Image courtesy of Desert Lightning News

Since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, the world has changed a lot in 2020 and onward into 2021. One of the most common topics of conversation in relation to this is travel and the restrictions or policies that have evolved. It’s a hot topic among nationals and expats alike and often sparks a strong debate between personal liberties and public safety.

Some countries have required negative covid-19 tests before departure and after arrival, and some require nothing. Regardless of the specific restrictions in each jurisdictions, the real question is should people be travelling? Is it in the best interest of people to travel, essentially or otherwise? Well it doesn’t take long to see how this shakes down. All you gotta do is check the headlines:

Covid: Dutch king expresses regret over Greek holiday scandal
BBC, 21 October 2020

“It is not the first time the royal couple have been in the spotlight for their conduct. In August, they were pictured breaking social distancing rules with a restaurant owner during another trip to Greece.”

Alberta cabinet minister, premier’s chief of staff resign over holiday travel, other MLAs demoted
CBC News,  04 January 2021

“Millions of Albertans have made real sacrifices over the past 10 months to help keep each other safe. They are right to be angry about people in positions of leadership vacationing outside of the country,” [Premier] Jason Kenney wrote.
[…]
“We can’t see our grown children in this city yet they can fly to Hawaii,” Edmontonian Glen Mullins told CBC News on Monday. “My parents live in Newfoundland. My tradition is to go see them. I couldn’t go.” 

These two examples spark the divide between “privileged” members of society like royalty, and government officials, and the wider public. The common thread is why is it appropriate for one reason to travel, despite restrictions and recommendations, and not for others?

UK expats prevented from returning home to Spain
BBC News, 04 January 2021

“One passenger on board said that seven British citizens were prevented from boarding a British Airways/Iberia flight from Heathrow to Madrid on Saturday evening, despite having their green residency certificates, as well as negative Covid tests.”

Further complicating things is Brexit and the UK’s departure from the EU bloc. While I feel bad for the travellers denied entry, I wondered why they were in the UK when they had Spanish residency and covid-restrtrictions have been tight since March 2020. They obviously travelled despite restrictions, and this is what sparked my reaction. Entitlement.

Image courtesy of TopPNG

Many people feel entitled to travel regardless of circumstances of a country, and the lack of border controls in Europe seem to make it even worse. People baulking in the face of the virus just come off as selfish in my eyes. I get it, being trapped somewhere for extended periods of time sucks and can take terrible tolls on mental health, but I’ve been doing it. I limit my contact and haven’t even travelled around the city for 3 months. I call and video chat and telecommute and limit my shopping to one time a month, and haven’t met my friends for months. So I’d like to say that I’m doing my part and I’ve even tabled the option of travel basically indefinitely.

I get it, we want to be with our families for holidays, we want to continue to maintain traditions, and we want to stay sane. But our individual needs don’t always trump collective needs. It raises a really important philosophical question: am I more important than the whole?

Newsflash, no matter how independent you are, no matter how careful you are or have been, you’re apart of the whole and you’re responsible for the safety of your loved ones and strangers. The moment we override those collective needs is the moment we turn on our fellow man.

This post isn’t meant to demonise people travelling, or people’s individual choices. I really just want to remind people to think beyond their bubble and look at the bigger picture. Don’t even get me started on people dating or hooking up with new people during the pandemic. 🤐

The human complex is incredibly resilient and we don’t give ourselves enough credit. We think we can’t endure, we think we have to give in to our desires and consider wants as a needs, but this is not true. We can make better choices and continue to adhere to the recommendations of science and common sense.

Whilst jovially strolling from my apartment to the nearby commuter train, I happened to notice young people with cash. Initially I was surprised, as in Sweden cash is not king. Rarely does one see cash or coin here, probably because most of the country has transitioned to cashless payments.

Even on the supermarkets, rarely are coin machines used and they stand regally as proof of a past gone time of exchanging paper and coin money for goods. And then it hit me, when was the last time I used or handled cash? Well that was easy, when I was in Dubai two years ago. Shocking.

Sure, I have a hundred kronor spare cash with my phone, hidden away in the pocket, there if I need it in a pinch. I don’t even see or remember it and am taken a little bit back when I see. Is it even legal tender still? Not sure but I do see Astrid Lindgren and Greta Garbo, so it might be okay.

So when I see a 20-something with a wad of cash, and when I mean at least 2-3 fingers thick, I become suspicious. My area is not pristine and void of crime, on the other hand it’s rather rough and overrun with mobsters caught in ridiculous territory war. But I couldn’t help being suspicious when I see a wad of cash exchanging hands, with nervous looks and a coffee bag being exchanged.

“A gun? Drugs? A fabrigé egg filled with juicy chocolate?” I thought. I looked again and the suspicious body language continued. My mind could jump into oblivion of possibilities, and so I digress.

As an upstanding member of society who never used cash for anything in the last years, and has nothing to hide and no connection to illicit worlds, I remain perplexed as to why so much paper currency must be exchanged. Why would someone pay something without need of documentation or receipt. My spider sense was tingling.

It would have been the upteenth time I witnessed some crime in the 200m radius of the castle (my nickname for my apartment building that is markedly more modern and luxurious compared to the surrounding housing), but then again… I should be sending out good karma to the world, it was clearly the September rent paid late… 🤔 Yes, it must be that. The bloodshot eyes of the man receiving the money and bag is just ovetired and suffering from adult pink-eye.

It could also have been the most expensive breakfast ever recorded in the history of humanity. Worthy of a king… or maybe even a kingpin. In the meantime, I’m keeping my wits about me.

Now that we are all social distancing with covid-19 and contacting each other via social media, I’ve noticed a few things that have changed in my ads on those apps. Every 6 hours or so I’m inundated with TAIMI-apps for a new social network for LGBTQAI+ community (or at least it includes all those groups if I’m not mistaken).

While I don’t see a problem with advertising in general I’m a bit taken aback by the ads. “Do you wanna talk to hot guys in your area?” “Wanna meet cute guys?” are just some examples, which now extend into transgendered people as well. My immediate reaction: uhh, what? Hear me out.

Do I want to meet hot guys in my area, sure. But if I’m not hot myself, doesn’t that just mean that I have a decreased chance of encountering these people? It’s well known that hot gravitates to hot, simply put. You’re going to get matches if you’re attractive, fit, and market yourself a certain way. Okay sure, if you wanna be a piece of meat, that’s your choice.

It’s the word choice in the add that really struck a chord with me. In many ways it’s counter-intuitive to its’ own purpose: it wants to be inclusive to its’ members in the LGBT community, but at the same time cater to the attractive and thirsty. I get it, they are catering to the majority.

Will I likely try TAIMI app to social network and meet people to date? Probably at some point I might check it out, but I will likely not stay as I’d be contributing to the middle average in terms of desirability. If a frustrated average gay screams, does the community that is ignoring them hear? I’d guess not.

Best of luck with your swipes, frivolous as they may feel.

Though I’m not currently an English teacher, as a past teacher of literature I stumbled upon this video of the Korean SAT English Exam and I noticed a few things about the questions and the teachers reactions.

These English teachers anser question from the Korean SAT exam, raising interesting questions about educational quality and university expectations.

Many of them ask “why” have a test like this for a second language? They don’t understand the purpose or why it’s so hard. The students writing the Korean SAT are trying to be admitted to universities. What will they be reading if they study at a higher level? It doesn’t really matter, because the test isn’t judging whether or not they can necessarily speak or read English, but rather if they are able to process and (quite possibly create) information at an academic level.

Regardless of whether or not they study English, the majority of their thesis work or readings will be in academic English and requires a very high level of vocabulary in order to truly understand academic writing. For the majority of people this might considered “academic dribble” or insanely over-complex, long-winded, and abstract.

Culturally speaking this is a difference between university education in the English speaking world vis-á-vis other areas of the world that follow traditional academic models. Many regions of the world continue to see university studies as elite and a smaller section of society. Why permit barely academics to study at higher levels if their language skills (in their native language or otherwise) are not upp to snuff?

In American, Canadian, and some British universities, the concept of academia really has been transferred to higher levels, i.e. masters or doctorate studies. But wait, why is that? It wasn’t so long ago that university wasn’t a rite of passage, or an exclusive opportunity. Over the last hundred or so years, or maybe even in the last fifty years for some, academia has seen a watered down version of undergraduate degrees. It begs the question, how does my Bachelors degree from 2008 compare to that of 1970 or even now in 2019? Have the requirements or expectations shifted? My gut reaction is, yes… dramatically.

Reactions are “when are they ever going to use this real life?” Well therein lies the cultural misunderstanding; the purpose of university education is specialised, theoretical, and research focused. It’s not supposed to be for everyone, despite it being a populous shift. Upper secondary education has been watered down, which then forces undergraduate studies to be watered down and it trickles down all the way. Where does the puck stop, so to speak? Where does education say “thou shallt not pass”? It’s a tricky question, and as an educator myself, it’s a moral dilemma. It comes down to access of knowledge or access to education.

If many of my former students were to take this Korean exam and expect to study at university, their receipt of a good result would tantamount to them being cleared for study in any area. Without this kind of fluency or at least vocabulary, they would be setting themselves up for either failure at their uni programme, or an immense pressure to increase fluency in a very short period, which all language teachers roll their eyes at, because learning a language takes time.

Going back to what the teachers asked, why would someone need to know this? Well that’s exactly the point! What is the purpose of a university education? Is it to gain knowledge, or to prepare oneself for work? I think I’m opening up a can of worms here, but I think you can surmise the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be elitist, but sorry-not-sorry. I can only reflect on my own education, my own experience, and what I experienced at university (in different countries by the way). I tend to be against standardised tests at a lower level of education, but for university studies I’m all for it. Not only does it create a realistic expectation for what is required to study and be successful (not an economic machine of the university, by the way), but also filters out people that might be better suited to study other areas, at least temporarily or until they change their mind and commit themselves in a different way.

It’s easy for me to pass judgement on these people in retrospect, but would I have passed an exam at age 17 like this? I can only speculate, and despite being more than ten years older, I wrote a past exam for fun, and I received a high score. That makes sense, since I was a good student, have taught English at an upper secondary level (both for natives and ELL students), I already studied at university and at higher levels, but I also think I would have been able to pass back then. It might have been hard, but it would have been a real eye-opener for me to see if university really was for me. A good measure of if my language ability is suited to academic reading and more in depth study potential.

Is university a protected places of thinkers, philosophers, researchers, or a rite of passage for a particular culture. What do you think?

It’s not very often that we find someone that completely matches what we think and have felt our whole lives. This is very much something that happened to me while listening to my weekly podcasts. Famous gay man’s, Dan Savage, podcasts about relationship problems and tips. He recently had a male caller that outlined the following:

My second question pertains to maleness itself. I’ve always felt excluded from traditional masculinity: the discomfort with feelings, the one-upsmanship, the callous jokes, the unquestioned embrace of patriarchal status ideals. I have a hard time making friends with guys because I just don’t trust us to be kind and present human beings. And these days, the message that men, especially straight white ones like me, are hollow, selfish, destructive people who just make everyone else miserable for a living is coming through on all channels.

I had the idea that men are emotionally and physically dangerous instilled in me from a very young age. And in my eagerness to avoid growing up to be a wife-beating pervert rapist, I developed a fear of my own sexuality that kept me romantically paralysed for most of my adult life. I’ve loosened up a bit, but to this day I am astounded that anyone touches any of with a 10 foot pole, despite the fact that it clearly happens all the time, even occasionally to me. So I could do with a shift in perspective and I thought it might be fun to ask you, a guy who sleeps with and loves other guys: what the attraction? Despite all the shitty things that we are and do, what about men would you save if you could strip us down to nothing and rebuild us from the ground up. Because dammit, Dan, it’s very hard to feel sexy when you hate yourself this much.

Caller from Dan Savage’s podcast Savage Lovecast episode 681

I couldn’t help but not only laugh, but also nod emphatically alongside this caller’s response. Just wow. It’s basically a phone call about toxic masculinity which maybe I’ve written about before. It’s a fairly new concept that is a discussion that sparked from a documentary about American boy’s sinking into depression because of the social expectations placed on them to be masculine and “man up.” It’s called The Mask You Live In, and I totally recommend it.

This caller touches on a lot of things that really I can relate to. I never fit into the mould of the other boys. More emotional and feminine could always describe me, and as a result I related better to girls. I get them, and they get me, mostly because women tend to be better communicators. I’ve always had a hard time making and keeping guy friends, and I think it’s mostly because I don’t know how to be around them.

I find it awkward, stagnant, or toxic sometimes to be in a group. The joking and insulting nature of some guys just makes me uncomfortable, and much like the caller I can’t imagine how women or anyone else for that matter could put up with that kind of attitude or behaviour. I was taught, or rather I learned myself, to treat others the way I wish to be treated. Why would I insult others? How does that help build a bond? Why must one be the best at something and always compete?

Self hate is a real thing and it eats away at you. Little by little you feel less of man, let alone person, and it can lead to you comparing yourselves to others and wondering why those types of people that are so toxic are so well accepted and loved? What is it they have that I don’t?

I think I’ve known for a long time that the nice guy never wins. Sure we all like to have them around, but they aren’t the first person we call. They aren’t the ones that we spend all our time with. They aren’t the ones that we want to date. Nobody dates someone because they are nice or kind, and sadly it’s an afterthought.

So what happens to those men that don’t fit into the mould of masculinity? Truth be told, most of them feel the pressure so strongly they conform and it takes a strong person to be able to stand apart and be something better. This ideal that is held by society is something sought after by women and gay men all around, and I just can’t understand it.

I guess that’s why I’m single, because I’m looking for niceness or kindness and it’s so damn hard to find.