Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The end of the beginning

Remember that dilapidated bunker I moved into so I could be close to my girlfriend? (That's not her pictured, though the age gap would still be less than for most of the mixed race couples over here). The house I optimistically paid four months rent on before I really knew what I was getting into? Well, I only managed one month before the increasing blows to my quality of life got too much and I had to accept that my upbringing and experiences over the past 27 years have given me moderate standards after all.

There are people who would be grateful for a cheap concrete cube with no bathroom, intermittent water and electricity and a menagerie of irrepressible nocturnal beasties, whose circumstances mean they deserve the discount living and who are less likely to be shouted at by kids every bloody time they step outside. They're welcome to it.

But at least I didn't put myself through extreme discomfort for nothing, as by giving my confused girlfriend what she thought she wanted - the chance to help out her family, spend time with me and work alongside me on our sickeningly matching laptops - she finally learned that you can't really balance two entire lives. After getting stressed out by having to look after her sister's store and her sister's kids every day while that sister was somehow allowed to go to work, she chose the life that had me in it.

So on Thursday 18 July 2013, we moved into our first flat together (pictured) in a much nicer part of Davao. Spoiled by air conditioning, an actual bathroom, 24-hour water and electricity, local amenities and security guards reducing the likelihood of me getting kidnapped and held for ransom by terrorists, things are so peachy here, I even forget what country I'm in most of the time. Have you ever deliberately lowered the standards of your life for a while so that afterwards bad things don't seem quite so bad?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hey, Joe!

Case File: X-40253
Subject: Investigation of Psychic Abilities in Citizens of Tibungco
Agent Assigned: Joseph Mulder

Field Report:


Despite countless eyewitness accounts in disparate parts of the world, the existence of so-called 'paranormal' abilities to read people's minds and know their most intimate thoughts have never been conclusively documented. All attempts to demonstrate these abilities in controlled laboratory conditions have conveniently failed to yield results, and discredit has been brought on these claims through the exposing of fraudulent mediums in what conspiracy theorists believe is a campaign to cover up a truth the American people are ill-prepared to comprehend.

I, myself, have never held truck with these tales of the supernatural, having consigned them to the realm of science fiction alongside alien abduction accounts, Sasquatch sightings and the theory of evolution. However, since arriving in the Davao region of the Philippines on an unrelated case, I have observed phenomena that I cannot reasonably deny.

Everywhere I walk in the barrios of Tibungco, complete strangers greet me with calls of 'hey, Joe.' Yet I never told them my name was Joe! A group of school children even shouted 'Amerikano' at me, without having seen my passport or any evidence that I hailed from America. With up to one billion people of European descent representing a white majority in dozens of countries worldwide, how could they tell this from my appearance alone? It could be theorised that news of my visit and my identity was leaked, if not for the final proof, when I headed back to my hotel in Davao City last night and the taxi driver asked if I wanted pussy. I did want pussy! This cannot be coincidence.

I have requested the assistance of a renowned expert in the field of parapsychology, Zlądisław Skülbhęrt, for further investigation into the cause and nature of this phenomenon. Doctor Skülbhęrt arrives in two days, I cannot wait to see his reaction when the locals discern his identity as skilfully as they did mine.


Okay, never mind. Provincial Filipinos are apparently just overly generalising, borderline racist cocks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Things I miss from civilisation

Now I'm living here for the medium-term at least, I guess it's time for another deliberately confrontational Philippines-bashing post, because this is the country in my thoughts and in my face right now, and a few days spent in the heavily regulated comfort of Singapore was enough to make me nostalgic for when I lived in a country that at least pretended to care about its people.

It's not my fault I was spoiled by a first world upbringing that gave me high standards (working class if that's any excuse?) I was lucky enough to have the chance to be successful and make what I wanted of my life, so choosing to end up in a corrupt third world country where people shout at me and demand money all the time would be ridiculous for any other reason than wanting to be near someone who lives here. It isn't even as cheap as you might imagine, especially with the 3,500 pesos required to extend my tourist visa every 59 days or the alternative of taking more expensive connecting flights out and in every 21 days.

I'm making a lot of sacrifices so we can be together, but time and my patience threshold will tell how far this goes. What if we have kids one day? Being conditioned by a country where hungry mouths outnumber food and means, Jackie will obviously want to. Would I want to raise them here, where education standards are slipping from inadequate to terrible, and to give them the burden of being a Filipino citizen when they grow up, looked down on the world over and having their suffering country trashed by spiteful bloggers? It really does help to write these thoughts down.

Here are assorted reasons my phuture in the Philippines would be phrustrating.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The beginning of the end

On 18th June 2013, faced with the unappealing prospect of boarding flights the next morning that he'd been forced into booking by the Philippines' ungenerous immigration requirements, Dave realised he belonged with his girlfriend in her backwards village where adults stare and children shout at him all the time, paid to extend his visa by a few weeks and sent his empty seats on their way to Sumatra. I hope they're enjoying themselves and keeping out of trouble.

It was an expensive gesture, to be sure - not only in terms of the cost of these three uncancellabe flights, but also in the lost potential of blogs slipping away. There will now be no stressful account of taxi scams in Medan, no poor quality vistas of majestic Lake Toba, no disappointing follow-up to Dave's pathetic drug experimentation when he eats a happy herb pizza in Tuk-Tuk and goes to bed early. Make no mistake; Dave made many sacrifices on the day he finally settled down.

Well, sort of settled.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The inevitable Dave in a cave compilation

It was always going to be a useful bit of blog filler during a less active month, but now I've drawn the line this sadly means I can't go in any more caves ever.

Why not make your own compilation of you doing something that rhymes with your name? Because you have a life or something?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Singapore tale

The final leg of our skewed quadropedal journey across continental South-East Asia before heading back to the Philippines (which is the closest place I have to a home now, though the type of unwelcoming home that only lets you stay 21 days before kicking you out again) was five days in $ingapore. Oh hang on, I accidentally pressed shift and 4 then instead of S, I meant $؋GsaoR. I'm implying they like money.

Another former Asian 'home,' I came to-and-fro a few times and got to know this slightly insane island city-state in the summer of 2011 (it's always summer when you're 85 miles from the equator) and had mostly fond memories. Indeed, after Vietnam traffic, Singapore's tyrannical laws made walking along the pavement a much less death-defying experience, and because the solarphobic population tends to lurk beneath the streets in the air conditioned sewer of shopping malls, I don't even have to share these pavements with anyone else.

Thinking about these subterranean consumer vampires put me in the mood to write another story. I ended up writing a different one based around Singapore's best and worst attractions, which you might recognise if you've been following my 'adventures' for a long time. Drags on a bit, doesn't it?

Friday, July 12, 2013

The uncultured show

Malacca is one of South East Asia's more relaxing cities, a place where many tourists drifting without a schedule find themselves spending a lot longer than they intended. Perhaps realising this, Malacca generously provides a variety of cultural distractions to keep these aimless wanderers entertained or at least give them some photo opportunities to keep their blogs ticking over before they finally persuade themselves to head to the costlier climes of Singapore, including the only dedicated museum district I've seen outside of Europe.

It's been a long time since I visited a legitimate museum to actually learn about a country's culture and heritage, rather than being lured by the promise of dead babies in jars or grotesque waxworks. It's still been a long time, as the couple of museums we tried out ended up having bugger all to do with anything Malaysian.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A childish day out again again again again again again again again again again again again again again

We had some time to kill before our return flight from Singapore, and deciding intelligently to not extend our stay in Vietnam or try to fill up 10 days in Singapore itself (unless I just hung out at the ace library again), we worked our way gradually down Malaysia's west coast on the way, stopping in Malacca.

To be honest, this was another city I didn't really need to revisit this lifetime, having been effectively stranded here for three weeks in 2011 while waiting for my bank to send me something they insisted I needed. Fortunately, after a couple of days of compulsory sightseeing I'd elected to spend the remaining time reading the two worthwhile books I was able to scavenge from the worst book shop I've ever seen. It's gone now, and there's a Japanese kitchen supplies shop in its place. Who could have foreseen bankruptcy for retailers of the best-selling The Grange Hill Annual 1984 and The Millennium Bug: How to Survive the Coming Chaos? I'm glad I was able to capture its fleeting glory at least.

That meant there were still loads of local attractions I hadn't got round to seeing last time, and after minimal discussion, funny animals won.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Dark Museum Off

When I started travelling, I considered museums essential destinations. I'd always had a passing interest in ancient history, so the art museums of Florence, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and the charmingly run-down Egyptian Museum in Cairo took me on a fascinating journey backwards through time.

I didn't visit many museums after that, at least not many mainstream ones, as curiosity led me to develop a taste for something more niche. Over the past 18 months, I've made a hobby of tracking down museums that are sometimes sinister, mostly morbid and definitely dark.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Things I didn't like about Vietnam

So it turned out we should have gone with my instincts rather than optimistically giving this country a second chance, and probably shouldn't have gone back to Vietnam after all. There were some things I quite liked (mostly the coffee), but Vietnam really doesn't compare to most of its neighbours when you have to deal with the hassle, comparative cost and other annoyances. It didn't even annoy me in the amusing ways I know you enjoy, it just meant I didn't get up to as much because I was disillusioned with going outside.

I resisted writing this list the first time around, but this time I really need to remind my future self to stop being so bloody forgiving.