Monday, March 13, 2017

Pet Peeves

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What gets you? What really gets you? In no particular order, here’s what gets me.

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People who line up mad early in economy to be the first people seated on the flight. What is your hurry? You look silly. I’ve never been unable to put my bag overhead or been told to check my bags. How about you bring less stuff you savage? We are all getting on the same flight people.

Same vein, people who can’t wait to unbuckle their seatbelts, get up, attempt to get their bag then wait in the aisle for 10 minutes staring at each other. One time !a guy who was closer to the window asked if I could get up so he could get his bag. HOW ABOUT YOU LEARN A MILD AMOUT A PATIENCE YOU BAFOON

I’m only half joking when I tell people I would break up with a girlfriend if she was super picky whilst ordering at Subway. I wouldn’t last 30 minutes as a Sandwich Artist. Can I have extra pickles please? A few more…oh that’s too much. I QUIT!

Littering and smokers that treat the Earth like their trash can. I will punch you right in the mouth grandma.

Oh, so you want me to let you in but aren’t going to give me the semi-mandatory wave to acknowledge my driving compassion towards you and your Ford Focus?

You want to touch me with your freezing cold hands? How about I never look, think or talk to you for the rest of eternity?

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Don’t say thank you; I didn’t notice or care.

Sure, swear around your little kid. That seems appropriate and in the best interests of everyone long term.

You’re is equivalent to you are. How many days of class did you miss in elementary, middle and high school? 90%?

Too is tooooooo much or toooooo many things. I get toooooo upset over this.

Having wet hands. It just isn’t right.

Unable to connect to the Wi-Fi.

Losing essentially anything.

Thinking something is completely charged but the battery is dead. Hold me back.

Unsubscribing from emails but the emails don’t stop. Whyyyyyy?

Going out for dinner with a massive group of people then trying to split the bill evenly. I only have 100’s. I only have debit. I forgot my wallet. I’ll be eating alone next time.

People who call me Brett.

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When the dentist asks if I’ve been flossing. We both know the answer to that sir.

When you realize that almost every problem can be solved by making a list and thinking ahead then not ever making lists to get ahead.

Wet socks.

An empty ice cube tray in the freezer. That one gets me good.

Buying meatless meatballs by accident because it seems like they were trying to mislead me.

Not having enough podcasts to listen to.

Having someone constantly switching channels on the radio.

Commercials of any type. Mute, mute, mute. How does that not bother everyone?

Bureaucracy.

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Having to ask for a Wi-Fi password. Just display it somewhere to save us both the hassle.

Paying $3.50 to use an ATM. It has gotten out of hand.

New Zealand.

Hearing both sides of a Skype conversation at a hostel or random spot.

Buy headphones to at least limit one side of this terrible conversation I’m being forced to listen to.

Babies who are out past a reasonable hour. They should be asleep and you should be in jail ma'am.

Brushing off a car filled with ice and snow super early in the snowy winter.

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People who insist on lining up to take an escalator as the stairs go unused. Don’t be lazy.

People who have storage units. Just sell that stuff. You don’t need it.

Malls.

Needing to repeat myself over and over.

Cold showers.

Pens that don’t work.

Not having my headphones.

People who are generally late or unreliable.

Pitch black by 4pm during the winter.

People who complain other than on pet peeve lists.

Stopping in the middle of the busy stairwell to check you phone.

Driving and cutting in at the last second.

People on EI who work under the table.

Being on hold.

People who don’t believe in facts, research or science.

Needing to constantly use a VPN whilst in China.

Going to Blockbuster and your favourite movie has already been taken.

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Clocks that have the wrong time.

When people are talking about a place then ask “Have you been?” in a tone that I don’t appreciate.

People who drag their feet.

My phone.

Bailing at the last minute.

Talking on the phone whilst buying something and dealing with the cashier. You aren’t that important. I promise.

People who rush you when you are getting your change from the cashier.

Not giving people time or space to get off the elevator or subway. See China.

Deciding whether or not to bring an item, not bringing it then realizing it would have been the perfect thing to bring.

Phone chargers plugged in but not charging anything.

Paper jams, out of ink or out of paper.

Snoring.


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Well that list escalated quickly. I was a little worried I wouldn’t have enough. I did about 90% on my own then did some heavy research for the final 10% which ended up reminding me of even more pet peeves. They vary on how much they actually annoy me and when and where also plays a role. Am I way off or have I overdone it? It’s March Madness everyone! Yeah baby!

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"Money doesn't change you; it reveals who you are when you no longer need to be nice."

Sunday, March 5, 2017

China

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China. You might have heard a certain TV host and president* talk at great length about my new home. People have asked me if I’m dealing with culture shock but my time in Thailand has prepared for me for what I’ve gotten myself into. China.

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I’m as surprised as you are. Things escalated very quickly. One day I’m applying for jobs in Ontario and a few days later I’m on a flight to Shanghai. Why? (direct flights people!) Full time work as a high school English teacher with flights and apartment paid for and the ability to save enough money to get myself out of a little financial jam I willingly got myself into the last ten years. If you gradually spend even a little more money that you earn each year, it really gets you BUT we will stay positive and make a plan. I’ve never particularly cared about saving money due to the fact that I’ve never really made any significant amount of money at any of the jobs I’ve had but I feel like I missed the point in high school. Like DMX says, “Life ain’t a track meet, it’s a marathon.” I felt like I needed a few home runs to become financially well off when I should have been trying for singles, doubles and even the occasional bunt. If only my dad would have warned me and try to instill a love of saving in me…..

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Well we can get rid of one of those jars













I won’t bore you with the nitty gritty of my plan to become a financial mogul or my dreams of becoming a minimalist (ok the second one you will be hearing about) but I will let you into the window that is Shanghai. I live about 35k outside of the core in a rich suburb called Fengxian. I have a two bedroom, one bath, kitchen and decent sized living room that I rock alone and is a nice glimpse into a future of living and dying alone that is unfolding in front of me. I’m on the second floor which helps me avoid taking the smoked filled elevator each morning and evening. Did you know that smoking is still a thing? I come home sometimes reeking of smoke; not the best. My apartment is about a 10 minute drive to the school and there is a van that takes me and a few other teachers to the school every day. I’m looking at bikes to buy because it is healthier and I’m like a little kid who needs a bike to feel independent and not trapped. There are a few malls and cheap places to eat $2-3 dinner nearby. We live right by a river but I can only assume it would mean instant death going within a few meters of it. It isn’t as serious or a strict as I imagined mainland China being which has been a positive development.

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I go to Shanghai proper on the weekends which ends up taking just under an hour depending on how I get into the city but the bus is cheap cheap but good good so that looks like the way I will be entering the city from here on out. There are essentially zero other non-Chinese people in my suburb but certainly thousands more in real Shanghai. Not a ton but definitely a presence. I played lacrosse for the first time Saturday and I’m thinking about making it part of my Saturday morning routine. I’d get to learn a new sport and have access to a huge amount of expats which I am in desperate need of due to the fact that I may or may feel quite lonely. Again, good practice for what is coming.

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My initial thoughts on the food are not spectacular. I found a few dishes I like and my Instragram is quickly looking more and more like an Insta foodie personality but I will try to reign that in in the coming weeks. I think it’s easy to like China but I feel like it might be a hard country to fall in love with. Things I need:
1-Friends
2-Bicycle
3-Possibly Lacrosse equipment
4-A basketball
That doesn’t seem unreasonable, right?

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What else, what else…? Apparently you shouldn’t drink the water. There’s no Uber here but something less fun and less convenient instead. Buildings exist but many are empty and a few security measure seem only for show. Using Google and Instagram and other sites is a major pain because I need to pay for a VPN and it takes just a few extra minutes each time but that is going to slowly build all my rage that will be unleashed on an undeserving soul. Oh and I’m on my way to being famous:

http://www.bilibili.com/video/av8902943/

There’s a Disney amusement park here that I will be sure to be writing a post about. It is my understanding it is illegal to gamble here which might explain why so many guests are in the Niagara Falls casinos. There aren’t any country bars here. Sad face. Bands come here. Some alcohol is supposedly fake which worries me. China is massive and very close to my one true love, Thailand. I may or may not have my next 4 vacations planned out. I was under the impression I had a slight affinity for ladies from this part of the world; I was incorrect. Shanghai has 14 metro lines. 14. 

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 I’m not far from going on a YouTube deep dive on wedding proposal videos. Not being able to speak, write or understand Chinese is going to be an issue. Being back in a place with cheap massages and beard shaves is refreshing. I heard that there is a pretty good wall around here that I should go find when I have the time. Ping Pong is no joke here. I like the show Riverdale more than I care to admit. 


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I enjoy going to work and I’m happy that I’m here. I need a routine and to eat more fruit and be more active but my sleep and reading levels are high and I’m cautiously optimistic I’m in the right place. China.


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"The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you."


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDrfE9I8_hs

Monday, February 20, 2017

So I live in China now

Shanghai Night City Wallpaper

Who saw this coming? Not I. Not I. At the turn of the New Year, I had the next two and a half years laid out in front of me. Go to Colombia, find a job till the summer then start working at an international school in the fall for a two year contract. Set it and forget it. I should have known I didn’t have life figured out. The biggest surprise from all of this and an option I frankly never considered was not enjoying Colombia/South America. Granted I only visited Colombia for just over three weeks but the time spent there left me anticipating my return flight home and essentially no desire to find a country I found more suitable. Maybe I would have fallen in love with Peru or Chile but I may rely more on my gut instinct than I should and my gut and heart was telling me I didn’t belong there and that I’d be happier at home.


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Colombia isn’t a terrible or incredibly dangerous place but it’s not the best and safe wouldn’t be the first would I would use to describe it. I never got robbed or go into a situation that made me fearful but a few friends got robbed and I also felt like I needed to look over my shoulder or be careful not to bring my wallet out or worried they would steal my not so modern phone that they would ultimately regret taking from me. It is more than possible that I could have moved there for two plus years and nothing negative would have happened to me but it wasn’t a chance I was interested in discovering the outcome to. On the positive side, Minca is worth visiting and was once filled with guerilla fighters who now drive you up the mountain on their motorcycles. I stayed on a coffee plantation and did a coffee tour, went on a little hike and ate delicious food. The mud “volcano” was the other highlight and fully recommended.

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Other small details that I didn’t love was feeling that Medellin was possibly more overrated than New Zealand. Almost. I don’t get it. Yes it has good public transportation and cable cars. Yes they have a rich area for foreigners and has an eternal spring climate but I didn’t find the nightlife as outrageous as advertised and the food didn’t blow me away. Overall, I’d give Colombia a B for effort and while it’s trendy to fall in love with Colombia, it just didn’t speak to me. If you have an inkling that it is for you, I definitely think you should make it happen but I’d also leave some room for exploring a few other neighbouring countries whilst you’re there.

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Other general thoughts on Colombia before this turns into a blog about all things Chinese is that I obviously knew that they spoke Spanish but I was under the impression some Colombians could speak English. They cannot. When a few of us were taking a mini-van/small bus to Guatape, (also worth visiting) I noticed they sell more tickets than they have seats so you have literally women and children sitting down in the aisle; it’s madness. Also on said buses, men will come on with dozens of treats and try selling them to you. Not overly delicious. You want drugs? Don’t worry, a thousand people will try to sell them to you….constantly. They have green fire hydrants! I brought my massive orange pack, my day bag and a fairly big gym bag with me to Colombia which was wayyyyy too much stuff. For China, I only brought my day bag and gym bag and carried both bags on. I’m on a minimalist mission and you’ll be hearing all about that later. Hint: less is more people! (Luckily being poor and without a home has naturally led me towards the path of minimalism)

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I will leave it at that and make a more complete Bert moves to Shanghai post later on in the week but I’m still alive and think things are going to be OK. Stay tuned.


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“The best way to meet someone is to have something better to do than meeting someone.”

Monday, January 16, 2017

Day 15. Colombia.


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I brought too much stuff; that’s the thought that has been crossing my mind the most these days. It’s like I’ve never travelled before because it’s amateur hour travelling with Teacher Bert in 2017. At least in 2011, I didn’t know any better; there’s no excuse now. I have a massive bag, a gym bag and a day pack all filled to the top. I temporarily lost my $50 water bottle, had to make an immediate return to the hostel to get my wallet and I left my Polska towel at a hostel in Cartagena and didn’t manage to get it back in time. I also think I lost like 70, 000 Colombian pesos the other night and I surely paid too much for my Colombian sombrero. Who is in charge around here?

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Looking on the positive side which is apparently a thing people do, I’ve lucked out in terms of people I’ve met and having people to spend the last two weeks with. The last ten or so days has been spent with an American from Delaware who makes YouTube videos for all intense and purposes we will call Ben. I suppose it’s nice not being alone all the time and having someone I can remark my witty comments to. Splitting cabs, eating food and wandering around with other human beings from North America is I gather better than doing it alone with my headphones. I find it a bit strange to travel this far to chill with people from Montreal but meeting local people who speak English and want to explore isn’t the easiest thing to make happen. I knew everyone would speak Spanish here but I thought it would be at a higher level than it is. I have some serious Spanish learning to catch up to. Colombians are fairly friendly and I feel pretty safe but it’s not like I’m blown away by either.

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One thing that came as a surprise and I am not adjusting to is cold showers. On the list of things I despise, this is towards to the top. Granted, it’s 30 plus degrees outside so I understand their reasoning but I’m a house cat. Food is decent and pretty cheap. Uber is available but not sure there’s a drastic price difference. The stray dog situation reminds me of Thailand and escorts are everywhere which has a certain Asian feel to it. Highlight so far is the mud volcano day hands down. We booked a tour the night before, left at 10:30, walked up the “volcano” and this ensued:

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Walking back down the steps after this potential religious cleansing felt like aliens learning to walk for the first time and learning about life on their new planet. While it was super touristy, it was an experience I’ve never even knew existed. There was also a baby in the volcano and she wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about her current life situation. There are guys who take your picture for you, massage you, and ladies who wash you off after for a total price of 12, 000. I think the tour in total cost 70,000ish which is about $30 Canadian. After the mud had been washed away
 and we felt like citizens of Earth, the bus took us to a pretty dope beach that was hands down better than the beach we took a day trip to before; playa blanca. Nothing inherently wrong with the first beach but it’s massively popular and with limited room to get my Frisbee game on.

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So after Medellin, we hit up Cartagena where we went to a few beaches and the volcano. Cartagena also has these party buses that take over the town at night. Several attempts were made to make the party bus a reality but it ended up being too long of a tour for too much money; finding the meeting point was also a challenge. This is what we missed out on:

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Cartagena has some solid street art, worthwhile hostels, a cool old town, a historic fort and good food:

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After Cartagena was Santa Marta. Whenever you are booking a mini bus or regular bus to another town and you are staying at a hotel or hostel, just ask them the best way instead of being a hero and doing it on your own. I booked our tickets online but apparently the bus station is a little far out of town so we could have gotten to Santa Marta faster and more conveniently if I would have just asked for help. It all worked out though and we spent the night here just hanging out at the hostel which is apparently a wind tunnel. I was also reminded on this trip that I remind people of Ted on How I Met Your Mother; I take this as an insult due to the fact that Ted is not cool and definitely a bit of a dud.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9Q-rW433l0


I have been interviewing with schools and have more set up. I’ve certainly been on the Gringo trail and excited to get off it for a little while. I'm headed towards the northern most part of South America tomorrow so should have solid pics and hopefully a tale to tell from that. I miss home more than I can remember but I think that’s due to spending the last 6 months seeing my words can’t describe cute niece and getting far too big nephew almost daily. Things seem to be coming together and should be clearer at the end of the week. I also hate Aaron Rodgers. I wish you an enjoyable third week of 2017.

https://www.instagram.com/bertbrandon/

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"Whatever you do in this life, it is not legendary unless your friends are there to see it."

Barney Stinson

Friday, January 6, 2017

Colombia eh? Si seƱor

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Sooooo what’s new? It’s 2017; that’s exciting. I’m in Medellin, Colombia until Sunday then I’m off to Cartagena, Colombia where I have a job interview on the 11th for a job at an international school. I have a few other interviews set up for a teaching position that will start in September. So Bert, why Colombia? Well, my goal is to live on every continent so South America was next on my radar. After picking my continent, I needed to zero in on a country. Everyone I talk to raves about Colombia. Decision made. There is a job fair at the end of the month in Kingston which I will be attending if I don’t secure a position with a school whilst in Colombia. I thought visiting a few of the schools before agreeing to spend the next two years here would be a prudent choice. I also want to learn Spanish and adore the heat. I’d like to explore all of South America and am roughly planning on spending the next two plus years in South America. Great. How is it so far?


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I love rating places as either over or underrated. Take a moment to guess what my initial assessment of Medellin is....so after spending almost a week here and going on two day tours of the city, taking the cable cars and wandering around aimlessly, I must report that I’m slightly disappointed and must rate Medellin overrated. Is it New Zealand bad? Of course not. It’s easy and cheap-ish to get around the city. Ubers abound everywhere. The temperature is quite nice and there is mango everywhere. I also got a cheap pedicure, apparently cheap shaves are available and there is a strong police presence that is reassuring. It’s also my own fault for not learning Spanish before moving here so I can’t blame the country for being Spanish speaking but I thought English would have a stronger presence here. No senor!

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The city is quite large and isn’t conducive to just wandering around and figuring it out. Poverty is rampant, a lot of stares on the metro, not the best cuisine and overrated partying makes me wonder what all the hype is about. It’s a solid city with some things to do but after almost a week here, I’m ready to bounce and check out more of Colombia. I think a smaller city with more beach\jungle and less white people would be more up my alley. There are a few peculiar things about Colombia that I’ve noticed that you might take a mild interest in.
-Their fire hydrants are green. Am I the only one who finds this fact fascinating?
-At stop lights, instead of homeless people just asking for money, they will juggle, breakdance or some other busking activity that I quite enjoy.
-Many women in their mid-20’s seem to have a kid or two without male support.
-Colombians are quite short and I am by far the tallest on the metro. Wearing a Canada t-shirt is also not helping me blend in to my surroundings.
-Apparently you can drink in cars and on the streets here. Apparently.
-Same time zone which I find surprisingly comforting.
-No adapter needed for plugging electronics in.
-You can rent bikes for only an hour at a time so on our bike tour of the city, we needed to keep replenishing our accounts which I found silly. I asked my guide why we couldn’t rent them for a day. His response: “Our culture is different than yours. Ours is……………..more damaging.”
-They love wearing jeans and semi/very provocative clothes.
-I ate wings one night in this fancy district where all the rich people hangout and they give you gloves to eat your wings with. Gloves to eat wings. This seems practical but I couldn’t take part of this social norm.
-They burn these on New Year’s:

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That’s all well and good Bert but tell us about all the mistakes you’ve made in the past week. I’d love to!!
-I’ve lost three phone chargers in less than a week; two before even leaving my brother’s place.
-I gave my sunglasses to my mom so I wouldn’t forget them. Don’t give someone who is equally as forgetful as you to hold onto something for you. My fault.
-I didn’t book my flight to Cartagena early enough so it’s about twice the price it should be. Still only $108 but should have only been $50.
-Made no friends and didn’t talk to anyone on a four hour walking trip. I might also have been one of the very few drinking beer on the tour which did not endear me to the group. I’m on vacation.
-I went to buy new chargers for my phone and left my phone at the store. The lady was trustworthy but I definitely need to learn to take a minute, understand my surroundings then make a plan. There really is no rush.
-I tried finding the museum of modern art but somehow couldn’t figure out the giant signs pointing me in the right direction. I got a pedicure instead. Not convinced this was a mistake.

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I’m going to finish my week strong in Medellin but if I don’t make it back to Medellin again, I will be okay with that. I wish you a super duper 2017 destroying all the goals and dreams you’ve set for yourselves. 


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"If the party sucks, make it better or leave."