Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Disconnected worlds

February 1st, 2011

Funny thing the virtual world. Facebook. Twitter. Online banking. E-mail. My own website. Videos and photos for all to see. Wonderous way to share experiences, organise, plan ahead. And less to carry on the road. A little bit at least. But too much reliance on things electronic is not without its problems. As I was discovering.

Back in the Medicare office my efforts to register with Australia’s healthcare scheme had hit rocks. Demonstrating I was actually resident in the UK. On paper. A requirement, much to my frustration, that hadn’t been mentioned during my first visit. And this I explained, ever so politely. Always willing to try and provide whatever evidence was required. But shifting sands problematic.

We settled on a print out of an online banking statement. Simple enough you’d think. But those clever computer chaps at my bank have made sure printing such things is err.. not possible. Presumably something to do with identity theft. Bit of scrabbling around and I was able to cobble together something together. Hoping it would be enough. And returned to the Medicare office with my netbook. Offering to present the evidence on the screen if need be.

Fortunately the adviser understood the problem. Online banking. Electronic visas. Something of a disconnect with paper applications. Bit of an Anglophile I thought. Approved. At last. I’d have celebrated with a small cup of coffee. But, despite using a myriad of dubious Central Asian and Chinese ATMs without problem, it seemed my card had now been blocked. Finally. In Cairns, Australia. First world. Straightforward to resolve. But unhelpful nevertheless.

Back in the ever more acceptable tropical heat and humidity I mulled over potential pitfalls ahead. US visa. It had everything. Lengthy online application. Interview. With lots of paperwork. Hope I had the right stuff. And my mobile internet connection. Would it work in North America? Track record had been good – everywhere but Krygzstan. And France.

[If you are a UK – they use the term British here – citizen visiting Australia and need to register with Medicare (often stipulated by insurance companies), note that a UK Driving Licence is not normally accepted as evidence of residency. Could have been issued years ago. So probably wise to carry a recent utility bill or credit card statement that shows your address]

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Following on Facebook

August 4th, 2010

Good news first. For those of you who follow the exploits of Emma, my trusty steed, and I on Facebook, you’ll continue to see all the posts pop up. However, for now at least, I’ll not be able to add photos or, alas, reply to any of your messages or comments. Please be patient. And you can always see my images of China on my own website – just click here.

The so-called "Great Firewall of China" preventing access to Facebook? Looks like it, but whether that extends right across the country I’m not sure. But, to be fair, my day-to-day use of the internet hasn’t exactly been frustrated. On the contrary, web access is easier, more prevalent here, than in much of Central Asia. This is a connected nation.

Enough from the editor. Better to return to trying to fathom out what exactly the requirement is to register your place of residence with the Police "within twenty four hours". Just once, or every time you move on? And how that works with a tent. Over half a million British citizens visit China every year, and countless other nationalities, so you’d think a clear answer would be easy to come by….

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Catch the pigeon

June 14th, 2010

Pigeon

Didn’t exactly look the long-haul variety, but pigeons unexpectedly thin on the ground in Almaty. Still, hopeful my feathered friend will be able to bring news from Western China, currently devoid of any internet connection. Eventually. Or perhaps best to pack some stuffing mix, just in case I have a change of heart…. or simply get a bit peckish.

[Author’s note: For those of you following me on Facebook please note I’m getting mixed messages about whether or not I can access the site from anywhere in China. However, blog posts will continue to appear there automatically, even if I can’t see my own page!]

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Silent running

May 19th, 2010

Not quite sure exactly what lies ahead. All part of the adventure. Sharing my experiences may well be more tricky, more sporadic. Judging from my experiences in Azerbaijan, a decent internet connection is likely to be restricted to the cities, so just a few opportunities this side of the Chinese border. Beyond that point? Internet access in western China remains effectively closed down since demonstrations there a year or so ago.

But, rest assured, even if all seems quiet, I’ll be busy keeping up my journal and video diary, looking for every opportunity to share my experiences whenever circumstances allow. So please be patient. And be hopeful I don’t eat to many those lovely plump breasted carrier pigeons first.

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