A Brief Delay in Our Programming

Dearest friendship,

As you know, it pains me viscerally to leave you without your regularly scheduled discharge of verbiage. Whenever I know I will be out of comm range for any length of time, I usually write like a frenzied madman, churning gems of linguistic fortitude out at a wearying pace to slake your thirsts while I am away. As a travel blogger I must, occasionally, travel to fill up the think tanks. And very occasionally I am also behind on my typical writing output. And thus we are at a conundrum: I must give you this filler, this meandering replacement succour, and hope that you will be patient with me until I can cram more words and pictures down your gullets in about a week.

In short: I am off to see Country #27 in my lifetour of this great planet, and I’ve got nothing for you. The first post in my queue for when I return is about said jet-set lifestyle and how it makes me ludicrously irresponsible and probably unpleasant to talk to. Huzzah!

See you on the road.

Contest; The Shape of Things To Come

Hello friendship,

Recently I was alerted to the fact that one of you, floating out as you are in the internet ether, nominated me for Lexiophiles and bab.la’s Top International Exchange/Experience Blogs 2014. Now, like many of you, I had no idea what this website was. But there are two things which make my mouth-breathing, nerdy heart go pitter-patter: feeling like I’m on the beating pulse of the internet in some regard, and being nominated for various frivolous titles. This fulfils both! Thank you, mysterious stranger, for nominating me.

And thank all of you for going and clicking on this button below and voting for me (scroll down to “Stupid Ugly Foreigner,” click the tickbox, then scroll down further to vote). The prize is a donation to UNICEF made in my name. And also glory. Sweet, sweet glory.

Vote your favorite IX13 blog

Consider suturing this hyperlink to your forehead to broadcast the good word of SUF.

In other news, I have spent the last two weeks in the jungles of Myanmar. Also the hotels and major tourist attractions of Myanmar. Temples were seen, festivals were participated in, sacks of fermented “farmer drink” were consumed and sometimes violently expelled. On the first full day in the country we accidentally got sucked into a Tamil Hindu celebration where local men slid hooks through the skin of their backs and dragged heavy piles of coconuts while dancing. My feet were dirtier than they have ever been before. Travel!

Also, my friend developed something we decided to call “adventurrhea.” Stay tuned, words and pictures are coming soon.

Brief Glimpses of Your Hero, and also Friends of Your Hero

While I am on the road, I thought I would share with you a few snippets from life as of late, both in China in general and in particular in the wild world of teaching Grade One.

My contribution was paper-and-popsicle-stick medal of courage.

My contribution was paper-and-popsicle-stick medal of courage.

Did we talk about Halloween at all? Timed just before Halloween, my school held Book Week, which we all took Very Seriously. As was apparently tradition, our team needed to dress up in a theme, which meant a story with six decent characters that would allow for costuming. Our Wizard of Oz crew looked pretty stunning, mostly through the careful, thoughtful work of other people. A speedy seamstress stitched together my custom lion onesie for the equivalent of 45 Canadian dollars. One of our ESL teachers followed me around outside smearing untold amounts of paint across my face. Another teacher invited me into the studio he set up in his classroom to shoot my get-up in full glory. Continue reading

Stalling Tactics

Mart. Luther

Here, for no reason, is a picture of a book made my Martin Luther.

Faithful readers,

Know, if nothing else, I feel deeply beholden and committed to providing you with fresh verbiage. Even now I am toiling in the word mines, chipping away at gleaming, fibrous adjectives and adverbs, preparing them to be refined into the glorious, perspicacious gems I usually present to you. My face is sweat-slick and my fingers are stained with soot and printer ink. My back aches from using the pick-saw–a pickaxe mixed with a chainsaw–which, as you know, is the tool of most writers. Letters and pronouns litter the ground of my home, waiting to be caressed and loved, shaped into something meaningful, something to be consumed by the ravenous, word-hungry monsters that make up my audience. I feel your hunger pangs, your need, and I feel like a pile of useless garbage when I cannot provide.

Unfortunately, I am not paid to sit in my pyjamas and type my laborious anecdotes into my laptop. I am paid to educate a flock of international tots, and also to write their report cards. If you’ve ever seen a report card before, know that it is essentially a compressed, flattened sliver of a teacher’s soul, rent from their very being and hammered into something presentable for you via hours and hours of tireless work and tedious record-checking. If you collected all of your children’s report cards and smushed them together, you could probably clone a whole new teacher from the amount of DNA you’d collected in teacher tears staining the pulp of the paper.

Also, as of right now Suzhou is in the midst of a massive smog-in, where the pollution has decided to pull up a seat and hang around for well over a week. The air smells like a burnt Mountain Dew bottle, and inhaling it feels like smoking a cigarette backwards, and also you eat the cigarette afterwards. The sky is the colour of rectal cancer. It’s not a good time, is all I’m saying.

Content is percolating in my blog folder. There are heaps of unfinished posts waiting to be loved. And they will be loved soon enough. Possibly when I’m on a 15 hour flight to Canada for Christmas. Until then, I hope that at least one of the metaphors or similes above has caused your facial muscles to flex uncontrollably into rictus or, failing that, a smile.

See you on the road,

Stupid Ugly Foreigner

The Gettysblog Address

Headless Buddha alley
Good day, compatriots.

I interrupt your usual flow of reading my mind-rending works of blogging supremacy to do a little housecleaning on what’s going to happen in the next few weeks. In quick summary: I’ve been offered a job in China at an international school, and unless I mangle the visa process or my blood test comes back positive for a whole whack of the syphilis, I intend on moving to China.

What does that mean for Michael, the man? Good stuff: employment. Money. Experience. More opportunity to travel Asia and the greater world. Access to endless supplies of Chinese food. A free apartment. Around 20 little kindling minds waiting to be sparked, and me with the flint.

What does that mean for Stupid Ugly Foreigner, the light of your lives? Hopefully nothing, other than a lot more posts about living in China. Obviously I will need to find some labyrinthine routes to get me back to WordPress from around the Golden Shield, but I figure if other bloggers manage, so will I. And if I am able to find the time and can schedule a few posts before I hop on the plane, the continuity of service here on SUF should continue uninterrupted. Before you know it, you’ll be drowning in noodles and baiju and stories about Chinese public transit, without even a gap as I am poked and prodded by Chinese doctors to make sure I’m not on the drugs. I can feel your excitement radiating through my computer screen like the warmth of an exploding star.

So hold onto your butts, SUFferers. Things are going to be getting China-centric real soon.

Brief Internet Sojourns and You

Comrades,

As someone particularly incapable at self-promotion, but still largely comfortable with mush-mouthed, wordy treatises, I’m left with kind of a ramble today. Occasionally I scour the internet for other writing opportunities — places where I might cast my dazzling, sulphurous glow upon new readers in new contexts. Often in my journeys I find things that don’t really work for me, either because of genre or limitations on word counts, or a necessary inclusion of certain products or space ponies or whatever. Other times I am scared away by any indication of an entry fee, which as someone who has taken many a voyage on these electronic seas, necessarily causes danger centres in my brain to fire and trigger my fight-or-flight responses. (Once or twice while becoming interested in a site or contest and discovering a solicitation of my precious lucre, I have actually had to physically leave the room with my wallet, so certain am I that my laptop will come snapping away at me and my money like a chattering pair of wind-up toy jaws.)

But recently I found a few places where things seemed not particularly shady, and where I have submitted my beguiling turns of phrase in hopes of showering myself with attention, and also possibly prize money. The pieces were not overly-constrained, and proved just limiting enough to present a challenge. Also they had small word count limits, which was the truest obstacle in my path. As many of you know, I have a tendency towards being verbose, and you can pry my thesaurus out of my cold, dead hands, etc etc.

Anyway. As people somewhat invested in absorbing my words into your Wernicke’s areas, like some delicious, life-sustaining pulpy syrup for your eyeballs and noggins, I present to you some gems I’ve cast out from the shore.

Take to the Ramparts featured on We Said Go Travel

The Maiden Voyage of the S.S. Pukebucket on Pure Travel

Comment, like, facebook, googleplus, shout from the rooftops, paste into your commemorative scrapbooks, tattoo directly onto your children’s adoring faces as you see fit.

Incremental Victory is Ours

Top 25 in North America. Top 100 in Whole World. Status in greater solar system blogging community yet unverified.

Top 25 in America. Top 100 in whole world. Status in greater solar system blogging community yet unverified.

Our purpose today is several-fold: self-congratulatory, mutually appreciative, valorous and ready for battle.

First, we did it! Stupid Ugly Foreigner made it into the top 100 of The Big Blog Exchange (84th in the world, 23rd in the America region). I say “we,” rather than the masturbatory “I,” in the sense that it is because of you that I’m in this place. My skill at vote-mongering is pitiful, and so I threw myself on the mercy of my readers, and you answered my plaintive wails with your votes, your shares, and your blood sacrifices to Pazuzu, the great demon master in charge of blood sacrifices and internet contests. (I am also saying “we” instead of “I” even though it is “I” and not “we” that will get to go on a trip if SUF wins one of the 16 winner spots. A totally minor distinction, I’m sure.)

So thank you. A million times thank you. If you were here, I would give you a high five. When I taught kindergarten, in order to get the little goons to stop hugging me all the time, I taught them that a high five is better than a hug. A hug just means I care about you, but a high five means that I care and that I’m proud.

So what’s next? As the scary Doom Clock on the Big Blog Exchange website indicates, shadowy jurors are now locked in some underground bunker scrutinizing the various merits of all the blogs entered in the competition. From the top 100, all but 14 will be culled. From all the blogs, two additional wild cards will be chosen based purely on awesomeness and motivation.

What are my chances, you ask? It is difficult to tell. I imagine this judging process happening even now, hundreds of kilometres below Hostelling International headquarters. These people have all been sequestered: they will not be allowed outside contact, conjugal visits, nor any beverage other than Dr. Pepper until a decision is made. On what criteria will they base their decision? Photography capability? Pure and simple word-smithery? Unbridled travel sagacity? Who has the prettiest eyes? It is not known. If a time comes when bloodsport or some sort of Herculean task is required of the contestants, I will be ready, rest assured. I’d gut the living crap out of any Nemean lion for a cool trip to the Philippines or Australia or Croatia.

What was I saying? Oh. Yes. Top 100! Top 25 of smaller geographic subset! Whoo! Stay tuned, the Grand Champions will be announced soon.

Our Time is Nigh

Comrades,

The deadline approaches. Our enemies have fought bravely, have rallied on the hills, have shed their blood upon the field. We must admire their effort, particularly as they have garnered absurd amounts of votes, but still we know the truth: Stupid Ugly Foreigner must vanquish all foes.

And thus we have come to the final push. Raise the banners. Sound the bugles of war. Scream from the rooftops. Set loose your fleet of carrier pigeons. Write things in sidewalk chalk. Talk loudly on subway cars. Send annoying emails to your friends and acquaintances. Eat a banana, for energy. Throw hard-boiled eggs from the top of a ferris wheel, each detailed in a fine, delicate script. Etch the words onto the face of the new pope with fuchsia crayons. Let the world hear your mewling, plaintive cry:

“Stupid Ugly Foreigner must win the Big Blog Exchange!” Feel the beating of your heart as you shout to the heavens. Your life has led up to this moment. “Or I will throw myself off a bridge!”

No? Okay, I will not ask ritualistic suicide pacts from you, dear readers. But I will ask you (for the last time, the contest ends soonishly) to spread the word one last time. Share this link. Vote like mad. Make a facebook post, or a tweet, or a reddit thread, or a strange birdsong meme that subconsciously compels people to read my blog. Have all of your moms tell all of their mom friends and get their mom network into an internet frenzy. Reconnect with old high school chums and convert them to the cult of SUF. Join the military and convince everyone in your squadron of the glory of this blog, and why it should be rewarded with free trips and things. Find your long-lost brother on a completely different continent, reconnect over your shared love of chess and mayonnaise, cry deeply over the time you’ve lost, and then vote together in an internet contest. Become a magician, climb through a portal to a new world, defeat a great evil, become the king/queen of this strange, dangerous land, establish quality wifi (maybe Narnia or Hogwarts will get Google Fiber), have all of your centaur and fairy subjects sign up for an email, and then have them vote for me. Do whatever you can.

I will continue to be your faithful chronicler of my own big dumb awesome life. Whether here, or somewhere else. And if I win, I will be stupider, uglier, and foreignier than ever in a whole new land.

March bravely, my friends, into the great wilderness of this internet.

The Short, Brutal Adventures of My Sunglasses

Edinburgh

Mighty atop Arthur’s Seat. (Not pictured: wicked cool sunglasses.)

I stand atop Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland. We have defeated this meagre peak, but it feels like our own personal Everest. Our memories are still full of other, more dire hikes, and the fact that we have completely surmounted this obstacle within a morning makes us feel strong, and proud. We are mountain men. We are kings of this earth. We have never been more powerful, more suave, more in touch with the universe and ourselves. We stand at a precipice and look at the glory spread before us, a Lego landscape in the middle distance: it all looks so small, so beneath us. I feel like a goddamn Viking.

A strong wind picks up, and rips the sunglasses off my stupid, preening face. They fly majestically on the gale for some distance and then begin the downward arc, sloping on their parabolic path, catching rocks and roots and caves along the way. They land somewhere I will never find them, lost to the wilds of Scotland, to some moor or loch or gently rolling hill, and I feel slightly less smug than moments before.

I never feel quite so proud or into myself as when I’m wearing a pair of sunglasses. I have an inflated sense of what sunglasses I can pull off, which is to say, I think I can probably manage any of them. Style and colour and make and material don’t matter: aviators, wrap-arounds, blue, polkadots, stripes, metallic, plastic, congealed pigs blood. My head is enormous so hats are out, and I dress in the fashion of a grizzly bear doing a reasonable impersonation of Mr. Rogers.  Cool sunglasses are generally the only thing I have faith in. They give me a sense of being together, of being with it, a sense of debonairness. They are my only refuge, and I take my refuge in style.

Continue reading

A Return to Arms

Once in a while.

Once in a while.

Gentle jerkbots:

I have recently returned, via cloak and dagger, to the homeland. Sneaking hither (Mumbai) and thither (Frankfurt), I arrived in Toronto to much tumult and joyousness and chocolate. Did you know it’s Christmas? I had no idea until all of the Lufthansa stewardesses started yammering at me with their terrifying, Teutonic English with all of their “Merry Christmas!”es like it wasn’t the weirdest thing they could possibly say. Didn’t they know I had been in India, where Christmas isn’t A Thing? Didn’t they know I would need to be gently immersed in the hot, scalding bath of Western Civilization? It was cold, and I had no sweater, and I had no idea what to do with myself, either in Germany, or still now, here.

I am in a basement. I just ate a crisp, icy-cold apple, completely out of season, from an enormous refrigerator. There is snow on the ground, and Christmas in the air, and I really don’t know what to do about any of it. All of my friends are already in my grille. Their clamour and their elation at seeing me is appreciated, and no less overwhelming. (A salve: they all want to eat and drink with me. How long can I ride the wave of positive emotion to scoop free meals out of people? We shall see.)

While I try to fathom what the hell it means to be home, and begin looking forward into the dark, scary world out there for new jorbs and moneys and travels, I will write. I will edit photos. I will shove words together and artfully relay tales of the road for you, the hungry consumer. Did you know I lived in Korea? Did you know I just backpacked through Asia? The Meat People I know will grow tired of that shit in like a week — but you won’t! The entire purpose you’re here for is to read things that begin with thos very sentences. And boy howdy will I provide.

It’s good to be back. Holidays may hamper me, but prepare for the deluge. It begins soon.