Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tips for moving internationally

You have decided to become an expat, congratulations. Welcome to a world of not understanding other people, haggling for basic items, and treating life like an adventure.
It is fun, anxiety inducing, and really forces you to stay on your toes. A week after I moved to Thailand, I was thrilled to death because I had figured out how to ask for ten baht coins and do laundry all on my own - something I had been doing for 15 years at that point. 
You really do learn to celebrate the little things. 
Here is a list of things I wish I had known before I moved to a new country. Some of these might be more "Asia Specific" but I am sure you can take it as a jumping off point...
1. Bring an original and photo-copy of literally every single document you have. Bank statements, doctors notes, everything. 
I have been asked for the following over the course of the year.
A. Diploma
B. Marriage certificate
C. Bank statement
D. Health check (each country has things they want to know)
E. Passport copies
F. Criminal background check
G. Resume
H. Transcript
Etc. literally everything you have that proves you are... you... should be brought. You think it is hard to get a copy of your diploma a few cities away? Try 10 time zones. 
2. Get every single item notarized, preferably at the consulate or location of origin. Just do it. Don't ask why. 
3. Buy area specific products. Some things like deodorant are very area specific. I sweat, especially in the tropics. The bullshit spray on deodorant does next to nothing. My armpits and the noses of others survive on people taking pity on me and mailing me deodorant. Bring a damn Costco case with you. The same goes with underwear. Just trust me, bring underwear. Lots of it. 
3a. Tampons - my wife said tampons. Adding that. Just trust her on it.
4. Medicine. Certain meds can be quite difficult to get your hands on, while others are cheap. Get on an expat forum and find out which category yours falls into. 
5. Pack very light. You can buy all that bullshit when you get to your new location. 
6. Depending on your location, consider a suitcase with wheels. Not all infrastructure is created equally. Honestly for travel I like a frame pack because the sidewalks can be quite shitty but that does cause you to appear to be in the 20-something age category.
7. Cosmetics - Asia is obsessed with skin whiteners. Literally everything will whiten your skin. Bring your own sunscreen as well unless you want to whiten your skin with local brands.
8. Asia has Asian sized clothes. If you are bigger or taller, bring your own stuff. You won't find your size here.
9. Leave your ideas of women's liberation, child labor, PETA  etc at home. It is different here and you will only insult the people you are "trying to save." 
10. Do not ever get involved or say anything political. You do not have freedom of speech. You opinion does not
matter and is not needed. No one cares how you do it at home. Leave it there. Don't say stupid political things when you are drunk - learn to take your opinions on matters and bury them down in a place you do tell anyone about. 
Number 10 is a big issues. I have so many people who say that they "get it" when I tell them about how they need to respect certain political and social structures in their speech and writing and them break it five minutes later. It just comes down to not being an idiot and thinking before you speak. If you cannot do either, you really don't belong abroad. Stay home, please. 
These are just a few, but they should make the move easier. Good luck and have fun exploring! 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Hong Kong Visa Run

Due to an internal issue at the school I was working at, I was forced to make a VISA run.  For those of you not in the loop as to what this "VISA run" means, the idea is quite simple.  First, you have to leave a country, usually for at least a day, and then you come back into said country under a different VISA.  I had the opportunity to visit a few friends from college who live in Hong Kong.  Up to this point, my understanding of Hong Kong was based on some fictionalized history novels and a few bad action movies, so I was quite new to the whole experience.  To say the least, I was quite blown away by the beauty that is Hong Kong.
Hong Kong must be what photographers dream about when they go off to sleep.  When they pray to the Gods of photography (St. Daguerre or what-have-you), they must hope to be reborn in Hong Kong.  With the mixture of mountains, the chaos of the streets, the cold blue water, and the skyscrapers all thrown together into the same frame, it is hard to resist snapping a million photos.  I tried my best to just stick to a few that I thought turned out well and told the story of my trip.  Sadly, I am by no means a good photographer, but if you are looking for someone who actually can take photos and lives in Hong Kong - check out his work.

The bus drivers in Hong Kong take the corners so fast that they have their own bar to hold on to.  This was right after he almost hit a lady walking across the street.  Homie ain't messing around!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Royal Sword of Cambodia and Eternal Beings

This story will be a cumulative effort between Richard Tumin and Melissa Murphy in remembering a series of conversations that took place in and around Siem Reap from the 17th to the 21st of July, 2016.

It is important to note though, before I start writing, that while these stories might seem far-fetched to those in the Western World, that there are many parallels between what I will write and stories in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  I am in no way writing these stories to cause discomfort or make fun of anyone, I just feel like they are worth preserving.  Before you judge them, take a long and hard look at stories in your own religious tradition and see that there are many similarities.

Without further warnings and tangents, here is the story as best as we can both remember.

In the immediate vicinity to Angkor Thom is a pool that is about 20 meters by 20 meters.  The pool is covered with lotus, and despite having an outward look of being the typical half bog, half rainwater collection pond, it holds a mystical secret.

You might know you are in the right area when you both see the pool fitting these dimensions, are in Angkor Thom park, and notice that you suddenly have absolutely no cell phone reception.

Our story starts with the idea of Eternal Beings.  To quickly define these beings is to state that they might living to be 200-1000 years of age, and if they do "die" they rise again a few days later looking different and moving on to other places.  Much like the idea of immortality, they are beings who have achieved this status by their good works and deeds.

To cite a few more numbers, there are precisely seven of these beings in Cambodia.  They range in age, but our source was quick to say that his grandparents were two of them, and had reached quite an old age to say the least.  Our sources grandparents had been around since the beginning, seen the rise and fall of dynasties, watched colonizers and wars come and go, and managed to just evolve with the times.

Cambodia and most of Southeast Asia is an interesting mix of mysticism and old religions.  The ideas of spirits, vengeful hexing, eternal beings, and other such notions is not something on the fringe of society like it might be in the United States, but something that is very real and very easily explained.  Our source is someone who is highly intelligent, and lives in a society with a very complex social structure, that has thousands of years of mystic tradition.

Ask a person in Thailand if they want to go to Cambodia or Laos, and they will immediately question your sanity - there are ghosts up there.  It is not speculation, it is fact.

Ask a Cambodian and they will agree, the land is alive with spirits.

Our source, with grandparents older than modern civilization proceeded to tell us about the Royal Sword of Cambodia, is hidden very neatly in Angkor Thom; a complex with hidden catacombs of precious metals (which was confirmed by many sources that we talked to).

Our story should not start with the making of the sword, nor why it was hidden under the water in that 400 square meter pool, but with the colonization by the French, the subsequent atrocities caused by the United States Army, the following era of death brought about by the international community and the Khmer Rouge, becoming a Viet Nam puppet state, and finally to the modern era.

In our story the French are the first aggressors, they were the first modern tourists to Angkor Wat and Thom, and like all colonial tourism, they decided that anything that was worth stealing needed to be ferreted back to France.  Gold bullion, precious gems, and other such bounties of conquest left Angkor Wat and Thom, and slowly the glory of the area faded but the worldwide knowledge grew.

Our source starts his story just have this time period.  The complex was looted, the world was aligning against any form of communism - real or imagined.

The United States had started its very own secret war inside Cambodia, working to cut off the supply lines to Viet Nam.  Sadly, cutting off these supply lines meant dropping more bombs on rural Cambodia than the United States had used in all of the Second World War.  Many people died, many were maimed, almost nothing was achieved besides driving Cambodia deeply into communist hands and causing every person who lived to fear the bombing sorties done by three B-52s flying in a triangle formation.

It might be fair to say that this is the start of the Cambodian Genocide.  This was their tipping point.  Without the unfathomable and quasi-secret destruction the us wrought upon Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge would have never rose to power.  Of course that is a story for another time though.

The Royal Sword of Cambodia though has the power to destroy weapons and save the people who truly believe and pray to it for protection.  Our source said that as a child, and later a child soldier that he was immune to bullets and bombs (and many times showed various amounts of skin to prove said fact) because of the power of the Sword.

The way the Royal Sword works is that it has a soul or a spirit per-say, and that is what protects the person.  The idea of the Sword is what protects you.  The speed in which the protection can reach you is unfathomably fast, and should the Sword know you are worthy, then it will grant protection to you.  Much like other forms of insurance, we were told that we could be grandfathered into the protection because our source was also protected.

He said that he spent many nights running from exploding American bombs, mostly likely through minefields, and later spent many days and nights ferrying grenades to either his father who was paramilitary, or to his mother who was on a different side of the conflict.  Needless to say, either parent was never happy that the child was working for the other person on the other side.  Like any child soldier - he had no choice and was just a tool in a much larger and greater war.

The sword continued to protect him throughout the massive genocide that swept the nation, the moving of the Khmer Rouge power structure to the border area near his home, mine fields, the massive death toll from later disease and famine, and pretty much every other atrocity that humans can sling at one-another.  Still the sword and his grandparents, two of said Eternal Beings, lived on.

The sword has not been seen since the time of the french occupation, but can still be felt and be used for protection through the spirit that resides inside of it to this day.

He says that it rests under the dirt at the bottom of the 20 meter by 20 meter pool, where weapons cannot harm a person and cell phones do not work.

After he was done with the story, I asked him if he was going to become an Eternal being, or if he was one already.  He answered that he honestly did not know - that he lived his life trying to be as good as possible, to make up for any pain he had caused, etc.  While his parents died during the disease time in and around the reign of the Khmer Rouge, his grandparents still continue to travel around Cambodia, sleeping at various temples, being hosted by monks,  and being keenly aware that they are much, much older than any of the other people around them - save only the five other eternal beings.