Sunday, January 24, 2010

Asia (The Sequel)

My last entry detailed the frontrunners in the “Where Anthony Might Move” sweepstakes, but there are some dark horses that I have some knowledge about. They’re unlikely compared to China, Taiwan and Thailand but who knows? I’ll go where the jobs/news stories are.

Thailand could be described as Disney Land. Neighboring Cambodia could be described as a country dealing with an unimaginable genocide. I was there for a long weekend a couple years ago and it truly was a terrifying place. Lawless, chaotic and unforgettable. Any vice –some of which would mean years in jail if indulged in back in the United States - is just a few dollars away.

Most of the weekend was spent in Siem Reap and around the Angkor temples. Phnom Penh, from what I saw, was impossible to fathom with its lack of rules and order. It was like the Wild West. The Wild Wild West. The Wicked Wild Wild West. If I were to move to Cambodia, I’d likely be based here and it seems like a miserable city to spend a lot of time in.

The plus side is that there are so many fascinating stories here form a journalistic standpoint. Every family has tales that would make me realize how blessed I’ve been in my life. There’s also the occasional border skirmish with Thailand and how foreign investments are poring into the country. The only problem would be getting around the language barrier. Khmer isn’t the easiest of language to learn or the most practical.

Ideally, I’d just be visiting Cambodia. I don’t think I could live there.

Update: My perception of Cambodia changed with this video. I want to go now. Embedding isn't allowed, but do check it out.

When it comes to newsworthy events, Vietnam is as interesting as Cambodia. The problem is that the communist government isn’t the most welcoming to Western reporters.

I spent a week in and around Hanoi and it just didn’t do it for me. People were up by 6 a.m. with their motorcycles honking endlessly, and by 10 p.m. the city was shut down. It was a great trip, especially since northern Vietnam was much more “traditional” than any other place I’ve been, but I don’t know how much I’d enjoy it. It’d be unfair to rule it out since I only saw practically nothing in the country. Ho Chi Minh City sounds like Hanoi on crack/speed/caffeine.

South Korea/Japan
The reason I’m lumping these two countries together is because my motivation to live in either is based on the same thing: money. Korea has the best pay when compared to living cost for teachers, and Japan also pays more than I could dream of making at a newspaper. The living costs in Japan are exorbitant, which is a bit of a downer. The reason I’d want to move abroad is to go on cheap adventures.

Still, I’d love to visit both countries but I don’t know about living in either.

I dated a girl from Malaysia and had vague aspirations of moving there, but it was never meant to be. It’d be fun (and super awkward) to see her again, but I think I’d be pretty useless in Malaysia. English is widely spoken (along with Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay) and reporting is often difficult thanks to yet another not-so-open-minded Asian government. Plus, it’s hotter than balls down here. Thailand is practically an arctic climate comparatively. Considering how disgusting I’d look by 1 p.m. in a typical day of class while in Bangkok, I don’t think it’s the best climate for me.

My heart races when I think of chasing down stories in Cambodia while dodging landmines, but the reality is I need to find a place where I can hold a steady job (i.e. teaching) and live somewhat decently until I get my feet on the ground. I’ll eventually figure out what country is the best for that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Asia (the continent, not the band)

I have a dream. It involves Asia.

While I like my job and all, for the past two years I’ve wanted to move to Asia. Not sure where exactly, but I have a vague plan teaching English, acclimating myself to the country and then branching off into reporting. One of the first things cut from newspapers were the foreign bureaus, so it’s up to enterprising people like me to fill the void. I already have the money saved up.

Can I do it? I don’t know.

Do I want to? Within a year.

I don’t have any place in particular that I’m set on. Right now I’m just weighing the pros and cons. I’ve narrowed it down to three possible countries, but there’s a couple wild cards complicating things. In an effort to gather my thoughts, here are the pros and cons of the main contendors

+I would learn how to speak Mandarin, which will be extremely useful when I begin reporting.
+China is the center of the world. No place where more is happening than here.
+There’s a good chance my brother will be living/working in China in a couple years, so it’d be awesome to be there with him.
-No Google? No blogs? No Thanks
-The awful political environment makes reporting not only frustrating, but borderline impossible. The stifling environment is not something I’d enjoy.
-The pay, while decent, isn’t the best considering the burgeoning wealth in the country
Dealbreaker: The lack of press freedom isn’t conducive to my life goal. Still, somebody has to try to do it (even if it means getting shot).

+I’ve been here and I know that I love it. I already know that I could eat the food everyday and not get sick of it (as long as I have the occasional grilled cheese sandwich). I know how awesome the beaches/parks/nightlight can be, and it’s something I’d love to be surrounded by.
+Seeing my friends over there would be a joy, and I know that they’d help me out as I get started.
-While I could live comfortably on the pay, I wouldn’t be able to save much. I’d also spend a lot of money partying with my friends.
-Almost all of my Thai language skills have been forgotten, but learning Thai doesn’t seem like the most useful effort if I want to report in other countries.
-There are lots and lots and lots of Western people in the country, so the job market is that much more competitive. Also, there seems to be no shortage of writers. I want to go somewhere more untapped by the media. At least the press is relatively free (unless you’re talking about the royal family).
Dealbreaker: While I’d love the lifestyle and know I’d have a lot of fun, it seems harder to get into reporting here. Also, while the pay is decent, it’d be difficult to save up money. Having money would make the foray into foreign reporting easier.

+Once again, learning Mandarin would be incredibly useful for my foray into international affairs.
+From what I’m told, the pay is among the best in the continent. Saving money seems much easier to do here.
+They have pro baseball here. How awesome is that?
+A fair amount of press freedom, and the fascinating/frightening political situation with China would make for compelling news.
-I know some people living there, but I don’t know if they’ll be around if/when I get there. Aside from them, I have no support network there. I’d do it on my own. Thinking positively, after I do it I can say I did it my way. Still, it's a little intimidating. 
-Out of the three countries I’ve been looking into, I know the least about Taiwan. It can’t be as good as it seems. Most things aren’t.
Dealbreaker: I’m too uninformed to say. The food doesn't sound the best, though.

So I’m still nowhere near a decision. It’ll come to me sooner or later. Every Sunday night, right before work, I usually stay up until 2 a.m. doing research. The only thing holding back is how I’d miss my parents. I’m not one to get homesick, but in all my travels I always had a return ticket. That won’t be the case if this move happens.

Coming up next: I will discuss some of the wild card countries. The ones I’m not thinking of too seriously but could definitely happen. Malaysia? Cambodia? Vietnam? Korea? I don't know?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

So long, vacation

So, my vacation has finally come to an end. I spent eight days back home in beautiful South Glens Falls, N.Y., a couple nights in Albany, and the final weekend back in Connecticut. Compared to my last vacation, where I covered E3 in Los Angeles and a couple nights in Las Vegas, this was about as low key as it could get. I realized after that last vacation that I need a couple days to unwind after travelling or I don’t feel rested by the time work begins again. This time I unwound (is this is a word?) to the nth degree.

Here’s what went down.

--- Spent a lot of time with friends and family. This was nice because I probably won’t have a day off to go home until snow melts and flowers blossom. It was the first time I saw my younger brother, Mark, since he left to study in Shanghai in August. Like me, he’s in love with the Asian country where he studied abroad. A big thanks to him for the two Yao Ming jerseys he got me for Christmas. They will be put to use, especially if my boss allows “casual Asian basketball player jersey Friday.”

---Saw Avatar.  Meh.

--- Wrote a review for Canabalt over at Thunderbolt Games. It was simplistic bliss, as the image below demonstrates.
 --- Watched an entire season of 24. I have an addictive personality, and when I start something I want it done. Such was the case with the two dozen episodes of season seven. It was the best season in years, although the bar is set fairly low with this show. I think only the odd-numbered seasons end up decent, so I’m not really looking forward to new episodes of season eight in a week.

--- Skied at Gore Mountain for a day. It was bone-chillingly cold and too crowded, but the conditions were excellent. I’ve never had the chance to ski on so much powder before. I’d make a reference to cocaine, but I can’t think of anything remotely funny.

--- Bought a bunch of camping gear for this summer. I miss the outdoors.

--- Watched the Giants shame and embarrasses themselves and their fans in two different games. My Sundays will be productive now. Also, much more boring.

--- Updated the blog a couple times. It’s something I’m going to do from now on or I’ll be mad at myself.

--- Drank Patron for the first time. That was one of several memorable nights I had with my friends.

--- Organized my apartment. Notice how I didn’t say “cleaned” my apartment. I did hang up this incredible painting my mom had framed for me as a Christmas gift. When I was working in Warsaw a couple years ago, I went to the National Museum and bought a bunch of painting for cheap. I had one framed already: “Partridges” by Josef Chelmonski, and it looks quite classy. Check it out.
The one my mom had framed for me was the Battle of Grunwald my Jan Matejko. It’s a super patriotic painting and could probably be the considered of Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze. This is what the epic painting looks like.
It’s significantly smaller than the 10 by 17 feet of the original, but it looks quite nice in my hallway. With my six Alfons Mucha copies, seven pencil sketches of Krakow and a Return of the Jedi poster with an Ewok on it, my apartment walls are looking quite classy.

Now here are some things I wish I did but never got around to.

--- Write a short biography and then have my mom translate so I can “officially” have my European Union citizenship. The world will be opened up to me once I finally get that. I’d report in strange Eastern European countries in a second.

--- Caught up with a few old friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

--- Finished my Adobe Premiere training DVD. I’m about 75 percent done and did a bunch over the vacation, but I just couldn’t finish it -  yet.

While perhaps not the most productive vacation, it was so relaxing that I almost look forward to going to work tomorrow. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow when that actually happens.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


One thing I often miss about upstate New York is the warm folksiness of the people. Random conversations with strangers aren't too uncommon in the frigid north, while down here in Connecticut people seem less inclined to talk. Today, at the Stop and Shop in Fairfield, my perception of the people of Connecticut changed a little bit.

I finished placing all my groceries on the conveyor belt: pizza, salad, Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Popping Corn, and other items when a heavy set man with glasses and a mustache got in line behind me.

“I thought I’d be nice and give my niece and nephew the ultimate gift,” he said to me, and pointed towards a DVD of Pixar’s Up.

“I’m a bit jealous,” I said, since I’ve been wanted to see the movie ever since I saw the commercials.

The gentleman replied, “I had to get them something they could watch. I don’t think they’d want to see Stripper Review.”

I was caught a little off guard, and then the man elaborated on how his niece isn’t allowed to dance classes with his girlfriend of six years. The reason? His girlfriend is a stripper and teaches pole dancing. It was a very awkward conversation, and all I could think of was this recent video I saw.

After a year, I have to say Connecticut is becoming an interesting place to live.