Friday, January 17, 2020

Detained at Auckland Airport; The Third Degree With My Judo Teacher

Something was wrong when I checked in with my passport, instead of the system letting me through it had a big red X mark and said "Go see assistance." The person at the control let me through, and I noticed a woman cop staring at me. When I went to the restroom, I was detained.

She waited for me to pick up my luggage. Then she walked me into a private area. It looked like they were detaining a lot of young single guys - not too many women, couples or families.

I was told that New Zealand intelligence flagged me because there was a problem with my visa - especially because I was a permanent resident and didn't need to enter as a tourist. I told them back that their new system doesn't have any options for someone in my situation.

Anyways, I was asked a number of questions - like how long I was going to be gone. Why I was here? Why I had a last minute flight? Where the wedding was?

The officer took out all my stuff and had a dog sniff every item he took out. It was all very unpleasant, and although I was cooperative, I told the officer over and over again, "This isn't how to welcome a resident home after being away for four years."

He kept saying - "It doesn't matter if you're a citizen, we would do this."

That wasn't true, because he told me that there was a visa problem. A citizen would be on a NZ passport. And the government's new system wouldn't have a problem.

The entire search took an hour and was highly invasive. And Kiwis say America is bad. I told the officer to note that this not happen again. He said he would.

Outside - an old friend - my judo teacher was waiting to see me. She said to me in Korean, "What took so long?"

In Korean, I said: "I was detained. They treated me like a security risk."

I gave her a hug. She said, "I should've known. You're a trouble maker and you've always been one. And you know what? You're just a problem."

I laughed and said, "I just got here. Do you really have to start?" We haven't even seen each other in four years.

She bought me a beautiful Kiwi cappuccino. She also paid for my hostel two nights by her place. That was kind of her.

During the ride, she gave me a lecture on all kinds of things - about how I need to settle down, how I need to marry and have children, and how my life is not an approvable one.

I told her I need to make more money.

She said, "The only reason you're not rich is because of you. You're not taking enough responsibility for your life and working hard enough. You're smart enough to be superrich if you wanted to."

I thought, She's acting just like my parents. I said - "You sound just like my mom. I've only been in the country a little over an hour. I've been questioned - as if I'm a security threat. And now, I'm being told to get my life together. Welcome to New Zealand."

My Korean was rusty. I haven't used it like this since I came to New Zealand last. How strange is it that my Chinese, Korean, and Russian always improves when I return to New Zealand. For those of you who don't know - English is their main language.

At that she laughed and said, "How many times have I told you - you're a problem."

At that, I laughed too.

She dropped me off at the hostel and checked in with me. The receptionist said in English - "I remember you. You made a reservation for Paul."

She said - "Paul, make sure to come over for dinner, ok?"

"I will."

Then she was gone.

Then, an Irish guy named Pete held open the door for me. We talked a little bit, and later on in the day, we walked to a cafe together and chatted over more Kiwi coffee.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

A Second Summer in New Zealand

It was a last minute decision, but I received my ticket to Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday. I had so little time to pack and to go. I had a wedding to go to. So, I went.

I didn't get excited, until my friends texted me the plans of what we'd do together. When I heard from them, I checked out mentally and focused on what I'd be doing in New Zealand.

I was so lucky that a lot of the court days I had in January were moved. So, I could go.

My mom took me to the airport. I took the midnight flight. The flight was full. I couldn't believe how many people there were. The plane was packed.

It was an easy flight, because I slept through 80% of it. When the plane landed, a feeling came over me. I was back home.

I felt free.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Ending 2019, Forecasting 2020 - the Year of the Metal Rat

One line drawing of a mouse by
Pablo Picasso
As of writing this article, I've been back home for 15 months from my sabbatical. If 2018 was about "play and wonder and homecoming", this year has been about being re-transplanted, re-rooted, and plowing the ground. Hopefully, there will be a harvest. One day? Some day?

In settling in, I feel like I've come full circle. I told myself I was never going back to litigation, and here I am, back in litigation. So, I have to tell myself that it's not a circle but more like a spiral, because even though I've come back full circle, I know there's a deeper dimension and understanding in returning to my old job: the lawyer. Hence, I'm in a spiral, not an infinite hopeless loop.

From September 2018 until July 2019 - I was reconnecting back with old relationships. I didn't know leaving so long would create such a vacuum with people. I had to re-establish a sense of consistency and presence for my my family (including my cat Jeh Pan - who was upset at my long absence), my boxing club, my friends, and even church. Also while being back, I went back to litigation and investigative journalism.

Here are the notable achievements of my nonprofit, Plousiouv En Pistei ("Wealthy in Faith" in Greek) and my labor this year.

1. The big story this year, was we got rid of that crooked Baldwin Park School Police Chief, Jill Marie Poe, who was an ex-felon, fraudster, and serial sexual predator. Although I tipped the media to it, nobody took it up. But after Legal Lens featured it - the school board ran her off the campus. Good riddance to bad rubbish. And not bad, to remove a police chief from office with one news story published on my blog.

2. We sued the City of Baldwin Park to strike down their evil practice of fining an activist over $12,000 for hanging a political banner that depicts a council member as a jackass. In fact, just two days ago, on December 30th, 2019 - we filed an injunction against the City in an attempt to invalidate their sign ordinance, which we believe violates the First Amendment.

In short, Baldwin Park's ordinance sponsors censorship - which means they want to be like our parents telling us what we can and cannot say. Sorry; we have a constitution that gives us the freedom to criticize our elected officials. So, let's see what the future holds on this one.

3. I was also able to feature my client's story - who was deported - on the front page of the Seattle Times, Sunday. Unfortunately, the deported man is still in Mexico.

4. For a member of my boxing club, I was able to clear up his record. This should give him more freedom in his future and life. I was really happy to take up this case.

Personally, I liked this case because it aligned with one of my values. I believe my God gives us second chances (if not way more). I need to put that in practice more often to make that happen for others.

5. In terms of exposing corruption, a lot has happened this year. The City of Baldwin Park is finally being audited for their corruption. Also, we discovered that Mayor Lozano and his family have been cheating the City and County of Los Angeles of money by pretending his dead father is still alive. He expects us to pay taxes, but he doesn't want to. More to come on this story.

6. And I want to say in my own personal life, I believe I've matured. This year, I decided to forgive more people and let go of past wrongs and be more understanding of others.

Looking back, 2019 has been one of my more challenging years, probably because it involved the transition from roaming the world to being settled in. I was living a fast paced lifestyle to a slower and more predictable one now.

Really; I feel like I've been uprooted and planted back in Los Angeles' soil, which is what I didn't want. But it happened, and I've learned to accept it (as one does in grieving). So, it's going to take some time to have my roots grow back and to be grounded.

Today, the year of the earth pig in 2019 has left us, and the year of the metal rat is ushered in for 2020. According to legend, the rat was the first animal to arrive at Buddha's birthday. It tricked the ox to carry it to the party, but once there, it jumped off the ox and ran first to meet the Buddha.

Another legend says that cats didn't appear at Buddha's birthday, because the rats drowned the cats by crawling over them, while the cats were fording a river. That's why the cat is not one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac. (I don't think Jeh Pan would be happy to hear this story; so, I wont' tell him.)

Both stories have a theme of shrewdness and maximizing a position of weakness. Although cunning was involved, what I like about both stories is that the rats didn't let their lowly position or their small size prevent them from obeying their calling to go. They went, and when challenges came, they improvised, right?

But I want to return to the Christian scriptures. In reviewing what I've learned this year, this particular verse impacted me perhaps the most. "God turned [evil] into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened." (Genesis 5:20, GNT).

Hopefully, that theme carries out for 2020. Happy New Year, everybody!