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Coronavirus Missives from Spain, South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan
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James Weitz at Saigon's airport on March 18th, 2020

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In South Korea, you can still get on buses and trains, or just wander around for miles at your leisure, so yesterday, I was in Gimhae. Like all Korean cities, it unashamedly flaunts nondescript, skyscraping condos and sterile, soulless churches that surely prove there is no God, for there’s no way he would tolerate so much brazenly ghastly architecture for his Jesusfuckin’ houses, man.

But that’s a minor gripe. There’s much to admire here, such as public mini toilets for toddlers, deep fried battered hot dogs dusted with sugar, long distance buses that always leave exactly on time, brain-scrambling English that’s stronger than paper acid and the eminently lickable rapper Soyeon cooing, “Is it call from hell?”

Gratuitously indulged, pampered and forgiven by the Spring sun, I lingered at a Gimhae playground. Watching the lovely kids, I noticed one girl had this on her jacket, “AVEC PLAISIR.” Western languages are cool here, so you’ll see many Koreans with some occidental declaration on their clothing, often nonsensical. “Between Contraries Relation,” “Idealist Gleam Clasher” or “tu seras pour moj [sic] unique au monde, et je serai pour toi unique au monde,” etc. Waiting for a train, a tall, lanky and clearly retarded boy had “INDIVIDUAL” on his stylish wind breaker. His mom had to chase him around as he marched all over the platform, grumbling to himself. It was touching, such love.

Though I’m sure the small girl had no idea what’s on her back, it was apt, for much of what we do is pleasurable, or was, though the sensations have mostly evaporated already, leaving merely thoughts.

Exiting an unprecedented era of excess and waste, we’re plunged into a much more constrained universe. Quite suddenly, life has become a nostalgia for living. Surely this can’t last, but don’t expect a recovery. With the global economic collapse just beginning, protests, riots and desperate fleeing will only intensify, and we’ll be lucky to escape war, for whatever that’s likely to erupt will be deceptively framed, as usual, and won’t solve any of the hoi polloi’s problems.

Meanwhile, all is still relatively calm. As beaten down Americans wait for hours to receive emergency food, Nancy Pelosi Antoinette beamingly shows the world her stash of artisinal ice cream. With masks ubiquitous, smiles have mostly disappeared, but you can still hear laughters, if muffled. Wounded, the economy will lurch along in stops and starts, when not crawling on all fours. We’ll inhabit the afterimage of affluence.

I’ve had beer with three of the four correspondents in this batch of Coronavirus Missives, but that was once upon a time…

 

Jay Johnston, a 55-year-old American English teacher in Zaragoza, Spain

We are just passing the 40 days and 40 nights zenith of our quarantine in Spain. And it’s raining. But that’s good for this area.

The quarantine has been extended until May 9. My friends and students in the medical biz say don’t hold your breath. Also let kids under 13 out today with a chaperone. Terrible failure. The end is not nigh.

Some good things have come from this shutdown. It seems folks have gotten a handle on standing in line and using a bidet. I’ve found I can stay at home and be relaxed. My relationship with the son I live with has improved and I’m eating better even though I’m broke.

I have been an English as a second language teacher here in Zaragoza for around 20 years. We commonly jump between working for private academies and for ourselves. At the end of the last academic year, the company I was teaching for went out of business. This was unfortunate, obviously, for a number of reasons but life goes on. I went on unemployment, which is a pretty good system here, was able to keep some of my private classes and set my sights on opening my own business. Skipping past the ups and downs, I finally found a space and made an investment. In February. Did the interior myself, unemployment almost gone. Impeccable timing.

Many many others are in a very bad way. The economy was fragile to begin with. Civil servants are still being paid (working or not), of course. Many people, such as my oldest, are able to work from home. Some have contracts which can’t be terminated. But others were fired before the government supposedly outlawed it. There’s always a loophole. The self-employed are able to pay less tax and defer permit fees until a later date. All tourism and pleasure activity on hold. Many medium to bigger size companies are waiting on money to pay employees under a condition called ERTE that is from the European Union. But Spain hasn’t released that money yet because the E.U. has put them under a microscope as to distributing the funds correctly. Banks and other loansharks are ready to give. And eat.

I’ve had it up to my tits with it all. I’m tired of applauding every night at 19:58 in community-appreciation when the government seems way out of it’s depth, can’t follow it’s own rules, spends shitloads on faulty products/equipment, actively pursues widening the rift (which has existed for a long time) between all parties and citizens and still finds time to give themselves a pay rise. And these are the supposed socialists! Par for the course too common. That goes for all camps. They’re all the same. A student asked me the other day if I preferred security or freedom, a choice put to us in disguise. I said both. My responsibility is to treat freedom with respect.

ORDER IT NOW

Tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow. I try to stay optimistic. The future is bleak. The government did pause dislodging people. The utility companies and my landlords say fuck you. Infections are beginning to subside. Waiting on the second wave. Time to let some people out, they’ll behave. Male/female dramatically spits on street with child in hand. Don’t worry, we’ve got pictures of them. Covid-19 has opened the floodgates but the spillway is already full.

Hypocrisy has been around forever, but it feels new and fresh. The end justifies the means, join or die.

I think I’ll just keep on truckin’, rooting around for gold. Gotta wake up and look at myself in the mirror every day. And cook.

 

T, an American soldier in his 40’s who’s been stationed in South Korea for a year

I tried to avoid being assigned to Korea for years expecting the worse and have been pleasantly surprised at how advanced and great of a place Korea is to live. The only negative I can think of is the air pollution. Most days it is not that bad but it is noticeable, especially after a morning run.

The Korean Government and Korean people have shown how mature, advanced, democratic nations react and resolve problems. The ROK Government and Korean citizens reacted with reason, logic, and base their actions on scientific facts instead of uniformed emotions. They have done an admirable job implementing creative techniques to prevent and reduce the spread of infections without placing the nation under House Arrest and Lockdown, terms previously used only for prisoners.

The economy in Korea continues to function, although it is export driven so who knows how much life it has left in it. Individuals retained their liberty and freedom to choose when and where they go. I understand most Koreans did responsibly choose not to go out as often. They even conducted an election and implemented measures and social distancing protocols to allow quarantined and infected citizens to vote, while our own media perpetuates the rumor we won’t be able to have an election. “Everything has changed. Things can never go back the way they used to be. This is the new normal.” What a bunch of bullshit.

A few places and activities were closed by the Korean government. Schools, recently night clubs and bars in Seoul, and a few parks were closed where large crowds gather to see trees and flowers in bloom, but for the most part everything has remained open and South Korea has one of the lowest infection and death rates.

COIV-19 has changed my work quite a bit. Many systems and processes we have functioned well and without constant oversight and micromanagement. COVID changed that. Starting in mid – late February everything started getting much more complicated in how we operate and conduct daily business. Now there is added complexity in almost everything we do as a result of either social distancing requirements or policy changes that resolve one problem but creates several new problems. This results in some long work hours, but helps keep me out of trouble.

In late March and early April the majority of personnel I work with telecommuted to reduce risk of infection. This resulted in some unique challenges. Never did I think I would have home office working in the military.

The military community is currently limited from many nonessential activities, but restrictions are gradually being relaxed as infections are reduced. Hopefully in another couple of weeks life returns back to normal; for the summer at least..

Seeing the US from my international perspective, it looks like we are causing irreparable damage to the economy as our country binge watches the op ed talk shows we call news in a media induced panic. I think we are overreacting to compensate for not preparing when there were warning signs coming out of China. I don’t blame the government for this so much as question why the medical community and for profit businesses didn’t start ordering and stocking up on the necessary supplies as they saw the indicators and trend lines in China and Korea in January and February?

But they didn’t, so now our low information voters require officials to be seen Actively Doing Something, even if it is not beneficial so long as they are not perceived as being passive or uncaring. The problem is their solutions make bad problems worse and will cause much more pain and suffering to many more Americans in the long run than if they had taken an approach similar to what the Koreans have done. The news is constantly hyping disaster porn to up their ratings, which completes the circle and a large amount of the sheeple have turned to public shaming methods. The Taliban could take lessons from us Puritans.

The media and our officials very rarely report the numbers in context. 45,000 deaths in the US is high, especially compared to the 10,728 cases and 242 deaths in Korea. But, how many deaths do we usually have in an average month from other diseases?

I also question the numbers and wish there was detailed, fact-based reporting on the methodology of determining how a person died of COVID when we hear there is a lack of available testing kits. The message I see when I watch American news is Be Afraid whether it is COVID or any other topic. Rather than reporting about geriatrics lives being cut tragically short, they could do some analysis about the statistics.

A better method would be to focus our limited resources and efforts on the at-risk population rather than bankrupting the entire country by placing workers under House Arrest and providing Welfare “Stimulus” to Millionaires. As a result of our Lockdown many individuals are unemployed. Rather than let low wage blue collar workers earn their paychecks, trillions of aid has been given to publicly traded large corporations with share holders. None of this makes any sense.

ORDER IT NOW

COVID will most likely be back in the fall and one of the best things to do is be healthy when it hits so you recover. I admit my bias leans toward George Carlins comedy bit “Germs,” and Bill Mahr’s recent Real Time episode where he talked about how the disease is definitely highly contagious and deadly to many people with other health issues. It has even killed a few young healthy people in their prime. However, Mahr made the argument that we should be concerned not panicked. It does not make sense to put 330 million at risk for many more difficult problems to protect a couple hundred thousand.

Unfortunately politics are so polarizing right now that our uninformed public agrees / disagrees with a statement based on who said it versus the information contained in the statement. So to not get pissed off I mostly try to limit consumption of TV and go for a walk outside and enjoy springtime in Korea. Thank goodness the gyms opened back up last week.

 

James Tan, a 40-year-old consultant living in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

We have been in lockdown here in Malaysia since 18 March 2020. All non-essential businesses are not allowed to operate and the general population is confined to their homes.

Everyone’s worried about contracting covid, but they are also worried about their livelihood. Small business owners and daily wage workers are the most affected by the loss of income due to the lockdown.

I’m less affected because the firm I work at has protocols for working from home and the message we are sending to our clients is that it’s business as usual for us.

But can it ever really be business as usual again?

I think social distancing will be the new norm for at least the next half year. And it will accelerate the acceptance of working from home for big corporates.

I was never a big fan of the concept of working from home. Even for someone like me with introverted and anti-social tendencies, nothing beats the personal touch.

But it’s businesses focusing on the “personal touch” that will be most affected by this pandemic.

I’m talking about the pubs, hostess bars, KTVs and massage parlors. 😀

I don’t think these establishments will be allowed to resume operations in the next 3 to 6 months. The people employed by these businesses will be out of work. I worry for them as they have little formal education, no other means of livelihood and live in the grey zones of society.

In any case, I doubt the small business owners that are the main clientele of these businesses will have much spare cash to splurge on these simple pleasures.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the government’s handling of the situation thus far. Most people think of our politicians as a bunch of corrupt goons, but the main man in charge of handling the pandemic is a senior civil servant, Malaysia’s director general of the health ministry, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah,

His calm demeanor, common-sense advice has given us confidence that the government is on top of things. And Malaysia’s covid curve does seem to have flattened significantly in the past week, giving us hope that the lockdown measures will be eased in the coming weeks.

What this pandemic has done is to demonstrate the ineptitude of western governments. I am disgusted by the way they are trying to shift the blame and am even more repulsed by how the mainstream media parrots their groundless accusations.

What is it about the western mindset that makes their leaders incapable of self-reflection? Do they not have a sense of shame?

Come to think of it, I observe the same behavior in my day-to-day business dealings. But I guess this is what politics is about.

I’m too naive to play this game.

 

James Weitz, a 45-year-old American writer temporarily staying in Taiwan

I’m a novelist and travel writer. My particular genre of travel writing is literary tourism: articles covering both popular tourist locations and books that are set in those locations. This means I live out of hostels and guesthouses as I jump from place to place around Asia. But Saigon is kind of my base, the place to read the next book and plan the next trip, which this time was going to mirror Norman Lewis’s amazing travels in “A Dragon Apparent” through south Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Then the Wuhan Virus ruined everything.

In early March, the news was worrisome, especially for travelers in third world countries with sub-par medical systems in the kinds of far-flung places Lewis liked to visit. I decided to wait it out in Saigon, and while I was waiting I started reading reports about Taiwan’s success fighting the virus. Having lived and worked in Taipei several years earlier, I figured I could visit some friends there and get some articles written, then later come back to southeast Asia. So, on March 17th, I booked a ticket for Taipei leaving the next afternoon.

The airport on the 18th was eerily empty. But the procedure was routine: A polite young woman behind the check-in desk took my passport and asked me how many bags I was checking, where I was going, whether I had any prohibited items in my luggage, etc. But as she was inputting my information, she looked up and said, “You must quarantine, sir.”

I wasn’t sure whether I heard her right. Quarantine? Where? When? How long?

“You will have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Taipei, sir.”

“Why?”

“The Taiwanese government has announced it today.”

An American man at the check-in desk next to mine was told the same. We quickly searched the internet and found announcements on the Taiwanese government’s CDC website, in both English and Chinese, that said quarantine measures would not begin until the 19th, which would be the next day. We showed this to the staff behind the desks, who ignored it as they handed us papers to sign that said we understood that we would need to quarantine. Then we did one of the things that Americans are known for in some parts of Asia: we started a pointless argument.

“We are just giving you the information we have, sir.”

“It must be mistaken. You see, here it says quarantine begins on the 19th.”

“We can only give you the information we have, sir.”

“Could the information be wrong?”

“This is the only information we have, sir.”

ORDER IT NOW

I considered whether to stay in Vietnam or head on to Taiwan, even if maybe it meant a mandatory two-week quarantine. Where exactly would I stay? I had a reservation for a single room for a few nights in an underground hostel in Taipei, a place that used to be listed in guidebooks but that the city would no longer license because of code violations. It was by far the cheapest place in town, known mainly by word of mouth between travelers. At least I knew the woman who ran the place, and with it being low-season I was pretty sure I’d be able to stay there for the full two weeks, if need be.

I went ahead and checked my bags, went through security, and then, while standing in line for my exit stamp, a text announcement buzzed on my mobile screen from the hostel owner in Taipei: “Please don’t come to stay here go to Hotel better sorry.”

My jaw clenched. This woman who had known me for years as a regular guest was suddenly cancelling a reservation because … because why exactly? Would my presence damage her high-class operation?

At the gate the plane was delayed two or three hours due to a blown tire. It had been scheduled to arrive in Taipei at 10:20 PM. But now we’d likely be arriving in the wee hours of the 19th. Someone told me it was the date of departure not arrival that was used to determine quarantine and whether foreigners would be allowed to enter the country after the 18th. Nothing was adding up. I texted a friend in Taipei, who responded: “James tomorrow no more flights from Nam to here, and YES will have to go into quarantine On the news now – 23 new cases from overseas travelers in Taiwan JUST today.”

I was probably going to need a place to stay for two weeks. The day before, the hostel owner had asked me to wear a mask and a disposable plastic poncho on the airplane to minimize the risk of infection. Perhaps a picture of how goofy I looked after faithfully following instructions might evoke some sympathy.

I got another message, the gist of which was “you stay on first floor, no come visit me.”

On the flight I sat next to a middle-aged Han Chinese man whom I assumed was Taiwanese. He told me he was from Malaysia. Oh, Malaysia! I explained I had just been there last year writing about Anthony Burgess’s first novels, The Malayan Trilogy, and Carl Hoffman’s The Last Wild Men of Borneo. Borneo was beautiful and Penang was a charming old place. Indeed, my editor had told me I should move to Penang because lots of writers were moving there. But, I had also been to Kota Bahru, a city of 300,000 that lacked a movie theater because the government believed it was immoral to allow men and women to sit close together in the dark. And there was no place to buy alcohol except for a Chinese-run bar/restaurant, where it was illegal for Muslims to enter. It certainly seemed like a country of contrasts. He responded by telling me about how when he was young, he had tried to get an education license to open a private Chinese (student not language) school. The bureaucrat in charge said no and pointed to his skin. “Too dark,” he had told him. (The man beside me was a fairly dark-skinned Han Chinese man, but the indigenous Malay Muslims are usually darker. I interpreted the bureaucrat’s comment as petty racial vengeance.) He explained to me that Chinese were not allowed to start new private schools and could not get construction permits to add buildings on their campuses, even when paying with their own money. Forty years earlier there was about an even balance of Chinese and Muslims in the population, he said, but now there were about twice as many Muslims because of different birth rates, laws prohibiting those born Muslim to convert to other religions, and because Chinese were emigrating for work and education. He himself had moved to Taiwan for business.

The plane arrived after midnight on the 19th. As far as I could tell, the date wouldn’t really have mattered one way or another. The government would have done whatever it wanted. We were all instructed to line up like lemmings and register for quarantine. If any passenger was contagious, waiting together in a hallway for two and a half hours was probably the most effective way to ensure community spread. Once at the registration desk, I had to give a phone number, so I wrote the number of the hostel owner. The man who was processing my registration called her and she confirmed that I would quarantine in “a private room she was renting to me just as a friend”, but she wanted to know if I could move to a hotel the next day. “Yes,” the man said. He waved me along and I went through immigration. The entry stamp on my passport read the 18th, even though it was already well past 3:00 AM on the 19th.

As bothersome and inconvenient as my situation was, I felt lucky compared to a British man I befriended while in line. He had just finished a two-week quarantine in Saigon after leaving Hong Kong, which had no direct flights back to Taiwan, where his Taiwanese wife was waiting for him, after he had been deported a year earlier for illegally tutoring a few students on the side, even though he had a work visa and a full-time job. A few students!

It was around 4:30 in the morning when I finally arrived at the hostel. The door to my room was open and the keys were on the bed. The room had a bathroom but no kitchen or refrigerator; it was on ground-level with a window that faced a busy alley. My options for food would be delivery fare, unless I was kicked out to a hotel with room service.

ORDER IT NOW

The next day, the hostel owner tried to follow through with her plan. She had set up a room for me in a hotel down the street, but, despite what she was told on the phone the night before, the government was not sure whether they would allow me to break quarantine for the few minutes of travel it would take to get there. They would need to approve a vehicle for the purpose, and it would need to be disinfected after use. She was going to let me stay a second night while the bureaucracy had a think. And as this was all happening, she did something that probably did not help her cause. She decided to make a trip of several miles to some popular hot springs on the outskirts of city, carrying her phone with her, whose number was registered to me, and whose signal was being broadcast 24/7 to a computer at the local police station. The system at the station suddenly began flashing red, alerting that I was bathing in a crowded public bath in the mountains. Or so it was explained to me by the two confused officers who appeared at my door. No, no, I told them that I had definitely been in the room continually the entire day, and moreover I had registered my new Taiwan SIM card by calling a government department at a number that had been provided to me at the airport. But that government department apparently had not notified them. The police also got word from their station that my landlady had been reached and was telling the same story. They seemed to consider it a plausible explanation, and I was given an oral warning.

The next day the government declined to allow me to move, which left the landlady no choice but to let me stay. But she turned out not too bad after all, picking up some decent food for me here and there. On the third day the police called but I had only gotten the vibrate function on my phone to work, so I missed the call. Only nine minutes passed before I noticed and called them back, but the police were already on their way again. From then on the police called daily. I’m no good navigating my smart phone settings, but I finally found the right one for the ringer. Thank God. Inconveniencing the police a third time would have meant a fine and probably a permanent record.

The actual quarantine was not too bad. I read some books. I had the internet. The hostel’s TV worked for five days. I spent some time getting the Italian translation of my own book ready for market. The first English version of Gonzo Global Inc. was shadowbanned, because it is a legal satire of globalization in which Mexican tap water is exported to the United States and sold as a laxative. I suppose the boobs at Facebook and Instagram might have been worried that it would offend Mexicans, and we can’t have that.

I also exercised pretty regularly, pacing back and forth 75 minutes each day. And with the quality of delivery food being very low, I lost a good 8 pounds.

I had to handwash all my clothes and hang them inside. They took forever to dry. With twelve hours left in my quarantine, a friend hung a couple shirts just outside my window so I’d have clean, dry clothes the next day. A neighbor called my landlady and said she had seen me outside and had taken a photo of me and was considering calling the police. Turned out she had only taken a photo of my shirts and guessed it was me. At least she didn’t call the police on my friend.

Linh Dinh’s latest book is Postcards from the End of America. He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Coronavirus, Malaysia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan 
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  1. The story of that guy who travelled from Vietnam to Taiwan makes you wonder about the state of some people’s mind. He obviously had no legitimate reason to be travelling at the height of the pandemic. The only reason the immigration let him through must have been because flights were suspended and they couldn’t send him back to Vietnam where he would also have been put in quarantine as he’d have been coming in from overseas, albeit from transit at Taipei airport. Immigration officers can refuse anyone entry at their own discretion and this bloke would have been a perfect candidate for this. Even the landlady didn’t want him and it seems that immigration and the police forced her to accept him. At times like this you either stay put where you are or you get back to your home country if you can.

  2. Franz says:

    What is it about the western mindset that makes their leaders incapable of self-reflection? Do they not have a sense of shame?

    It just shows the world who’s going up, who’s coming down.

    The “West” is loaded with loud-talking cowards, judgmental and powerless twits. Meanwhile in the “East” the people still have the capacity to make personal sacrifice for their fellow citizens, providing both common sense and mutual aid.

    Their leaders can be reasonable because the people are coherent. “Coherent” is just the new code word for “non-diverse” and we now have real world proof that diversity kills. Thanks, virus!

  3. swamped says:

    “Western languages are cool here, so you’ll see many Koreans with some occidental declaration on their clothing”…in an unabashed display of dreadful ‘cultural appropriation’, a cardinal sin of political correctness that those “sterile, soulless churches” can never absolve them of. But if Korean’s “brazenly ghastly architecture” has forced God to flee the Korean peninsula, maybe He can take refuge in some of His other less “Jesusfuckin’ houses”, man…like St. Thomas Church in Leipzig or St.Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, or St.Paul’s, London, or maybe just a humble wooden frame box with spindly steeple on the Great American plains. Or on the more extreme side, the garish Tan Dinh Church in Saigon. Or even a covert ‘home church’ as in neighboring China, where the ruthless communist dictators have been busy demolishing Christian church buildings again, such as Xiangbaishu Church in Yixing city, Jiangsu province, last month; & many others. That surely disproves that there is no God, for there’s no way they would tolerate so much brazenly ghastly persecution but for His ‘Jesusfuckin’ sake, man. Not even for “deep fried battered hot dogs dusted with sugar.”

    “”For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”” Matthew 18:20 King James Version (KJV)

  4. Esteban says:

    Thanks for the blogs, I enjoy them a lot. I just got my daughter an x100v camera for her birthday because of them and she absolutely loves it. She liked your book and is moving 2000 miles to Texas and so on. Also I was sort of angry at the $1200 dollar stimulus check and drunk. I’m still working and don’t need the hush money.

    I’m a truck driver out of CA. Life hasn’t changed much and we’ve been trucking all along. I talk to other drivers and nobody has a story about how half their fleet got shut down because they had covid in a terminal. Theres no stories like that. We all go to the same truckstops. And drivers rank pretty low in health and sanitation and obesity and chainsmoking and whatnot. LOTS of drivers think they got sick with it a long time ago, like Jan or even before. Myself included. That’s just my observation, I didn’t get this job by being smart.

  5. Mr Deeds says:

    55 year old English teacher in low-paying Spain. A 40-something (I’m presuming an enlistee) soldier sharing a barracks with teenagers in Korea. A 45-year-old “travel writer” who still sleeps in southeast Asian hostels I’m presuming out of economic necessity.

    Did any of these guys ever turn 30 and say to themselves they’ve got to aim a bit higher in life?

    • Replies: @Jeff Stryker
    , @Low Voltage
  6. Dumbo says:

    OK, but, if Korean churches are ugly, maybe it’s not God’s fault, but Korean architects’? I mean, it’s not as if the other more profane buildings around them are very beautiful or inspiring… Maybe only Europeans know (knew) how to do architecture right?

    As for the corona, it will go away, it wasn’t as big a deal as they made of it anyway, but the consequences (social distancing, increasing government power, economic downturn and all that shit) are here to stay.

    • Replies: @anon
  7. @Mr Deeds

    I. If you’re planning on being a lawyer or oral surgeon, then spending your life overseas is a mistake. Because presumably you’re going to live in a $500,000 house in the suburbs in a bubble anyhow. However, if you’re options are limited to sitting at a desk at best, you might as well move overseas.

    2. Probably if you’ve got no capacity to attend college and you don’t want to work in fast food with teenagers, career military is not a bad decision. R Lee Ermey got his start as actor in the Philippines in some Filipino B movies.

    3. Some Americans, like the one in Spain, live overseas simply because they cannot stomach America. He’s married a Spanish woman, has citizenship and has a job. Nice manana vibe, a more traditional younger wife, a nice social safety net.

    4. There are not Cholos or Blacks in Asia or Spain. I’ve been to Spain and curiously, it is in no way like Mexico. You can ride a bus in Madrid or Korea and not endure a chimp out in public. The worst and most dangerous encounters with minorities don’t occur in overseas. I had a few in the US. There are no Cholos with “Brown Pride” giving you the death glare overseas. And like I said, if you have the money for a law degree or dentistry degree and are in love with the profession, then this is not important. Even my brother, an urban planner with a PHd from UCLA, had to move from Los Angeles to avoid sending his daughter to public school.

    5. There are some men who simply cannot stand life in the US. We don’t want to be married to a bitchy American woman with high expectations, don’t feel like living in a police state where some 23 year old redneck or black with a GED has all the power, are just disgusted by everything we see. I’m one of those. If I had to see another whigger in my entire life or some redneck wired up on crystal meth with a bunch of cheap jailhouse tattoos, I’d be sick. The urban underclass just disgusts some of us to no end.

    6. Some men would rather live an adventure of exotic cities, attractive foreign women and beautiful tropical sunsets overseas than earn a bit more as an office manager so they can go home tired everyday and watch some garbage on television in their dreary low-end suburb.

    7. I’m not accountable for anything overseas. I’ve called people from overseas and called them Sp&cs and F*gs and other even worse names. Knowing full well I lived overseas and they could not do anything about it.

    8. The teacher in Spain and the journalist don’t have to worry about the diversity of some AA Human Resource officer who is as stupid as sh_t firing them for cultural insensitivity. I could not even stand to walk into a DMV and get my license renewed.

    9. Politicians overseas are men. Look at the awful Mestizas and blacks like that PR broad in New York the Democrats ram down everyone’s throat. Ridiculous laws are not enacted.

    10. When you do go overseas, America starts to seem really stupid. Disgusting even. When I first went overseas I had intended to work for two years, acquire some resume, and return to the US.

    11. Actions speak louder than words. None of these men want to say it, but America makes them sick. And again, if you are an oral surgeon in an exclusive neighborhood and all your neighbors for 10 miles are wealthy upper middle class elite, its different. But if you are teaching English at age 55 in Spain it means that in America you’d have to live in a neighborhood with the underclass.

    12. I knew an ex-airline pilot who’d tried living in the middle of nowhere in North Dakota. It was too rough and he moved to Bangkok. Live in some cabin on a dirt road 10 miles from Wal Mart? Its not a solution for everyone. Some people like cities and like the cultural buzz of exotica and meeting women and don’t want to live in some small town where the equivalent to a young man about town is a taxidermist in hunting season.

    13. I had problem with a black woman on a business trip to LA who was 300 pound she boon who thought I cut in front of her in line and reacted with cheap self-assertiveness. I’d rather be dead, or live on a pittance in Asia.

    • Replies: @James Weitz
  8. @Mr Deeds

    If all you want out of life is a dreary job and a house in the suburbs, then America is the place to be.

  9. The only negative I can think of is the air pollution. Most days it is not that bad but it is noticeable, especially after a morning run.

    We used to occasionally pull ground alert at March AFB near LA, and I quickly learned to head out to the aircraft and do an oxygen-mask check after my run. Some nights you’d hear rain and smell dissolving limestone, and in the morning you’d get off the aircraft and see mountains in the distance that were barely visible, if at all, the day before. Make a friend at the base hospital, or see if you can buy oxygen on the economy.

    Seeing the US from my international perspective, it looks like we are causing irreparable damage to the economy as our country binge watches the op ed talk shows we call news in a media induced panic. I think we are overreacting to compensate for not preparing when there were warning signs coming out of China.

    Yes. It is surprising to see that Europe is a little calmer about this, though not much.

    But they didn’t, so now our low information voters require officials to be seen Actively Doing Something, even if it is not beneficial so long as they are not perceived as being passive or uncaring.

    Even totalitarian dictators know they have to listen to the vox populi at some point. Even Hitler and Stalin never dared to shut the parks.

    Rather than reporting about geriatrics lives being cut tragically short, they could do some analysis about the statistics.

    Old people vote … and watch TV news … that’s why we need to delay the mass die-off of the old and infirm until after the election. As for TV news, they are screwed, because their principal revenues were from ads for meds for the elderly and infirm, but the political ad season will provide a good last gasp for their parent companies.

  10. @Commentator Mike

    He wasn’t able to return to his country, because Israel closed its borders earlier.

    Most of Western middle class, whose savings are pumped by governments into the stock market, had seen the retirement accounts taking massive haircuts. In middle- and low-income countries, where savings were already low, some people are likely starving. Chartered airplanes and trains take Eastern European workers to Germany and Austria, where some have already died without any health care (look up “Nicolae Bahan”), and everyone receives the minimum income from their home country.

    But Weitz complains that he had to queue at a one-man till. “Like lemmings”, he says. That whining was the giveaway.

    • Replies: @James Weitz
    , @Craig Nelsen
  11. unit472 says:

    The last time the world got itself into such a shitty place was the 1930’s. There was no virus but there were some governments who saw opportunity to expand state power. Stalin murdered all opposition and built his police state. Hitler crushed democratic freedom but got Germany working again. The big loser was Roosevelt who couldn’t either build a totalitarian regime or get the economy going again.

    They all were at least working according to some ideological/economic blueprint or thought they were. Not so today plus there is this virus they don’t understand or control. For this reason I and all your correspondents should be very afraid.

    The ‘authorities’ around the world are making it up as they go. Central Bankers have no idea what they are doing but they are willing to try anything including pauperize the world. There is a malignant regime in Beijing who decided it was better to infect the world rather than admit some molecular biologists in Wuhan screwed up and ask for help. Imagine if Japan had tried that shit after Fukushima and contaminated metro Tokyo with deadly radiation. At some point the world is going to have to ask for the head of Xi Jinping but seeing the kind of government Xi leads it will probably take a world war before China surrenders it.

  12. Biff says:

    I don’t blame the government for this so much as question why the medical community and for profit businesses didn’t start ordering and stocking up on the necessary supplies as they saw the indicators and trend lines in China and Korea in January and February?

    Hey T, the medical community is completely regulated by the government right down to the last bed pan, but it’s understandable that a government employee doesn’t recognize the damage he is doing.

  13. @Dacian Julien Soros

    To quote (another) great German-American writer, John Steinbeck, “It happens that I am not Jewish and have no Jewish blood, but it only happens that way. I find that I do not experience any pride that it is so.”

  14. anon[191] • Disclaimer says:

    I generally like Linh Dinh’s writing but I wish he would respect those who profess the Christian faith and not use such blasphemous language. Christianity isn’t the enemy, it’s those who’ve used it as a tool for evil. Civilized people respect other people’s religions and don’t ridicule it.

  15. anon[191] • Disclaimer says:
    @Dumbo

    I got used to social distancing early in life as I had a teacher in grade eleven that had halitosis so bad it would make your eyes burn at twenty feet. Recently, I used to run into a woman who had the same breath of fire.

  16. @Dacian Julien Soros

    But Weitz complains that he had to queue at a one-man till. “Like lemmings”, he says. That whining was the giveaway.

    What whining? What one-man till? What the hell are you talking about? And where are people starving due to Covid-19? Are you some kind of a lunatic?? Stop cluttering up the comments with this kind of crap.

    • Replies: @Dacian Julien Soros
  17. Regarding comment #14, supra, to wit:

    “I generally like Linh Dinh’s writing but I wish he would respect those who profess the Christian faith and not use such blasphemous language. Christianity isn’t the enemy, it’s those who’ve used it as a tool for evil. Civilized people respect other people’s religions and don’t ridicule it.”

    When people ask, I truthfully tell them that I am Christian. Although my mother’s side is mostly jewish, I was raised Episcopal. Baptized and confirmed. And yet I fully understand Linh Dinh’s disgust with churches and religion, and agree. Here’s why.

    Christian ethics is the most beautiful system I have yet encountered for insuring a world filled with respect, love, tolerance and life-affirming actions that unite and support mankind. So what went wrong?

    Christian mythology, which I despise like the plague.

    In Christian ethics, we are to love and treat one another as we would want others to treat us. We are to defend the helpless, assist the needy, support the infirm. We are to treat everyone as if they are our own beloved brother or sister, because they are. My eyes fill with tears of joy when I consider true Christian ethics, and think of Christ’s sacrifice for His fellow beings with whom He, and we too, share this very fragile blue-green orb whisking through space. And while some may claim that Christ never existed, or was a myth employed by the Romans to insure better compliance with tax collection (“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”) and pacify unruly Hebrew subjects and early Christians, I could care less. Christian ethics is profoundly beautiful when truly practiced with love and caring for all.

    But Christian mythology ruins everything. It makes Christ into a means of selfish ‘endless life extension’ for those who are scared of death and the unknown. It makes Christ into a means of attaining wealth and power for those cretins who practice and actually believe in ‘prosperity gospel’, that vile vehicle for greed and self-enrichment so contrary to the core of Christian ethics. It makes Christ into a means of setting the ‘power of God’ on those we hate for whatever reason motivates that emotion so devoid of any Christian substance. It makes Christ into an all-purpose tool for any desire we have, if we only pray hard enough and give our shekels to the right priest, preacher or pastor who professes to be a (self) anointed emissary of the divine, claiming thereby to have ‘juice’ and ‘pull’ with God that can be accessed to fulfill one’s deepest wishes and desires (for the right palm greasing, of course…..)

    Christian mythology, then, is the antithesis of true Christian ethics.

    And the greatest symbols of Christian mythology are these huge, disgusting edifices known as ‘churches’ that soar into the sky as spiritual magnets for those seeking the ‘power’ of God to fulfill their selfish wishes and dreams for eternal life, power, wealth and glory, again, the very antitheses of what Christ and Christian ethics are truly about.

    I have often wondered just how many “christians” would remain so if it was proven beyond any doubt or even the most dogged faith that there was no God or heaven or divine power to alter the course of life and history to their desired ends? How many would still love Christ for His sacrifice and how many would still practice Christian ethics (to the extent they actually do so) if they absolutely knew there would be no ‘reward’ for living a life of Christian service to others?

    Precious few, I very strongly suspect.

    And so when Linh reacts with disgust and ridicule at the spectacle of these ubiquitous, costly, and sometimes quite ugly edifices to hypocritical human selfishness, I believe I understand his revulsion. For I think it is not aimed at those who truly do practice the loving altruism of real Christian ethics, but at those who use Christ simply as a convenient vehicle for their selfish needs, a salve for their fears, and a bludgeon against all those they despise and dislike.

    • Replies: @Cowboy
    , @G. Poulin
  18. Cowboy says:
    @Mustapha Mond

    That’s some pretty good preachin and without parsing your theology I believe you may even understand the gospel

    • Thanks: Mustapha Mond
  19. @James Weitz

    That’s one way of looking at it. I was just commenting on the extra bit of bother choosing to cross borders at that time. Still, it’s all a novel experience, I suppose, few others will have.

  20. @Jeff Stryker

    Jeff, in my case, I got a law degree, worked in various positions at the World Bank and OAS, and also lived in Latin America. Now I use my experience to write books like Gonzo Global Inc., a satire of NAFTA, trade agreements and globalization generally in which Mexican tap water is exported to the USA and sold as a laxative. The Italian translation comes out in days, and I am told it will actually qualify as educational material for students there. (But the first English version under another title was apparently shadow-banned. My Facebook business page was summarily deleted. I was not allowed to pay less than $200 per day for an advertisement no matter how small the demographic range. I had to give administrative privileges to a friend to name my Facebook page, which didn’t work out. Also, Instagram, owned by the same company as Facebook, would not allow me to open an account. And Facebook would not respond to my inquiries, though I had a previously established email chain with them.)

  21. G. Poulin says:
    @Mustapha Mond

    What you imagine to be “Christian ethics” is in fact merely Christian-flavored humanist ethics, adopted by decaying churches that no longer believed in authentic Christian moral theology. Real Christians don’t believe that “everyone is your brother”, an absurd proposition. Real Christians believe that their fellow-Christians are their brothers, and no one else. A sane proposition.

  22. Anon[291] • Disclaimer says:
    @Commentator Mike

    I became annoyed reading his story, esp. the part about him arguing that he didn’t need to quarantine because it wasn’t supposed to start until the next day. This is exactly why so many people died and will continue to die in America, because of this kind of selfish behavior. Taiwan should not have let him in. International travelers are the ones who spread this disease all over the world. If this virus brings about an end to international traveling and globalism, it would be the one great thing that came out of this pandemic. Airplanes are the biggest source of carbon emission, and globalist globetrotters are the most annoying breed.

  23. @Craig Nelsen

    Nicolae Bahan died because he had no job in Romania. He went to Germany, gong through a crowded airport and a crowded airplane. He got corona on the way to Germany. When he became symptomatic, Germans did not treat him. They just cut his and his wife’s hours to zero, and let him die.

    Craig Nielsen, you are an imbecile. I told you to google “Nicolae Bahan”, and that would have answered your questions. But you are to stupid to google two words. That is high-grade stupidity.

    Yes, imbeciles assume everyone lives a happy life, fed on neosocialist trumpbucks, in particular when they live among similar neosoc imbeciles. But it’s not true for the whole planet.

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