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.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

(Day 261) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 11 (Part 2) D-1

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Breakfastbread
2 eggs
soy milk
Lunchrice & kimchi
potato soup
cabbage salad
Dinnerrice & kimchi
mandu
chicken soup


The day is just dragging by and as luck would have it, the asshole guard from a couple nights ago are back. This time, on the day shift, with the same power trip over the TV volume control. Now that the two other guards are back from their smoke/coffee/spank break, the asshole is gone, the volume raised and the guards have exchanged their dicks for their phones-- paying no mind to the rest of us.

It’s a typical Sunday in detention and I only have to suffer through another 24 hours, after 8 months, until freedom in my own country.


During the last roll call, the asshole guard tries to assert his authority and tells everybody to be quiet, but we just laugh and mock him as soon as his back is turned. He returns, all full of bluster and we all laugh harder. 

There are 90 people behind bars and a heavy hand is useless against people with nothing to lose. We've already lost the most important thing-- our freedom and for refugees and migrant workers that's all they have.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

(Day 260) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 10 (Part 2) D-2

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Breakfastbread
2 eggs
banana
soy milk
Lunchrice & kimchi
soybean & spinach soup
tater tots
Dinnerrice & kimchi
spinach
kimchi/tofu/egg soup


One of the most interesting things about the immigration detention center is the diversity of people and religions and how this small group reflects the real world in the eastern hemisphere. Out of 17 people in this cell, half of them are Chinese and there is 1 person each representing other countries, with 4 coming from the Indian subcontinent. I'm the token imperialist. Three of the four Indians are Muslims, the other is Hindi, but it’s not the one you'd expect it to be-- the one from India, but is instead the one from Nepal. Another strange twist is the one most likely to be Muslim, the Iranian is a Christian, as is the Nigerian, but the Iranian is more devote. The Chinese are all communist heathens and mock the Muslims as they perform their daily prayers. And then there's me. I am actually more anti-religion than anything else, but if I were to choose, I would choose a Buddhist-like philosophy.


I spent most of the day trying to sleep in an effort to make it pass by faster. No such luck. Time is still crawling by at a snail's pace. Maybe a bit slower than that.

Friday, 5 April 2013

(Day 259) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 9 (Part 2) D-3

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Breakfastsponge cake with cream filling
2 eggs
soy milk
Lunchrice & kimchi
chicken soup
salad with gelatin/tofu
Dinnerrice & kimchi
fish soup
radish & apple salad


Last night I swallowed my pride and ask my mom to get me the hell out of here and when I woke up this morning I was handed a ticket home. My nightmare is over in three days. I have a 3 hour layover in Vancouver, so I'll be able to see my daughter on Monday morning PST. I'm a bit little overwhelmed with the knowledge that I'm finally leaving Korea after nine years and eight days.

The asshole guards from a couple nights ago are back. This time, he not only complaint about the TV volume being too loud, but he came in turned it down and took away the remote so we can no longer change the channel. Talk about an abuse of power. Total asshole. If he hates his job so much, why even bother coming to work? I told him he had a small penis, but his English is too poor to understand, which is just as well or I would be spending my weekend in solitary confinement.

Going into the weekend, the current population is 17. There is 1 Canadian, Iranian, Indian, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Nigerian, 2 Thai and 8 Chinese.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

(Day 258) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 8 (Part 2) D-?

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Breakfastbread
2 eggs
soy milk
Lunchrice & kimchi
kimchi soup
Korean style pancake
Dinnerrice & kimchi
slimy seaweed salad
seafood stew


Officials (and by official, I mean a Korean national employed by the Canadian embassy) are supposed to visit today. They were supposed to visit yesterday, but never showed up and I actually requested to see them over a week ago. I don't need them now, so I hardly see the point. It's just a waste of time now. Unless they're bringing me books, a plane ticket or an escort to the airport, their presence is completely fucking useless. Their only function is to insure the Korean government doesn't completely abuse our human rights... Oh yeah-- and trade.

 Their real job is to sell Canadian goods overseas. Protecting citizens is a side gig to fill in the time, when they find the time-- like in my case, over a week later-- when all the wounds have healed and bruises faded. The documents shredded and discarded. I'm being unfair, I know. The Canadian embassy officials can only do so much in a foreign country with foreign laws and even then, so much isn't much at all.

It’s like talking to a shrink. They nod their heads and take notes and make suggestions, but all the logic and debate in the world can't change things. All they can do is research cheap flights, which anybody can do, and bring me magazines, which anyone can do. They take my abuse complaint seriously, but what does that really accomplished? It’s my word against theirs (the Korean immigration officers) and I resisted arrest. The embassy can complain and the Koreans will say sorry, but nothing really happens. There is no change whatsoever. The Korean immigration officers are still going to be racist pigs doing whatever they want and will never be held accountable. They are just a bunch of armed thugs backed by a corrupt government and the government is whoever is holding the gun.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

(Day 257) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 7 (Part 2) D-?

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Breakfastbread with red bean filling
2 eggs
orange soy drink
Lunchrice & kimchi
bean sprouts in hot water
fish
Dinnerrice & kimchi
chicken & potato
soybean soup & tofu


They installed brand new 42 inch LED flat screen TVs in every cell today. Complete with wall mount and steel enclosed cage. The whole setup probably cost about a thousand dollars each. In 5 cells, just in my block that's $5000. They could have sent five or more people back to their countries, but keeping us docile and compliant is more important than repatriating us.

The embassy was supposed to visit today. They never showed up. I requested to see them a week ago when I was released. Now my wounds and bruises have all healed. There really isn't much point.

 JU however, visited me and brought two more books, which is very fortunate since I just finished the last book I had yesterday.

The night shift guards are real assholes. One of them is the guard I had so many problems with so many months ago. Everybody here knows what jerks they are and laughs at them. During roll call, a detainee farted loudly right after one of the guards told us to be quiet and of course, the whole cell block heard and started laughing, which made the guard even angrier and the detainees laughed harder. When you're an asshole and no one respects you, your authority is undermined and useless... A lesson I should note and learn.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

(Day 256) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 6 (Part 2) D-?

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Breakfastbread
2 eggs
soy milk
Lunchrice & kimchi
chicken soup
fruit salad in French dressing
Dinnerrice & kimchi
watery soup
fish

If I had my computer available, I'd be able to work and make money-- even behind bars. I've been asked to make a logo for a restaurant and a business card, as well as draw the usual number of portraits. If any of these people actually had any money I could probably even afford a plane ticket home.

I'm still here, but in the last two days, half a dozen people have come and gone. In a couple of cases, they arrived yesterday and left this morning. The 17 people we had over the weekend has now been reduced by 1 but the ethnic makeup is a bit different. More than half of the men in this particular cell are Chinese. Out of the 80 people in this whole cell block, 35 are Chinese spread amongst 5 cells. They are constantly fighting and being shuffled around to different cells in an effort to stem the conflict between detainees. For the most part, the Chinese fight with other Chinese.

Monday, 1 April 2013

(Day 255) Hwaseong Immigration Detention Center Day 5 (Part 2) D-?

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Breakfastbread
2 eggs
soy drink
Lunchrice & kimchi
egg drop soup
apple salad
Dinnerrice & kimchi
slimy seaweed soup
fish

9 years ago this very day I arrived in Korea. What a long strange trip it's been. Officially, I didn't get my first visa until May 27th 2004, but this is the day I arrived. And I can't wait to leave.

I called Z and help her with her homework. It’s not a usual occurrence, so it is pretty cool. She had to write an essay about the media and I was able to help her organize her thesis and topics.

I also provided P with necessary personal info to get me the fuck outta Dodge, so hopefully I'll be leaving any matter of days, but that’s bloody unlikely.