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Friday, October 03, 2014

Sleeper Car!

Oh how fantastic! It turns out I have my OWN sleeper car. Beijing to Shanghai. There are four beds but noone else is here and the train leaves in 10 minutes! And so clean and nice! They even serve hot tea!

So my trip is drawing to a close. In 12 hours, the train will arrive in Shanghai. I'll ride the subway two stops to my apartment, shower, change, and head to work!

So I'm glad it's such a nice sleeper car. I truly think I will get a great night's sleep!

Galloping Over The Mongolian Plains!!

I'm in traffic in Ulan Batuur, Mongolia. Heading to the airport. 

Greetings from a country almost the size of the US, but with a population of just 3 million. NYC alone has a population of 9 million. From a country where the people are a gorgeous and exotic mix of Asian and European: the country is right between China and Russia and... that's basically what Mongolians look like. The girls are very sexy and beautiful; the men distinguished and charming. 

Greetings from a country where half the cars have steering wheels on the left side of the car; and the other half, the right.  A place where cows, horses, sheep, and dogs run free en masse.  I mean: EN MASSE.  Where Yurts are absolutely everywhere!  Where mountains, rivers, plains, clear blue skies, and puffy white clouds abound in every direction. Where Mongolian cowboys can be seen herding cattle; where eagles soar; where Cyrillic is everywhere, but no Russian is spoken: it is all Mongolian!

Truly: this must be what the what the Wild West looked like back in the US. Upon landing, I found a driver who took me an hour away to Terelj--to what was the most wild and remote place I've seen in years. The drive over there reminded me of Iraq, but with mountains and grassy plains. I can see why Mongolia is compared to Switzerland: it IS that beautiful, and it reminded me of my years there. Funny: this place reminds me of Iraq, Seitzerland, and the Wild West--all at the same time! Haha!  I also got to hold a HUGE golden eagle on my hand with a gauntlet. Wow. So heavy. So majestic!

In Terelj, I did what I came to do: gallop through the Mongol plains on horseback!  I hadn't galloped in years!  So fun!  And so exhausting: cardio; legs; BUTT!  It took me a moment to readjust to riding. I forgot that you have to basically standup when galloping and use your knees as springs. But once I did: giddiup!  SO AMAZING! SO FAST!  and.... so worth the expense of coming here for just one day. This memory will never die. 

I had lunch in a yurt restaurant near the horse place (and the breathtaking Turtle Rock). I ended up talking to one guy in Chinese and when his father discovered I could speak Chinese, he invited me and his driver to sit with his group and we all had a nice lunch speaking Chinese.  They too were on vacation here in Mongolia. 

After riding, I went back to UB (which is what they call the city here) and found the hostel. I met up with this girl Odmaa at the famous State Department Store. She is Mongolian and studied in Alabama for a year. She helped me at the airport to tell the driver what I needed thanks to her language skills. So she met up with me and showed me around the store and helped me buy some souvenirs (and two Mongolian language books!) and then we had Cinnabon and pizza together afterwards. 

I finally went back to my hostel, got ready for bed, and here I am now at 9:46 am at the airport (we finally arrived).  Just about 24 hours after I arrived here. 

It's truly amazing: This trip has only been two days. It is AMAZING what one can do in just two days. Truly amazing. AMAZING!

Next stop: Beijing!  The Forbidden City! 

ONWARD!










Wednesday, October 01, 2014

In the Army Now... Again

It's 4:47am.

Woke up 10 minutes ago.

Dead quiet.

Chilly.

An it reminds me so much of my army days.

Wow.

I will be leaving in 15 minutes for Beijing. Should arrive at 7am at the airport. Next stop: MONGOLIA!

One note: here, no one speaks any English. My guide spoke a little but my Chinese is actually far better than his English. So for three hours, during the entire hike, we spoke in Chinese. Talking about everything: the weather; Chinese history, my army days, our jobs, our families, and even... Game of Thrones haha. (It was hard not to feel like a member of the Night's Watch haha).

Ok, quick pitch black shower time! I wonder what language is spoken in Mongolia. Is it Russian? Chinese? Is there a Mongolian language?

The Great Wall

I just returned from a breathtaking backwoods hike of the Great Wall.

This place is VERY far from Beijing. I had to take the subway; then a commuter bus; then a driver took me another half hour.  It's on a farm right in the mountains. I paid a guide to take me on a three-hour hike of the wall. He's the one who took the photos of me. He is the son of the owner of the farm. 

It's called www.GreatWallFresh.com and a friend told me about it but he hasn't come here yet. It's really cool!!  And NO TOURISTS AT ALL!  I am really truly in the middle of nowhere!  And I love it!  

The hike was AMAZING. All the tourists are mobbing the five or six rebuilt parts of the wall near Beijing. This expanse of the wall here is much farther away, but absolutely untouched since 500AD apparently.  From the Ming Dynasty. But when was the Ming Dynasty?  I thought from the 1200s...  Not sure. 

Anyway, it is so historical.  So genuine. So charming.  It makes me feel like I have stepped back hundreds of years. Thousands of years. Even though it wa raining and totally foggy, I loved it. In fact, the rain and the cold are what made it so fun!  And I took a small piece with me. A small jagged piece of stone that was genuinely a part of the wall. What a cool souvenir. 

Right now, I'm in my room. Three beds. And drafty windows. No heat. And it's cold. And damp.  Like a one-star hostel. And yet: I LOVE IT.  There is a group of foreigners in the adjacent room--the farm is laid out like a courtyard with the 'farm' in the center and the house surrounding the farm/garden on four side. VERY small. Charming. Lovely. And I'm by myself, but I don't feel alone. I hear the ten or so foreigners all laughing together and... I don't care! I am so content here by myself, in my long underwear, eating the huge among of home cooked dishes the mother of the house made for me. Rice, warm tea, eggplant, fried eggs, Chinese vegetables, raw almonds, all so yummy!!!  And with the cold room; the drafty windows that let the sound of the rain come through loud and clear, and the general awesomeness of the place, I feel great. Like I'm camping in the Chinese mountains.  I can't believe I am literally sleeping at the base of the Great Wall of China!  This is amazing!

As for tomorrow? I'm waking up at 4am and flying to Ulan Batuur in Mongolia. It is already cold here in Beijing; it's gonna be FREEZING in Mongolia!!  It is 8pm now. I am going to jump into bed with the many many blanket they gave me and try to get to sleep since I have such an early wakeup. 

And the adventure continues!  So hard to believe I was in Shanghai this morning in my apartment. Now I am going to sleep with the Great Wall outside my window. Truly truly amazing!

Onward!!

On the train!

I made it onto the train. G104 high-speed train to Beijing South Railway Station. Departing from Shanghai.

Taking the subway from People's Square took about 30 minutes. Gosh, that train was packed! And to indicate how much train travel happens here: the stop before the train station was one of the airports. Almost no one got off. When we arrived at the train station, nearly everyone disembarked. And what a crowd indeed.

I am sitting in my first class seat now. No one sitting next to me. And... the train just started to move! Yippee! Off we go!

I'm in 1st class because all coach ticket were sold out. I only decided to go about a week ago. I'm glad it all worked out though. Many tell me that I'm wasting my money for all this transportation for just three days. But when else will I get these opportunities to visit the Great Wall? Mongolia? The answer: maybe never.

I'm so proud and excited of my Chinese progress. I can actually understand the announcements on the trains fairly well. Enough to know what they are talking about. Cool stuff!

And... it isn't raining! So perhaps all will be well once I hit the Great Wall.

Gosh, this train is already going reaallllyyy fast...

I only got four hours sleep. I figured I'd be more tired now. But not! Oh cool: the food cart comes to ME in first class. How awesome. See: everything works out.

If you'll excuse me, I am going to order some food. Until soon!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Great Wall, Ghengis Khan, and a Forbidden City

And so my adventures continue!  This time: Beijing, The Great Wall of China, and the land of the Khans: Mongolia.

When I tell my local Chinese friends here in Shanghai that I am going to Mongolia, they invariably tell me it's beautiful.  But in fact, they don't know where I am going.  You see, in China, there is a province called Inner Mongolia.  This is where my Chinese friends think I am going.  But I am not going there.  No, I am going to THE Mongolia.  The country.  A country where the capital city of Ulan Batuur is officially the world's coldest capital city.  It's fascinating: I was talking to my Chinese teacher today, and I told her I'm going to Beijing and THE Mongolia.  She asked what type of winter coat I was bringing.  Winter coat?  It's September!  Well, silly me: Beijing is over 1500 KM to the north; and Mongolia?  Even farther.  I checked the weather: Beijing is in the 40s; Ulan Batuur?  Freezing and subfreezing temps.  Already.  On September 30th.  THIS is the crazy place I am going to.

So I leave tomorrow morning on a 7am bullet train to Beijing.  Going over 250km/hour, it will still take about 5 hours until I arrive in China's capital city.  Then I am taking subway line 12 for one hour, to the end of the line where I will meet my driver.  He is from www.GreatWallFresh.com where I will be staying for the night.  Most people visit the tourist trap version of the Great Wall.  Tomorrow is National Day here in China: a three-day holiday begins.  Swarms are already marching on Beijing and the wall.  Not a Mongol horde, but rather, one of the tourist variety.  They are a far more fierce and ruthless clan indeed.  Well, I was determined to find a place on this wall that was not going to be crowded.  And I did: this charming little farm/B&B about two hours away from the re-built and modernized touristy great wall.  Where will I be?  On a farm in the middle of nowhere, sitting right along miles and miles of the wall, untouched and unrefurbished for hundreds of years.  And the best part: no tourists.  Just beautiful views of mountains, rolling hills, and I am hoping beyond hope: no pollution in the sky and no rain coming down from it either!  

So my driver will pick me up and drive me about another 90 minutes to the farm.  There I will have a late lunch, and then a guide (for 100RMB, about 20 US dollars) will take me on a 3-hour hike along this untouched wild portion of the Wall.

The next morning at 5am, I will wake up and my driver will drive me two hours back to the Beijing airport, where I will catch an early flight to Mongolia---a country for which I need no visa because I am an American.  It's a strange oddity: every country but five or six need a visa.  US Citizens are one of the exemptees.  This explains, perhaps, why so few Chinese have visited Mongolia, and why so many of them are so interested in hearing all about my visit: few of them have ever been there.  I'll arrive around noon, and if all goes well, I will be able to grab lunch, and then find someone to take me to the country and rent me a horse: I am determined to gallop along the Mongolian plains as my Mongol ancestors once did (apparently I have some Mongol blood in me)(Though apparently almost everyone has some Mongol blood in them because Mr. Ghengis was quite the prolific progenitor indeed).  

I plan to also walk around the capital city a bit too.  And see those Yurts I keep hearing so much about. The Yurts that still burn coal, thus making this city one of the world's most polluted.  We shall see.  

Then, the next day, it's back to Beijing, where I plan to see the Forbidden City, Tianeman Square (spelling?), and time permitting, the Palace. 

Come evening, I will jump on a slow night train back to Shanghai.  It will take 12 hours, and I booked a sleeping car (i.e. I will have a bed) so I'm hoping to be able to get some sleep, since come the morning, I have to race home to my apartment, shower, change, and get to work by 10am.  I may be tired, but I will certainly have some exciting tales to tell for sure.  

On that note, it's bed time for me.  11:20pm and I have to wake up at 5.  Sweet dreams world!  A 3-day whirlwind adventure is about to begin!


Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA
findingsummer@aol.com
www.EnoughExcusesAlready.com <--my consulting and coaching firm
www.WhatIsMonroeDoingThisWeek.com <--my travel blog

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Formatting

P.S. - Forgive the formatting, if it's weird.   I have to update the blog by email, since I have no other way to do so.  Everything Google (including Blogger) is blocked here.  

Yo ho! Yo ho! The Shanghai life for me!

  
Greetings bootleggers! 
I've had a great day today.  Went for a run and did some pushups and
situps in 91 degree weather which is as close to as miserable as the weather was in Iraq, and yes, I know, that sentence didn't make total grammatical sense but I don't really want to waste my precious time correcting it. 
Then, I had a great Chinese class with Zhu at MH
(no pinyin!) and then went to the tattoo shop and made my deposit.  Yup, gonna do it!  I sat with them for about an hour and we came up with a final design and size for the tattoo.  Pretty awesome.  Best part: I spoke with them almost entirely in English because neither of them spoke very much English.  These lessons are paying off...  I'm gonna sit on it (the design) for a couple of days, and then gonna set up the appointment for sometime next week.  I'm really going to do it.  Crazy.

I've also been watching a lot of Scandal Season 3 too.  Via Amazon Instant video.  It's great that I can watch it, but it's annoying that because I'm in China, my Prime membership doesn't work.  So while in the states, I could watch it for free, here, I have to pay $1.99 per episode.  But it's worth it: It's nice to be 'back home' again in the USA.  The scenarios are preposterous, and I truly hope that our government is not truly run in this fashion, but the drama and suspense and writing and characters and all that are just amazing.  Makes me smile every time I watch it. 
I am again so grateful to Frederic Lenoir and
his amazing book, "Du Bonheur".  It's one of the books I bought while I was living in Castres, France, and which is truly beginning to change my life: I love that Plato thought the search for happiness was foolish, since even murderers do the same.  Instead, one should live a good life, and one with values, and beliefs, and all that.  It makes the search for and the worship of God (as a higher ideal) far more relevant.  I really love it.  I love it even more because it helps me to realize that perhaps 'the search for happiness' is a fruitless ideal, a waste of time, and a psychosis-inducing chimera.  Something that just doesn't exist, and even if it does, is irrelevant (and perhaps not a very noble or worthy goal) because even the shitheads want (and sometimes receive) happiness too.

Right now, I'm gonna do some Chinese homework, and then pedal over to my French Literature class at 6:15.  This evening, gonna try to get TONS more done.  I am honestly considering turning my phone completely off so that no invitation or message by anyone can get me sidetracked.  I have a lot to do.  Time to get cracking.
A few things have been on my mind though.  About China.
First, I read in the FInancial TImes that almost
all of Hollywood is shifting now to a Chinese focus, because China has now become the biggest market for movies worldwide.  Just watching Transformers 4, and all the Chinese product placement and references, helps to illustrate this.  So it's ironic that I'm here in China now, because just like the Army helped my showbiz career before, perhaps my being here in China may  boost my movie career somehow too. 
Second, it's NICE here.  In Shanghai. In China.  Really nice. 
Genuinely a lovely place to live.  Yes, the pollution is bad, but it's not that noticeable except if you look up and see the gray sky.  (Though I must point out that today, all I see is blue, and cumulous clouds of puffiness, as afar as the eye can see.  Pollution today is the lowest it's been in months, and wow, it's nice).  But really, I don't think I can actually 'feel it' in my lungs or anything.  I think I (and everyone) was and is paranoid.  It's actually fine here.  Though I really miss the blue sky on a regular basis, that's a fact.  Beyond that, it's great.  Anything I can want to buy is easy to find.  There's an international bookstore so I can buy tons of brand new English books.  I can see great movies in the theaters, in English.  I have a wonderful apartment looking over the river, and air conditioning that works so well, and steady electricity.  I have a wonderful subway system here (much better than New York City because it's so new here), and the high speed trains are delightful.  I took a one-hour trip to Wuxi the other night, and it was a pleasure.  If I need a taxi, there is always one available.  There's an alliance francaise here, so I'm able to continue to improve my French.  There's a LOT to love about this place.  Heck, riding my bike home from Chinese school through the narrow streets I found a lovely watermelon stand, right there, ready to eat on chopsticks.  I stopped, and for 50 cents US money (3 kuai RMB), I was able to get half of a watermelon on a stick.  SO delicious.  I ate it right there, then got on my bike and continued on my merry way, weaving through traffic; scooters; pedestrians; and whatnot.  It's funny here, the transportation.  There are almost NO traffic laws.  People run red lights constantly it seems.  One way streets are such in name only.  No right turn?  Says who?  At first, it was very scary riding around here on my bike, and I would ride very fast, like I did back home.  But I've learned that fast is a recipe for disaster here, because while riding my bike, I have to: a) look both ways, constantly, when crossing intersections, b) never veer to the left or right, because a scooter or car or person might be right next to me, but unseen in my blind spot, c) always have the hands on the breaks, ready to stop at any moment, d) never make sharp turns, because I might turn right into a car or bike or person around the corner, coming my way, and this list goes on.  Now, though, it's fun. It's like a game every time I ride my bike: don't get hit.  Don't hit someone else.  Don't die!  haha!
OK, I've already written far more than I
intended.  The third thing I wanted to say can wait.  Today, day off.  Tomorrow, day off.  Friday, part-time begins so I don't have to be at work until 5pm (until 9), which is just amazing.  I'm glad I fought for it; I'm glad they agreed.  I am really looking forward to having this extra time to proofread the first draft of my novel (I finished it three weeks ago); and put even more effort into my language studies, and my PhD dissertation.   Busy bee over here.  Lata!
 
Thanks for reading!  J
 
Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA
findingsummer@aol.com
www.EnoughExcusesAlready.com <--my consulting and coaching firm
www.WhatIsMonroeDoingThisWeek.com <--my travel blog

Check out my new books "Battle Cries for the Hollywood Underdog" & "Romantic Suicide" on Amazon and BN.com.  Read also my bestselling books, "Guerrilla Networking", "Time Zen", and "The Theatrical Juggernaut"!
Join my inspiring email list at www.RahRahk.com and watch my music videos at www.youtube.com/monroemann
 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bamboo Scaffolding

Today, while riding my bike back to my apartment from the Alliance Francaise (where I am taking a French Literature course), it began to rain.  Again.  I didn't mind so much because it was SO hot today.  90 degrees, and so humid.  The hottest day yet.  And the rain cooled me down completely, despite also soaking me.  But I smiled when I passed yet another construction renovation project on a building.  In New York City, the scaffolding is big, bulky, and made of steel.  Here, bamboo.  No joke.  Bamboo.  I was always told that bamboo was strong, but I never truly realized how much so until coming here, and seeing all these men walking five stories up on scaffolding made of... a plant.  

I've been here now just about four months.  Seems like I have lived here for years already.  I'm totally comfortable now.  I know all the streets.  I know the language.  I know how to get around.  I know where to buy things.  I know where the movie theaters are.  And where the least expensive places to eat are: I have to save up all my money each month to pay for my Chinese lessons, which are growing in number and expense each month as I get better and better.

I'm very close to getting my first tattoo.  My personal slogan: No Rules, No Excuses, No Regrets.  But in Chinese.  On my arm.  I'm pretty excited.

My PhD studies are coming along nicely.  I am now in the beginning stages of actually conducting my dissertation research interviews, and that's great news: I am one step closer to the end.  To finally finishing it.  Yeah!

It's hard to believe that I only have 8 more months here.  4 months went by so quickly.  Another 8 will go by even more quickly, I'm sure.  Very shortly, I will have to more fully make my plans for what's going to happen upon my return.

Anyway, I need to get back to work: I have about 50 Chinese characters I need to write over and over again for class tomorrow morning.  May the force be with me.

Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA
findingsummer@aol.com
www.EnoughExcusesAlready.com <--my consulting and coaching firm
www.WhatIsMonroeDoingThisWeek.com <--my travel blog

Check out my new books "Battle Cries for the Hollywood Underdog" & "Romantic Suicide" on Amazon and BN.com.  Read also my bestselling books, "Guerrilla Networking", "Time Zen", and "The Theatrical Juggernaut"!
Join my inspiring email list at www.RahRahk.com and watch my music videos at www.youtube.com/monroemann

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Eckhert Tolle is WRONG! (A lesson in Hope and Dreams)

Visit my business at www.EnoughExcusesAlready.com --- hire me as your business, career, or life coach, and/or your attorney in NY and NJ!
****

Hey Unstoppable One!
Hope. 

It's what finally has given me back my self-confidence, and what has—in the last week—finally delivered me back to my old rockin' and rollin' self. 

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Here's a quotation for you from Eckert Tolle from his book, "The Power of Now".  He writes, "Hope is what keeps you going, but hope keeps you focused on the future, and this continued focus perpetuates your denial of the Now and therefore your unhappiness." 

While there is truth in this, it only tells one half of the story, because the truth is, for most people I know, the cause of unhappiness and depression is a LACK of hope.  Hope is not the cause of depression; it's the solution!

Consider this:

Why does one feel depressed after heartbreak?  Because of the loss of hope that there is a future with that person, or even a future with ANY person.

Why does one feel depressed after a physical injury?  Because of the loss of hope that they can participate in the life they used to lead and/or wanted to one day lead.

Why does one feel depressed if they don't get a job or a gig or a promotion?  Because of the loss of hope that they experience when they envision their future without that career path.

It's the LOSS of hope that causes the sadness.

Consider this quotation:

"The miserable have no other medicine
But only hope."

That's William Shakespeare in Measure for Measure

See, again, hope is really the only thing that keeps most of us going.  In fact, it's lack of hope that drives people to suicide.  If any of you have ever considered suicide (and it's psychologically normal to think about it sometimes, believe it or not), then you know that the only reason you did NOT actually go through with it is because you or someone else showed that there was another way; another path; HOPE!

This is why Samuel Johnson once said that "hope is necessary in every condition. The miseries of poverty, sickness, of captivity, would, without this comfort, be insupportable."  Insupportable = suicide, you see.  But hope is what allows us to keep going.   
This is why I tend to never EVER deprive someone of hope.  As they saying goes, "It may be all they have."  But more importantly, it may be the only thing keeping them happy; keeping them sane.  Over the last two years, so many people have given me advice about my breakup, and more often than not, it was crude, rude, unhelpful, blunt, and mean.  Basically along the lines of, "GET OVER HER ALREADY!"  But that doesn't help, because it doesn't provide hope in any capacity. 

But two things DID help, and in the last week.

First, my friend Kelsey told me to write to my ex.  Kelsey studies Chinese with me here in Shanghai.  She told me if I care about her so much, to write to her.  My heart jumped at the thought, but I also knew that writing to her telling her I wanted her back wouldn't really make me feel better.  It would just make me more depressed.  But something inside me knew I had to write to her.  But what?  In the end, I did write to her.  And it was unlike any letter I ever wrote to her.  It was an apology, but an apology in which I didn't expect or want anything in return, and that's why it was so different.   The meat of it said, "I feel I need to write to you to help me get over my guilt and sadness.  The guilt in my soul because I now realize I treated the most amazing girl like she was worthless.  The sadness in my heart knowing that you no longer have a place for me in yours."  It was very short.  But so heartfelt and sincere, and I really did feel better after writing it and sending it.  I never heard back, and I didn't expect to.  But I finally felt like that ended the relationship on a positive note, and I felt so much better as a result.  I finally felt free because I said what I needed to say.  (Which totally debunks that stupid 'no contact' rule, fyi)

Second, my friend Ken Bombace.  He was in Iraq with me, and he's on my email list.  He received my last email, and unlike most people who gave me advice on the situation, actually gave me some constructive and helpful advice.  Advice that helped restore my HOPE!  Not hope that she and I will get back together, but hope in MYSELF; hope in my GREATNESS; hope in my future!  Advice that restored my self-confidence.  He wrote, "Monroe, what's going on with this girl?  What do you mean she left you?  She didn't leave you.  She couldn't leave you.  No one can leave Monroe Mann.  Monroe Mann is omnipresent."  And while it didn't hit me immediately, a few days later, I realized how much of an effect that had on me: it helped to reframe the situation totally, and helped me to realize that I'm a really cool guy—something I have lost sight of these past two years. 

These two events really helped me to start to move forward away from the past I had with that girl.  It helped me to forgive myself, and to realize that there is a future for me still.  HOPE.

But that's not the only reasons my HOPE returned.  There's more. 

For the last two years, I've been dealing with a leg injury from Iraq as well.  I had surgery back in NY but even now, two years later, it's still causing problems.  I nearly lost hope that I would be able to run like I used to; dance like I used to.  But just as my hope was about to completely fade away, I decided to put out a request on WeChat (China's version of Facebook, since Facebook is banned) to see if anyone knew a local orthopedist where I could get an MRI.  Low and behold, one of my students here is a medical student at a local medical school.  She took me to her hospital and for $55 US, I got an MRI.  And strangely enough, the doc said there there is no damage at all: to the meniscus; to the tendons; to the muscles.  Everything looks fine.  Then he looked at my legs: he said that my quad muscle on my left leg is smaller than the right and that the pain when running may simply be due to overuse and thus inflamation.  He recommended I stop running for a while and instead get a bicycle and ride a lot to build up the muscles.  And he gave me some other exercises as well.  And huh... talk about giving me a boost of hope!  

Charles Allen wrote, "When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you're slamming the door in the face of God."  And I think that's right.  Because frankly, God can do anything, and stranger things have happened than a leg getting better.  I frankly don't know if my leg is ever going to get better, but ladies and gents, I finally again have HOPE and for the last two weeks, I've been riding my bike hard through the streets of Shanghai for an hour each time, and I can already feel my quad muscles getting stronger.  HOPE.  HOPE.  HOPE.

For "though you lose all hope, there is still hope, and it loves to surprise," says Robert Brault.  And I am surprised to discover that there is still hope!  And it makes me feel so great!

But today is when it all REALLY hit me.  I was telling my friend Kelsey last week how in my 20s, I didn't care about girls, and I was just 100% focused on my career and books and showbiz.  The girl will come, I thought.  Then, in my 30s, after I got back from Iraq, I realized that I had neglected relationships almost my whole life and it forced me to finally go out and try to find a girlfriend.  And I did.  But I lost her.  Kelsey told me to focus on myself and focus on my work, but I told Kelsey that I didn't want to go back to being single and 'focusing on my work' now---it is what I did for the past two decades! 

But today, something hit me as I was tapping away on my laptop: I realized I was having a blast working on my projects!  And I wasn't thinking of any girls!  My PhD research proposal was just approved by the Institutional Review Board at Capella University and I'm about to start researching interview subjects!  Entrepreneur Press requested a book proposal for my new book, "TRUST"!  Ronnie & I just signed a new contract with a new sales agent in Los Angeles for our film, "You Can't Kill Stephen King"--US distribution is finally coming this Halloween!  Things are moving, and it feels fantastic!  And most importantly, I'm having FUN again!  I'm actually ENJOYING all this, and this is the first time in two years that I have felt any joy from any of my artistic projects.  But hallelujah, it came back!

And why?  HOPE.  For a while, I thought my research proposal would never get approved; I thought I would never again get a publisher interested in a book of mine; I thought the movie had run its course; I thought my leg had no hope of recovery; I thought my future was bleak.  But no!  There is hope!  There is hope rekindled! THERE MUST ALWAYS BE HOPE!

"Hope never abandons you, you abandon it." -- George Weinberg

In the end, I realize that it is I who began to give up because I lost my self-confidence and lost my ability to envision a better future.  It is I who began to feel like nothing would change.  And therefore it was only I who could refind that hope.  But here's the key to my having found it again: even when I had grave doubts, I kept going forward.  As Churchill once said, "If you're going through hell, keep going."  And I was going through hell.  For two long years.  And I did go through hell.  And I did keep going.  And I think I am finally starting to come up from hell and see 'earth' again.  And what a breath of fresh air!--which is ironic for me to say because there is little fresh air here in Shanghai, haha.

My point is this: if you are feeling down lately, it very well may be because you have lost HOPE.  You need to figure out what hope exactly you have last (Hope in what?), and you need to figure out in some way how to REGAIN that hope.  You need to make a list of all the things you can do to potentially get some 'good news', and throw yourself into those things that may be able to help you recover that hope.

I am fond of saying that "time heals all wounds, but waiting's a bitch!"  Pretty funny right!   And acccurate! And sure, it could just take 'time', but even that's not the whole truth.  Time itself won't heal all wounds.  Time itself won't bring back the lost hope.  Something has to happen.  Something has to change in your life.  Something has to come into your life, or something has to leave your life.  A major change.  Time itself affords you the chances for these changes to occur.  But sometimes you need to do more than just wait: you need to jump start those changes.  By changing jobs; by changing countries; by changing habits; by going to new places; whatever!  

Our current president remarked: "Hope -- Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead."

A number of my students really love that I'm from the United States.  "America!"  I always ask why, and usually the answer is the same: "You can don anything there!"  And that's true as well.  Clinton remarked: "I still believe in a place called Hope, a place called America."  And truly, I don't think any country resembles HOPE so much as does the USA, where you can do what you want to do and say what you want to say. 

His point and my point? There ARE better days ahead!  REJOICE!  There are better days ahead!  And that is what I completely and totally forgot and failed to see while living in that cloud of sadness and lost hope these last two years.  I used to dream about my amazing life ahead of me, and used to love just living the life I was leading, but somewhere over the past few years, I lost that ability.  But lately (as in the past few days!), it's come back!  And I'm feeling great about my future again!  And it's all because of HOPE.  Hope RESTORED.  Hope REKINDLED.  

And ironically, I sorta feel like I did in my twenties: I've decided I'm just going to focus on my life, and career, and being awesome, trusting that the right girl will come along.  It's weird: I don't even care so much about 'love' anymore.  If you asked me two weeks ago, I would have told you that I don't want to live alone!  That I want someone to love!  Two weeks ago, there is no way I would ever have said that I'm actually okay being single, but... I finally am!  I AM OKAY BEING SINGLE AGAIN!  And that just blows... my... mind... that I just wrote that.  Wow. 

So here are the lessons learned, in summary:

a) Hope prevents depression; it doesn't cause it

b) Don't trample on anyone's hopes just as you don't want people to trample on yours

c) If you're feeling low, consider whether you have experienced a loss of hope somewhere.  If so, try to figure out what things might restore this hope, and take steps to do exactly that.  

d) Most importantly: WHO CARES IF THE HOPE IS AN IMPOSSIBLE HOPE! Remember the 4-minute mile and Roger Bannister?  Physiologists said it was an impossibility and every runner proved these physiologists correct.  Until Roger Bannister, who was determined to prove that the impossible was possible.  And it WAS possible.  Because he had HOPE.  And go figure, as soon as he ran the 4-minute mile, hundreds of other runners soon followed suit because now THEY had hope. 

Please do not give up my friends!  Please keep your crazy wild dreams alive!  Please remember how amazingly awesome you are.  Please don't forget that there is no one on this earth like you.  Please smile--right now--knowing that YOU ROCK!
And remember… MEET YOU AT THE TOP!
Romp on!
No Rules, No Excuses, No Regrets.

Your friend,
-Monroe

Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA
findingsummer@aol.com
www.EnoughExcusesAlready.com <--my consulting and coaching firm
www.WhatIsMonroeDoingThisWeek.com <--my travel blog

Check out my new books "Time Zen", "Guerrilla Networking", & "Romantic Suicide" on Amazon and BN.com.  Read also my bestselling books, "Guerrilla Networking", "Time Zen", and "The Theatrical Juggernaut"!
Join my inspiring email list at www.RahRahk.com and watch my music videos at www.youtube.com/monroemann

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Two Months in China!

It's pretty hard for me to believe too: I've been here in China already for almost two months!  CRAZINESS!  
a
I'm happy to say that any culture shock has worn off, and I'm a 'regular' local now.  I am nearly done with levels 1 and 2 of my Chinese lessons, and in four weeks, I will begin levels 3 and 4.  I can read about 150 characters now, and can write about 75 of those.  In terms of speaking: I actually can manage just fine now in supermarkets, in taxis, when trying on clothes, and in general just walking around.  My strive is to complete level 8 over the next ten months and take and pass the HSK 3 Chinese proficiency exam at the very least, nd best case, to take and pass HSK 4.  If I pass HSK 4, my Chinese level is good enough to attend a university here and/or work in a Chinese business environment.  

In some interesting news, I found out that all of my published books are available on China's Amazon.  It's called TaoBao.com.  That was a pleasant surprise, particularly because many of my English students have been asking where they can buy my books.  I thought they would have to get them shipped via Amazon from the states, but no!  They are available here apparently.  That's cool.  

I must admit that I do miss home.  It's weird that I am not going to be in New York City this summer.  Not going to be in Maine.  Just here, in Shanghai, in a place that is essentially landlocked because the rivers are unswimmable and even though the ocean is about an hour away, I don't really want to swim in it.  I'm hoping to take a flight to Sanya this summer with a fellow English teacher/SCUBA diver.  It is absolutely gorgeous there.  

I want to actually do traveling here, but as of yet, I haven't been able to find the time to get away.  I have had more important things to do here on my 'weekends' (which are Wednesday and Thursday).  Things like: 

a) my accounting.  It's weird having an account at home in the US and another bank account here.  I am getting paid for some things back home, and it goes into my home account.  Then, I am also getting paid from my work here into my Chinese bank.  Paying bills is interesting because it's essentially like I have two separate lives.  I can't use the home account to pay bills here unless I withdraw cash, which I don't want to do, because the fees are steep.  I also can't use my Chinese paycheck to pay any bills back home because they are not linked in any way.  I could do wire transfers, but again, it's pricey.  So I run my life back home separately from my life here, which is certainly requiring a lot of creativity.  In this sense, I do look forward to my eventual return home: I look forward to returning to just one bank account. And one Quickbooks checking account.  

I bought a bike yesterday.  Sort of like a 'hooray' gift but also doctors orders.   I had an MRI of my left leg again (it only cost $55 US, amazing right?  Makes me reconsider our own medical system indeed.  I'm not a fan of Obamacare, but how awesome that a guy with no insurance can get an MRI for a mere $55 USD?!----though the average income here in China is far less than in the US, so that too much be taken into consideration).  Anyway, my leg.  I have been having trouble running for over a year now, and everyone thought it was a hamstring problem, or maybe something with my meniscus.  The MRI results: both my meniscus and my hamstring are totally fine.  No injuries at all.  So the pain, the doc says, is from overexertion, i.e. because my left quad is much less built up (i.e. atrophied) than my right quad.  So he told me he thinks the pain will go away if I can build up my quad strength.  And so I shall.  I bought the bike (with the help of one of my awesome English students--a medical student who also helped me at the hospital--named Samantha) as a way to build up my quads without running.  It's something I wanted desperately anyway, but didn't feel it was a necessity.  Yesterday, I bought it, and rode it 5 miles back to my apartment, and let me tell you--it was a necessity!  How much fun it was.  I forgot how much I missed my mountain bike back home.  I went to a local bike shop (Giant brand retailer) and found the least expensive one for 600 RMB (RenMinBi).  But it was like a citibike, and had caliper brakes.  Suddenly, this Italian guy and his girlfriend came in, and he bought a fancy new one for 3000 RMB.  I asked what he is doing with his old mountain bike---the one he rode their with.  Selling it!  So I had my first business transaction in Italian.  Just 400 RMB and then I had the bike shop owner (Chinese guy) put on a new rear tire, add a bike pump, do a tune up, and sell me a helmet.  No one wears helmets here, but honestly, I don't care.  I still remember when my dad got hit by a car while on his bike.  His helmet is the only thing that kept him alive: he hit head first.  Besides, I feel cooler with the helmet.  Weird, I know, but I do.  

Today is Thursday.  The last of my days off.  I have Chinese writing class from 9am- 12pm tomorrow morning, and then work from 1 - 9.  The job is becoming a routine now: I no longer have questions about where I need to be or what I need to do.  Well, with one caveat: every month, I get loaned out to a few of the other Wall Street English centers in the city for a day.  It's actually pretty cool, because it means I get to see another part of the city on the company dime, haha.  And with my bike, I can tour the city on my down time much farther than I could on foot and far more efficiently (I can see more) than by subway.  

I lost my iPad the other day.  THAT sucked.  But here's something very interesting I learned.  After a day, I realized I can live without it.  It's something I cherished so much, but when I lost it, I realized I could live without it.  On the other hand, my ex girlfriend Louisa: I didn't cherish her while I had her, but as soon as she was gone, I realized I couldn't live without her.  It's hard to believe that it's been a whole two years since Louisa and I broke up.  Or rather, until I started ignoring her and she broke up with me.  I have tried for two years to show her how much I care about her (even flying to Germany twice) but it didn't work.  Nothing worked.  I thought quitting my law job in NY, traveling Europe for two months, and moving to China would cure my pining for this girl, but it hasn't.  I didn't think it possible that someone could have left such an impression on me that two years later, I a) still haven't met anyone even close to as awesome as she is, and b) still can't get her out of my head.  I am hoping beyond hope that by the end of this summer, or the very least, the end of 2014, I am no longer thinking of her.  But unfortunately, I find it hard to believe I can ever meet anyone as amazing as she was.  She was my dream girl... and I didn't even realize it until she was gone.  Idiotic me.  Sucks, sucks, sucks.

In positive news, I'm excited to report that my business partner Ronnie and I signed a new contract with a new sales agent in Los Angeles for our film, "You Can't Kill Stephen King"   US DISTRIBUTION THIS OCTOBER BABY!   I also signed another contract with Bob Madia to be my co-writer on two new screenplay stories I have developed.  One is called "Fins" and the other is called "L/K/V".  What are they about?  Not a chance will I tell you, haha!  You'll find out when they are on the big screen!

Anyway, I'm gonna go out and ride my bike around a bit.  It's a sunny day today, or at least, as sunny as it can be with so much pollution.  Oh Shanghai, how I love you, haha.


Monroe Mann, Esq, MBA
findingsummer@aol.com
www.EnoughExcusesAlready.com <--my consulting and coaching firm
www.WhatIsMonroeDoingThisWeek.com <--my travel blog

Check out my new books "Battle Cries for the Hollywood Underdog" & "Romantic Suicide" on Amazon and BN.com.  Read also my bestselling books, "Guerrilla Networking", "Time Zen", and "The Theatrical Juggernaut"!
Join my inspiring email list at www.RahRahk.com and watch my music videos at www.youtube.com/monroemann