Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hong Kongfidential

Like our last trip to Singapore that I couldn't tell you about either, the reason behind our recent visit to its spiritual sibling to the north must remain similarly under wraps because I say so. When you concede to make your home in a third world hellhole where nothing works, you have to escape back to civilisation every once in a while to get things done.

With the unpleasant business taken care of, we tried to make the most of our few days in Hong Kong, enjoying the nostalgically nippy subtropical winter before heading back into the relentless furnace. Remember when I used to visit places just because I wanted to see them? Those were the days.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The BFG's B-sides

Twenty more unexciting entries from the dream journal. No attempts at psychoanalysis this time, I'll let the insanity speak for itself.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of 2014, Not from 2014

It's the end of another arbitrary year, as if you hadn't noticed, and an opportunity for pathetic blogs to beg for desperate clicks by publishing banal end-of-year lists of some things they are aware were broadly popular within the previous 12 months, without risking revealing too much about their individual taste and putting off the clickers with obscure choices.

This isn't one of those blogs. I'm not interested in your clicks or your opinions, and I don't much care whether something's new as long as it's new to me. I barely bothered to keep up with what the kids were into even when I was one, and now that I live in exile under the tyranny of an 800MB daily download limit, my entertainment options of late have been limited. It's been the year of the low-bandwidth BBC Radio 4 iPlayer and occasionally being spoiled by the fuzzy textures and barely legible text of 240p YouTube videos when my standard 144p isn't available.

So here's a list of things I can remember happening to like in 2014, which invariably weren't made this year. I did enjoy some things made this year too - some of them quite a lot - but what chance does a single year have to stand out among all those multiple decades that preceded it (depending on the medium)?

I was going to do this last year, but abandoned it because it seemed a bit like a pointless waste of time. You can judge whether that means I've grown or shrunk as a person over the past year. You can also let me know your anachronistic picks if you like, I do care a bit.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thieving Bastards VII: You Didn't Seriously Do This Again?

 photo thieving7_zps739cfd8f.jpg

It's the festive season! Which means it's that time of year when a hiatus from work is forced upon me and I have to desperately seek ways to fill that void with even more tedious projects than the ones I'm financially compensated for and drive myself insane. Two years after I scoured the backwaters of the internet to find my plundered photos being used for nefarious purposes without my consent or credit given, I finally put myself through this again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

...and justice for me

In what may seem like an unlikely development for harsh realists, I took my Korean debtor to court over the money she "borrowed" three years ago, and despite my case resting entirely on an incomplete record of bank statements and apologetic emails, I actually won.

It's not really a cause for celebration, yet, as crucially I still haven't had a single ₩ of my money back and the legal costs aren't over. Thanks to her THE LOSER's customary refusal to communicate during any of this (she THE LOSER had plenty of chances to contest it, or settle things out of court, but didn't bother), I'm about to move on to the tedious process of executing her THE LOSER's assets to retrieve what's now legally recognised as mine. Assuming she THE LOSER has any assets and I won't have to settle for being proved right, because isn't that what's important at the end of the day?

Not really. I'd rather have all money back, to be honest. I want to buy a house.

But it is still satisfying and comforting to be validated as right and deserving of full financial retribution (plus legal costs and some generous, mandatory interest I wasn't expecting) in the impartial eyes of foreign law, rather than being laughed out of the courtroom. I didn't even have to go to the courtroom, as my friendly Korean lawyer did all that for me. She's already getting her 8%, but what's the etiquette on tips?

Suwon District Court might be somewhere in this picture? Didn't go.

South Korea was already my favourite country in Asia (that one bad apple and several drunk English teachers aside), and this has only further affirmed my admiration for the place. It certainly scores above Thailand, where I've been told that making a case against my other major debtor would require physical appearances and plenty of spurious fees for the shady lawyers. Maybe next time I'm in town.

The lesson is: if you're going to help out someone of dubious moral fibre when they spin fables of woe and promise to pay you back within an unrealistic time window, at least do that in a developed country with a reputable judicial system and whose chief export isn't human traffic. Yes, that's definitely the lesson I should take away from all of this.

Today's irrelevant soundtrack: Metallica, '...And Justice for All'

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

...and Dublin isn't much closer

A week after I learned I was apparently born in Ireland, and expressed regret at my laziness for never having bothered to visit that country in all the years I lived next door (at least the way I look at the world now), I was offered a chance out of the blue to enjoy an all-expenses-paid holiday to Dublin by the good people at Hostelworld.com:

As you are one of our top customers, I’d like to invite you to participate in our 2015 Hostel Conference in Dublin, Ireland in January.

We’d love you to join us as part of a group of our best customers to participate in a panel discussion with hostel owners.

We will pay for your airfare and accommodation in Dublin, as well as provide your meals at the conference itself.

Ideally, we would fly you into Dublin on Saturday, January 24 or Sunday, January 25 and fly you back home on the evening of Tuesday, January 27.

Your input into our conference would be much appreciated --- is this something you would consider doing?

All I had to do to qualify for this generous offer was to book practically every place I've stayed over the last four-and-a-bit years through the same hostel website, for reasons of familiarity and laziness, and to diligently review all 122 of them, because it's nice to have a good moan. There should actually be a lot more than that - it looks like the ones from January 2011 and earlier have been eroded by the time winds.

As my home country is listed as 'England' on their website (I thought I was Irish? I'm so confused), I assumed their already generous offer wouldn't stretch to the 23,798-kilometre round trip from the Philippines (we'll probably be elsewhere in Asia in January, but not much closer), so I gratefully declined. Which is a shame, as I would have enjoyed the opportunity to deliver my arrogant critiques of Wi-Fi and backhanded compliments about staff to the owners in person, rather than just reading their aggressive replies online.

Why did they want me? Maybe they heard the news that I'm Irish and figured they could save on the transport if I was already in the area. I'm still flattered though - I'd probably get nice offers like this all the time if I'd ever made the effort to network or was generally friendly online, but then I'd be a sell-out to the People Who Hate People cause.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A long way from Tipperary

Picking up my intriguingly sci-fi-sounding Alien Certificate of Registration card from Immigration after the understandable four-week waiting period involved in printing a cheap bit of plastic (not that cheap, but we all know this worthless card is just a physical excuse to squeeze another few thousand extra pesos out of extraterrestrial visitors) I was shocked and delighted to discover that my entire background and heritage has been a lie.

Can you see what they've done?

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!