Monday, June 11, 2018

Two Weeks From Salvation

I haven't made it yet but on June 25, my first official payday, I will have gone about half a year without a paycheck. That is something I'll never do again short of retirement or some disastrously long hospital stay.

Now THERE'S a lovely way to open up a post!

Take two: I am two weeks away from getting out of yet another fine mess this ESL madness has landed me in. I certainly couldn't have done it without a lot of patience and help from solid friends and loving family. I said to my Mom in a recent letter I wrote to her, "I think maybe this time, (what is it, my dozenth attempt?), maybe I can make a go of this independence thing.

Now I don't want to give the impression I'm completely out of the woods. No sir, I wouldn't want to give that impression. I'm still not a card carrying alien yet. And the person in charge of setting up my visa run just happily went off on vacation for a month. So I don't even know if he'll be back before my visitor's visa runs out. I might just have to do it myself and put in for a reimbursement. lol

And since the pay periods start and end on the 15ths of months and I started on the 1st, it'll only be a half check at best I'm getting on the 25th. That said, half a check will be enough to get me through the next month. If only I didn't have to get my things delivered from China!!! I hate the first month! You get the least when you need the most. Then in the last month you have all this bonus cash coming when you need it the least. Though I can't say I DISlike it when that happens. It's been a long time...

Anyhoo, I like the job I have! The execs I am teaching are just old buzzards like me. Most are a little bit older. They listen to the music I like, eat the extreme food I like, watch baseball like me, and drink a bit too much like I am wont to do. They have two major differences from me: 1. They have wives and kids. All of them. 2. They have been working for SK hynix for many years and have more money in the bank now than I will ever earn. Do you suppose there's a relation there somewhere?

I am getting settled in here. I did my first week, June 1, and only had two classes. Then last week I had Wednesday off. So I've taught 5 full days. Thing is, I get paid on the 25th, only two weeks away.  And, bonus, Wednesday off this week too! The salary is more than any job I've ever worked in the industry. And if I get an extra class here in there, and I'm told they're coming, I'll be pulling in more than when I was diamond drilling. Well, to be honest, I already AM! Good old Canadian taxes!

Most of the students are different. Some want to learn business terms, some want news articles, some want to improve listening, some want to just maintain their English levels and maybe improve a little. Over the years I've built up a library of books and lessons that can accommodate all of the above. And we'll have some fun while we're at it.

The compound I'm on is quite nice! It has lots of coffee shops, several tennis courts, a gym for basketball, badminton, ping pong, and working out, even a swimming pool and bowling alley! There's a soccer field, two jaegi fields, (that's Korean soccer tennis), two mini soccer fields, a goldfish pond, 3 cafeterias, lots of banks, and some shops. And the buildings where I work all have FANTASTIC bathrooms! No dropping my phone in the squatter or seeing the guy next to me having a smoke and playing Angry Birds while he's blasting out yesterday's noodles. We have those fancy toilets with heated seats, air dry and squirt up the bum if you so desire! And there is always soap and paper towels. I don't even poop at home. I save it for work.

There ARE some drawbacks. Of course. The computer I'm doing this on is a laptop and I haven't yet made the purchase of a keyboard so I have to stop every few lines to delete some words that were written two paragraphs above where they were supposed to be. Dang sensitive mouse pads! Grrrr! My operating system is also in Korean and I have found some useful tips on Youtube on how to change your computer from Korean to English by going to the control panel and selecting the language setting, only both of those are IN Korean, so that's not helping. And every once in a while the internet cable comes out. Or just the slightest bump will disconnect it. It doesn't come right out, just loses connection. So not only do I have to avoid the mouse pad with my sausage finger, I have to type softly. I'll eventually work it out though. I am learning the ctrl key commands. Like ctrl P for print and ctrl S for save. Rather than learn the Korean spots on the page where they might be. And this is not laziness, they are not easy to find.

Also, due to very tight security in the highly competitive semiconductor industry, I can't bring in my external hard drive and put my extensive library of lessons onto this computer. I had to put them on Google Drive and there wasn't quite enough room. But I got most of them on there. I have to cover both camera lenses on my phone and pass my bag through an x-ray machine every time I come or go from the office too. It's like riding transit in China for crying out loud! But at least I don't need to bring my passport.

The dorms will take some getting used to. The worst thing about them is there is no wifi. If I want to play a game or check email or just surf, it costs me data. And I have a limit. 6 Gigs. Sounds like a lot but I've burned through half of it already. You try going without internet. I dare ya! We're hooked, people! It's how they'll bring us down in the end. We'll be following the Pied Wifier as he leads us all like webless lemmings off a cliff. "Must youtube! Need to check email! Facebook! Facebook! Fa...AAAAAGGGHHHHH IHOPETHERE'SINTERNETINTHEAFTERLIFE?" Thud!

The second worst thing is the lack of refrigeration. We have an aircon, couldn't live without that, but there are no fridges. Not in my room, not in the common room, not in the entire dorm. We have one in the office that is shared amongst about 10 teachers but that's not great. Can't really stock that with beer for the weekend, can I? And for a fella who likes to do his own cooking, this is gonna suck.

Thanks to some great supplying of the necessities from my American bootlegging buddies Heather and Mike, I have the clothes I need until my shipment comes in from China. They gave me birthday socks and underwear, new job shirts, welcome back to Korea shorts and polo shirts and I even got a few Christmas garments in there from them. Even Oma and Pap got me a Canadian hat and T shirt. But I have to say it'll be great to get my comfy clothing back. And I got a care package waiting for me from Mom next time I visit Heather and Mike. So everybody's pulled together to take care of me in this time of hardship. But I'm hoping to rebel and start a life of my own at the age of 51.

Crap! Just hammering the John Bonham rambling drum roll from Ramble On and I knocked the internet out. I just have to fiddle with the plug to get it back but then gotta reboot. Wastes time.

HAH! It's a couple days later now and I got a new keyboard from Daiso across the street. 5000 won! Good old cheap Japanese crap! Woohoo! Can you tell the difference? I sure can!

The food situation will only last a couple of weeks. I'm sure I can find a little fridge and there's one burner in the kitchen. I'll make do. But in a small town it's still a bit tough to find all the foods I want. Like for spaghetti sauce I'll have to chop up beef. No ground beef anywhere. But a trip into Seoul or maybe even downtown might be the remedy. I have some scouting around to do. And I can't say I am not excited about that. I love finding the good places in a new town.

But I'm getting closer to stability once again. Salvation comes in many forms. I guess getting a job back here in Korea qualifies for me. And I've been told the contract will be re-evaluated for the new year. If it is not renewed, I'll just have to change again. I hate to say this but most of the experience I've had with Carrot so far makes me wonder how they could land such a big contract in the first place let alone keep it. But I hope things can improve there as well. With luck they will finally figure out my CRC reimbursement two months after it was promised and they will get my visa run organized at the last minute. See what I mean?

But I have hope for this new gig. I always do at the beginning don't I? And so far all that's made for is some fine blog fodder. So stay tuned, there may be more to come.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

No Reply At All

I have received a lot of comments from friends and family lately about how they can't believe the shit I put up with in the overseas ESL life I have manufactured for myself. My sister, Jenn, keeps telling me I should just give it up and move back to Canada. So does my Mom. My friend Jenny says she doesn't know how I put up with the abuse I go through. And when you are broke and unemployed, people see you differently. They look down on you consciously or subconsciously and give you advice that is appreciated, but sometimes a little insulting in its simplicity. Like, "Why don't you come back to Canada and teach in Canadian schools?" My friend Jessica is doing that now. There are some small differences between my friend Jessica and me. For instance, she worked for 10 years straight in Korea and brought home over 60,000 bucks in pension alone, not including her savings over that period. Also, she has a teaching certificate. "People are crying for teachers in North America! You should come back," she advised.

I tried years ago, and I tried years before THAT and years before THAT. Every time it became harder, not easier. I can't even teach ESL in the schools where I taught in Canada before, let alone teach in public schools. Canadian education has become a business and I would have to do over 2 years, probably 3, to get the one-year education certificate I need to teach in Canada. And it now costs 10 times what it cost for a year of Canadian university when I last attended. From 5 grand in 1994 to 50 grand in 2018. I've looked into it. This isn't improving the teaching ability, just making it more expensive and time-consuming for the teachers.

"You should come to Viet Nam! It'd be easy for you to get work here," advised my friend, Dan, who has been working there for a while. He even gave me a few places to apply. I applied and found that they all require Cambridge CELTA certificates. I have an old TESL certificate that cannot be verified by the good people of CELTA, so I am unacceptable in places of employment in the CELTA neighbourhoods. This is the same in Canada with Canada TESL. They are like mafia. They go from school to school and get them to refuse anyone without a CELTA in exchange for not breaking the legs of the teachers they have at their schools currently teaching. Or money, or free practicum teaching, or whatever. It's all just superfluous middlemen insinuating themselves into an industry that was just fine and dandy without them. There is absolutely NO evidence, (or chance), that they have improved teaching ability. Just made it more expensive and time-consuming for the teachers.

"You should put in for work in Azerbaijan! I know a place that is desperate for a teacher! Tell them you are the guy I told them about," my friend, Allen offered. I DID put in for the job and never heard from them even though I had been talked up to them by Allen. This is a common occurrence in the ESL industry. Nobody answers emails unless they feel you can make them money or help them. Even when you CAN make them money or help them, they STILL don't answer sometimes. It has to do with the deterioration of work ethic, professionalism and courtesy in the industry.

Let me give you a great ferinstance: The company I have recently signed on with for a year, Carrot Global Inc., a language company/recruiter, has been quite irresponsible to this point and I see no signs of it ending. When I first had contact with them I was up for a job in Naju at Korea Electric Power Company. KEPCO. I arranged for an interview, bought a 50-dollar train ticket to Naju and had the interview cancelled at the last second. Then a week later had another interview scheduled, bought a train ticket and the interview was cancelled at the last second. Both times I had to return the ticket and lose 5% of what I'd paid. Carrot was nice enough to reimburse me for this, but it was the poor performance from them that cost me this job. Hours before the second interview I was instructed to fill in some forms that had information on them that Carrot had already received. I could have done this at any time during the previous two weeks, but it wasn't thought about until the eleventh hour. Had I dealt with KEPCO directly, I have no doubt I'd be working there now. But because of the ubiquitous recruiters who have shouldered in on the ESL racket here in Korea, mainly for their ability to relieve the clients of the burden of dealing, in English, with the teachers, here I remain, unemployed.

So what they get at recruiting firms are Kyopos who are Koreans who lived in English speaking countries and speak fluently, or people who have learned English through hard study. These people have no problem finding work in Korea. They usually find multiple jobs and work impossible hours thereby diminishing their job performance at all of their jobs. When I say work ethic is suffering, I don't mean willingness to work long hours, I mean ability to handle the hours you work.

Anyway, I kept in touch with the first recruiter and she put me into another job opportunity with Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power also down near Naju. KHNP. They asked me to go to an interview down south but I explained that I'd rather do it in Seoul. Carrot's offices are in Seoul and they have one of these valuable Kyopos working there named Chris, who had lived in Canada for a long time. So they set me up for an interview with Chris. Wouldn't you know it, THAT interview was cancelled too! Last minute. After lots of waiting, I finally had the interview after some more waiting. It went well. They called me in, after a little bit more waiting, to sign contracts. Then they postponed THAT appointment because Chris wasn't available. But we finally got it done. After some more waiting.

At contract signing time I told Chris it would take 2 weeks for me to get my criminal record check. If they needed a certified degree, it was going to take a lot longer because I'd also have to send the original degree, plus a copy, plus a scan of my passport, plus get sealed transcripts sent to the Korean Embassy in Ottawa. So he said, "Okay, I'll find out for sure if we need the stamped degree or not then get back to you tomorrow." This was 21 days before May 14th when KHNP wanted me to start teaching.

So that day I prepared all the documents I needed to send to Ottawa, (I had been fingerprinted the day before because I like to do things in advance). I was prepared to send a scan of my passport, a scan of my degree, and the original if I had to. I heard nothing from anyone at Carrot the next day. Then it was the weekend. Still nothing but I thought Chris probably wasn't working and we'd probably have to wait till Monday to send anything anyway. Monday rolls around. STILL nothing, but I reckoned it was probably because it was a Korean holiday. Labour Day of sorts. Then Tuesday comes and I hear nothing from Chris. I didn't yet have a phone so I borrowed my friend Heather's phone and called him to ask, (as politely as I could), what the fuck was taking so long. He said he'd look into it the next day and get back to me. He DID! And we found that FOR SURE I didn't need the degree. So that was good news, though the six days Chris had wasted would probably have been enough to get the extra documents, but at least, (there's that phrase again), I didn't have to pay the considerable extra money.

So the documents were sent. Five days ago I received word that the fingerprints were submitted to the RCMP in Ottawa. They would take 2-3 working days to make the Criminal Record Check, then submit it to the Korean Embassy where they would take a day or two to "apostille" the thing and give it back. After that it would be sent express mail, (2-3 days), to the offices of Carrot in Kangnam, Seoul. So optimistically thinking, I'll get it at the end of this week. Either today or tomorrow. Pessimistically, I'll get it on the weekend. I can go to Japan Sunday, file for my visa at the Korean embassy there early Monday morning and come back Tuesday. I'll miss two days. Out of a year.

Well, I received word from Chris yesterday that KHNP has decided they don't want me any more. Remember, there's a signed contract here. It's a contract WITH Carrot, but to work FOR KHNP. I asked Chris why they bailed and he said it was the work visa situation. So obviously KHNP was not told that the visa would take two weeks, (probably because of the 6 days Chris had wasted), and they were expecting me there BEFORE the teaching was to begin. To, oh I dunno... get me settled in my house, get me a pass to get into the company, MEET me... Should not have been a problem, but here we are.

I sent an email to two of the Carrot workers who work at the KHNP offices where I would have been teaching asking them not to give up just because I'll miss two days of work. But I have my doubts that my pleas will be appreciated.

I WAS offered another job by Chris, in Ilsan, starting the next day. That would have been impossible but he said that Carrot had something else in Icheon. If that word rings a bell in the ears of a loyal reader, it might be because that is where I had a job with Lincoln International School that was cancelled when their major investor got sent to prison for fraud. Anyway, he says it pays better and starts in June. I told him to send me the details of the offer, but I didn't want to abandon ship on KHNP just yet. He said, "Okay, I have a meeting to go to now, but I'll send that information tomorrow." Tomorrow was yesterday. No information. It's almost noon two days afterward and as yet no information. Are you sensing a pattern here?

The question remains, why the hell DO I put up with this shit? I will answer in cartoon form:

Bear in mind, when I was offered the job with Carrot, I had 4 jobs pending. Victoria U. in Shenyang still says they will hire me for the next semester in Sept. but I told them I won't make it that long so I have taken the job here with Carrot. They understood and said they'd send back my paperwork. No offer to share in the thousand dollar expense for the paperwork, but that's no surprise. I received all my paperwork from them by courier yesterday. If I could get my foreign expert certificate cancelled, we'd just hand that all in and bingo!

The dream contract in Ningbo at the International school still wants me and they are NOW saying the foreign expert certificate doesn't even need to be cancelled to get work there. They were telling me to get it cancelled a month ago. THEY couldn't help me but I needed to cancel it. When I tell them I don't want the job, now I don't need to get it cancelled? Well, that job sounded too good to be true anyway.

I am told that I would be a shoe-in for the job that Donseo University in Busan defunded before I could start it. But that's not until September either. I haven't yet burned that bridge though. We'll see how things pan out with Carrot, or, as I am increasingly paranoid of, if I get ANY work at all from them!

I also have an offer from Saudi Arabia. They interviewed me and were a little sketchy about my TESL asking if it could be verified as a CELTA equivalent or some shit like that. Obviously the CELTA mafia is moving in THERE too. I sent back a reply saying that the interviewer couldn't give me a clear answer about housing and that housing is as important to me as the CELTA shit seems to be to them. That was the big problem with Beijing where I had to live in a hostel and pay over 1200 bucks a month. I actually received another offer from them with an increase in pay to over 4000 American dollars a month. They would take care of visa, relocation, flight, and even give me spending money for the first month. I could be working there NOW if not for the Carrot offer. When I refused, the recruiter told me to keep in touch in case the Carrot thing fell through. I MAY be in touch with him soon...

I am starting to believe the deal with Carrot just might fall through, and mark the fifth contract I've killed recently. Despite email and text message to Chris, he still hasn't sent me the details of the offer he promised to send yesterday. When I received the paperwork from VU, I had to deal with some poor sod at the DHL office who didn't speak English. I'm sorry to sound elitist but at the international shipping department of the German company, DHL, even in Korea, you probably should have some English ability. He sent me an email, all in Korean, saying that they need me to send them some information that they will use to fill out a customs form the purpose of which is to verify that I allow them to use my information at customs to fill out this form.

Luckily, I was able to translate it and get the gist. The form, however, which was not attached to the email, but given in the body of the email, on some Korean program, got completely messed up upon mailing. It didn't matter much anyway, I couldn't make changes to the document as the email. There WAS an attachment, but it was just the DHL logo. Forehead smack!

I just wrote an email saying that I give them permission to use my info for customs and then just listed my passport, SIN, document number, address, phone, absolutely everything I could. It arrived late last night, two days after we started this nonsense. My concern is that the same thing might happen with my criminal record check that I actually NEED. The one coming from the Korean embassy that I need to work for Carrot. That could throw things out of whack and I'd need to miss MORE than the two days of work.

I'll just have to wait and see...

In the mean time, my good buddy, Guns, gave me his old IPhone and I got a month of service for it. Even though Chris knows my number and can now call or text, I still get no reply at all. I've constantly got that song going through my head these days. Genesis - No Reply At All. It's a classic.

*** It may come as no surprise at all that I have still received no reply at all from Carrot and it's now May 14th, the day I was supposed to start work in Nampyeong for KHNP. Since then I have lost all phone ability too. I try to text now or make a phone call and it just says "not sent" or "call ended." This is because the wifi where I am staying either went off completely or was so weak it didn't register on my phone. But I don't think I was doing anything on the phone because I was trying to preserve my calling and data. I got about ten dings while my phone was charging from the telephone company saying my data and calling were all used up. HOW? My phone was charging! Was something running in the background using up my minutes?

Anyway, I sent a text 4 days ago and an email 4 hours ago to Chris saying we need to meet up and discuss what the hell is going on. And... no reply at all...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

At Least I'm Not a Chinese Migrant Worker


Some new shit has come to light. Given the nature of this new shit, it's not just, uh, it might not be just a stupid new immigration rule that's blocking my foreign expert certificate. I'm privy to some new information. My thinking about this case has been all wrong.

Evidently, Diana, the only name I knew the owner of Huasheng by, has a friend named Ms. Zhang Wei who works at the Shanxi Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs. Yeah, the office where my expired foreign expert certificate remains illegally un-cancelled. They're good friends. Like good enough to break the law for one another I guess.

I have her email and have sent her a request to cancel said document but my guess is she won't be hopping to that any time soon. I also tried to send my story along with this person's contact information to a couple of the agencies in China where they are supposed to be looking out for the lowly worker. And when I say that I am embarrassed at how much lowlier than I the lowliest of the lowly migrant workers in China really are. But as an ESL teacher, I still count myself amongst them.

Here's a quote from this article:

"Few would contest the terrible conditions faced by many Chinese workers – especially the 150 million members of the “floating population,” who migrate to urban areas from their poor homes in the countryside. These men, women and children often work without written contracts in dangerous conditions for up to eighteen hours per day and under $100 per month."

And like mine, these salaries are often paid late or not at all. 150 MILLION! It seems the dozen or so workers at Huasheng who were hired and never paid are just a drop in the bucket! This is much more common practice in China that I had thought! I wonder if it's such common practice that these poor girls, (and the two male drivers), who I worked with at Huasheng may have been EXPECTING IT! I don't remember any of them being overly outraged or even having much or anything bad to say about the people who had just ripped them off a month's wages. Maybe they were told that if they complained, there are people in government offices who are friends that will make their prospects for work shrink considerably. The old, "You tell anyone about this and you'll never work in this town again," ploy. 

Anyway, I am from a country where we have labour standards and I wasn't about to let this go. So I did a search. In English. It is NOT easy to find anyone to contact about such things. Presumably because it's a new thing and, as the article describes, corporations, like American ones, who take advantage of this cheap labour, have threatened to "divest" themselves from China if they treat their lowly workers with any dignity. And as the corporations pressure China to keep labour standards abysmal and labour costs exploitatively cheap, they pretend to tisk tisk the human rights violations in China. Our world!

Another quote from the article is what I've been blathering about in the posts about this:

"However, the rights and standards which Beijing writes on paper do not help workers unless they are enforced throughout the country."

The ministry I managed to find whose job it is on paper to ensure transparency, enforce new and reasonable labour laws, and root out and punish corruption is the S.P.P. The Supreme People's Procuraturate! It even SOUNDS powerful but that last word will always be underlined in red squiggly. I don't think it's a word. But never mind, I found their website, which was, simply enough, I went looking for an email where I could inform somebody of my story. It was all in Chinese but there was a letter icon that I thought could be an email link. I clicked on it and got a message that the site was insecure. Hmmmm... this isn't going to be easy. Why would it be? 

After a couple hours of surfing into brick walls, I found a few emails and sent them my story. One for the SPP; one for the office of the new and current Procurator General, Zhang Jun; one for the National People's Congress of China; one for Deng Guangming who is an assistant prosecutor for international cooperation; and the Canadian chamber of commerce in China. All but the last one came back with the message that the email address doesn't exist. 

I've seen a couple stories in my web surfing about the SPP going after politicians and high profile businessmen. I get the feeling that "the people" the REAL people are just small potatoes to these anti-corruption agencies. But you never know, maybe the Chinese chamber of commerce will help me. heh heh heh. Who am I kidding? A Canadian government agency? An international Canadian government agency? I'll get more help from Ms. Zhang Wei herself.  

And as we read the article, it is revealed that the impotence of Chinese labour unions, (whose paychecks are paid by the Chinese companies they represent), will have their leaders fired if they try to force companies to abide by any decent labour laws. The US companies in China do not share the same privilege. They MUST obey the laws of their adopted labour source, I mean slave source, I mean country, thus creating marked advantage within China for Chinese companies. THAT'S why the US corporations are pissed off! They'll have to pay their workers better wages and maybe observe minimal human rights if the new labour laws are introduced. What an outrage! "I mean," say corporations like G.E., Nike, Ford, Microsoft, Dell, "why should we have to raise our workers' wages from 'starvation' all the way up to 'possible survival'?"

Small business seems to think just as little of rule of law in China. The more I find out about China, the more I understand that I was much safer working on an illegal business visa over there. Work visas won't be the way to go until companies obey the laws and there are organizations of enforcement with power enough to gain respect. And who knows when THAT might be.

I hearken back to the first time I tried to quit Huasheng. After my contract was just completely changed for the worst in every way. They actually threatened to have me removed from the country before I could sleep through the night. The second time, when I actually DID quit, they threatened to publish stories about me that would ruin my reputation. The old, "Do what I command or you'll never work in this town again," ploy. I chuckled at the time at the grade school shading being offered by two grown-ass adults:

these two con artists. But now I wonder if in a country so thoroughly mired in corruption, they mightn't have been empty threats. Gives me a little bit of a spinal chill. They don't look like much. They AREN'T much. But with an impotent system of checks and balances, corporate oversight and regulation, the very backbones of a supposedly socialist society, these two dickshits are just soldiers of capitalism run amok. They don't have a care in the world about possible consequences of their despicable business practices toward their employees OR themselves. Oh my GOD Magnum it would be sweet to fine these shitstains or put them out of business or even in jail! But I have limited faith that any of my emails are going to work.

And it seems, according to this article, that I'm about the umpteen millionth in line. Instead of supporting the workers, the virtual slogan of the Chinese Communist Party, people protesting their companies not paying the wages they are owed are being treated like criminals. People who are being ripped off by their companies are going to jail while the company owners who committed the actual crimes are not. This isn't new and it's not new to me so I really shouldn't be all that surprised at what happened on my trip to China. But now I feel like I can share in the Chinese workers' fight. With major corporations, (who are very largely responsible for China's economic boom), threatening to leave if China starts giving a shit about its workers, I don't like their chances, but fingers crossed!

So the companies can pay the slave wages because the government lets them. Then the government says it's going to change, but the companies don't listen and the government doesn't make them listen. So the workers protest and the government beats them and puts them in jail.

I hope the Chinese people win. Meanwhile, I'm not so sure I want to go back there. I'll watch from the safer climes of Saudi Arabia or Russia or some other nation needing English instruction. It'd sure be nice to find something here in Korea!

At any rate, I often feel like a broken record blathering on and on about this travesty and boring my friends to tears. Like back when I broke up with my teenage girlfriend, Kelly. I saw my friends try to support me and get me to stop droning on about it, but I didn't. Then I began seeing people cross the street if they saw me coming and pretend not to see me so as to avoid a stop-and-chat that would undoubtedly include the latest pussyaching about Kelly. I had this really sick Kelly thing! I am sure the friends I'm staying with would rather hear about anything other than my getting Shanghaied in China! And today I got a message from a Chinese friend asking how I'm doing and I started in with this new information. The friend just didn't reply. The online equivalent of saying, "I'm just going to see what's happening over there... somewhere that isn't here."

So hopefully this'll stick a fork in this blog-wise and personally. My blog is my therapy. Putting this out there might help me to let it go. I feel a bit better having millions of Chinese brothers and sisters who have been screwed by their employers too. So in my almost exclusively "at least" world, at least I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Addendum: Shortly after finishing this I got an offer to work in Korea. I hope this works out...

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The ESL Teaching Loophole

Ask a person, any person around you, who their favourite teacher is or was, and you'll probably get a well thought out response. You won't hear, "Hmmm... I don't know," or "I've never thought about that before," or a long pause for contemplation. This is because teachers are tremendously important people in our most formative times of our lives and we all have our favourites. It's something we have talked and thought about before. So go ahead and ask. I'll wait.

Now, ask them why and you'll hear words like "kind," "respectful," "intelligent," "attentive," "caring," "down-to-earth," "trusting," "trustworthy," "honest," "responsible," "organized," "cool," "nice," "friendly," "funny," "patient," a general sprinkling of love, unicorns and rainbows!

Now, find a crooked businessperson, any crooked businessperson, there should be one close at hand. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now ask that scumbag/person the kind of client he/she prefers to screw/do business with and you will hear a familiar list of words.

My point is that the qualities that make us teachers good teachers, the qualities that make people GOOD, are the very qualities that render us vulnerable to assholes in the business of education. And it is more and more a business, don't kid yourself. This is just one article I've read that shows this trend I have been noticing and complaining about for years.

In business, good = stupid. This is a loophole people who head up "schools," or more accurately the education shops of Asia, have been exploiting for years. Take a gander at the following job ad from Korea:

Now let's go beyond the normal discrimination that is allowable by law and common practice here like asking for a recent pic, birth date, actually stating that the person must be young, or old and healthy, (eye roll), religion, skin colour........ sigh. These are just some of the usual pitfalls that come with the job of ESL teacher. OTHER jobs can be worse! I've heard from some of my former flight attendant students that there are "swimsuit" interviews and pinch tests for fat. But a "drunken nation?" I wonder what THAT list looks like.

But let's just try to gauge the character of the business from the ad. Often, the "school" forgets that the teacher might actually have other job opportunities and they could be interviewing to judge the school. They get so cocky and comfortable in this heavily business favouring society, that they are holding all the cards in the interview that they don't even try to hide the assholery! I think the above might be a good example of this.

Now, it's gotta be said that sometimes the "teachers" that come over here are not going to be described with that list we made above. Sometimes teachers do bad things to employers like pulling runners in mid contract and leaving them in the lurch. Not paying their phone or cable bills and going back to their countries. Complaining a lot about cultural differences; not making the effort to learn the language or culture; partying too much; showing up late; taking days off; using sick days; even physical and sexual abuse of the kids. Sometimes the quality of the teacher is questionable. But in general, just like anywhere else, the low quality people end up in the low quality workplaces. At the end of the ad they say this job will likely be gone soon. Act now! This offer will end soon! This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds! ha ha ha.

This could very well be the truth, but what kind of self-respecting person would even apply? You'd have to be pretty much desperate. I mean, 40,000, (well, 32,000 when you remove the "administration fee" whatever THAT might be), is a pretty big carrot. That's about 35 bucks an hour. So there may be some interest, but anyone with the qualities of a good teacher will give this a miss.

The point I want to make here though is I've worked with these people before. Not THESE specifically, but I think many an ESL school/white conversation trafficker in Asia thinks exactly like this, they just aren't, (yet), quite so bold as to put it in their ads. So the trick is to figure out from a few easily fakeable emails and maybe a little phony kindness at an interview if the people you are signing away a full year of your life to aren't the kind of people who wrote the above ad. It ain't easy! I've been trying my whole career over here.

AND let me draw your attention to the visa portion of the ad. This you may not understand, but it's yet another example of a country tilting the playing field in the favour of businesses and businesses taking full advantage of it. This is the big problem I'm having now. You know of the stupid new rule in China that has led to all this unwanted downtime here in Korea. But even since that fiasco, I've had some problems. The problems HERE in Korea are new too.

I'm from the era when we didn't need to get criminal record checks or apostilled copies of our degrees. But I adapted to it. I did those dog tricks many times. And I'm willing to do so again for a good job in the country of Korea where I'm comfortable. But things have changed. As ever, entirely unnecessarily, in favour of the businesses and to the ever-enduring annoyance of the lowly ESL worker.

Lemme give you a ferinstance: I keep on seeing ads like the above for people with F visas. An F-4 visa is one that Korea gives to an ethnic Korean born in another country. These are gold to the hagwons and language schools here. They can give their money to a Korean, (which, let's face it, they would all prefer), but a Korean who grew up speaking English so has no accent and can speak fluently. If it weren't for the Korean preference for WHITE people teaching English, there would be nothing but F-4 "gyopos," (or bananas, (yellow outside and white inside, (I'm not kidding))), or Koreans born in other countries teaching ESL here. The thing is, plenty of people born in English speaking countries are not white. It even gets so silly that people from South Africa, (even the white ones), are not seen as authentic any longer. I have a couple of friends who are as white as I am and confused immigration officers with their South African passports. "How can you be white if you're African?" Yeah, that sort of stuff.

The F-6 is another good one. It's given to a foreigner who may be from an English speaking country, but who is married to a Korean. Oh how I wish I had one! I know some folks with these and it ALMOST makes it worth marrying a Korean. In times of desperation I've considered rushing into a marriage, I dunno, finding a homeless Korean gal who would have me, just so I could get the good jobs here. But then, I've seen ads specifying, "F-series visa preferred, but NOT F-6!"

An F-5 is for a permanent resident of Korea who is not Korean. An egg, (white on the outside and yellow on the inside, (I'm not kidding)), who has pretty much become Korean. The standards are high. You have to speak fluent Korean, listen to K-pop, follow K-dramas, go to singing rooms regularly, eat corn on your pizza, etc., etc.,... Like I said, the standards are high. But THESE guys are the perfect ESL teachers! It's what every Korean ESL school hopes for! And the "schools" are getting so spoiled here, it's what they all expect. So they wait until the very last minute and if they haven't found one, they'll settle for something else. I'll explain later how this screws the rest of us ESL job hunters in Korea.

The E-2 is the usual work visa for a foreigner like me who comes to Korea ready to teach ESL. You need to get a verified criminal record check and copy of your university degree stamped, (apostilled), at a Korean embassy in your country. This was something added in 2010. And if you read my blog from back then you'll learn how big a shit-show it caused here. But since then a couple of new additions to these documents have been added. Now the criminal record check is only good for 6 months. This is nothing but a money grab by somebody because, as explained on my blog before, if you haven't been in your country, you could not have committed a crime there. Korean ESL jobs are almost exclusively one-year contracts, but even though you are finishing a contract and getting a new job without returning to your country, and haven't set foot in it for the entire year, you still have to get one.

There are a few ways to get these documents. One could return to his/her country and do the paperwork there. One could ask someone else to do it for him/her. Or one could get the dox from one of many increasingly expensive document services who do such things. I found a service that was able to get my dox finished and mailed to me in two weeks. This is the fastest I've heard of. And this is where the F-5ers are killing us. You see, ESL "schools" are notorious for doing everything at the last second. They don't want to wait two weeks for a new employee, they want everybody to service them right away without the need for any foresight whatsoever. So now what you have are people asking for workers with F visas OR people who already have the E-2 visa.

How the hell might this work? one might ask. I certainly have been asking for a while! You see, in order to get an E-2 visa, a company needs to sponsor you. That is, a company needs to offer you a job and sign a contract with you. That's the way it's always been and that's the way it still is as far as I have been told. So I had thought it must be for people who are finishing their contracts and want to look for a new job. The paperwork is easier and it saves the company the cost of an oversees flight since the teacher is already here. But since the visas always expire a month or less after the contract expires, it's still a very tight window. Especially if you're applying for one of these jobs that needs a teacher right away. So I don't think that's the case very often.

I have been refused interviews because I didn't already have my E-2 visa. I actually talked to a recruiter here and said that I will get my E-2 after the interview and after I've received a contract. It's the way everybody has to do it, isn't it? The recruiter said, "No sir! No sir! No sir! The teachers should apply for the documents before being interviewed." I said, "Don't then need a sponsor?" "No sir! Not any more." So THEN I asked why one would do this even if one could since if you don't find a job within 6 months, the criminal record check will have expired. The answer was something like, "Well, it's how it's done now." So this got me curious. I searched all over for an organization who could give me some knowledgeable advice on this. It seemed at the very least like Korea was taking advantage of teachers and Canadian document services.

Well you KNOW I found nothing. But I was referred to a Facebook site that informed me that there still must be a sponsor. But I see ads for E-2 workers for two-month long summer camps. I have actually done these too. This IS possible if the sponsor gives permission. But full time, 8-hour-a-day jobs who won't interview you unless you already have the visa documents? This seemed strange. So I asked in that Facebook group if I could get an E-2 visa without a sponsor. The answer was no. And there are absolutely no short-term visas for if a person wanted to work less than a year, at a seasonal camp or something like that even though there are plenty of such short term jobs available. I still don't know the answer but I'm convinced there's something fishy going on here.

At any rate, I applied for a job at Dongseo University and spent over 100,000 won going to an interview in Busan. It went well and I was told by someone in the know that I actually GOT the frigging job... BUT... HR pulled the funding before I could be hired. What the hell is THIS now, Korea? Interviewing people JUST IN CASE?

And the recruiters! These guys didn't exist before. Now it's almost a must to deal with these superfluous entities when job hunting here. I applied for a really good job at Korea Electric Power Company, KEPCO, and had an interview set up and cancelled at the last minute... TWICE! Recruiters are not well known for doing a good job. They're lazy and undependable, but for a business who doesn't want to deal directly with the English teacher, i.e. speak English to them, these recruiters have become the way to go. And they're yet another burden for us ESL job hunters to bear.

SOOOO after many setbacks, at this time I am waiting for an online interview with a company in Saudi Arabia, or a job offer from ANOTHER electric company, Korea Hydro Nuclear Power, for a contract. I think I'll go with whichever of those two is faster. The three really good jobs waiting for me in September will have to be abandoned. I can't wait that long hoping to get some part-time work to tide me over here. It used to be really easy to get stuff like that under the table in Korea but even THAT has gone the way of tiny phones and Dance Dance Revolution here. It had its day, but is now gone.

I'm hoping to stay in Korea but I think the visa papers might cause some concern. As for Saudi, I think I will hate it going 5 1/2 months without bacon, beer or cool weather, but a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. Especially a lowly ESL teacher guy.

So now, maybe that ad will make a bit more sense to you. We are just a step above slime here. Not a single person on OINK, (only in Korea), the website where I saw the above ad, seemed surprised in the least at the sentiments expressed in it. Only a few expressed mild surprise that someone would post it.

And yet I keep looking for a place where teachers, REAL teachers, whose career trajectories are reliant upon the virtues in the list compiled above, are treated with the respect befitting someone better than slime. But it's a loophole I doubt will ever be filled. We're nice, so we're taken advantage of. I wonder who will take advantage of me next...

Monday, April 9, 2018

Easter Movies

That title may be a little bit misleading. The movies I'll be mentioning will not be Easter movies in the traditional sense of those words. But then untraditional is the kind of fella I am. The movies mentioned are going to be movies I've either watched recently or been reminded of during this week when we celebrate the Lord rising from the dead. Rising from the dead will be a theme here. Watch for it.

Like the movie "Coco" I recently watched. Twice. It's a cool movie. The animation was out of this world! The story was predictably Disney but I liked the Mexican spin. I like Mariachi guitar music a lot. The day after I watched it for the first time everybody in my dreams had Spanish accents. Miguel sort of rose from the dead in that movie. Sort of. He visited the dead then came back to the living. The part of that movie that stuck with me was the part about the people fading away into, what?, second death? when they are forgotten. And I thought to myself, "Self, I haven't even died yet and I've been forgotten by a lot of people."

So what, I wondered, could I do to make myself more memorable? I am pretty darn good at blogging so I thought I'd make this my "Remember Me" blog. You'll get that if you watch "Coco." Really, watch it, it's great!

Movie number one: "A Few Good Men." I remember back in the 80's when I first watched that movie kinda feeling a little bit on Jack Nicholson's side. Colonel Jessup. We all know the famous speech. "You can't handle the truth!" But a couple of the things he says after that part are the things that I got thinking about recently. "I have a greater responsibility that you can possibly fathom!" and "All you did today is weaken a nation. That's all you did." I remember thinking the whole conversation between Dawson and Downey about why they were found innocent but still not allowed back into the military. "What did we do wrong? We didn't do anything wrong!" Dawson said. "Yeah we did. We were supposed to fight for the people who couldn't fight for themselves. We were supposed to fight for Willy." Then with the whole salute to Dan Kaffee, (Tom Cruise), as he leaves the room, it almost overhollywooded it to the point of the red nose scene in Patch Adams or the Captain my Captain scene standing on the desks in Dead Poet's Society. But let's concentrate on the not so melodramatic parts of the movie.

I have a great deal of respect for training. And I can relate to how the military can find it useful to have soldiers act without thinking sometimes. I don't know much about the military from experience, but in sports I have learned to stickhandle a puck or ball without looking at it over many hours of hockey playing. In baseball, I can pull an inside pitch or go with an outside pitch even though the ball is coming far too fast to think about doing that. They call it muscle memory in sport. You can't think, you just have to repeat it so many times that it becomes instinctive.

I suppose for the military's purposes, a perfect soldier would be the one who doesn't think, just does. I love the scene in Forrest Gump when he puts the gun together really fast and the sergeant asks why he did it so well and Gump says, "Because you told me to, SERGEANT!" The sergeant is highly impressed and says that Gump might someday become a general if he keeps acting without thinking.

This was not exactly the most accurate statement. The generals are the ones who actually ARE supposed to be doing the thinking. Other officers like Jessup too. And if they give an order, since they are the ones who EARNED the right to do the thinking, the order is NEVER to be questioned. This is the way the military operates. Pretty much all militaries. Is it just me, just my life experience, or is there anyone else out there who thinks this might be giving a far too juicy bone to some dogs and expecting them not to eat it?

I'll give you launch codes and military strategies. You can have secrecy for those since the power to blow the world up about 100 times over really IS a huge responsibility. A self-created responsibility, but a great one nonetheless. So you can have your secrecy and your place above any questioning for those. But when people start abusing this untouchability and they start committing human rights violations like waterboarding, giving "code reds," or other torture; when they start committing moral offenses like tapping phone lines or tracking internet usage; when they start committing crimes like killing innocent people, and expecting them to be covered "under the very blanket" of secrecy that covers things that it makes sense to cover, then, NO, SIR, Colonel Jessup, it's not weakening a country to expose that behavior. It's strengthening it. Furthermore, yours is not a greater responsibility than we can all possibly fathom. We all, and I'm talking about every other human being, have a greater responsibility!

What about a contract? What if you want something you can only really get one place and sign a contract? Like we all did without reading it when we signed up for Facebook. Is it okay for them to say, "Well in the contract, it said you willingly surrender your first born child to Mark Zuckerberg." What if you sign a contract that has a non-disclosure clause in it? THEN is it right for you to tell somebody about things that are just wrong being done at your workplace? This is when WE, the regular people have a responsibility that supersedes or contracts or our jobs or even Colonel Jessup's orders. We have a responsibility to mankind. To the human race. This is one of those deteriorating values and ideals I've been blogging about. Why do you suppose it's deteriorating? Why does it sound corny to even say we all have a responsibility to each other? It shouldn't, but it does.

I believe no order should ever be given, no secrecy agreement should ever be signed, no contract should ever be legally binding without two words, and if these two words are not present, I believe, as the spirit of our law at one time also upheld, that these two words should be implicit. These words are, "within reason." THIS is the responsibility that human beings and only human beings have been trusted with. REASON. And it is a great power we have over all other species. As Spiderman knows, with great power comes great responsibility.

This is one of the best movie scenes ever. It's funny, but nowadays it's also very serious.

 It's from Billy Madison. The movie is a comedy, but sometimes comedians are the people who make us think the most. Doing something good like this has a way of multiplying. In fact, there are those who believe that every good deed has a butterfly effect that reaches everybody directly or indirectly. EVERYBODY! The same is believed for selfish deeds. It's not very hard to imagine. Let's say, for instance, that this guy doesn't kill Billy Madison. Billy doesn't have to go on to cure Cancer to affect the entire human race. He could do unbelievably simple things for other human beings that lead to others and others and others and soon just one act of kindness can blossom into a good deed for 7 billion people! Say they really DO meet for coffee. Then they become friends. Then this guy sees that people can change and doesn't kill the others on his list. Now every good thing those other people do for the rest of their lives to thousands of other people would not have happened if not for this one phone call. They didn't know it, but they were dead. Imagine now that they find out how close they came to death. They are now, (kinda), back from the dead. How GOOD would these people be knowing that every single new day is a gift? Raymond K. Hessel knows.

Remember this scene in Fight Club when Tyler Durdan holds a gun to Raymond K. Hessel's head? I sometimes wish somebody could hold a gun to everybody's head every day. THEN we'd be able to let that which truly does not matter slide. Then we'd all be better people too. And as shitty as the world is now? That's how awesome it would be!

Do you see how the butterfly effect works here? But it works the very same for bad deeds. THIS is a far greater responsibility than any other. And it's being forgotten about. More accurately, it's one of those super important things in all of our lives that we are being distracted from. Strategically distracted.

But who is distracting us from cultivating our collective powers and unleashing our whole person? This is what Leonardo da Vinci reckoned we should all be busying ourselves with. But we're not. WHY not? Because we're too busy and burdened with rules and "musts" that we retreat into our hibernative lives of antisociality. The height of absurdity is that the "social" network, the internet, has become the main substitute for human connection that has lead to this collective social stuntedness.

We all know that playing a game of Minecraft or Call of Duty with strangers, is not the same as going bowling on Wednesday nights. Online friends are ghosts. We are perfectly safe to just barely acknowledge their humanity, and treat them in ways that differ from our social interaction with REAL people. That's why it's called "virtual" reality, not real reality.

The problem I see arising is as people spend more and more time with ghost friends, our social habits, our online quasi-politeness, transfers into the real world. This indefatigably chips away at common sense, common courtesy and the common good. We used to worry about this happening with people who watch too much TV. Internet and phone mentoring are worse. I say that with the inference that media is a strong mentor. TV shaped the way people acted and thought. But the internet and phone interconnectivity are even more powerful in making us good or bad people.

How ironic is that? Real people are taking a back seat to ghost people in developing human beings socially. But this is why one of the most important issue of our lifetimes is happening right now to little or no fanfare. The deterioration of "net neutrality" will take away our chance of using this massive power for good and turn it into a massive power for bad. It has already begun and it's our responsibility to reverse the trends toward the internet being monopolized by the greedy and corrupt. But the greedy and corrupt don't want us to concentrate on that. So they strategically distract us with the meaningless.

In Barack Obama's recent interview on David Letterman's new show he says, "One of the biggest challenges to our democracy is that we don't share a common baseline of facts." He goes on to say that three different people could Google the word "Egypt" and come up with three completely different sets of facts according to the information that has been collected about them. The information we receive on the internet is increasingly being sold and not told to us. This creates divergent information about similar topics that will keep us arguing. The disparate findings on almost anything will have us fighting over politics, world events, the environment, science, religion, if toilet paper should go over or under and it divides instead of uniting. It blunts the possibility of a more united world.

This is the issue with the Zuckerberg hearings to my understanding. Yes, we all "agreed" to the contract so we could play Words With Friends with our friends, but does that give Zuckerberg the right to do whatever he wants? Shouldn't it say, even in the Zuckerberg contract, WITHIN REASON? I mean, what if some stupid moron Messengers launch codes to someone else. ACCURATE launch codes! Does Zuckerberg have the right to sell them to the highest bidder? Then we'd have people hacking into computers and launching American nukes. Does anybody think that's okay because, hey, somebody signed a contract. You can write a thousand dollar bonus into a contract like the one for Facebook and nobody will collect it. It's been proven. But because of this contract we all signed without reading, Google, Facebook and other sites will direct me to a whole different set of facts than somebody else. I want ALL the facts, not just the ones some algorithms have decided I should be fed. So how do we regulate all this? By using the common sense and reason that only we possess.

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is being remade! 

The original Bill & Ted might have the best line in a movie ever. "Be excellent to each other!" I bet it's no coincidence that George Carlin was in it. I wonder if it was George, the central figure in my personal comedian Mt. Rushmore, that inspired that philosophical gem. This line is the bottom line, folks! And we're just not being excellent to each other. If we were more excellent to each other, there'd be no thought put into coming to the aid of those who can't help themselves. It would be our responsibility and it would be understood. We wouldn't need it to be forced into us at gunpoint like Raymond K. Hessel. If we were all excellent to each other on a daily basis, we'd be reminded on a daily basis of how important and self-perpetualizing it can be.

But I can hear people now saying, "Yeah and if we ever got to that point, SOMEBODY would take advantage of all the love and kindness, exploit people and get rich off it." Well, that is what has happened, isn't it? It's what we are reminded of on a daily basis and what is self-perpetualizing. It's what has driven us into our defensive, protective, untrusting, competitive, secretive, basically paranoid states of mind and what has got us into this mess we're in right now.

So the solution is very simple: we use our reason to find those people who will take advantage of other people's kindness for selfish reasons and eliminate them from society. Jails are everywhere but these people are not in them. These people are running industry, banks and politics. The selfishness that is ruining the world has become a virtue. That is what we need to change.

Leastaways, that's what I reckon.

Post script: I'm looking forward to reading "The Common Good" by Robert Reich because I think he might reckon so too.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe

Here's a good article.

It's good news! China's air is getting better since it declared war on pollution four years ago. And any Chinese person over 4 years old right now is going, "Yep." Like Michael Jordan.

While I have seen Chinese efforts to clean up their air and I don't want to discount them, I lived in the coal capital of the world over there so I wonder how many years THAT cost me. But imagine Chinese people! In some places, a few years of responsible environmentalism has added 5.5 years to their lives! Ohhh, great! But.... um.... how many years did we LOSE in the time before that? Makes you wonder at the price paid by many for the advancement of the few. I read an article that calculated pollution in China to cost the citizens an aggregate 2.5 billion years of life. While that's just silly, when compared to the advancement of the economy, and more to the point, the average wealth of the average person, would they say it's worth it? 

Long life is something that may be treasured more in China than anywhere else. The Chinese sometimes wish a friend, "chang ming bai sui," which means, "may you live 100 years." Or, "shou bi nan san," which means, "may you live as long as Nan mountain." A huge amount of Chinese medicine, and Chinese fake medicine, is said to promote longevity. Where I lived, people seemed to eat noodles at almost every meal. Longevity noodles are actually believed to extend life. NEVER cut or break them. Long noodles=long life.

In 1862 in China, a Cholera plague broke out that, at its height, killed 3000 people a day. It didn't affect the south, and since the southern Chinese had a habit of drinking hot water, it was credited with their surviving the plague. Also, the purification effects of boiling water have lead to Chinese Communist Party slogans like, "Children should cultivate a habit of drinking boiled water 3 times a day." Today hot water is accessible to every Chinese citizen at all times. Almost everyone carries a thermos of it. Outside the hot water tap at TUST where I worked there were hundreds of thermoses and every restaurant, apartment or public place has a couple of them. Supermarkets have entire aisles of different sized and coloured thermoses.

They are so obsessed with life-extending hot water that it is sometimes hard to get a cold drink. They even drink Coke and beer warm!!!

The Chinese are religious early risers too. It is believed to promote long life. And what do they do with the extra time that gives? Why, they do some early morning breathing, moving or dancing in the park. Chinese believe in disciplined breathing and movement being a key to longevity as well. 

So with so many things being done with the intent to extend their lives, it makes you wonder what they could be even MORE obsessed with that would lead them to poison their air so badly in the first place. Well, as always, the answer is money. I can't speak for the average Chinese person, but I've lived in China and breathed the Chinese air and I can tell you I would have to be pretty frickin' wealthy for a lifetime of THAT air to be worth it! But it appears that most citizens believe that it has been.

Here's a picture of Korea today:

That's not something from a magazine or TV, it was taken by a friend of mine. This is what they call, "fine particulate matter," in the air today. This kind of weather or air is often thought by Koreans to be the fault of China. But the article clearly states that statements like 80% of the bad air in Korea is caused by other countries, mostly China, are now known to be highly exaggerated. But, as everyone who visits Korea for a lengthy period of time can attest, an issue doesn't have to be real and accurate to thoroughly piss Koreans off.


So here I sit, having been breathing Korean and Chinese air for the better part of 15 years, wondering how many of my days have been sacrificed for their cause. I've had some great experiences over here, but has it been worth the loss of life? And this is to say nothing of the constant corruption, deceit and graft that has eaten away at me mentally. Now, granted, the years I'll lose will come off the END of my life. At least, (here I go again with my "at leasting"), they didn't come off the part of my life when I was actually enjoying it. They'll come off the part of my life when I'll be falling and breaking my hip, losing my teeth, my mind and my constitution, and having no fun at all. So that's okay, I guess. But I reckon I don't prize long life as much as the Chinese. I wonder how THEY feel about this.

Well, here's a good article about that. Don't just read the first part, read the reply by the Chinese guy, Lu Fei. He says that the people of Beijing are not THAT in love with money. I would be inclined to agree with him. I don't think the average citizen of any country I've experienced is in love with money to the extent of the Chinese, but I STILL don't think they're so self-destructive about it. It's just the few people in charge. As it always is.  

I am still being blocked by a corrupt, greedy employer, and a corrupt, absurd visa rule from getting any work in China. I've been offered the best job ever, by far, for September too. But that 45 grand a year depends on the cancellation of an expired document. I won't be too depressed if I can't eventually cancel my Foreign Expert Certificate and get another job, (legally), in China. The fact that this situation actually exists just shows the incivility of the country. Actually changing laws to enable, nay, encourage illegal behavior by corrupt businesses, and offering no public recourse, are both actions of an uncivilized nation. Polluting the air to benefit the few at the expense of many would also qualify.

But, AT LEAST they might be getting better. In the area of pollution anyway...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Losing Ideals

I'm sitting around thinking, (cuz I have plenty of time to do that), about how things have gotten to this point in my life and in life all over. Are the bad guys winning? I think they are! And it does me no good to blame it on one person, like the owner of Huasheng, or the soulless skunk of a human being who seems to be running her business for her.

On the left is the choad who I have only ever known as Mr. Liu. Never told me his name. I suppose in HIS world I was too far beneath him to address him in anything but a formal manner. Diana, the owner, never told me HER name either. They both make a living cheating other people. At the meeting we had when I took this picture they were telling me how they were interested in having a long term business relationship with me. To that point I had paid for 4 visa runs and all of my rent. They were contractually obligated, (and had promised verbally), to reimburse me at least in part for both. This was just days before they agreed to give me exactly NO reimbursement for either. So of COURSE they wanted a long term business relationship with me! When you find somebody who will do most of the work while you collect most of the money, you wanna hang on to that person. Especially if you can cheat him out of even more of the meagre share of the profits he works for!

These two products of social destruction regularly hire young, innocent girls, most of whom haven't had much experience in the workforce of China, all of whom have studied hard and probably paid lots of money to get an education and improve their English so that it is good enough to deal with a foreign worker, like me, who doesn't speak Chinese. They work with me for about a month, helping me with problems I may have in China. None are work problems, mind you, just problems with government offices, legal documents, contracts, banking, renting, and anything else that, (probably BECAUSE it is all crooked), comes with mountains of ostensibly legitimizing paperwork. It is, in a word, a shit job. And they don't even get to do it in their own language! At the end of their month of work, the WELL EARNED paycheck they've been enduring all the crap for doesn't come. They ask these two con artists pictured above what the hell is going on and probably they keep them hanging on for a few more days stating computer or banking difficulties as the reason they haven't been paid. But soon, just like the hundred before them, every one of these workers realizes they aren't going to be paid. So a month or more of work, hard work, is wasted. And these girls aren't promised a great deal of money to begin with. To cheat them out of the little they expect, and continuously hire new girls, lie to them, then stiff them, this is something that only a morally bankrupt person can do. And they not only do it, they sleep well at nights. Probably brag to their friends about it.

Then they screw me on the contract they signed, rob me of thousands of dollars, block me from getting tens of thousands more, and they have a nice dinner and probably brag to their friends about it. Is this what passes for "honour" nowadays in China? Is this savvy business? Is this why we shake business people's manicured hands and kiss their Armani covered asses? For perfecting the art of greed? For overcoming innate measures of ethics? For upsetting the social compact, exploiting their brother and sisters' efforts at good, for personal gain?

I must have just had some bad luck, right? It can't be that bad. Not everybody successful lies and cheats like this. Well let's look at another example. Where should we look? Hmmm... how about the richest country in the world? The one that has been setting business and social trends for decades now and probably has the premier example of what I'm talking about LEADING the entire country right now. Let's look at King Donny Trump. He's a caricature of a man who proves almost daily that a person doesn't need to be smart to fit into the trends of despicable business and anti-morality nowadays, in fact it probably helps to be stupid.

He grabs women by their pussies, congratulates a despot on winning another sham election, enjoys defaulting on huge bank loans, makes fun of the handicapped, cheats on his taxes and his wives, thinks trade wars are good, hates people from "shithole" countries and, let's face it, wants everyone to be a little more Norwegian, fires the good, hires the bad, and probably could shoot someone in the middle of 5th avenue and get away with it. THIS is the new Teflon Don, folks. Nothing sticks to him. And he is in bed with another example of the moral depravity that we have elevated to a virtue in this world of ours. Putin is probably the richest man in the world and he didn't get that way by being a nice guy. He clearly has no conscience about cheating in every Olympics since Vancouver and it is most likely worse when it comes to ruling over Russia. He's the only guy Trump can borrow from any more and we will find that out if Mueller ever finishes his investigation. But will he?

It won't be easy to get rid of Mueller, but many think Trump will try. As I've summed up before, he has to get the attorney general to do it and he, inexplicably, has recused himself from all of the Russian nonsense. Oh, is that how it works in our world now? The most powerful lawmaker in a country can CHOOSE to not participate in the parts of his job that he doesn't like, no matter how important? Anyway, the assistant attorney general, on a weekly basis, says that by law there must be a good reason for excusing Mueller and he can't find one. So Trump will have to either fire the assistant attorney general and then I think the solicitor general, and then on down the line till he gets someone who will fire Mueller, or just retract the legislation that requires a good reason to fire him. If you think this hasn't happened before, you'd be wrong. Nixon fired two people to get to a man who would fire the lead investigator into the Watergate affair. All it did was make him look even guiltier. But, this is our brave, new world! If Trump does something similar to Nixon, would he get away with that too? We just might see!

And if all of this happens, before you shake your head and say, "How the hell can this happen?" this is NOT something that just came out of left field. It's been developing for decades. Do yourself a favour and give this a listen.

Trump, and I dare say Mr. Liu and Diana, are not the causes of the craziness in our world today, they are the products of a steady decline in morality, ethics and ideals practically worldwide. I remember along with Robert Reich and many people, the days when it seemed like folks in your neighbourhood, your school, your workplace, your country, were all working together for a common good. Something we don't need to be told from a lectern or a pulpit is good, we just KNOW it's good. And it is good that transcends any social, sexual, racial, religious, or national boundaries. It is what has been termed, "common sense." In the Bible it is said that God has given everyone a measure of faith so that we don't think of ourselves more highly than we ought. The Koran says that God has endowed man with an up-right nature. Buddhists search for that which is found through observation and analysis to be conducive to the good of one and all.

There are statements of ethical reciprocity, (the golden rule), in dozens of religions, and without being dramatic at all, if you can't figure it out for yourself, you are a cancer plaguing the planet. This "cancer" has reached epidemic proportions. We are voluntarily infecting ourselves and other people with it like it's some sort of virtue. Since long before Gordon Gecko said that greed was good, people have been changing from co-operative, sharing citizens to selfish, competitive arseholes and if you think it's been natural, you're ignorant. A lot of the politics, laws and societal agencies that have been orchestrating this shift since the 50's or 60's are outlined by Reich and we all know many more. In a very Big Brother sort of way, the shift has been successfully achieved and in a very real, Orwellian way, "Ignorance is power."

Until recently, I didn't know Jim Carrey was an artist. But he may have painted exactly the ugliness I'm talking about.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is making a career out of lying. She is not an empirically ugly woman but the lies that drip like boiling acid from her prevaricating gob make her hideousness shine through so that I see what Carrey sees. Worse in fact. Some republicans were whining about how this portrait may have gone a little too far. I think Jim Carrey let her off easy. Her eyes COULD have been dollar signs!

Try to make it through this gem without throwing up. You NEED to be ignorant to fall for it. Yet, people do.

We are constantly being distracted by divisive lies about tertiary issues so that the evil rich can maintain and increase their empires. On the backs of the ignorant and submissive. We need to stop being submissive and demand a change from our world, but I don't think we can really do that until we become the change we want. Reich says he's heartened by protesting kids. I don't really share that optimism. While it IS nice to see kids forcing adults to act like adults, charity begins at home. How many of those marching kids made their beds or did their chores? How many of them are in total control of their households and take advantage of their parents' love for them for their own gain? This is another breakdown in the social compact that has been sold to us over the same amount of time. Kids are brats! And they're learning the manipulation at home that will make them successful manipulators, (liars, cheaters and thieves), in the messed up world.

I'm glad to see the kids marching against gun violence and asking adults to change things to make it safer for them in schools, and I am not saying this should not be done. But how about investigating the very real issue of the kids running the schools as well? Teachers aren't paid enough to get involved with bullying issues in schools and when it comes down to it, prayer meetings and group hugs may not be the best approach to every bully. I know the argument that you shouldn't hit somebody and tell them not to hit, but it IS a very good object lesson for a kid to know what it feels like to catch a beating. It worked for me!

Maybe if this were brought back into the mix, the prayer meetings and group hugs might be more effective. Just a thought. Anyone who uses pepper spray and works for the RCMP has to be shot in the face with pepper spray. Why? Obviously, it is a good teaching aid for a cop or prison guard to know what it feels like before he/she is given the power to use it. That's why when I got whacked in the head by a wooden spoon for fighting with my brother and my Mother said, "Do you like that? Huh? Do you want another?" I didn't think of the irony of her hitting me because I hit my brother, I was thinking of how much it sucked and how desperately I wanted it to stop. Afterwards I was thinking how good it felt when she stopped whacking me with the wooden spoon. With a little psychology employed, like saying, "See, this is how you made your brother feel," she was able to get her point across very well. And my Mom was not Sigmund Freud.

How many kids in these school protests are being assholes to other kids in their schools? How many are actually bullying other kids. Certainly they don't deserve to be mowed down by machine gun fire, but safety in schools can be improved a great deal, I think, by recognizing bullying, both physical and psychological, and limiting it. I was bullied and I totally relate to some victims' feelings of isolation and exclusion. I never considered suicide or murder, but I was brought closer to it by my asshole classmates who called me stinky and quickly brushed off any part of their body I may have touched. These were mostly girls, mind you. But even though the boys liked me and I was a good addition to the sports, they were too scared to befriend me.

Now, imagine if I saw these girls, or even the boys, protesting against gun violence while they perpetrate psychological and social violence on me every day. So here's what I'm saying. Do both. Walk out, but also walk UP to somebody and be their friend. And, parents, beat your kids like a Baltimore biatch from time to time. Whether they need it or not, they could use the object lesson.

Parents have gone from this:

To this:

I just bet "Mr. Liu" and "Diana" ran THEIR households and were bratty kids. They went from selfishly disobeying their parents to selfishly disobeying the proper conduct that parents ALL try to instill in their children. I hope their own children do the same to them.

At any rate, I wish it WERE more shocking to me to see the rise of evil accelerating, but it's not too hard to pinpoint the causes. It certainly isn't as hard as it will be to rectify them. If they ever get rectified at all. I rarely disagree with Robert Reich but we are divergent on whether there is hope to achieve this. I sure hope he's right and I'm wrong!