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Sat, Dec. 16th, 2006, 04:29 am
Stick a pin in the globe.....

from: http://mdmechiang.blogspot.com

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Stick a pin in the globe.....

The British media has hit upon a newsworthy topic... Why are 5.5m Brits living abroad?, that amounts to almost 1 in 10 Brits who have decided to escape the British Isles for pastures new or more exciting.

The BBC has come up with an interactive map so you can see where they are all living (and avoid as necessary!!).

In my little corner of the world I see there are 14,000 Brits living in the Philippines. As I have only met about 10 of them...there are still a fair few to meet - if I so wish! On the other side of the coin I see that 120,000 people from 'Other Far East' (which includes the Philippines) are living in Britain.

The Daily Telegraph is asking What would it take for British expats to return home?. It's an interesting question and one that (so far) 253 people have commented on. Answers vary from changing the government to reducing taxes/giving better value for taxes to improving the weather.

Why do I not go back and settle in the UK or more to the point why do I not want to? It's a very tough question to answer and there are so many facets of the answer which vary from day to day that I could never answer the question completely. One thing I do know is that it's not the weather...I am partial to British weather; particularly the weather in Scotland - I love winter!! I will however, attempt a few vague thoughts as to why I continue to globe trot and see myself settling anywhere but the UK.

I was brought up overseas, at the age of 6 months I was taken to Guyana, and from there was packed up every 18 months or so and moved onto pastures new and definitely exciting...covering territory from Algeria to Dubai to Indonesia with quite a few stop offs in between and after! I was at one point educated at boarding school in the UK, the strange thing is that as a boarder in the UK I didn't see too much of the country...arriving from the holidays overseas one is 'locked in'...until the end of term at which point one is unceremoniously dumped at the airport for the flight home! After boarding school I spent three years in Switzerland studying (well more like perfecting the art of skiing and drinking vast quantities and combining the two!!) and then.....three years living in the UK.

Three years in the UK ended in me returning my engagement ring and heading for Hong Kong leaving nothing but dust....not my proudest moment but definitely one of my better decisions. It suddenly came to me one Sunday afternoon sitting in the garden of my house in England that I couldn't face the rest of my life being cooped up in Hertfordshire and spending Sunday lunches with my in-laws and and discussing the price of groceries with my work colleagues....it was all far to scary to even consider! I was correct in my fears, my ex-fiance is still living in Hertfordshire (now with his wife), Sunday's are spent playing golf and lunch with his parents, holidays are to tame parts of Europe where English is spoken and the food 'not too foreign'..., he was lovely...but the life...yikes!

I find Britain too confining. I feel claustraphobic whenever there and breathe a sigh of relief as I walk airside as I leave the country. I find the whole atmosphere of political correctness ridiculous, I find the curtailment of Britain's own culture and heritage too much to deal with.

There's too much of the world to experience and see to live in Britain for ever, my mother tries to convince me that holidays are just as good (this from a woman who grew up as a 'Shell' baby and trotted the globe with her parents and then her husband and is finding it hard to settle in England at the age of 58!!!), but we all know holidays are just a glimpse into a country or a city, to experience the country properly you need to live there.

In my mind's eye I see the British Isles as a big cattle pen...and the rest of the world as the unfenced prairies....I don't like being penned! The other major thing for me is that although my family are there, I have so few real friends in Britain and so many real friends around the world that it just makes sense to be somewhere a little more central.

On a lighter note, the other day whilst commenting on the looks of a guy in a picture (I wasn't being too complimentary!) a friend commented that the reason I didn't like the look of this guy was that he was too ordinary and my taste was a little more 'exotic'...maybe that's what it all comes down to...sub-consciously I am on the hunt for an exotic man!!! Seriously, I'm not that shallow!!!!

Life in Hong Kong, followed by Jordan and now the Philippines has convinced me that for the rest of my life...globe trotting is in order. At some point, no doubt, I shall settle...but I seriously doubt it will be the UK....I am however, open to suggestions!!

Mon, Jan. 30th, 2006, 04:09 pm
I Quit!

I signed up to do an MA in Advanced Linguistics and TESOL late last year. Paid a fortune for the first semester. I struggled to complete the assignments and found motivation a big problem, not surprisingly, I passed, but not by a great margin ... I did the bare minimum and got results to prove it.

When the sylabus arrived last week for the second semester along with the request for the second semester's tuition fees ... I just couldn't be bothered.

I have a 3 year grace period in which to continue, maybe I will some day.

Sat, Jan. 7th, 2006, 02:41 pm
World Wandering Expat

I'm back. What the hell is wrong with you people? I don't think I've ever been as happy to leave home and escape to somewhere else as I was a few days ago.

Wow! the place has and hasn't changed a bit/a lot. Getting into the airport and spending the evening at Sandra's was nothing unexpected. Cold, overcast, drizzle ... nothing forgotten or missed, as definitely not as cold as Korea.

The next morning Sandy dropped me to the nearest Luas Stop. Now this was new ... congrats Dublin City Council ... you actually did something right and proved me wrong. The Luas was amazing. Got from Palmerstown to the city center in about 10 minutes through rush hour traffic. Got to see the spike in O'Connell Street ... and was my lack of confidence in Irish officials was immediately replenished.

I couldn't believe the luas ticket system was based on good faith. Pay from a ticket, or not, stand on street, get on when doors open, get off and back onto the street at your stop. No barriers, ticket checks, nothing ... all based on good faith ... amazing. People, Dubs, were actually buying tickets! Either fear of getting caught in a random ticket check, developed morality, or they had more money than before.

The Luas was where I noticed the changes ... the reasons I don't think I could ever return to a life in Ireland.

Every day my ties to my country of birth are loosening and I now believe that I'm destined to become a world wandering expat, rather than return home for any decent length of time.

Thu, Dec. 15th, 2005, 03:39 pm
Well ... it took a year!

Well, it took a year to finally update and post the tokyo trip ... enjoy ...


Thu, Dec. 15th, 2005, 04:36 am
Goin' Home

I'm out looking for Christmas gifts to bring home and the changes in Korea regarding the holiday period really hit in.

When I first came to Korea, I saw "a" christmas tree and an annoying singing santa that used to keep me up at nights, that and my flatmates constant whining about the temperature in her room.

2 years later, trees and decorations in stores and bars are common-place, along with the prevalent consumer orientated push by advertisers which sadly, the young are buying into, despite the fact the holiday period is still recognised as no more than a 24 hour vacation (providing that it doesn't fall on a weekend).

This year, the streets are decorated, the shop fronts are decorated, the classrooms aren't. I'm walking down the main strip in Shin-chon and I see no less than two, "TWO!", Christmas shops, selling about as anything tacky and Christmasy, or is that Christmasy and tacky?, as you can imagine.

Fancy a cigar box that sings "12 Days of Christmas" when you open the lid?

Celeste wants me to stay in Korea this Christmas because its her only day off from work in about 3 months, lol!.

10 days in Ireland with the family, a last chance to have a final Christmas in the house I grew up in before the big move .... vs an evening at home, with the heating on full blast, watching TV, perhaps a drink or two with her friends at a local bar ... no contest.

Will be home around the 20th .... c'yall then.

Fri, Dec. 2nd, 2005, 01:13 pm
How to Save A Life - The Frays

How to Save A Life - The Frays

Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
And you begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And pray to God he hears you

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he's just not the same
And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life

Wed, Nov. 23rd, 2005, 04:57 pm
Exchanges between Pilots & Control Towers

Exchanges between Pilots & Control Towers

While surfing for some class material, I stumbled upon the blog above.

Bloody hilarious!

Wed, Nov. 23rd, 2005, 03:21 pm
A Tale of Three Bikes

I took another tumble off the bike a couple of weeks ago. I mention this because I've just whacked my injured hip off the corner of my desk and it reminded me. Nothing serious, just a few bruises, and it wasn't a crash, I simply fell off!

I was traveling down one of the slopes on the way to work. It was 6am, dark, and the road was covered in wet and frozen leaves. As I was stopped on the slope, waiting for traffic to pass at the T-Junction in front of me, I picked my feet up to pull off when the way was clear and the whole bike just slipped out from under me. Combination of wet leaves and the slope I was on. I liken it to when you're about to sit down and someone pulls the chair out from under you. The result, my bike sliding down the slope, and myself suspended in mid-air for a second, wildly flapping my arms in a vain attempt to fly, while at the same time, mouthing the word ... "SSSSSHHHHIIIIITTTT!!!!!!". It was ok, the ground broke my fall. I landed on my hip and shoulder, and am still sore but the bruising has largely disappeared. No damage was done to the bike.

I wouldn't mind it so much if I'd crashed, there's some credibility in that, but I fell off! ... Damn that was embarrassing, but less so than the fact another teacher arrived on the scene shortly after the event, and saw me lying on the road cursing to high heaven. After checking to see if I was ok ... he then raced to school to tell all and sundry that I'd wiped out! His tale was of a spectacular high speed collision from which I might not live, and the bike was a write-off! .... after I regained my composure and my breath, I picked up the bike and rode on to the school, albeit gingerly, where I was met by some of the other teachers racing to the accident scene to see if any assistance could be rendered. They were happy to see I was all right, and I was bemused that they thought it was so serious. The result was that for the rest of the day, I was limping and being constantly approached by members of staff inquiring about my health and wanting to know what had happened!

Daelim 125cc VX Racer Daelim 125cc VX Racer

I was happy that there was no damage to the bike. It's my third one since getting here, and the love of my life. Looking back, you may have read about my first bike, a 125cc Daelim racer. It was stolen on my birthday. A few days later, I bought another one, the same model. It lasted me three months but from the moment I bought it, it had problems. Every second week it was down getting something repaired. Electrics, tires, oil, mirrors, everything went wrong or fell off at some stage. The end came when it refused to start one morning. I tried to hill start it, which is usually successful, but it would just not start. I ended up running it all the way down the mountain to the city below trying to get it started, but eventually ran out of hill! I locked it up and parked it beside the road, and then got a cab to work. When I returned to get it after class, someone had tried to steal it, and then finding it had a wheel lock, kicked it over onto the road where someone else must have run over it. It was trashed. parts everywhere ... but the hilarious thing was that what was left of it started first time! ... I pushed/rode it back to the service center and left it outside, went inside, and came out 5 minutes later with a brand new Hyosung 125cc low-rider. No more racers for me!

Hyosung 125cc Cruiser Hyosung 125cc Cruiser

Cruising to work is a joy. Real "Easy Rider" stuff. I picked up a new helmet for it, bought secondhand from another teacher. I got it cheap, and he couldn't remember how much he'd paid for it and had only worn it a few times. Checking it out online, I got it for 10% of the retail value. When I brought the bike down for a service, the mechanic cowed over the helmet and checking it was an original brand and not a copy, told me it was worth more than the bike! ... so there we have it ... I finally got the low rider you were talking about Mo. If you get one too, maybe we can ride around Australia in a couple of years?

Tue, Nov. 15th, 2005, 04:09 pm
so why go?

The first time around in Korea, an ex had the opportunity to go clubbing and as it wasn't my scene, I gave it a miss. The result was an experience she had that colored and dampened her whole experience in Korea. It had a huge impact on her view of the country, the people, and the role of women in Korean society. She wrote about it here.  What she didn't know at the time was that she had not gone to a "niteclub" in the traditional sense, but rather a booking club and the experience that was so negative for her, is precisely the reason that booking clubs exist and are seen to perform an important function in Korean Society.

I haven't been to one yet, but hear about them from my students, some of whom go regularly, men and women. I was searching about online for more information and found the following well written article from the Wall Street Journal, written from a Korean-American's perspective. It details her first trip to a booking club with her friend, and contains insights that a typical westerner might overlook or fail to comprehend.

Across a Crowded Room in Korea, Girl Meets Boy, Kicking and Shouting.

Anyhow ... enjoy.

Ok ... there are problems if too many people try to access the link ... so here goes ...

Across a Crowded Room in Korea,

Girl Meets Boy, Kicking and Shouting

By Hae Won Choi

The Wall St. Journal

January 9, 2002

SEOUL, South Korea -- Kim Soo Hyun, a 21-year-old college student dressed in a short black dress, was sitting with her girlfriends sipping whiskey and Coke at a loud disco on a Saturday night recently. A waiter dressed in a knockoff Versace silk shirt sidled up to her and said "There's a really cool guy across the room who wants to meet you."

Ms. Kim politely said she wasn't interested. But the waiter, undeterred, grabbed her by the arm and dragged her shouting and squirming across the room to a table of five single men.

Oddly, she paid a lot of money to have this happen. Ms. Kim was hanging out in what's known here as a "booking club." Unique to Korea, they are immensely popular among young people looking for amorous adventure. Men and women pay hundreds of dollars to spend an evening at a booking spot, where it's part of a waiter's job to play muscular matchmaker.

The clubs afford Koreans an acceptable way to violate mating taboos. Korean society discourages young people from interacting with the opposite sex. Many Korean teenagers are trapped in a regimented same-sex school system until they go to college. For university students and marriageable young professionals, introducing oneself to a stranger in a bar or at a party is considered unseemly. And arranged marriages are still common. As a result, many Koreans are uncomfortable looking for dates on their own.

"It's embarrassing to walk up to a guy you don't know and start a conversation," says Ms. Kim. "Guys will think I'm easy."

Booking clubs offer a way around the social strictures. By getting hauled "involuntarily" across the room by a waiter, Ms. Kim can preserve an all-important image of chastity and still meet men. At the Seoul club ASEM Juliana's, she had been gazing with yearning eyes at Yoo Jin Ho, the 24-year-old college student who asked the waiter to bring her to him. And then she told a little fib "I rarely come to booking clubs. I came because my friends wanted to."

After a brief conversation, Ms. Kim and Mr. Yoo exchanged mobile-phone numbers for a possible date later, as clubbers here are wont to do.

Most clubs are in the ritzy districts of southern Seoul and cater to young professionals and the children of the well-to-do. The sexes arrive in separate groups, and sit at sex-segregated tables in a dimly lighted room. When a man spots a woman he'd like to meet, he will summon a waiter and place his "order." The waiter then physically delivers the target woman to his table.

The waiters go by easy-to-remember nicknames, the better to set themselves up for big tips. One calls himself "Park Chan Ho," after the Korean pitcher for the Texas Rangers. Another goes by "bin Laden" because, he says, "I'm hip to current events."

The clubs still maintain a bit of old Korean conservatism. They don't allow girls to select the guys. That would be going too far in this male-dominated country. Some sociologists still denounce them as a product of Korea's rapid industrialization and its disorientating encounter with the West. Says Yu Gi Na, a professor of media at Dongkuk University here in Seoul "Mixing of strict Confucian values and Western culture is yielding a strain of materialism and messiness that is tainting young people in Korea."

Tony Park, a 31-year-old who works at a textile-trading company, is a veteran clubber. He goes clubbing as often as three times a week, and frequently gets text messages on his mobile phone from waiters at his favorite clubs promoting the scene on busy nights that really get going at about 9:30 and don't close until 5 a.m.

"How's it going, bro?" reads one such message sent to Mr. Park on a Monday night. "Come quick. It's a complete girls' bathtub tonight. Hurry and make your pick."

Mr. Park went to the club a few nights later decked out in an expensive black Zegna suit and pink-tinted glasses. He was soon busy checking out the female-only tables. "Bring me the one over there with a lot of makeup and long hair," he told "Psycho," his waiter.

The leggy Choi Min Ah, a 20-year-old aspiring model, was summarily dragged over but managed to maintain her composure as she sat down next to Mr. Park. He offered to buy her a drink as they exchanged names and ages. Ms. Choi took a small sip of her whiskey, but it soon became clear that she was unimpressed with Mr. Park, who eagerly tried to keep the conversation going by asking Ms. Choi questions about her hobbies and about modeling. She answered curtly, all the while checking out men at other tables. A man can't order a woman to be snatched away from another man, but a woman is free to dump a man she doesn't like. "My friends are waiting at the other table," Ms. Choi announced as she stood up to leave. "I'm sorry but I have to go and join them."

Mr. Park took the jilting philosophically. "The beauty of these clubs is that people don't like to waste a lot of time," he explains. "People are very efficient. In some ways, these clubs show that young Koreans are more progressive and liberal than Western people." The young Koreans, for instance, have no qualms about giving their phone number to someone they have just spoken to for a couple of minutes. He thinks Westerners don't do that sort of thing.

The first booking clubs opened about seven years ago, but only recently became a rage, club owners say. ASEM Juliana's, which opened last year and is one of the biggest booking clubs in Seoul, draws about 800 people a night on weekends. (The initials ASEM stand for the name of the building, the Asia-Europe Meeting tower.)

Each group must buy a spread of appetizers, including an ornately decorated platter of fruit, a bottle of Korean-made whiskey and a few cans of soda, for which a table of two or three might have to pay $400. There is no separate cover charge, and the waiter's "facilitation fee" is built in, though it is customary for a man, but not a woman, to slip the fellow an additional $100 tip as well. (Koreans don't usually leave a tip of any sort in bars.) For a group of five men, a night at these clubs can cost $1,000.

Clubbers with deeper pockets, and a deeper desperation to stand out, can pay up to $250 more for a bottle of Johnny Walker scotch instead of the domestic stuff. Lee Hyo Jin, a 28-year-old working at a telecommunications company, says he ordered imported whiskey because it tastes better. "I also want the girls that I book to know that I have class and money," he says.

Ms. Kim, the 21-year-old in the short black dress, scrimps and saves for clubbing nights by eating 78-cent lunches of ramen noodles. After school, she also privately tutors junior-high-school kids in math and English.

"The clubs are expensive for students like me, but it's worth it," she said, sipping a drink at ASEM Juliana's. "This is the only way to meet men naturally."

Fri, Nov. 11th, 2005, 01:41 pm
A Punch Thrown in Frustration

So I punched him. My first punch thrown in anger since I was about 12 years old.

That was against Trevor Austin in the junior common room in Wilson's who decided to pick a fight with me to impress Lisa Ferris, a girl I also happened to have a crush on. She was watching, so neither of us held back. That one ended in a draw if I remember correctly, can't remember who broke it up.

I connected with his chin, and unlike the movies, it didn't graze or hurt my knuckles at all.

He fell over backwards from his motorbike. He just lay there looking stunned as if he couldn't believe I had hit him. Sadly, my fragile male ego was unhappy he was still fully conscious and that it wasn't a knockout punch.

I didn't wait around to see the aftermath and walked down the street, into the crowds, fuming at and cursing the little prick.

No one batted an eyelid, I guess it's common place in these parts?

It was hot, I was dehydrated, the sun gave me a headache. I didn't feel like walking up the strip, I accepted an offer from those annoying motorbike taxi drivers that accost you on the street as you are walking by.

The previous day, I had taken a similar ride to the one I was about to make, it cost 5 baht. I asked him the price before agreeing on a lift, just like the guide books all recommend. He said "5 baht", I said "ok".

About 5 minutes later, after weaving in and out of traffic, pedestrians, street stalls, that no way in hell would I even contemplate riding through on my own bike, we reached the plaza at the top of the strip. A modern plaza surrounded by designer shops and fast food restaurants, completely at odds with the rest of the strip.

I got off the bike, opened my wallet, a mistake possibly, as immediately after seeing the notes I was sorting through, he quickly said "50 baht" as I was removing 5 bahts. He actually had the audacity to look ashamed as he said it, and from that point, wouldn't even meet my eyes and make eye contact.

No matter how much I tried to tell him we agreed to 5, and that 5 was the cost of a similar trip the previous day, and that 50 baht was more than I was paying for my beach hut a night, and that 50 baht would rent me a bike for the best part of a week, he refused to meet my gaze, looked at the ground and repeated "50 baht" to each and every one of my protestations.

I tried to ask other passing taxi drivers how much the fare would cost, but none would answer me, and for once, were ignoring a foreigner. I quickly suspected they knew exactly the type of argument I was involved in.

After a few minutes of the driver refusing any debate other than "50 baht", I threw 5 baht into his basket at the front of the bike, called him a "f%^king wanker" and turned to walk away. He grabbed my arm and pulled me back towards him, raising his voice "50 baht!" and met my eyes with an angry looking expression on his face.

I snapped. The hold he had on my arm hurt, his fingers were digging into my bicep. I was hot and bothered, pissed off at this dried up dung-beetle, an emaciated sorry looking excuse for a human being, and I swung and connected solidly. It felt good. I actually stood for a second savoring how good it felt to lash out, to rid myself of pent up frustration by smashing some little f*&cks face in.

As I've said before, I'm neither proud or ashamed of physically hurting someone else, but the little **** had it coming to him.

That's what happened. Let he without sin cast the first stone.

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