Tim Walker’s Bitch

Sometime before 7 this morning, two of my three HP devices whirring away, I was diligently sorting the jumble of email that, since the end of business yesterday, had turned up in my inbox.

Admittedly, most find their unopened way to my ‘Deleted Items’ box and, sensing a Broadband invoice, the mail from 2degrees almost went the same way.

Upon opening the email I saw that, true to form, 2degrees was again raving about how much better it is than the competition; passing itself off as ‘The honest telco’, ‘New Zealand’s fairest telco’ and by implication, (despite a recent price increase) New Zealand’s most costeffective telco.

Anyway, 2degrees was demonstrating how friendly it was and how much fun it could be by holding a competition – requiring you to write in and ‘In less than 250 words tell us how 2020 has been unfair’ – with a prize and everything.

Once again, the email came perilously close to being discarded; then I saw my opportunity for a vent.

I’m not even sure what kind of prize they were offering; I expect it was a set period of cost-free something-that-doesn’t-interest-me which, after that period has ended they would automatically start charging until you asked them to stop then after two or three weeks of your repeated insistence along with monthly payments for a service that you never wanted in the first place but have now had for over twelve months, I had zero intention of winning and, in the few minutes I afforded the competition, there was zero hope that I would…

 

‘In my opinion 2020 has been terribly unfair, in that, at a time where businesses, companies, utilities, telcos and the like, ought to have been pulling together to assist their respective communities, the only notable thing most of the aforementioned entities have done, is RAISE their prices.

Why though?

Everyone across the world is struggling but, because these money-making machines refuse to accept anything less than a perpetually GARGANTUAN profit margin, when their costs increase, rather than absorbing some of the burden, they simply increase costs at the other end; thereby increasing inflation and ensuring the minimum wage is continually on the rise.

The worst thing is, these faceless, unconscionable entities continue to act as though they ARE helping the community by talking up all the AMAZING things they do but which, ultimately, benefit nobody.

That is how 2020 has been unfair to me.’

 

Other than that it’s been peachy, thanks for asking.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Panda Earmark/Noah Toogood

Photography by Ivy Goodyear

 

Tim Walker’s Election’20 II

In an apparent landslide victory, Labour has won a second term in government.

Yeah, couple of things wrong with that statement: firstly, Labour didn’t win their first term in government, they took it along with the remnants of other losing political parties, and secondly, how can one consider it a ‘landslide’ when, two and a half years into a three year term they have the opportunity thrust at them to finally stand up and do something practical for the people of New Zealand.

The fact the nation was being run by our MMP-dictated coalition-of-losers probably explains why, for the bulk of Labour’s stint, nothing of significance changed in New Zealand; seems perilous that now, based on just their last six months in power, we’ve apparently chosen Labour to take care of us for the next three years, bearing in mind that things are going to need to start happening soon and, clearly, Labour is not a great choice in that regard.

For those few New Zealand citizens – recently returned from abroad or otherwise – who chose to effectively waste their vote by supporting one of the minor parties, nice to see that ACT and the level head of David Seymour made it back; his sole focus will likely be smoothing irregularities in logic of the Green party.

As nobody required a floundering Kingmaker this time, Winnie’s out, with an all-time low result for the NZ First party. Enough said.

While I consider the above a good thing, realistically, given the compassionate grounds on which Miss Ardern seems to base all her decisions, I am no longer full of confidence in New Zealand’s future.

Politics is not a popularity contest; the question of who you like the most should not have played a part in our election – who do you think can steer your country through the next three years without crashing, is a better question.

Good luck, guys.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Devi Staten

Photography by Noah Hope

 

Tim Walker’s Election’20

Anticipation builds as New Zealand prepares for an unprecedented COVID-belated election, and it is now up to the people to discern truth from falsehood.

If Labour’s recent term in power was any indication, with the COVID-19 pandemic coming as the party’s ironic saviour in offering redemption to an otherwise uneventful stint in government, they showed themselves to be the nation’s exasperatingly precocious little sister – full of big ideas and ambition but with little follow-through or ostensible leadership qualities.

Regarding Shane Jones’ ambition to plant one billion native seedlings with the intention of bringing the New Zealand backdrop back to nature, my own father plants more trees in a year than the Labour party has done; regarding Megan Woods’ ambition to implement Jacinda’s Kiwibuild scheme and spend $400 million building ‘affordable’ houses across the North for Kiwi first-home-buyers, I have witnessed more first-home-buyers buying their first homes on my own street in Canterbury than I have seen under Labour’s Kiwibuild.

Then came the Coronavirus.

Following some political tribulations, Judith Crusher Collins has embraced the role of leader to the National party, as always focused on again boosting New Zealand’s economy, dedicated to putting cash back in the hand of the Kiwi battler thus consequently rejuvenating the economy with substantial temporary tax cuts; given the current state of the world it could be argued that Crusher’s assertive demeanour and perpetually high eyebrows are just what the nation needs at the moment.

Conversely, Green party leader, James Shaw, for the sake of the environment, will do all he can do to ensure New Zealand goes forward with the least progress possible, then there was Winnie; who knows what NZ First wants to achieve and is there any chance it will be good for a nation looking to rebuild its momentum?

Officially, New Zealand is in a recession; just like it was in 2008 when National saviour John Key took the helm to steer New Zealand so seamlessly through the Global Financial Crisis that many regular folk were not even aware there was a problem with global finances.

Whether a voter elects for the National Right Wing, the Labour Left Wing, the outer Green Wing or NZ’s First unstable wing, in this current political climate, it is important that people do the right thing.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Wry Twang

Photography by Fowther Future

 

Tim Walker’s Infection – No More

It finally happened; just as most people around New Zealand knew it would, COVID resurfaced.

The news didn’t shock me, didn’t even surprise me; like I assume most would have done, I simply swallowed the urge to yell something obscene and shook my head at our Government’s stupidity.

What did they expect would happen? Adept as one might be at playing with fire, do it long enough, you will end up with burns.

There were always two options that our beloved Jacinda, along with her fine coalition of losers, could have taken and in my opinion, because they chose the wrong option, the alternate option is now also lost.

Option 1: the Labour Government could have announced at, say, beginning of July that, at the beginning of August New Zealand’s borders would be closing; thereby upsetting a handful of citizens, currently overseas, hoping to come back one day but, ultimately, ensuring the Novel Coronavirus stayed abroad and importantly, preserving the health of the nation.

Option 2: the Labour Government could have left open the borders for anybody holding a New Zealand passport and currently abroad, for an indefinite period, basically just for as long as those people wanted to take; thereby bringing unto the nation a steady flow of the COVID-19 virus, which would inevitably, one day, find its way outside the quarantined zone, rekindling community transmission of the pandemic that New Zealand citizens have come to know and love.

As we are all aware, they picked Option 2.

Again, like most, I am confident that our, Coalition of Losers, Labour Government, with cooperation from the people, will be able to bring under control this recent run of infection; so, what then?

Presumably, in around 10 days, New Zealand will again be deemed ‘COVID free’; the people of Auckland will breathe a sigh and resume their lives as normal. So, what’s Labour’s next move?

Obviously, they’ll reopen borders. They’ll bring home more citizens. Bring home some more Coronavirus as if last time wasn’t fun enough.

The Cook Islands, bless their healthy lungs, along with their economy, subsist solely on a diet of tourism.

New Zealand was just days away from unleashing on the Cook Islands a, similarly healthy lunged, bought of tourism.

Now for the Cook Islands’ economy to stay afloat we’re going to have to help them the old-fashioned way; in the form of a Government-funded care package.

That’s to say nothing of our own economy which, struggling to recover after the last COVID-attack but doing very well and making some massive gains, will never be the same.

Hundreds of small businesses in New Zealand, following this recent viral relapse, will have found these additional two weeks of suffering insufferable.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Vera L Kim-Bach

Photography by Auckland Level 3

 

Tim Walker’s Infection III

How great it is to see still more ‘New Zealand citizens’ dribbling across the border as their COVID-ravaged adopted-homelands suddenly lose appeal.

Interestingly, all genuine Kiwis, those people currently living in New Zealand who would never consider jeopardising the wellbeing of their countrymen by bringing unto these shores traces of a deadly and incurable epidemic, are now being implored to stock up on face masks, just in case we are hit with another outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus…?

Surely though, months since the last known community transmission of COVID-19, this virus can be considered dead throughout New Zealand’s airways…?

Oh, that’s right, I see; despite basically the entire world having been ordered to remain in one place to avoid further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still have hordes of unfathomable shitheads bringing into the country their potentially diseased lungs.

Indeed, given also that selected unfathomable shitheads might attempt to abscond from their impending quarantine thereby potentially sharing their potentially contaminated selves with the national populous, or the potential of transmission to quarantine workers and potentially their families, I do understand the reaction by New Zealand health officials; what I do not comprehend is the potentially deadly actions of returning citizens.

Amid global crisis, often personal sacrifices will need to be made. This pandemic did not take hold of the world suddenly, our respective Governments gave us plenty of warning to get home if needed. Of course, this posed many problems for potential returnees – months ago, I was one who struggled – yet with assistance from New Zealand’s embassies, months after the official call has been made to get home, there is no excuse for just now deciding to come home.

Your choice to only come home now, months after the warning was delivered, is shitheaded and potentially life-threatening.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Shel Fitch

Photography by Ian Fathom Able

 

Tim Walker’s Infection II

My perception of New Zealand’s battle with COVID-19, along with the seemingly endless run of returning citizens responsible for the continuation of this battle, according to many, is misguided.

In the opinion of these people, my opinions are shallow, heartless, unjustified, unfair, mistaken, misdirected, misguided, unkind, heartless, callous, erroneous and ultimately, wrong.

In my opinion, the actions of this influx of returning Kiwis, which commenced around mid-June – most from Africa, India, UK or US thus many bringing with them strains of the Novel Coronavirus – in fact around the same time that New Zealand reached the ’22 days COVID-free’ mark, are arrogant, selfish, entitled, and ultimately shitheaded.

New Zealand is a 5 million-strong team of people who, following a prolonged period of lockdown managed to basically eradicate this virus from its airways; now hordes of people claiming to be New Zealand citizens but living overseas are deciding that, given the degenerated state of their adopted homeland and given also they’re pretty sure they still have a New Zealand passport lying around somewhere, they want to utilise these ‘basic human rights’ of theirs and, although it hadn’t been in their plans to ever return, now that things aren’t looking so good for them in their adopted land, head back to the safety of New Zealand.

Through my candid stance on this matter I have received much denigration from people around the world, invariably ‘New Zealand citizens’ compelled to maintain their stance, “It’s people like you [me] who give New Zealand a bad name.”

Overseas travellers, Kiwi expats, along with any other New Zealand citizen who is currently abroad and think they might like to come back to their mother nation, months ago, was advised to do so quickly; months ago responsible citizens returned to New Zealand’s shores.

Why then, further months after the advisement to travellers to quickly get home, are there further dribbles of shitheads dawdling through New Zealand’s borders, checking into Government-funded quarantine, potentially kicking up a stink because their choice to belatedly come home isn’t going exactly as they would like or that, amid this unprecedented time where a pandemic threatens global stability, something or someone is in breach of their human rights?

For the record, quarantine has been Government-funded for over six months; don’t start moaning that ‘your country has turned its back on you’ because ‘your country’ feels it has waited long enough for the last dribbles to stop, or because ‘your country’ is done putting up with entitled shitheads checking into quarantined hotels only to later jeopardise the health of everyone by flouting quarantine rules.

In fairness, I don’t give a toss if my upholding these views gives the nation a ‘bad name’; at least I’m not giving it COVID.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by N Ty-Tilled

Photography by Chet T Dud

Tim Walker’s Infection

What the hell’s going on at New Zealand borders? Couple of weeks back the country reached 22 days without COVID-19; since then there’s been about three new cases a day…?

Thing is, and the reason this annoys me so much, the great people of New Zealand have already done their penance (I will not include myself in this accomplishment as, at this time, I was still living it up in COVID-free Vietnam) effectively putting the nation in the clear; four weeks of enforced nationwide lockdown, along with already closed borders and rigorous quarantine for returning citizens, had meant that existing Coronavirus basically died out and there was no further transmission of the virus.

Then, presumably due to our Government’s generosity in offering a two-week quarantined hotel stay to returning Kiwis, everyone started coming back to our antiviral shores but, unthinkably for the newly COVID-free New Zealand population, these expatriated idiots are bringing with them fresh doses of COVID-19.

The question clearly needs to be asked, how long will this fiasco be allowed to continue? Until somebody slips through quarantine and infects the community, until we have the same predicament as Victoria? Or maybe just until every other person currently living abroad with a New Zealand passport decides they want to enjoy the freedom of a country where Novel Coronavirus has been contained?

I went to Vietnam in December 2019, scheduled to return to New Zealand three months later; in March, my return flight was cancelled and not until June was I able to get home. Everyone on my flight went straight into quarantine and, expectedly, none of us had brought back COVID-19.

The point, everyone in my group had booked return flights which were then cancelled; our planeload was of genuinely stranded tourists. I feel as though we had a right to come home. We were not selfish expats looking to fly our diseased lungs to safety; I feel as though these people have far less right to take advantage of New Zealand’s purity.

When my plane flew into Auckland airport and we were promptly checked into the Pullman hotel, nobody to whom I spoke thereafter believed there was any point quarantining our group as we had been in areas where COVID was virtually non-existent, leading us all to assume the Coronavirus pandemic was dead, anyway; this seemingly was just Cindy’s way of helping out the struggling New Zealand hotel industry but, either way, we enjoyed a nice break.

Now, after checking out of hotel accommodation on the 15th June and landing back in Canterbury by nightfall, having witnessed New Zealand reach 22 days with zero new cases of the Novel Coronavirus, this infernal influx of contaminated expatriates is dribbling in from around the world, pushing our quarantine restrictions to the brink, as if seeing how many infected idiots it will take to cause a fatal slip-up.

One of these stupid returning expats has already threatened the nation’s health by ‘absconding’ from the Pullman hotel just a few nights ago and potentially mixing with the community; unfathomable that anyone would put their nation at such risk.

At this rate New Zealand is never going to reach the ’30 day COVID free’ mark – why the hell was there never a time limit put on returning citizens, and who the hell is still flying aeroplanes around the world, anyway?

New Zealanders have already been through hell in the name of COVID-19; are we now willing to risk a national relapse in the name of ‘human rights’?

So, what about now – can someone not just tell these idiot expats to get their (apparently) Kiwi arses into quarantine in the next month or they’re cut off?

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Stu Pad-Espat

Photography by Nhu Casey Covid

Tim Walker’s Gouge II

Of course, New Zealand’s ability to price-gouge its own citizens goes far beyond the resale of Metallica tickets.

Take a typical New Zealand sporting event; tickets to a sought after rugby match which avarice-inspired Kiwis quickly snap up without any intention to use then – much like the Metallica ticket fiasco of last instalment – wait until that event is sold out before selling their tickets to desperate fans at ridiculously marked up prices.

It’s not illegal and by that logic, in the opinion of scalpers around the country, there’s nothing wrong with it yet, in the opinions of dedicated fans who miss out on the original run of tickets, it’s an unscrupulous practice which cheats genuine fans of the opportunity to support their idols.

Gouging in New Zealand goes much deeper, and is so much more sinister than rock concerts and sporting events, though; the New Zealand Government likes to gouge us through taxation, sure but, what about fuel companies?

It’s long been understood that the bulk of our fuel cost – petrol and diesel – is composed of Government tax; so, during the COVID lockdown, when the price dropped to around $1.50 per litre, that must have been the result of the Labour Government, of our beloved Cindy, lightening up on the people, right?

What if it wasn’t though; what if, at this time, through an unprecedentedly reduced demand, fuel had become basically worthless?

What if the New Zealand Government continued to charge somewhere near $1.50 in taxes and what if service stations took their regular cut from their sale; what if the oil companies were making a pittance?

As I have seen it, one litre of petrol is currently worth around 0.50NZD.

That’s half a dollar; fifty cents.

Today’s cost of a litre of 91 Octane from a service station is closer to $2 than it is to $1.50.

‘Government proposes new law to lower petrol prices, yet raises fuel taxes’ – recent NZ Herald headline.

Could it be there is collusion between our Government and fuel companies, or is it just our Government pumping us?

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Cole Husion

Photography by Jacinda Pumper

 

 

Tim Walker’s Gouge

No need to be bashful, it’s no secret; if there’s something that we in New Zealand do well, one thing we do better than any other nation in the world, it’s price-gouge.

Sure, some laugh off such an assertion, attempting to justify, using the term ‘opportunistic’, trying to sound as if they understand economics with the label ‘supply and demand’ but others, other honest Kiwis hang their heads ashamedly, obliged to accept New Zealand’s shameless gouging for what it is.

It’s basically extortion and, largely directed at tourists, largely by a nation of people hoping to re/build their country’s reputation as a tourism destination, here’s the thing about our world-renowned Kiwi sales technique; if we don’t curb this unmitigated avarice, this compelling desire to accumulate greater wealth than the next person, simply, as a nation, we will price ourselves out of the international market.

For decades New Zealand has enjoyed the tags of being a ‘clean’ ‘green’ ‘pristine’ ‘beautiful place to visit’ although rather ‘expensive’; few years ago, pre-COVID, back when tourists had money, this was fine – the Stavely Café could push its $7 homemade toasted (half) sandwiches and Frank’s Eatery could sell its $1 cupcake bites for $2 – but today, post COVID-19 pandemic, this unashamed price-gouging isn’t going to work.

Disenchanted tourists aside, did we as a nation, amid our feverish rapacity – can anyone say 800% mark-up on ‘Metallica tickets’? – maybe stop to consider what our gouging is doing to inflation in New Zealand?

Remember ‘supply and demand’? Yeah, well, regarding economic acumen consider this reality; retailers increase the price of their products because outside costs are ever-increasing and store-owners refuse to accept anything less than a gargantuan profit margin, thus consumers are now paying more for their products, therefore consumers need to earn more to continue to be able to buy that product, thus the New Zealand Government forces employers to pay a wage increase, therefore employers continue to raise prices of commodities to cover their increased cost, thus consumers will continue to demand increased wages because everything now costs more, therefore retailers are beholden to charge still more to cover renewed costs, and so on.

Expenses up, wages up, expenses up, wages up, expenses – what is the term describing the depreciation of the value of money, essentially caused by a global populous of money-hungry, wealth-driven, avarice-inspired, rapacious idiots?

This phenomenon is inflation which, together with the international realisation that New Zealand as a tourist destination is not worth the prices that it charges, might be a step closer to the end of financial prosperity in this Great Southern Land.

Forget tourism though, we’re now focused, communistic, exemplifying the importance of ‘buying local’ and such; sure, so, given that the price of a Flat White from a local coffee shop, in five years, has gone up from $3.50 to $4.60 – around 25% – I wonder if wages have increased by a quarter?

Probably not, no.

It starts with tourists but inevitably, soon we’re going to be gouging ourselves.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Fix A Price

Photography by Ave R Wrist

 

 

 

Tim Walker’s Vietnam Homecoming

2020, Thursday 28th May I received an email; there was a Vietnam Airlines plane ready to take home remaining Kiwi tourists still in Vietnam.

The first problem was that this plane flew on Sunday the 31st May and the second problem, I could scarcely afford to pay what they were asking.

Still languishing in central Vietnam, amid the peaceful beauty of Buon Ma Thuot, initially I was happy to dismiss the email; one Vietnam Airlines ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to Auckland was going to cost me in the vicinity of $1700 – more than the price of the return flight I had booked back in 2019.

A few hours later I received at follow-up message threatening that if I did not take this flight back to New Zealand, as Vietnamese Immigration authorities were all aware of my presence in Vietnam (along with lapsed Visa), there would be severe consequences.

Again, initially, I wasn’t perturbed.

It was the third email in as many hours from Vietnam Immigration that did it; they warned me that if I did not get myself home on the flight they were offering, on top of ‘consequences’, I would likely be stuck in Vietnam until sometime next year.

Before my New Zealand debit card had expired in March 2020 I had withdrawn over 30 million VND (approximately 2000NZD) to keep me going for the remainder of my stay; although that stay had been drastically lengthened I still had stashed in my bag a total of 16 million VND (just over 1000NZD), but knew that would be insufficient to get me through another six months in Vietnam.

My adoptive Vietnamese family were aware of my ongoing plight and had all been extremely supportive throughout; now, upon being notified of this updated version of my plight, the daughter (current student, future wife) ducked away to inform her mother. A moment later she returned, clasping a wad of 500 dong bills.

Shortly after that the mother drove a carload of my supporters and me to Buon Ma Thuot airport, in the hope of purchasing the ticket.

Alas the Vietnam Airlines desk at Buon Ma Thuot airport was unattended and, even after some urgent Vietnamese pleas, no assistance was forthcoming.

My Vietnamese contingent were undefeated; I had little idea at this point what was happening – I was mentally preparing to be in Vietnam until 2021.

We drove to another Vietnam Airlines office where, after much (seemingly heated) Vietnamese discussion along with the arrival (and presumed influence) of the father, I was presented with my itinerary.

From dismissing chances of going home to then suddenly being right there at BMT airport at the Vietnam Airlines counter; from then being led to believe there was no hope of going home in the near future to later showing up at a small inner-city travel counter where, boom, there it was.

I was befuddled, but it didn’t matter; all I knew for sure was that I had a ticket, I was going home in two days and, if not for the help of my Vietnamese family, none of this would have been possible.

 

I spent one last, wonderful but sombre, day with my Vietnamese family in Buon Ma Thuot before, at 9 p.m. Sunday 31st May, they drove me to the bus station; destined for Tan Son Nhat airport, Ho Chi Minh City.

Monday morning, 5 a.m., the bus rolled into Mein Dong station. Even that early in the morning Saigon was bustling. I had no desire to do anything productive.

The first six hours I spent at a café, drinking ca phe and chatting with passing locals; for the remaining eight I simply shifted to another café.

Around 7 p.m. I turned up at Tan Son Nhat airport and walked inside; the place was empty.

I sat and waited for over an hour before noticing an information board light up. I checked it to find my flight was departing, as scheduled, at 22:35.

I checked in my bag and, with not another person in sight, strolled through to customs. There was someone waiting for me at a desk. I handed them my passport. He glanced at it. “Your Visa is expired,” he intoned.

“Yes,” I tried to keep sarcasm out of my voice, “so has the Visa of most of the people behind me.”

Another uniformed man approached the desk. “You come this way,” he waved his arm.

I walked in the direction he was indicating.

“You go in there,” he pointed to a doorway.

I went in and heard his voice behind me; “Sit down poleese…”

The phrase ‘sit down poleese’ has been the source of much humour between my Viet family and me, and when this man said it, I almost laughed aloud.

“…The commander will see you.”

I sat, stretched out, and felt a greater sense of calm than I had felt for a long time. I wasn’t worried. I knew these guys weren’t going to do anything to me. I think they were just bored and looking for a way to waste some precious time.

The ‘commander’ arrived who, the way he kept belching under his breath, I suspected had just eaten a large meal. If nothing else the man did provide a commanding presence.

He sat down. First thing he said to me: “Why do you have expired Visa?”

Seriously, I was of the impression that I was on a flight intended primarily for travellers stuck in Vietnam because COVID-19 had made it impossible for those travellers to return home at the scheduled time; I was of the impression they were expecting an influx of expired Visas.

I was in disbelief. Again, I repressed the compulsion to speak sarcastically, but this left me almost no words. “Ah … COVID…?”

He commander nodded, studying my passport.

I tried again. “I had a return flight planned with China Southern on March 26, they cancelled that flight … I had another organised on the 29th, with Qantas, which was cancelled also.”

“I see,” the commander stood, “wait here.”

I watched as the broad-shouldered man photocopied pages of my passport then disappeared out a side door I hadn’t even noticed in the white room.

I don’t know exactly how long I waited there for the commander, I didn’t care, but it was at least 30 minutes.

When the large Viet returned, he had me repeat my story before asking, “You have friends in Vietnam?”

“I do,” I replied, “in Buon Ma Thuot.”

“You can ring?” he pointed at his phone.

“You want me to ring my friends?” I asked, confused.

He nodded; I suddenly saw that this could work to my favour.

I rang the first Viet number I saw on my phone and waited. “Tim!” came the response.

“Giang (‘Yang’), hey … Ah, some Immigration dude here wants to speak to you.”

I handed my phone to the commander and waited, listening. I didn’t understand many of his words, but I did notice Giang’s tone becoming increasingly shrill. I felt bad for her.

A few minutes later he handed back the phone then without a word left the room.

A minute after that my phone was receiving a call from Giang’s cousin, Dung (’Yhom’).

I answered it. Dung is the kind of assertive, strangely influential character, who, if you need something done in Vietnam, tell him and if he likes you, it will be done. This is much of the reason I hadn’t been worried about anything; between the influence of Giang’s father, Hung (‘Mr Hom’ to me,) of the Buon Ma Thuot Police, and her cousin, Dung, I felt as though I was fairly well represented.

I assured Dung there was no problem, that Customs had to have known there would be White folk coming through devoid of Visas, and that I was sure these Viet Customs dudes were just bored and looking for some way to kill the night. Dung wasn’t satisfied; his words, ‘I sort it out, Tim, don’t worry’.

Within moments, in the next room, I heard what must have been ten different phones, two at a time over the following five minutes, start ringing and vibrating until somebody picked them up.

Meantime, I sent Giang a text message telling her that everything was fine and not to worry; frustrated that I’d called her first rather than cousin Dung.

Seemingly Dung had finished with Vietnamese Customs; he was now calling me.

He explained ‘there is nothing to worry about anymore’ then instructed me, in his sometimes unintelligible Vietnamese accent, if there was any further trouble or if they tried to ‘make you pay money’, I should call him.

As I ended the call to Dung the commander meandered over to me, his expression no longer so intense. We went over everything again then insisted that I present evidence of my return ticket. Momentarily panicked, I then remembered how fastidious I am when it comes to deleting emails. Sure enough, with a rapidly depleting laptop battery and questionable Internet strength, I ran through old emails until I found the correct one from Helloworld.

The commander smiled and with his phone, took a picture of my laptop screen.

“You come with me now,” he said in a voice that didn’t match his face.

I gladly stood and followed him out the door. As we passed the threshold, he paused and carefully said to me, “There, ah, there will be no, ah, no money to pay.”

Where I had been over two hours early for my flight, there was now only 15 minutes until boarding. I was at risk of becoming anxious, until I saw the commander was going to accompany me through customs. He breezed me through baggage check in five minutes then, with a hearty handshake, left me at the boarding gate.

I wondered exactly what Dung had said to him.

The plane was under half full, so most people were able to claim their own bench seat, stretch out and sleep for the nine-hour, direct flight.

Auckland airport, much like Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City, was deserted; the passengers were rounded up and escorted through the facility before being loaded onto a bus, then taken to the Pullman hotel.

My room is wonderful, the meals are superb, and my window faces east to a vista of the rising sun over Auckland harbour; I should be ecstatic, but I’m not.

I don’t miss Saigon but, fair to say, I do miss Vietnam; miss my Vietnamese family who were so good to me.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Donna Miss Saigon

Photography by Miss B M Thuot