Staring Into The Abyss

Next month is the month. The month I hand in my masters dissertation. Months of snoozing in the library and innumerable cups of coffee have led me to this point, poised on  the edge, staring into the abyss that is life post-university. This time it’s real. No more masters or gap years to act as a buffer between me and proper responsible adulthood. As you can imagine, my overwhelming emotion when thinking of this, is one of abject terror. However, I think I know what I want to do. Well, not what I want to do specifically. That would be far too simple. I don’t know the exact job I want. At all. What I do know however, is that I’d really like to do it abroad. Since embarking on my Budapest adventure a few weeks back (summer school), I’ve struggled to come to terms with the idea of living and working here in Blighty anymore. I think my time in England is running it’s course quite frankly, and I’ve caught the cliche itch to get out there and experience life in a different cultural setting. England feels quite insular and inward-focused and I’ve become tired of it. So far I’ve mainly considered the idea of relocating to Italy. Comedic really, since I have never even been. Still, something about their laid-back lifestyle, sweeping landscapes  and their beautiful, rustic architecture really appeals to me. Not to mention I bloody love pizza. Slowly but (sort of) surely I’m learning the language, and I have plans to visit whenever I can.

Regarding the aforementioned two weeks in Budapest, it was fantastic. For years I regretted not studying abroad whilst doing my undergrad’, and, whilst in all honesty nobody cares about the actually studying, it was such a great way of meeting people from all over the world (although mainly bloody Swiss), and that feels so enriching. Budapest itself was stunningly beautiful. In my shameful ignorance I’d imagined it to be a cheap but generic Eastern European backwater, but the reality was so very different. Every street I turned down was more striking than the last, with the beautiful facades of the buildings matched only by the stunning women walking beneath them. I highly recommend visiting to anybody who hasn’t; it’s cheap, feels incredibly safe, is populated by such wonderfully friendly sorts, and it’s so easy to get intentionally lost in it’s sprawling streets for hours without getting bored of seeing what greets around the next corner. I won’t give any specific tips since I’m a genuinely appalling tourist ( I only went over the Sydney Bridge on the last day of my three month stay), but I’d urge you to give it a high priority.

However, the blues upon returning right home are absolutely awful. I think he trip was juxtaposed at such a complicated yet crucial period of my life – as I am on the cusp of diving into my future – that it had such a profound impact, hugely influencing my newfound desire to live and work in the land of johnny foreigner. Once this dissertation is out the way I have some serious decisions to make. I am slightly nervous, but it feels very exciting to stand  behind the wheel of the ship, capable of steering it towards foreign riches… or ruin.

As you can perhaps tell, I haven’t written in a while.

Brexit thoughts…

I’ll start off by stating how much I hate the phrase ‘Brexit’. This kind of rubbish is infesting the British vernacular; ‘team GB’, ‘bare good’ (what?), etc. etc. Now for the matter at hand. I’m going to be offering my thoughts on the upcoming E.U referendum, albeit with a focus on brevity due to my natural predisposition towards it. To cut to the chase, my main grievance with with our current situation is the seemingly unrestricted immigration possible from within the rest of the E.U. I’ll start of by inserting a disclaimer (and it’s unfortunate that this at all necessary, but it is in order to cover myself), I have nothing against immigrants and would certainly move here (or to another great country) if it meant a better life. In fact, I’ll probably do that very thing myself if possible. My concern is purely economical. To elaborate, short-run economic models clearly stipulate that immigration reduces or at least slows the growth of worker wages (especially those at the lowest levels of the wage distribution (i.e a majority)). The logic behind this assertion is that workers flood in whilst capital and land (other factors of production) remain fixed, and thus each worker is now working with less of those factors which reduces their marginal productivity. Picture it in your mind’s eye like an acre of land. The more workers you add (to a point), the more productive the land becomes, but the productivity gain of adding an extra worker diminishes, which means that the more workers you add, the lower the marginal productivity of workers. Since in economic theory wages = price x marginal productivity (of labour) and prices are fairly sticky, wages will clearly fall. Alternatively, consider it from a supply and demand perspective. An increase in the supply of workers means a fall in the price of their labour, since there is more choice for employers. In the long-run economic models predict that factors readjust so that marginal productivity of factors is the same as before. However, as Keynes asserted, in the long run we are all dead.
A second concern I have comes from the increased demand that arises due to an inflow of all the extra consumers.The most visible impact of this increase is in housing, as prices rise (and  have for years despite (i believe) a current stagnation) amid the swelled demand, becoming less affordable.

For me, the above makes exiting the E.U a potentially attractive proposition. That being so, what makes it far less attractive is the clear lack of a plan or a result-dependant agreements in place, that can demonstrate what our future would be if we left the E.U. In part this is due to the nature of our circumstance. We are in the E.U and have spent decades being in the E.U. Therefore, everything we do has this ingrained in it, and thus a separation creates an adjustment period of uncertainty and disruption, the likes of which make leaving less appealing. In time I think we could overcome such disruption and function perfectly well, but it seems like such a shot in the dark when we cannot rely on the competence of leaders. Conceptualise our membership as an overall package made up of a number of elements. Theoretically we could recreate this package with all the elements we want without those we don’t (such as mass immigration). Free trade is still perfectly possible and economics dictates that it would be the logical thing for all parties since it IS beneficial for both nations involved. Still, can we rely on the rationality of man? Or will stubbornness and petty behaviour take hold? I remain sceptical.

TL;DR: We could leave the E.U and we would do fine, but we cannot rely on those leading us to take the steps that would make us prosper in such an uncertain position, nor the leaders of other states that are susceptible to the character flaws of man.

So yeah, some of my thoughts ( I have far more but I won’t bore you), written in a ten minute window without draft, proof-reading or pausing. Great, eh…

I’m Still Here

Hello, been a while right? I’m not sure why I haven’t been writing really. Maybe I’ve just been lazy. Yeah, that’s it; lazy. I’m not sure what I have mentioned or not, but in case I haven’t noted on here before, I’m now studying a masters in economics at my local university (Hull). To be truthful, and perhaps a little embarrassingly green, studying economics seems like being allowed in to the Magician’s Circle. It’s an entirely new way of thinking and conceptualising life issues that I had simply been oblivious to before. A lot of it is common sense admittedly, but isn’t everything? The way of thinking and the framework that makes us consider things that we’d never factor in before, is truly fascinating. In terms of my  actual class, it’s quite bizarre. Out of about 11, there are only two of us English folk, supplemented by a smattering of North and Central Africans, a Jerry, and a Chinese chap. Naturally, the male to female ratio is 1:10. I must say, I do quite like this eclectic mix of people and the foreigners’ weaker English helps balance out the fact that the vast majority have three years of economic study on me. That being so, they are very quirky. Whilst I am still none the wiser in terms of what career I wish to pursue ( I truly envy those that have found their niche), I do at least feel that my course is giving me practical knowledge as well as the appearance of transferable skills that companies will seek. That said, part of me is still hoping for some obscure, dream role that reveals itself to me. I often see Facebook posts of a guy I went to uni with who is working as a marine biologist in America. I can’t compete with such glamour at the moment. I’m also very much the sort to worry about other things I want to have a grasp of so as to not close off job avenues. Web design is a great example. Still, if I graduate with a decent grade I’ll be better off than this time last year, having not travelled, only worked at Primark and holding just my history degree. Oh, and I love my barren timetable and Christmas off.

Freedom Festival

There’s something about free entertainment; you just can’t wack it. After work yesterday I wandered on down to the Bridge Stage (nearest the river) to check out the band of a lad I used to play football with, Cannibal Animal. It was kind of surreal seeing this chap who had previously been your archetypal young football fan, complete with silly coloured boots and dodgy barnet, stroll about with a swagger on stage and belt out indie tunes. The band really were pretty good. It’s always a bit awkward when you go and see people you know perform. The very real possibility that they’re terrible at their craft, is never a nice one to witness. Thankfully Luke has a surprisingly good voice and combines it with a quirky laid-back yet edgy style.  I must admit that I’m way too slow to go and check out local entertainment, especially considering when I actually bothered to go and watch my friend Jack’s comedy shows, they were bloody good.

Me and the chaps do enjoy our annual foray into the City’s fruit market district. The eclectic style of the buildings makes a really trendy, suitable location for the festival. The carnival atmosphere is barely spoiled by the absolute droves of young rapscallions mischievously lurking about and just generally getting in the way. The Festival has even inspired my to start writing again, and I’ve just submitted a quick review I rushed out before last night’s lash. I’ve actually sent it in to the festival’s media team and they say that they will put it in the newsletter. No big deal, but an important first step for me. I’ve written a few things but, short of this blog that reaches fewer people than a Katie Hopkins fan page, I’ve been hesitant to get them out there and be open to critiques. So yeah, feeling inspired.

I can’t believe my travels are over. Done, Finished. I just can’t. It’s remarkably strange to think that in a few weeks time I’ll be a student once again, trying to learn as much as possible in order to make something of my future. I’ve been having that feeling again that many graduates (and indeed many 18-20 somethings) have, and that’s the feeling of helplessness as one struggles to find their own niche and place in the world. Riding the bus home from work today, I bumped into a guy  (well, he came and sat down next to me whilst I had my music on and didn’t even notice him) I used to know at school and we got chatting about his fairly lucrative role as a banking advisor at a local bank. Moreover, we also got chatting (fun isn’t it?) about a friend of his that used to live down my street, who currently owns his own graphic design company, complete with £400k international contracts and flights to Barcelona to strike contract deals. Finding out that contemporaries are succeeding in life should perhaps raise a feeling of being pleased for them and their happiness. In reality, it evokes a particularly galling sense of jealousy, and a feeling of desperation as to how you can get into something as cool and financially beneficial as these people. Why oh why do I not absolutely adore graphic design or photography, so that I can develop a trendy and arguably fun career in either field? I’m taking a look at myself and wondering where my skills can help set me up for a career. I do think that my economics masters could be incredibly useful, but what if I want to end up in a creative industry? What then? I guess I really should be pushing through my writing at the moment, smashing out articles and trying to get trendy life websites or sports blogs to pickup some of my drivel and dangle it out in front of the readers to tentatively gauge a response.  I should be doing that, but actually it’s way too easy to instead lose a few hours sat shooting things in the face on my pc, or blankly checking facebook and youtube to see if anything has changed in 30 seconds. I suppose I am writing this stuff right now, which is a good start at least. That publishing deal will be mine in no time.

This feeling that I have is pretty normal really. It is the ultimate question that seems to confront all of us; where is my niche in the world?

It’s been a while since I have generously updated any possible readers out there on my activities or musings, so it’s about time for another stab at it. Having enjoyed the fairly minimal touristy sights of Bangkok we decided to leave the city and headed to the coastal resort of Au Nang. Having little more than a picturesque but still beachy beach  and the world’s most annoying mosque tannoy system, Au Nang did little to hold our attention and after mere days, we ended up booking a flight to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Our first experience of Viet frickin Nam arrived in the form of a playful bartering session with a local taxi driver who was almost certainly up for taking us for a ride literally and metaphorically. After proudly walking away and thus defeating the poor fellow, we accepted a different taxi ride for half the price, but still the set fee came to more than that of the meter; sigh. I think the first thing that must strike any visitor to Vietnam is the unbelievably chaotic traffic converging upon you from all sides. Due to the relatively late introduction of cars to Vietnam ( okay, this feigned knowledge is lifted straight from Top Gear), nobody actually owns one. Instead, the roads are awash with hundreds upon hundreds of scooters, meandering between one and other, emitting a cacophony of pointless and rather pathetic horn beeps. It’s utter madness. Attempting to cross a road for the first time is at first alarming, and then amusing. One could stand and wait for hours and they make no progress from their spot. As with Thailand (although turned right up to 11), it’s simply a case of ‘do what the locals do’ and wade out into the sea of oncoming traffic. The resulting joy of not being instantly killed is actually one of the greatest triumphs of Vietnam; the traffic system sort of just works. It really does. Instead of the anticipated head on collision with 50 scooters, we stood amazed to observe them politely swerve round us like a maelstrom of ants. The idea of ‘you mind us and we’ll mind you’ not only works, but also places a refreshing amount of trust in the occupants of Vietnamese streets. Of course, for fear of spoiling the mood, we’ll just not mention the horrific traffic accident rate eh?

The next amazing thing to strike us in Vietnam, was actually how interested their young people are in us western folk. Sat in a park on a night relaxing, we’d soon be joined by perhaps 20 Vietnamese adults of similar age to ourselves, all chattering and yapping out question after question about England, our jobs, what money we made, what we did for fun, even what crops we grew. The innocence and enthusiasm of their questions was brilliant to behold initially, but it actually became rather depressing and guilt-inducing to learn that not one of these people had any hope of seeing our homeland purely because they earned an absolute pittance wage. Still, the hugely social aspect of their culture in which parks remain jam packed, even at 10pm, was invigorating and made us question whether us, with our wealth and possessions in England, had our culture norms and desires absolutely backwards.

We capped off our time in Vietnam by visiting the Cu Chi tunnels that had been used by the fascinating Vietcong soldiers during the Vietnam War. Personally, this was a highlight of my whole time away, having always been incredibly interested in how this small nation of farmers could hold of the American industrial might. Led round the tunnels by a South Vietnamese Army veteran, it was a great way to gain an insight into the atrocious nature of the war that is actually often romanticised. I was however a little shocked to see fellow tourists taking pictures of photos of mutilated victims and dead bodies. Very bizarre.

Overall then, Vietnam was probably my favourite place that we visited. Why do I say ‘was’ you ask? Having mulled over the option of studying a masters in economics, I decided not to defer a year and have enrolled at Hull University this September. I must also admit that I was feeling a little homesick too. I am disappointed not to have witnessed the full wonder of Vietnam, as well as Japan and China. Still, it will be there when I finish and graduate (hopefully) next year. Travelling has not gone as planned, but it was a great experience.

Siam

We arrived in Bangkok with some trepidation. After all, Thailand is a fairly alien country to us, both culturally and in terms of language. Upon finding ourselves dumped- by the world’s only train that could be outpaced by youe average Italian midfielder- in Bangkok’s old town in the dead of night, this trepidation was little alleviated. We disembarked into a station straight from the 19th century and were greeted by a floor covered in sleeping Thai people ; we were uncertain as to whether they were homeless or had died of old age waiting for the plucky public transport to arrive. Either way, whilst feeling like the lone vanguard of a Yankee army deep in Indian country, we were bricking it to say the least. Our first main challenge arrived in the form of a rather wide road, standing between us and our safe haven for the night. It was here that we happened upon our first main lesson of Thailand: the road system follows absolutely no logic known to man. No bugger has a clue what is going on. After uhming  and ahing, stepping on and off the road for a minute or so, we observed an aged local inch out confidently into the avalanche of oncoming traffic, and were amazed to see the Moses effect being employed in full principle as it parted to avoid her slender frame. Buoyed by this discovery we did the same and were soon in our hotel reception, whereupon which we were greeted by the first lady boy of our trip. Now me and Tom are pretty tolerant and open minded people, but there is simply no way to avoid being surprised the first time you actually interact with some geezer with makeup and some hair extensions. First reaction is one of shock and in all honesty unease,  but after the third or four meeting it does sort of become the norm. Particularly true as you observe how commonplace they are in society.  Anyway, enough with the usual boring rubbish that people talk about when mentioning Thailand.