Vietnamese Website Nightmare

I’m a Canadian living in South Korea. I recently needed to go to Vietnam and need a visa to enter the country. Unlike Koreans, Canadians need to apply for a visa when they go to Vietnam. Two years, I had to go to the embassy in Seoul in person to apply for a visa. It was a rather lengthy process, so I decided to check out the embassy’s website first.

Going through Google, the first non-ad website was this.

First_Vietnam_Website

Curiously enough, my wife couldn’t find this site easily through the Korean search engine, Naver. Even more curious was this little detail on the bottom of the website.

First_Vietnam_Website_details

A Yahoo! mail for a government website? That’s pretty weird. Even weirder was the fact that it was left unfinished. It could either be @yahoo.com or @yahoo.co.kr.

Anyway, I clicked on their visa application link and it sent me to another website.

Second_Vietnam_Website

This was visaonlinevietnam.com. It was obviously an e-commerce site, but they say that they are legally able to process visas for people online. They were offering to do it for a much, MUCH cheaper price than the other Korean rush visa companies my wife was looking at, so we just assumed they were contracted by the Vietnamese government to handle these applications to cut off all the other shady businesses who charge exorbitant prices.

I applied, got an e-mail telling me that they will send me an approval letter I could present at the airport in Vietnam. Then the agent there will give me a visa. Excellent.

….

Then I got curious.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Youtube

I looked up Vietnamese visas online and came across multiple videos saying something about Visa on Arrival (which I applied for) and E-visas, which they say is faster. One video has a link to an E-visa application site.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Govt

This site is a “gov.vn” site, so it’s not local to Korea and not from the embassy in Seoul. It is from the Vietnam Immigration Department!

Third_Vietnam_Website_Details

The link for their E-visa application requires a photo and a copy of the applicant’s passport.

Third_Vietnam_Website_Application

For my application, I wasn’t asked for a copy of my passport until I got an email the same day, telling me that my application would need it to expedite the process. Weird. Also, my application didn’t require a photo, but my wife advised me to bring a photo in the country anyway just in case it’s needed.

But why did I have to go through Youtube to find that site? Why wasn’t that site linked directly from the first website I went through? Why even make arrangements with an e-commerce site when you have a fully functioning process already there?

So I sent an e-mail to that yahoo.co address (from the first website) with several variations to make up for a possible typo. Then I get this response.

Embassy_email

So they got rid of the free yahoo address and replaced it with a free gmail account! What is going on?! Even I pay for my domain name and unique e-mail address! This was starting to really worry me. So I clicked on the link for the website on the e-mail I received. And again, this was a link for the response from the e-mail address on the FIRST website I went to.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website

This is a totally different Korean embassy website! That’s two embassy websites now! And this one I couldn’t find from Google when I looked! So I looked around for an E-visa application page.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website_Form

This is the third form now, the second from the government. I don’t know whether it’s Visa on Arrival or E-visa, but at this point, I’m terribly confused. Where was this website? Why did I have to go through hoops to find it? So I looked down on the website’s details and here’s what I found.

Fourth_Vietnam_Website_Details

That website listed, http://www.vietnamembassy-seoul.org/en, is the first website I went to! Seriously! What is going on?!

Also note that for about three hours, I was calling the Vietnamese embassy in Seoul and no one was answering, both when I wanted the Korean or the English options for visa assistance. I sent an e-mail message to the new g-mail account, but have yet to receive a response. I doubt if they would get back to me very fast.

As for the first website I went to. They were very prompt when I asked for reassurance a couple of days ago and they said I will receive my letter of approval via e-mail this afternoon. I am just waiting on that. Hopefully I won’t hit another roadblock or find out that it was all an elaborate scam. I really don’t want to use the “s” word but this experience has not been very comforting. The Vietnamese embassy in Seoul (I don’t know about other countries) really needs to tighten up their website. At least get a proper domain and e-mail addresses. But more importantly, pay for some search engine optimization to help people figure out where to actually go.

Here’s hoping that in a couple of days, I will be on a beach in Vietnam, not arguing with people in Seoul.

Update:

I got my letter of visa approval promptly in my inbox. It was accompanied by a visa application as well. Confused? Well, I’m supposed to fill out the application form and the visa approval letter will make stamping it automatic. Well, after paying the stamping fee, of course. Going to Vietnam, I’m supposed to bring a filled out form, the visa approval letter, a couple of pics, and cash handy. I’m also advised to pay for express visa processing once I land in Vietnam to save me from waiting in long lines. Interestingly, the visa approval letter I received included not just my name but several other people’s names, schedules, and passport numbers. I guess these companies make applications in batches, that’s why my name is in a document with eleven other people.

The country has given rights to several third party companies to process visas for them. This has led to a variety of prices in processing fees and a myriad of confusing, amateur-looking websites. For a communist country, the visa application process seems quite capitalist.

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Bad Vacation Timing

Pain Bird

Off to Japan next week. It’s the worst time to go to Japan. We will miss most of the major traditional festivals except for one which I plan to attend. We also won’t be able to see any baseball game while we’re there. I’ve always wanted to watch a Japanese baseball game live at a stadium. There’s just a weirdly, exciting energy emanating from them, especially with the drumming and the horns.

The weather also doesn’t look too good in Japan right now. I’m off to a rather secluded resort. But if it rains throughout all the days I’m there, I’m basically stuck in a small Japanese beach town with not much to do. Weather forecasts past seven days basically have a fifty-fifty chance of being accurate, so I’m just hoping that all of it will change and I will at least get to see a bit of sun.

The worst part of going to Japan right now is that Abe decided to make fighting against Korea a key political platform. After the G20 summit, he remembered that there is an election coming up, and he decided to woo hard right nationalists and claim that since Korea is still fighting for the claims of their comfort women during the war, then they will punish the Korean economy by not selling key components to manufacturing giants like Samsung and LG. This started a backlash in Korea with anti-Japanese sentiment growing and boycott against Japanese products. This of course is fueling anti-Korean sentiment in Japan despite many Japanese questioning Abe’s turn on the country’s neighbor.

Abe has been spending too much looking at how Trump does politics. He’s had a history of courting nationalists long before Trump became president, but this sudden turn reeks of Trump’s tariff playbook. Japan seems to be thumbing its nose to its neighbors. Even the recent open hunt for whales, despite the lack of domestic demand for whale meat, suggests that they couldn’t care less about international opinion. They are Japanese first, citizens of the world second.

And now I’m faced with a Korean currency that is slowly deflating due to the current economic situation and a Japanese population that might not be too kind should they hear me or any other foreigner speaking in Korean. It’s been a rough many days. The last time I was out of the country was basically for a funeral. Can I not get a normal vacation?

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Artist’s Block and Embarrassing Works

Gator Knife.jpg

When there is nothing I want to draw or when I’m uninspired, sometimes I just draw something I would define as incredible stupid. It might be incredibly stupid to me, but from the audience’s perspective, it could just be as stupid as my other pieces. This piece is based on an alligator in Texas with a knife stuck on its head. It was all over twitter a couple of weeks ago and seemed like a good subject outside of anything that had any personal meaning to me.

The good thing about drawing something that I personally don’t have any emotional investment in or something absent of any deeper message is that it ends up lasting longer and doesn’t come out as cringe-worthy after a few years. There are quite a few old drawings, that when I look at them now, they can be quite embarrassing. I’m sure this is true of all artists. Much like old Myspace or Friendster pages, naivety in art is embarrassing and doesn’t age well. It reeks of first year art school. This is why most popular art has ambiguous meanings or none at all. This is also why political art, when it becomes popular or when they rise to high art, they are truly done by masters.

As an artist that does small works, this is where I have an advantage over others who work on large canvasses. My embarrassing work can be stuffed in a bag and kept in a small closet somewhere. Heck, I can even put them in the recycling bin. They are not large works, taking up space in my life, reminding me of what a hack I was a few years (or months) ago.

So yeah, do small works, folks! Or at least think of long term storage whenever you make art.

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Art Forgery Drama

Good Beef

There is an interesting documentary on the works of the late Norval Morrisseau, ‘There Are No Fakes’. Morrisseau started the Woodland style of painting, using imagery from First Nations cultures showing the insides of creatures in a sort of x-ray effect.  His works are far more colorful and playful compared to the more traditional images in Inuit and West Coast art.

Unfortunately, many of his works have been forged, and a lot of what is passing off as original Morrisseaus could potentially be fakes made by an art forgery ring. I’m not sure if the documentary will show anything past what has already been detailed when I first learned about the Morrisseau forgery in Maclean’s last year, but what interested me was the very title of the film, ‘There Are No Fakes.’

Is it because somehow Morrisseau’s family was connected to the forgeries? Or is it because the forgeries themselves, just by the very fact that they are connected to the drama of Morrisseau and his legacy make them valuable on their own? Or does the documentary basically say that if you love an image and that you find it beautiful, you shouldn’t really care about its authenticity or its monetary valuable. That art is art. They are not objects to be traded or treated as real estate investments. They are far bigger than that. (I sincerely doubt that this is where the film will go.)

The leader of the forgery ring, Gary Lamont, was sentenced to jail back in 2016 for being a sexual predator. I’m not sure if many of the news media at the time mentioned his involvement with producing forged Morrisseaus, but according to one of the victims, the forged pieces represent a very abusive period. Gary Lamont would manipulate and abuse young men while the works were being produced, between 1993-2007, when there was increased demand for Morrisseaus and when the artist’s health was slowly declining.

I’m sure there are still more to this story, right now galleries and owners are still insisting on the authenticity of many works, but I do hope that the worst is over, and at the very least, no one is producing more forged works. Growing up in Manitoba, I remember seeing some of Morrisseau’s works and even more works inspired by him. After learning about the forgeries last year, I’m not even sure if I’ve ever seen a real Morrisseau.

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What Use is 5G?

Piles of Smiles

I’m old enough to remember when work doesn’t have to involve the Internet. The Internet connection in my office is currently inconsistent, and work grinds to a halt.

I remember a few months ago when a fire damaged the phone tower near my place; and the Internet and phone lines were down for 24 hours. Initially, I was wandering the street, trying to find answers to why I can’t contact the outside world. I was asking strangers what was happening. Many of them didn’t have answers. It was a weird feeling, not being able to contact anyone by phone, not even the police. The CCTV cameras were all useless as well. It was like a great time for a purge-type of scenario.

Many of the stores I went to would only take cash. The restaurants wouldn’t feed me as well because their card readers couldn’t connect to the Internet. Hard cash was vital again. We were thrown back to the 80s.

Eventually, my wife and I sorted out what happened through word of mouth (you know, like they used to do back when people were curing diseases with leeches), and she spent the night knitting and listening to the radio. It was like we were at a bomb shelter.

I could list all of the things as to why the Internet has become so vital to our everyday existence, but that list would encompass almost everything. Heck, it swung the election in many countries, most significantly the US! But yeah, right now, our dependence on it is making me waste my day as I type this entry on my Website to be posted at a later time when I finally get a consistent connection.

The goddamned country is leading the world in 5G connectivity, and yet the genius IT people in my building can’t get their act together.

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I don’t deserve puppies.

Foxes

There is an old article in Scientific American about letting go of self-esteem. The whole thing boils down to people’s quest to build themselves up and their own expectations for the future inevitably leads to unhappiness and disappointment. Now, I don’t really know how one can scientifically measure happiness, but I get it.

Prior to the 60s, most children were raised with great expectations from their parents. But instead of being praised and being taught that they are special, things were rather Spartan. You earn your praise. You follow your parents’ or society’s expectations and make something of yourself. Maybe afterwards, people will say something nice about you.

Then ‘Mr. Rogers; Neighborhood’ came along and Fred Roger’s rather Christian message of every child being special change most of the way children are raised. Every child is now special just by virtue of existing. They have gifts and unique features which should be nurtured, and every child should not be ashamed of what they are, including their personal weaknesses. Detractors however saw this as children being raised to be weak or “everyone getting a participation trophy.”

In any case, both ways of raising children look at increasing one’s self-esteem, be it via earning it through hard work or just as a God-given virtue common to all human beings. In a capitalist society, this self-esteem is mostly reflected by what one owns and has accomplished: the size of your house, your education, the car you drive, the attractiveness of your wife, etc. The Scientific American article argues that by basing our self-esteem in such lofty external and materialistic goals, we often find ourselves frustrated in the pursuit, disappointed in our failures, and surprised at how short-lived the satisfaction we experience after achieving our goals. It’s almost like the article was written by a hippie or a communist, but there is truth to the whole thing. As poor as Nepal is, the country ranks as the highest in the happiness and self-fulfillment index among the world’s nations. Apparently, you don’t have to have all of the nice things to be happy. You don’t have to believe that you’ll amount to something either.

The hitch to this whole thing is that I believe already have low self-esteem and yet I’m not happy. That’s a really weird statement coming from someone who has his own Web site which nobody visits, but I really think it’s true. I don’t see myself very highly. And each morning, I wake up thinking that if I could find something to be truly happy about for an hour, then it’s a good day. Happiness is fleeting. And the problem with being truly happy is that you get so lost in it that you don’t watch yourself when things inevitably turn sideways. Afterwards, you get even more depressed. Happiness is a puppy. Things are good until you’re mourning outside a vet.

According to Scientific American, don’t even bother getting that puppy. You probably don’t deserve it. You are a degenerate, and nobody truly cares about you or loves you. You will amount to nothing and that puppy will end up starving. Learn to live with these truths and be happier with the little things in life.

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On a Friend Dying

Mother Too

A friend of mine died recently. A few years ago, he came out with his HIV diagnosis… then a few days later, he confessed his love for me. I’m a cis gender male. He knew this. But it was something he just needed to simply get off his chest. He wasn’t asking for anything, nor was I expected to do anything about it but listen. In the spirit of confessing his health crisis at the time, I suppose it was time for him to come out with his feelings as well.

That was a healthy thing to do.

If you love someone, regardless of what the circumstances are, tell them. It doesn’t have to be reciprocated. We’re all grown-ups, and love doesn’t work that way. In any case, just tell them. Best case scenario, such feelings might eventually be reciprocated. At the very least, it tells that person that whatever they’re doing, they must be doing something right since someone loves or admires them.

This was a good lesson that he demonstrated. He also showed that a good life is possible despite a dire reality. The looming shadow of a grim health diagnosis can be very difficult to get over, but as he later moved on to a simpler life, he appeared happy… I’d say even much happier at times compared to when I used to hang out with him. Maybe it’s because he was more honest with things. Maybe it’s because he was closer to his family at the time. Who knows? But I noticed that after his diagnosis, he seemed more upbeat, or at least more fulfilled with what I would’ve foolishly judged as a simpler, slower existence at the time.

Rest well, buddy. It was good knowing you. I wish I was a much better friend, however. I guess now you’ll know the ultimate truth about your online “prison skanks.”

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Shake It Off

Creature

The page says “The Weekly” but I haven’t really been writing much nor have I been making much art recently. I’ve been far too busy, and quite frankly, a tad depressed, to be making anything. I sent some works to a couple of magazines and galleries, but I haven’t heard anything yet, so yeah… it’s been a quiet few days for art. But anyway, let’s get this started! Voila, ART!!!

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Danny Zuko is a Bad Boyfriend

Tell Me More

I was having dinner at a restaurant last night, the meal was great, my wife was enjoying the excellent food and it appears that most other customers and families around us were equally pleased. While the restaurant served liquor, it was not so much a drinking place but a place where someone can bring their family, as evidenced by a couple of the customers and their kids. There was one table however, that kinda spoiled the mood for everyone else.

It was a group of six men, drinking not too heavily but enough that they are all loud and can be heard by everyone in the restaurant. They were fairly young, maybe late 20s-30s. And though they were speaking a tad fast and my Korean is not that good, I could catch enough of what they were talking about, namely: the women they slept with, how their girlfriends are in bed, which Japanese adult film star they would like to be with, and how to get a Japanese girl. My wife heard all of this, and she corroborated my guesses. It was quite annoying and uncomfortable hearing all of this, with my wife at the table, children in the restaurant, and the server being a woman. Good thing the food was excellent.

Now, call me old fashioned, but I never really understood the urge of bragging about sexual prowess and conquests. I mean sure, one can brag about having bedded several women as a way to measure themselves among their male peers in a caveman sort of way, but going about the lurid details is something else entirely. It’s almost like a group session of humiliating women… women who happened to trust the men in the group. It’s a tad too distasteful for me, and if I took a recording of the conversation last night and posted it online, I’m sure most of the men on that table would be single and unemployed within the week.

The incident last night was reminiscent of what happened with several famous celebrities in Korea who were caught sharing their sexual exploits including photos in a chatroom. These were men, doing basically the same thing I witnessed last night, being lewd, sharing too much information, and shaming women in the process. I don’t think it had anything to do with bragging or demonstrating one’s machismo since several members of the chat group are young, popular celebrities who could easily be with several young women if they ever want to. This chatroom incident sparked a huge outrage, bringing down several celebrities, starting several investigations, and calling for crackdowns against sharing photos and spy pornography.

This isn’t the first time people got in trouble for sharing intimate details online. I recall a couple of years ago, one of the biggest photo-sharing sites in Korea was shut down due to men sharing intimate photos of unsuspecting women, giving out tips on how to rape women, and even arranging for partner-swapping.  Now, I’m not against partner-swapping should everyone involved be in on it, but I believe the women were basically pimped out on the site without their knowledge and consent.

I don’t know what has prompted this wave of misogyny. Perhaps its men bottling in their feelings after being subservient boyfriends and husbands, perhaps it’s new technology and people just being their worst, perhaps it’s young people basically rebelling against the Confusion culture, perhaps it’s a backlash to the rise of the feminist movement, or perhaps this whole thing has been there all along. Perhaps it’s Danny Zuko and his friends merrily chanting, “tell me more, tell me more.”

So once I become a grizzled old grandfather, what do I tell young men? “If you wanna brag about how many women you slept with, go ahead. Give a number. If you really want to brag about your manliness, go to a sauna together. Leave the women who trusted you alone. Don’t be an ass and betray that trust just so your friends could have a disgusting mental picture. You don’t need to help them with that. They can make disgusting mental pictures on their own. ”

 

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Keep on Failing

Another_tragedy

The problem with being depressed is that even in times of happiness and contentment you know that it’s all fleeting, that it’s just a temporary refuge from the next wave of overwhelming depression. Smiles and laughs all seem a bit disingenuous and a part of me feels that everything is just performance. Everything is all just a façade that’s built on a very delicate house of cards which is bound to collapse the minute one thing goes wrong.

This is why it is extremely difficult being happy. How can one be truly happy when everything could go wrong in a minute? You are grateful, content, and happy for the way things are, then suddenly you have egg in your face. You had it wrong all this time. You have tons of memories that not only make you insecure and paranoid they also hamper your libido.

These past few years, to my detriment, I’ve become too cynical. See, you can’t be too cynical in life; otherwise, you’ll turn people off. A couple of times, my classmates have noted that I tend to come up with weird answers during class, and that I’m often on the negative side of things. I had to tone that down a bit, lest I alienate myself in class. Now my biggest outlet for my cynicism is my artwork and Twitter. Yes, Twitter… the one social networking service where most people are not trying to pretend that they are living great lives. Most people are miserable on that site.

I’ve been too busy with work and moving apartments lately. It’s been really hectic at work, and at home. I’m often packing stuff or throwing away stuff lately. Throwing away old things has its cathartic effect, but I’m still busy. Then there’s also class. It’s been very difficult finding time to make art. Maybe that’s why I’m a bit depressed lately. I feel like I have a messed up life and I can’t make anyone happy (I am seriously incapable of making anyone happy. It’s my handicap.)… and I don’t even have art to pour all of that misery on to.

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