Nick Oba on Nick Oba's Website
So lately I'm being mentioned here and there - at the village well, the public drinking house, and even in the fields - due to my role as a custodian in an ambitious project, called Zurker. Over the years I've been fairly comfortable being an anonymous hermit, but I understand that people want, and deserve, more information about me. So here it is, in gorgeous retro HTML.
Nick Oba on the Web
I organized ProudlyPinoy. Check it out, it's pretty cool.
Nick Oba on Nations
I grew up in a number of countries. I've lived in Serbia (then called Yugoslavia), Japan, Israel, England, the United States, French Polynesia, and the Philippines. I speak a number of languages. I've spent an equal amount of time in the West and the East. I've been a foreigner for as long as I can remember. I don't usually answer the question "Where are you from?" because if I answer that people immediately start making all manner of assumptions about who I am and what I believe and how I act. Or maybe I assume they do because I myself tend to stereotype people. ("Aha! So you are French! You like ze wine, ah? And ze women?") It's a failing I'm working on.
People often ask me where the best place is to live.
The quality of life is EXACTLY the same no matter where you go. For example, in developed countries, people tend to do their jobs well, and you have access to all manner of cool services and products, but it sucks to be there during the winter, whereas in developing countries it's nice and warm throughout the year but everything is a shambles and you have all manner of visible misery.
People also often ask me where people are the nicest.
The answer is, again, it's EXACTLY THE SAME. Anywhere you go you have a lot of people who are assholes and a good number of nice people. There is no country on earth where everyone is nice. In every country, in every city, in every town, on every street - you will find both nice people who are considerate to others and care about how much they contribute to society, and you will find assholes who primarily care about how much they can get from the world for themselves.
Of course, when I get asked these questions: I always say, "Why, here, of course!" unless the person is a foreigner, in which case I say "The best place on Earth is [NAME OF COUNTRY THE FOREIGNER IS FROM], without a doubt."
Nick Oba on Women
For some reason all the women I like hate me and the women who like me are married. I remember spending Valentine's Day in the company of a gorgeous girl. We were at a restaurant and I noticed she was texting furiously. A quick peek and I realized she was saying things like "I have the right to enjoy myself!" to a husband who she had told me "wasn't around" but who, it turns out, was around, and complaining about her not being home on Valentine's Day.
One of the things my father taught me is, Never touch someone else's woman, so that's the last time I spent in the company of that lady.
Nick Oba on Animals
I really, really, REALLY hate being called an animal lover. There are a lot of animals I don't love - most of them belonging to the species Homo sapiens sapiens. Even in the case of domestic cats, there was one cat I didn't get along with at all, so she rejected my house (and unlimited cat food) to go live with our neighbors, who feed her leaf soup. I'm not kidding.
Nick Oba on Politics
I'm generally left-leaning but fundamentalist right-wing on a few issues and manage to infuriate just about everyone when I talk politics. However, on most political matters, my beliefs aren't strong enough to define me or play a role in my identity, so they don't affect whom I choose to interact with.
Nick Oba on Religion
It's a little hard to buy into any religion when you've lived in as many radically different cultures as I have.
If what the Christians believe in is correct then 900 million Hindus are wrong about reincarnation, and if the Buddhists are right about what they believe then a billion Muslims are wasting their time with all that praying, and so on. Interestingly, all of these religions I've mentioned have a version of hell - and hell is strikingly similar in all religions. I don't know which flavor of hell I'm going to, and it doesn't make much difference to me.
I'm not an atheist, however. Debating whether or not God exists is something I consider to be a waste of time until them astrophysicist boys come a bit closer to unravelling the early moments of the universe. Meanwhile, religion has cultural, social and historical value and I wouldn't be one to wish religion into oblivion. I'm happy to say things like "God bless you." That separates me from atheists right there. I also think religion is awesome because you know what to do when someone dies. In every country you have these elaborate funeral rites, and they help everyone from going insane.
Technically, the description of areligious heathens like me is nullifidian. It's a good word but unfortunately nobody knows what it means, so I usually say, "I'm a practicing non-Catholic."
Nick Oba on Food
I grew up eating cows, pigs, and so on. I did this because when I was a toddler and a child, everyone around me did this, and it was considered normal. So I grew up thinking that it was normal. I was about 30 years old when I finally realized that it's an incredibly odd and unpalatable thing to do. For me, eating a cow is just as weird as eating a fellow human. I do not eat mammal meat. I have a website about that, much neglected and quite horrid, which I will one day expand into a major movement.
Nick Oba on Alcohol
When my father got cancer I neglected my customers and drank a lot of alcohol. I feel bad about this. But karma has a way of making you pay. Without a revenue stream I eventually ran out of money and was reduced to the UN definition of poverty, making less than a dollar a day. Which was hard, but I did learn a tremendous amount about how things work in developing countries - and why measures aimed at reducing poverty (such as charity) tend to fail.
Nick Oba on Jobs
When I was young I worked about 20 different jobs. The worst, by far, was being an interpreter, followed closely by being a translator. I was at a trade show and the German supplier who hired me was explaining a product, which I duly translated to the Indonesian visitor. The Indonesian asked a question, which may have been something like ("Does this model come in this shape?" or "Is there free shipping?"). The supplier said, "NO!" which I considered rude, so I asked if she wanted me to translate it like that, and promptly got fired. This story is fairly typical. If you've seen two people arguing with each other in the nastiest possible way - let's say husband and wife - you know all you want to do is hide in the attic until they're done arguing. But as an interpreter you have to insert youself between them, and get yelled at by both sides.
I've also been a mover, a teacher, a hospital orderly, a motorcycle courier, a pharmacist, a security guard, a hotel employee, and a bunch of other stuff.
Since 1996 I've done nothing but web work.
Nick Oba on Children
I have two. Now, I'm not one of those doting parents who fills up blog after blog with oodles of verbiage about how great the kids are. In fact, I'm deeply worried about my kids. I worry about them because they are so good-looking that they melt hearts wherever they go - people just give them anything they want. How can I build their characters when people treat them like little princes all the time?
Nick Oba on Money
My father told me, "Work hard at what you do. It doesn't matter what it is, but stick to it and work hard at it. And somehow, things will start working out for you." I have found this to be true. If you pursue the money, it will just run away. But if you focus on getting something done, and done right, without worrying about getting your hands on the doubloons, eventually you will be rewarded. It takes a giant leap of faith to buy into this notion that social justice works on an individual level, but my dad was about ten billion times smarter than I'll ever be, so I generally follow his advice.
Nick Oba's Greatest Achievement
In 2006 I was living in a rural mountain barangay (the smallest political unit in the Philippines) called Binaliw. Technically this village was part of Cebu City, but it had no water supply, unreliable electricity, and no garbage collection. It was a lush green paradise of lots of trees - I had mango, coconut, and cacao trees on my lot - and pythons (who ate my cats). The main industry was turning local bamboo into barbecue sticks. It was hilly so it was difficult to grow rice - but some did - and the main crops were ginger, eggplants, and bitter gourd. My hilltop house had a commanding view over all of Cebu City and the sunrises and sunsets were picture postcard material every time.
One day I read in the Sunstar Cebu that the mayor of Cebu City was planning to build a landfill in Binaliw, in exchange for five million pesos compensation to the barangay. Five million is a big number but in monetary terms it's a pittance.
I wrote a statement "WE WILL NOT BE USED BY THEM", had it translated into Bisaya (the local language), and got together a bunch of volunteers to distribute flyers throughout the barangay. I organized meetings and speeches, and debates on the local council. Today, there is no landfill in Binaliw. The barangay captain and the two councillors in favor of the landfill mounted a feeble defense, and we crushed them. I did not have a lot of money at that time and succeeded entirely through the goodwill of my neighbors.