One of the good things about the apartment where I currently live is the view. On a clear day, one can see for miles (or kilometres - I need to get back into the habit of using the metric system, which makes way more sense than whatever bullshit yards and feet and whatnot that only confuse).  I took this photo below the day I moved in using the panoramic feature on my iPhone.  The buildings are actually much closer than they appear, but for purposes of this exercise, this photo will do.

Not too shabby, eh? The view is one of the only things I like about this apartment. It's located bit farther off the beaten track than I would prefer, and you can't exactly walk anywhere, but i'm only here for a couple more weeks before uprooting and moving closer into town. I think.

But for the past few days, this is the view we've been getting. And today is a bit clearer than previous days: 

Yesterday you couldn't see the buildings on the left, which are in reality pretty close. And this is all due to illegal wildfires burning in Indonesia, affecting all the surrounding countries, which the Indonesian government refuses to do anything about.  

That's pretty normal in this part of the world. Governments are corrupt; they say they're going to do something and they don't, and they don't enforce rules and laws they put into effect. But they enforce their own bullshit made up on the spot rules, like cops pulling random people over when driving and demanding a bribe. Bribery is pretty common here. Shameful.

Yesterday, trying to get a taxi home from dinner, some local decided to help us by pretty much getting in the way. When we did manage to get a cab, no thanks to him, he got pretty angry when we wouldn't give him any money, and beat his fist on the cab door. Shit like this is pretty common here. I am gracious and gracious and gracious, and I put up with a lot of bullshit from "friends" and former business partners; I had vowed not to tolerate any more bullshit when moving here, but unfortunately I may have moved to the wrong country to enforce my own beliefs.

I knew before coming here that these countries tend to have antiquated views on women and ageism in general, but it didn't occur to me that it would be as bad as it really is. Job applicants must include a head shot of themselves (now I see why so many people are keen to get professional pictures taken of themselves) and you must include your birth date on all applications. I had a job interview the other day, for one of the resorts in the central provinces.  Second question out of the Executive Chef's mouth was, "How old are you?". When I told him, I could tell he immediately wanted to get me off the phone. The awkward pause and hemming and hawing and finally, "Well... i've got some hotshot young chef in Hong Kong who I'm going to interview next, so I'm not quite sure what to tell you".  In the US, ageism is illegal.  No amount of me trying to tell this chef about my vast experience and knowledge, he wants a hotshot young guy. Ah well. No use crying over it when there's nothing I can do about it.  And there's no use in me voicing my opinion about it here because that will only fall on deaf ears. 

The other thing i've noticed here - though it hasn't applied directly to me but has pissed me off way more than the ageism - is blatant racism.  The women here try to be as pale as possible. They don't step out in the sun without covering themselves up ridiculously from head to toe. They buy bleaching products and skin care, which has proven to be difficult for me when shopping for my own skincare because I can't find anything that doesn't have a bleaching ingredient in it.  People here view dark skin very negatively. The Vietnamese who are tan or naturally dark skinned get shunned because they're considered to be a lower class than the others: they're viewed as farmers, the ones who do hard labor outside, they're seen as "dirty".  My friend Vân is a totally cute chick who is naturally dark skinned. We were out having drinks with her and her friend Kim when they told us about being bullied growing up, and how the other kids called them "negroes" because they both have skin a bit darker than what is considered "normal" here. Kim said that at the beginning of each school year she would check her new history book for when they would be learning about U.S. history, especially slavery and the Civil Rights movement, so that she could be mentally prepared for the onslaught of name-calling that was par for the course.  I read on one of the expat message boards about an American couple (he's white, she's African-American), and how people here were treating her. He claimed that strangers were coming up to him and asking why he was with a "dirty" girl. If this is true, it's pretty fucking awful shit.

You'd think that with more expat money flowing in at a rapid speed that attitudes would change here - and they probably will, though I doubt how fast those changes will take place.  I can't even imagine what would happen if they allowed people to vote here. I'm not quite sure i'll see that day in my lifetime.

Anyway, I could delve much deeper into this, but I haven't had enough coffee yet. 


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