In Conclusion….

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are well. Please excuse me for the extended delay in this final post of my blog. As some of you may know, my return to the United States was earlier than expected due to a variety of reasons (medical and safety). In saying that, I have taken some time to get healthy and focus on what lies ahead.

Since the last post, I have had quite an eventful time of things. Arguably, one of the most stressful of my life. I left Turkey nearly a month ago for Tunisia. Upon arrival, I was immediately taken aback by the sheer difference a few hours trip had made. Tunisia sees a much dated system of immigration, dilipadated facilities and less than “modern” technology throughout its biggest city, Tunis.

My stay in Tunisia was abruptly cut short due to security concerns raised by the U.S. government. Following the terrorist attacks that occurred in the country on the day of my arrival, the U.S. government had requested all American citizens in the country to leave immediately. In accordance, I elected to take my research to Morocco in hopes to find further insight on social media in the region.

Morocco provided an entire new kind of challenge: heat, illness and security challenges alike. The Moroccan desert city of Marrakech is quiet beautiful and is exactly the opposite of its bigger compatriot, Casablanca. My time in the city, which began with a welcome from the 105 degree heat, was unfortunately marred by a nasty case of food poisoning which left me unable to eat for an extended period of time, with severe abdominal and stomach discomfort and other forms of illness that I do not wish to elaborate on in this setting.  In addition to this, my already rising concerns about security in Rio (my final destination) as well as the inability to establish any form of research connection on the ground allowed me to make the decision to return home to the United States and seek proper medical care.

At the time of writing, I am very pleased to say that I am much better from the medical side of things and have been giving the guidance of my doctors that I made the correct decision in ending my trip in Morocco despite my wishes to go to Brazil.

Returning home with an illness was not exactly how I had planned it. Giving my parents quite the scare was not exactly on my agenda either. However, coming home allowed me to reflect on my journey, a crazy one it was. This trip around the world was truly amazing and something I will never, ever forget as my life continues on. I was able to see some of the most beautiful places in the world, see some of those places you see in magazines and say to yourself “wow, that is stunning” and try some of the world’s most unique foods. In hindsight, this journey was academic in focus. My research is currently being worked into a 50 page research paper (I am done with about 40 pages) and has come together in ways that I could not have imagined during my journey. Reflection is a major part of life and something that many of us often ignore. Reflecting on 140 Characters tells me that our world is not so different, we are all connected in so many ways and our cultures are quite similar. Yes, some places do things differently but we are all striving for the same goal: a better life. Now the way to get to such better life might be different, but that is really what we all want; the best life possible. In regards to social unrest, social media has been a key factor in many displays across the globe. From Tunisia to Greece and Hong Kong, social media plays a key part in how mass mobilization occurs and will occur over time.

To sign off, I could not go without saying thank you. Thank you to my friends and family who supported me throughout my journey and after. Thank you to the Circumnavigators Club Foundation for selecting my proposal and allowing me to take part in this wonderful journey. Thank you to my advisors and professors at Brandeis who helped me establish contacts and formulate my research project into something great. Lastly, thank you to all who have read this blog either from start to finish, or just this post. This journey around the world was nothing but life-changing; it was the greatest and hardest thing I have ever done. I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of it.

All the Best,

Kevin

A Turkish Delight

Good day readers!

With less than two weeks remaining, my journey really begins to wind down. I’m writing to you from Ataturk International Airport, the biggest airport in Istanbul. I’m waiting for my flight to Tunisia which will bring a whole new point of view to my journey as well as a new continent in that of Africa.
Having visited to Turkey before, I generally knew what to expect being here and I have already visited all the “touristy” places all across the city. However, I think that this time in Turkey was more special on a personal level. I say this because I was able to use the free time that I had here in Istanbul to walk around new areas of the city, places that I had not thought of visiting before simply because I had no reason to or they were far away. Thanks to some of my connections, my housing here in Istanbul was in a different area of Istanbul than my previous visit. This worried me at first but once I arrived, I immediately knew that things would be more simple for me at this location as all of my potential contacts intended to meet in this area of the city. This area of the city also has many people around my age, so I found it easy to assimilate. 
This week, I have been fortunate enough to “takeover” the Instagram account of Brandeis. In addition to the fun that I am having, I have been able to reflect differently on my time here and my new opinions on the Turkish culture. Before, I felt that Turkey was a nation stuck in the past. Now, I know that Turkey is in fact pushing forward at rapid speed. The people here are motivated and call for change. The Turkish people are also very aware of what’s happening around them in the world today, with the help of social media.
Speaking of the reason to why I am in Istanbul right now, social media in Turkey is everywhere. Just to log into wifi at Starbucks, I need my Facebook account. Information about the Instagram, Facebook or Twitter of a business is all over their products and you can’t go into a local cafe without seeing someone frantically tweeting. But how has social media really changed Turkey? We can look to 2013 for this answer. 
Here in Istanbul, locals and the government clashed over policies and views throughout 2013. As the tension grew, protests began near Taksim square in central Istanbul, calling for the religious focused politicians to quash their ideas of total rule of the government and begin to find a common ground between the people and state. However, this soon lead to millions and millions of protestors entering a place called Gezi park near the square. Millions of Turkish people came together to voice their frustrations with the government and call for change. To organize millions of people, one needs a platform that can reach millions of people in seconds…welcome in Twitter…protestors used Twitter to effectively get supplies, avoid the corrupt police force and evade tear gas attacks throughout the park. This protest began as a peaceful demonstration but soon escalated to violent following police frustration, 7 protestors lost their lives in some form of violence. Many of my contacts noted that this protest was in fact a war between the people and the state. A war that while it did see casualties, could have seen so many more if social media was not present and organizing the protestors escape. Social media in Turkey is a daily part of life and forms an unbiased way of obtaining daily news in a nation that sees frequent censorship of traditional media.
While most of my contacts praised social media in Turkey, one in particular saw a different point of view. A leader in the chemical trade field in Turkey, this contact noted that social media in his field is not helpful because if news spread of instability in his trade markets, profits will drastically change. 

Despite his personal exile from social media, this contact made one reference point to a negative side of social media which I had analyzed prior to this but I had yet to hear this context in my fieldwork. He noted that social media caters to our need for control. We can control what we want others to see, what we want to see and how we or others see what is posted. One mentioned an example in Turkey is where the situation at Gezi park, only depicted as violent and highlighted crimes by the Turkish police force. While this is not the entire truth, as parts of the protest were in fact civil, this is how social media can be controlled by the people. While my research has discussed the censorship of media and government monitoring of social media, have we ever looked at social media and thought that each and every user does in fact censor him or herself? We depict exactly what we want to show the world, fact or fiction.
Well, that’s a wrap from Turkey, next stop is Tunisia!

Thank you for reading!
Best,

Kevin

   
       

It’s not just Feta and Olives..

Hello all,

Welcome to another installment of my blog. My research project: 140 Characters is moving along at full speed and here is a summary from my most recent location: Greece!

My arrival in Athens was a breath of fresh air, especially after barely making my flight in Tel Aviv because I was detained by the Israels again, this time with five levels of security….

After a very swift passport control and arrival to my Airbnb apartment, I set off to explore the Acropolis. Greece/Athens, known for its history as the first city-state and democracy has all of its historical sites on this one location and a rich history it is. From the Parthenon to the Olympic Stadium, Athens gives you a glimpse into what was. While Greece is struggling mightly economically, the Acropolis shows that this was most definitely not the case say, 2000 years ago. 

Back in the present, I must note that while Greece is indeed struggling economically, Athens is by no means an expensive city, making my wallet happy. Also, I have received many questions about Greek food….let’s say this….feta, olives and so much baklava…it’s all amazing!!!

After I left Athens, I took a 20 minute flight to the island of Mykonos. Yes, all the rumors are true..it’s beautiful. One of the top 3 places that I have ever visited in my life. The beaches and the ocean were sublime, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such translucent waters. Here are a few photos!

   
                 

 While the culinary and luxe experiences are enough to come to Greece, let’s talk about why I am really here…

Social media and its impact on society is still an ongoing issue in Greece today. The nation is currently admist one of the worst financial situations in its history (if not the worst) and is on the border of being forced to leave the European Union (note that this was written while in the field and does not reflect present facts should they be different). Greece is also faced with a major immigration problem across the entire nation seeing as its borders are practically impossible to control, one example of the drastic measures that the Greek Prime Minister has debated enacting is to just give each refugee that enters Greece a visa to enter the Schengen area and this disperse the the refugee immigration across Europe instead of the more popular refugee stops in Spain, Italy and Greece. Another issue that Greece must contend with is from its citizens who are often keen to take to social media to voice their frustrations, so keen that many of these frustrations spawn protests inside Athens. One of my contacts, a Brandeis alum and native to Athens noted that protests have risen in number in the last five years because of the economic situation and overall societal frustrations with the government. I was timed my stay in Athens perfectly enough to experience these protests firsthand.

On my third day in Athens, I heard this overwhelming holler across my flat, almost as if something troubling was occurring like a robbery or homicide, the noise was so defeating, I was able to hear it over my shower. As I became decent enough to go on my balcony, I could see the protestors enter the main square below my flat. The ringleader screaming in Greek every ten seconds, proclaiming the protestors beliefs and desires. As the protestors came right under me, I was able to read their signs in Greek, (thanks to my study of Russian and their semi-shared alphabet). The signs read as: we must fights against Tspiras’ policies while also arguing against the decision of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. These powers called to pretty much exile the Greeks from the European economical arena because of extraneous debt which is seen as a weight against the European Union, the EU is also aiming to refrain from bailing out Greece and its economical troubles via its departure from the Union.

   
 

The second protest that occurred on this day was that relating to a Greek political party: the Communists. As Greece continues to struggle with its own government, many took to the streets and to Twitter to organize the communist protest. This protest was a major shock to me. The first ever democracy is now seeing numbers of Communist taking to the streets in the hundreds of thousands. In one way, this could be interpreted as an entire regime change in Greece called upon by social media. Is this the case? I personally don’t think so, based on history and the meetings with my contacts, the Communist protest was mainly a way to get them noticed, but not an actual call for such change.

Whether this is dumb luck or just good fortunate, I don’t know. However, seeing my exact research appear in front of me was exhilarating and fascinating all at the same time. Before this day in Athens, my research had been about the past or of the hypothetical situation. This day in Athens gave me new motivation for my research and physicals evidence that what I am researching does exist and still impacts a major political situation today.

As I explained my experience with the protests to my second Greek contact, a Greek academic working in Cyprus because of the struggles in her homeland; the contact noted that Greece sees zero denial of freedom of speech, like that in East Asia. Greece also does not share commonalities with Israel on the realm of social media. She moved on to now that Greeks often speak too much, with too many voices attempting to get their opinions across on social media. Her feelings were that a common voice needs to be created so opinions and political activities can be made unified and not sporadic like they are today. This idea of disorganization is something that can be seen across the globe in the mass mobilization efforts as countries like Hong Kong do see such efforts being difficult to maintain and thus fall apart due to a lack of proper coordination and leadership. These words may seem like there is a calling for some sort of new political figure to rise to power: no that is not what is being conveyed. What is being conveyed is that: if mass mobilization efforts were to occur across the globe and in Greece especially, a heightened sense or organization would need to be created and issues would need to be effectively portrayed in a proper fashion.

Ok, that’s all I have for now! Keep an eye out for my next post from Turkey!

As always, feel free to comment with questions!

Best,

Kevin

It will be an adventure…

It will be an adventure, they said.. 

Hello again my loyal readers!

This update of my blog will be quite different from the past…why is this so you might ask?

Because I am writing this as I cross the border from Palestine to Israel. 

Yes, I went to Palestine as I visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. I was advised to go by one of my contacts for my research and I decided to make the effort of going. As I am crossing the checkpoint, I get to stay on the bus because I am an American. Every person who is Palestinian must get off and physically walk across the border showing their identification and they must also answer a series of questions. To what that entails, I don’t know but it didn’t look like the friendly chat about the weather…

Back in Israel now. 

Palestine was a place unlike any I have seen before. Crossing a checkpoint from Israel and seeing “the Wall” or the massive and extremely long concrete structure that divides Palestine from Israel just like the Berlin Wall. Only bigger. See the attached photos, please.

To me, “the Wall” in Israel was always the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I had no idea whatsoever of this wall dividing Israel from Palestine. It’s hard to fathom such a structure and it is a difficult thing to understand.(However, The wall has lowered suicide bombings and murder rates in this area, a positive outcome) The conflict here is more calm than the prior summer but people are still reeling from that time. Twice a year, the Israeli government has “practice missile alarms” where the alarms go off but no one stirs. To the traveler who is alone and sleeping at the time they go off, you can imagine the frantic dash around my apartment to find my necessities to travel (passport, phone/charger, iPad and proper clothing) and then my puzzlement when I walk outside and people are sitting on the grass outside my place as if nothing is wrong….there apparently was some kind of warning on the news to which I missed. Clearly.

Speaking Hebrew here feels like a necessity to me. Maybe that is because I am alone or maybe it’s because of the situations that I’ve encountered but I find myself tripping through interactions with locals (most locals, not all) because I am lacking the linguistical knowledge suitable to Israel. However, Today, as I bargained with a local in the Arabic Shuk inside Old City Jerusalem. I guess linguistic barriers weren’t an issue for the shopkeeper as my disinterest in buying after talking earned me a “f-bomb” as I walked away…great business motto for him 🙂

Looking on to my research, Israel has been much more rich in social media than that of Thailand. It almost felt weird to go back into the research mindset again after some time off. My first contact came from a business man in Jerusalem who works to unite the youth from Israel and Palestine through alternative means and communication. He noted that as the war of summer 2014 raged on in the region, everyone in Israel and Palestine saw their Facebook feeds littered with propaganda, political expressions and hate-filled sentiments. My contact actually deleted his personal Facebook because he was so sick of what he read. He continued to say that as the conflict raged on, the youth he works with actually wanted to do without social media outlets and turn “old school”: the face to face communication. These young adults, no older than myself sought to come together to understand what was really happening within their region, away from biased media outlets this twisted every piece published to nearly the exact opposite of its original intention. It seems clear that what these young people aspired to do is exactly what needs to happen in this region. The students came together and learned about one another to establish a newfound understanding and respect, unseen in the median depiction of the conflict. 

This turn away from social media is arguably the voice of its’ impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Social media here is in fact a place of miscommunication. People do not use social media for news updates because it is all wrong (at least during the war) or they are sick of seeing political views expressed all over the Internet. 

One of my favorite contacts, from just an overall standpoint: research, willingness to help, flexibility and personality came in a journalist based in Jerusalem. I will give her the name Jennifer despite that not being her given name. Before I met Jennifer, I had read a few of her pieces and learned a bit about her as a journalist. Upon meeting her in person, she was a kind, friendly person that was a wealth of information both in life and in the topic of social media. In regards to social media, Jennifer noted that outlets such as Facebook are very popular in Jerusalem, where she finds that immigrants communities are able to connect with others similar to them. One example of this can be seen in the English speaking community that come to Israel as expats. While Facebook is used by expats, locals also use it as a form of publishing thoughts, finding identity and connecting with people all across the globe. This latter method is one that I have a seen transcend many locations that I have visited from Singapore to Thailand and Israel. As Jennifer continued, she made a point to say that social media methods can be a way to meet new people whom you would never speak to before. Jennifer’s best friend is a woman from a completely different walk of life whom she would have never met if it weren’t for social media. Jennifer also noted that since social media can be used in this way, it’s a way to feel a sense of comfort away from our comforts. Unlike that of my prior contacts, Jennifer felt that social media does make out world more social, but only if we actually make the effort to interact in the flesh with our newfound connections. 

My next contact comes from one of the bigger universities in Israel, located in the north Israeli city of Herzilya. The professor, known for his personal work in communications where he has written many books on the topic of the Internet. To much of my surprise, this professor from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzilya felt like a sort of mentor to me, we immediately bonded over all things social media related, agreeing on many world views. He brought up a very valid point in that the psychology of the Internet must be noted. These friends that we have on Facebook are usually not actually our friends in real life, my friends on Facebook are simply people that I meet, hardly someone I would make plans to have a drink with. This idea of a false sense of connection is really interesting and does transcend the boundaries of my research. As the professor and I examined social media deeper, he noted the sense of identity that I have mentioned in my talk of East Asian social media. What we often think of as a simple post is actually an extension of our innermost thoughts. We might not think of this that way but it is. For example, if I post a video of Madonna, who is known for her sexually driven songs, I could be promoting some sort of innuendo. My thoughts: I’m not promoting that at all, I just like the song “4 Minutes” but this is something that could be misunderstood by my post. 

My thoughts suddenly went wild. I continued to feel that the new “psychological profile” is not in person, but over the Internet. You can easily tell someone’s interests bed upon their Internet footprint. What they post on Facebook, who they are friends with, who they follow on Twitter and what kind of photos they post on Instagram…the new psychology is now becoming open to everyone. If we were to look at international relations, how a government is perceived on social media is what some may feel is the actual government. Connecting my conversation with the professor to my experiences in HK, someone could easily take HK as an unsafe place because of the riots of 2014. The depiction of HK as a place of violence and social unrest was not the case, but social media makes you think that and makes you have a planned response so a certain opinion can be made: a psychological test at its finest.

The case of social media and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict still exists today as the divide between the two is ever present. Social media was clearly not the answer in 2014 and may not be the answer for this society. Can I say this as an expert? Of course not, can I say this as a local? Obviously no. What I can give is a outside perspective based on my time here in Israel. 

Ok readers! That’s a wrap on another edition of my blog. Thank you again for reading and as always, I welcome any comments or questions!

Next stop: Greece!

All the best,

Kevin

   
     

Tidbits from Thailand

Blog Post: Thailand
Hello again!
I’ve now spent a full nine days in Thailand and it seems like it has flown by. I’m writing this post from the Bangkok airport as I patiently wait for my next flight to Vienna, Austria with the aims of getting to Tel Aviv, Israel on Sunday morning Israeli time. To say I will miss East Asia will be difficult. The culture here fascinating and the food has been quite interesting in so many ways. So as some of you know, I got food poisoning while traveling in Bangkok. While I may be making a big deal out of this, it is no joke. Food poisoning sucks and really makes you just want to crawl into a ball and sleep. Luckily, I was able to do that for two of the three days that I had the pain but I do wish that uncomfortable feeling and desire to avoid food at all costs on no one. I do have to say that if anyone wants to try “Spice Rice noodle with chicken”: be careful….. 
So looking around the food poisoning, Bangkok was a really interesting place to visit. My research did not go as planned simply due to many emails that were simply not returned. Alas, I was given about five days or so to explore the Thai capital and really get to know the city and its inner workings. The first cool thing to note is the prices. Everything in Bangkok in terms of food (I’m talking street food) was insanely cheap. The best meal that I had was 140 baht (around $3) and consisted of a full plate of Phad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice (supposedly one of the best in Bangkok). Mango Sticky Rice (see photo below) is probably my favorite plate that I’ve had so far on this journey, well worth the $2. Looking at the Thai food rituals and the maze of street food carts all across the city, the Thai people are reliant on street food that some would consider “risky” back in the U.S. if we saw it on the street. Of course, upon investigation, the food was fine and eased the wallet. This desire for street food and cheap prices makes me wonder how the restaurant business does in Thailand. My really awesome Airbnb host took me to a restaurant on my first evening, but even that was considered street food. I imagine that the restaurant business in Bangkok seriously struggles next to the street food industry.
Moving on to another side of the Thai culture, motorbikes. I’m not sure if I am just an adrenaline junkie or if I was excited to be in a new place but the best thing that I did in Bangkok, if not Thailand as a whole was ride on the back of a motorbike through the crazy streets on the city. Bangkok, known for its congestion, really long traffic lights and daredevil motorists sees hundreds of people scoot in between cars and trucks on motorbikes to sneak ahead in traffic or ride on the sidewalks on their bikes to get ahead quicker. Yes, this was indeed me for an evening but it was so much fun! (Sorry Mom). 
Bangkok in itself has a very interesting history in that it was once to separate cities that often went to war but then joined as one. One of my days was spent at the “Wats” or Bangkok’s major temples dedicated to Buddhas. The first and more elaborate temple, Wat Pho, was arguably the most detailed tourist attraction that I have ever seen. Each building of the 50 or so that lines the complex were accurately detailed in some array of colors and praises Buddhas in a certain form. To which temple praised what, I’m not sure but Wat Pho was a fascinating sight of human creation and devotion to religion. Buddhist monks were practicing inside one of the buildings inside the complex, a very unique sight to see. 
As my time in Bangkok ended and the food poisoning was kicking in, I flew south to the Thai island of Phuket for some much needed relaxation and recharge. I also needed some time to catch up on my research things and get on top of my emails. Upon landing in Phuket, I was welcomed with thunderstorms. Exactly what I wanted…..ok not exactly what I wanted but nevertheless, the food poisoning passed during this bout of poor weather. After the rain stopped and I changed hotels due to a variety of matters, I found myself laying in the sun for two beautiful days of pure relaxation. A nice beach and large pool definitely made the trip down to southern Thailand worth it. I am also proud to say that I got a nice tan because of these two days. I hope that I am recognized when I get home!
As I now transition to Israel and away from Thailand’s beaches. I am ready for the second push of my project. 140

characters has been coming along well despite a setback in Thailand and I’m really looking forward to getting to a new region of the world to explore social media. East Asia has been really interesting and a life experience that I will never forget. One month here has been fun but I’m ready for a change! 

Month Two begins upon my arrival in Tel Aviv.
Thanks again for reading, please feel free to email me/comment below with any questions that you may have. 
All the best,

Kevin
   
                 

Checking in from Hong Kong

Lost in Translation?

Hello again readers, thanks for coming back to my blog.
Week number 2 of this crazy world journey has come with full force as Hong Kong continues to amaze me. The culture here is so vibrant and deep. By the latter, I mean that everywhere you look, something interesting is happening. Whether it be a food stall or early morning exercises by the old women along the harbor, culture. I think the exercises are tai chi, but I am not 100% on that. 
HK is a very diverse place. A melting pot of Hong Kong-ese, Mainland Chinese, expats and world travelers like myself line the streets everyday. Unlike China, Hong Kong is much less crowded than I expected. Shanghai was nuts, but Hong Kong is much more easy to manage and everything flows here. Maybe it is a lessened culture shock because HK is more of the European feel that I am so accustomed to, or maybe I am just getting used to Asia. I really cannot reflect on my cultural adaptation too much during this journey because I am in locations for such a short time. However, I do feel that I get used to the local metro systems and layouts of these cities fairly fast. One thing that still amazes me is how so many people can fit into such small spaces, space is impossible to come by here and HK is built on a glute burner of a hill (named Mount Son of a b#!*$, after the exclamation of exhaustion as you trek up on foot) so I hope no one living here is claustrophobic or skipped leg day at the gym…
So the food in Asia….is quite interesting. As expected, rice dominates the plates. However, I never expected eggs to be on everything that I eat and things to be as spicy as they are. Frankly, my taste buds love this sudden influx of taste. American food (and some European) can be so dull. I know understand the struggles of my Asian friends who complain of the American food by so bland. One unexpected food that I tried yesterday was seaweed. Let’s put it this way….I am just fine with seaweed staying in the sea where it grows 🙂
Moving on to the serious topic..my research in HK has been really full and substantive. I have found that the topic of social media here is very important following the protests of 2014 and the Umbrella Revolution that followed. The biggest social movement in China (or its territories) since the deadly Tiananmen Square riots of the 1980s. My first day of work saw meetings with one Brandeis alumni who works in the financial realm of HK, arguably the most visible side of the city because they occupy those giant towers that make you dizzy when you look up at them. (talk about vertigo, yikes) She is an expat, meaning that she is not local Hong Kong-ese or mainland Chinese. I will again, refrain from using her names in this post simply for their own protection and so nothing said is traced back to them. My first contact was very open to discussion about her personal experiences with the protests last year. She noted that the protests took place for about 70 days in the “Central” region of HK. This region is known for being the governmental center of the city (and home to most expats).  The protestors organized through various social forums and Facebook pages which allowed for near constant communication between protest leaders and participants. These pages are still active despite the protest ending nearly 10 months ago (I have seen them and read the posts myself). Why were people protesting? First, Chinese rule. Following the turnover of HK to China from the British, the HK government was directly chosen by China. Unlike their precedents, the Chinese were not as lenient with HK and the locals now wanted a democratically elected leader and obvious difference from the Chinese communist ways. 
As my contact continued to elaborate further, she mentioned one point that I had missed when thinking of the protests. HK relies on China for so much: foreign relations, security and government. While the latter is clearly debated, HK does not have a military and lacks a world presence. The only “bargaining chip” for HK is their international presence in finance/banking. This is probably why China has resisted on a punishment for the protest. Moving to the cultural significance of the protest, I noticed that the common cultural norm here in HK and even mainland China is that of a deterrence to physical violence. Many do not act violently and these protests in HK stayed peaceful for the most part. (tear gas was used but no one was injured or killed) This idea of a protest is probably why it received so much attention because people do not generally act out to voice their opinions. While yes, social media and mainstream media (television and newspapers) made the protest seem much of a bigger deal than it was, the event did get the attention of Beijing and the mainland Chinese. In some cases, it got a lot of negative attention with many mainland Chinese becoming afraid to travel to HK in fear of being attacked by the extreme political right of the HK democratic movement (such attacks did occur on those who were on mainland Chinese descent and visiting HK). Many mainland Chinese people come to HK for the abundance of shopping that the territory possesses. As another contact (one who actually was a participant in the protest) noted: “just two days ago, my friend wrote to me and asked if HK was safe…the protests were almost a year ago”. 
Ok everyone, so that is just a sample of some of the research that I have done here in HK and things that I have learned. I do not want to starting writing my paper in this blog post because then you will be reading for days….be on the lookout for another post very soon that will be from Singapore!!
P.S. just to comment on the shopping for those interested….I have walked through at least 10 difference malls since arriving here in HK…each with every store you can imagine….all I will say on that is good thing I am on a student budget because otherwise I would need a second suitcase…
Until next time!
Kevin

Stories from Shanghai

Hello Again readers!

Thanks for coming back to hear about my crazy global adventures. This update comes from my hotel room in Shanghai where I am finishing up some packing before the early morning commute to Shanghai airport for my flight to Hong Kong. 
Shanghai has been a really interesting place with a very unique identity of new, modern buildings combined with the old temples and historic neighborhoods. While I have explored many of these sites, I have noticed a common thread throughout each in that the Chinese are very comfortable in “uncomfortable” situations to most Americans. Crowded metros? No problem. People cutting in line? That’s a daily occurrence. “Cutting people off” when trying to walk? That happens too. I have always noticed in my European travels that Chinese tourists are often so pushy and lack the same “etiquette” as I once called it. Now, I know that the Chinese are simply from another culture and keep to their ways when traveling. I have to admit that the pushiness when getting on the metro is quite the irritant but it could be a lot worse.
Some interesting personal tidbits about China before I go into my research discoveries so far:
1) Old ladies look innocent but are vicious in the metro lines and will cut you off if it means getting on that escalator first.
2) Watch out for all meats in China, trust me you don’t want to know how they have been prepared.
3) Comprehension of Chinese is very important in China, one needs to know a little to at least feel settled (thank you Laoshi Yang from high school for that one year of Mandarin!) but make sure that you do not actually walk into a religious setting with your headphones in, humming “Sweet Dreams are made of this…” could make for an awkward moment. 
4) Now that song is stuck in my head…..dammit…
My research here in Shanghai has been more positive than I had originally expected. I never said this, but Shanghai had originally been just a stop on my journey, with not much to add in terms of my research. To elaborate, I am trying to say that I had cut the city short before giving it a chance. 
OOPSIES……Well, I am never doing that again. Shanghai has proven to be a plethora of social media knowledge. Yes, it might be different than what I had planned, but it is still rich knowledge nonetheless. For example, social media here is focused around one application, Weixing or WeChat. While Weixing is just one app, it does it all. News updates, mobile payments, chatting, videos and more. This application is like Twitter, Instagram and Amazon all rolled into one. Wait, Amazon? That isn’t social media???? Well, one has a valid point in thinking this but alas, it is social media. Why? This is because online shopping and other methods of e-commerce are all connected together here in China. WeChat is just place for everything to come together and happen. 
Today, I met with a Brandeis alum who now works at Apple here in Shanghai. I will refrain from using her name in this post simply because of her current standing in the company. As we met for lunch, she and I spoke of social media and its use in her company. Of course, Apple and social media are forever linked. She noted that people today are using WeChat for a variety of reasons besides communication. First, the aforementioned mobile payment option. My contact noted that China and a good portion of Asia are in fact, way ahead of the United States in mobile payments. As the US just gets Apple Pay, Asia has had it for years and is now looking to new technologies to advance towards. Second, trust. People trust what they see on WeChat because it is the posts of their personal contacts. A close friend might publish a new article on her WeChat feed and it pops up on her friend’s feed. This person who sees the published article will more likely trust it more because of where it came from than if she saw it on a government sponsored site. I have personally noticed that newspapers flat out lie to readers here in China. Quite interesting. 
Looping back to the idea of new technologies for Asia, one major breakthrough that will soon hit retail stores is that of something called Beacons. Beacons are location devices inside apps that people download to their phones. For example, if you go into a store that uses beacons, your phone will have location access to your phone and send you information about where you are in the store such as prices, reviews of products and potentially, special offers for such products in that locations range. While this may seem like an invasion of privacy, our phones are have our location down to a T as it is, why not use it for good? While this is my opinion and not that of my contact, the latter did also mention that customer reviews are becoming a major factor in consumerism. Uber in China has seriously struggled because of bad publicity especially in Shanghai. According to my contact, Uber isn’t doing as well as one would expect and thus, could be seeing a failed market transition. All of these things relate back to social media because each beacon or review of a product is not on paper or on a website but on WeChat (at least in China)
Fun fact: As I wrote that last sentence, the Chinese military circled my hotel in F-14s, should I be concerned??
Okay, I think that is a good update for now. Thank you for reading! My next post will be from Hong Kong!
Best Wishes,
Kevin