Owning a Crack Den

For those reading who’ve stumbled across this post and haven’t read the previous one, give it a quick read first then come back here. It provides context to the following story.

So I’ve just bought my first property with my little egg of savings from my time in Melbourne and now I’m babysitting my infant New Zealand bank account containing $0 and my obese mortgage that sucks directly from my non-existent bank balance.

My first crisis was that my mortgage is paid fortnightly (every two weeks for American readers) and the rent paid by my tenants was paid into my bank account monthly from my new property manager.

So on the 15th of October my brand new account fell hundreds of dollars below zero (because of the first automatic mortgage payment) and when I woke up the next morning I was greeted with an email from the bank written in all red letters.

Needless to say I panicked and ran around and freaked out all day until I could finish work and call my bank within New Zealand work hours; or far too late at night where I was in the world.

I explained to Westpac my situation and begged at their feet for mercy.

Luckily they show mercy the first time you screw up, but promised to come down with the might of Thor if it ever happened again.

Well I quickly moved money across from my work account and brought the balance back up to zero while I waited anxiously for the 1st of November for my first month of rent to pay me and push my account into positive digits for the very first time.

Time was slow but eventually the 1st came…. then it went.

I had sent money again over to New Zealand because yet again the mortgage had to be paid. But I was optimistic that it was all about to be worth it.

I opened my account on the 1st..

$0

The 2nd came…..

$0

The 10th came….

$0

I called my property manager panicking, she told me that she’d received no money from the tenant.

She had sent them several letters asking them to pay but they had been ignored. She asked if I thought she should go over and ask for the money in person..

I nearly dropped my phone as I spluttered down the phone at her to get my money!!

Things were not working out as well as I had hoped, so in the meantime I sent more money over to New Zealand knowing that the mortgage would be taken right on time on the 15th whether I could pay it or not.

The 15th came and went and the mortgage was sucked right out on time but nothing had come back in.

My manager called me back and informed me that the tenant was gone and the doors had been broken down by a police battering ram.

My tenant was a wanted fugitive who had been charged with drug possession and trafficking and the police had finally caught up with him.

I nearly passed out, then nearly downed in a pool of my own anxiety sweat.

Eventually he was found and charged and put on probation.

He was working somewhere in the district and now living on his brothers couch so my manager paid me his rent out of her own pocket, then took him to court to reimburse herself.

I got my first rent payment! Things were turning around.

That is until the next tenant moved in.

She signed the lease as a single person with no pets.

My manager inspects and sends me photos of a house full of ‘Disney’s Frozen’ blankets, toys, dog hair, men’s bathroom necessities and mattresses leaning against every wall.

The place just looked sticky, and I couldn’t imagine what it must have smelled like.

She didn’t pay her rent either (shock) and we got rid of her. Five more un-paying tenants went in and out and I replaced the doors (police battering ram) three more times until I decided to throw more money at the house and do it up properly.

I re-carpeted the entire house. The carpet was crack-den quality so it all had to go.

My grandmother made new curtains for the place that matched the new carpet and I had it all cleaned.

I ripped up the yard and re-did it and replaced the fence.

The place completely turned around, and almost like magic the people who started applying to live there were people who paid rent and weren’t on the run from the police.

The place has turned around and become much easier to own, but having a house in a small town has far too many small town challenges when you don’t live there so even though things are better now, I’ve decided to sell the house.

Luckily for me, late in 2015 almost by accident I bought my second property right on the tale end of the glorious Wild West days that came to a crashing end in mid 2016..

The Wild West Day’s of New Zealand Property

For those of you who read the blog way waaaay back in the day, and have a robotically good memory, you may recall that in 2014 I bought a house in New Zealand and in 2015 I bought a second one.

I’m not rich by any stretch, I’ve never been given anything and I’m not even a particularly good saver; but there is a story, and this is how it went down.

For an 8 month stretch in 2013 between working for Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Line I was working as a salesman for an insurance company.

During this time I lived in a hooker den apartment (no real hookers, but the paint was peeling, tiles were all coming loose and the bathroom lightbulb was pink….)

It’s since been demolished, but while I lived there the rent was super cheap and I was making bank commissions because even though I hate being a salesman, I’m really good at it.

Anyway, I was making lots of money and was depressed because I wasn’t performing; my only happiness was knowing that I was saving as the previous few years I’d been in university and America was dirt poor from both experiences.

So I relished in refreshing my bank account that was healthy for the very first time in my life.

On really sad days I’d open my bank app and just sit there clicking the total sum figure on the app home page and refresh the balance and see it confirmed that yep, I’d saved more than $12.

Anyway, 8 months into the year I was cast by Disney Cruise Line and was back in America but not depressed anymore, so I figured (and rightly) that I would blow any money I earned there.

Cruise ship employees that work Disney Cruise Line hours lose their minds and blow their money like crazy.

So before I could do anything with it I used all of it as a deposit in a house in Wairoa, a small town in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

I’m an Australian citizen born and raised, so why did I buy in New Zealand?

In those days, New Zealand was sizzling hot for investors. Back in what I like to call the “Wild West” days, New Zealand had curiously lax investment laws which had fostered a free for all bananza.

Unlike Australia, New Zealand had no stamp duty (an enormous tax) and at the time had no capital gains tax.

It was tax heaven, and even without a New Zealand tax number (an IRD number) someone like me could swoop in and pick up one of the extremely reasonably priced properties that were ripe for the plucking.

Those were the days..

So even though I was a cast member on a cruise ship in Canada, buying a property in a country I’d only holidayed in felt like a smart idea and something that wouldn’t be hard.

Well I was wrong about the hard part, but it was possible.

Without so much as a New Zealand bank account, tax number, nothing; I put an offer on and bought a falling down 2 bedroom house in some of New Zealand’s most beautiful countryside.

The process was very long.

I included a 12 week settlement as a condition of the sale because I was on a ship and in Canada, and thank God I did. In those days most forms needed to be physically signed, so I was back and forth to the post office physically mailing forms I had printed off my ship computer, signed and put into a first class envelope.

Several forms had to be witnessed by someone from a very short list of trusted officials, only one of which lived in Canada.

Originally I had printed the list of trusted people which mentioned ‘lawyers’ as people who were trusted by the New Zealand Government. So I had my law trained friend on the ship sign my form and sent it in.

It was after sending that form that I was informed that a lawyer could only be trusted if they were certified by the New Zealand Government and living in New Zealand.

So it was back to the list.

The only person on the list I could conceivably get was the Consulate General in Vancouver.

So out of necessity I was also back and forth between the ship and the New Zealand Consulate in Vancouver where I’d visit the Consulate General who’d sign and stamp all my forms.

She did all of them for $20 which at the time felt fair, only years later did I learn while applying for my Chinese visa that this price is insanely low and she was probably just being a super nice person.

I only just made my 12 week settlement and within 16 or 20 weeks it was all over.

I was now broke but owned my first property; a property quite far away from anywhere I’d ever been in New Zealand.

I had emails that confirmed that I owned it, the woman who sold me the property had signed on to manage it, and I had a fresh, never been touched bank account that was hitched up to my sparkly new mortgage.

I had about a week of bliss before the shit met the kiwi flavoured fan..

Personal Space

Now that I’m back in New Zealand I’m really starting to realize how cultural conditioning really affects even the smallest parts of how we act every day.

One such observation I’ve been making is the distance people stand apart from each other here in New Zealand.
I was in line at a cafe this morning waiting to order my coffee, and the distance between everyone waiting was at least 60cm without exception. In China however I’ve become use to queue lines wherein everyone is touching each other even if there’s plenty of space in the room.
People cut the line, go around the line and jostle and push. I’m use to lining up for my coffee in China and standing uncomfortably close to the front counter when I make my order to avoid risk of someone edging in front of me at the last second and stealing my place.
With the entirety of New Zealand’s population being only a tiny fraction of the population of just Shanghai City alone it’s easy to understand how we have developed entirely different perspectives regarding personal space.

I was waiting to buy a cake at a Bakery in Shanghai a few months ago when I learned my lesson about where to stand in relation to the front counter of a busy shop.
I’d been standing about a foot away from the counter at the time and was about to point to my choice, but as soon as my hand went out towards the cake my vision was eclipsed by the body of an older gentleman who had silently and quickly edged his way in front of me.
He literally had to slide against my body and the counter to fit, and still felt comfortable standing there and ordering while sandwiched between a person and a bench. Whats worse is that the person working the front counter took his order! His queue-cut was accepted and he was rewarded for it, however from then on I’ve learned my lesson and have never again repeated my error in distance calculation.

Waiting to buy tickets for the ‘Bund Sightseeing Tunnel’ can be even worse.
This Sightseeing Tunnel is a psychedelic drug trip manufactured into a short and slow underground crawl between one side of the Huangpu River to the other.
You travel in a slow moving little car that feels similar to a monorail car, while looking up and around at blinking lights, trippy music and creepy voices saying random statements in English and Mandarin.
Sometimes business is slow and a queue line has formed and is moving efficiently, however on a busy day it’s a mob of people and can feel impossible to get to the front and buy tickets.

My experience working on a China based cruise ship completely turned me off buffet’s perhaps forever.
If anyone has seen a buffet within China please let me know whether it’s similar to my experience. Aboard the ship old people would fight each other for food in the buffet line, particularly if it was running low.
Without being aggressive it was impossible to get to the front and get food, and people absolutely used their hands so the food didn’t really feel appetizing anyway.

There are positive points to be made however.
A Chinese queue line can move quickly as people are often very efficient in choosing what they want and the people taking their orders only ask and say the bare minimum.

Everything is for sale in a Chinese shop.
The other day I found myself in need of a HDMI cord for a recently purchased display.
No shops I could find around my area were selling them, however the gentleman working in my local TV shop went out the back, opened up the box of a brand new TV (within view), pulled out the HDMI cord included with the TV and sold it to me. Was he stealing from the store and pocketing the cash? Absolutely, but who am I to judge?

My last point is that everything can be bought here online anyway, and delivered extremely quickly.
Buying things in person is for chumps these days, even groceries can be delivered. So skip the queue line and join the digital age.

While still in New Zealand however I’m going to enjoy my slow and simple in-person shopping experiences while I can, I’m just hoping I don’t soften by the time I get back..

When Travel is the Worst

Well it’s Spring Festival and all of my acting students have gone home, so I guess it’s time for me to follow suit.

The planned location for my Springtime revelry is the North Island of New Zealand.

I’m going to fly from my beloved Shanghai back to Middle Earth, pick up a hire car and trek the ring from Auckland to Palmerston North. (Basically go from top to bottom of the island, give a few kilometres).

If I don’t sound particularly excited to be returning home then my true feelings are shining through.

I’m a terrible flyer, not at all because of a misplaced fear of dropping out of the sky or hitting a flock of geese, but because of how sucky it is to be a very tall man crumpled into an economy ‘Air China’ seat.

Over the years of flying for work I’ve become accustomed to twisting my body into intensive yoga positions in order to sit in such a way as to not push on the seat in front of me or elbow the person next to me. This fine art of plane yoga is best paired with fabulous seat mates who will listen to my divaish tales and woes of air travel, laugh with me as we discuss the funny parts of where we’ve just flown from and roll eyes with me over other travellers antics.

More often than not I have had charming seat mates and have even met lifelong friends (and

romance) in this manner.

This was not the case today.

Sat next to me was the rudest couple I’ve ever met on a plane in my life.

Not once did they address or look at me or the flight attendants. Polite offers of drinks or snacks from the lovely attendants were dismissed with casual waves of their hands and scowling faces.

My polite and apologetic request for them to let me out to use the restroom midway through the 11 hour flight was met with 10 minutes of ignoring, followed by slow and groan-filled pulling up of their legs to allow me to awkwardly squeeze my way out from the cave they’d trapped me into while accidentally grinding and groping them in the process.

Here’s a mental picture of what I was looking at, try to imagine two blonde and freckled sour people sitting in the worlds most cramped plane seats with their chairs reclined to breaking point and their bare feet up and pushing on the seats in front of them.

Some people are in serious need a stern talking to and perhaps a travel ban.

Fast forward to this moment and I’m on the other side and alive in New Zealand. However it’s now time for the next stage of the journey, a sizeable road trip to our final destination.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like a lengthy joyride with friends. I love tearing down the highway belting Kanye and waving my hand in the wind as much as the next guy, but I am unfortunately prone to intense carsickness. This ensures a thick layer of nausea to distract from joyously hand surfing and Kanye belting.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, teleportation can’t come soon enough.

All this sacrifice is so that I can see and appease my mother, shower her with Chinese gifts and lavish her with attention before I head to Australia and see some of my old chums.

I love old chums, the ones staying in one place and moving forward with their lives. Through these friends I can vicariously do the things people my age normally enjoy, things like getting married, having kids and erecting home gyms to ignore.

I mean it when I say that I don’t envy them, but I also have a healthy admiration for them. I respect the maturity it takes to be responsible for another human long term.

Meanwhile you’ll see me blowing the last of my cash on Aussie essentials like Caramello Koala’s and laminations while waiting to endure the entire travel nightmare again when it’s time to go home to China.

Until then it’s holiday time!

Nausea be damned because I’m going to make the most of it through the carsickness and mean flyers.

This side of the world is sure gonna feel different after spending last year in China, I wonder if anyone here takes Alipay..

For the Gamers

Ah Melbourne, just the way I left you 😉

Back in Melbourne now and sharing it with my awesome Kiwi friend who flew over to hang out for 2 weeks before I go back to the US. What a friend!
Mostly we’re spending the time together gaming and “exploring” the city.
When I say exploring I use the term in an abstract way, what I actually mean is that I intended to take him to a shop I remembered being a 5 minute walk away, and two hours later (I’m not blowing this up for effect, we left at 5pm and arrived at 7pm) we arrived.
Keep in mind we didn’t arrive 2 hours later because it was 2 hours away, oh no, It actually was 5 minutes away. I just manage to get lost navigating even the most simple steps to get from A to B.
My brother has a rule with me that I think after all these years I’m beginning to consider following, if I think to turn left at a street because I’m absolutely sure that is the correct way to go, it is an almost certainty that turning right is the correct direction.
We later retraced our steps today and learned that had we taken every turn opposite to the turn we took, we would have arrived more or less on time.
It’s like I’m actually amazing at directions, that if you took them at a 180 degree variable, you could get anywhere. I’m like a reverse GPS.

Addressing the gaming, a bunch of friends and I have discovered that League of Legends is really fun when played in groups! Oh my gosh, even though we suck it’s amazing.
Only one of us has any real experience, my Kiwi friend. So while the rest of us celebrate one kill, and collect small amounts of assisted kills, the bloody Kiwi averages 40 to 60 kills each match. And thats with him holding back.

If you don’t know this game, it is very difficult to take down an enemy. It takes hardcore skill, planning and serious strategy. For someone who’s gaming experience is basically the Sims, this game is a massive shock to the system.

I want to put out a question to the women reading, and the 2 other men in the world that relate to my taste in gaming, how are we feeling about Sims 4? I’m hearing it’s more like Sims 2 than 3, but I liked 2 so I wouldn’t mind to much.
I feel like 2 was quirkier than 3, but I liked exploring the world in 3. The endless hours I’ve spent looking for seeds through the world in 3 are such happy memories. Planting them and hoping one would be something rare! I’ve heard 4 has scaled everything right back, it’s gonna be tough adjusting I’m sure.
For someone thats sunk hundreds of dollars buying literally every Sims 3 expansion, buying 4 had better be worth my while.
As a guy who is already effeminate, it doesn’t help when I spend the day gaming and a friend will visit me and ask me what I accomplished in the virtual world of gaming. This person will be expecting death counts, goals reached, races won but no.
“I FINALLY found a colour scheme for my sims walls that match the furniture!” Or even more likely “I got promoted at work! I’m gonna be earning double the money!” To which my friend for a moment genuinely thinks I’m talking about real life, to then realise “oh crap, do you mean on the Sims? Stop playing that game!!”

I’ve decided to make gaming more of a priority for my free time when I’m on the ocean and bored, rather than re-watching 30 Rock. It’s gotten to the point where I can quote episodes word for word. I can quote a 30 Rock episode more accurately than the scripts I’m paid to learn, it’s pretty horrific.

Well my computer is having a problem thats going to impact my game :0 So I’m gonna go fix it,

Stick around, I’ll be back in a couple days 🙂

Today’s Embassy Adventure!

It’s been a stressful week, and I have been drinking coffee out the yang.
I’m not someone who’s very use to coffee, so coupling my high stress week with more coffee than I’ve consumed in my lifetime thus far, I’m a virtual basket case.
Lately I’ve been expanding my investment portfolio to include international investments in New Zealand, mostly to occupy the time I spend along because I bore easily. Also I finished my book and haven’t bought a new one. And the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is … I should take up sudoku.
This process has been far more stressful than investing domestically, and it’s been not much more than one headache after another. Although when it’s over, there’s no chance I won’t miss the rush. What is wrong with me?
Today I’ve been traipsing all over Vancouver looking for the New Zealand Consulate, that’s right, the cities embassy of New Zealand.
Why??
All week long I’ve been trying to verify some documents that prove my identity, because it turns out, when your dealing with money from across the ocean, people get skittish if they can’t see your face, and want someone with authority to say with an official stamp, this dude legit.
At first they said my lawyer friend on the ship would suffice, but she no longer has a registration number is so failed the test.
Been looking around for accountants, lawyers, anyone on their super limited list that included people I’ll never meet. Such as ambassadors, the Governor General?!? “Excuse me Ms Brice, I know you assist in running the nation of Australia, but … Could you sign my piece of paper?”
But no, found no one. Then when all seemed lost I realized hey! Why not the freaking embassy?!? So off I went and found it.
I’ve literally been in embassy’s and consulates more times than I’ve eaten pie, but I was still terrified sitting in the waiting room. Do they spray a terror smell? I dunno but I was right to fear, because without an appointment I was practically on my knees begging to see the one woman in Canada that could help me. I have no other days off before I leave Canada, possibly forever. So she made a one time exception and saw me anyway.
Then made me leave again to search the city for an ATM to pay her.
Eventually I found one, paid the woman, and posted the forms. Btw when did postage start costing a zillion dollars?? Maybe I’m old school.
But it’s done!! They’d better accept my id for all the stress and Canadian money I spent today or else …. Or else … I’ll cry or something.
Thanks for reading my adventure for today, I’ll update you on everything again soon. 🙂
Only a few weeks left in Alaska before I hit the road somewhere new, subscribe for more of the good stuff, and I’ll talk again soon. 🙂