A New Hope A new feeling... A feeling of contentedness... Of wanting to leave what's familiar... Of wanting to shed all things external, unimportant in the scheme of things, useless for survival... Of being open to learn again... Of knowing that I don't know anything... Of wanting to be close to the people I love... And not pushing them away... Of not wanting to live in solitude... An evasive feeling... A feeling of hopefulness... Of wanting to finally LIVE -Bali, Nov 1, 2016
Bali "Boss!" like I put them on payroll "Yes, okay," like I had already decided to buy the thing "Massage?" like after a tough day at the beach all I could use was some relaxation "Transport?" as if my feet weren't carrying me fast enough to my next unknown destination "Valium," to ease the anxiety of being mobbed by a hundred street pedlars in the span of one block "My friend!" like we haven't seen each other in donkey's years "Teedak, teri makasi," my answer to all of this -Bali, Jan 12/2017
Sunset Sunset People waiting in anticipation For something so natural, so primitive Mother Nature must laugh at our pettiness A game of hide and seek Trying to inconspicuously dip away Not trying to draw attention to itself Doing a poor job of it Trying to run away from sky Trying to escape from civilization Away from world Away from people Unaware that it will return again tomorrow Repeating the same process Again and again For eternity The definition of craziness Reflecting off the surfaces of the water Reflecting the human experience Sunset -Bali, Jan 11/2017
10P 10: Tips for Hosting Your Airbnb
Airbnb has become the preferred way to travel – especially among nomadic travellers like myself – and to stay in foreign cities, exotic locales, and off-the-beaten-path retreats. I prefer the novelty and adventure of staying in an airbnb over a hotel. Who needs a fancy hotel when you can stay in treehouse or a “tube room?” Sounds fun, right? You often get the opportunity of immersing yourself in the local culture and cuisine, usually under the guidance of a friendly and eager host. As a, ahem, 5-star rated Airbnb host myself, I take pride in offering not only a unique spot for my guests to stay in, but making sure their trip is a truly memorable one. Which brings me to this week’s Top 10 List: Tips for Hosting Your Airbnb. Now go clear out that “office space” you never use and convert it into a ‘space of lasting memories.’ You won’t regret it.
10P 10 Tips for Hosting Your Airbnb:
- Get reviews! – Like eBay, Airbnb is based on reviews. That starts with making sure the guest’s stay is impeccable to following up with them after they’ve left and reminding them to leave a review. They won’t all be 100% positive, so just take their complaints as “constructive criticism” and an opportunity to make your services better, and make sure to rectify whatever the problem was – now go make sure that litter box is empty!
- You are a hotel – When you are staying at a hotel and the TV doesn’t work, what do you do? (Angrily) call the front desk to complain of course! You are the front desk – just deal with it.
- Communication is key – Answer potential guest’s questions immediately, and pay attention to your “Response Rate”. After they’ve confirmed, share your Line or Whatsapp for easy communication. Send your info i.e. phone and address along with directions to your home and some photos of the outside to make it as easy as possible to find the place!
- Forsee problems before they arise – Pay attention to the smallest details. Your guests will notice and appreciate it. Doing this will also avoid any potential concerns or issues. “Better safe than sorry”, so be prepared when the guest calls you at 12am to ask you where the laundry detergent is, even though it’s right on top of the washing machine – obviously.
- It’s all in the details – Any extra niceties you can think to add to make the guest’s stay more effortless or pleasurable, do it! For example, I lay out brochures showing tourist sights and events in Taipei, and I offer my guests an Easycard to use for the MRT and Youbike (that I ask they return on the last day). Breakfast in bed?! No problem! Sunny-side-up or over-easy?
- Dirty Work – The biggest bulk of my time spent on my Airbnb business is actually cleaning the place, usually a 4 hour job (and I have an 8 ping flat!). If this idea scares you, hire a maid for $500/hr – takes the stress off, and as they’re professional they’ll probably do a much better job. I mean, just look at your bedroom!
- The price is right – The Airbnb website (which is very user-friendly by the way) suggests a daily price based on your neighborhood (and other airbnbs in the area). I take that number and add 50% to it and double it on weekends. As I rent out my whole flat – it’s a studio – I charge more than single rooms, but less than hotels, about what a nice hostel charges.
- Caught red-handed – “What if my landlord catches me doing Airbnb?” a) Point behind them, scream loudly, and run for it..you didn’t really need that $30,000 security deposit back anyway! b) Convince him they’re your “cousins from out of town” c) Play the idiot card and feign ignorance d) Offer to team up with your landlord and split the profits 50/50! (Maybe he’ll also help you out with that other “illegal business” you’ve been trying to start in Taiwan…c’mon, you know what I’m talking about.
- You break it, you buy it – If you’re worried about your things getting either stolen or broken, you could ask for a “security deposit” outside of your Airbnb agreement. Just make sure to state that from the outset. Also, check if your flat has a meter that reads how many BTUs the air-con used up during their stay – this will prevent another hyperhidrosis-inflicted guest from leaving the AC unit on all day and racking up a hefty bill.
- Meet new people! – The best part of doing Airbnb is that you get to meet new and interesting people who also do Airbnb in their home. So next time you’re in Hanoi, Vietnam you don’t have to splurge and stay in the Trump, again.
Cameron is a freelance writer and proud Airbnb Host
Being ITM or In The Moment
Ready? Let’s be in the moment together…
Ironically, I’ve always been a loner. I’ve always thought about things and done them my own way, setting myself apart from “the group.” You wouldn’t guess it upon first glance – I enjoy being around people, love being social, and relish being the centre of attention. But yet…I feel awkward around people. I can’t just have a relaxing, normal conversation about sports, or politics. It’s not that I don’t find either of those subjects interesting (although I could care less about “the game” last night), it’s just that I find them utterly inane; unimportant on the scale of things, fleeting and impersonal. Instead of prattling on about “the score,” I’d much rather talk about who “scored” the previous night. It’s so much more personal, interesting: human. To me who our next POTUS will be isn’t as significant as who my high school Year Book Club president was. At least that individual directly affected me – I knew him personally, and he got to choose which unflattering photo of me would be printed within its pages. And when truthfully, whether you’re voting for the Year Book Club President or the President of the United States, it’s all based on the same thing: politics, power and high school gossip.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good political debate. I do..as long as I happen to be following the news that week. It’s just that I appreciate the NOW. Not the score from a game that happened thenight before; not who rose ahead in the polls today; but what’s happeningright nowin front of me. Like, for instance, if the lady I’m talking to has spinach in her teeth and I awkwardly point it out, or the smart-ass student I’m teaching pipes up with a funny remark, causing not only the entire class to erupt in laughter but the teacher too – that’s real to me. It’s about creating real human moments, things I canobservedirectly.I can tell what my best friends thinking if I suggest jerk chicken (he’s thinking, Hellyes!), not what a politician is thinking when he promises reform and better healthcare.
I think I live in the moment too much. I rarely plan things and that seems to be my downfall. It’s why I’m always late, why I’m always broke, and the reason I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I’m envious of everyone around me: I call these citizens “normal people” (NP from here on out). I envy their jobs, their lifestyles, and their generally relaxed demeanours under life’s stresses and pressures. They seem to defiantly move forward, while I obstinately pretend these things didn’t exist. I tend to defuse these social situations with a sly remark, a witty observation, a funny joke, all hiding the fact I’m morescaredthan the they are (though perhaps they’re thinking the same thing). In fact, most of the time I wish I was someone else – fat, ugly, poor or rich – anyone but me. But then I try and erase that thought, afraid that I’d lose my talents, abilities, personality, and anything that makes me,me.
Sometimes, if I take a moment to reflect (which is rare in today’s day and age), I tell myself to acknowledge the awesome things I’ve done: the art, poetry and performances, to take some time out of my “busy” day to pause; to congratulate myself in an unrelenting, and at times unsympathetic world. It’s certainly healthy to do so; otherwise we’d all walk around doing things and forgetting why the hell we did them. So, good job me! Congratulations! You’ve survived another day – You got up, showered, brushed your teeth, dressed, made coffee, wrote a blog, went to work, taught a student something new, talked to a stranger, texted a loved one, watched three episodes of Narcos back to back, and did it all without offending someone too much and maybe even brightened someone’s day who felt worse than you.
I may be a loner at heart (the reason for all my self-inflicted problems), but perhaps we all feel like loners in our own world. I feel “unique” in this world – I believe my mom uses the term “special” – but this is a feeling I think we all need to adopt in a world that, if you don’t display your uniqueness in some way, you fade into the background unnoticed and unappreciated..and that would be such a loss to your fellow creatures. So let your uniqueness shine! Even if your uniqueness is the cause of your depression, anti-social behaviour and other issues, show the world you’re different than the rest. Read up a little on what’s happening in the world so you can indulge in a conversation that covers the basics: polictics, sports, Hollywood gossip… But make sure you’re also in theNOW:notice what people are wearing, what nervous ticks they have, don’t be afraid to awkwardly point out the mustard stain on their jacket or ask about their personal life. It’s the stuff that makes ushuman, and not just a Blackhawks fan who thinks Trump is the best thing to happen in politics since that weirdo who headed up the Year Book Club. What’s his name again?
Cameron is a freelance writer and proud loner
Travel-ogue: How To Get Fired From A Cruise Ship
by Cameron Brtnik
The year was 2009, and I was freshly back from Hollywood. I didn’t make it of course – I didn’t have the drive; to sleep in a car, to live off macaroni and cheese for two years, to go to five auditions a week only to get a call back to a tooth paste commercial – I didn’t get that either. I had been working on my magic – practicing daily, I even enrolled in the world famous Magic Castle Hollywood and partook in a master class with my childhood magical hero Mark Wilson (The Complete Course In Magic was the first magic book I studied). And I wanted to do something with it. I filmed a demo video, sent it off to Carnival Cruise Lines – the world’s foremost pleasure vessel and self-acclaimed party boat – and whadaya know, I was hired!
It was a 200,000 ton (fifty times bigger than the Titanic), 2000 passenger occupancy vessel. Simply put, it was a huge. She was a magnificent beast. And it was all mine: The Carnival Glory.
But let me backtrack a bit here….
That summer I was at Sorcerer’s Safari Magic Camp (I know what you’re thinking, and yes they do manufacture real life Harry Potters there) and one of the special guests – a world famous magician cruise ship by the name of Sean Farquhar – regaled us with stories of magic on the big seas…I was hooked. I approached him later that day to ask him more details. He told us the story of a a cruise that involved certain Playboy Bunny guests, and an onboard magician who woke up one day at the ungodly hour of five o’clock a.m. to a knock at the door to find one of the ship’s officers just stopping by to say hello. He admired the photos taped on his wall, mainly noticing the X-rated material of said rabbit ear-wearing guests. He also recognized who they accompanied, and more specifically, the location of where the photos were taken: in that very bedroom.
Now this all seems fine and well, even a good story perhaps if it weren’t for one G-darned rule: There’s NO frolicking with the guests – even if they are Playboy Bunnies. So this lucky, damned SOB was fired on the spot. No one heard from him again…or so I say. Foreshadowing anyone???…..
I excelled at my job. it was a perfect fit; magic, entertainment, customer experience, and….women. No shortage of them. It was like a haven, a floating forbidden island, an open buffet, a melting pot of American, Asian, African, Mexican, you name it you got it, it was….Paradise. And I? Zero willpower. I met a smart man early on – the wisest of men and the absolute manslut of the cruise: The Pianist. He knew things no other man did – or should – and more importantly, he knew how to manipulate the rules of a pleasure boat. He gave me one simple piece of advice: If you don’t want to get caught, meet the female guests off board the ship. Book a hotel for a few hours, meet the single, university frat girl, divorce or married woman off the premises, have your fun, and return onboard as if nothing ever happened. Because in the eyes of everyone aboard (including the ignorant) husband, nothing out of the ordinary happened; just another drunk guest enjoying her time on land, probably shopping or getting drunk off three dollar martinis at some cheap local beach bar somewhere in Belize.
Good advice – advice I should’ve taken to heart, considering that was the second unofficial warning. But me being me, never heading the advice of others, never listening to the warnings of previous perpetrators, always wanting to learn the hard way, me -stubborn, selfish, self-absorbed, egocentric, narcissistic – had to learn the hard way….
It was a warm evening – I know because I was getting a BJ on the balcony of th—wait, I’m getting “ahead” of myself now…. It was a regular night. I was working the martini bar, performing close-up magic for Carnivals guests – couples, newlyweds, singles and some curious staff – and this spicy Mexican broad was making eyes. I’d seen the look before: sultry, exotic, flirty, curious, all come-ons, and I knew i could have her that night. It was all part of the process: Girl goes on cruise for first time with friends, girl gets drunk, girl hunts for boys, girl finds no boys, girl goes in search of something more attractive, more charming, more dangerous: the staff. Not just any staff – no, sadly the housekeepers, chefs and servers are not allowed in the guest area – for entertainers. And if the piano man got laid the most, the magicians (and even comedians believe it or not) were a close second. I just happened to be on her radar, or more fittingly, menu that night.
Here was my problem: I thought I had out-smarted security – I had not. To rub this obvious truth in even more, a friend co-worker who sold paintings at a gallery onboard warned me not a week earlier: “Be careful: they have their eyes on you.” I scoffed at the thought. Around midnight, the time I usually wrapped up my show, I met her at the ship’s nightclub. We drank. We danced. We left about 2am and hurried back to her door. I had been here many times before; “Should I or shouldn’t I?” were always the thoughts that repeated through my mind. On one hand, I’m sacrificing my job and career (and an exciting one full of future possibilities at that!) On the other hand, this chick is hot and horny and that’s also, in it’s own way, full of future possibilities. Many times in the previous few months I had turned this enticing offer down; this time I overruled my silly worries, and discreetly stepped into her room…
Fast forward to getting a glorious BJ on the deck off her room, under a full moon, the night sea breeze filling my nostrils full of optimism…then a loud knock at the door. Security: “We know you’re in there and we’re coming in.” Me: (Thinking) “I could totally Spiderman down the side of the ship onto the balcony below and not get caught…” The gig was up – I was caught. Now, the thing is I was friends with these security guys – really nice dudes from India who I said hi to and conversed with daily – so it felt surreal as they handcuffed me and led me into a small, windowless room to interrogate me. I was forced into admitting my actions (and a couple others) and writing an apology, promising that I would never commit such an unspeakable atrocity again. (The rules are in place to prevent the cruise line from being sued by guests. Think “unwanted pregnancy” or “mysterious std”.) I was then freed to go with the ominous warning: “One day you may hear a knock at five o’clock in the morning.” So it was true….
Four days past without incident; I thought I was in the clear! Day 5: Port stop, Miami. 5am: Knock at the door. I thought I was dreaming. An officer standing at the door; it was told to pack my bags. I was escorted off the ship by the sympathetic officer. It was like doing the ultimate “walk of shame” in front of my fellow shipmates whom I had become close with over the six months I had been aboard. I was met by a local Miami officer – a pleasant, religious woman who gave me sound advice on the way to the airport (something about not drinking too much) and waited with me until my plane home arrived. I learned an important lesson that day: The “Five O’clock Knock” is a real thing.
-Written by Cameron Brtnik
***Background: I wrote this on a lonely mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, China, after taking my first job teaching overseas... It was a tough year, but we (the Lingxi Crew) made it through, and I ended up spending six years teaching in Asia! My girlfriend, upon reading it years later, described it as "very emo." China Poem Part 3 Woken from firecrackers like gunshots Every morning at one o’clock Town alarm blaring: warning of ? Seemingly coming from above Spitting in the streets, it's disgusting! Broke-down machines, neglected, rusting Young men bored, a daily routine They smoke and drink and KTV Outdoor table ball and table tennis Do it all over when day's replenished River dirty like the shores of Venice Wish people here could afford a dentist! Boys out-number girls and all of’em get married But if they’re not, they’re probably scary Men are generous but very jealous At first they cheers you, then act zealous .... Gentle wind, slightest breeze Polluted air makes me sneeze (Achoo!) I feel congested, so unrested Bed of wood makes rest so restless Bug-infested when neglected Noise is hectic, chest arrested Everything here is queer and foreign And when it rains it's f&*$in pourin’! Old, mould, cold, fool's gold Fake shit going once, twice, three times - sold! Typhoon's on its way, heavy downpour Devouring whole town, torrential sound sore In my thoughts I drown more… China's about twenty years behind us But in kindness their generosity can remind us. -Lingxi, China, 2010
***Background: I wrote this on a lonely mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, China, after taking my first job teaching overseas... It was a tough year, but we (the Lingxi Crew) made it through, and I ended up spending six years teaching in Asia! My girlfriend, upon reading it years later, described it as "very emo." China Poem - Part 2 Eating rice and noodles a lot Streets lined with stroodles and oodles of shops Teaching classes, reaching masses of children still in teeny baskets People sleeping, amputees begging Young girls squealing, old bags haggling Age is keeping, time is lagging but never runs out so we keep on dragging While we’re treated like celebrities a person’s life here is never free Sidewalks, streets are used as bathrooms Pollution looms, witches brooms, no vacuums Umbrellas, umbrellas – everywhere! Shield from rain and protect from glare On a sunless morning The Sun is scorching Try to feel inspired but fun is boring Feel like I might evaporate, I’m exasperated! Need a nap or break, hot like a pasta plate Hot and muggy, feel sluggish Draught is coming, revealing rubbish Old folk exercise, keeping healthy Many are poor, but hide the wealthy Girls get married, still so tender Having babies, frill and slender Starting families so young When's the time come just to have fun? Motorbikes racing traveling fast “Out of the way!” Better make a dash Horns honking, breaks screeching Salesmen preaching, constant beseeching My ears are bleeding! .... Gloomy day, cloudy weather A ray of hope holding on by tether There's always next day to feel better So for today, I’ll just endeavour -Lingxi, China, 2010
***Background: I wrote this on a lonely mountaintop in the middle of nowhere, China, after taking my first job teaching overseas... It was a tough year, but we (the Lingxi Crew) made it through, and I ended up spending six years teaching in Asia! My girlfriend, upon reading it years later, described it as "very emo." China Poem Everything is old and new But new is old, and old is new Rickshaws, BMWs, Shaolin temples Strict laws, streets in rubble, flower pedals Car horns, “corn for sale!” kids crying, birds chirping The sound of construction men constantly working Muslim noodles served in huge bowls Rice and chopsticks, spice and hot spits Milk tea, milk drink, egg milk, hot milk Silk scarves, silk sheets, rag silk, not silk Polluted river, chicken liver Cold shiver, hot quiver Rain, rain, rain, rain Again, again, again, again Sun! Humid, hot, wet, damp, dirty, sweat, AC! WC no seat; both feet Good people, look feeble Paint a portrait on wood easel Fun times, vent rhymes Lifetimes into bent spines Sun climbs, then shines Rays upon spent minds China: Sign up! One year, I’m stuck But with my luck Won't last five months -Lingxi, China, 2010