Veggie Travels – China’s City of Love – Lijiang

Our Experience:
We came to Lijiang on a hard sleeper from Kunming. I was pretty happy with the train ride. The beds weren’t bad, the sheets were clean and we had a good amount of space on the second level of a double-decker train.

When we arrived, we took a van from the train station to our hostel’s area for 15RMB per person. We tried to bargain it down to the Lonely Planet’s recommended 10RMB to no avail. We later found out that that’s the price.

Check our video here:

Taxis in Lijiang don’t use their meters because they said they haven’t been updated for inflation or cost of fuel for 10 years. Don’t know if this is true but no driver will use their meter. They will negotiate a price with you which fluctuates depending on the time of day and where you want to go. Check with your accommodations to know what the rates should be.

Lijiang Bridge

We stayed at Garden Inn in one of Lijiang’s old towns. The Inn is more like a hostel and I found it online and later saw it was recommended by Lonely Planet. It was okay. The rooms were relatively tidy minus a giant bug freaking out a French roommate. The bathrooms weren’t too clean and some shower heads were broken. Also, lots of noise gets through the walls. If you need a good sleep, perhaps find somewhere else or get some ear plugs.

I’d recommend staying in Timeless Hostel (formerly Panba). It was clean, the staff were helpful and there are a lot of detailed things that make it nice: like a curtain, personal lamp and plug in your dorm bed.

The main old town in Lijiang’s was pretty good. It reminded me of the Hutong areas in Beijing, particularly Hou Hai. They are small and quaint buildings and all of them have obviously been renovated to appear to be like an old town. Nice Asian architecture if you want to see that.

Part of the old town is still under construction and it’s basically separated into a hotel or “Inn” area and an area full of overpriced snacks, trinkets and bars. It’s nice to walk around for a bit but there’s not really anything to see unless you want to try some food or buy some trinkets for yourself or people at home. They mainly sell scarves, drums, cloth paintings, silver bracelets/jewelry and other miscellaneous things.

On the second day, we explored Shuhe Old Town. It’s also a renovation-in-progress by the government or businesses to generate tourist dollars. You get the feeling they want to suck out your dollars in these old towns.

Most of the tourists are Chinese. They want to come to Lijiang (according to my wife) because it’s famous for love stories. Basically some people will come here looking for love or one-night stands and many hotels even say things like: “Bring your own woman,” “have sex here,” “make your love story happen here” and things along those lines. Kind of interesting but it’s written in Chinese so you might not be able to catch it.

The rest of the time, Nala and I went around trying to buy some waterproof shoes because it’s the rainy season here and our shoes weren’t up to hiking in the rain. Eventually we found a decent pair after an exhausting search. Some of the shoes we found were fake (150-300RMB), whereas others were ludicrously priced (around 2700RMB). We bought ours for 490RMB each.

Lijiang is a good base if you want to go see some of the sites. There is Lugu Lake,Tiger Leaping Gorge and some mountain areas.

a quiet place

Overall I’d recommend Lijiang if you want to go to some of the sites around it or want “your own love story.” The hostel prices are also decent and it’s been a good base for Nala and I to catch some R&R. We also based here to go to Shangri-La and Tiger Leaping Gorge. I’ll update about those soon.

Where to stay:
The hostels and hotels in the area are well priced if you’re not coming here during a Chinese national holiday. On our first night, we stayed at the Garden Inn (recommended in the Lonely Planet) but it wasn’t so great. It’s fine but wasn’t so clean and needs a good renovation on its bathrooms.

We later found a gem of a hostel nearby called Timeless Hostel (formerly Panba). The dorm rooms start at 40RMB and singles with a good view for 160RMB. The rooms and washrooms are clean and newer. They also are very considerate in the dorms with curtains on your bed, a personal lamp and plug. Not bad.

Staying in the Old Town is nice. I’d advise leaving it to find a place to eat or anything else since it’s pretty overpriced.

I wouldn’t recommend Shuhe Old Town though because it’s really far from everywhere else. That means you’d have to eat there and do everything in a tourist-oriented place that wants your dollars… er, RMB. Also, to get there or away, you need to pay double the taxi price because of some price-fixing scheme the drivers have. That’s about 30RMB one-way to the other Old Town.

How to get here:
We took a hard sleeper after flying into Kunming. The price was decent, around 146RMB each. To the Old Town, you can take 2 buses (at 2RMB per bus), take a van (15RMB per person), or a taxi (around 50RMB, I think)

You can also fly into Lijiang’s airport if you have the coin to do so, or are on a tight timeline. Not sure about the prices from there.

Or the budget route, you can also take a bus into Lijiang.

There are quite a few earthquakes, landslides and mudslides (during rainy season) that happen in this region. If you plan to see some of the sites near Lijiang, you’ll want to make sure the roads are open and safe. Some drivers will go through them even after there’s been a landslide or mudslide.

So take care and do your research. See if reputable (super expensive) travel agencies go there and what they say. After you know, book yourself a bus ticket (to save some cash).

During our stay, we checked some travel agencies who wouldn’t go to some regions whereas others would, or one woman’s husband had his own business and he’d drive us there. No way and no thanks! Be careful and cautious.

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Veggie Travels – Lugu Lake, Lijiang Yunnan, China

Lugu Hu (Lugu Lake), Yunnan, China

Lugu Lake is home to the Mosu, Tibetan and Yi peoples. Lugu Lake borders both Yunnan and Sichuan. We stayed primarily on the Yunnan side of the lake.


Our experience: 2 nights
Wow. What a strange place this Lugu Lake and Mosu people are. This place barely redeemed itself. I have a pretty high tolerance but the people in Lige were incredibly rude. More on that below.

I came to Lugu Lake with relatively little expectations. I expected some nature and a good time hiking around and seeing the tranquility of a lake. The first day turned out to be terrible though.

Nala and I bought seats on a van from a travel agency. The driver was good and took care and seemed to be funny as Nala translated his occasional jokes. However, when we got to Da Luoshui at Lugu Lake, he changed.

He told us that the Mosu people (a small cultural group here) have their own laws and justice system. He basically said they’re beyond the laws of China. And on the way, he just drove through a police checkstop that wanted him to pay, which proved his point.

When we got to Da Luoshui, he didn’t want to take us any further to Lige, which is where he was supposed to take us. He was looking for other drivers to take us and was being a real jerk. You get the feeling this is some guy who’d do bad things to you if you got on is bad side. And we were on his turf. We felt pretty helpless. We’re used to fighting for ourselves in Beijing, but here, we had to remember that he pretty much knows everybody here.

In the end, he took us to Lige, a small village that basically consists of BBQ restaurants and hotels overlooking grass or the lake.

Nala and I went all around for a long time trying to get the best place for a good price. We missed out since it took us so long to find some good ones and know the prices (we couldn’t find much to pre-book so decided to just show up and find a place).

Finally, we got to this place called “Lotus” (Lian Hua). Terrible. DO NOT STAY HERE. At first we thought it was good because of the view. We wanted a place with a view more than anything even though it totally blew our budget. The place cost us 380RMB per night (a high price for this region and for what it is).

The reception staff is awful, and I mean awful – the worst I’ve ever experienced. She doesn’t even look Nala in the eyes when talking to her as she plays on her phone and does nothing to help. The room turned out to be dirty and full of spiderwebs and such as well. The staff here must be incredibly lazy and super rude.

We were pretty peeved and tried to get at one day (out of two) back. The reception girl refused and so we asked to speak with her boss. The boss owns another hotel in the area and we had to go there to talk with her. Sure enough, she also wasn’t there. Needless to say, they made us run in circles and, of course, didn’t give us our money back. So we stayed two nights.

Being vegetarian, walking around the streets for dinner with pigs and ducks on spits was pretty depressing. The people were incredibly rude to us as well. Some laughed at us being vegetarian and the service everywhere is terrible.

The people all over Lige are incredibly rude. I figure it’s because they don’t have to do anything to attract business since Chinese people flock here regardless in their tour groups.

We later tried calling our driver to book a spot back to Lijiang (since he’s who the travel agency told us to call) and he was so rude, he just kept hanging up on Nala.

The second day, however, was better. We found a pretty nice family who took us on a boat ride to the edge of a peninsula. It was nice and we got some good videos and pictures from it. They said people could stay at their place for 100RMB per night, which is great. The house is surrounded by flowers and has some ducks and pigs there (ironic).

Later we ended up hiking all the way to Xiao Luoshui (Small Luoshui). We went through Nisai as well and decided that if we ever came here again, we’d definitely stay at one of these developing towns or with the boat family.

We saw a group of men shoveling rocks into a tractor with a trailer and Nala asked them for a lift if we helped them shovel rocks. They agreed, so I shoveled rocks with them for about 20 minutes (to my sweaty and out of shape exhaustion). They took us on their tractor which was pretty fun and dropped us off.

The views around Lugu Lake are really beautiful, but still can’t compare to the lakes in the Rocky Mountains near Calgary, but it’s pretty darn good for China.

You might want to come here to see the Mosu people and their matriarchal customs or just check it out when in the region. Although, I’d advise to be careful. I felt like I was walking on eggshells since I could tell they have their own kind of justice system here and you don’t want to mess with them (that was my general feeling). They have large families, all know each other and you’re far far away from any help.

The boat people told us the people in Lige and the other developed hotel areas are so rude because people from other villagers built everything in and that they’re the rude ones, not the locals. I could see that since when we went to the smaller areas without so many tourists, the people were much nicer and more likely local.

In the end, the second day redeemed Lugu Lake for us. The rude “locals” hit us hard this early on our journey since I was at least expecting some to be polite (in Lige, maybe 5% are nice). Everyone seems to be on a short fuse and doesn’t care about making your stay pleasant.

Lugu Lake itself is pretty nice with a few temples here and there and some nice natural beauty. Overall I wouldn’t really recommend Lige or Da Luoshui if you want to come to Lugu Lake. Maybe look into going to a city on the Sichuan side of the lake or the smaller villages here.

What I took away
I have to say, coming across some people like this right when our journey began was difficult. Nala and I were excited to get out of Beijing and find some good friendly people. It turned out that we met some difficult people right away and it was meant to teach us something.

I learned that peace in your heart has to come from within. You can’t just wait until the next thing in your life is going to happen. You can’t wait for your traveling, for you to get married, for you to get a new job, for this or that or whatever. You need to find happiness now — in your heart.

So despite what the environment is around you, try your best to just laugh and smile. That’s my new mantra now — “Just Keep Smiling.”

The Mosu People:
The Mosu people are pretty interesting to say the least. They’re the last practicing matriarchal society in the world according to Lonely Planet. What does that mean? Basically, the women run the show in the family and the family line runs through the women, not men.

An interesting fact is that the Mosu don’t marry. Basically, men and women get together and have sex and produce offspring whenever. Men and women both sleep with multiple partners and have multiple children. The men don’t have to support their children at all.

This means that uncles tend to provide for their sisters’ children because they don’t have their own to take care of. Their culture is interesting to say the least.

The people here also aren’t really subject the laws of the outside world. They “have their own laws” as the driver put it. What this means is they settle their disputes however they want through their family feuds.

You’re in their place and help is far away. Keep your cool even when they’re so rude you want to yell or slap ‘em. Don’t stir things up and regret it later.

Where to stay:
Lige is the town we stayed in. We chose it because it was smaller than the touristy Da Luoshui (Big Luoshui) and heard it was a great place. We were surprised to arrive at the small village to find that it’s primarily made up of guest houses and not much else. And let me tell you, they’re pricy!

If you want the best bang for your buck, you should keep trekking down the main road around the lake to either Nisai and Xiao Luoshui (Small Luoshui). They’re less developed (for now) and offer the same great views if you want to get off the tourist track.

In Lige, you’re looking at more than 500RMB for the best hotels, more 380-420RMB for the medium ones, 240RMB for the garden views and 160RMB for rooms without views. There are also a couple HI hostels here that had dorm rooms for 50RMB and doubles for as low as 108RMB. Mind you, we came during the off season (plenty of rain and no sun).


How to get there:
We came to Lugu Lake from Lijiang. It will take you about 6 hours on a bus. There are several options for how to get here:
-Tour groups. They’re everywhere in Lijiang. Some offer you transportation and accommodations for as little as 300RMB. However, this comes at a cost and the cost is they’ll take you on multiple shopping excursions expecting you (and I heard sometimes forcing you) to buy things along the way. It’s a way to save some money – potentially. Also, who knows about the quality of the accommodations.
-Buy a seat. You can also go to some travel agencies and buy a seat on a bus or van that goes to Lugu Lake. This is what Nala and I did. It cost us 150RMB just for transportation. They took us all the way to Lige (although with some whining and strange behavior from our driver who wanted to abandon us in Da Luoshui. I wouldn’t do this if you don’t speak any Chinese since you can’t communicate when or where to pick you up. At least it’d be difficult.
-Take the bus. It’ll cost somewhere between 60-80RMB (or more, not too sure) to get to Da Luoshui. If you want to go father, you’ll need to arrange other transportation. Also, you’ll need to buy your ticket at least one day in advance or you probably won’t get a seat.

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Living in China for Over a Year – Lessons and Learnings

I have to say that living in China for over a year has taught me a lot. It has led me to truly appreciate my Canadian roots and upbringing like never before. There are some good things here, but the sheer level of competition and a plethora of other factors makes me look forward to the day I go home.


Why am I in China then? I came for a girl and ended up marrying that girl. It was the best decision of my life.

Working as an Early Childhood Education teacher, I began to think a lot about the influence that education has on us. And not just school education, but education from parents, mentors, peers and our environment.

I noticed that Chinese people tend to be less independent than Westerners. A big reason for this might be the one-child policy where families can only have one child. This leads to 4 grandparents and 2 parents putting all their eggs in one basket so to speak. They don’t want to mess it up.

You’ll see a kid about to fall and these hovering, overprotective guardians will do anything to stop it. The problem is that we learn from our mistakes. There is a lot of theory out there about this but the point is that we need to fail and get hurt so we know what not to do. This dependency on others continues as a result with parents doing everything for their child. And in the end, the children have a large burden on their shoulders to carry out some kind of legacy that the family desires.

Fake or not? Lack of trust (and for good reason)
There is a culture of mistrust in China. People just don’t trust each other — “am I getting ripped off or overpaying?”, “do they REALLY provide what they say they do?”

Why? There’s good reason for the lack of trust because many people flat-out lie. When Nala and I were going for our wedding pictures they told us complete lies to our faces that we later had to quarrel with them over. It was the most angry I’ve been in… years for sure.

And you don’t even want to go further. Maybe you heard about the melamine they put in milk? Or the dirty oil they use? That’s recycled oil they get from gutters and then clean cosmetically and resell. Or that they use old leather shoes to make noodles? The lack of regulation in any industry really, including food. Even baby formula is dangerous. People tend to buy their formula in Hong Kong or abroad.

And also, everything here is stollen. Copyright means nothing and you can’t know if you’re buying a real or fake computer, camera or whatever. You have to do your research to make sure it’s from a good and reputable seller.

Guanxi or your Social Network
Things will happen for you in China if you know the right people. Getting on important people’s good sides is key to success — getting that contract or cushy government job.

Competition, competition, competition
With over 1.3 billion people (that’s 1,300,000,000!!) there is insane competition for jobs in China. People work ridiculous hours for ridiculous wages at ridiculous jobs. Everyone’s trying to brighten their future and work toward that golden carrot — but wait, do you have the right guanxi? Try again.

And tying into education, children here work endlessly on their schooling. It’s actually “cool” to be the kid who gets the best grades. But this leads to some serious problems. Many of my Chinese friends come out of school without having developed any hobbies or passions or knowing themselves.

What do they do on their time off? I ask them and they tell me that they “sleep,” “go on the internet” and that’s about it. With all the time in their youth focused on schooling, many people don’t know what they really want out of life or have any passion or dreams. So… they work more.

Wow, a biggie here. The pollution in China is off the scales. I read somewhere Beijing’s air quality is hundreds of times worse than New York! Not to mention that the water pollution and soil contamination. I also was reading that Chinese companies dig giant holes under their factories to dump toxic chemicals that are even illegal in China, or to “decrease” their pollution level.

When walking around Beijing, you’ll see the hazy air and even taste it. It’s that bad.

The Goods
The good things about China? I’ve definitely been going off on the bad things.

The economy is doing pretty well still. As a foreigner, it’s pretty easy to find work teaching English and doing other things. However, the government is making it harder for foreigners to get working visas. I presume they want more foreigner jobs to go to Chinese nationals.

Some things are super cheap still. Although don’t get your hopes up. I was expecting dirt-cheap prices on everything when I got here but was shocked that many things were more expensive than in Canada.

They’re more expensive for several reasons: import taxes are high, and you don’t know where to shop. The key to finding cheap goods in China is knowing where to get them. There are some massive markets and online shopping is huge. If you go to the mall, expect to be gouged. Oh, and bring your negotiation skills.

Many people in China are also quite nice. When you get to know them, they’re really great people who are friendly and always happy to buy you a meal. But, before you know them too much, they might put up a rough exterior. I think it’s because of the environment in many places like Beijing where you have to fight all day — to get on the subway or bus, get the job, etc.

Overall, I’ve had quite an experience living in China and experiencing the culture and vast differences here. I’m sure I left out many many things. But if you have questions, feel free to ask!

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My Video Gear for the Next 8 Months

If you’re following along or plan to follow along, I’ll be posting pictures and videos of our travels. At the start of our trip, I’m a completely novice filmmaker. I’ll be learning how to use all of the equipment listed here and decided to compile a list so you know exactly what I’m using.


Canon 60D DSLR

Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 (Kit lens) with a cheap Chinese brand lens hood that’s doing pretty well so far.

A SIRUI tripod with carbon fiber legs. Not exactly sure on the model right now.

Tripod Head
Manfroto 804RC2 3-Way Tripod Head. I bought this thinking it was a fluid head good for video but recently found it’s actually a photography tripod head. Gonna have to find a way to make this work.

SD Card
San Disk Extreme 32GB at 80Mb/s. So far so good.

Pen Brush
I hesitated on buying this and it’s paid off a lot already. On one side of this is a retractable brush for cleaning off big pieces of dust from your lens. The brush isn’t so great, but what is great is the other end. I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s a pen tip that allows you to wipe off fingerprints and anything else from your lens or viewfinder. Super useful!

And that’s all! I don’t even have a proper bag for the gear, so here’s to hoping it’s all good! I’ll probably include some posts about the gear later on, some reviews and how to use it (as I also learn).

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My Writing Development

I used to loath writing, and I think for good reason — school. The dreaded essay that was due, the abundant research that needed to be done and of course not having much of a say as to what you were to write on.

It’s a bit ironic that I enjoy writing so much now because I used to hate English (my worst subject). I even liked Math better and that’s saying a lot!

frustrated writing


Yet after I finished my degree (in political science), I had an intense urge to write down all of my political ideas that had come to me over the years. And after that, I just had this ineffable pull to write a story idea that I had, which later became my novel, For Ella: a dying old man tells a tale to his granddaughter about his past life where he was an immortal.

Writing a novel takes a whole lot of patience, perseverance and hard work. It taught me that I’m someone who needs to make an outline before I begin, otherwise I venture off on tangents that later need to get cut.

After finishing the novel, I found that I had tons and tons of story ideas. Not only story ideas, I also had these visuals of how they should “look.” It was then that I decided to venture into writing my first screenplay, Nature’s Wrath: a story about a boy who’s the only hope to save humanity as nature, on the brink of destruction, begins fighting back.

Again, learning a lot about my writing style and how to actually format and make a screenplay, etc, etc, I found I had a passion for storytelling.

While my novel took me over a year to write, I was able to pump out my screenplay in less that a month (part-time). For my writing, I want to get out stories and ideas to people, so realizing that I can write screenplays faster, led me to continue pursuing this direction.

I’ve since finished a second called, Touching Angels: Eddie Rako meets a boy with Angelman’s Syndrome. Thinking he can help him get in touch with his dead mother, Eddie finds himself caught in conflict with the bullies he was trying to avoid.



Since the second I’ve done more reading on how to write screenplays better and feel like I’m becoming a better and better writer.

I’m now working on a Sci-Fi trilogy (presently untitled), a kind of Brave New World meets Dune meets Blade Runner. People are being oppressed by a corporate energy monopoly and find themselves in a dystopian future. Our protagonist, an unsuspecting her, finds his calling to lead people to a new future.

Throughout all of this writing, I’ve become enamored with the idea of my screenplays actually becoming movies. Since then, I’ve decided I want to take fate into my own hands and actually begin making my own films.

As a result, I’ve started writing screenplays for short films that are doable on a small budget and can allow me to experiment as a director. Hence, my transition into filmmaking.

Nala (my wife) and I are now about to embark on an epic voyage through Asia for the next 8 months. In this time I plan to continue writing, provide updates here, and also show people the world as we travel. I hope you come along and enjoy the ride with us!

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Long Time No See – 8 Month Trip

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post here. I’ve been spending the last several months exploring many different opportunities.

As with life, I have been changing and discovering new passions and hobbies. As you know, I’ve been writing: I finished my first novel and have also finished several screenplays. I thoroughly enjoy it and have picked up another hobby and passion to deveop – filmmaking.

I just picked up a camera and have begun to test it and play around with it. This blog will now reflect these new developments in my life to keep the blog relevant and to ensure that I keep it up to date. I hope you enjoy the changes as I do!

Over the next 8 months, I’ll be traveling around Asia with my wife, Nala. We recently got married this year and have been planning this trip for some time. During our trip, I’ll be updating you on my progress with my writing and filmmaking as well as what I’m learning in my sprititual pursuits.


Follow along and let’s enjoy this new journey together.

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The Creation of the “Other” (and thoughts on war and violence)

Hate, conflict, hostility and war… where does it all come from? I can’t help but read the headlines in all the news about North Korea and their nuclear threats–y’know, war propoganda and rhetoric. So where does all of this come from in the first place?


It comes from the creation of “the Other.”

When we’re born into the world, we’re force to learn who “I” am in order to survive. I must provide for “my” survival, “my” food, and horde “my” things.

As we learn about “me”, we must inevitably separate ourselves from “others.” Me and you–we are not the same. Throughout our lives as we develop our egos and grow our sense of self. As “me” becomes stronger, so does our sense of “the Other.”

The more we see ourselvse as different from others, the less we’re likely to sympathise or feel compassion for others, and the easier it is to have hate and conflict.

So what about when we spread this sense of “me”on a societal level? We create an “us” and “them” situation. And that’s exactly what takes place as the media and governments propogate nationalism and prepare for war. We create the strongest sense of “Other” as possible, trying to make “the Other” like animals–to dehumanize them as much as possible–to make them seem so much different from us that we can’t possibly coexist.

We see it all the time:
Islam versus the America



China versus Japan


North Korea versus World

North Korea Teaching Hate

What do we see in each of these cases? We often see strong rhetoric of how “different” things are in each other’s cultures. We’re told that they’re too “barbaric,” “backward,” “uncivilized,” “totalitarian,” “ruthless,” “cruel,” “unreasonable,” and so on. These tensions are all created by building up a sense of “us” and “them.”

But are we all that different?
Throughout my adult life I’ve done a lot of traveling, and worked or volunteered with many immigrants. And what do I see everywhere? I see that we’re mostly all the same.

Everybody has the same fears, hopes, and dreams. We all want happiness, and to be understood by others. All people and cultures can coexist peacefully, but it’s when we build up a sense of “us” being different from “them” that conflicts and problems escalate out of control.

What about North Korea?
They’re crazy right? Nuclear tests, militarism, totalitarianism and the like, right? They’ve gotta be crazy. “They” are different than “us,” right?

Here’s a country who has been “othered” out of the world. We’ve imposed sanctions and the like on them to starve them out. But what happens when you starve someone, or corner an animal? They’ll fight back. The country is desperate and the leader is trying to prove himself as strong. It’s a simple equation.

And while the whole world has been making them feel so crazy and abnormal, so “other,” they’ve been emphasizing their nationalism and sense of self. Of course these kinds of tendencies and rhetoric lead to war and conflict.

And it’s the same for all the conflicts we create: Iran, Islam, China, Isreal and Palestine, and so on. The more we think of each other as different, the more conlict and violence we’ll have.

So let’s make a change:
The next time you read in the news something bad, think critically about it. Is this piece of news creating a sense of fear of “the other” or strengthening our sense of “other” about someone or some particular culture?

What we need to do is offer our compassion and understanding to all. We all want happiness and to belong. We all want to be part of the “us,” not the “them.” So why not let them join “us?”

If we’re all together, we feel more compassion and have more understanding instead of competing with each other. Let’s try to make everyone a part of our sense of self. Let’s offer love, compasison, and understanding to all.

Trust me, not only is it good for them, it’s good for you too. You won’t live in so much fear, and you won’t feel so much animosity or anger. Give it a try. Try to see where others are coming from. Spread the word.

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