- God's plan -

22nd August '18

On writing the last blog, I'd quit my job, but beyond that I was getting tired of all the indecisiveness.

Not knowing if you're going to do one thing or another thing, means that you have to prepare as if you're going to do both things, and you don't have anything to really focus on.

I just wanted to make a decision, any decision, so that I could have a goal and something to look forward to.

I was fairly certain by now that I wanted to sign-up for a bootcamp, so let's at least get that confirmed. Before I could do that though, I had to complete all the prerequisite work, which I did by the Sunday afternoon after writing the last blog.

I immediately emailed the school in Bali to let them know, and on waking on Monday morning, had an email confirming my acceptance onto this course, and containing a contract.

I always become very skittish when it comes to money, especially large sums of money. So my desire to end all the indecisiveness was countered by a fear of investing in something so expensive, and on a couple of occasions I had the bank transfer on the screen, ready to send, only to back-down, deciding that I needed more time to think about it.

By the end of the day though, I was all... alright, let's do this.

A comforting fallback was, as per the contract, if I withdraw from this bootcamp more than thirty days before it begins, my deposit of 14,500,000 Indonesian Rupia (£778) gets refunded to me, which gives me until the end of August to change my mind.

And with that in mind... ok, I'm doing this.

At almost midnight on the Monday, I returned the signed contract and sent-off the deposit.

I guess I'm going to Bali.

That was the one domino that needed to fall for the others to start to tumble, but as a slightly peculiar coincidence, the one other endeavour that has been occupying my time, applying for a German passport, reached its conclusion less than thirty-six hours later.

This was something that had started off as... well I might be eligible for a German, hence EU passport, which in the wake of Brexit, could be invaluable, so it can't hurt to file an application and find-out.

For everything that I needed to gather in order to apply, doing so from Thailand wasn't very realistic, so I shelved the idea after I first wandered into the German embassy in Bangkok last September.

And my original thinking was that, as an English teacher, when on Brexit the EU is reduced from having something like eighty million native English speakers, to having five million, then being able to work visa-free could put me in quite high demand across the continent.

Nowadays it's that I want as many jobs available to me as possible in my fledgling programming career. But in the face of the disaster that Brexit is threatening to be, I don't think there are any downsides to getting dual nationality and having a nice safety blanket... so it can't hurt to apply.

I'd been emailing with a woman at the German embassy in London, who was very nice and very helpful, but took anywhere from a couple of days to more than a week to reply to emails, so getting anywhere was a very slow process.

I'd uncover another document, which was no easy task and included spending a lot of time scouring the Internet, and a trip down to the national archives in Kew, only for it to take a week to find-out if it was going to be of any help to me or not.

In fact it was the morning after I'd sent my deposit to Bali, that I had an appointment at the national archives to view a document I needed.

I figured that, being for a passport application, I'd need a certified copy, so I took it up to the desk, prepared to part with an excessive amount of money in order to get one.

"It costs £29 and takes 14 days," I was told.

What... do you mean, takes 14 days?

It takes 14 days to make a one-page photocopy and put a stamp on it? Am I missing something here? That's no good to me, I leave the country in ten days.

I had to settle for making a scan on my phone, printing that off at home, and hoping that would be good enough.

For something of which I rate my chance of success at less than 50% (I probably won't get this passport, but it doesn't hurt to try), this had turned-into one giant, time consuming pain.

The further down the rabbit hole I got, the more frustrated I became and the less successful it seemed it would be, but the more determined I was to see it through to some kind of conclusion.

But the phone-scan of this document was the last piece of the puzzle that I'd be able to get before flying back to Bangkok so... well you're either going to accept my application as is, Germany, or you're going to have to wait until I'm in the country again. So I got the train to the embassy the next morning.

And for all the hassle that I'd been through to gather everything together, filing the application proved to be rather easy.

Getting into the embassy was a slow process, as only one person at a time was allowed through the door.

The rest had to line-up across the street while this person went through a security check. And it wasn't until both them and their belongings had been scanned, that the next person was summoned across the road.

There were only a couple of people in front of me in the queue, yet it still took about ten minutes to get through the door.

Once I did, 'go to counter number eight,' they told me.

They handed me a number, but counter eight was the only one without an illuminated sign above it, calling up numbers.

I guess I just go up there then.

A woman in the room behind the glass saw me and came to the counter, and I showed her my application form, explaining why I was there.

She took one look at it and asked 'is that all you've got? Don't you have any accompanying documents?'

'They're in my bag,' I told her.

She looked at me like I was a moron for not having them out already, so I just emptied the contents of my rucksack into the tray beneath this window, passing through all the documents I'd been able to gather on this family-history scavenger hunt I'd been on.

She told me to sit-down again, and she'd call me back up once she'd looked at them.

And she was, I believe, a part of the embassy's legal team. I think her job was to certify that the photocopies that I'd provided matched the information on the originals.

Well if she can certify all these on the spot for free, I don't know why the Hell the national archives take fourteen days and £29 to do one page.

She called me back up after about ten minutes, just explained that everything was in good order, handed me back the originals, and told me that she'd pass everything on to the relevant person, who'd be in touch.

What, that's it?

I've been on this mission since first going into the German embassy in Bangkok almost a year ago, and for all that work... that's it?

I was out the embassy again less than fifteen minutes after making it through security, and a couple of days later I received an email:

'Your application will now be forwarded to the Federal Administration Office (Bundesverwaltungsamt). According to the latest update provided by the FAO, the waiting time currently amounts to up to 18 months.'

Cool, well... I guess I won't have any resolution to this by the time I'm looking for programming jobs then. But eighteen months from now, I may or may not be a German.

I'd signed-up for the bootcamp and got this German passport application filed within thirty-six hours of each other; the two things which had been taking up most of the space in my brain for a while. And with them both done, the next day I arranged with my landlord when to move-out of my condo.

My intention was to fly to Bali on the 29th, which was why it was so important that my work had been willing to leave my visa open.

Were it not for that, the 30-day visa exemption that I'd instead get on reentering Thailand, would expire on September 24th, but I wouldn't be able to go to Indonesia then because the 60-day visa that I'd get for Indonesia, wouldn't cover the length of the course starting October 1st.

That visa exemption could perhaps be extended, but whatever the solution, it was going to be a massive pain, so I was very appreciative of my former work for allowing me those five extra days in the country.

Isn't it also a bizarre coincidence that my year-long Thai work visa expires on the very same day that my programming bootcamp starts?

But flying from Bangkok to Bali on the morning of the 29th, I don't want to have to deal with moving-out of my apartment on the same day, so I arranged to move-out on the 28th; I can stay in a hotel near the airport for that final night.

I then booked my flight to Bali on the 29th, so was feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

I next opened a PDF about the bootcamp that I'd been sent, so that I could look-up a place to stay.

'We recommend arriving on the 27th September to give yourself some time to get to know the area.'


Ah well, I'm not coming from very far. A day should be long enough for me to explore and to get over the jet-lag.

The hardest part I found was booking accommodation because... well there's so damn much of it.

I didn't want to book for the entire two months, but on the advice of the school, I wanted to arrive with my first two weeks accommodation accounted for. And after many hours of deliberation, I settled on an AirBnB.

It didn't look like it was going to win any awards anytime soon, but it was a private room with a double bed, it cost just £15 per night, the host had nine reviews, all since July of this year, and all positive, and most importantly, it was less than 100 metres from my school.

If I were Usain Bolt, I'd be able to run from my school to my accommodation in under ten seconds.

Unfortunately I'm not, but even a sixty second commute is stark contrast to my biggest fear of studying in London; 2-3 hours of commuting everyday on top of the stress of this intensive bootcamp.

That could add up to fifteen wasted hours per week.

And soon after booking, my host soon responded by saying 'I also hope your arrival will wait for you in my place,' which was nice of her.

Often on these visits to London, I can find myself getting a bit bored because... well no job, and nothing important to really do.

Not this year, that's for sure.

Beyond trying to spend five or more hours per day learning programming, all of this bootcamp and passport malarkey had been far more time consuming that I'm perhaps letting-on. And when, in the space of less than seventy-two hours, I was finally able to sign-up for a bootcamp, and get my passport application sent-off, and arrange my exit from Bangkok and my first two weeks in Bali, it was... wow, this is nice. I actually have some free space in my brain again.

My final couple of decisions for all of this are... well firstly, am I going to get travel insurance? Because motorcycle seems to be the normal way to get around in Bali, and the scars on my ankle can testify, that can go wrong.

I've run-into problems reading the some policies' fine print though, in that there are often stipulations like 'you must have been residing in the UK for six months prior to your trip.'

Well I guess I'm not eligible for that policy then.

I've kind of given-up, under the hope that... well I've been abroad without insurance for the last eight or nine years without a problem. It would kind of suck if something went wrong right as I'm getting into the home-stretch of my travelling. I only need to survive the next three months.

That's kind of how I see this though. It's the final leg of the ten year trip that I set-out on in 2008.

I haven't bought flights back to London yet, but this is where I expect to find myself living once everything's settled.

It's not yet a certainty, and I'd like to get some of the way through this bootcamp before making any final decisions, but alas, I may find that my hand is forced, because you can apparently run into problems getting into Indonesia, if you don't have a return flight already booked.

For all these years, that's been one of my pet peeves of travelling. What the Hell does that prove?

Any moron can spend £100 on a flight to a nearby country, it does absolutely nothing to prove their intentions to actually leave, and just inconveniences people who don't want to plan their trip months in advance.

And my one reservation about booking a flight back to London, is that if I did, I'd be coming back right before Christmas. And who's going to be hiring people over Christmas?

Probably no one, so it might be a wasted month of job hunting. I might be better postponing such a hunt until the new year, in which case... well why not stay in Thailand or Cambodia for a month, where it's cheaper... and warmer?

I know that there are also people that finish these bootcamps and start freelancing, so there is a possibility I wouldn't want to immediately return if I went that route. So being potentially forced to buy a flight to... somewhere, it doesn't matter where, under the possibly-enforced requirement for getting into Indonesia, is quite a pain.

It's something I can mull-over in my free month in Bangkok.

Thankfully all the heavy-lifting and big decision making is now behind me, and I actually have one goal; one thing that I can focus on.

Having been so preoccupied, this month in London has this time flown by, and I'll be on my flight to Bangkok in just a couple of days from now, which I didn't realise until I just said it.

And then my plan until I fly to Indonesia:

With no gym, no job, no PS4, and no Apple TV to distract me, I basically want to live in front of my laptop.

Half of that time I want to spend preparing for the bootcamp. Half of it I want to spend continuing to learn Swift, which will go out the window once the bootcamp starts, but has kind of become my hobby.

And in that vein, I'd quite like to have something to show for it before the bootcamp starts.

If I could get one app, any app, up on the AppStore before going to Indonesia, I'd be pretty chuffed.

It doesn't even have to be a good app, or a useful app. If I could just get one app on the AppStore, and have something to show for all the time I've invested, I'd be pretty happy with that.

Of course, just because it doesn't have to be good or useful, I still want to put up the best thing that I can. Hopefully something better than the hangman app that I showed in the last blog. But that's kind of a loose goal that I've set for myself for my month in Bangkok.

Live like a hermit, focus on programming, and try to have something to show for it at the end, before flying to Bali.

The problem with that, of course, as has also been the problem for this month in London, is that when you're sat in front of a computer for hours everyday... well it's not that healthy. And it hasn't been lost on me, quite how little exercise I've done since getting back.

My primary exercise in London is always running, but my knee's been going through one of its lesser phases, so I've only managed four runs since getting back out of fear of making it worse.

That might not actually happen, as I find that exercising my knee tends to make it stronger and less painful, so I'm in a bit of a vicious circle right now, where my knee hurts so I can't exercise, and the lack of exercise is stopping it from hurting less.

You know what'd really be useful?

Having a gym in Bangkok.

Ah well, I've kind of fucked-up that opportunity.

My biggest fear right now though, is that it's a good thing for me to be sat in front of my laptop.

If I'm not sitting in front of my laptop, then I'm not making any progress with programming, so I need to be here, sedentary.

For what I'm trying to do, that's a good thing.

But at the same time, there needs to be a balance.

A healthy mind accompanies a healthy body, and I'm letting my body deteriorate so much in the name of learning, that if what I believe to be true in the world is true, then my mind will soon follow.

The last thing that I want to do is arrive in Indonesia already in a state of ill-health, so for this last week in London and hopefully continuing once I'm in Bangkok, I've actually been doing something about it.

The first thing was... do you remember about sixteen months ago, I did a big technology detox, where for the better part of a week, I didn't use any phones, computers, Internet, TVs, video games, lights, watches, clocks etc.

I still used my air conditioning, and I still used what I needed to cook: my fridge, cooker, blender etc. Apart from that though, I basically didn't use any technology.

Having become so reliant on it, I wanted to see what I really missed having in my life, and what I'd just become accustomed to using, that wasn't actually necessary.

And one take-away that I had, was that the Apple Watch targets that you have everyday, for how much you're supposed to stand and move around, just added stress to my already active life, and weren't very useful.

It's very easy to forget that these targets are a way to help you be healthier, but reaching them is not the goal. The goal is to be a healthy person.

What I found though, was an obsession in closing my Apple Watch rings everyday, led to doing things that really didn't lead to overall health.

It's 11pm and I need to go to bed, but I still have fifty more calories to burn today, so I'm just going to run around my apartment for a few minutes instead of going to sleep.

Did that help me become healthy?

No, I'd have been better off sleeping.

I could list many other examples of ridiculous things that I'd do in order to complete my rings, having lost sight of the fact that the whole point of them is to help me be healthier.

So after this technology detox sixteen months ago, I turned them off.

My lifestyle was active enough, that having a watch telling me when I needed to move or not, just wasn't helpful.

Now that I've spent the last four weeks sat in front of my computer screen though, for the first time in a while, I could actually do with some prompts to help me move a bit more, so I've turned back on my Apple Watch rings.

That means that I have to wear my Apple Watch at all conscious hours of the day again, so that it tracks me all day. And it's basically my safeguard that I am moving enough, sending me notifications like this one, that I just got.

I've had a gym for the last year, so have lost track of all the workout apps on the AppStore, so I also started scanning how that had changed. And the one real downside to going to the gym, is that it takes so long to go there, get changed, do a class or two, shower, get dressed again then walk home.

It takes two hours to do an hour-long yoga class and... well that's not very efficient.

With wanting to have as much time as possible to focus on programming, losing such a time consuming way of exercising might be a blessing. How can I exercise more efficiently?

And for all the exercise that I've done over the years, I've always felt that nothing pushed me harder and got me into better condition than when I did sprint-training when I was in China, living at a university that had a running track.

I don't have that in Bangkok, but I have a park, so instead of going on these long, steady runs, I could start interval training again. So I downloaded an Apple Watch app for that.

I haven't actually been able to exercise consistently well since I sprained my ankle in, I think, April.

Compared to what I remember of sprained ankles from my youth, this one took an ungodly amount of time to heal.

Once it did, I used my next week-off to go to Chiang Mai.

And since I got back, my knee's been causing me problems, my hypothesis being that the added strain on my knee of having to walk around on a sprained ankle, just damaged it.

So I was limited last term anyway, and my schedule didn't help, so exercise really came at a premium.

That lack of exercise is probably why my knee is still bad, and also the reason that I haven't exercised much in London.

But it does mean that I haven't exercised in a way that I deem acceptable, for about four months now. And there is no telling what that has done to my body. But at some point, I'm going to have to find-out.

I have a big grievance with the trend of AppStore apps moving to subscription models.

I believe that I've vented on that in this blog before, so I won't do so again, but the source of my frustration is that you should only continually pay money (subscriptions) to people who're continually providing you with service.

I'm happy to pay a Dropbox subscription. Even as I type this blog, it's being synced to Dropbox in case anything happens to my laptop, and it's available online on any device.

I'm happy to pay a Spotify subscription, continually downloading music from their servers.

What I hate though, is the idea of subscribing to pieces of software that just sit on your device, as a means to wrangle more money from you over time than you'd be willing to pay in a one-off purchase. Oh, and if you cancel, then you have nothing to show for it.

I hate that trend in the AppStore, and refuse to engage with most apps that require subscriptions, which severely limits the fitness apps that are available.

Presumably believing that having a presence in this space will aid the selling of their other products though, Nike actually does a couple of decent free apps, so along with my interval training app, I also downloaded the Nike Training Club app.

Ok, let's find a short, easy workout, just to see where my body's at after four months of inactivity.

Ok, this one only takes five minutes, how bad can that be:

Can I even do a set of twenty press-ups anymore? Well... I guess there's only one way to find-out.

It turns-out that I can. But it also turns-out that... fuck I've got unfit.

This would have been a warm-up for me six months ago. This time it almost killed me.

It took me 8:03 to make it through this five-minute workout, after which Nike was happy to tell me that I was slower than other men in my age-group (30 - 39), which was depressing not only because I'm being compared to 39 year-olds now, but also because I'm unfitter than them.

In fact it tired me out so much that I had to take an afternoon nap just to recover.

Yeah... this isn't me. This isn't healthy.

That was the wake-up call that I needed to make sure that I don't make the same mistake for my final month in Bangkok, as I've made for this month in London, of focussing so much on programming, that everything else, including my health, goes out the window. There needs to be a balance.

As the old saying goes, there's no point being good at programming if you're dead.

In contrast to other recent blogs though, I now have a very fixed plan in my mind of how I see my life progressing from here.

One month of freedom in Bangkok, and I know exactly how I want it to be:

Programming, whilst on the side getting fit as efficiently as possible.

Then Bali, where I hope to be able to maintain such a balance.

Being a minute away from the school, and five minutes from the beach, hopefully I can find some time everyday to just relax.

The beaches near where I'll be staying point almost West, so maybe going down to the beach for sunset on some days would be a nice counter to the intensity of this course. Maybe swimming in the sea for exercise, or running on the beach.

And then once the course is over...

I expect to be back in London, and as such have looked in the window of every estate agent I've walked past for the last couple of weeks, looking at the places that they've got for rent.

It makes it all feel rather real, and in my mind I have this vision.

I have this vision of having a programming job in the centre of London, while renting a studio apartment somewhere closer to the outskirts.

It'll be a simple place.

I'm a simple guy, and in the modern world, I don't need much space.

Just a small desk to sit at my laptop, a place for a TV and my PS4, a mattress on the floor in the corner to sleep on, and a small kitchen that I can cook in. That's all I need.

I maybe wouldn't even need a sofa if my mattress was close enough to the TV.

Then I'd get a bike and cycle to work everyday. That would be my exercise.

I've got to know the supermarkets since I've been back, so can even envision the things that I'd make in my small kitchen.

I have this very specific vision in my mind of how my life's going to be.

There's just one small problem:

The integral part of it all coming to fruition, is that I have a job... programming. And I don't know how to program.

That's the glitch in my plan. So everything is now dependent on how much I'm able to learn from this programming bootcamp, of which I'm going to do everything in my power to be as prepared for as possible.

Not just by learning what I can before the course, but by going there in the right frame of mind.

Trying to become relaxed, and hence receptive and open and aware of what is being taught. Because that's really the difference between success and failure now. It's all about how able my brain is, to take on board and learn the things that I'm being taught.

If I take to everything right away and I understand everything, there's no reason that I can't find a job once I get back.

If on the other hand, it's just a blurry mess and I just can't understand it or really comprehend how to program, it'll all have really been for nothing, and that's a little scary. So I'm just doing everything I can, to get my mind in as good a place as it can be, in order to learn.

I'm still meditating, and have actually started doing a course on an App called 'Aware'.

They offered lifetime subscriptions, usually costing $74.99, for free, some time recently.

I'm not sure of the business sense of that; I guess that they just wanted to get some people using their app. Or they offered it to one person, and that one person just posted it all over the Internet. But whatever the reason, I was happy to take advantage. And it's actually a very good course, so that's definitely doing some good.

Then I'm just going to make sure that I arrive in Bali, as rested and as positive as possible. Like... do you remember when I moved to China, I knew that it was going to be weird as fuck, and I promised myself, that no matter what happened over those first couple of weeks, just keep on smiling. Smile through it all.

Considering what China threw at me in that time; moving into a disgustingly dirty apartment; getting locked into my bedroom and having to punch the door until my hand was bleeding just to get it open again; getting attacked by a crazy woman in the supermarket...

That was all in the first two days actually. And the fact that I was able to keep smiling through that and a whole lot more, is testament to how positive I can be, when I really try to.

That was also, coincidentally, after a month living in Bangkok without a job, so hopefully I can do the same this time.

So that's where I'm up to and that's my plan. But how do you make God laugh?

You tell him your plans for the future.

Things rarely pan-out how you envision them, so we'll see six months from now, how accurate my vision of a programming job in London, living alone in a studio apartment, turns-out to actually be.

I'm going to do everything in my power to make it a reality, and then hopefully God's not too much of a dick about it.