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Expat Kiwi’s Misadventures in Birmingham – Back in Brum – Part 1

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

Back to Birmingham

I made my way back to Birmingham in a bit of a hurry, funds approaching Zero, no more ability to travel until I replenished my money.

I returned to Orlando’s house and stayed in the spare room, but this time the vibe was different. Orlando’s general mood was much lower, he wasn’t as sparky as before. He was broke, like me, and was looking for a job.

Luckily he had a friend who worked for a job agency and had put him forward for a job in an office, nothing special but still, he would have cash coming in soon.

In a slightly ill-advised ploy to get me a job, Orlando encouraged me to call the same company, saying that his friend in the agency had put me forwards for the job. It didn’t feel like a good idea, but I did it anyway, completely unprepared. I suddenly had a telephone interview, and as this was my first corporate-type interview I had no idea of how to answer the questions. For example, the guy asked me for three words that describe me, and I gave him three physical characteristics… Needless to say, I did not get that job…

Instead, I went around the local pubs and ended up with a bartending job in the Queen’s Head in Mosley Village. This was a very local bar, where very local people went to drink.

The Queen’s Head is probably an entire post in itself, or maybe even a couple of posts.

But for now, let’s stick with the situation in Orlando’s house…

I was broke, Orlando was broke and depressed. It might have been that he had continued to go clubbing and roll pills on a regular basis since I had been on the road, or it might have been for other reasons, it’s not for me to say.

But things didn’t go very well in the house upon my return.

A few factors to consider, some I’m not proud of…

I was so broke that I started to take food from the pantry, from the other housemates. And when I got a little bit of money, I didn’t replace it. That’s how broke I was. For the first time in my life, I was worried about going hungry. Probably I could have just told my hosts that I was flat broke and they would have fed me. But I was also a little bit proud too I guess.

Something else happened with Orlando. While I had been away in Scotland, Carol had come back to stay with him and had told him we’d had sex, which wasn’t true. I wasn’t interested in her and didn’t think she was interested in me either. And even though it wasn’t any of his business, Orlando had an opinion that I shouldn’t have slept with her and didn’t believe me when I said that I hadn’t. It was another strange situation, similar to the boss not believing me about the tips.

What was going on with my lack of believability?

It wasn’t nice being judged by this guy I hardly knew, and it was a little bit worse not being believed by him either.

The last thing I want to confess here is that I was subtly messing with him, I guess to get even.

He had a number of little trinket things at the bottom of the stairs from his loft room, and for some reason, (I still can’t quite explain why) in what was probably the most passive-aggressive things I’ve ever done, every day I would move them just a little bit. Just to fuck with him I guess…

A few weeks later they asked me to leave because the landlord was renting out the spare room. I guessed that I’d also worn out my welcome.

So I found the cheapest place I could afford and made a deal with the landlord to pay the deposit over the next month or so.

 

 

The next part of my misadventures in Birmingham is coming soon!

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The Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 6 – My Travel Companion in India – Part 1

 

In case you missed the previous parts of this series, check out the list of posts in chronological order here.

In several posts about my time in India I’ve mentioned my Travel Companion, but not given any details. This was partly not to interrupt the story of what I was telling at the time, but it was also because #ItsComplicated (remember when that was just about relationships, and not the entire world?).

I figured that to tell as much of the story as possible and to do an honour to my readers, I would do my best to explain this complicated situation…

I have changed names and details of my Companion to protect her identity, mostly because we’re not in touch these days and I haven’t cleared any of this with her. It’s not that I’m going to say anything bad about her, but I guess she should have the choice about being identified or not…

In brief, my travelling companion was my ex-girlfriend. We had planned to travel together in India before we broke up, so had the same itinerary. I found a cheap flight and since we were still on good terms I popped her an email and she ended up on the same flight. We shared a rickshaw from the train station to Chowpatty Bazaar in Delhi and since she’d received a confirmation email for her hotel room and I hadn’t, we decided to share a room for the first night. That turned into spending the next couple of days together in Delhi exploring, and that turned into ‘Where are you going next?’

‘Oh, me too. Shall we travel together’

Which turned into sharing the road for 4 months.

It was great for me to have someone I knew well and trusted. For her, it was great to have someone to pose as her husband, even if it was never going to happen between us.

So how did all of this happen? And what went wrong? Well, let me tell you…

After the 5-year relationship with my Swedish girlfriend had ended, I was adrift for a while, looking for a new partner but not having much luck with dating or with anyone that I was interested in.

These were the days when MySpace ruled the virtual world, around 2002 or 2003. There were a host of other social media networks that are long forgotten, Friendster, Hi-5, Multiply. Facebook hadn’t been invented yet.

I was doing my thing online. MySpace kinds of things. Probably sharing my early-Millenium Trip-Hop DJ mixes. I guess I had a lot of friends on there and I was happy to add new interesting people had reached out. But this was also the time when kids were trying to get to 1000,000 friends. Which to me was straight up stupid, but how wrong I was! These guys were the proto-influencers! I hope that they are rich and happy Thirtysomethings by now.

Anyway, I connected with an interesting looking woman around my age, from Manchester. Her name was Gina. We had similar taste in books and music. We started chatting. She told me that she was coming down to London to meet a friend for the weekend, and if I was going to be in London perhaps we could meet up.

I was living in Brighton (Hove actually) at the time so I took the train up on the Sunday and we met in a Hoxton Bar for a drink and some eats. We chatted for hours, lost in conversation and decided to meet again. First date, successful!

Now I think that it was this time and not the next time that we met, where a friend I often stayed with in London offered to drive us to the station early so she could catch her train.

He dropped us at St Pancras station and I walked her up to the platform. She told me to go back to my friends and she would catch the train, we’d meet again. I don’t remember if this meeting ended with a kiss or not.

I wandered down to my friend and his girlfriend, who were waiting, and was told that her train hadn’t left yet and to go back up to wave her off.

So back up I went, deciding to call her on the way up to tell her that I was coming back.

She didn’t pick up her phone so I wandered around looking for her. I eventually found her in the queue at WH Smiths (a British stationery chain and sweetshop, often found in train stations) she was surprised to see me waiting, as she turned around with a handful of chocolate in her arms, looking rather guilty. I could see her mind racing. ‘Ah, my sister Nora just called me and asked me to bring some chocolate back for her’

‘Ok’ I said, but it didn’t exactly sound right with me.

Anyway, we hung out a bit longer, her train came and she got on it.

A few weeks later, after chatting online some more, I went up to see her in Manchester for the weekend, to meet her friends and her sister.

The weekend went well, we had a good connection and hooked up… This was the beginning of something…

Over time we chatted more and started to make plans.

Her dream was to live in Brighton, where I lived, she hated her job and wanted to leave… I was in a rented place that was too expensive for me to live comfortably.

I was (still) young and naïve so we decided to move in together. She came down a few weekends, we viewed some rental flats, chose one, and we both gave notice in our respective places.

We moved in together and things went well for a while.

But she had moved into my life and left her own. She didn’t find another good job in Brighton and ended up temping in shitty positions that didn’t challenge her. She also only knew my friends so felt more and more isolated.

It also turned out that she had some issues around food, her father, her past boyfriend and some emotional stuff too… I wasn’t mature enough to know how to help. I also made some stupid moves and said stupid things to what I thought were innocent questions, but in retrospect, she was testing me. I was unknowingly tying my own noose.

My standard position was to withdraw, so that’s what I did. I became distant.

While we had lots of good times we were drifting further and further apart.

The beginning of the end was when we decided to take a month-long intensive CELTA course together to become Teachers of English as a Second language.

For some reason, we decided not to tell anyone that we were actually together in a relationship. I don’t remember the reasoning behind this now, but I think it was something like not wanting to influence the teachers in the college unduly. I don’t think this was my idea, but I certainly went along with it.

That course was HARD! For one month we were hardly sleeping while learning to teach, learning grammar (because English people basically don’t know how their own language works!), writing essays and assignments, being continually assessed and just trying to survive… Did I mention that it was HARD!

I remember that I constantly had a dry mouth for the entire month I was on that course. It was so obvious that one of the foreign students in the real-live lessons actually commented on it. I probably should have just chewed gum.

Two or three of the group did not finish the course. I scraped by with a solid PASS in all area… That was enough for me.

In week 3 of the course, some of our classmates were surprised that we were in a relationship… We mumbled something about not wanting to influence people or something…

After the course, we both felt relieved, but I was still being distant. Something had changed. We both managed to land a job at a summer Language School and taught together for the summer. I don’t think I was a very good teacher at that point, but I certainly appreciated the opportunity to teach and earn money in Britain.

The final nail in the coffin for our relationship was when she asked me if I saw us getting married and having kids. My answer was a very insensitive ‘Um, No’

Mostly because I just hadn’t thought that far ahead yet. I wasn’t thinking about marrying anyone at that stage and kids was something grownups had. I hadn’t even done much travelling yet, I certainly wasn’t grown up. Arguably I’m still not, but I’m doing my best now!

That was the last straw for her. She broke up with me. Moved out and went back up north to stay with her sister or her mum.

Several weeks later I received an email that essentially eviscerated me. It laid out in detail all of the ways that I’d hurt and failed her.

I wrote back an apology.

So when I said that we were on good terms, maybe that wasn’t exactly accurate. But I guess the friendship somehow remained?

So anyway, after she dumped me, I contemplated my options. I had a list of places that I wanted to visit. Cuba, Japan, South America, and of course India… I considered how much planning we’d already done around a trip to India, so decided instead of wasting it, I’d still go to India. I found a super cheap flight and since we were still on kinda friendly terms, I sent her an email telling her about it…

That’s how we ended up on the same flight. It was the first time I’d seen her in about 4 months.

It was a chilly first meeting when we saw each other at the airport. Later she walked down the plane to say ‘Hi’ during the flight.

We shared that rickshaw to the first guesthouse and the rest is history…

We actually had a number of enjoyable months travelling together. I don’t regret travelling with her. I am still sorry that I wasn’t the right guy for her and inadvertently hurt her.

How our time together came to an end is another story… She still had one parting shot…

 

Part 7 of the Adventures of Kiwi in India – My Travel Companion in India – PArt 2 – is coming soon!

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Neoliberal Totalitarianism – Poor trump got de-platformed

Neoliberal Totalitarianism - Poor trump got de-platformed

As a Kiwi who has been living abroad for over 20 years, I have become somewhat detached from my homeland. In an attempt to stay connected, or more like reconnect, to New Zealand, I have joined several Reddit subgroups about New Zealand, including my hometown of Hamilton.

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

While, politically, I’m somewhere left of Bernie Sanders and to the right of Gandhi, I have also decided to checkout r/ConservativeKiwi (but not join it) partly to know what Conservative Kiwis are thinking (personally I think Jacinda Ardern is awesome, whether compared to Boris and Donald or not) and also to find out whether there is any madness fermenting and festering in the Rightwing of the New Zealand political spectrum.

Today I happened upon a link to a blog post titled:

‘Neoliberal Totalitarianism’

The post was talking about how bad it was that all of these different tech companies were banning or limiting trump, including, and this is a little bit weird, Tiktok, Spotify and Shopify…

There were questions about whether trump even had accounts on all of these platforms. Some of the other commenters on the thread had a sense of humour and mentioned that trump is ‘Top Tier’ on OnlyFans (basically a porn site, for those that don’t know)

In general, I’m not a fan of cancel culture, but I don’t think it’s Neoliberal Totalitarianism…

Did Johnny Depp deserve to lose his role in the next Fantastic Beast film? I think not. He’s already been financially and publicly punished. And in my opinion, Amber Heard was the abuser in that relationship. Now for serial abusers like Kevin Spacy and Harvey Weinstein on the other hand, that’s a different story.

But I digress…

In this case, trump certainly deserved to be de-platformed from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In recent weeks he has repeatedly questioned and delegitimised the US presidential election and has pretty much encouraged a coup attempt, in addition to the long list of other mental shit that he’s done and posted over the last 4+ years.

So I’m glad that Zuckerberg has finally grown some hair on his nuts.

This article went on to compare tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter with the oppressive regimes of Nazi Germany and the Chinese Communist Party.

Calling out the so-called ‘Tech Tyrants’ of the 21st Century…

‘The logic is to abnormalise violence as much as possible, with the intent of making it unthinkable for any of their victims to use it against them. Neoliberal totalitarianism achieves its power through absolute control of the media matrix’

Abnormalising violence… That seems like a really good thing to me! Hasn’t trump been normalising violence for the last 4 years? And how are you supposed to use violence against a tech company anyway? They exist on our computers and phones and in the cloud. How about you just don’t use them if you don’t like them? You have a choice!

The author went on to say

‘the only major difference between the neoliberal totalitarians of 2020 and the Nazi/Communist totalitarians of 1940 is that today’s tyrants are more subtle’

So both have the same body count though? Yeah, I thought so…

Naturally, my response was the following comment:

Great Article! Comparing a total DICKtator being de-platformed with actual oppressive regimens that killed millions of people! Oh, terrible terrible neoliberals! What has the world come to? Enjoy your avocado on toast…

I’m not quite sure why Avocado on Toast seemed an appropriate retort, but it seems that the writer of this piece has a pretty cushy life, with an absence of violence. My comment got three upvotes compared to the 7 the post got, so I feel like my work was done there.

There is this idea that the media is dishonest and that the tech companies control us and have some deep agenda.

Sure, the media is dishonest. But there is a spectrum of dishonesty, and it’s something that we can actually check up on.

Groundnews is an app that aggregates news from (All?) the different sources and highlights blindspots (news stories that haven’t been covered in one spectrum or the other). I’ve been using the app for at least the whole of 2020, maybe longer. The biggest blind spots I’ve seen have been on the right, with under-reporting of news stories that were not kissing trumps ass. The Centre and Left reported more or less the same stories. The Right didn’t run the stories at all.

Here is an example screenshot of the Blindspot for Left and Right from Groundnews:

Groundnews Blindspot for 2021-01-15
Source: Ground.news

Or on the other hand, where stories weren’t run by the Centre or the Left, but only on the Right. These stories were from a bunch of ‘news outlets’ that I’ve never heard of, that on closer inspection turned out to be some VERY Patriotic American blogs reporting scandalous news stories with PROOF and EVIDENCE of (for example) Election tampering (that later turned out to be baseless). And then I recognised an Outlet in the mix, OAN. One America Network… I wonder why none of the other News Agencies picked this up?

This is not to say that the Left doesn’t have its own blind spots, but to me, it looks much more like a minor media bias than outright deception. When we really look at who is dishonest, it seems to be so much more the Far-Right. But that won’t surprise anyone who isn’t in the Far-Right.

As for the Tech Companies trying to control us and having their deep-state agenda with us… I might be naive, but don’t companies exist to make money?

Isn’t that what Capitalism is all about?

So aren’t those tech companies just about selling us more stuff?

If they are collecting data from my phone, surely it’s so that they can serve me more ads and sell me more shit that I don’t need?

I just don’t believe that there is some global conspiracy to control the population of the planet, a conspiracy that includes Covid-19 and the vaccine, Bill Gates, Hugo Chaves and George Soros…

Aren’t we already controlled? Aren’t we already happily consuming everything that they’re serving up? Haven’t we already made Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world? What else can he want from us?

Although now that I think about it, haven’t most of us been home for most of the last year, watching Prime and shopping on Amazon? Maybe it was Jeff Bezos’ plan all along!

The next instalment of the Musings of an Expat Kiwi is coming soon!

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What’s Wrong with Expat Kiwi?

What's wrong with Expat Kiwi?

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

So what’s the story? What is wrong with Expat Kiwi?

I was born in New Zealand and lived there until 1997. I’ve lived for most of the last 20 years in the UK, with occasional forays into other countries such as Italy, India and Thailand. I recently decided to write about my life and travels abroad, hoping that my insights and experiences might be interesting or helpful to other people, whether from New Zealand or other countries, but I guess that I hope to have a connection with other expat Kiwis.

Oh, did I mention that I consider myself an expat Kiwi too?

To me this term works very well, it’s short, it’s snappy, it’s accurate! I’m also a little bit homesick for New Zealand, but I don’t know if I will ever live there again, my life is now in Greece, with my wife and two cats.

I recently posted in r/NewZealand on Reddit looking for other expat Kiwis who might like to write for my Medium publication Homesick Kiwis. I was surprised by the response from some members on there, that they had an issue with the word ‘expat’. Several people were wondering what I meant, whether I meant Migrant New Zealanders, Kiwis who had left New Zealand, or I guess immigrant New Zealanders. Which doesn’t make any sense to me because then they would have emigrated from somewhere else and wouldn’t be New Zealanders… Unless things have changed that much since I left where anyone who lives in New Zealand now considers themselves a Kiwi?

Image by Bernd Hildebrandt from Pixabay

I tried to explain what I meant, but I was also rate-limited (I couldn’t post freely, I had to wait for 2, 8 or sometimes 14 minutes before I could post) which made it difficult to have a conversation about what the issue was.

Over time, quite a long time, it became clear that the language was the issue, the word expat versus the words migrant/immigrant… Expat seemed to have a strong negative connotation of rich, old white folk

“free to traipse the world living high-quality, guilt-free international lifestyles – but these are ‘expats’, not filthy ‘immigrants’ ” (quoted from u/Mob_King)

But it’s ok for an actual Expat Kiwi…

The complaints seemed to only come from people actually living in New Zealand. Because meanwhile, some actual expats Kiwi contributed wondering what the problem was, stating that they call themselves Kiwi expats all the time.

While I understand the issue that Mob_King raised it did seem kinda dumb that there was such an issue with the use of the word. I do agree that it is mostly higher-skilled white-skinned people that are called, or call themselves, expats, while it is mostly lower-skilled brown-skinned people who are stuck with the label of ‘migrant workers’.

But by the same token, I guess I am a higher-skilled white-skinned person… So the label fits, even though I didn’t make the label.

And do I need to point out that I would not exclude a New Zealander who was lower-skilled, no matter what their skin colour was, that wanted to write for the publication. And I would perhaps even encourage them to call themselves an expat to take the power back!

I am presuming, from some of the comments on the thread that the terms have been misused by New Zealand media and politicians to differential the two groups, causing some discomfort in the general population.

I am only guessing because the more I undertake this process and journey of blogging about my EXPAT life (using the word consciously and forcefully now) I am realising more and more that I am SOOO out of touch with New Zealand as a country.

I left when I was 19 years old. I have only spent a few months back ‘home’ in the intervening 23 years, I have a very outdated idea of the country. I feel like it’s still my country, I feel like that’s where my heart lives, I’m always so happy to return ‘home’ but I only see a few friends and my family, so my actual experience of the country is limited in both time and scope.

Joining a couple of New Zealand based Reddit groups has helped me understand the country a little bit more. I understand that housing prices are ridiculous for the average Kiwi, but I’ve lived in London for such a long time that it’s basically the Norm for me anyway, and even at 43 years of age I still feel miles away from owning my own property, in New Zealand or anywhere else for that matter.

Over the intervening years I feel like I’ve stayed in touch with the country through the music of such bands as Salmonella Dub, before they broke up, then Fat Freddy’s Drop and when I want to rock out, The Datsuns, as well as Kiwi actors like Temuera Morrison, Karl Urban and Martin Henderson (probably no relation) and the output of creatives such as Peter Jackson and more recently Taika Waititi, no list of Kiwi talent is complete without Bret and Jermaine of Flight of the Conchords! All of whom I recommend checking out! (links are for the benefit of those Non-New Zealander readers and the lazy)

But all of this is no substitute for actually living in a country and experiencing the change over 20+ years.

Mob_King from Reddit did like my idea that I could write a blog post about the expat/migrant issue, but I don’t know if he (or she? I guess a Mob King should be a he, right?) would be happy with the way it turned out. However, Mob_King was helpful and mentioned the Coming Home Podcast on The Spin-off which deals with some of the same issues we discussed, but from a quick squizz seems to be largely about the reverse Brain-Drain, that is being called the Brain-Gain. As yet I haven’t had time to listen to it, but I’ve included the link in case your interested.

On a final note, I have an English friend called Nada, (I hope that she won’t mind me using her name) that I met at a Telesales job in Brighton, UK. Nada actually encouraged me to become an English teacher a long time ago!

Anyway, her dream was to live in New Zealand, and she achieved this dream, with her husband and son, living outside of Christchurch, they even bought their dream house.

New Zealand Dream House
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

But they left, for a number of reasons, and I’m inadvertently part of the cause.

The Brain-Drain… Not that I’m so smart or valuable to any country, I’m not a brain surgeon, a rocket scientist or even a computer programmer. I’m an English teacher, and that’s mostly because I was lucky enough to be born in a country where the language is spoken natively with a cute accent.

But I digress.

Her strong impression, I would say conviction, and something that at least partially ruined the dream for her was the general consensus held (not sure by whom, can’t be everybody? Perhaps among older New Zealanders) that, and I quote ‘All of the Good [young] New Zealanders leave, and only the shit ones remain’

Ok, so I might have paraphrased a little bit, but that was the general feeling that she conveyed to me when we caught up in a London pub during one of her brief visits to the UK maybe 10 years ago.

Nada has a tendency not to sugar coat things, she’s pretty blunt in fact, so I don’t know how overt this feeling is in a certain New Zealand population but I can understand how the young Kiwis who chose to stay in their beloved homelands might feel about that extremely unfair label.

As to my reasons for leaving and staying away, I think that deserves a post of its own, which is coming soon!

The next instalment of the Thoughts of an Expat Kiwi is coming soon!

But until then, why not sign up to our newsletter and be informed as soon as the next post is published!

 

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My Under Earning Journey – Part 1

My Under Earning Journey - Part 1

Let me tell you about my Under Earning Journey

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

In the many years since I left New Zealand, I have lived in a good number of cities and countries and done even more jobs than I can remember. All of the jobs that I’ve worked in might make a good post (or series of posts) in itself! Over this time I have come to recognise that I have a wide range of skills and can apply myself to a lot of different types of jobs (but not sales, I’m really bad at doing sales jobs!), that I can become an essential member of a team, and that I can lead my own teams.

I have done everything from Hospitality work, to care work, to office work, to teaching work, to massage work, to running my own businesses to working freelance for other business owners. I have done telesales jobs (I really hate telesales jobs!), bar work, worked as a chef, managed coffee shops and restaurants, been an office manager, done SEO work… Like I said this is a post or series in itself… But I really hate sales jobs!

Anyway, over this time I have earned ok money at times, terrible money at other times, and rarely no money (except in sales jobs!). In 23 years, I have failed to pay off my student loan, in fact, it has more than doubled since I left. A lot of this doubling was from interest and penalties. I managed to get a big chunk of it ‘forgiven’ or ‘written off’, but it’s still double what I started with, and it still didn’t give me a usable qualification!

While this has been happening, I’ve seen my friends have better lifestyles than me, travel more than me, settle down and buy houses and second houses… While I am still more or less broke month to month, no closer to paying off my debts (yes I also have other debts, not just that student loan), I don’t own any property. I don’t have any investments, my laptop is 6 years old and my phone is about the same age… (I’m getting pretty good at replacing batteries now).

I’ve tried to change my destiny and even made a few forays into investing. Like the time I decided I would put £20 into Bitcoins every month. That lasted one month! I used the Bitcoin ATM at the Google Campus in London. It was a bit of a pain in the ass, to be honest. And that was the only time I did it. Then some years later I remembered about it and checked on the value of my 0.2 of a bitcoin and it was worth £2000 at that moment! If only I’ve followed my plan and invested £20 per month for a full year, I’d be looking at a lot more money!

I tried to log into the app to access my new-found wealth. And the app was no longer live on my phone or on the app store… And neither was my 0.2 of a Bitcoin!

I did spend some time trying to track down the founder of the app. The founder had been involved in some stupidly fraudulent activity, been caught and had gone to prison. Bye-bye, forever Bitcoins!

Bitcoin recently passed $40,000 per coin, so my 0.2 of a coin would have been worth $8,000 or £5,900, which just goes to show that I wasn’t completely mad with my idea, I just wasn’t careful enough to look after it.

Be Careful Investing in Bitcoin
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This was a learning experience for me. Always keep your investments secure! Even if they’re only worth £20 at first…

So where am I going with this rather rambling piece of writing?

I am an Under-Earner.

Plain and simple!

Thus Begins my Under Earning Journey

A number of years ago a friend invited me to a group that met in the basement of a church somewhere in the centre of London. It had worn, beige carpet in the hallways and painted plaster walls in the rooms. We all sat in a circle and introduce ourselves. My turn came around, ‘My name is Simon and I’m an Under-earner’

I sat through one meeting, shared honestly, read the literature and thought to myself, ‘Wow, I am an under-earner!’

But instead of turning up to meetings every week for the rest of my life, I figured that I’d just go out and earn more money!

Great plan, of course, but not so simple!

Sooner or later I forgot that I was an under earner, it was just that the economy wasn’t so great, that I hadn’t chosen the best line of work to go into, that my business just needed more tweaking… That I just couldn’t earn enough!

Time passed, we decided to leave the UK, we went to Thailand for 6 months, then to Greece. In Thailand it really wasn’t about working, we had some saving and some income from renting our house in London (well, not OUR house, this was the house we bought in South East London when my wife sold her flat in North West London, so really it was and still is her house, but she agreed to share the money with me for the first two years of our sabbatical).

Once we had settled in Greece I found work teaching English as a foreign language. Greece is one of the cheapest countries in Western (and probably Southern) Europe, but it’s still not Asia-cheap, and the wages in Greece are also some of the worst in Western (and probably Southern) Europe too. So I entered this low-wage cycle yet again.

Over time I moved my teaching work online, but there is an upper limit with online teaching too. I was still not earning enough to really feel comfortable, to pay off my debts, to save and invest money. I still had no plan for ever retiring. It was still some form of living paycheck-to-paycheck.

And then, of course, Covid came along and messed things up. The corporate massage business that I had built up over years and managed to keep running in the UK from afar was suddenly dead in the water. You can’t deliver massage during a pandemic.

But I had taken on a life coach some months prior to this to help me sort my life out, and one day, during our session, she said to me ‘There is a book I want you to read, I think you are an under-earner’

Naturally, I was surprised to hear this, after all, there was a global pandemic raging and I just wasn’t earning enough!

But I also remembered that meeting in the church basement, ‘Under Earners Anonymous’ and knew that she was right.

So I started to read the book. It held a lot of valuable insights and information, but the biggest one for me was the revelation that under-earning is tied to self-worth.

That people who don’t value themselves also don’t expect or demand to be paid their true worth. They will consciously or unconsciously choose to work in jobs or industries that don’t pay very well… Hospitality and catering? Care work? The Caring professions? Hmmm…

I wondered if it had anything to do with me being terrible at commission-based sales work? I was literally the worst-performing member of my team, and I think I only really made a sale when someone took pity on me. I think the company only kept me on because I was a nice guy and basically always turned up and put the hours in.

I didn’t think that I undervalue myself, but the more I read the more I realised it was true. It’s a difficult thing to admit to myself and to write here. But it made sense. I didn’t know ‘why’ I undervalued myself, but the evidence was there that I did. My friends from New Zealand, who had smoked just as much weed as me, had been similarly disinterested in studying, also travelled in their early 20’s, who had partied with me and gone clubbing, had for the large part gone on to get educated and qualified (usually after returning home to New Zealand) had stopped smoking the wacky-backy, gotten real jobs with decent pay and yes you guessed it, bought themselves homes!

Even my brother, who comes from the same parents and had as close as possible to the same upbringing as me, the same unconscious mental programming as me, and nearly smoked as much weed as me… Has gone on to run a successful business and buy a number of properties, and now lives in a massive mansion (by my standards at least) surrounded by windows looking out into the beautiful native bush in West Auckland. While I live in rented accommodation on a Greek island. Ok, so I choose the Greek island over living in West Auckland, but my landlord owns the house and he can take it back easily enough.

So what is my point? I have made choices in my life that lead me to this place. At this time I have a limited income, no savings, no investments (Ok, I started to put a little spare change into cryptocurrencies and a few stocks, but we’re talking a couple of hundred dollars max) no property, and a substantially negative net-worth… (but not as much of a hole as some people might be in).

My values have led me to this point. But values can change, especially once they have been revealed to be detrimental to one’s happiness and success.

So I guess that this is my declaration to the world (and anyone who cares to read) that I’m an under-earner, but hopefully one in recovery!

I will soon be this frog with loads of money!
Image by 🎄Merry Christmas 🎄 from Pixabay

My goal is to not only increase my income and pay off my debts, but to build a plan for retirement, to save, to invest, to own property of my own someday. Ideally in New Zealand (and yes I’ve seen all of the Reddit posts about New Zealand property being stupidly expensive, but I’ve been living in London for most of the last 20 years, so I know what stupidly expensive property looks like!)

How will I achieve these goals? Good question!

I’m still an English teacher, there is still a global pandemic raging.

I have failed at business plenty of times.

Did I tell you how I set up an online facemask shop and only made two sales? Both times I had to refund the customer because of problems with delivery. So I’m officially the only person to NOT make money from selling facemasks during a global pandemic!

I am now spending all of my free time and brain cells writing on a blog about my travel experiences. Not exactly a winning plan is it?

But I am also working on my self-worth, trying to make better decisions about what I spend my money on, budgeting fiercely while trying not to alienate my wife. She comes from a much more monied background than I do and has earned much better than I have in her professional life. This is code for saying that we have very different spending habits and priorities!

Will I succeed? I have no idea! But I hope so. Hope isn’t enough of course, so I am also working towards success!

One way is using the app You Need A Budget, it’s a different way of budgeting. Instead of assigning all of your monthly income to different categories in advance, you assign money by priority as you go through the month, with the most important categories filled first, and the less necessary items fulfilled later. It’s already made a difference in just a few months of using it.

I have also joined a writers group called Ninja Writers. It has a number of different tracks aimed at helping writers become working writers. Of course, I’m still struggling with the idea of being a good enough writer to be paid to write or earning an income from writing, but it’s a start.

I guess this might be a rather long process, but I think I’m going to write about it as I progress down the path. Perhaps my under earning journey might help someone on their path too.

I’ve made a resource list for anyone who is interested:

(and since I’m trying to overcome under-earning, I might put some affiliate links on them to try to earn a little coin)

Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny

YNAB budgeting app

Ninja Writers Club

 

Other books that are meant to be great but I haven’t read yet:

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S Clarson

Money Is My Friend by Phil Laut

Start Late, Finish Rich by David Bach

 

The next part of My Under Earning Journey – is coming soon!

But until then, why not sign up to our newsletter and be informed as soon as the next post is published!

 

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Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 5 – How to become a Bollywood Star

Fanaa movie poster 2006

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

Kajol filming Faana - newspaper clipping 2005
Source: Newspaper clipping from Times of India

We had chosen to stay in Delhi’s colourful Chowpatti bizarre, not much more than a collection of interconnecting alleyways with an open market ‘square’ at its centre.

This was the place to say if you wanted to get a real taste of urban Indian life on the cheap. And the street food was amazing!

It was a bustling hive of activity through the day and into the night. It smelled of freshly cooked food, rotting garbage and piss… Yes, you read that right, at the top of our alleyway was a public urinal… Basically, a place to piss against a wall with a gutter at the base to carry it all away. Charming right!

After catching the wrong train from Delhi, having to catch another train back and ending up back exactly where we started, my travel companion and I stayed in the same guest house for an extra night.

Returning to the guesthouse after grabbing a bite of street food we were approached by an Indian woman wearing the traditional kurta pyjama. She asked us if we would like to be in a Bollywood film the following day.

We were somewhat sceptical, given that India is full of hustlers and scammers, why would this be any different?

‘Do you have a card?’ we asked?

‘No’ she replied

‘You really should have a card’

‘Yes’ she replied

‘Why are you filming in Delhi and not Mumbai?’

‘The film is set partly in Delhi’ she replied

‘Ah, ok…’

‘We’ll pay 1000 Rupees per day and pick you up here tomorrow morning at 7 am, lunch is included’

What have we got to lose? What’s the worst that could happen? We wake up in a bathtub full with ice missing a kidney? Maybe it’ll make a good story someday?

Dutifully, we gathered in the lobby of the guesthouse at 7 am with a group of around 10 other tourists, bleary-eyed and sceptical.

The lady from the previous day soon arrived with a few other people from the production team. We were given a short brief about how the day would proceed and then loaded onto transports. Our scepticism was beginning to turn to interest by this stage.

The first stop was the Red Fort, a historic red fort, as the name implies, which served as the main residence of the Mughal emperors of India from 1648-1857, briefly to the Sikh confederacy in 1783, and later the British empire 1857-1947, and since then to the Indian government (Thank you Wikipedia!).

Our group was ushered through some gates to the site of the filming. We were informed our characters were ‘tourists visiting Delhi’. Shouldn’t be too hard to pull that one off…

The actors arrived on set…

I wasn’t then, nor am I now, the biggest Bollywood fan, but even I’d heard the name Aamir Khan (one of the biggest stars in Hindi film!) but more impressive was his co-star Kajol! A multi-award-winning actress!

Faana - On location, 2005
The Actors on set in Delhi – Photo credit: The author

We did our best being tourists. We were told to walk up to a wall pointing at it as if we were tourists. It was difficult to get into character but I think we pulled it off.

Aamir Khan’s male co-star was a guy called Vrajesh Hirjee, his role seemed to be the film clown (apparently he’s famous for it) and generally hung off two female German tourists.

After a number of takes as tourists and plenty of waiting around it was time for lunch.

While Aamir Khan had his lunch on a special chair in the middle of the set, I found it funny that we were all eating the exact same food as him. I guess it’s less what you eat than how you eat it when you’re one of the biggest stars in India.

After lunch, we changed locations and I was again enlisted for my amazing ability to portray a tourist. This time I was instructed to change into a different t-shirt that I had brought along… None other than my brown Salmonella Dub t-shirt! I was about to make Sal Dub famous in India! I was quite literally beside myself with joy.

In this next shot I was paired with a cute Israeli girl and we walked towards the camera down a kind of corridor behind the main man Aamir Khan.

I was sure that it was a clear shot of New Zealand’s best export (until Fat Freddies Drop and Flight of the Conchords of course).

The filming was soon completed for the day. We were returned to the hotel and actually received the money we had been promised.

1000 Indian Rupees, which at the time was worth roughly 45 rup’s to the US Dollar, so about USD$22.20 for a day of barely working, a visit to the Red Fort and a free lunch… Not bad.

Some of the tourists were required for filming the following day. We weren’t asked back but surprisingly the German girls were… hmmm…

The organiser-lady told us that the film was going to come out in about 6 months and would be called ‘Fanaa’.

Fanaa movie poster 2006
Source: Faana – 2006

I kept my eyes peeled for the release of the film and finally saw that it was in cinemas when I was in South India, staying with an Indian friend in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.

We went to the cinema together to watch my Bollywood movie debut!

The film unfolded well enough, starting with a nice family from Kashmir. Their daughter and her friends would be visiting Delhi as tourists and put on a dance show. The daughter of the family was Kajol, playing a beautiful blind girl. She was wooed by and eventually fell in love with the smooth Delhi tour guide, played by Aamir Khan. They boarded a coach to visit a number of different Delhi sights, soon they were visiting the Red Fort, now was my moment…

There I was, a split second walking through the side of the shot.

‘Did you see me?’ I asked my friend in a hushed yet excited tone.

‘What? I was looking over there’ she pointed NOT at the screen.

Never mind, there was still one more shot of me for sure!

The rest of the first half unfolded like a typical Bollywood story of forbidden love, some dancing, some singing, a little more dancing… You know, the usual… Sadly this film did not have the coveted wet sari scene that is so popular with many Indian Men.

But as happens in many (most?) Bollywood movies, the second half was dramatically different to the first half (but not as weirdly different as Tamil Films!! I think I need to write a separate post about that!).

I don’t want to give spoilers for this 14-year-old movie, just in case you haven’t managed to catch it yet.

But at the midpoint, the tone changed sharply…

There is a terror attack in Delhi, and the terrorist is none other than our happy-go-lucky Tour guide! But now sporting a drastic short, terrorist, haircut! (I believe this is meant to show the passing of time)

I forget quite how the events transpired but he ends up in Kashmir (coincidence? I think not!) on the run in the snow and stumbles upon a house. In this house is… Kajol! With her sight miraculously restored by some pioneering medical breakthrough.

Ok, real spoilers now. Are you ready? Stop reading and watch the 2-hour and 48-minute film before proceeding…

She has a son! And the son has the same name as the father! Rehan. Yes, you guessed it, Aamir’s character!

But Kajol was blind so she doesn’t know what Aamir looks like! Although she knows his voice and she’s touched his face, but never mind about that.

Then it goes a bit like the Shining without the two ghost girls. Lots of running around in the snow. And the baddie dies at the end, of course.

The one thing that really bugged me watching the film wasn’t the actual premise that this seemingly nice guy was a secret terrorist, but that in the middle of Kashmir, in a snowstorm, there was a bunch of yellow bananas on the table in the house. I mean, really!

So although a bit schizophrenic it was an entertaining two-films-in-one.

IMDB gives it a solid 7.2 out of 10. Personally, I enjoyed Aamir Khan’s film, Bang De Basanti, also released in 2006, much more. IMDB gave it an 8.2 and that one point sure makes a big difference!

Band De Basanti means ‘A Generation Awakens’, which might be overselling it a bit, but I recommend the film as a good viewing option.

But what about that second scene, the one where India discovers the joys of Salmonella Dub?

Yes! Not long after the Red Fort scene, well before our Hero is about to undergo a transformation to Anti-hero, before he is contemplating life, death and plastic explosives. In fact, he’s still trying to lay the leading lady. Aamir’s character is walking towards the camera, down a kind of corridor… With two BLURRY people behind him! One can be seen wearing a BLURRY brown t-shirt!

Faana - My Bollywood Debut - That's me on the right - Kiwi in India
Source: Faana – 2006 That’s me on the right, obviously…

I’m so sorry to the members of Salmonella Dub for failing you like this! You could have taken India by storm!

Incidentally, in journalistic integrity, I acquired a copy of the film Faana intent on capturing a screenshot of my Bollywood debut, and to my chagrin found that the entire Red Fort Scene had been cut in the DVD version, leaving two short and blurry shots of me in the Salmonella Dub t-shirt. Oh well, I still had the experience, and the money was useful too.

Faana - My Bollywood Debut - That's me on the right
Source: Faana – 2006 Bonus blurry photo of me…

 

Part 6 of the Adventures of Kiwi in India – My Travel Companion in India – is coming soon!

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Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Part 3 – Back South in a Hurry

In case you missed the previous parts of this series, check them out from the beginning of the story or perhaps the Index of posts will be more helpful?

Go to Dublin for a tour of the Guinness brewery just like all good Expat Kiwis
Image by Leonhard Niederwimmer from Pixabay

At some point, probably the Belfast hostel, I met up with an Australian guy who was also heading south to Dublin. I convinced him to try out hitchhiking (because my funds were getting rather low), which we dutifully tried, and failed at.

After some fruitless hours on the road our thumbs got tired, the day was wearing on, and he convinced me to get a commuter train to Dublin.

I don’t remember much about my Australian travel companion, least of all his name, (maybe it was Kerry or something) except that all of the girls we met fell in love with his eyelashes. None of them thought much of mine.

Upon arriving in Dublin we found a hostel for the night and asked where to get a drink.

We had developed the habit of recognising the arrival in town by having a pint of beer. This might possibly have accounted for some of my unaccounted expenditure.

We asked our hostel hosts where we could get a drink and were directed to the (read with a Dublin accent) ‘Tamperber’ area of Dublin.

Neither of us actually knew what the guy had said, so we wandered the streets asking the various Dubliners we met if they could point us towards the ‘Tamperber’, which luckily seemed to work very well for us and we were motioned in the right direction.

After some walking about we did indeed find the ‘Temple Bar’ area. A vibrant quarter of the old city full of pubs and bars, named after the actual Temple Bar. A small relief was felt by both of us, and we got our first gold star in learning the Dublin accent.

The Temple Bar in Dublin - Not the Tamperber after all! But this Expat Kiwi found it all the same!
Image by Skitterphoto from Pixabay

Once there they wouldn’t let me into a pub because on my jacket sleeve I was wearing a white armband that had been given to me by a friend in Hamilton, Martin Webclaw (occasional member of the NZ-UK group Wendyhouse) before leaving that said ‘Freak Corp’

The idea was a mixture of being a freak, that is outside of society, but also part of a corporation or an army corps, that are very regimented. It was supposed to be some sort of anti-establishment/establishment narrative pinned to an old grey Danish military jacket.

Anyway, the bouncers didn’t like it and the only way that I was going to get into that bar was by removing it.

I had never had a problem with the armband until the bouncer on the door of the pub in the Temple Bar wouldn’t let me in.

I protested that he didn’t even know what it means (for my insolence he could have flattened me right then and there, but he didn’t. Nice chap). His response was that it didn’t matter what it meant, he didn’t have a problem with it, but, he pointed inside, ‘They might’

So, not wanting to have a fight with a drunk Dubliner or a drunk anyone else for that matter, I reluctantly removed the safety pins. And sadly it never made it’s way back onto that jacket, and now both are lost to time.

After I removed the armband I was let into the pub. I had a few drinks. The rest of the night was fairly uneventful.

I don’t remember much more about Dublin than arriving and going to that pub. I’m guessing that the Guinness brewery tour was also on the cards but I have absolutely no recollection of it. Nothing against Dublin, it was a lovely city, from the little that I remember, but my priorities had changed rather abruptly.

I do remember, rather well, that by this time I was flat broke, or very close to it.

[This is a bit of a theme in my life and I’m still dealing with it at the time of writing in 2021. It’s something that I’m writing about, so stay tuned if you have any similar karma in your life]

With my remaining funds, I decided to cut my travels short and find a stable place to make some more money.

Now, it occurred to me that I’d been offered a free bed in Birmingham by Orlando

Which wasn’t far away. I could get a bus from Dublin to the ferry port, catch the ferry to Holyhead in Wales, take another bus through wales to Birmingham, and then get a job…

I had a plan. I guess I cleared it with a phone call to Orlando, and then I was on my way.

I said farewell to my Aussie road buddy and off I went. I didn’t stop in Wales, all I remember is that there were a lot of rocks in front gardens as the coach made its way east to the Midlands…

All I remember about Wales
Image by Howard Walsh from Pixabay

And before I knew it I was beholding the beautiful site of the Bullring centre once again. Then the green of Mosley village greeted me again, and I was in my new home for the next section of my UK experience.

 

Part 4 of Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Back in Brum – is coming soon!

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Adventures of Kiwi in India – Part 4 – Travelling by Bus – Part 2

Travelling by Bus in India and Nepal – Part 2 – 2004-2005

In case you’ve missed any of the growing number of posts on this blog, you can check out the Contents post to find them in some sort of order or chronology and/or organisation by topic or location.

For previous parts of the Adventures of Kiwi in India series, check them out here and here.

Some bus journeys haven’t been so uncomfortable, but ended abruptly, while others seemed too go on forever!

One overnight sleeper coach ride into Delhi was going very well, I had found a way to curl myself up in the seat so I was more or less comfortable and able to sleep, until suddenly I was on the floor squeezed in between seats and my companion had a bleeding mouth from hitting the seat in front of her…

We sat for a while wondering what happened. Some of the other passengers went to the front of the bus to find out what happened…

Eventually, we also went to the front to see what was up…

Our coach had essentially rear-ended the bus in front, and both were pretty badly damaged, so it seemed like there was a big speed difference between them…

The front of our bus was smashed in on one corner and the windshield was completely gone…

A Little bus crash outside Delhi
A Little bus crash outside Delhi

My travel Companion pointed out after some time that there was no sign of our driver… We speculated on whether he had been taken to hospital or dragged into a field by the occupants of the other bus…

We never found out…

After some time it became clear that we were on our own, so we grabbed our backpacks and started the journey into the city by foot, quickly being picked up by a rickshaw and taken to our guesthouse.

Most of these bus journeys were overnight, and it was expected that while they weren’t running to schedule like a Swiss train, that they would turn up more or less on time.

I had spent some time in Nepal renewing my visa and doing a Vipassana meditation retreat, while the country was going through a democratic revolution.

While I was in Kathmandu the population of Nepal were protesting against their King, and he actually stepped down not long afterwards, but there were protests and curfews on a daily basis.

So when I decided to get out by bus, to Darjeeling in India, I knew that it was going to be a long journey. As I border the bus in the morning I asked what time the bus would arrive and they said matter of factly 12 o’clock. Ok, I thought, another overnighter. Fine.

Madmax Bus in India or Nepal - Probably Rajasthan
Madmax Bus in India or Nepal – Probably Rajasthan

We left the city and travelled East to Darjeeling. As is usual in India and Nepal the bus stops at road-side restaurants and markets so that people could eat and have a bathroom break. This happened a few times, but after some hours, as it got dark, the bus stopped in the middle of nowhere and didn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon… I asked what time the bus would arrive and they said ’12 o’clock’.

Ok, I thought, so this is a planned stop, no problem, at 12 o’clock tomorrow I’ll be there and can find a nice, comfortable place to sleep.

I got as comfortable as I could and managed to sleep through most of the night. In the morning the bus started off again, stopping for food at various roadside places and then continuing again. 12 o’clock came and went. Hmmm…

I made some friends on the bus. One guy who didn’t speak English at all, but really liked me, had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen… So big that I felt like he was smiling inside my eyes!

This bus was maybe not in Nepal but perhaps south India
This bus was maybe not in Nepal but perhaps south India

Still, the bus travelled on. And yet again, as it got dark the bus pulled over at the side of the road and didn’t appear to be moving again. I asked again what time the bus would arrive… And again they insisted that the bus would arrive at 12 o’clock… Maybe I was missing something here…

It occurred to me that I hadn’t asked which day it would arrive…

This time we had stopped at a lower altitude and it was much warmer, so we lay on the grass beside the road and slept until the morning.

I decided not to ask when the bus would arrive again. I was in this for the duration. The bus would arrive when the bus arrived. Strap in for the ride and take it easy.

Finally, after three days and two nights in an uncomfortable bus, we finally arrived in Darjeeling. My back was aching and my head was spinning. Darjeeling is at an altitude of 2000 meters. I felt drunk for several days, with everything spinning unless I was focused on one specific thing. I was experiencing a different strange effect of altitude this time!

It took me a few days until I felt ok again. But I found a nice room and a nearby restaurant with lots of tea and food that was easy to eat. I had a good book and I read it until the spinning subsided… Then it was time to explore Darjeeling!

 

Part 5 of Kiwi’s Adventures in India – How to become a Bollywood Star – is coming soon!

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Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Part 2 – Further North!

In case you missed the previous parts of this series, check them out from the beginning of the story or perhaps the Index of posts will be more helpful?

Northward travels in Scotland

While in Edinburgh I decided to have my tongue pierced. I seemed like a really good idea because I wanted to remember my experience in Scotland and I’ve never been one for tattoos.

I’ve never been one for tattoos fora very good reason!

When I was growing up my mother told me rather firmly on a number of occasions that if I ever got a tattoo she would disown me.

This was an extremely effective method because although over the years I looked at tattoos and even consulted a tattoo artist on one or two occasions, I never actually put ink to skin.

Some years later, on her annual pilgrimage to wherever I happened to be living at the time, my mother said ‘Show us your tattoo’

To which I replied, ‘I don’t have any tattoos because you terrorised me about them when I was growing up’

‘Well do you want to see mine?’ was her cheeky reply!

Since then she’s had a number more. Once on a skype call, I noticed something on her wrist so I asked her what it was… ‘Oh, that’s my ovarian cancer ribbon tattoo. But it’s more like the testicular cancer colour, so I’m supporting them too’

And the final time was while holidaying with our Mums in Thailand, she was inspired by the tattoo our travel agent who was booking our boat trips had ‘Live Life, Never Give Up’

He was also a cancer survivor…

But I digress…

To this day I don’t have any tattoos, but I’ve had a number of piercings and my hair has been all sorts of colours and styles… Primarily because piercings can be removed and hair can be cut or coloured, or basically grows out. They’re not permanent modifications, but tattoos are with you for life, and I’ve seen too many ill-thought-out tattoos. (Don’t get me started on facial tattoos!)

So I got my tongue pierced by a cute, gothic-looking Scottish lady in a little piercing parlour (are they parlours?) in Edinburgh.

I thought I was prepared, having had my last meal of a crusty baguette beforehand and equipped with powdered mashed potato and bananas to mash for my subsequent meals…

But my god! What a lot of pain, blood and saliva from such a little hole!

Well, I guess it was a metal bar going right through my tongue, which is a muscle that you use to talk, swallow and eat…

Hmmm…

Saltwater mouth gargles are your friend. But don’t think that mashed bananas are! Even when quite well mashed you still need to chew those guys a fair amount to get them down. So mashed potato it was for much of the next week.

mashed potatoes are your friend when you pierce your tongue
Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

Then it was time to do the tourist thing and take in the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye with the 3-day ‘Haggis Backpackers’ tour.

So I joined a busload of mostly Australians, with a few Americans, Canadians and English mixed in for good measure. And Wow! Scottish people really don’t like the English! I pity the FEBs on that bus (in case you’re wondering. F***ing English B******s)

Our guide was a Scotsman with a dry sense of humour, somewhat resembling either of the Proclaimer brothers, who dubbed himself The Sperm of Satan, I forget for what reason.

His entire patter, other than the actually informative stuff about the Highlands and Scotland in general, revolved around bladder control, how we were missing great monuments and beautiful scenery behind the regular banks of fog and mist that blocked our view and the strange way that he held the microphone against his chin when he was presenting the tour.

Now the scenery in Scotland was magnificent, however, the weather, even in what was supposedly their summer, was atrocious.

Haggis Backpack Tour to the Isle of Skye
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

We did not get scenes like the one above, this was taken by one lucky, or perhaps persistent, photographer.

The microphone on-chin thing was actually a cunning ploy. On the first day of the trip, he told a story about how, on a previous tour, some of his passengers had put mascara on the microphone which had ended up on his chin looking like a goatee and everyone had laughed at him…

So on the second or third day of our trip together I noticed one of the Australian girls on the tour doubled up in her seat with laugher because she had just put mascara on the microphone…

Of course, The Sperm of Satan knew what had just happened, yet dutifully continued with his charade and rubbed that microphone over his chin and spent the rest of the day apparently unaware that he had given himself a mascara goatee.

But really it was all a masterful plan to draw us into his narrative and put mascara on the microphone.

He was certainly a funny guy, and he won that busload of foreigners over in a big way. I had my signed Haggis Backpack Tours t-shirt for a number of years and wore it until the signatures all washed out.

After the tour of the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye, it was time to visit Ireland. I headed to Belfast on the ferry, meeting a cute English University student on the way. She told me the name of the pub where she worked in Belfast and that she was from the East Midlands but wouldn’t elaborate any more than this.

After I settled at a hostel in Belfast I found the pub where she worked and had a drink or two with the locals.

One old Irishman, whose name I still remember as Gus, obviously fancied my chances with the East Midlands girl more than I did, and offered me his bed, with clean sheets, should I happen to get lucky.

I thought he was very kind but also missed the signs, or lack of, even worse than I usually did.

I liked Belfast a lot as a city, it’s where my Grandad John had come from. It has a river through the middle as Hamilton does, and despite the recent ‘Troubles’, it felt strangely familiar.

Image by Irek Marcinkowski from Pixabay

In retrospect I could have stopped and worked a few weeks or a month in a pub job in each place I liked, replenishing or building up some extra cash as I travelled, but this didn’t occur to me at the time and instead, I continued to venture forth on my journey, with ever-dwindling financial reserves.

Before leaving Northern Ireland I continued north to the Giants Causeway, a wonderous natural formation of rocks that grew from the Irish coast in octangular columns of stone. To be fair I thought the giants weren’t that big, but then I’m from New Zealand, where we may not have many people, but some of them are pretty massive!

 

Part 3 of Expat Kiwi’s onward Travels – Back South – is coming soon!

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Scan to Donate Bitcoin to 12hnwu5saP9ePcSJzjzAmXVTCDSUMmpW9G

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Tag/Note:- BTC Wallet
Scan to Donate Ethereum to 0x1591b73757e7e52505ef0877d00edcc3954d8315

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Tag/Note:- ERC20 Wallet

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Tag/Note:- MetaMask Wallet
Scan to Donate Tether to TVYfByaiHTEf2s3MohwJLTRRW4om2cx9Yr

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Tag/Note:- TRC20 Wallet
Scan to Donate Cardano to DdzFFzCqrht3Mg7pqot7NcPfJyCqsTdXhjfRkThkSeC1UiEXtXoaB3gToio9r2MhbgfLo8PnGXTAqbBUQ1buoDGWrpvBxghZVe5C8YWa

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Scan to Donate Xrp to 0x1591b73757e7e52505ef0877d00edcc3954d8315

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Tag/Note:- BEP20 Wallet
Scan to Donate Polkadot to 14iAqyhcpjzRuNZRw9G6xLSrL3w5dx9FCBdQDQbMBeLc6Y3o

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Scan to Donate Binance coin to 0x1591b73757e7e52505ef0877d00edcc3954d8315

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Tag/Note:- BEP20 Wallet
Scan to Donate Litecoin to 0x1591b73757e7e52505ef0877d00edcc3954d8315

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Scan to Donate Stellar to 0x1591b73757e7e52505ef0877d00edcc3954d8315

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Scan to Donate Bitcoin cash to 0x1591b73757e7e52505ef0877d00edcc3954d8315

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Tag/Note:- BEP20 Wallet
Scan to Donate Dogecoin to 0x1591b73757e7e52505ef0877d00edcc3954d8315

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Tag/Note:- BEP20 Wallet