfectly. Which is why I went lavish with the interior. Previously I’ve always thought of it from a cost on investment perspective, so things never fits just right.

We’ll see what happens once I am done with the place and start traveling again.

2016 year of confirmation

July 9, 2017

Another year, another review of my life, took a while before posting this cause life got in the way.

The great experiment

The nuances between different culture is big enough to completely throw off my interpretation of intentions based on the subtle cues in language and behavior. For the longest time in my life, I was ignorant of this fact and believed that my interpretation has been correct. After a year of travel, I’ve figured out that it is wrong. Even between similar western countries, the differences exist due to different history.

So during the next 2 years of my travel, I set out to train my intuition to be able to interpret people’s feeling correctly in a boring but logical manner. I built a few scenario and guessed their emotional state based on the resulting action they took after.  Every time there’s a new unexpected action, I add in another possibility to the end action as well as guess their emotional state. If possible, I find out what they are feeling in a roundabout way after a few drinks so as to not seem creepy.

After 10 000+ encounters with strangers, I believe I’ve built a good enough modeling to be right 80% of the time.

Silence

As a result of the experiment, and many major events that happened in my life in the past 3 years, I’ve become a man with few words. This change is as a result of being able to see certain truth due to the better modeling of people’s emotional state. Most of the time, people do not care about what I want.  Everyone is selfish. Those who care too much about other and react to others gets walked all over. It does not benefit me whatsoever to say anything or let people know what I really believe unless what I say is an action that I am doing that will advance my position in society.

I believe that silence is probably going to become my main theme in 2017.

Body

I have been tracking my body’s progress for a while. A year ago, I finally started seriously building it up. Part of the 3 year progress to reach my natural maximum muscle mass. I’ve always been into sports and worked out sporadically, but I didn’t know that to build up muscle mass requires dedicated 5 times per week workout and adherence to nutrition. Especially so since I have Asian genes, which does not naturally give its owners a lot of muscles. But I do enjoy the fact that I age slower than any other race, which is not something that can be achieved based on effort. Here is me 3 years later at 21% body fat. The goal is to reach 13% at which point I will be back to 155lb, which was the weight where I was when I started. It’s amazing how skinny fat I was yet I still looked like a skeleton.

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My genetic makeup is such that most of the fat is stored in my thighs and then my stomach. They never go up to my chest area or arm area. It’s the reason why I remain looking skinny up until about 28% body fat when the fat start showing up on my face. So to make anything protrude or having a “shape” in my upper body, it has to be built from the exercise I do instead of “chiseled” out like Americans.

How funny it is that the whole journey started when I decided I want to have 6 packs. Then I realized that the proportion doesn’t look right without a well built upper body. Which leads to finding out about the body fat % necessary for 6 packs to even show. Which leads me to this point in time.

Projects

I have finally completely digitized everything in my life. Thanks in part to a big burglary that took most of my memorable stuff. I don’t want to go into details of this event because I do not wish to relive it in my mind again. It is the single event that caused me to be outright hostile to the homeless drug addict population and nudged me on the path to always take the offensive and get as much advantage for myself as possible in any situation. Whereas before, I use simple tit for tat measures.

Because of the burglary, the amount of things I need to digitize reduced by a lot and it forced me to dedicate 3 months to complete it once and for all.

Lifestyle

I experienced my first bout of lifestyle inflation. Tried to go back to being a vagabond, but I just couldn’t after experiencing how much more time gets saved and how my body feels better and less sick. Partly feelings and partly because I value my time and health as the no.1 and no.2 most important thing in my life. I do not wish to deal with shit anymore. From now on, if I travel, I travel in luxury and I will be staying in one place for longer period of time so I can settle down and work on things that matters most.

 

100 percent life

July 8, 2017

What if instead of reducing tasks and things that needs my attention, I increase the amount of the things I can handle?

What if instead of optimization for efficiency on cost and time, I instead go all out creating the setup I need using the best tools available no matter the cost?

These are the basis of operation for my new life. Taking into consideration what I am good at; tech, travel, finances. I’ve decided on having a home base and distributed cloud services. It’ll cost me about $10 000 per year, but well worth being able to access 100% of my ability anywhere in the world.

To date, I’ve been hindered in my technological and financial ability due to the fact that I am doing anything online through a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. It just doesn’t make financial sense to rent a place and have all the utilities still running while not physically living in it. But what if, the cost doesn’t matter? How would I have done it and set it up in order to be functioning at 100%?

Definitely a difficult transition as I still catches myself thinking of the cost efficiency of things instead of just maximizing my abilities to do. But I believe this is how the average Canadians function, judging by their spending habits and how much waste I am seeing everywhere.

No more Mr. Nice Asian

July 1, 2017

This one is for the Chinese people who makes the effort to flip over their Great Firewall of China in order to read my blog.

I took note of the moment I saw the trailer for Jackie Chan’s new movie: “The Foreigner”. It marked a shift I’ve been waiting with bated enthusiasm. A shift in perception so to speak, I’ve spent quite a lot of energy to accelerate. That is, the racial war that underpins everything in this world. The male dominated space of war and chaos which sees each race attempt to one up each other in order to prove that they are the superior one. To get power, respect and sex.

I’ve read about this strange perception of Asians being portrayed as a joke, weak and expandable in American culture before. I mostly brushed it aside as the rambling of some sour grapes. However, as I travel the world and experience the difference in attitude that people have towards me, I begin to understand the truthfulness in this author’s ramblings. It’s the same sentiment experienced by Bruce Lee.

The fundamental shift inside most likely happened when I traveled through Scandinavia, a culture that Americans look up to, and experienced the hospitality and love these people offered. It felt so different, so genuine, even though I was literally wearing rags. It was also the moment I was made aware of the fact that what I am experiencing in North America is not normal at all.

Thankfully, there has been an awakening. It begin with tier 1 cities and tourist spots needing sales staff and cashiers who can speak Mandarin in order to rake in the luxury sales to these new money. Then companies started hiring only Mandarin speakers in targeted city which eventually leads to Mandarin-Bilinguals being in demand to a point where all the customer facing staff became Asians. Then, there’s fear of Asians taking the jobs to the fear of Asians taking the land.

A decade after mass immigration from China begin and 5 years after watching rich Chinese people living the life of the wealth and being dicks (being dick in this instances is not a Chinese trait, it’s usually a result of being rich) to everyone else, a significant majority was finally reached and the balance of power has shifted…

I’ve started seeing more pairings of local women with Chinese guys. This marks another sentiment shift where the women started seeing the man of another culture as more desirable than their own. This has been happening for a long time, but not with the frequency I am seeing nowadays.

For the longest time I believed in the narrative to integrate into American culture and white wash myself with their culture. It is a good idea as the western culture is that of a civilized culture. Being nice, lining up, “having class” are signs of enlightenment as you shed the desire for material things and to get ahead at any cost. Chinese tourists used to be very crass and cause a lot of shit in places they visit, “Fucking Chinese” is a term I heard many time as I travel once people accepted that a “Taiwanese” is not Chinese. I cringe every time I hear that term because most people have not experienced the Chinese as I have, especially the younger, more elite generation. The 40 year old and below Chinese are one of the more enlightened segment of the world I have met.

What the Chinese are going through right now, is a period of identity building and a recovery of their previous cultural pride. The internal propaganda of Chinese is #1 is great, however, most of them have no idea what other culture think of them. The only problem I am seeing from the sample of population I’ve run into, is how little of the male population can handle the unknown. All the single Chinese wanderers I’ve met in the world are Female and 2/3 of them are the hardcore travel types (think travelin alone through Afghanistan and India type). It’s almost as if the roles are reversed in China. The women are the wandering free spirit and the men are the stay at home conservative ones.

Chinese men can begin to be a sword. Take chances and become more aggressive. Shed the stereotype of being a financial prey from scams in the world. Stop being nice and start being evil. Not just financially (since the Chinese are very aggressive financially), but it is time to tackle the other areas of life.

To be Normal is to be Mediocre

June 6, 2017

To expand on Aspergers, I am probably a very high functioning one or just lucky enough to have the object of my desires to be something related to human relationships. The ones that stands out are those who specializes in something unnatural.

Perhaps one of the more damaging moment when I was young, is to have one of these young psychologist or psychiatrists tell me that I might have a disease known as Aspergers out right without me seeking her opinion. The resulting internal debate is one of the most depressing one I’ve had till that point in my life almost as similar in intensity to the day I learned the false idiocy which says our brain stops growing after our teenage years.

If you look at our society and those successful founders at the top who invented something, you’ll notice that most of them has some form of Aspergers and they found a way to hide it from normal people. The desire for perfection and an insufferable desire to complete an idea. These are the exact same characteristics necessary to succeed in something new.  From my point of view, this is a genetic mutation that allow us to transcend “Normality” and ascend to the next form of existence. However, our brain only has a limited amount of computational ability, so these specialized “gifts” often come at the expense of other normal functions.

If you were to imagine a smooth suave normal person that you’d look up to, I believe most everyone can agree that ballroom dancers are the most elegant bunch and can all agree that they are not one of these “brain damaged” retards. Yet if you think about how they achieved their elegance for a moment. Countless hours everyday of repeating the same routine OVER AND OVER. Isn’t that just like someone with Aspergers? Everything hardcore where you aim for the top requires some type of mental illness. The very definition of the top 1% says you are not normal.

The sooner we can change our mindset on this, the sooner we can start cultivating and grooming these gifted individuals to help advance our civilization. Think about it? What is normal? Living a normal life, never standing out, doing the same shit everyone else is doing. I hold a certain amount of disdain towards the normal people I see in everyday life. Always chatting on the phone about insignificant nonsense, always checking instagram (Snap chat or whatever is new nowadays). Never doing anything akin to improving themselves or thinking about the future.

Imagine a kid with a brilliant ability to invent new devices and having an authoritative figure telling the kid one day that he has a disability with the parents agreeing with the authority. This is probably the most devastating hit to the kid’s mind than anything you can throw at him.

There was something important with my little “gift” that I believe allowed me to be somewhat responsive in social settings. That is a moment when I come to peace with not “Completing” something or not doing something to the high standard I require. This desire to have things in an order in the way it is supposed to be in my desire is very strong and important part of Aspergers. At least according to me. It drives me and pushes me towards excellence, always trying to be better. It hurts a lot internally when I cannot make it the way I want it.

I believe, since I can only speak from my own experience, that others get stuck when this happens and cannot get out of it. I call it a dissonance loop. You must finish so your mind can move on to the next thing, but you cannot finish. Before you know it, the mind goes inside and the body start moving automatically towards the coping mechanism adapted since childhood. The way I go about overriding this, is by agreeing to myself that I am doing this for others, so it is not what I wanted so that the standard does not have to be “perfection”. I’ve also learned a lot about time management and what’s important to do first, so these logical reasonings can be used to override the “emotional” desire in order to push things forward in a project.

Well, I didn’t always know the internal workings of my own “gift” until recently. Going to an extreme Vipassana retreat to meditate really helped me go through my life’s moment and slowly sort out the ins and out of everything. I also uses anchoring techniques and a clap as the anchor as a quick way to release myself if I ever enter into a “Dissonance Loop” in public.

I think this is all that I needed to say on the subject. I will now get back to making sure that the walls of my new apartments are “perfectly prepped” before I put on the new coat of paint. This apartment will be for me and me only, so everything in it is about indulging that little “gifted” side of mine.

 

Nesting

June 4, 2017

Probably the most mind boggling thing about Canada is that my win ratio when it comes to getting anything important without connections, be it an apartment or Job, is zero. Whereas the exact opposite is true whilst I am in Taiwan. The stark contrast tells me something is definitely different. Two possibilities exists: 1. the economy in Canada is shit or 2. I am the least desirable candidate on paper based on external appearances when it comes to selection of a likable candidate. I will be conducting more tests on this in the future to figure out the correct assumption in the future.

I try not to use my connections as much as possible, but at this point in my life, I am less tolerant on wasting time competing against deplorables. I had to start again because of the traveling I did, not because I messed up my life. So I called someone I know and viewed a great place. The deal took less than 1 day to complete and it showed me how powerful having connection is and that it’d be stupid to throw away all the connections I’ve built up in Vancouver over the years. Now I am painting my new place and slowly constructing the final layout in my mind.

It’s been a while since I’ve had my own place without a room mate. My own room, my own kitchen and not sharing anything with anyone. Now, I am even thinking of keeping the place even while I am traveling. I’ve always moved around before because keeping an apartment rented while traveling around is fiscally irresponsible. However, the me today is financially capable of doing this and my time has become more important than anything else. If you look at it from the time perspective, I lose about 2 months worth of productive time (not counting time spent looking for apartments) moving in and out of a place each year and also, living with others and tolerating their bullshit also shaves off a few minutes of time here and there. Add it all together and it is no longer worth it to attempt to find a place.

The more this idea takes hold, the more I am taking a long term approach to this new apartment. The work I am doing to it becomes more meticulous, more long term. The wall most be completely flat and smooth before the paint goes on, the floor must be wiped until the water in the bucket is no longer dirty. Every inch of the space cleaned with wash cloth, every crack sealed.

The orphan reflex

June 3, 2017

It occurred to me that more than anything else, that my character and choices are dictated by a life long lack of family rather than race.

I experienced a succinct moment of clarity after watching the movie “The Accountant”. It was a moment where I became self aware of my own Asperger syndrome. Like the robots in “Westworld” an important moment similar to when robots gained consciousness and became aware that they are synthetic.

For me, it was an interesting moment as I realized at the same time that Asperger is not genetic, but rather caused by the environment. Reason’s simple: The current me, the current tendency towards who I am, was not there before the age of 10, before I crossed the ocean and moved to Quebec.

First there was the shock of a different world where I became the odd one out. Extreme isolation lasting several years from not being able to fully express myself and of course, being disliked and made fun of due to my accent and general appearance of stupidity from lesser command of the language and slower response.

I believe that these circumstances allowed me to go really deep inward, creating the environment and uninterrupted string of time by myself to specialize certain part of my brain towards a utility of my desire. I believe the changed part is a creation of an emotional want. For me, I deeply desired something that will allow me to make sense of the behavior of others. Because I have a hard time understanding why my world is now so negative when my personality and wants, what drives me happy or sad, were still the same.

Well, I guess one of your psychologists can probably come up with a thesis for your new paper from this.

Then I wondered whether or not some of my personal life choices is due to this isolation, this “Aspergers Syndrome” that over educated people coined. The “disease” for me, is actually a type of advantage I have over others. Before I self diagnosed, it was always just an advantage I have. It needs its data to do its things and sometimes I go out of my way to feed it, sometimes I nod and pretend to fit in to society. Sometimes, when I don’t have to interact with people, I amuse myself by feeding my asperger’s needs.

It can be said that normal people without the disease are simply the same people with an asperger’s dead set on pursuing a normal life. So I know my asperger has a very particular want. Then, what is this paranoia that I am seeing myself going through? This preparedness for all possible outcomes, the secrecy, the fail safes.

Then I realized, it is because I have no family in Canada. It was due to a lack of a fail safe, a safety net. In fact, I’ve recently started a new mind journey while doing my meditations. I’d been comparing similar events between Taiwan and Canada, things like how co-workers treated me as Taiwan and as Canadian. I wanted to get to the root of what is normal behavior and what is racist. I am assuming that Taiwanese people treat me normally since I look and speak the same as they and Canadians treat me with racism since I am obviously different. It’s been quite a revealing journey and further detached me from the great lie that western society is trying to sell. That everyone is equal and there are no racism.