TESOL

Life Update

I've been off the radar for a few weeks, but there's a half decent reason for that. I quit one job, moved country and then started a new job. It's been fairly hectic, but then stepping outside your comfort zone always will be. I'm in a whole new world, and it's proven to be a challenging and exciting adventure... for the most part. 

For those who don't know, I used to live in Australia where I worked in a bottle'o (for you Seppos, that's Aussie slang for "Liquor Store"). It was a decent enough gig but I was always going to move onto something else once Days Too Dark had been published. While originally I had planned on joining the Australian Army as an officer, part way through my application I busted my back and ruined any chance of that happening. So, to steal a line from Fallout: Tactics - I squared my shoulders and set myself to the task ahead. 

I arrived at TESOL! An ex-girlfriend had suggested I charge her friends money for conversing with them because they'd be willing to pay stupid amounts of money to improve their language skills. While my relationship with her didn't last (wonder why?) the idea for a career path did grow into something more concrete and lasting. I started a teaching course and after several months, and another girlfriend-turned-ex, I have found myself in Taiwan.

Just your typical cityscape here in Taiwan.

Just your typical cityscape here in Taiwan.

The initial two weeks of training was interesting. 53 people from a bunch of different English-speaking countries all thrown together and forced to be with one another 24/7 proved to be... a little volatile at times. Not to mention the massive age difference between the different applicants. Being someone in their early 30's, I found myself having to rouse on some of the younger and more reckless applicants. They may have resented me for taking on the role of big brother, but if you're going to be in a country where you don't look like 97% of the population it really doesn't pay to get shit faced and run around the streets, humping inanimate objects and screaming the name of the company that just hired you. College is over, grow the fuck up.

Life... finds a way.

Life... finds a way.

I was also forced to room with a guy who should have been quarantined because he had Strep-Throat. Luckily I didn't get it, but I did get some crazy cold that felt like nothing I've ever had before. Foreign land, foreign bugs. 

It's all good though, most of us got through the training and we've all been scattered about the island to our various branches. Most of us made some friends from the original group, but I suspect that for the most part the majority of the group will fade into memory. Some of us are here to explore the island and culture of Taiwan, others are here for teaching experience. Some will stay for just a year, if that, while others will likely stay for longer. 

Taiwan is great, the food is to die for and the people here are pretty damn awesome. For me, the thing that stands out the most is that fact that the whole island has this amazing dystopian/post-apocalyptic aesthetic to it. I know, I know - what're the chances that a guy who has a blog about post-apocalyptic fiction would end up in a place that totally meshes with his tastes? Well, if you've seen some of the pictures I've been sharing you'll see that it's not joke.

Look at this shit! How awesome is this?!

Look at this shit! How awesome is this?!

Because Taiwan is in the tropics/sub-tropics, the buildings are going to get damaged by the environment no matter what the locals do. So, from what I've heard they just decided to abandon all hope of maintaining the exterior of buildings and instead focus on the interior. So you get these building that look really run down and dilapidated on the outside, but you walk inside and they're clean, fully functional and modern. It's a total mindfuck. 

Along with this, in an effort to reduce the effects of the heat and humidity, there are trees and plants all over the place. People have trees on their roofs and little bushes growing where ever they can squeeze them in. The drop in temperature you get when you walk under the shade of a tree here is amazing and as a guy who is both large and covered in hair, I will take advantage of the shade whenever I get the chance.

How awesome is that? Ah, I haven't felt like this since I wandered the earthquake ruins of Christchurch... 

How awesome is that? Ah, I haven't felt like this since I wandered the earthquake ruins of Christchurch... 

Oh yeah, speaking of body hair. On my first day I was walking around this memorial shrine when some random Taiwanese woman walked up to me and called me a monkey several times. Considering both previously mentioned ex's had called me a monkey at one point or another, I didn't think much of it. Kind of funny though.

Anyway, I'm here for the next year (at least) and I'll be teaching English to little kids as a day job. I'm still going to be writing, it's what I was born to do, it's just that the day job that I use to facilitate that writing is in the northern hemisphere. And honestly, teaching English is more in line with writing anyway, at least I'm working with the language as opposed to selling alcohol to people. 

Fuuuuuuck I am so glad to be out of that job, you have no idea.

I've laid out an intense writing schedule for the next year, I hope to get a few projects done. I don't know if I'll make it or not, but I'll give it my best. I've got one book that's about to be announced, more on that later, and then a stand alone followed by a 5 part series. I'm pretty excited to bring all of these projects to life.  

But enough of that, a whole new world awaits! 

A New Post Apocalyptic Writing Project

I've decided to be a bit more proactive in my writing, which has paradoxically meant that I've not been writing on the blog as often as I'd like.

With a slight nudge from a fellow doomsday enthusiast on Twitter, I remembered this idea I had a few years ago. It took me a bit to hunt down the file, but eventually I found it and I've been working on it since. I don't want to go into too much detail, but I will say that it is non-fiction and that it is post apocalyptic.

And that I've somehow written sixteen thousand words in the past three days...

Yeah, I'm kinda surprised too.

Yeah, I'm kinda surprised too.

I don't know what it is but I am really excited about this project, it's definitely not as big as other things I'm working on but I'm hoping that some of the other members of the Twitter post apocalyptic community will get a kick out of it. This is definitely a speed of writing that I've never attained before. I hit 6600 words today. I've never even come close to that before. I don't know, maybe because it's non-fiction? I've done university papers, of course, but I've never written something non-fiction that was intended for publication.

We'll see how I go over the coming days. I'd originally given myself the month of October to work on this little project and get a rough first draft out, but it looks like I might be a little ahead of schedule. Which is never a bad thing mind you, gives me plenty of time to go over it and give it a polish or two. 

Besides all that, I haven't really been up to much. Just working the dead end job, hitting the gym and doing this TESOL course. Things are all progressing rather well, nothing is really going wrong and it's all relatively boring to be honest.

Oh, I guess this is worth mentioning, it's in the ballpark of what this whole blog is meant to be about. Although I haven't really been playing video games since my spinal injury, I did pick up Fallout Shelter today. I haven't played it since a week before Fallout 4 was released, and it's really grown as a little iOS game. They've added in a whole mess of features and it's really quite fun now.  Check it out if you've got some time to kill! 

I wouldn't say I've fallen off the wagon...

I wouldn't say I've fallen off the wagon...

I should probably head to bed, I've been staring at this screen for days. I'll make a point to get back to the blog little more often, but I'll probably keep the posts a bit shorter until I finish this project.
 

Real World Update

When I first started this, I mentioned that I was in a dead-end job. I sell booze, which in itself is never that interesting, especially when you take into account that I don't drink, can't smell and can only barely taste... seriously, I don't know why people take drink recommendations from me. 

Anyway, it's a job that was never going to go anywhere and the pay is shit. People who stock shelves at night get paid more than me, and they don't have a $9000 fine hanging over their head every time they walk in the shop because some kid had a fake ID. But that's all alright, because this job was never meant to go anywhere, it was meant to pay the bills and fund a few projects while I did some personal development. It's paid off too, in the three years that I've been there I've made leaps and bounds, just not in any way that's quantifiable. 

It's all coming to an end though, and I'm looking at moving overseas at the start of next year, most likely China, to teach English. With this in mind, certain things are coming into focus.

I had a guy walk in tonight and steal a bottle of wine. I saw him do it, he stuffed it into his over-sized jacked, I had a laugh with another customer about it before she left. He pretended to ask something stupid about some vodka and then made dash for the door. I tried to talk to him, I legitimately wanted to tell him that what he was doing wasn't worth it, but he bolted from the shop. So in the spur of the moment I called out "Run, Forest, run!"

Probably not the most mature thing to yell at a thief... 

Probably not the most mature thing to yell at a thief... 

People steal things all the time, it's not that big of a deal, I just grab some security footage and send it off to the cops. The cops love me, half the time I manage to get a photo of these people's ID's and I attach that to the report as well. The cops then just rock up on their doorstep and charge them, nice and easy. Occasionally I'll get someone who comes back in after they've been fined and they'll abuse me for reporting them, as though I'm in the wrong...

It's pretty much exactly like this.

It's pretty much exactly like this.

The thing is that booze is not a need, not unless you're living in a wasteland where you need it to sterilize a wound or something. I'd let someone go if they ran out with a loaf of bread or something basic like that, but I've got no problem with making a tape of someone stealing wine simply because they feel like a drink but can't or won't pay for it. The problem is though, once this kid gets caught, it's seriously going to fuck up his life.

Just... trust me, these characters from Jericho spend a lot of time brewing booze for a hospital.

Just... trust me, these characters from Jericho spend a lot of time brewing booze for a hospital.

Shop lifting sounds like a minor offence, but imagine every job interview he's going to have in the future. He's going to have to answer the questions; what he stole, why did he steal it and has he done it again recently? It's going to follow him around like revenge porn, and although I'm technically in the right here, I'm also to blame for this. The problem is though, if I let it go and he doesn't get caught then he'll just keep doing it until something really bad happens. Best he learns this lesson early on, there's a better chance of him righting his ways.

I just wish he didn't come into my shop and drag me into this situation with him, I'm only working this dead end job to pay the bills while I write.

And after that this woman comes in, crying, which happens often enough, and I ask her what's wrong. Turns out the car crash that I'd been hearing about all night had involved her husband, some young guy had plowed into him and he was at the hospital. I did what I could for her, which is not much since I'm a freaking night shift worker at a bottle shop, but I helped her out. I've been in her shoes and I've also been in her husbands shoes, so I had an idea of what to say, so she left well enough. 

I've had to deal with some crazy shit in this store over the past few years. For about a year and a half I had a running transcript of the stupid conversations I had with people posted up on Facebook. I had to stop though, eventually it all just got too absurd to make a joke of it anymore. I've had customers skull whole bottles of wine right outside my door, a woman has asked me to knock her up, I've had a guy screaming at me for over twenty minutes because I wouldn't serve him, I've had to stand against three guys harassing a carload of girls, I've watched a truck crash into a traffic light, I've seen a kid get hit by a car, I've had multiple customers drink themselves to death, I've been one of the only shops in the area to not get held up in a crime wave...

It's probably got something to do with the fact that I look like Old Man Fenix...

It's probably got something to do with the fact that I look like Old Man Fenix...

I've kind of been trying to hide away from the world these past few years, working in the bad part of town and keeping to myself while I put some things together. The problem with the world is that you can run from it, but you can't hide from it, and it's usually pretty damn good at sneaking up on you. There has been some seriously crazy shit go down in that shop, and as much as I appreciate the chance to work a solid job, I'm kind of glad to be leaving.

Anyone who works with booze gets sick of people's shit pretty damn quick.

Anyone who works with booze gets sick of people's shit pretty damn quick.

I was in a bad way when I first started working there, and although I've still got a few things to work out, I'm doing a whole lot better these days. I'm not desperate enough to steal a bottle of booze, and I haven't been in car crash... recently. With all that in mind, as shitty as things seem at times, I'm actually doing pretty well. I've just got to remember that. 

I am looking forward to getting out of here though, and this TESOL course is my ticket to do just that. 

I get that there's more to China than just the Great Wall, but I wanted to end this on a positive note.

I get that there's more to China than just the Great Wall, but I wanted to end this on a positive note.

Why I Became a Writer

My old man is pretty much the reason I became a writer. He was full of wild and unbelievable stories and he's the one that got me writing in the first place, though probably not in the way that you'd expect.

Subtle nod to the most famous post apocalyptic father/son duo.

Subtle nod to the most famous post apocalyptic father/son duo.

My old man was a stevedore, he loaded and unloaded cargo ships. He traveled all around the world, to some of the most remote locations, and unloaded ships there. Half the time he was going to places that didn't even exist yet, he was there to unload the building supplies for mining or logging camps that were destined for the middle of some island jungle. You can't go to these sorts of places and not come back with some crazy stories.

Pirates, rabid Razorbacks, minefields, fossils of prehistoric birds, tidal waves, guys blowing their legs off while fishing with grenades and WW2 era Japanese swords lodged in trees in Papua New Guinea. He'd seen it all, and afterwards he'd come home and tell me all about it.

That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of the kind of ships he worked on...

That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of the kind of ships he worked on...

The thing with my dad though, was that despite having all these amazing stories to tell me, he rarely read or wrote because he was dyslexic. It's why he continued to be a stevedore well into his sixties, it was a hands on job that allowed him to travel and didn't require him to do much of either. The problem was though, when you've been in a job for that long you tend to get promoted to management, and managers usually have to write emails and reports and all those boring, desk jockey things. 

That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of my old man... weirdly enough.

That's actually a fairly accurate depiction of my old man... weirdly enough.

Which is where his nerdy, nine year old kid comes into the picture. 

I'd be on the computer, playing Dark Earth or Fallout, and this gigantic hand would suddenly drop down onto my shoulder. My dad was pretty stealthy for a big guy, but that's a story for another day. I'd close the game with a sigh, I knew what I needed to do.

When that happened, I was going to be spending the next fifteen minutes to an hour transcribing and editing an email or some report. He'd sit behind me and spout random things about subjects that we're way beyond my comprehension, or he'd be having a go at some employee that wasn't pulling their weight. My job was to write it all out, and edit it to make sure that it sounded right. After he was finished, he'd always end with, "now, read it back to me. Then send it."

Practice makes perfect.

Practice makes perfect.

The cool thing about this little ritual we had going was that I've got a pretty good typing speed, I know how to spell and, although I don't do it the way you're meant too, I can touch type. I've got a pretty good idea of sentence structure and formatting, and I've got an idea of when things don't sound right - especially in dialogue. Beyond this, I'm also not bad at remembering strings of words that're shouted at me, and I'm usually able to regurgitate them with a fairly high level of accuracy. 

The downside to this training, besides the countless hours of gaming that I missed out on, is that this was all on the job learning. I know what I'm doing, I just don't know why I'm doing it or even what "it" is called. I know where all the commas and full stops go, but throw a semicolon at me and you might as well be speaking Pitjantjatjara. I can still only barely tell you the difference between a noun and a verb, and don't even get me started on adverbs and adjectives. Please, don't get me started, I wouldn't even know where to start from.

They... change things? I dunno.

Let me just reiterate; I have a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, with minors in English and History. I got through all of university and I still didn't learn this stuff, either because they figured it was so basic that we should already know it or because they just don't teach it anymore. It's one of the reasons I'm so glad that I'm doing this TESOL course; I'll have to know grammar if I'm ever going to teach it. Learning how to teach kids how to read/write/speak English is as much for my own benefit as it is theirs. 

I get that this probably isn't the best thing to be divulging to the world this early in the game, but I've always been a fan of a unique origin story. My old man passed away a few years ago now, and although we didn't always see eye to eye, he's the one that go me interested in storytelling and, whether he intended to or not, he's the one that trained me how to write. He showed me how to have some crazy adventures of my own too, but again - another day.

Would it have been that hard for me to pick up a grammar guide and learn how to do this? Probably not, but then I am notoriously lazy and I got a weird kick out of being the lone sorcerer in a class full of classically trained wizards. (sorry... D&D joke there, props if you get it)

I am making amends for all that though, as I am finally studying up on something that I should have mastered a long time ago. It'll take me a while to get used to all the technical terms for the in's and out's of English, it is a bastard language after all, but I'll get there.... because I would really like to get out of here, and teaching kids overseas is my best chance of doing just that.

Let's just hope it's not like this...

Let's just hope it's not like this...

A New Post Apocalyptic Blog!

That's gonna leave a mark.

That's gonna leave a mark.

I've suffered a few... setbacks, recently. 

I've been working a dead end job for a few years now, it pays well enough and it's given me the free time I need to work on my projects as well as hash out a few personal issues. For the past few months I've been pumping most of my money into the artwork for an upcoming novel that I've been working on for far too long. Then 2017 swings around and things got interesting.

I started dating this woman in January and she decided that we "needed a break" in February, so I decided I needed a break from dating in general. Also in January, I found out that I was getting dumped by my landlord as well and that I had to move out of my apartment at the start of March. Equally harsh, but at least she gave me a bit of warning before the split. I stuck with the same flatmate and let him decide where we were moving and so we ended up three doors down from the airport, which has been interesting. Lesson learned.

I started hitting the gym pretty hard in February, after work every night, five nights a week. I was getting stronger physically and it took my mind off things so I was feeling better mentally. Then in May I found out that my car registration bill had been sent to the old address and not forwarded, so I got a pretty nasty fine. I was still pumping most of my cash into the upcoming book at this point, so this sudden bill pretty much wiped me out. I lived week to week for the rest of May and then in early June I busted my back at the gym.

I suffered a herniated disk, my L5, on the left side. I couldn't bend forward, the toes on my left foot were numb and every time I sneezed or coughed my left glut (that's the muscle in your butt) would have a spasm like I'd touched an electric fence (something I've done... multiple times). I was cleared for light duties at work but they wouldn't let me return until I was fully cleared by the doctors. So for the next seven weeks I lived off my holiday and sick pay while I spent days and nights alone in my room reading and watching YouTube as well as pretty much every TV series ever created.

During these seven weeks the tiles in my airport adjacent apartment decided that they'd split from the concrete slab beneath them. While no visible damage was done, they're an obvious problem and the owner has decided that she'd like to fix them personally, she's moving back in this September. So, once again, I'll soon be undertaking the wallet draining adventure of moving house.

That seven weeks was an experience though, I'm happy to admit that I did my best to remain productive and as active as I could but it was always going to be a losing battle. Free time is great, too much free time tends to suck you into a bottomless pit of depression no matter what you do. Seven weeks of zero exercise and plenty of feel good food, combined with countless doctor visits and plenty of physiotherapy left me a little light in the wallet and a lot heavier around the waist.

But hey, at least I got a really nice beard out of the experience. 

So it's now half way through August and in my third week back at work, and I am actually really glad to be back. Seven weeks is a long time to think though, especially when bulk painkillers and no exercise means you're generally awake for 20 hours a day. I've come through all this and despite it all, I'm actually feeling pretty good.

I've always had weight issues, that's just one of the challenges I face, but while I've packed on a few kilos it doesn't seem like the insurmountable challenge it did in the past. I've been on a great diet for the past three weeks and it's going well; my regulars are already commenting on my weight loss... which, while great and all, is still none of their damn business. Although I still can't exercise as much as I did before the injury, I'm doing what I can. The injury has also changed my fitness goals as well, not just because I have to be more careful but because the time out gave me time to think about what I actually want out of life.

I got my tax return in late July as well, so while that helped keep me afloat, what remains of it has been used to pay for a TESOL course. While my current job has served me well enough, it was never going to lead anywhere and it's simply not enough for me anymore. At least with teaching English I'll be able to work within my field and the ability to travel and work overseas has it's obvious appeal as well. 

And I decided to finally pull the pin and start a website as well, so yeah, it's been an interesting few weeks. 

Currently I plan to stick around here until the new year, tying up lose ends and finishing as many projects as I can. The classes for the TESOL course will run through to November but from what I understand it's self paced, so if I actually apply myself I should be able to get through before the year's over.

I could probably move on before the year's out but my boss is currently in hospital with some serious health issues and Christmas time is the busiest period of the year. Despite being a crotchety scrooge he's been pretty damn good to me, so I'm happy to stick around for one last hurrah. 

More immediately though, it doesn't really make sense to sign on for another 6 or 12 month lease if I plan on moving overseas before then. So in September, which is when the lease here is up, I'll be moving back to my mother's place. Yes yes, I can hear the collective groan. Or was that just me? Anyway, the point is - she's currently building a duplex, so she's got her own projects going on and I'm sure that I could help her out before I leave. It's not ideal, but at the very least it will let me save money quicker and get this next book published in a more timely fashion.

This site is still under construction, and I'm still learning how Squarespace operates, so there will no doubt be some changes along the way. Feel free to stick around and join me as I catalog the mundane to the marvelous, I'm sure there will be plenty of both.