Category Archives: Work

Signs ‘o the Times

I work part-time at a service station and understandably one of the major gripes of customers are the rapid, rampant and unpredictable fluctuations in the petrol prices from day to day, week to week. This week’s prices have shot up 15 cents per litre from earlier last week. And, naturally, quite a number of customers have expressed their frustrations at this, and some at the overall cost of living expenses and crippling effects of ever increasing expenses such as utilities, services and produce. One such customer was a South African lady who bemoaned the stifling and upwards cost of living here compared to 10 years ago when she and her husband first emigrated. I agreed that there has been a marked increase in the cost of living in the past decade which has pushed more and more people to the margins, or very precipice of making ends meet. I added that it used to be the case that Australians would go to Europe and complain about the prices, but now the opposite is the case.

Customers often complain of cheaper prices up the road, which understandably is an aggravation, but ultimately is out of my control. We have a separate store of the same chain just two kilometres up the road which more often than not displays different prices. I’d love to reduce the price according to customers’ satisfaction but am bound to wait until the call from head store comes with the appropriate prices. Working on my accord is a guaranteed way to not only get fired within 20 minutes but also face a lawsuit and potential prison time. I’m just not in the position to go that route!

The cost of everyday items in Australia is not incredibly cheap even considering the Aussie dollar is, as of June 21, 92.04 cents against the US – after a significant drop in recent days coinciding with the continual sell-off of Aussie stocks.

But, this all fits into a larger picture. As Australia is undoubtedly still the “lucky country” – just ask Wayne Swan et. al. who regularly state how good we have compared with the rest of the Western world. Which is true to an extent, due to the resources boom (which hasn’t as predicted flowed into other sectors bar rising inflation), Australia is only mildly farked at the moment, whereas the rest of the West – to fairly degrees on the farkness on the scale – range from significantly to completely and utterly. In that clever slight of hand by Australian politicans, self-appointed finance ‘gurus’ and media commentators, they manage to reassure the two-thirds of Australians who are not significantly disadvantaged that all in all things aren’t too bad. Whilst, guilt tripping the of one-third of Australians (and rising) who are doing it tough, living day to day that ‘Australia doesn’t have it bad at all, we don’t have 27.2% unemployment like Spain – suck it up and stop complaining you ingrates!’

And there is an element of truth to that. Australia is not in a great position, that’s true, but it is not YET – and I emphasise the word, yet – in the perilous positions of several nations in western Europe and the big dog itself, the United States of America. That Australia could survive and sustain itself against continual downturn in the rest of the West is fanciful and complete and utter folly. It can’t and it won’t. And the time to ponder the consequences is now as the West is not displaying signs of improvement significant enough to avert an eventual calamity. Here in Australia, having kept the mire at arm’s length for the best part of seven years, we’ll eventually be drawn right in as well should the US indeed collapse and with it an astronomical rise in the price of gold.

To explain the situation much more coherently and intelligently I’ll pass it over to two men with a track record of integrity and knowledge when it comes to finance. They are Ron Paul and Max Keiser.

Ron Paul, talking to Alex Jones’ InfoWars program, states that the US Dollar collapse is imminent and unavoidable, and with it we’ll see an exponential rise in the price of physical gold assets, which will likely be taxed at rates of 90% – lest individuals have resources to sustain themselves. He also discusses the NSA scandal and other privacy leaks.


Max Keiser, standing alongside Stacy Herbert, outside the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland talks with WeAreChange‘s Luke Rudkowski on the G8 talks, the state of the global economy and other issues such as the NSA scandal stating, “We’re living in an open-air prism”.


Another video, I’d like to draw your attention to is also from the gang at WeAreChange, who’ve been doing terrific work as of late. In this video they catch with the man behind the “Don’t tase me, bro!” meme, Andrew Meyer. As you’ll probably remember Meyer was tased doing an ‘open’ dialogue Constitution Day forum with then US President contender, John Kerry, at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

The interview discusses that memorable and pivotal event, its aftermath and his resultant fame, and his current views on a range of topics. Meyer, is a passionate, intelligent and motivated young man who makes quite a few poignant points on the current paradigm and the power that we as individuals and as a collective have in changing the course of the paradigm if we believe it does not fit.


And with that, I’ll leave you with a song from Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. It’s entitled, “Freedom”, and is performed by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton. Remember, if you don’t like the way things stand, you can play a role in helping to change it. And, if you do not currently feel free, burdened by financial concerns and worries over the future, you can do something to bring about a change. To be truly human and thrive – we must have adequate food, shelter and water, but also we desire and deserve – love and freedom! Let’s bring it!


Peace and Love.

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

I get one month’s vacation with my workplace, which is very generous by Korean standards – where many individuals still work six days a week and receive a paltry three days a year vacation on top of public holidays (which when fall on weekends, like last Saturday’s Liberation Day, are canceled out).

So, my work arrangements in terms of vacation time are very good in perspective and nothing to sneeze at, most Australian workers receive about the same, many Europeans receive more, while most North Americans receive less, all in all it’s pretty good.

I took one week off in June and traveled up north to Seoul and Gwangju to visit friends and was planning to take three weeks off round Christmas and head back to Australia. That was until yesterday’s meeting when I was informed by my co-ordinator that there’s a change in protocol in terms of vacations whereby everyone now has to take two weeks in summer, two in winter. As such, I have to take a vacation before the end of August – no much notice, but nothing I’m all that upset about. So, as of yesterday, the good news is I have a week off from 31 August until 4 September, the bad news is I don’t have extra week for the Australian summer, which isn’t all that bad as I should be able to do all I was planning to do in three weeks,in two weeks, and after two weeks the familial ties start to wear a bit anyway due to the prolonged close contact – I love my family but also love my free space.

Last Saturday, I had a meeting with my landlord whereby I extended my contract lease until March and was notified of a change in my address. I used to live in room 901 but now, for reasons unbeknown to me – not that I care to ask anyway – I live in 902. All the change involved was a lifting of my previous 901 sticker on the door outside my apartment with a replacement 902 sticker. I double-checked my contract just to see there wasn’t any funny business involved in the sudden room change which coincides with new tenants in the now 901. But, everything seems legit, my new contract has my new room number on it and as such I can’t foresee any troubles – yet.

One thing I like about Korea, the more she changes the more she stays the same. She keeps you on your toes as everything will be mellow and straight-forward until all of a sudden everything changes overnight. Luckily for me this time, these changes seem relatively minor and doable.

Now, I’ve just gotta somewhere to go and something to do for this unexpected week off in less than two week’s time!

What to do, what to do?

The past few weeks I’ve been pondering my life after October. October is when I’m scheduled to finish up my current position and move on. I love Korea but have found myself increasingly tired of the place and feel the need to move. That said, I’ve mentioned the exact same thing every single year since 2003, and I’m still bloody here! Come November watch this space and see where I’m at  … :)

That said, I do feel the need to move on, to try something new, to broaden my horizons, to take a punt and take a risk as for the last few years I haven’t done that enough and nothing’s worse for me than when I’m treading water as I’m increasingly doing at the moment. Often it takes a lot of courage to move on and that’s one area where I do often settle for what’s comfortable, what’s acceptable, what’s normal, what’s decent – rather than just taking a punt and going out there. If it wasn’t for me taking a punt six years ago, I wouldn’t have ever landed here.

So, I’ve been thinking lately and a big part of me wants to try my hand at China. I’ve always been interested in the land, its people, history, cultures, languages, and traditions; and perhaps it’s time to further acquaint myself with the Middle Kingdom. I’ve started looking online as to the possibilities of teaching and studying at the same time. There are quite a few study programs over there but they are quite pricy and seem to not leave much time for work – if that is indeed possible under the required Visa.

The city I’d most like to study in is Qingdao, which just across the Yellow Sea from Korea. Qingdao’s a fairly interesting and, judging by the photos, beautiful place which came to prominence when it was firstly a German concession at the turn of the 20th century and then consequently, and very controversially, was transferred to Japan along with surrounding Shandong province following the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. This very unpopular decision played a significant part in the May Fourth Movement and subsequent birth of the Chinese Communist Party. The Germans left their mark however with beautiful German colonial architecture still intact and perhaps more importantly, China’s number one beer, Tsingtao.

Another, and more costly, option I’ve been pondering lately is returning home and returning to school to study a Masters of Asian Studies. Having been in East Asia for the last six years I’ve developed a keen interest in the languages, politics, current affairs, histories, cultures and traditions of the nations in this region. Since ANU has the best program in Australia, I’d naturally want to go there but unfortunately they don’t do distance study and as such I’d have to live in Canberra! Though, I think I could manage that, managing my finances while studying there may be more difficult. Perhaps, I should just look at community colleges and programs. Or, gasp get a real job back home!

You gotta love this place sometimes …

I arrive at work at 1pm – today’s my half day – to discover the door’s locked. Just as I’m pushing the door a second time to see if it will magically open,  I hear my name called out and see two of my co-workers running towards me with sheepish grins. They let me in and proceed to tell me that the library’s closed for the day as they’re re-painting. It’s just then that the paint fumes hit me …

I motion towards the door and say “Ah well, see you on Wednesday!”, to which they reply “No, no, stay .. would you like a coffee?”. I figure out at this stage than since I’m here (as everyone forgot to mention anything to ole’ round-eyes as usual), I’ll be expected to stay and bide my time at the computer like most good hard-working white-collar Koreans (Shhh! Please, nobody make any mention of efficiency!).

So, I sit down at my desk and proceed to stream porn finish off my lesson plans for the week. Forty minutes later, it’s time to surf the net and take in some of the industrial strength paint fumes invading the office. I look up at the second-in-charge (and alpha male) of the office at a couple of occasions  to see if it’s alright if I can join the patrons and 80% of staff who ere given the opportunity to take the day off. He doesn’t seem to be budging. I can’t say I blame him though, if I was in his shoes I’d be the same – you not leaving until I’m leaving sucker! The irony is, just last Wednesday when I had dinner with the big boss of my program my only real gripe was the lack of communication on matters that might actually concern us!

Three hours later, several emails, Facebook comments, and thorough browsing of my daily non-NSFW websites, number two leaves and shortly after one of my co-workers says I can go home.

This sort of scenario would probably piss the bejesus out of most expats here and probably would me most times, but today I was feeling really worn out and lethargic from a festive weekend, and resting on my arse surfing the net for three and a half hours was the best tonic I could have asked for. Besides, yesterday was a public holiday here in Korea to honour the March 1st Movement,  but seeing as it fell on a Sunday it was stiff shit in terms of a day off – I’m just happy to see that today was my own little half-holiday.

Cock n’ Bull story to get me to stay that was …

Yesterday, I mentioned the possibility of having to stay on till October or possibly next year if I wish to extend my current contract with Immigration restrictions being cited as the reasoning. Thanks to a kind commentator here, some helpful posters on Dave’s ESL and a phone call to Immigration; my suspicions, or shall I say others’ suspicions – I fell for it hook, line and sinker! – have proved justified as there’s no restrictions at all on how long or short you wish to extend your current contract provided your have the required documentation and fee to do so.

What I experienced yesterday was a cock n’ bull story to get me railroaded into signing another year of my life doing something I’d possibly not want to do! I may not be China, but yesterday I was damn near Shanghai-ed, I tells ya!

Needless to say I’m not incredibly impressed about the lies, manipulation and deceit to get me to do something I ultimately don’t want to do. If the individual in question had been truthful and told that I cannot get an extension for less than one year with this employer, I would have respected them and their decision much more than being fed a healthy of bullshit.

I’m going to play it cool until our next meeting whereby I’ll them know that their story is a crock of shit. This will buy me time to make a firm decision on what to do, where to go next. A big part of me now doesn’t want to extend at all given the lies and deceit that was replaced for truth and integrity in what should be a mature business negotiation. But, hey in Korea, the ends often justify the means!