Thursday, September 18, 2014

Four years later... (because tradition demands)



This blog should really have wrapped up this time last year, when I was burnt out from country hopping and already a few months into my vegetative domestic incarnation. But this place still serves a couple of useful functions, like letting the few of you who care know that I'm not dead (as of the last September 18th anyway) and a place for me to be casually racist against my host country when it gets on my nerves.

Less than a week ago, I'd prepared the annual summing up of my static life that customarily posed more questions than it answered and looked forward to another year of not knowing what I was doing with a life that was no longer my own. That was enough incentive to push me to discuss the finer points of our mutual situation step-by-step with my partner and to arrive at the most practical solutions that minimised unnecessary annoyances and successfully drained all the romance out of our continuing lives together. See, I told you this stupid blog was useful.

This time last year, I wasn't entirely convinced (or even partly convinced) that settling long term in the Philippines was a good idea. With the unwelcoming stares and cat-calls I have to deal with every time I walk down the street, the worst Wi-Fi in Southeast Asia, a worsening energy crisis, increasing terrorism in my backyard and the general dismay that you'll get from living in a corrupt idiocracy, it still isn't the most appealing tax haven in the world. Even in this small section of the world. Thailand has its problems too, but at least you don't get frisked and searched every time you bring your valued custom to a shop.

But this is where my girlfriend's life is, which isn't as fickle and freelance as my own, and now we've finally agreed (after a few failed attempts) that she doesn't need to be a slave to the whims of prejudiced immigration laws just for the chance of being treated fairly like the other humans, we're free to take control of our own lives and deal with the inevitable shit that comes with it. If we want to visit the UK and see snow, we'll deal with the mounds of paperwork required and go on holiday. Compared to the exorbitant costs, admin and uncertainty of moving back to the UK in the company of a filthy foreigner for a year or two, it's just less hassle to live in the Philippines.

Did I actually type that?

Friday, September 12, 2014

I've been a bad, bad boy


Recycled image may be irrelevant and solely for shock value


I really try to be a good boy. I'm always punctual with my rent and always send my work on time (except that time I forgot about those solar panel pages in 2012, Oliver. Sorry again), and despite living in a country that puts a lot of collective effort into trying to tempt me past moral and legal thresholds, I've never been tempted to take the enthusiastic locals up on their offers. Mainly because I find that whole prospect extremely untempting.

So it wasn't laziness or a deliberate affront to The Man that I let my 30-day visa waiver pass into oblivion on Monday, and spent the next couple of 'free' days off work nonchalantly writing silly stories and shopping for an oven and second hand books rather than getting the hell down to the immigration office and pleading not to be thrown into a prison that would undo all the hard work I've put in to letting these anal fissures heal, or else get deported away from my partner who isn't allowed to follow me thanks to racism.

No, I was blissfully, moronically clueless about my illegal immigrant status, having mistakenly thought (for whatever reason) that my regular foreigner penalty wasn't due for another month and only noticing I was already two days overdue when I was digging in my bag for something else and thought I might as well double check in my passport what date it was in October that I half-remembered my next visa extension being due. It was something like the 8th, wasn't it...?

Ah. I see. September, is it? Righty-ho then. I'm so screwed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fiction therapy



When I graduated with a creative writing degree seven years ago, I had to make the decision whether I was going to follow my calling and walk in the footsteps of all the people I admired by living the frustrating life of the struggling artist, or sell out to The Man and use my 'skill' of being able to rewrite the same page 50 times in slightly different ways to convince you to book overpriced flights.

If I was bolder, less concerned with financial security and had more interest in writing things people would actually be interested in reading, I could be writing this from a grotty squat above a cafe that reluctantly tolerated my open mic short stories once a Thursday in exchange for helping out in the kitchen. Instead, I'm writing this on a terrible Wi-Fi connection in an inexpensive condo in the Philippines surrounded by a cultural desert but with plenty of money in the bank. I'm not confident I made the right decision.

I've been writing corporate propaganda for a living for five years now, and it's safe to say it's completely sapped my creative spirit. Since I stopped travelling and settled down a bit, I've been taking on so much work that even when I've had an idea bubbling away, I haven't had the hours free to write it. Today was my first free day in weeks, so when no urgent work requests had showed up in my inbox by lunchtime, I eagerly bashed out my latest abomination. It felt great.

This is the sort of story I would normally spend a few days meticulously planning, with diagrams following through on every small detail (like I did for this one). Since I don't have the time to perfect it and become too disillusioned to bother writing it any more (that happens most of the time), here's the raw creative explosion, complete with overlong sentences, needlessly confusing diversions and inevitable plot holes. It doesn't much matter whether you like it, I had a good time.

If I don't have any work tomorrow either, I might even venture out of the flat and do something. Wouldn't that be a novelty!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Inception this!



More of my least uninteresting (but still mostly uninteresting) dreams, since the last time I did this. Once again, I indiscriminately typed up my somnambulist notepad scrawls (what I could decipher of them) until I hit an arbitrary 20. Then I actually read it, deleted half of it, slept more sleeps and repeated the process several times until I reached a slightly less inane (but no less insane) 20.

I don't imagine anyone is actually interested in these, I'm only publishing them online since my computers like to break every year and this is a safer place to keep things. Featuring cannibalism, xenophobia, existential angst, prophetic visions and an astonishing lack of sex (I told you I made edits).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Thieving Bastards VI: Legitimate Bastard



Getting myself published in proper, non-internet book form was one of my vague ambitions when I was younger, before I met people who were actually active in pursuit of that ambition, expending considerable time, effort and life force to get their work noticed in the fickle maelstrom, and I realised I didn't have the necessary determination.

But now it might be happening accidentally, as I got an email from a professor in Brazil requesting the use of one of my photos of Jeju Island for a book she's writing about coasts for a proper publisher. And by 'request,' I mean she bothered going through the proper legal channels and getting my signed permission to reproduce something anyone could just steal from the internet (or rather, the slightly better quality version on my hard drive).

I didn't expect it would be my photography 'skills' that would be my path to secluded footnote immortality, but as the saying goes, if you obsessively document your activities for four years and throw enough shit jpgs at Picasa, some of it will stick.

This is how you're supposed to do it, bastards.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Literally going up in the world



I keep having to re-learn the lesson that comfortable living requires spending at least a little of the money I'm defensively hoarding. It goes against my instincts, since saving money is supposed to be one of the few silver linings I get from living in this place. You've already taken the libraries and basic human courtesy, don't take the savings away from me too.

It is possible to a rent a small 'house' in Davao City for the equivalent of £22.73 per month (1,700 pesos). I know, I did it. But that arousing price tag required making so many sacrifices to comfort and hygiene that it was hardly 'living' at all, at least through the spoiled perspective of my first world upbringing, all la-de-da with indoor toilets and a reliable water supply.

Compared to that, the studio apartment we moved on to seemed like Wayne Manor. It was just the one room and right next to an inappropriately noisy car repair yard, but it was at least close to a supermarket and the water came out of the tap about 70% of the time, so for £160.50 (12,000 pesos, including bills) I was sold. But then the bugs came, and the rat/s, and the afternoon-long power cuts, and I could no longer shelter myself from the hardships of this country by spending 99% of my existence indoors. The Philippines had got in.

When we escaped to Thailand for a month and visited friends in their properly nice condominium in Koh Samui, I couldn't face going back to the bugs.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Singapore confidential



My partner understandably gets a bit annoyed when I discuss personal things about her life in this blog, even when those things directly affect and entangle with my life. So I'll respect her wishes and not discuss the reason behind our annual trip to Singapore.

At least I got to enjoy my annual almond drink before we left, nyum nyum nyum!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

26 ways to enjoy tedious bus journeys (if you are a bit strange)



I don't normally bother offering tips or advice unless it benefits me in some way, like if I'm trying to work out what I think about an issue or just letting off steam about taxi drivers. Seriously, what a load of knobs.

Still, coming up with the following list and then needlessly alphabetising it helped to fill some of the dead time when being driven across Thailand in a cramped minibus, trying to ignore the stranger's head intermittently perching on my rigid shoulder and the topless man in the row in front complaining about the country to his local girlfriend to an excessive degree that made my own rants look like tourist board propaganda by comparison ('Why do they need so many f-ing drains?' 'Because of flooding.' 'But a hundred on one f-ing street?' 'Yes, there are typhoons and flooding.' 'Well, still.')

If you think you would be perfectly content passing the time talking to the people you like, playing with your phone or just sleeping, this list isn't for you. This is just for freaks.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Loudness wars: Thailand vs. Philippines



Krabi Town was our unceremonious final port of call in Thailand, for the singular reason that the airport was the closest one I could find to Koh Samui operating cheap flights to Singapore, so we stayed a few nights beforehand. There was no question of us waking up late and missing our flight, thanks to the helpful public service of vans driving around residential streets blaring unintelligible adverts directly into every building from the early hours of the morning.

I know they won't be unintelligible to locals - though with the muffled distortion of a loudspeaker system pushed to its limits I'm not so sure - but wouldn't that be even worse? Is it more annoying having to endure someone's obnoxious phone conversation on a bus if you're able to understand the depth of its inanity, or if it's a load of foreign sounds making you ill-disposed towards an entire nation? (Or several if you're not sure where they're from).

Like honour and constructive criticism, noise pollution is a foreign concept in Thailand, one you'd have to be foreign (this means Caucasian, obviously) to make a noise about. It's hardly a therapeutic break from my regular life of exile in the Philippines, which is similarly selfishly cacophonous. I haven't done an unscientific comparison between the two countries based on my limited and disproportionate experiences, but it's the sort of thing I would do, isn't it? Go on then.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Where's my goddamn fanny?



I said we didn't do anything touristy during our stay in Koh Samui, hence the intentionally boring last post.

But I had some unfinished business from my first visit to this place in 2011, and since my desire to force myself out of the resort to do literally something during my fortnight on the island chimed with Oliver's desire to do something during his significantly longer stay, tracking down a rock supposedly shaped like lady parts was as good a flimsy motivation as any.

I'll take what I can get.