01. Saving Face

  1. 01. Saving Face
  2. 02. Authentic Beijing
  3. 03. Great Men and Spoilt Brats
  4. 04. Great Walls of Ire
  5. 05. A Breath of Fresh Air
  6. 06. Luxury & Sexy
  7. 07. Hurt & Seoul
  8. 08. My Korean Family
  9. 09. Trafficking in Manila
  10. 10. Paradise Last
  11. 11. Something for Nothing
  12. 12. Getting In and Getting Out

Getting a Chinese visa can be something of a bureaucratic nightmare, although in recent years they have streamlined the process considerably. Their application is one of the few government forms on which I hesitate to lie, given that particular government’s propensity to use bullets now and send the bill later. Anywhere else I enter my occupation with the highly innocuous descriptor “accountant”, even though I couldn’t be called an accountant with any accuracy since, well, ever. But on my China visa application I honestly and not without irony entered “public servant”, and where required, checked the “government official” box, too.

Departing Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport, I was unprepared for the Aussie Customs and Immigration official to quiz me on this, especially at six in the morning, before I had had my second cuppa. “What agency are you with?” he asked with some jocularity.

I stared at him blankly. “Huh?”
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Driving St Kilda Mad

I admit it: I am a terrible driver. I come to a full stop at stop signs, overtake only when safe, signal before turning, obey speed limits, and give way to pedestrians. Naturally, everybody on the road considers me a hazard to navigation. Judging by their fondness for horns, there must be many Wagner fans amongst St Kilda drivers.

For me, the last straw was the red light camera installed at the corner of Barkly Street and Carlisle, effectively a $258 toll to take a right turn at peak hour. The solution was obvious: get rid of the car.
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Trashing St Kilda

A quirky tradition of St Kilda is the impromptu recycling residents perform by leaving their unwanted rummage on the footpath for others to usurp, free of charge. Beggars can be choosers after all. Almost all of it seems to get snatched up. When I put a refrigerator outside after dutifully duck-taping it closed and calling the council to pick it up, my neighbours came a-knockin’ asking whether it still worked. “Of course,” I answered “but once I couldn’t cram anymore cash inside, what was I to do with it?” Ask a silly question…

Some stuff nobody wants; tube TV’s and CD racks come to mind. These spend a long time out there. When analogue broadcast met its demise, one couldn’t walk down the street without climbing over once-loved TVs.
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