Wednesday, 23 October 2013

I don't appreciate my friends as much as I should.

Let's face it. I can be a real asshole. I can be worse than that, especially to the people I love the most, like my sister.
This week should me how lucky I really am. I have the luck of the devil.

It started off pretty good. I was all full of vigor and ready to take on the world. Instead of taking a tourist package, I was going to go out on my own to obtain the all elusive Thailand Tourist Visa. If you are from a First world country, you can fly in to Thailand and get a 30 day visa waiver. It's not actually a visa, just permission to fuck around for 30 days. If you travel by land, you get the same thing for 15 days. There is no limit to how many times you can do this. However, leaving or flying out every 30/15 days is a real pain in the ass.

There is another option. You can actually apply for an actual visa that allows you to stay for 60 days. If you you pay extra, you get another 60 days. If you go to the Thailand Immigration office in Bangkok, you can get up to another 60 days, so in total, you could stay up to 6 months. Leaving every 15 days, compared to every 6 months, is a no brainier.

So off I went, on my own. I went to the most southern border of Thailand/Cambodia. What a desolate shithole of a place. I hitched a ride on the back of a motorcycle for $1 and caught a bus to a place called Sihanoukville. Half way through the trip, the bus broke down, so I found myself with my fellow travelers on the side of the road waiting to get another bus. Eventually it came, but not before the perishable goods in the Styrofoam containers, perished.

Sihanoukville is on peninsula and is the the only beach area in Cambodia. Lots of old perverted men owning bars, running brothels. I rented a moto for $5 a day and got rip roaring drunk and rode all over town for a couple of days. There are cops doing ride checks everywhere, but they don't care if you't drunk, only if you have an international driver's license. I didn't have enough money to pay them off, so they let me go. The next day, my host got stopped by the same cops (with no license at all), but his bar employee was in the process of delivering coffee to the cops, so after a few words, they let us go again with no consequences.

Always the entrepreneur, I met a couple of perverted bar owners and did a couple of jobs that paid for my trip. US dollars is the norm in Cambodia, and expats pay US prices. Non of this "you're in Asia, you should be paid what we pay the Asians" BS. A lot of good that did me when I left for Phnom Pehn.

I took the night bus. To help with the trip I bought a 10 pack of Valium for about $0.50 I think I took too many, because I ended up 500 Km past Phnom Pehn and had to take another bus back. All that money I just made was slowly being wittered away. When I finally got the Phnom Pehn, I went straight to the Thai Embassy, but was late to submit my application. I let some Tout do it for me, for an additional $40 dollars. I had no intention of paying him $40 dollars. I just agreed to it to get it down. Then I went to sit out the weekend at a guest house. For the whole adventure there, read the previous post.

When I got my passport back, I had $10 US to my name.I got a bus to Poipet. I had $2 left over. I crossed the border and started walking the 6 km to the train station. A dude drove by asking if I need a ride. I said, " sure, if it's free"

A few meters later, the same guy was sitting there waiting for me and drove me to the train station for free. I could not be more thankful. I got on the train with my last $2, and suffered though a 8 hour train ride that was actually only 300 km. I went back to my old hostel in Bangkok. I told them my adventure. They gave me a couple of beers, some smokes, and a bed to stay in. I have no money. I don't know why or understand why they were so kind to me. I contacted my recruiter and a few more friends. My friend is going to meet me tomorrow to lend me a couple of bucks to get through the week. My recruiter, tried to send me money through Western Union but had a hell of a time, and had to leave town for the week. When she gets back, she has a couple hundred dollars for me.

I'm glad I'm back in Bangkok. I thankful that even though I can be a real prick at times, I have some of the best friends in the world. Friends that overlook my faults and bend over backwards to help a man in need. I love you all, even if I don't say or show it enough.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Plus 30 more Days in Bangkok and onward to Cambodia

The first week in Bangkok was mostly about getting around. Once I go that down, I tried to figure out how long I could party, yet still wake up early enough to go to work by 7:30. I managed about 5 hours of sleep a night. That's a whole other 18A story. It's being edited by someone other then myself. it's totally rambling BS.

I actually only taught for a week. Then it was students writing exams, and desk warming. I did graphic design for a tourism group instead. The internet sucked. Slow and flaky. A reoccurring theme throughout this narrative. On the odd occasion I actually did some teacher work, entering scores into an Excel spread sheet, rather than fix my mistakes, they would print it out, circled it, and told me how many digits I was off, so I could correct it. By correcting it, they had to re-open the Excel spreadsheet, insert my correction... I asked "why didn't you just change it, if I got it wrong? Why waste the paper and time? If you made a change, and you want my okay to change it, show it to me, and I'll initial it. I'll sign off and now it's not your liability."

I did nothing for 2 weeks. It was a routine like living in any other city. I woke up, shit, showered and shaved and made the 1 hour long trek to work where I sat at a desk for 8 hours and did nothing. I did some graphics for a tourist company, so that's not entirely true.

Eventually my time in Thailand was up. I milked it. I milked it enough, money is owed to me. I had to do I visa run.

The first run was an experience. I missed the agency bus, so I hot-tailed it to the last skytrain stop, got on  a bus and made it in seconds flat. I got snaked as soon as I got off the bus and paid too much for a Cambodian visa. I walked across, walked through no man's land... it didn't seem to ever end.... but I was actually in Poipet. Imagine the old west, but all Asian. Turned around, walked back into Thailand, got another 15 days, I missed the bus, so I crashed out on a bench at the train station. A 6 hour train ride to Bangkok is $2. A 6 hour bus ride to Bangkok is $7. I went back to the routine.

Then it all changed. 15 Days was up, I need a new visa. But not a visa waiver given to First World countries that's not actually a visa at all, but a proper non-immigrant tourist visa. This meant an application to a Thailand Embassy outside of Thailand. Which where I find myself now.

I just got paid. Not all I was owed, but enough. I set out for the capital of Cambodia for my tourist visa run via the most southerly route. I thought I'd visit a guy I'd never met but had known for years recently settled in Sihanoukville. Awesome time. Emerald Bar, by the old bus station, downtown. Central to everywhere. Good rates, good food, great people. Bikes for rent, easy access to islands and buses. I swam in the ocean almost every day.

I did a couple of graphic jobs in the week I was there. Paid for my trip. Took a night bus to Phnom Pehn that had actual beds instead of seats. I overstayed my welcome. I woke up 500 Km past that. I had to wait until 8:30 for the next bus back to PP. Another 5 hour trip. I finally got to PP. I got a tuk-tuk driver to take me about 5 km to the Embassy. The embassy was no longer taking applications, but a guy assured me that he could sneak it in for a $40 surcharge on top of the usual $40 visa fee. It was now costing me $80. I had $90. I agreed, I was desperate. He gave me his number to call when the passport was ready. His buddy took me to a hotel to wait it out for the weekend. I sat on the balcony drinking beer waiting for time to go by.

I got bored. I went out. I don't know where. It did not end well. It didn't end that badly either. I took $10, my phone and keys. I come home with no money, no phone and no keys. The tuk-tuk driver taking me home, called ahead to his buddy, took me a secluded spot where his buddy was waiting and worked me over. Being mugged sucks. My jaw hurts. My ear hurts. My pride hurts, and I have a nice scar forming on my back, but I'm okay. They got the security device from my online banking which is useless without the code, and my phone. That one is the killer. Anybody got an old android phone they're not using? I could really use one.

Stumbling finally home, I made it to my room where I banged on the gate until someone let me in at 3 am. I had no key, so I demanded they open my door... I was drunk and I'd just been mugged.

I thought they got everything, but then I remembered that I always take what I need, not what I have. I don't need ID or credit cars, or wallets. A little bit of cash, my phone, my keys. gone... forever. The passport is safe with some shady character at the Thai Embassy. He's not getting his $40 bribe. He's getting $10, if that. I need cash to get home or the visa he worked so hard to get, is worthless. If he gives me a deal, I'll get his number and refer some friends to him.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Cowboys, Perverts, Girls, Boys and not quite anything.

I’ve been here a month now things are pretty much routine at this point. I wake up, go to work, come home and work some more. I struggle to make ends meet coming into a foreign country with no money to begin with. Everything I do is on credit until I get paid and once that happens, I have to pay off the credit, and start all over again. I do my best to spend far less than I actually make, but, I’m not always successful. I’m in Bangkok-- I indulge too much sometimes.

If I try hard, I can survive on less than $3 a day. I only make $30 a day. That means no drinking, no smoking, 2 meals and rent are paid for that. It’s a very tall order to fulfill. Booze is cheaper, but not by much-- it sucks me dry, continuously. And then, the girls... I’m only a man, and a weak one at that. I can hardly avoid my mistress-- the beer. The constant lure of nubile Asian Lolitas is too much. I spend my time drawing them instead. I watch, I observe, I feel a little like a stalking serial killer that doesn’t follow through on any of his desires.

So here I sit outside a bar on street called Soi Cowboy. The same bar a shootout occurred in a movie about drinking too much and the day after. The girls don’t wear panties. At least I know they ain’t boys. Across the street, I see a whole lot more girls. I know these aren’t actually girls because when you see a person in a bikini, there is a huge difference between camel toe and a bulge, even if it’s a small Asian bulge. They have really great boobs, though.

The thing that strikes me as the most weird is the endless stream of white western girls with their western boyfriends. Is this a test? How long do these relationships last? Who’s the more interested? The girls or the boys? We all know the boys are walking down the street with their eyes bugging out at all the sex. The girls either look fascinated or disgusted. Even more weird than that is the couples of 60+ plus females. They look like tourists on a package tour and they look truly disgusted-- didn’t anybody tell them what this street is or what it means? Did they just stumble upon it or did they search it out?

I go to a number of different bars. All in the name of research, of course. The second one has about 50 girls on a small stage about the size of 2 king size beds. Right above it is a glass ceiling. The girls that have risen above this glass ceiling are dressed in nothing but running shoes and a short pleated skirt. Underboob takes on a whole new meaning when you look at it from 10 feet below and there is no shirt covering up the rest of it. There’s the added bonus of the up-skirt shot with no underwear as well.

I go outside because even in Asia, in this “high-class” part of town, you have to smoke outside, and I take a seat. Beside me are two fat Russians wearing the stereotype of an LA pimp. They speak fluent Thai to the staff, and the bouncers at the door treat them like royalty. These must be the owners. This is where I notice the lady-boys across the street, the chunky western woman testing their goggle-eyed boyfriends, the old lady couple visiting the zoo. The children spending their lives growing up on this street starting by selling flowers, graduating to drug running, pimping and “dancing”


Back inside, a beer is double the price of anything in a store just so perverts like me can stare at the ceiling looking upskirts and at underboob while 50 young Asian Loitas dance on 2 mirror king sized beds. I gladly pay it. And I pay it again and again. And again. Each girl has a number, so you can choose. I think of Z, I ffel nausea and a small amount of vomit rises in my throat. The male part of me chokes it down, I can’t help myself-- I thinking with the brain in my pants and I’m disgusted with myself, but I haven’t killed anybody yet, so I continue to watch with intense fascination like a stag in rut caught by headlights.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Narz, bangkok, Surchumvit soi 23

Like all clubs in Bangkok, you could miss it if you didn't know what to look for. It could be a shack on a river, but this is  Sukrchumvit, not any river.

In the heart of downtown Bangkok, this place knows where it’s the shit, so don’t be a backpacker fresh of the boat expecting to mack some chicks. You need to bring some game and some money. Partying doesn't come cheap, no matter city in the world you are in.

Cover can run you 400 baht and 2 more drinks on top of that. For those of you who haven’t learned how to use the exchange app on your phone, that’s about $20 US.  There are 2 floors. The first floor is mostly native Thais. The second storey is the hip hop drum and bass you’re used to-- with a Thai flavour, of course... This is a native club. This is where the natives go party. If you’re anything but Thai, expect to feel out of place.

 If you like to be in the thick of things and really feel what it’s like to live in different country and feel the shit-- this is the place to go. You won’t find this on Lonely Planet.  People like you don’t get invited.

Downstairs is mostly a trance to chill out out. For a more hip hop vibe go upstairs. Most of the patrons are young students. This is where they go to chill and let loose. If you are not down with that, don’t bother. This is not a meat market. They are not here to get laid and fuck old white men. That’s what Khosan Rd is for. This is a place to chill. Studies are down, work is over, lets’ dance and party.

Drinks, on average are like what ever you would expect to pay in the US-- 5-6 a drink. Or 250 baht.  Finding the place is only for those in the know. We know it is.
The other day I was bored so I went to a place called Patpong. What a place. I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll start at one end of the street. By the time I got 2 metres, I had been offered 23 ping pong shows. I refused them all. After about another 50 feet, I got sucked into a place called King’s court. I think it was the cheap Sam Miguel that sucked me in. It’s a premium where I come from, but dirt cheap at this place.
As soon as I sat down, I was immediately attracted by the suicide girls. Girls with curves. Not like most Asians who are all skin and bones, but healthy Russian or black or Chinese-- girls with curves amid tattoos and shit. Big boobs. The cheap beer wasn't bad either.
After dealing with the pimps and madams,  the girls approached me on their own. I bought a few drinks; they actually bought me a few. When they were finished “working” we went for some food. I ate Thai food they don’t normally serve to us Westerners because they think it’s too spicy.
It was a good meal and a good time.

I went back. This time they knew me, and set me up like royalty. We were allowed to relax without being “tout”ed by a bunch of touts. The girls I met before made their rounds, we drank our drinks.

Cost-- nothing
Place-- Patpong

Monday, 9 September 2013

One Week in Bangkok...

Transportation
There are too many options and most of them are only available to locals. This is not to say that you can't take them, only that you may not be aware of them. I could take a bus if I knew how to read Thai... but I can't, so every trip is an adventure to an unknown destination in the general direction I want to go.
There are these Toyota mini pick-ups everywhere. They're like the local version of the local bus routes. If you are on an actual bus, it's probably an intercity/district bus. Tuk-tuks (the tourist money grab), motorcycle taxis, and these pick-up trucks are the transportation mode of the day. They cost about 30 cents (10 baht) per ride. If you pay more, you're being ripped off and you should get out or re-negotiate (cost of the trip is usually discussed at the beginning of the journey). 400 baht ($13) may not seem like much of a fortune to the average westerner for a Taxi, but you could eat 3 meals a day for 6 days for the same amount of money in Thailand. Tuk tuks are for tourists. Don't use them unless you know where you're going and how much it costs to get there or they will rip you off- that's their goal, white boy.
Taxis do not have GPS, unless they are coloured blue.. Google Maps (and Wi-Fi service) is your friend, as a newcomer to Bangkok. Taxi drivers are stupid. They don't know they're own city at all and will often ask for a phone number of your destination so they can call and get directions. To be fair, these cities outside of North America have no idea what gridlock is since there is no grid to lock, but city streets made for a horse and carriage don't accommodate motorized vehicles very well. Nor is there a way to make streets wider when the buildings are built right up to the edge of street in the first place. Naming and numbering those same streets is a nightmare. It's no wonder they are clueless. Taxis are very cheap for the service they provide, but be prepared to know exactly where and how to get where you are going. If you have internet available to you, mapping out and planning your trip ahead of time will save you a lot of headaches. It is much easier to point at a map on your smartphone and say “go here” than to try to mime your way to a destination the taxi driver doesn't know of, or how to get there. Showing them a map also prevents them from trying to scam you by taking a “short cut.”

The Internet and Mobile Phones
Getting on the internet is as easy as buying a USB dongle and a SIM card from the 7/11. There are a couple of service providers to choose from, but they are all essentially the same. Once you have the USB stick and SIM card, you can purchase time for about $5 or $10. As far as I can tell, you are charged by time rather than amount downloaded, but I haven’t really tested that theory yet. If you spend a lot of time screwing around on Facebook, you will spend a lot of money doing it, but if you are just checking for messages and communication, then your pay-as-you-go service can last a few days or week. Many places have free Wi-Fi if you ask, but you will need a username password almost every time, too. I brought my mobile phone from Canada and unlocked it for about $20 (Rogers wanted $50). With another SIM card picked up at the 7/11, I suddenly had a phone again and access to the provider's Wi-Fi network when I was in range of a hotspot. This can be a little spotty as well, but better than nothing.

Food & booze
I am loving Thai street food. There is still a lot of rice in every meal, but no soup or kimchi. When you do eat soup, it’s usually with noodles and you add your own spices to flavour it. Your options are sugar, vinegar, red pepper, and fish sauce. You can make it as sweet, sour or spicy as you prefer. Pad Thai is usually a plate of rice with a choice of meat and curry-like sauce poured on top. You can also get all sorts of meat on a stick, fresh fruit smoothies... There are endless possibilities when it comes to eating food on the street and the prices can’t be beaten. In a restaurant you can easily expect to pay the equivalent of about $5 or $10 per meal, but street food won’t cost you any more than a dollar.
Alcohol is readily available, but chain stores won’t make any sales before 5 pm or after 12 am. It’s pretty easy to bypass this law by going to a mom & pop store or one of the millions of bars throughout the city. Domestic beer is about $1.50 for a large bottle or tall can, and about $1 for a normal sized bottle. In a bar, the cost is closer to $3.

The people
When it comes to people, I've found that they are pretty much the same no matter what country or culture you are in. Each country has their own idiosyncrasies, but for the most part they are the same. Aggressiveness is frowned upon in all Asian countries. It shows a lack of control, but when encountering language barriers it’s sometimes unavoidable. In Canada, when you want to get something done, there is more of a sense of doing it right NOW rather than later. In Korea, and Thailand, as much as they like to talk about a fast culture, there is actually a pretty lassier-faire attitude to getting things accomplished in a timely manner. Generally, people are pretty friendly and helpful everywhere, but you will always encounter that one person who isn't when it matters most. And that is true in every country.

The City
Bangkok is a large sprawling metropolis with the same problems as every city-- traffic and pollution. When compared to some place like Vancouver, it’s disgustingly dirty, but if I compare it to Seoul, it’s really no different. Certain areas are very well maintained. Especially around the large malls where there are litter police (and tourists). Tossing a cigarette butt can result in a fine. In other parts of the city however, it can be so dirty, the smell is overwhelming. There are a least a few garbage cans on the street, so it’s not like Seoul in that regard, where the garbage can seems to be non-existent.

Canals
Bangkok is criss-crossed by an extensive canal network. It is possible to travel to any part of the city by water if you so desired. They are also very polluted, but effort is being made to clean them. They add a contrasting beauty to the city overrun by traffic congestion, with the banks of the canals choked full of foliage and lined with banana trees. The bananas should be rip in a week or so, but the Thais will probably snatch them up as soon as they are able.

Animals
There are stray dogs and cats everywhere, but they are pretty tame. I wouldn't attempt to pet any of them, but I don’t fear them either. I've also seen lots of rats and a few geckos crawling up the side of walls in the evening. The wildlife is very noisy at night, but you soon get used to the din of frogs and crickets and other assorted fauna. One day, I was walking over a bridge spanning a canal, and stopped to enjoy the view. When I looked down, I saw what I thought at first was a log, but turned out to be a very large lizard. When he saw me staring at it, it dove and disappeared into the murky water. At a school I visited, the grounds had large ponds filled with water lilies and fish. If it wasn't for the plastic bottles on the lilies, it would look very nice.

The Weather
Hot. That is all. Sometimes it rains, but it’s still hot.

The Nightlife

 There are more bars than you can shake a stick at. I've been to a couple of the usual hot-spots. Khoasan Road is full of college kids getting drunk. It is fun to people watch there because they are so out of control. Since it’s so hot all the time, some bars consist of nothing but a bar set up on the street with a tent over it. Another area called Cowboy Street is all old men and girlie bars. I walked down the street to check it out, but I didn't partake in anything offered. My new residence is in yet another part of town known for its ‘pong’ show, also involving scantily-clad or naked girls. I have yet to explore this since I just got here today. The place I'm staying at costs $3 per day.

Monday, 2 September 2013

and back again.

I have finally arrived in Bangkok. It took 2 years, one of which was spent in a cage, but I had finally arrived. I know I'm back in Asia because no one can spit silently. They have to advertise that they're hacking up half a lung. Little old ladies rush the subway, fighting like Asian tigers to get that seat. Sales people are pushy but when I push back they get offended. If I wanted your services, I know where to go, I'll come to you. Don't push it in my face. On the other hand, it must work or they wouldn't persist in a such  tried and true method. You want bang bang or boom boom? One will blow your mind and one will blow you. I assimilated quickly in the last 3 days and I'm ready to go. My only contact was V.

V didn't answer his phone. My only contact. With only what was in my bags, no money, in a strange country. I had a general idea of the name of the place of where I was going courtesy of V, who had disappeared.

At the airport, the taxi bookers argued amongst themselves of where I was actually going because no one knew. It took 4 cabs passing up the fare before I got a hit. This did not bode well.

No options but to get in a cab and trust my directions or stay at the airport indefinitely.

The cab driver spoke some English, but stayed silent the entire ride. It was a long ride, but I didn't mind, I was city-struck. I feel this way in every city I visit. I'm amazed-- I'm finally there and everything looks so new and different. Even when I've visited the city before, coming back feels the same way.

The land is very flat, with many water ways. I saw packs of dogs drinking by the waterways. Lots of scooters. Many tricked out and stylized. There were no pine trees, but many palm trees. At the beginnign of each highway intersection there is a monumnet to the King. On the dashboard of the taxi cab was a  miniture.

Just over a huge suspension bridge, we pulled into a gas station. I looked at tewh gauge, it was half full. The driver got out and asked the group of mechanics, friends and co, directions to the area of town I was going. I was beginning to develop a strong appreciation of GPS. I had no wireless on my own phone, so I couldn't Google map it, and his phone was of the flip generation. He could barely get email, let alone Google maps and GPS.

We finally got to where we were going. V works at a 'big' school. The 5 security guards were stand around in a circle, smoking, eyeing the strange foreigner all dressed in black in 30 degree weather, hauling bags outof  a cab, wild hair, no shower, crazed by the last leg of his journey...

No one knew who V was. His phone had decide to go on the fritz, but I was pissed because he wasn't answering his phone and he knew I was coming--I thought he had turned it off or forgot it. It turns out V was no longer V, but S. I would have strangled S if I had seen him at this point. 5 security guards, and 2 administrators figured out directions to V's home after we had figured out V was really S.

S wasn't home. I had no local phone service or wireless. I was dead in the water. My phone still worked on roaming charges. $3 a minute talk, $0.75 per text. When you have no money, a $0.75 text is a big deal. I called a few times with no answer. Good-- because no answer means I'm not paying $3 a minute to say "where the FUCK are YOU?", bad-- because I'm in a country with no money, no place to stay, on a couch tossed carelessly outside the door of some 4 story building. Where the FUCK was HE?

So there I sat. I tried to sleep. I was so tired, but the mosquitoes had other ideas.I kept calling S every 30 minutes. I went in search of a store with directions from one of the security guards. I bought 2 tallboys and a pack of smokes for $5. One call was a hit (it always works out, so chill out.) 2 hours later,and less than 5 minutes from that call, S rolls up on a scooter. Hugs are all around, bags are dragged into vast rooms, Js are smoked and we're off to a bar for S's farewell party because he was just fired, this was his last day and he needs to move out in 2 days.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

... limbo...

There is some sort of stupid rule that you have to be at the airport 3 hours before your flight for international connections. Q helped me with this. At least there was free wi-fi-- that last really free wi-fi I would see for a long time.

Bags checked, boarding pass procured. Sorted. Now what do I do? I have no money, so, no booze (but this is Canada, so no booze anywhere anyway. Stupid Protestant society.. Did I mention that I left Canada with about $1 in my pocket? I downloaded the other drug of the masses-- tv shows, and watched them instead. 200 people looking at their phones/tablets laughing to themselves.

I sat next to a little old chinese woman with an afro. I helped her with the entertainment system on the back of the seat. She watched Korean dramas. When it came to food, we ate the same options. I ate the leftovers.

When I got off the plane, it was 5 am. The airport in Shanghai was closed. There were now 50 people confused about how to transfer to different destinations, 7 hours later. One of us discovered we could go through customs & immigration or we could wait until a transfer ticket window opened. We went through customs and immigration.

I still had no money, but a miracle happened and I found some funds. I bought a couple of beers from the vending machine. I paid for wi-fi. I couldn't blog, tweet or book my face. Youtube was kaput. I could Fark and I could stream Veetle. i was blocked by the Great Firewall of China. I couldn't do anything but check my bank account at the bank of Hang Kong... I had the foresight to at least chose the best international bank. Citi is another one. I tried to sleep, but airport benches are about as comfortable as a concrete jail floor. At least I had a pillow and a blanket in jail.

The gate in China turned out to be a door leading to a bus that took us to some stairs leading up to the plane. I've never gotten on a plane by a stairway before... not a 767 jet plane. And then we waited another hour. My seatmate got another seat next to his friend, so I had 2 seats to myself. A concrete jail floor is still more comfortable than 2 seats on a plane to spread out on. And I even had 2 pillows and a blanket this time. No entertainment system either (I almost expected to see propellers .This plane was in desperate need of a retro fit), but I have the entire 2nd season of Homeland on my computer and a couple of fresh new episodes of Pawn Stars. I love that show.

When I got off the plane, the Thailand immigration officer was too concerned with talking to his colleague to notice I had no address in Thailand, no money and no means of exit. I got my baggage and negotiated my way to V.

To hell...

There's nothing really hellish about Vancouver (or Canada), but it served as a reminder of how much I have changed in the last 10 years overseas. I reconnected and met so many new/old friends, but I never really "reconnected" with anybody enough to compel me to stay.

The best part by far, was hanging out with my little monkey, Z. Except she ain't quite so little any more. She's a young woman at the beginning of her life. With a brain of her own and opinions. It's very strange (for me) but really cool. The last time I hung with Z, she was 6. The difference between 16 & 6 is beyond words, yet I don't feel much different between 20 & 40 in myself, though I'm sure there are some. It would be stupid and ignorant (arrogant?) to think otherwise.

I spent most of my time watching TV, waiting for her to get off work, waiting for her to finish hanging out with her friends, waiting for her to finish hanging out with her boyfriend... she has no time for dear old dad. Cat's in the Cradle and all that. But it was awesome-- the time I had.

For the most part, we walked around window shopping and talking about whatever topic came to mind. I didn't get as nearly as much time as I wanted to pick her brain, but it was good enough. M & G have done an amazing job being parents. I know this because I had very little to do with it, so the cool, awesome person she is has nothing to do with me. My biggest (and only) regret. And yet, I don't regret it too much because we have a special connection, even more so now, that very few daughters and fathers have. She'll always be my little monkey, but I respect her as a young adult. Cool shit.

I tried to meet her boyfriend, S, but she was too uncomfortable, or maybe he was too uncomfortable. In either case, I felt that if he was that important, I would meet him eventually (he could be a son-in-law), or he would join a long list of soon-to-be ex-boyfriends and it wouldn't matter if I met him or not. I can barely remember some of my own ex-girlfriends, and I did more than just meet them.

The rest of the time I did my best to stay as inebriated as possible with no money whatsoever. Not become I'm a cheap bastard, but I don't have any money (buy my book, buy my art, you freeloading cretins!).

I meet my childhood friend/brother-from-another-mother S for a few nights. I have 3 friends like this. 2 of them are actually brothers from the same mother and father and the one left over is a mutual brother. Out of all three, only one of them is on any social networks. the other 2 are practically Luddites except they embrace technology-- just not Facebook. I can respect that, but it makes it difficult to stay in touch in this day and age.

S wrote a song. He writes lots of songs, like so many of my friends do, but he did it on a PC. He is like me-- as an artist using computers, it's not the Apple Mac you have, it's how you use the computer you are given. I could care less if it was a Mac or not. It makes no difference. Photoshop is the same on every computer, and according to S, the music shit is the same. V, a fiend I will talk about more in the next post, is the same. A PC setup that kicks the shit out of any Mac for a quarter of the investment. Apple fanboys can kiss my ass. The song he wrote is #1 in Germany by some band called Front Line Assembly. I heard they were really popular in Japan during the 90's. After the struggles we have/are going through, good for him. We indulged a night of debauchery-- drinking (the PC version), and hanging out at music studios and nightclubs. It got messy(the PC version) and at our age (we're not 20 anymore, bro), took a few days of recovery.

C lives on the coast. I never got to see him. I'll see him again.

B lives in Croatia or some shit like that. I'll see him next. One day soon.

P and I avoided each other as much as possible. I did not reconnect with P. Mostly because, like my family (and I mean my sister), they don't understand why or what I'm doing. I encountered a lot of this in Canada. I understand why you want to stay and love your stability. That's not me, I can't do that, why don't you understand that? He got up at 6 am every day and went to work at a soul-sucking job that he's had for 20 years. When he was finished, he got drunk and stoned and complained about how bad his life was. He has done that everyday. For as long as I've known him. Change it. Enjoy and celebrate life. And you call me crazy. Sure, he has a steady income and never has to worry about what to eat, but he has 2 mortgages and when he finally pays them off so he can enjoy the property, he'll be dead. Exciting. That's what I want to work towards. Fuck that. I'll take my "here and now" attitude and live today, any day. M has a similar attitude. At least she has some beautiful spawn. That's something to work for, I won't begrudge that-- but this is not 1923-- my job and what I do is outside anything that has been attempted before, but it doesn't make it any less worthwhile. You may see it as lounging around doing nothing, but I assure you, it takes more effort than you can imagine. Try to understand, and don't judge me just because I'm not like you. If I was just like you, wouldn't that be a boring world?

The extra time I took in Vancouver allowed me to see people I may not have seen otherwise. It was eye-opening and mind expanding. Shout outs to P, M, C and H. Beers, dinner, pot, whisky, poker and whores. None of that happened, but the subject came up.

A shout out goes to Q. A man who has his own demons, who does better than most. I couldn't have done this without you.

He fed me and drove me around when he had better things to do. He lent me a bike so I did't have to pay $3 per bus ride. He drove me to the airport. Into limbo...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Some things never change

I've been staying with a friend here in Vancouver. I lived with him before I moved to Korea. In the same apartment. I don't think he's cleaned it since I was here last, 10 years ago. There is a thick layer of dust over everything. I opened a closet the other day, there is now a mark on the carpet from the door moving the dust off the carpet. It's truly disgusting.

My friend is Asian. Hong Kong Chinese, to be exact. He is unlike any Chinese/Asian man I have ever met. Maybe that is why I'm so bitter. I was expecting all Asians to be like my friend. He is also socially awkward, like most of my friends-- a little weird, but he is one of the most kind-hearted, generous people I know. He puts up with me after all. He's never rude, always tries to be respectful and would give you shirt off his back. He also smokes more dope than any one I know, including myself.

Naturally, being Asian from Hong Kong, my friend eats a lot of Asian food when he has to cook for himself. His cupboards are full of noodles and strange salty sauces. Ironically enough, in his fridge is a tub of kim-chi. Out of sheer laziness, I ate kimchi and rice for dinner a couple of days ago because I didn't feel like cooking. I guess I had to cook the rice, but again, being Asian, my friend also has a rice cooker, so I didn't do much other than but rice and water in a pot and press a button. I swore I would never eat rice and kimchi together in the same meal again. I was wrong, but I only ate that one meal, not three in a row for 8 months. It has been at least four months.

Coming back here made me remember how much of Asian culture I had already experienced years before I ever went to Korea. Seeing this apartment again made realize how nothing, and I really mean absolutely nothing has changed in 10 years. The boxes of crap are in the exact same place with 10 years of dust covering them.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

No WiFi

Is both a blessing in disguise and a pain in the ass.

It is a blessing because I might actually get some work done. When you're main job and source of income is your own creative juice, you need to spend a lot of time squeezing it for all it's worth. It's difficult to find the energy sometimes. The inspiration is everywhere, but actually following through is like exercising every day-- you want to do it and you know you it needs to be done, but any excuse to procrastinate is welcome. It's so much easier to waste hours on Facebook, or watching videos or TV. With no WiFi, I can actually spend time finishing the dictation of my novels, do the very much needed rewrites, maybe even finish those paintings I've been putting off (as soon as I get some actual paint to paint with).

It's a pain in the ass, because as a person who is constantly in a different place, the only way I can communicate with the world at large or read the news or actually work, I have to leave the house and hunt down somewhere that offers free WiFi so I can check my email, search job sites for freelance work, reassure my friends & family I ma in fact still alive and work, such as writing this blog post.

So here I sit at Starbucks, drinking iced coffee and leaching WiFi. It turns out I have 20 new email messages, only two or three that have any importance. The rest of it is pretty much spam even though I don't have my junk mail filter deleting them. There's no new messages and nothing really of interest on Facebook either, so I'm not missing much.

I spent a couple of hours walking around my friend's neighbourhood. It's like a residential Chinatown with hipster cafes and eateries. The local corner store is (inevitably) run by a  Korean couple. I brought a smile to their faces when I realized they were Korean and communicated almost entirely in Korean with them. At a crosswalk, on each of four corners is a bank. There are two small family-run grocers on either side of the street and a traditional toy store with a ceramic painting section. A little further down the street is a gallery/walk-in studio. When I find a source of cheap paint, I may go and use the facilities. I bought some cheap sunglasses and a hacky-sack(it seemed like the Vancouver thing to have) at a local dollar store.

I also got a pen-like device (it looks like a silver bullet) to use on my touch screen that attaches to my smartphone by using a plastic headphone jack insert. It's good in concept, poor in execution. When you plug it in, you won't lose the pen, but you also won't hear any of the ringtones or notifications because the stupid smartphone doesn't realize it's not a pair of headphones...

Another friend of mine lent me a bike. I haven't got it yet, but I pretty happy about it. Now I don't have to use the dumb bus system. Not only is it outrageously expensive, but the BC Transit system, in their infinite wisdom, have a new fare system where the tickets for the bus and skytrain are no longer compatible. So, if you use the bus and switch to the train, you have to pay twice. It's a blatant money grab and shameful for such a world-class city. They also don't have very many options for reduced fares. For a city that prides itself on it's forward-thinking and environmentalism, this is a huge FAIL. High fares and price gouging only encourages people to use cars instead.

If I was staying here for longer than three weeks, I would buy a car or scooter. I have a bike instead. I'll be super fit by the time I get to Bangkok, another bonus since I have a 50 lb. bag to carry along with all my computer gear, sketchbooks, notebooks, & paintings. I decided the backpack I have specially designed to carry art supplies was too much, so I didn't bring it with me. I have a large sketchbook, some coloured pencils, brushes and blank canvases, but no paint or any other art supplies (I have a lot of different things you wouldn't expect to need, like rulers,French curves, various grades of pens and pencils and tools for carving). I'm sure I can find a small cheap starter set somewhere for a couple of dollars and I'll use up all the paint on one painting. I'll just buy a new set every time I want to paint a canvas.

So far, I'm loving Vancouver. I never realized how much I really missed this city.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Vancouver, bitches!

A new journey has begun. For the next three weeks, I'll be enjoying Vancouver and all the riches British Columbia has to offer. My flight out here was uneventful. And for that, I'm glad. It would really suck to crash upon landing. The more uneventful any flight is, the better. No thrills air travel is the way I like it. To say I'm excited to be here would be an understatement for more than a couple of reasons.

First off, I'll be able to hang out with my daughter who, except for a brief few hours a couple of months ago, I haven't seen since she visited me in Seoul more than a couple of years ago.

This was my first real home after high school, so I met a lot of people during my 13 years here and like Kitchener, it's going to be awesome to reconnect to all those people. If it can be managed, a buddy of mine has agreed we should go on a little road trip to Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast to visit some friends. The only problem, (and it's to be expected, really) is all those people now have kids and/or real 9 to 5 jobs, whereas, here I sit in a bar drinking (a) beer (and more than a couple of cups of coffee) and writing this blog, which is essentially my only job right now (which is good for you, otherwise you wouldn't have something to waste your time while you're at work ;-).

That's not entirely true. Since I arrived at 1 am, I barely slept on an uncomfortable bench at the airport and then used their electrical plugs and WiFi for a few hours. During that time, I changed my location settings for a few websites like Facebook, Kijiji (here & here), Craigslist (here & here) and Linkedin. Applied for a few jobs and made my plans for the day. As long as I can continue to find free WiFi wherever I go, I'm golden. Thanks to that same potentially free Wifi and free text messaging plans, as well as the fact I left a big deposit on my phone when I was connected to Roger's service, I don't even have to change my phone number until my service is disconnected when I go to Bangkok. If I can figure out how to unlock my phone without paying Rogers $50 to do it for me, I can use the same phone with a different SIM card when I get there. I love technology.

So the plan later today is to meet Z, meet up with some old friends, reminisce about the past, catch up on the present and plan for the future.

Peace.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Looking back

One cool thing about keeping a record or diary is the ability to look back at what you were doing years ago and see how things have changed. I can't look that far back, only last year, but it's still cool to see.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Friday night, Friday night, Friday night!

And it's pissing rain. For dinner, I had a pizza. I made the pizza from scratch, including the dough. Then, I made cookies. It was awesome.
I'm still making myself scarse from my sister, but I made two bracelets with/for my nieces.
Then I went out. I bought a couple beers to go to a birthday party. From the time I left to the time I arrived at my destination, about 30 minutes, it went from beautiful sunshine to a dark and stormy night.
The party is at a pub in the next city. I haven't seen the birthday boy in 20 years. I'm not sure what he looks like anymore. The pub is cool. Like the Cambie in Vancouver, or Hollywood in Seoul. All the girls wear a uniform consisting of a black tee with short, catholic school girl skirts. I don't mind the wait.
I'm not prepared for the weather.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Today, For breakfast, I ate...

I did zero sit-ups. It's been that kind of day. I actually started this post yesterday on my stupid smartphone, but I lost the post in the ether of the interwebs and had to start over. I have no idea what I was writing about before other than I was only writing for the sake of writing at least one thing today. Now, it's tomorrow. It hasn't change much. I'm still only writing for more of a placeholder than anything else. A record to show that I did.

Now, I'm killing time. My departure is imminent. I'm counting the days until I leave. In the meantime, my mother is babysitting my nieces. The idea that I'm (not really) looking after my sister's children for a week is a comedy of tragedies. I've been mostly staying out of the way. My computer needed fixing, I had plenty of things to occupy me.

For the first time ever, in my entire (20+ years) computer tech career, I did a complete systems backup. I've never backed up a computer in my life until yesterday. I've never needed to, and when people bring me their computers to fix, by then it's way too late, or they wouldn't be bring it to me. I usually just save what files I can and re-install Windows.

I got a new hard disk and it was the easiest upgrade/install I've ever done. My computer is clean and has no problems, though. I saved a basic backup disk image to a portable USB drive, swapped out the hard disk in my laptop for a bigger, faster, and uncut hard drive, restored the disk image from the backup in the portable drive to the new hard drive, and butta-bing, butta-bang, I'm back to working on my computer exactly as I left it... 12 fucking hours later... Watching little progress bars scroll across the monitor is worse than watching paint dry (which is worse than watching water boil. I know this because I can now say I've done all three). The process isn't entirely automated. I have to be there at certain points to click "ok" every so often. It sucks. That's why I charge the big bucks for this kind of stuff. It's boring.

I dictated a couple more pages of my novel into my computer. I sit here and talk to a computer for at least 2 hours a day. I'm in a house with 3 other people for 8 hours and I barely say a full sentence to any of them. How fucked up is that?

That's it. That's what I did for 2 days. For lunch, I had...

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Writing

Those of you that have been reading for awhile may have noticed that I've been posting alot more lately. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, I've completed the bulk if my transcribing in regards to my jail memoirs and two novels that I wrote while under the care of the Korean judicial system.

Second, I've recently created a new dramatic situation in my life that actually gives me something to write about.

And third, practice. After a lifelong obsession with drawing, I find writing to be equally obsessive. I like it, apparently I'm good at it, and people seem to like reading it. And really, isn't that what we all want-- approval from our peers, to excel at a skill, and do something you love doing as a job?

I'm far from making a living at this (buy my book or buy my art), but two outta three ain't bad.

There's one more thing, on a much more personal level. In jail, I wrote to keep me sane and to keep a record of what was happening to me. Now that I'm out of jail, I've found that writing every day accomplishes a few different goals. It allows me to think things through and organize my thoughts. I highly recommend it, even if you don't plan on publishing it like I have.

Those little ideas I dream up can sometimes turn into big ideas, like books, or in relation to my usual obsession, a new artwork, or sometimes even a stand-up comedy routine.

Finally, it keeps a record of my life. I've had a pretty interesting life thus far. If I'm suddenly struck down with amnesia or some age-related degenerative disease, I, and my family will have a record of all my accomplishments and failures. No one wants to be reminded of failures, so let's think of them as learning experiences instead. Years from now, my daughter, family friends and I will be able to look back at this and remember. For that alone, it's worth it.

Monday, 29 July 2013

and the drama continues

But I'm not going to go into it too much. Suffice to say I changed a few settings on my Facebook account to avoid the name calling. My sister is a very intelligent person, but get her angry and all she say to me is I'm a dumb asshole and warn my "friends" that if I say and think these things about my own family, then the things I think and say about my friends must be a million times worse. I didn't think what I said was all that bad-- it's true, she does talk a lot. Some peace and quiet would be welcome, yet she hasn't stopped and has now reverted to different methods of communication to keep on talking. My stupid smart phone doesn't take rejection well-- calls and texts still seem to get through.

I also know my friends well enough to know that they are well aware of my tendency to shoot my mouth off. A lot of the time, what comes out of my mouth is pure unadulterated bullshit. I say what I feel, how I feel, when I feel it, and if you don't like it, no one is forcing you to listen. You don't have to read this blog, be my friend or even hang out with me if you don't want to. I've been rejected all my life, one more person isn't going to affect me all that much. My natural tone of voice and aggression turns a lot of people off. It seems like I'm argumentative or angry, but I'm not really. I'm well aware of how people perceive me, and it's a constant effort by me to not come off sounding like an arrogant prick. That's so NOT what I trying to do or how I am, but that's how it's perceived. The constant struggle is tiring and sometimes I just can't be bothered.

Some people may claim that I am wrong for writing about my personal life because it betrays another person's privacy. However, I've never actually named my mother, sister, daughter or even my ex-wife. The only way anybody would know exactly who it is I am talking about is if they knew me personally and had met the person in question. Both my sister and mother have different surnames from me and each other, so running an Internet search would turn up nothing. My ex-wife (and now my sister) aren't on my facebook page and my mom isn't on Facebook at all. I've never used any of my friends' names in any of my posts except for a few Koreans I met in detention who I know will never read this and nobody knows anyway. If one of the people I wrote about were to leave a comment in anger about something I may have said about them, they would be the one outing themselves. The only privacy I'm exposing here is my own.

The only difference between me and you is I'm writing about it. It's therapeutic to me, and I like to think that sharing my thoughts with other people is therapeutic to them as well. So many people struggle through difficult situations thinking they are the only person experiencing it. They're not. We all have good and bad days. When we all share the same kind of collective thoughts and experiences because we are all humans growing up on the same planet in mostly the same social structure, some of my good and bad days are going to seem eerily familiar to your good and bad days. If someone relates to something that I've wrote and it saves them from jumping off a bridge, then having a pissed off unnamed sister or mother or friend can be worth the trouble.

Finally, I'm willing to bet this kind of family drama happens to most people in the world. How we all treat and act towards our families is a lot different than how we act towards our friends. We can't choose our families, and maybe my sister isn't feeling too hot about me right now, but I love her nonetheless. If anything, it gives me something more to write about than what I ate for breakfast, lunch or dinner and how many sit-ups I did today. So really, bring on the drama and I'll write a book about it, maybe draw some pretty illustrations to go with it, too.

She should know by now these kind of insults don't bother me-- I get called an asshole all the time-- and more than a few times by her most of all.

So much for "not going to go into it too much..." See? I don't even listen to myself. Dumb asshole.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

and yet, home is where the heart is...

Worrying about shit is useless. I got all stressed out about my previous post after my sister blew a gasket after reading it. Mother-Daughter Solidarity. It's (they're?) a bitch. And really, I shouldn't really be all that surprised-- those two are like peas in a pod. If I want to know what my mom thinks about any particular subject, I just have to ask my sister, and vice versa. It's great for birthday and Christmas presents. I only have to ask one of them if they like it, and then I know the other one will, too.

After swearing up and down that she didn't want to get involved, that's exactly what she did. It doesn't matter if I was serious or not, blowing off steam or airing out the laundry. She told me to never talk to her or contact her again. After 2 hours of text messaging back and forth, to help her out, I obliged by removing her and blocking her from my Facebook and adding her to my rejection list on my phone (I don't know why there is such a feature on my phone, it doesn't seem to work at all). Ooooo.... shit just got serious now! Meh. Now, if she wants to read this post, she'll have to actively search it out since any link I put on Facebook will be invisible to her.

So anyway, after 3 days of not talking to me, and not leaving my room (a 3 metre by 3 metre room with a bed and an Internet connection is luxury to be locked up in), my mother and I are at least talking to each other again. I still lose out on the editor, but that's not as important (no jokes in comments about my terrible editing skills, please). Most of the second runthrough has been completed, and it's been awhile since I read/wrote the book, so I'm probably ready to finish the last 100 pages by myself.

Now my sister isn't talking to me, but that doesn't really bother me too much. Over the years, she has talked so much, a couple of years of quiet might be welcome. On a car ride recently, she talked non-stop for over 45 minutes. I don't even remember what she talked about, just that she did it for the entire trip there and again on the 45 minute return trip. I was supposed to go on a 4 hour road trip to spread my father's ashes up north and I'm some sort of glad I don't have to now since she cancelled because she's mad at me. 4 hours of non-stop talking about nothing in particular <shudder>.

I know that makes me sound like such an asshole, but seriously, if you know me at all, what were you really expecting? One of things she is upset at me for is swearing at her. I was a little shocked, because I pretty much swear all the time, yet she's upset about one particular phrase used in a particular context? I basically called her a party pooper, just not using those words. I guess she doesn't know me at all if that kind of language coming out of my mouth is upsetting to her. Even my own daughter, who is a volatile, hormonal factory, angst-ridden teenager has better sense. I asked her last night if she ever got offended or embarrassed by the stuff I write about it and her response was that it was funny and interesting.

Don't get me wrong. I love both my mother and sister to death and would fight tooth and nail for them, but sometimes I just don't understand either one.

That's not the real reason for this post though.

On the weekend, I went to a friend's 40th birthday party. I have not seen this particular friend in over 20 years. We are connected on Facebook though, so I more or less know what she's up to these days. While I was there, I also ran into another dozen or so friends I haven't seen in 20 years. It was awesome. A couple of people there I chat with online once every blue moon, so I know what they are up to in life, but to actually see them face-2-face is amazing. When I got home, I went crazy sending out friend requests. This is what social networking was invented for. If you are one of those people who found this post through a link on Facebook, this one is dedicated to YOU. Welcome to my blog. There's a lot of crap on here, good and bad, so I hope you find something you will enjoy. Be sure to add it to your reading list as I try to update it at least once a week, if not more. I'll also be leaving the country again soon so this will be the place to read the further adventures of a madman on a walkabout.

Finally, buy my book or some art (I have no shame, so promotions you get). Your support allows me to keep doing this so there will be future stories to read and more pictures to look at as I circumnavigate the globe.

Much love.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

You can never go home again

Sometimes this blog seems like the airing out of my dirty laundry. Actually, that's exactly what it is. The difference is that some people actually read this crap (for which I'm grateful that I have an audience and they actually like to read what I write) and it's not a private diary I keep locked away at the bottom of my hope chest or whatever it is guys use to keep cherished mementos (is there such a thing for men?).

After my adventures in Korea, I had few choices. I had no money and I was in limbo in a detention center in a foreign country. I had three choices to be exact. I could sit there and wait it out indefinitely until the Korean government got tired of me and sent me home, however unlikely since the policy of Korean Immigration is to only repatriate foreigners from poor countries. Maybe they would never get tired of me and I would still be sitting there waiting to this day.

I could wait until my friends managed to raise some money to send me back. I'm not exactly a well liked person. There are lots of people I know, but people either seem to really like me a lot, which there are admittedly few of, or they really dislike me a lot, of which they are many. I've tried to change my attitude lately, but whereas I have incentive and desire to change, those many are not quite so forgiving. It could also take a long time to raise a couple thousand dollars in this scenario, and I might still be sitting in a detention centre waiting.

The third option was to accept help from my mother. This was the option I eventually went with after much hand-wringing and initial refusal since it was the least desirable. My mom has helped me out many, many times over the years. Sometimes, I ask for it (and she doesn't always agree to help), and sometimes she offers (to which I don't always agree to accept her help). Whenever she offers, it's because I never asked her for her help. With good reason. First off, I can probably take care of it myself, and second, there's the tendency of it being used against me in the future.

The latter is my biggest motivation to NOT ask for help. The stress of the any situation, whatever it may be, is usually easier to deal with than the stress of an angry person using shit against you. It's like getting into a fight with your girlfriend. A guy can never win an argument with a woman. It doesn't matter if it's your wife, girlfriend or even your mother, because men don't remember that date 2 years, 3 months, 19 days, 6 hours and 20 minutes ago. And if we do remember that date, it was a usually because there was good memory somewhere in there(great sex), not a bad one (left a crappy tip for the waitress because of poor service (she was lucky to get one at all), the girlfriend was embarrassed-- another quirk I'll never understand-- why be embarrassed about the actions of another person that have no reflection whatsoever on you? Who are you actually embarrassed for and why?).

Girls on the other hand, are like human VCRs. They remember every bad thing that's ever happened in your relationship and when the timing is right, they throw it in your face. I'm convinced this is a major cause of domestic violence. I'm not trying to justify anything here, don't jump the gun just yet. However, when a couple get into an argument, a woman will bring up the past with scary accuracy (a commendable trait, but a waste of brain power IMO-- why not take all that ability to remember the laws of physics or some other beneficial knowledge for humankind?). A man, who devotes his memory space to remembering things like baseball statistics or Star Wars trivia (an equally great waste of brain power IMO) will get frustrated with this and his lack of witty comeback repertoire. Yelling and swearing starts and doors get slammed. We express ourselves with violent posturing, not analytical reasoning of forgotten memories and in extreme cases, we lash out at the object of our frustration instead of inanimate objects or simply walking away (in which case, we get accused of ignoring the problem).

Now, what has this to do with my mother or coming home? If you have read my book (or all of this blog), you will know I never wanted to return to Canada. I had plans-- things to do, people to see. Coming back to Canada was in the opposite direction both physically and mentally. My prospects of finding a job in a job market I have been 10 years absent from were slim. I needed money and not just a couple of bucks, but a lot of it. I had nowhere to live or anywhere I wanted to live. My support network of friends and family was 10 years old. They all had marriages and families of their own to worry about it, let alone a 40 year old, divorced, unemployed, international ex-convict. It took some convincing and ultimately, I had no other choice, thanks to the Korean government. I was forced to come back to Canada kicking and screaming.

How I got to Canada was the next thing. I could either wait it out or accept my mom's voluntary offer. I never asked for her help, but I agreed to it. Flying to Canada from South Korea ain't cheap. Nor is living when you get there. I would need a place to stay and food in my belly. With no job or job prospects, the cards were stacked against me. Nonetheless, after discussing all these concerns, we worked it out (I thought).

I wanted to continue on my travels, starting in Thailand. The living is cheap and I can find work easily by teaching English if I really had to. I don't like teaching English much, but I know how and I'm good at it. It's not something I can do in Canada, but it's something I can do in a crunch everywhere else. In exchange for a ticket back to Thailand, my mom suggested I help her with her home renovations over the summer, which I readily agreed to do. In exchange for living under her roof and eating her food, I would look for a job and contribute when I could. Both of which I did/am doing. The jobs are far and few between, but I have picked up a couple of odd jobs here and there-- designing a brochure, a t-shirt and fixing a couple of computers-- my mom's 7 year old laptop included. Meanwhile, I also transcribed 3 books that I wrote, published one of them and created more than a few new artworks that I offered for sale online. In addition, I was able to get a new driver's license, open a new bank account, get a new credit card and synchronize them with my online stores and payment accounts. I set myself up so I could work from my computer and get paid for it anywhere in the world in anticipation of my return to travelling the world. I made my own job when I couldn't find one and made sure I could keep it no matter where I was. Coming back to Canada wasn't a total loss. I got a lot of personal business done that I was unable to do with a Korean bank account and my mom got free labour that was not just limited to house renovations, but included vacuuming her house, cutting the lawn (she has done neither in the entire time I have been here) and keeping the rest of the house tidy enough to suit her standards.

The point is, even faced with a stacked deck, I made the best of the situation. I did everything I was asked to do and more. I worked hard to get myself out of unemployment (semi-unsuccessfully) and I made plans to guarantee my future.

What did I get in return? A fight. I got yelled at for being an ungrateful bastard, told I was a terrible writer and wrote a stupid book. Why? Because I was wondering why all the formating had been changed and where all the pictures I had embedded in my book had disappeared to. When I asked my (mom) editor about it, she got really upset and asked me to prove it. I didn't accuse her of changing the formatting or deleting the pictures, I asked what happened. How do I know she had some responsibility? I had the "track changes" feature turned on in MS Word. I could tell exactly who, the date, and the time the alleged offences happened. It's marked in red in my document. When she edits things on her computer, it shows me everything.

When faced with unquestionable proof, she moved on to the thousands of dollars she spent bring me back to Canada and sending me to Thailand, living rent free in her house (She lives rent free, too. She has no mortgage since she paid off the house. She pays yearly property taxes and the usual utility bills) and eating her food (my grocery list is about $50 a week. I buy the same things every week and keep to raw ingredients that are cheaper and provide many combinations for preparation). There is no doubt I am a drain on her income. I don't deny it, but I'm not just mooching off her. Any income I have made, I've used to take care of my own miscellaneous expenses beyond just room & board such as my cell-phone service. She also gets things in exchange that she agreed to. I do everything she asks without question or complaint (if you know me, you'll realize how difficult that is for me). I go out of my way to give her space until those first couple of coffees in the morning and I keep my impact in her lifestyle to a minimum. I have thanked her for everything she has done, especially reading and editing my books more times than I can keep track of (too busy remembering Star Wars trivia...). However, the end result is the same. It's an argument I can't win even if I remembered what I was arguing about in the first place.

I'm an ungrateful bastard and a shitty writer with no skills or job who sits around the house all day doing nothing on the computer. I guess I should just accept it. I been told so many times, it must be true. Mommy knows best, after all.

I'm packed and ready to go, but I have to wait this out for one more month until my scheduled flight departs. Thanks for the ticket, mom. I am truly grateful for all your help even if you don't see it.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Two Mirrors.

The Sun bounced off the water. If it weren't for the clouds making their way across the sky you wouldn't even be aware of the slight breeze over the stifling humidity. The reflection of the sun off the lake's surface adds to the heat like being sandwiched between two mirrors. It is a weekday. The only families there are on vacation or able to afford to take a day off during the school summer break. The beach is busy, but not crowded. A couple of old ladies under the shade of a tree with two toy-sized dogs, watching and commenting on the passerby if only to make their own uninteresting lives seem justified. Three teenage girls stand offshore, the water only up to their waist; wading and splashing with their hands, idly gossiping about how boring the summer has been thus far... nothing to do but watch TV and Facebook, anticipating the start of the school year in six weeks time, having only been gone for two weeks, just fresh from the stress of writing their last exam.

A young family has come prepared. The father overloaded with a cooler, umbrella, mask, snorkel and fins, lawn chairs, towels, buckets and spades, water wings, flutter boards, water pistols and super soakers.

The three children; 5, 7, and 10, two girls and the oldest, a boy.

Being a boy and the oldest, he has a "too cool for school" detachment. He follows after his father, a puppy and his litter-mates, with Mama taking up the rear. Engarde, watchful, picking up the slack her broad leaves in a wake behind them of dropped lawn chairs, tripped over towels, tissues and candy wrappers, discarded sippy cups from the youngest girl-- all Shirley Temple-like in her innocence-- the almost deliberate littering by the middle girl, like a cry for attention-- as they make their way to the beach. The father's brother arrives in another car with his girlfriend as the family sets out from the parking lot to the beach.

They troop along the beach, searching out a clear spot near some trees. It's early afternoon. Many prime locations have long been staked out. Semi-permanent summer campers with barbecues set up and smoking in time for a late afternoon feast. One by one, the children start complaining with the youngest, the first to break, followed in quick succession by her two older siblings. The hot sand pushing in resistance against young tender feet, sandwiched between two mirrors. The boy holds out the longest, clinging to his duty of carrying his half of the cooler in both hands, struggling as his father effortlessly seems to carry chairs and umbrellas in one hand and his half of the cooler in the other. It is far from effortless though, as the father is just better at hiding his struggle after 20 or so years.

He finally hunts out a suitable spot and with a satisfied grunt, drops his load. The kids, eager to help and join in, are more if a hindrance than benefit, but things are quickly sorted with mom issuing orders like a drill sergeant, setting up shop with ease.

With the tent pitched and camp made, the water wings and other various water toys are inflated. The two girls pump and jump on the bellows. Their efforts seem almost futile as the toys slowly inflate. The notable difference causes the two girls to try harder. The boy has other concerns. He kneels down by the water, more concerned with the task at hand than the three slightly older girls gossiping hip deep in the water in front of him offshore.

He has a few pistols of neon plastic. Their cheap innards exposed under the molded facade of a Colt .45. Lined up in a row, are five cylinders, like miniature propane tanks filled with a different gas in liquid form lapping at his feet. He's a veteran in his 'hood. He knows to be prepared ahead of time for the coming war. Hours behind the X-box have trained him for this moment. His uncle and father are now the enemy. A battle is eminent.

His task complete, he gathers up his munitions and makes his way back to the base camp. He sees his uncle wandering down to the water, but fails to notice the black shapes carried under his uncle's arm. The girlfriend (Amy? he thinks) is talking with mom. Dad is busy starting a pit to start a fire. Jr. hands a pistol to each of his sisters. To Jill, the middle child, her arsenal is supplemented with a super soaker and a full spare cylinder.
Jr. & Jill instinctively circle around Jean, the youngest. Oblivious to the goal, unaware of the toy weapon of mass destruction and any meaningful symbolism, she puts the barrel in her mouth and squeezes the trigger, squirting dirty lake water down her throat to sub-consciously cool down from the heat of two mirrors.

The three children prowl the campground for Uncle Chris and dad. Jean only keeping up because she's aware something special is happening since her two tormentors are working as a team, cooperating in face of a common enemy, her thirst quenched by a funny looking sippy cup. She pulls the trigger again. Her head suddenly tipping back slightly as the water hits the roof of her mouth.

Jr. spots his father and brother standing around the newly created fire pit. A steady, thin stream of smoke the only indicator of a fire, the flames rendered near invisible in the brightness of the afternoon sun. Jean suddenly discovers the importance of her new sippy cup as her siblings pounce on her father and uncle. Arms flailing, shrieks of laughter, streams of water shooting wildly in all directions, the lessons of X-box soon forgotten in the excitement of a successful ambush.

Dad and Uncle Chris duck and cover. Chris snatches the black cases he took to the lake's shore. He tosses a couple of his ample supply to his brother-in-arms, their own super soakers snatched from the ground in an equally fluid motion.

The cases, or more aptly named cartridges, are slapped into place under the barrels of the two super soakers with a satisfying click. The patented seal quickly floods the chamber in the body of the gun as the men pump the air via the realistic machine-gun rachet of the hand-pumped compressor.

The two brothers look at each other and smile. Their X-box training has not been forgotten as they take up indoctrinated stances. Legs straight, knees loose, they bring their assault weapons to their shoulders, elbows jutting out to help with stability, neck slightly bent, bringing the eye in line with the plastic crosshairs. A steady squeeze, no jerk, depresses the trigger. The barrel bursts forth with gattling gun efficiency as the barrel rotates at 50 rpm with 6 streams of hydro destruction.

The flailing arms and screams of laughter soon turn to squeals of protests as the three children start flailing in desperation instead of excitement under the deluge of water from the two brothers. They systematically mow the poor children down, their brief cooperation decimated. Ranks are broken as they all split in different directions. Jean standing in dumbfounded awe, plastic neon pistol in her mouth, as if giving up on the fight, her older brother and sister hunted with ruthless efficiency around her by her still dry father and uncle.

Mother comes to the rescue with a bucket of water dumped on her husband's head. The children cheer and the water assault rifles are turned on mom, her own squeals matching the children as the adults run around in reckless abandonment like children at the beach sandwiched between two mirrors. It's a good day.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Cultural Culture Shock

There are a lot of people in Seoul. In K-W, not so much. There sure seemed like a lot when I grew up here. The physical size is a lot different, too. A couple of kilometres didn't seem to be that much for some reason in Seoul. I would often walk two or even four kilometers in about an hour without batting an eye in Seoul, just to enjoy the atmosphere of the bustling street. Two or four kilometers here seems like I'm walking across the whole city and if time is relative, the time it takes seems longer, too.

My nearest corner store is actually not in a corner at all, but in a strip mall, 1.6 kilometres away. It takes almost 20 minutes to walk there, so I don't just go there on a whim because I'm feeling peckish. It's a hike. As luck would have it, or maybe coincidence, or fate or irony, the store is owned by a Korean couple. They've lived here in Canada for 7 years. I found out they were Korean when I wore my Korean Football shirt to the store. Now, whenever I come on, they speak Korean to me. I can't escape it. As soon as they knew I understood Korean, English went out the door-- they have no desire to learn English.

It's very strange to walk into a variety store in Canada owned by a Korean. At the front of a store is a big display of trinkets. 90% of it is drug paraphernalia. Bongs, pipes, papers, vaporizers, pot grinders made from wood and stainless steel. The selection is a little overwhelming. There are lighters, Zippos, blueberry flavoured papers, Zig-Zags... They could run another store that was only paraphernalia separate from the corner store. Surely they couldn't order this stuff to sell without knowing what it was all used for. There are pocket flasks, and other drinking gear, too, but the pipes sitting with the watches and jewellery are what stand out.

At the back of the store is the "Korean" section. When I was in Seoul and went into a store there, there would be a "foreign" section that had such things as deodorant and coffee. Maybe some tomato based products. This store has ramen and go-cho-chang. No Kim-chi. I was really disappointed with that. It's only a couple of shelves, it's almost pathetic.

No matter where you go. The slushi is the same.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Buy My Book.

And now for some shameless self-promotion:



"Pens Available on Thursday, Paper Available next Tuesday..." is now available to purchase as a downloadable e-book and/or paperback. Buy it. Share it. Enjoy it. You can read a preview of it here or you could just read the blog entries

There's has to be some sort of stand-up joke I could write about posting a blog entry to promote a book I wrote based on a bunch of blog entries. Basically I want you to pay money to read something on a computer tablet that I wrote on a laptop available (for free) on this very blog site.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Back in the real world

I've been here 3 weeks now. I'm, not sure how I feel about that. I'm glad I'm not in jail, but I hate this fucking country. That's not true, I don't hate it. If I'm going to be forced to go to a particular country, Canada ain't a bad place to go...

However, here's what I've noticed:
Everything is really big. That is a cliche-- I know, but it's true. The sky isn't blocked by soul-crushing skyscrapers, the drugstore is bigger than emart, one person equals 3 Koreans, and the food portions match, but the drinks don't. This is the sucky part. Every where I go, a $3 pint costs $6. And if you even look a little like you abidded too much, no service. The litigation culture has ruined fun. I can't wait to get out of here to more lawless countries.

Coming back has allowed me to accomplish things I would not have been able to do in Thailand. I got a new bank account. I could have done that in any country, but in this country, they gave me a credit card, too because I've never had one, and I could set up internet banking with various websites without having to hand over all my Government ID numbers.

I got a drivers license after driving for so many years in Korea without one (cops would just wave me on when they saw I was white, so they could avoid testing their English skills in front of collegues). The catch 22 part is I can't take a road test for 1 year because of graduated licensing, so I have a learners permit at 40. I don't even know if I'll be here in a year, but other countries can't tell the the difference or give a shit if it's a full license it not.

I'm isolated. I live in the burbs with my mom. This is the shame. I'm not going to be bringing any girls home in the near future. I'm a 40 old man living with his mother in the middle of nowhere. It wouldn't be so bad if I lived in the city. The bus service sucks big time. On a good day, the bus comes every 30 minutes. No earlier. On a bad day, you just missed it, and the next bus is 1 hour later, because it's not rush hour. And the price! I could buy a beer with the money I spend every time I take a bus. The nearest store it's 3 km away. Thank god, the liquor store is right next to it, along with the Walmart, Shopper's Drug Mart, Canadian Tire, Mark's Work Warehouse, and Tim Horton's and the 10 acres of parking lot.

At least now, I can see the stars.

Friday, 19 April 2013

As the Author of my own misfortune becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy

When my marriage broke down, so did my mental well-being and life. It’s hard to pinpoint when it all started to fall apart. Was it before or after that prostitute that one drunken night? During the Christmas holiday I spent entertaining myself with my co-workers while She worked? Or when I got that great job only to get screwed over when I discovered they needed a temp worker, leading me along until it was too late? I insisted She have a job for her own self worth and to contribute to the family expenses. She never made enough money to contribute to anything but her own pocket, but She also worked enough so She was working when I wasn't and vice verse  When we were “together”, She was so tired from working, and on a different sleep schedule that we never spent time together anyway. We lived separate lives and both of us made barely any effort to change it until it was too late.

Already a heavy drinker, left to my own devices, I began to drink more. By the time She finally moved out, I was drunk nearly every day and soon after that, “nearly” disappeared from the phrase and just became every day.

Even now, a couple of years later, I don’t try to figure out who to blame or maybe I ignore my own faults. To say She left because I was drinking is an easy assumption to make but I think that’s a cop out. I was drinking when I met her, while I courted her, and married her for 6 years. It wasn't like I was some fabulous guy who turned into an abusive alcoholic after marriage. And I started to drink much more after She was gone, leading to my current situation. It got much worse after. It was like my best friend dying except She wasn't dead and She was no longer my friend. I was a stranger in a strange land in my own house. She abandoned me in a foreign country to fend for myself in a foreign language after depending on her for basic necessities for my entire life here. At the same time, my visa and passport both expired. My passport was easy to replace, the visa, not so much.

At the Immigration office, due to our separation and separate addresses, our 6 years of marriage was now under investigation as a fraud. It seemed pretty fucking real to me. To make things worse, She was actually in New York with her new boyfriend. While I was struggling to keep my life from falling apart, She wasn't even in the same fucking country, further eroding my credibility.

My life included our (now “my”) dog, our (my) apartment, with all our (my) furniture, including the refrigerator, washing machine, TV, bed, etc. Since, I no longer had a wife or any need to be in a foreign country in the first place anymore, I still had to deal with getting rid of it all and I needed a visa to do it. I was also technically married and couldn't get a divorce, even if I wanted to because She wasn't in the country. At one point, She had added her niece to her family registry and this unknown element came as quite a shock when asked by the reviewing immigration officer if I had a daughter with Her. It was more than a shock because it was nearly a year after she had left and therefore more than possible, however unlikely (due to a lack of a sex life before our split), that the daughter was born without my knowledge. I was greatly relieved to discover later it was her niece. At the time, my stammering reply only further destroyed any credibility I may have had left, convincing the immigration officer that my marriage really was a sham. I was told to return 6 months later.

In the meantime, as I dismantled my previous life and my current one disintegrated in a haze of cigarettes and booze, I naturally became more cynical and combative about my country of residence.

 I was bored and lonely. I couldn't stand being alone in my (our) apartment. I went to drink at bars, but not socialize—just so I wasn't sitting alone. I was hostile to any attempts by strangers to be friends. I didn't need new friends; I had Jim & Jack to keep me company, as well as few Russian girls and my usual suspects. I rejected Korean and Koreans, and when pushed, I fought back.

I would get so blindingly drunk, sometimes I never made it the couple of blocks home, opting to pass out in a doorway along the way instead. Roused by a concerned police officer, I thought I was being mugged and attacked. This got me my first fine of $4000 for preventing an officer from fulfilling their duty, or “obstruction of justice”. I didn't pay it. I had no job or money and my source of income was questionable, if nearly non-existent. I had odd jobs and sold most of my (our) belongings. Near the end, I had an empty house with just my clothes, a few pillows and blankets, my laptop, and an internet connection and that’s about it. Everything else, including the refrigerator, was gone, although I kept the vacuum and washing machine right up to the last minute.

Back at the bars, I ended up in two more incidents, resulting in two more $2000 fines for a total of $8000 of unpaid fines. On the visa front, She had returned to Korea and we finally divorced. I was scheduled to get a new visa, but now rid of all our (my) belongings, I decided I no longer needed a visa since I wasn't married and no longer had any stuff tying me to the land. I bought a ticket to Thailand instead, said my good-byes and went to the airport.

Only to be blocked at the departure gates due to my $8000 in unpaid fines. At this point, a sad, pathetic story becomes surreal and ridiculous. It becomes a Catch-22 on an epic scale.

A story of fucked if you do and fucked if you don’t... Continue to the next page>>


Monday, 8 April 2013

D-Day. The trip home...

took 30 hours.

I woke up on Monday morning, after not really sleeping at all. I was about to leave this place after 8 long months. There is no way to describe the anticipation I felt. All the other detainees in the cell were awake all night with me, eagerly anticipating it like they were the ones leaving-- living vicariously through me. The Pakistani didn't speak much English, but every hour on the hour he would proclaim "Hey Canada bro, 11 hours to go" or an hour later "Hey Canada bro, 10 hours to go"

I was told they would come to get me at 8:30. 8:30 rolled around and no one called for me. 9:00 came by, still nothing. I was literally bouncing off the bars of the holding cell. There were 2 groups. My plane didn't leave until late afternoon, so they held me back until the 2nd group. As usual, no one told me, so I sat there, my skin crawling in anxiety. Finally, I was called at 9:30, and it was a mad rush as I said my good-byes to the Indian and Pakistani and the Chinese and Vietnamese, and Thais, gathered my mattress and blankets, toothbrush and cup and books and pens and drawings.

With the rest of the group of un-detained, we gave up our mattresses, threw our blankets on a pile of laundry, and trashed the toothbrush and cup. We were led to the room that processed us into the detention center and were processed out. Won was changed into US$, cloths and bags were collected; I changed out of a prison uniform for the second time in 8 months. For the last time. I argued with the guards about what I was allowed to take on the plane and what was restricted. I yelled at them "When was the last time you were on a plane? What the fuck do you know? I came to this country carrying this stuff, now I'm leaving your fucking country with the same stuff. I'm not throwing out my paint or brushes, jackass." I yelled and screamed and made a fuss. They relented. I got on the plane with everything.

After we were processed, we were led to a bus and an hour long trip to the airport... in handcuffs. I was in a bus like you see in the movies, locked in a cage, why do I need cuffs? If some drug lord going to bust us out? We were taken to the back entrance of the airport to a special security area, where they did everything short of sticking a finger up my ass. Again, where exactly am I going to get the drugs or bombs to smuggle? Please tell me exactly how you expect me to hijack your plane...

Finally, I was led to a holding room for the next few hours while I waited for my flight. I had all my carry-on luggage with me, including my computer. Here, I surfed the net for the first time in 8 months. I checked my 300 + emails, and Facebook. I started writing this blog. I was still the only white person there.
5 minutes before my flight was scheduled to depart. They finally came to get me. Once again, I was nearly crawling out of my skin in anxiety. My fight was supposed to leave in 5 minutes. No one had the decency to tell me it had been delayed by 1/2 an hour.

They led me through the airport in handcuffs. When we got to the gate, the cuffs were finally removed, before all the other passengers had seen me. I was actually one of the first people on the plane. Preferred seating and boarding. While we were waiting to board the other passengers, I asked the flight attendant if I could get my passport. To say she was shocked to learn I was a "criminal", is an understatement. When she recovered, she assured me that yes, indeed, we were now officially on Canadian soil at Incheon Airport, and a couple minutes later, another flight attendant came by and handed me my passport. I was going home.
I was seated beside a woman who was subjected to my story for the next 12 hours. I hadn't talked to a "normal" human being in 8 months. This was the first woman, too. She was flabbergasted.

13 hours later, I was in Vancouver. My daughter skipped school to meet me. It was awkward. I hadn't seen her in 3 years. She had grown from a kid to a young woman. I didn't know how to talk to people after so much time amongst men or in solitary confinement... or talk to women... or even my daughter, who was both, a double whammy. She had a job (!?), she bought me lunch, and we went window shopping in the shops at Vancouver International. I marveled at all the books in English... and the prices I couldn't afford.

The parting was such sweet sorrow and bitter sweet. I'm a shitty father. Too late to dwell on that now. I've dwelled on it for 8 months, if not longer. Another, more private story I won't write about here...

The next plane was almost an hour late leaving. I got a seat beside another woman. I talked her ear off for the next 6 hours. We both started movies, but never watched them. Talk was much more exciting.
As we were approaching Toronto, I noticed that we seemed to be going in circles over Windsor, 200 Km south. Strange. An hour later, the pilot comes on the PA and told us we couldn't land in Toronto due to thunderstorms. We were also running out of fuel. It was 11pm local time. I'd been up since 8 am the day before but it was only 15 hours later in "real" time since I was time travelling backwards. In my real time it had been more than 28 hours.

We landed in Windsor, 2 hours behind schedule, and out of gas. The airport didn't have the facilities to refuel our jet. They mickey-moused a solution and we had enough gas to get to Toronto, but... the control tower had gone home for the day...

The pilots got on their cell phones and had to call Chicago to file a flight plan so they could take off again. A couple of passengers were actually headed to Windsor, but couldn't disembark because the airport didn't have the proper equipment. They had to fly all the way to Toronto, and catch another flight back to Windsor, but because of the delays, they missed the connecting flight... and I thought my life was rough. At least they didn't spend 8 months in a 1 x 2 cell in a foreign country. They got a comfy hotel room instead.

Finally, we took off again. The passenger next to me was nice enough to lend me her Blackberry so I could call my mom, waiting for me for the last 2 hours at Pearson International.

Almost 262 days + 30-odd hours late, I had finally arrived. I saw a lot of white people.