Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Yellow Brick Road

The subject of journeys has cropped up into my mind recently.

I suppose with all that's been going on in the world, people talking of moving away and some taking steps to do so, it was inevitable.

When I moved out to study abroad, my plan was to get an education and qualifications to travel around the world teaching English. Over my time in education, I saw a slew of offers to teach abroad and heard of people moving around Europe, simply changing schools they teach at... but after some years I realised I only wanted that so I'd have photos of various places to upload to Facebook and make other people envious. Their envy, however, wouldn't have made me happy.

When the subject of what languages I speak creeps up into the conversation what generally follows is an expectation that I've been to every country whose language I'm more or less familiar with but I lack the wanderlust some people exhibit.

When I'm shown photos of other people's travels, while I appreciate the joy they exhibit and see how wonderful the places they went to are, I don't regret not having the time nor money to go there. In fact, while people around me talk about how they'd love to have a chance to travel but for various reasons can't, I probably have the means to just up and leave.

Why not? Why not go on a grand adventure spanning a few years, experience what the world has to offer? Because it's a life that carries with itself a burden of impermanence. Such a life holds no appeal to me.

I'm not satisfied living with what I can carry, working and filling my spare time with socialising. I've worked hard on creating a life for myself that I could be happy with. Although it's not perfect and I'm still implementing plans to make it more manageable, I could do without various people telling me to throw everything into the bin and go be pretend-happy instead.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

A Vital Test

Shortly after my birthday celebrations were done, I started to focus more on studying for a test.

The test in question was called Life in The UK.

It's one of the requirements for obtaining a British passport as part of the naturalisation process. It's also a test that I've attempted once and failed by a few points so, naturally, I was horribly stressed while going over questions for it every day for two weeks.

I would have tried sitting through it last year but the problems I have had in the past two years depleted my funds in their entirety. I wasn't in any financial nor mental shape to go through the whole application process at the time. However, with this year's news of the UK leaving the EU, I decided it was as good a time as any to try once more.

Yes, this book...
There's a book you're supposed to go through to prepare for the test. I read through it all, cover to cover, a few years back as preparation for my first attempt and, as mentioned before, it wasn't enough. Despite assurances from friends and family, I didn't manage to pass. So this time I approached it in a different manner, I started doing practice tests.

Every day I would sat down in front of the computer screen, click on a link to the practice tests and go through them time and time again. Of course, a lot of times I would be one point short of passing. A fact I found most infuriating but I redid them until my scores improved. I mainly took note of the terms and facts I wasn't familiar with and looked them up, while reading too much into them, as is my way.

I was stressed throughout half of November. There were nights I couldn't sleep. I'd go to bed and wake up a few hours later unable to shut my eyes for the remainder of the night. I even turned down opportunities to play games because I had to study!

I didn't think much of it when the day finally came. I made sure I packed all my documents the day before, had a day of rest, woke up and went off. With trains being as they are, I took an early one. Fortunately, my way to Croydon had only one problem in that the automatic doors at my destination's station refused to read my ticket. I was let out without a fuss though and headed off to the test centre. I passed a music shop with violins on display, always a good sign.

When I entered the centre, I was informed that I don't have to wait for my specified time and may do the test straight away. I presented my documents, they checked my ears for bluetooth devices and asked me to roll up my sleeves before I was allowed to enter the examination room.

It was a fairly simple design with desks and computers all around it with one in the middle where an observer was situated. I sat down and answered all the questions I could. I was baffled to see so many of them having been from the practice tests I took. Of course, they were not exactly the same questions. Often, the questions and answers were reversed but I had a very good idea what they would be. I even had a plethora of the exact same questions I was telling of my parents over the phone the other day.

Surely enough, after all was said and done. I was told I passed, they printed out a certificate with my name on it and congratulated me. I went home and that night I roleplayed first and then went to have a drink. I had way too much to drink and stayed up way too long but I could hardly contain myself.

Suffice to say, after all that, I was positively shattered at the end of November.

PS: If anyone is interested in what sort of questions are there on the test, here's a useful link.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Cake isn't a Lie

I must admit, last month was incredibly intense for me.

I took the first week off because my very awesome friend Piotrek decided to pay me a visit for several days during which we've played games like nobody's business. During that week, we would wake up, have breakfast, play games, have dinner, play games and go to bed somewhere past midnight.

It was glorious!

behold!
Of course, it being November, I couldn't resist having a birthday celebration. I've never been one to celebrate my birthday. It generally reminded me of another wasted year. I'm not sure what got into me this year. Whatever it may have been, I tried to make the most of it, invited a few people round, prepared some food, drinks and a game... immense amounts of fun were had!

As you may have gathered, copious amounts of alcohol were also had and it was one of the few opportunities to actually see me drunk on the fiery beverage of my ancestors.

there is no better loot
Of course, no birthday celebration can be complete without presents. While I am far from the materialistic sort, I am immensely happy with all the gifts. When I look at them, I feel you can get a fairly good impression of the sort of person I am.

There are books because I spend a lot of my free time reading. You can clearly tell I adore superheroes looking at all the Batman, Marvel and Flash things. My morbid side is represented by skull candles, a skull glass, a game about zombies and an excellent film! I even got gym gloves so that I finally stop hurting my hands.

I love the cards filled with well wishes. I couldn't help but cry at reading some of them... and I got an updated Transformer figure of a toy I had when I was a child.

It was one of those rare days when I felt accepted. Growing up I've gotten used to being an outsider and the feeling of alienation followed me throughout most of my life. Having a break from it and feeling normal for a change means the world to me.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Game Weekend

Piteru decided to come over for a long visit spanning two days... naturally, this was the perfect opportunity to sit down and play as much as physically possible +1



Android: Netrunner
Specially for this occasion, I caved in and bought some packs for Netrunner.

I guess we both highly like the game. Its asymetry is definitely a high selling point.

Of course,
Piteru had to go with his favourite Criminal faction while I picked one of the new Corp identities I got.

Android: Netrunner
There was criminal activity in the form of unsollicited hacking and behind the scene deals made.

I built an aggressive deck with what I had but instead of going for servers left and right,
Piteru just had to play it safe... which costed him the game!

DC Deck-Building Game
Next up was possibly one of our favourite games.

We did get to go to town beforehand so I had a new Expansion set to add to the DC Deck-Building Game.
Piteru didn't like the idea of using the Watchmen Expansion but I convinced him to give it a try when I mention the traitor mechanic.

Unfortunately, he made it way too obvious that he's the secret villain. I still didn't manage to win...


Carcassonne
This is where Piteru surprised me.
He bought me a game!
Obviously, there was no way we wouldn't play it.

Carcassonne is a classic among boardgames and highly enjoyable, even with just the base set. We had a small fray over a city at some point but never managed to finish it anyway.


Splendor
Splendor is a game Piteru bought me last time he came over. Do I sense a pattern here? Maybe...

I must say, he got a lot better at playing it then before. Someone must have been practicing as he stole victory away from me with a single point!


Epic PVP
Piteru wanted to play Epic PVP.
We went with an odd pairing.

Since he picked a High Elf, I went with a Dark Elf and then, instead of picking some goody-do-gooder class, he combined it with a backstabbing Rogue! I just had to pick a honorable Samurai. We went at it back and forth.

Completely different than the last time I remember.
I suppose we both learned how to play it.

Android: Netrunner

When I looked at all the viruses, I got an idea for an Anarchist virus-heavy deck. While I generally play Corporation, I like the Anarchists as a faction.

What can I say? Some people just want to see the world burn... and look at all those virus counters!

I managed to pull off some good synergy between those cards.


DC Deck-Building Game

Piteru wanted a rematch...
of a game he won.
Don't ask...

This time we dealt out our heroes randomnly, Silk Spectre vs Nite Owl... and throughout the game we each suspected the other to be the Secret Supervillain!...
 
So when we got to the final stage of the game, it was revealed we were both good guys! We also made the game harder for ourselves because I misread one line of the rulebook.

The funniest part of the game was at the end when, although we were on the same side, Piotrek killed my character... this is the sort of friends I have...

One Hit Kill

Lastly, we played One Hit Kill.

It's an easy and quick set collection game with the added benefit of getting to smash your opponent with THE HAMMER OF THE GODS... as
Piteru rightly deserves after the last game...

Monday, 4 July 2016

Brexit

It's been well over a week since the UK held a referendum on whether or not to leave the EU.

Normally, I avoid talking about current events here because they don't affect me on a personal level. This, however, had a very strong impact on me.

British politics is going crazy at the moment. People are coming out of the woodwork claiming they regret their Leave vote, while it turns out a lot of people didn't go vote Remain because the weather wasn't nice. Farage is insulting EU politicians while The Guardian proclaims him as some kind of Messiah. Seemingly everyone is pushing for Corbyn to resign. Everyone and their mum is running for Prime Minister. Brexit promises are denied, like they never happened. There are protests on the streets of London. There's a petition for another referendum.

There's probably a lot of other nonsense going on too amid all this chaos.

As for me, I'm not sure what to think. I'm more worried about others and what this will mean for the economy of the British Isle than myself personally. When the results came in, a lot of my friends started talking about getting passports of other EU countries and figuring out ways to move out of the UK.


It saddens me to hear that. This whole referendum saddens me in general. When I first voiced my emotions, I was met with reassurances that no one is going to be kicking out EU-nationals. Whether that's the case or not isn't an issue for me. I would ideally prefer to keep my life the way it is and work on improving it rather than be forced to start over, obviously, but my gripes are mainly ideological.

I moved to England because at the time I thought of it as a progressive and cosmopolitan country. Precisely the kind of place I wanted to live in. I was tired of living among people who'd judge others based on arbitrary qualities like where they were born, who they were attracted to or what their interests were.

I've met some great people over here in Brighton who helped me through some harsh times. Although I haven't been subject to any 'racist' attacks, which are on the rise since the referendum, I can't help but wonder. If all the people I care about were to leave and I'm left in a country of nationalistic bigots, what's the point of staying here at all?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

£$€

I've been meaning to write this post for half a year now.
Alas, Life is such that things keep on happening and I couldn't find the time to sit down, think things through and write what's on my mind.

I'm not doing well financially these days.

It's all my fault, really. I used to have a good grasp on my budget, financial flow and my mental state in general before events in my personal life took a turn for the worse. There was a period where all my income for diverted into dealing with some mental health issues. When I felt slightly better off in that regard, I took a gamble and instead of focusing on saving money and putting in additional hours at work, I used all I had to look for a job.

I was desperate, to say the least. I had a hard time dealing with the memories my workplace gave me and really wanted out. I started to look for jobs in areas outside my expertise and local area, and kept taking days off work to attend interviews.

Suffice to say, it didn't pay off.

At the end of last summer I was left with barely enough to get by. I managed to pull through somehow but it was harsh. Now that I've moved, a lot of my surplus income these past few months went into furniture acquisition and rent increase. It's only this week that I'm starting to feel my expenses are going down. Even so, when something comes up like going to the cinema with friends or a trip to a convention, I feel bad for spending money.

All I can think of is how my various accounts add up to a staggering -£2.7k.

It feels like a grim situation. My mind keeps telling me I should just give up on everything that's not essential to base survival (food, water and heat) and deal with this issue... but I've lived like this once. When I first had problems with debt, that was left onto me by some rather unsavoury housemates, I got a job and spent most of my time working. I did naught but work, literally. After my hours were up, I would go home to sleep and go back to work. I barely had time to eat and my days off were a combination of housework and watching TV.

I never wanted that to be my life.

Work + TV is the sort of life I saw my parents have when I was growing up and I vowed not to have a life that's solely focused on working. So here I am, wasting my money frivously on my dreams and trying to enjoy myself as much as I can with whatever time I've got left.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Weird

I've been called a lot of things during my lifetime. Some more savoury than others. One thing that generally remains a constant is how people call me weird or strange.

weird? more like: bizzare
This is hardly surprising since I've always been a strong proponent of individuality and not comforming to social expectations as a way to fit in. What surprised me lately is how a good friend told me he had the impression I'm trying too hard to be weird.

I was tremendously surprised by this revelation. It's not the first time someone would accuse me of actively trying to be different. As if my whole personal identity depends on the concept of not fitting in. Oftentimes, I take these sort of remarks as an indicative of someone who bends under social pressure to conform to his surroundings. In a way, it's a valid survival tactic and living in a society requires following certain social norms... but your interests, and mine, are not one of these.

I will not engage in an activity I get nothing out of just because someone else does. Likewise, I don't require people give up their activities and pick up mine. When I invite people over to play some games and they'll turn the invitation down, I don't throw up a fuss. So it's unsightly to me when someone invites me to get drunk and my refusal is taken like a personal insult.

I like going out with people who share my interests. I'll attend events and conventions that I find interesting and avoid those that I find dull. I have never gone to a convention only to find that I suddenly hate everything about it and am a totally different person. No, wherever I go, whoever I'm with, I just want to be accepted as being myself without having to put on a false visage only to make myself fit in for a fleeting moment.

What am I supposed to do afterwards? When the veneer fades, I'm just left exhausted. I had no fun pretending to be someone else. Building a friendship based on a lie never works out. The only lasting effect is wasted time.

Most people want to fit in in some way. I want the same. I want to be around people who won't think it's morally wrong to watch anime, like Transformers or be interested in superheroes. I don't want to be laughed at nor told how I should live my life. I just want to have fun.

So when it comes to being around people to whom I either have to lie or stay silent to avoid being ridiculed, I'd rather leave and not turn back...