I watched Train to Busan on an actual train to Busan

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(Oh, like you wouldn’t.)

So, I just got back from a trip to Korea. Knowing it was possible to make a day trip from Seoul (2h 25m by express train), I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I angled my tablet towards the window to avoid the mortification of looking like the cringeworthy tourist I was.

This is a better post than ‘sorry for not posting for forever’.  At least one person must have known what I was doing, especially as I was wearing a pretty ostentatious Frankenstein hoodie. So here is a badly-edited post containing some utterly pointless photos of an actual KTX train, as used in the movie!

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Welcome Back to America, Shithead!

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It’s not just the TSA, the police and taxi drivers who are useless, stupid, jobsworths. Although, anyone with any smattering of power that can be held over you becomes an asshole of the most demoralising proportions.

On my way back to England for Christmas, I had to use those dreadful full-body scanners. Having read about them previously, I knew that refusing them would have meant an “enhanced pat-down”. That’s not rape, because you’re essentially allowing it to happen to protect us from the really dangerous people (and if you want to make your flight/not get arrested), and you can’t rape the willing! Anyway – I chose to have scanned images of my non-blurry, naked body forever stored on some greasy, filthy, inbred perv‘s flash drive, instead of being groped while the TSA steals things from my suitcase.

When I flew back from Heathrow, I wasn’t questioned, pulled aside or subjected to a random bag search. And no, we didn’t have those stupid fucking scanners/grope-fests, either (fyi, neither does the world’s most secure/most at-threat airport security). Last time I did have to surrender my carry-on bag for a quick search because of this FUCKING PEN (which they later guffawed at upon realizing that it was a pen, and what it was from).

The last English voice I heard was a pleasant, smiling “thank you” from the cabin crew on my flight as all the passengers exited.

The last time I went through Passport Control (last year), I was taken aside for questioning because I’d been out of the country too long. The agent at the desk was a total asshole (no, being English, I did NOT create a fuss or even inferred that I was fussed), and tried to tell me that I didn’t live in America. I couldn’t think of a way to say “I have a green card and a husband and a home and three cats” without sounding like a condescending bitch, so I just repeated that I did in fact live in America. Back and forth for about ten minutes.

It must feel good to put some unassuming, naively optimistic dunce in her place because you’ve exercised the great power you have to delay her plans, call her a liar, ruin her good mood and generally make her feel like a piece of shit. Sort of like slapping a whore’s face with your tiny little willy even though she’s not good enough to deserve it.

Got into the questioning room and the bloke behind the desk just said, “so you’ve been working back home, saving up some money, just trying to get settled financially here?” I said yes, because that was the truth, and he said he knew it was difficult, and told me I could go. This one actually smiled. He must have seen it a million times.

This time I got a mumbler at Passport Control. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I felt compelled to engage with his socially-awkward small talk for fear of being branded on some  kind of similarly socially-awkward government watch list. I told him I’d bought some biscuits (yummy ones from Fortnum & Mason), some tea and chocolate, all at the Duty Free, and if I’m meant to go through the Nothing to Declare Line. He said yes (as had the woman who was ushering people into lines).

(Bet you know where I’m going with this)

I get to the baggage claim, and an adorable puppy keeps sniffing my Yo Sushi! bag full of noodles I thought would keep that I brought from Heathrow (it didn’t…never try to eat refrigerated food you’ve stored on a plane). Being stupid enough to carry a great big bag with the word “Sushi!” on it, I quickly clarified that I had no fish and it was just noodles and rice (no fruit or meat/dairy). He said I was OK to go through the Nothing to Declare line.

I finally get all my bags off the belt and start searching through the last one for my coin purse (that I kept my American change in), because it had my US SIM card and I needed to put it into my new phone. It wasn’t there, so I spent ages rummaging around my handbag, my wallet etc.

Here’s a tip: if you’re the last person standing around at a baggage carousel, the balding, speccy, spotty, pot-bellied, foul-breathed, nasally-voiced little shit of a Customs officer will swagger on over and immediately demand to see your customs declaration form.

Clearly Undersized-penised, Naturally-overcompensating Twat: Tell me about the food you’re bringing into the United States (it’s important that he has to remind me what country I’m in)

Me: It’s all from the Duty Free in Heathrow. I bought some biscuits, tea and some chocolate.

CUNT: Tell me more about the biscuits. (fondles his Dwight Schrute glasses like he wishes he were Horatio Hornblower)

Me: (baffled) Um, they come in a long, cylindrical tin. They’re from the Fortnum and Mason section of the Duty Free in Heathrow.

CUNT: (heavily confused as I did not mention iHOP, bacon or beating minority children with Confederate flag poles) “Cylindrical tin?”

Me: Yes, a tin. That’s a cylindrical shape. With biscuits in.

CUNT: (doing his best Raylan Givens impression) Let’s try this again.

Me: (looking confused, but realising this guy is a total dick who is trying to piss me off so he can ejaculate his power spunk everywhere by justifying the first heroic beat-down in his miserable little puniness of a career) Okay…

(pause; my facial expression: Yes?)

CUNT: (face-punchingly, patronizing voice) You have to declare all food.

Me: Well, two other agents and the pilot of the plane all said that I can pass through the Nothing to Declare line. And I did declare it on my form.

CUNT: (not listening; marks my form with a giant [yes, I know your penis is fucking small, stop being so OBVIOUS] “A”) Go over there. (points to the entire line of Customs desks which are the only fucking thing in front of me)

I went to the Customs desk and they told me I had to go to the “Agriculture” declarations. Because…I had…agriculture? No, I fucking didn’t.

Didn’t matter what the other five people and the pilot over the tannoy had all said. THIS MAN with the BIG FATLY-GIRTHED RED MARKER KNOWS ALL.

I had four very heavy suitcases, that, with a permanently-mangled, disabled elbow, makes it difficult to lift two inches off the floor and onto a wibbling, wobbling, piece of shit luggage trolley in the first place.

So luckily the Agriculture Assholes forced me to lift the bags (assistance was refused) onto the conveyor belt. They were happy to shove them on the other side down a steeper belt to let them bounce off the fucking floor, though. Funnily enough, everything was fine and nothing was confiscated/stolen/destroyed/raped. And my leftover birthday cake was fine.

Sadly my mood was already befouled by reminding me how callous and mood-befouling most employees in American airports are. Tired, emotionally assaulted, jet-lagged and alone, I remembered I also had to start back at work 11 hours later.

The train conductor (I hate trains) saw me 10 feet from the train door, running, spilling scalding hot coffee on my white gloves (and white coat), but jumped on the train and left.

Conductor: “I’m five minutes late.”

Me: “You’re ALWAYS fucking late!!”

Maybe I’ll just move to Canada.

Questions That Need Answers

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It’s difficult to get answers on a lot of unfinished business I have left for the year. It’s like a list of New Years’ resolutions, but things that need to be done before the end of the year, and that aren’t fun and whimsical ways to kill a week.

1. What happens if you don’t have health insurance in Massachusetts?

The short answer is, you get fined. And if you refuse to pay the fine, then you might go to jail! If you’re on a high-enough income, you could afford the $600 a month program for a married couple that the MA Health Connector so helpfully recommends as the cheapest “Bronze” option (which doesn’t cover anything). This is the regular recommendation for “higher-earning families” because my husband and I make less than $1000 per year over the maximum income limit to be eligible for health insurance programs for low-income families.

Rents are disgustingly high here. Those income limits should be revised, but it doesn’t even matter – as a legal immigrant, I’m not eligible for low-income programs anyway! Regardless, I have no interest in going on “low-income” programs. There’s no shame in it, but it is such a ridiculously polarised view of personal finance – either you’re poor or you’re rich. Where is the fucking middle-class in America?

 

2. Why do I come down with flu-like symptoms every time it rains?

I have actually moved in with a friend of mine, thinking that the lack of heat and possible mould in her basement was making me sick. Everything I’ve read online seemed to point towards mould allergies (developing or existing) as the culprit. But I’ve since moved in with a friend, and she doesn’t have mould anywhere in her house. I am a wimp about the cold though – I tend to keep it warmer, but now that I’m sick, I can’t be trusted as a reliable temperature gauge, so I let her eat all my Nestle cookie dough. She’s so obsessed with it that hopefully she will get sick and know how it feels (just kidding). But I’ve been like this for a while, and the mystery is starting to get on my nerves. Usually I would see a doctor, but that is more of a privilege here.

In the only “developed” country in the world with NO commie pinko universal health care, the doctors most people see are WebMD or Yahoo! Answers. There is no NHS Direct website, no NHS hotline, and definitely no NHS, period. If I search “runny nose” and “sore throat” as symptoms I will discover I have everything from ragweed allergies to a CSF leakage. Most people get worked up into a panic because Dr Internet, the only doctor who doesn’t discriminate, is telling them they will all die.

My sinuses are worse than ever. It seems that the harder it rains, the more tissues I use up. Having gone through 2.5 boxes today, this proletariat is going to visit her doctor in the UK, where, as a citizen and still ordinarily resident of the UK, she is fully entitled to do so, for tests, consultations, medication and brand new organs if fucking necessary. Hopefully I can stick it out until then.

Behemot: In Soviet Russia, healthcare improves YOU. ...Because we spent $10 million reforming it in 2011.

3. Why do airlines jack up their prices willy-nilly?

I have always wanted an excuse to say willy-nilly in writing. But after four months of waiting around on my manager, I was finally given approval for some unpaid time off, so that I can go visit my family and friends for Christmas (and my birthday). I decided to wait until I could afford it.

The funny thing is, is that once you’ve saved up the right amount for a plane ticket home, the airline somehow senses this and doubles the price of your ticket. So instead of paying £372, I’m now being forced to pay £689. Thanks, Virgin Atlantic. Even though you offer seatback TVs and tiny little ice creams in the summer, the fact that I’m somehow saving money at this price by part-paying with air miles is too much for me to fathom. Though I do enjoy your cheeky advertising.

Sadly, I can’t afford it, and there’s a good chance that I might not actually be able to be with some of the most important people in my life for a couple of measly weeks. Which will leave me unemployed for 2 weeks, on my own, and unwell, with no medical insight. Merry fucking Christmas!

 

66 Things to Do in Salem, MA (Updated July 2015)

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salem-witch-museum-roger-conant--statue

Because I like lists, and sympathise with the tourist dilemma of “Bollocks! We only have 5 hours to spend here – what do we do first??”, I’ve decided to compile a big fat list of awesome things to do in Salem. Yes, this list could have been shorter, but the number 66 is cool, so shut your face (and click “Continue reading” to read more!):

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