Category Archives: opinion

I forgot the future, I lost my past in the moment

I forged a way through the barriers of my preconceptions. I allowed myself the freedom to live, but lost it in the realization of my existence.

Complication brings satisfaction, accompanied with unease. Grasping for what’s there and thus losing it all together. Pressure is an excuse, physical limitations are inconsequential. Trying to find the words to describe a feeling is fruitless. Everyone knows the answer but is unwilling to commit to the solution. Reveling in your weaknesses only brings comic relief. But straying from a familiar state, no matter how miserable, brings anxiety. How easy it is to despise others, those that lack the prized quality of insight, for which we feel superior, but there is also envy at the ease with which they live their lives.

We colour the world with a spectrum that has yet been proven to exist. And when we forget ourselves a true bliss emerges, a bliss that has been suffocated, waiting for the opportunity to emerge. Is it possible to find a balance? Do we need to lose one part of ourselves to gain another? To sacrifice that which we take pride in for what we ultimately crave. We know the choice we’ll ultimately make, we can’t help but make, it’s a part of us that will not dies, it’s a part of us we will not kill.

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If You Can’t Join Them, Beat Them (or Sex n’ Drugs n’ Drum & Base)

I don’t actually hate hipsters. The thing is, I kind of envy them. I would give anything to be one of them, but my parents aren’t rich enough, and I can’t conform enough to their individuality. Every time I go back home I’m reminded of how inferior I am. No matter how tight my pants are, or how genuine my cold disdain for humanity is it must shine through that I still thing The Black Keys are cool, that I work, and not at an approved profession, (I was unable to score the position of telepathically taking patrons orders at the local vegan brunch nook) or that I unironically think the Belushi Brothers are funny.

The last time I was home I was determined to get invited to one of their awesome, drug-filled snobfests. I hadn’t realized how bad the hipster epidemic had spread since I’d last been back, but I could almost make out the sneers as I walked down LoJo, as lower Johnson Street has now been renamed. I wasn’t off to a good start, especially since it was impossible to make eye contact with any of them. I checked to make sure I hadn’t accidentally worn my Gap sweatshirt by accident. I quickly realized I needed a little assistance if I were to make any progress on my way to hipsterdom.

Many Canadians associate the west coast with granola munching, pot-smoking, mountain trekkers, that and Asians. In Victoria, the hippies still reign, and not the burnt-out zombies roaming Height and Ashbury, leather belts permanently embedded in their skulls since 1962. These are hippies 2.0. They may not have a war to protest or anyone shunning them for their long hair, although their habit of not bathing does provide them a wide berth, but they still profess ideals of living off the land, AKA not working, free love, although perhaps with a little added protection, and drugs. Therein lay my connection. Alcohol is said to bring people together, but as far as hippies and hipsters are concerned, it’s drugs. I have a few hippie friends left back home, some of my friends would even consider me a bit of a hippie, but I failed to pass the crystal healing test, so I don’t qualify. Nevertheless, I still managed to get myself invited to a Cosmic Caravan Carnival. Before going I made sure to down a bottle of raspberry vodka, which I shared with some Swedish exchange students down by the harbor, but I was still relying on obtaining something in the stalls to keep me going through the night. I can only feign enthusiasm for electronic music unassisted for so long, let alone the accompanying spastic dance moves. After ingesting some organic shit labeled Scooby Snacks I was beginning to have doubts about the success of my night. I had trouble convincing myself that the ginseng and honey were eventually going to start to kicking in. It didn’t help matters when the friend who I had come with, and whose house I was expecting to crash at, started making arrangements with several of the girls gathered around him. They were obviously attracted to this free spirit, who wasn’t even letting the frigid weather stop him from baring his chest, with only a thin layer of sequins and feathers to protect him from the elements. When I realized that I wasn’t going to fit into his plans for the evening, I stood awkwardly between the crowds of multi-colored folks, feeling as out of places as I always did in my hometown. I weighed my options, I could find a park bench, preferably away from the addicts, to rest until the first morning bus, or I could finally find out how long it would actually take to walk home from the city to the suburbs, my estimate being between 2 and 7 hours.  That’s when a mustachioed boy approached me. He was wearing a coonskin cap, with a long feather earing dangling from one ear and the signature painted-on red pants. It was just a relief to finally have someone to talk to. He then proceeded to invite me to this after party that I had heard the others talking about as being impossible to get in to because it was sold out. As we started making our way, accompanied by his equally fabulously dressed posse, he pulled out a pill case and invited me to have my pick. I couldn’t believe my luck, and should have realized that he had ulterior motives for me, but I still had at least 6 hours to while away until dawn.

I had heard of this Sunset Lounge before, it was Victoria’s only after hours club, and it’s the closest we could get to a rave scene. Alternative seems like a half-ass way of describing it, just like calling someone who meditates occasionally, ‘spiritual,’  but I fail to find a way to sum up nicely the crowd I encountered there. That night I got invited to a swinger’s party, was confronted for advice on how to get rid of constipation in the toilet and given a pair of angel wings to accompany my flower child dance, which was finally accepted as a perfectly reasonable form of dancing.

Throughout the night my new friend kept a constant check on me and repeatedly told me how much he and his girlfriend liked me. I should have known something was up, but I really did need a place to stay, and they seemed nice enough kids. The girlfriend seemed even innocent of the fact that her nipples were clearly visible through her white lace top.

Back at their place, after showing me a trapeze they had constructed for their acrobat act and feeding me some gluten-free cake and an herbal energy tincture, the girl began to set up a bed for me in the living room. The boy chirped in that that wouldn’t be necessary, as I would be sharing their bed with them. I received this news as naively as possible. Perhaps they wanted to continue our discussion on how best to raise a captive monkey, or maybe they were just trying to lower the cost of heating by sharing body warmth. As we snuggled into bed I was informed that they had chosen me because I was special. I wasn’t sure if I should have felt flattered or insulted that they would think I was that easy. I wondered what sort of vibe I was giving off that they would perceive me this way. Was it my kinky hair or the curious owl tattooed on my back?

The next morning, as I made my way to the bus stop, I realized that maybe I didn’t quite belong with the hippies or the hipsters. Maybe it was all just part of another passing trend, like the emos and goths, and all I had to do was wait a little while and make sure to catch the next one early. Hopefully the next fad would harken back to the puritanical days of the early settlers, with laced up collars and proposals before kissing, and maybe by the time it rolled along I would realize that I was getting too old for this shit.

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Boob Tube

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I remember as a kid encountering classmates who didn’t own TV’s. I pitied these forsaken children with their hippie parents who thought they were protecting their offspring from brain numbing rubbish. While instead they were unknowingly excluding their children from important cultural references for years to come. We felt it was our duty to invite them over after to school to catch up some mandatory viewing; otherwise how would they know which character to vie for during our lunch time Power Ranger playacts, or maybe it would be to our advantage, one less girl wanting to be Pink. I eventually became one of these kids. When I was just weaning myself off Barney and Sesame Street, ready for some harder stuff; to brave Goosbumps and maybe even test the waters of some dumbed down sitcoms, I was rudely forced into the company of those raw veggie eating, hand me down clothed, children of the Earth. But this wasn’t for any self-betterment on my parent’s part; it was, as usual, to save a buck or two. My father, always out for a long term deal, had made an investment in a satellite dish. This was not the satellite dishes that adorn the roofs of so many suburban houses; this was a satellite dish that sent messages to aliens. It was the size of a trampoline, and was probably why I was never able to get a trampoline; no room and no money. It scarred our backyard, despite my mother’s attempts to fence it off and disguise it in vines. Since part of the long term bargain was that we illegally picked up our satellite signal from our surrounding area, and everyone in the neighborhood was using cable our channel selection was limited and fuzzy at best. The only children’s TV I was exposed to being a promo for a Disney channel, which played the same episodes of My Little Pony every day, leading me to carefully rotate my viewing periods. Therefore, for the most part I grew up with the best of the oldies. When asked to make a personal profile in grade 4, I listed my favourite TV show as Green Acres. When we were given a colouring sheet of the Simpson family I mistakenly, and to the horror of the entire class, coloured Marge’s hair brown. A few years later, after we turned our house into a B&B, my parents finally conceded and got cable and I was eventually able to catch up with my peers, although mystifyingly Power Rangers was still off limits. My parents were convinced some poorly costumed villains fighting in broad daylight in a park was too frighting for me, little did they realize that it was in fact the martians from Sesame Street that haunted my dreams.

Nowadays, almost everyone I talk to chooses not to own a TV, and they say so proudly; they’ve been on the commercial-free wagon for 6 months and no low price cable package is going to tempt them off. I can understand, with computers you can watch what you want, when you want, and best of all, for free. (I just hope I’m not the only one prepared for this joyride to end abruptly any time soon.) The last time I was home and surfing the channels, after about, 3 years of being clean, I witnessed how far basic cable had degraded. I wouldn’t have thought it possible near the end of my TV viewing years, what with each new reality shows trying to top the others with ridiculousness and grotesqueness. I thought it couldn’t be beat after witnessing a bachelorette type show, where all the contestants wore wrestling style masks throughout, so the decision couldn’t be based on appearance, and it was hosted by Monica Lewinsky. Now the majority of the channels were devoted to shopping networks, there were a few more foreign channels and the few channels I was actually able to watch were ran the likes of Two and a Half Men, with whatever washed up cast they have managed to scrounge up at this point and dumb blonde bitches trying to tackle day to day tasks, breathing and so on. The only time I could stomach to watch was late-night.

Gone are the days of channel surfing, unless you constantly want to have your finger on the next channel button. And the sans TV option, is no longer the hippie family choice but the sensible one if you want to keep any wits about you. Let’s just hope that when our satellite finally does make contact with the outer realms, that it transmits Honey West rather than Honey Boo Boo, otherwise they may invade us for our own good.

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Never Never Land

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Remember platform sneakers and blue lipstick, playing Girl Talk with your girls, in a room adorned with posters of Jonathan Taylor Thomas and The Hansons, Much Dance 2000 playing in the background. Or munching on Cool Ranch Doritos and slurping back Orbit while watching  Jem or Darkwin Duck or TGIF. Maybe you recall painful waiting on dail-up internet or when cell phones where the size of your head.

I’ve barely completed the first quarter of my life (perhaps that’s wishful thinking, let’s say third) and I’m already being perpetually invited to walk down memory lane. I understand feeling nostalgia for your childhood; the carefree summer days, the creative possibilities that were viewed in every found object, slumber parties and first crushes, and the constant giddiness that was so easily stirred up, before cynicism crept into our bones. As we are making our transition to adulthood, much slower and reluctantly than previous generations, we say good-bye to our youth, make a clean break and move on to spawn youth of our own. Now, with Facebook and websites, such as Buzzfeed, I’m stagnating in nostalgia as I’m constantly reminded of every significant emblem or moment commonly shared by others of my generation. It can be fun to reminisce at times, but it’s also slightly disturbing. Should I be experiencing such bittersweet feelings recalling my past when it is just barely behind me. Not only is technology ruining certain moments I used to savor, such as the satisfaction when you finally remembering, ‘what’s-his-name, from that movie, you know…’ after it’s been bugging you (and as a result everyone around you) for hours, or running into an old classmate you haven’t seen in years, and instead of catching up on where your lives have taken you seen you last met, there’s no need, since you’ve been constantly updated on Facebook. But now the internet is messing with my memories; this has gone too far. Forty years from now I want to be walking with my child/grandchild/godchild (we’ll see what happens) and tell them how candy used to be 5 cents, we used to write with pen and paper, and didn’t have chips embedded in our brains that thought for us. Now, I stumble home from the bar with my friends and stopping at the corner store recall how 5 cents candies didn’t used to have taxes on them, how we should go home and youtube Strawberry Shortcake, oh my god, remember trolls, we could totally buy one off ebay.

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A US Cutsom

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Recently, while watching a movie that took place in the 1970’s which involved numerous interactions at the airport; it was about a terrorist organization, I felt a little envious at the ease in which they were able to travel in those days. Characters weren’t harassed in customs, walked freely even after displaying suspicious behavior, holding copies of fake passports was considered not enough cause to be held, and they were able to puff a continuous stream of smoke from their mouths throughout.

Every time I’m ushered through US Customs I feel as if I’m interrogated. It doesn’t help that I get nervous when faced with authority. Anyone who has the power to make things very unpleasant for me if they so wish and I feel the pressure of  undergoing a test I’m bound to fail. The unsmiling, doubting faces make me question if I am indeed who I proclaim to be. ‘I’m sure I was born in Victoria, at least that’s what my parents told me, and…and, I’ve seen the birth certificate, it certainly didn’t look as if it’d been tampered with.’ Filling out my declaration form, I’m calm, I’m a world traveller, I know the routine, I’m cool and savvy when it comes to airports. The line is moving quickly, look how easily those citizens of the world are cakewalking through, all ages, races, modes of dress. Then it’s my turn, my heart starts to race as I make my way to the counter. What if they don’t believe me; is my story drill-proof. I don’t have a job right now, but I can’t tell them that, they’ll think I’m going to jump ship instead of catching my connecting flight and find work at the next farm I pass. I’m an English Teacher, I can hold that story up, I was an English Teacher not too long ago and can remember most of the facts about my job. They’ll ask me how much money I have on me, which, including the $20 stored in my wallet for a snack and a magazine, amounts to a little over $100. Am I even allowed to land on US soil with so little money to my name? I’m sure I’ll pop up on their computer as suspicious. Maybe after that time a friend and I were searched.  We didn’t completely fit the hippie vagabond look worn by so many heading to California on a Greyhound, but were backpack toting and guitar strapped nonetheless. After recounting a story that didn’t quite hold, ‘So, you don’t know the name and addresses of who you’re going to stay with in California?’ Stuttering my reply, ‘I was going to figure it out when I got there.’ I was given a mild talking to about working illegally in the states. Come on, I was thinking, out of work, youngsters, who’s bag are filled with beat classics don’t come to kick it in Cali with an itinerary, plus I really did have family in Sacramento. My slight annoyance at being disbelieved and stereotyped was overshadowed by the fact that I was indeed coming down to work illegally, on a weed farm nonetheless, and I should be happy that I made it through at all.  Or maybe they made a slight note when I was ‘randomly’ selected to have my dirty laundry sifted through on a return flight from Cuba. If anything, my Arab sounding last name would be a sure sign of compatriotism with a terrorist organization.

I manage to stumble my way through questioning, slightly flushed and gulping a few to many times, I vow not to make any detours on my way to my next flight, that no mysterious man in sunglasses handed me an unmarked package, and, a personal promise to myself, that I will avoid any more stopovers in the land of the free if at all possible. Now if only I were able to have that cigarette.

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A Republican Nightmare

 The year is 2015, Fuhrer Obama is leader of the People’s Republic of America. We observe this nightmare state, where hedonistic moralities reign as an only means of escape for depraved lives after the inevitable economic collapse. It all began after Obama’s re-election, where upon a bitter battle ensued, but in the end the Democratic forces were stronger, after pandering to the minority groups, the criminals, the homeless, the virtue deprived, feeding them a vision of a world where everyone is equal and there is no need to work to reap the benefits of a back-breaking labourers, ideologies we have all heard before and witnessed the tragic results, yet again, history repeats itself. Disregarding the men who’s grueling labours had formed this country, who had proven that the American dream, that is envied by people world-wide, was still possible in the land of the free, Obama was finally able to instigate his dark vision.

Meet Martha, she has just returned to her shack after picking up the grocery store detritus that her food stamps offer her. Martha used to be a prime example of the American dream, her husband, Joe had come to American with 10¢ in his pocket, equivalent to 1¢ now, and had worked his way up the corporate ladder, until he became head of an oil drilling firm. But all this has come to an abrupt end. Joe’s oil firm was shut down, after environmentalists convinced the government that naturally occurring weather hiccups were somehow the result of man’s paltry earth activities, they were also forced to give up their modest homes in Palm Springs, because they were deemed inconsiderate to the lower class. They now live in an occupy refuge camp, Joe has had to resort to working on an organic farm, Martha is unfit to work after a botched ObamaCare surgery has left her in a wheelchair, and most of the money they receive in their measly welfare is spent on their son who has fallen victim to the ever-growing obesity epidemic that swept the country when weed became legalized.

Then we have Stan. He used to be an avid church goer, never missed a bible study, was a loving father to his three children and caring husband to his wife Patsy. Then Obama revealed, that even though he was raised Muslim, he in fact had no religious affiliation. As the prominence of Jesus dwindled and churches were turned into whorehouses, since there were fewer and fewer way to make money in poverty stricken People’s Republic of America, Stan no longer had any moral guide to go by. He became a frequent patron of animal brothels, that began to spring up after gay marriage was legalized. In order to pay for his volatile relationship with a chimp, he had to resort to petty crime and sold his children off to be slaves in China. He now lives on the streets with a mutt named Sparkles.

Bob had a pleasant life in Albuquerque, he didn’t mind his Mexican neighbours, they were friendly enough and occasionally stopped over with a plate of enchiladas. Then he started to notice that more and more of his neighbours were Mexican. He could no longer buy a hot dog that wasn’t pre-wrapped in a  taco, or fruit that didn’t have hot sauce on it, he found himself increasingly being greeted with Hola’s and constantly being asked ¿Donde esta la oficina de inmigracion? As the immigration laws relaxed, the Mexicans started taking liberties. With guns provided by the Obama government they were eventually able to make New Mexico stand true to its name and eventually spread though all the southern states like a bad rash after eating leftover taco bell. Bob was forced to flee his beloved home or be forced into slave labour on a cocoa farm. He has taken shelter with the now outlawed and often persecuted Tea Party in cold war era bomb shelter, which also harbour Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who were forced into hiding as propagators of free speech.

Already the effects of Obama’s socialist regime can be felt. With the victimization of corporations, causing the job market to be drained, getting friendly with Cuba and creating a welfare state that will be dependent of the charity of China.

Only you can prevent this nightmare from becoming a reality. Vote Right in this coming elections.

This message has been sponsored by the Republicans for a free America.

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Taking It Lying Down

It’s generally acknowledged among the younger, libertarian, left leaning crowd that Harper is our enemy, yet heated discussion on the topic is hard to come by, few citizens are really aware of what is happening in Canadian politics, or care for that matter, we are not inundated with political campaign propaganda,  extreme mouth pieces like the states, no Fox news or satiric Daily Show. We lack the controversy, the flash and essentially the significance. Of course, there are many countries who probably don’t feel their politics are of global influence, but the sentiment is more acute for us because of our powerful neighbors who look, act and are exposed to the same things we are, yet  constantly are getting international press coverage, whereas when we make it to global news, the immediate reaction is, what stupid thing have we done now? Although, being constantly in the press is not usually a good thing, other than feel good pieces like the Olympics the top nations to grace the front page are usually undergoing tumultuous times. So, when we hear, on a local level, of threats to our public healthcare, privatization of our resources and infrastructure, all the changes that Harper is planning, and has actually been able to implement now that he has a majority government, such as raising retirement age, pulling out of the Kyoto protocol, we shrug, we don’t really feel threatened. We hear about how the protest movement is dead with the dawn of the internet, but then we see the occupy movement that spawned a global trend, when we have a demonstration, for example the tuition protests in Quebec, the rest of Canada looks on a little baffled, is this where our energy is going, an already privileged group that does not want to give up its spoils.

Pacifism is in our nature, but with this also comes indifference and complacency. This goes even to the top, take for example when the controversial painting of Jacob Zuma, South African Prime Minister, was destroyed by saboteurs, there were protests, attempts by the government to get it removed from the museum, likewise when a compromising depiction of Harper surfaced, reclining naked on a chaise lounge there were maybe a few snide giggles, even Harper took it with good humour, the only controversy was whether it was appropriate to hang it in a room where children might see it. Not that this attitude is a bad thing, being good natured is something that defines us along with our politeness, bacon and hockey, but how far do we have to be pushed before we feel compelled to act. To use my friend as an example, he is a strong NDP supporter, he donates to the party, he volunteers and avidly follows the issues, yet he maintains that there is no point in being angry with Harper because it will get no where, whether this is a personal decision to quell the rage that would otherwise be brewing inside him, or a representation of how we as a country approach politics, likewise, if an American were in a similar position it would take very little to witness party bashing. There’s no doubt we have a good situation in Canada and it’s hard to predict how much this is at risk, but considering how our country is already established, Harper’s ideology would be a huge step backwards, unless he were to fulfill his agenda completely, and therefore change a system that is working for Cananda, we might be left with a few half-baked schemes that will require a lot of backtracking and huge sums of money when (and if) we switch parties. It is already telling that the NDP, which was always an outlier party, only having much popularity in BC, has become a major opposition to Harper,  this could be a further emulation of Americas polar parties or signify a deeper dissatisfaction that is furthering the divide between the two leanings. There was always an issue of regions feeling under represented in Canada, due to our huge geographic dispersion and varied interests, but with the resource rich prairies getting all the attention, dissatisfaction is becoming apparent with citizens turning to a more polar parties, but very little public opposition is visible to the standing party, aside from snide remarks made at social gatherings.  Not saying that we should become like the states, which has turned into a circus, but a little more interest in what’s going on in our country would help prevent the shock and feeling of helpless when these changes actually start affecting us on a personal level.

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Philippines: A Land to Be Patient With

 

I had my fair share of transport mishaps and uncomfortable long journeys this trip, the typhoon that hit while I was there didn’t help. Basically, what I learned, is to double any given estimate of how long a trip will take, start early and be prepared to be stranded, of course there are worse things than being stranded on a tropical island for a few days. The dichotomy here is not as outstanding as say China, but it’s becoming more present as there’s a burgeoning middle class with the IT surge and mass influx of foreign investment. While it’s a lot easier to spot the poverty than the wealth, you will see the odd fancy car drive by,  the nicer shopping malls come equip with designer stores and the western influence is ever-present, not just in the language, which includes a wide range of English words, but commercially, with the presence of western food chains and brands, the Philippines is a prime example of the effects of globalization. The Philippines has yet to be spoilt by a tourist wave, but it’s coming, although I did avoid Boracay,  the go to party place here, I was informed that property prices are rising as there are an increase of foreigners buying holiday homes here or setting up shop to cash in when the tourist boom hits, but in the meantime, most of the foreigners you’ll encounter are aged men with young Filipino women on their arms. The country can be testing at times, but it always balances out, being hassled constantly by tricycles or taxis desperate to give you a lift, street children tugging on your shirt, and people who automatically equate foreigner with dollar signs,  you almost want to avoid making eye contact with anyone, but then you encounter the incredibly friendly people, eager to learn about where you’re from, proud to show you their country, if you take a ride a jeepney and you’re bound to make a friend on your way. Then there’s the filth, the shanty towns, street people, the drug addiction, but then you have the beautiful scenery, white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, rolling hills and deserted desert islands. This is a country in transition, which I always find fascinating, visiting a country and knowing if you come back 5, 10 years from now it will have changed drastically, seeing how they welcome and incorporate foreign influence, for example their massive Chinese population has had a big influence on their cuisine, and how they reject other things, like the older generation struggling to accept the increasing use of English among the youth, partially the effects of media but also because English provides more viable job options. It’s also interesting since you’ve likely encountered Filipinos who are working abroad or have spoken to them when you’ve called a help lines, to see where they’re coming from and understand their culture, as they are often the victims of intolerance when dealing with western customers.

As I took a walk with my tricycle driver, (after traveling for three hours only to discover that the “smallest volcano in the world” would cost me nearly $100 bucks to see, and opting for a walk in the little town instead before making the three hour journey back) I was provided with a little insight for this mass exodus of workers, he had studied electrical engineering at university, but there were no jobs and he didn’t have the money to find work abroad, so he was stuck driving a tricycle 11 hours a day, but as he told me about the crystal meth that was become a concern in the Philippines, effecting even this little town, that appeared so quaint, and how incredibly cheap it was, I began to question who exactly this drug addicted friend he kept on referring to was. As happens in any country that is experiencing a boom there will be many left behind, and driven to a point of desperation, whether this is to work abroad illegally, drugs, hustling ect. For many travelers the Philippines is an economic travel spot that can be challenging but extremely rewarding, it’s not for those who enjoy traveling inside their bubble.

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Missed Shots

 

Street children dressed in ragged clothing engrossed in a game of cards under the eaves of a convenience store, a young man standing stoically atop a truck bed of grain feed, a woman holding a bright red umbrella walking along a shanty town boardwalk, I watched helplessly as these perfect photo opportunities passed by, either on a bus or a tricycle or not in a comfortable environment where I would want to flash my camera. Sometimes I’ll make an attempt to reach for my bag, but know by the time I get my camera out it will be to late, even if I do attempt a shot through the filth smeared window that’s zooming by my desired scene, I know I’ll only look through my pictures later and casually erase the picture, forgetting what I was attempting to capture in the first place. Do you have a missed photo opportunity that haunts you?

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Seen That, Been There, Done That

On the National Day of the People's Republic of China, tourists from the country and overseas came to Badaling Great Wall to celebrate.(Xinhua)

In our age of excess and exposure, lower flight costs, package tourism and organized tour groups, the list of undiscovered, obscure or adventurous destinations is dwindling. No longer are we fascinated by expeditions to the arctic, if we can afford the hefty sum we can join a neon orange thermal suit clad troop of fellow adventurers, so many climbers are attempting Everest now that people are dying just waiting in line for access to the ladder, beaches that were once whispered secrets among locals, known for their serenity and solitude have now become frequent stops for booze cruisers, with all day happy hours and salacious locals. Now those wishing to pursue the off the beaten track destinations are presented with new challenges, either having to resort to venturing somewhere with mildly less tourists, maybe since it doesn’t offer ease of passage, going somewhere that perhaps has no particular draw for tourists, a common village that bodes no sightseeing attraction or travel somewhere that is considered too dangerous for the common traveler.
I can understand the attraction to package tourism, and have fallen victim to it several times, it’s convenient, reasonably priced, you feel like you’re getting all the bases covered, but in the end you feel a little cheated, as if you’ve had a short-changed experience, and not just by all the hawkers with their cheap trinkets and the exponentially priced water, but as if you’re not really getting to know the place you are in, only a filtered, for foreigners version, and it’s a lot harder to escape the bubble when you’re limiting your interaction with locals. Perhaps these are the laments of a jaded traveler, who, despite its convenience, prefers not to travel with a Lonely Planet in tote, and having grown up with stories of Mallory and Shackleton, reading Heart of Darkness and One Hundred Years of Solitude, liked to imagine there was an unadulterated land to be discovered. And ultimately I shouldn’t complain, because considering if I lived during these times of  the ‘real’ adventurers, I no doubt would not have had an opportunity to travel like I do, unless I were to become a missionary, or want to subject myself to an extremely uncomfortable, disease ridden voyage. Now, instead of just looking at picture books of wonders of world and dreaming of the unattainable mysteries the world had to offer, I now have the opportunity, with several months of scrimping and saving, taking a teaching job abroad or various other methods available to me, to see these sights in real life, something that was unimaginable in my parents generation. I live in the age of convince and accessibility, and have to accept that there may be others who share my same passion for exploring the world, and perhaps I should be grateful, there’s no better way to bond with new friends than in sharing travel stories, and maybe there’s hope for a western society that is largely viewed as ignorant as we are entering a burgeoning global playing field.  So, although it can be frustrating at times, trekking a well-beaten path with hordes of foreigners, or encountering a mass of out-of-town drunkards who smear the Wests already tarnished image, there are also the travelers who provide you with valuable inside tips, who offer a helping hand when you are failing to communicate that the guy who just ran out of the bar and left you with the tab was not actually with you or provide some much-needed company when you felt like your starting to lose you mother tongue and  might just talk in simplified phrases from now on, the world is becoming a smaller place and with that, hopefully will come more understanding and tolerance, and there’s always plenty of Vino, Cervaza, Ouzo, Pisco, Soju, Sake, Rakia, ect. to go around.

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