Renewing a UK Passport from Overseas during COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Home Office

There has been quite a lot of news coverage (update here) recently about passport application/renewal delays in the UK due to staffing shortages at the passport office as a result of the pandemic.

Many people overseas have to have a valid passport as a condition of their residence in their second country, so I thought it would be handy to post this to give people an idea of turnaround times, especially as the passport office will advise you to come back at a later date due to COVID-19 if you are not travelling during the summer.

The passport renewal website is pretty easy to use and states what you need quite clearly. I would advise going to a photo booth that allows you to save the passport photo online as taking a good photo with a mobile phone is pretty difficult. It will cost £86 plus a £19.86 courier fee, plus whatever it costs you to mail your passport to the UK office (I spent NT$390 or roughly £10 for signed delivery of my old passport and a colour-photocopy of my other nationality passport).

Passport renewal website: https://www.gov.uk/apply-renew-passport

I filled in the online form with a digital photo on July 18, 2020.

I mailed my old passport and a colour photocopy of my second nationality passport on July 20, 2020 by signed delivery.

Parcelforce stated that the parcel arrived at the Liverpool HMPO at 17:00 on July 28, 2020.

I received emails on July 19, July 29 and August 2 prompting me to send my documents, and as of August 7, when I track my application it still prompts me to send my documents.

On July 29, I also received an email stating:
“We are sorry that it is taking longer than usual to process your application due to COVID-19. If we don’t need any further information to progress your application, you should receive your passport within 8 weeks.”

However, the site still prompts me to send my documents to them, so I’m not sure if that is an acknowledgement of receipt or just a standard message with the rough time frame (8 weeks).

To be continued…

Chen Chuan-hung’s ‘Secret’ 陳雋弘的〈祕密〉

祕密

我多麼想離開
這座擁擠的城市
在夜晚努力長出翅膀來
在每個明天,又怕被當成妖怪
而忍痛將它折斷

Secret

I want so badly to leave
The congestion of the city
That at night I expend great effort growing wings
But out of fear of being taken for a demon on every morrow
I bear the pain of tearing them off

Chen Chuan-hung (陳雋弘) was born in 1979 and graduated with a master’s from the Chinese program at National Kaohsiung Normal University. He currently teaches at Kaohsiung Municipal Girls’ Senior High School. He previously won first prize in the free verse poetry category of the China Times Literary Prize and the literary and artistic creation award of the Ministry of Education in the free verse category, as well as several other literary prizes. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines as well as poetry collections. He has published two volumes of poetry on a limited printing, “Facing Up” (面對) and “Awaiting Confiscation” (等待沒收).

‘Later Years’ by Wu Sheng 吳晟的〈晚年〉

晚年

面對世界
即使仍有些意見
但在庭院大樹下
閒看花開謝草木生長
往往忘了爭辯


漫長的旅途,如此倉促
來不及認清多少世間道理
盡頭將隨時出現
如果還有什麼堅持
我只確知
我雖已老,世界仍年輕

Later Years

Although I still have my opinions
When it comes to the world
Under a tree in the yard I watch
Flowers bloom and wither and plants grow
I’m often so at ease I forget to voice them

This long journey undertaken with such haste
Allows no time to really understand the world
The end could come at any time
If there’s anything upon which I still insist
It’s that I’m sure
Even though I’m old now, the world is still young

Wu Sheng (吳晟) is the pen-name of Wu Sheng-hsiung (吳勝雄), a poet originally from Hsichou (溪州) in Changhua County in Taiwan. He serves as a senior advisor to the Presidential Office. After graduating from the Department of Livestock of the Taiwan Provincial Institute of Agriculture (now National Pingtung University of Science and Technology) in 1971, he taught biology at a junior high school in his hometown. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature from National Dong Hwa University in June of 2020. The majority of his work has been modern poetry, although he also writes essays. He also has an orchard in Hsichou named after his mother (純園) which is home to 3000 native trees; he lectures part-time at Providence University.

Chen YuHong – ‘Remembering’ 陳育虹的〈記得〉

Remembering

The sea
Continues to smile
The buoy of memory moves amid the mist and coral

Slowly on the beach
A tern writes the first line
I write the second

Some Autumn
Words

記得


繼續微笑
記憶的浮標在霧與礁石間移動


沙灘緩慢
燕鷗寫下第一行字
我寫了第二行

一些秋天的

Use your Citizen Digital Certificate to View your Labour Insurance Data on App

Another day another government app. Unlike the NHI app, you need an Alien Citizen Digital Certificate to authenticate the Labour Insurance Mobile Services App ( Google Play / Apple Store ) where you can see how long you’ve been covered under government labour insurance and if you’re registered under the government pension scheme (APRC holders).

It is likely more use to citizens than to foreigners, as I only had data listed under one field (labour insurance coverage) but useful to know how to access as legislation continues to change.

So if you’ve already got your Alien Citizen Digital Certificate and a card reader installed, navigate to the Labour Insurance Bureau’s e-desk website, which looks as below after you close the pop-up on the initial screen:

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Taiwan Podcasts 聽台灣播客(Podcast)

Podcasts have really taken off over the last couple of years but Chinese-language podcasts from Taiwan have been rather limited, with most just being radio segments repackaged for podcast platforms. However, recently more have taken off, so I thought I’d feature them here and you can feel free to share more in the comments section! I’ve focused on Chinese-language podcasts here, although there are also an increasing amount of English-language podcasts too.

Ghost Island Media:

大麻煩不煩 (In the Weeds with Lawyer Zoe Lee):
This is a great intro into Taiwan’s weed landscape, informing people of their rights in terms of getting stopped and searched by police, what to do if you’re arrested, and the progress of efforts to legalize weed in Taiwan for medical or other uses. (Links to different platforms listed on site)
5/5 Recommended

台灣通勤第一品牌 (Commute For Me):
Haven’t heard much of this and it seems a little disorganized, but the first episode explores Chinese-language slang across the Taiwan Strait. It seems to feature a lot of in-jokes and the hosts laughing at how funny they are.
Spotify
Apple Podcast
Soundcloud

股癌 GooAye
Stock podcast. Structured well and brings in a lot of cultural and movie references. 5/5 Recommended
Spotify
Apple Podcast
YouTube

Firstory Lab 最偏激的Podcast
Tried one episode which consisted of a group of guys making fun of the way a female host spoke. Maybe it gets better if you listen from the start?

If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments section below!

Readers Recommend (Update):
WetBoys 潤男的Room recommended by Erik K. (NSFW mens issues)
百靈果 Bailingguo News (bilingual news podcast) and Spotify Podcast Chart recommended by Matthew Ryan
馬力歐陪你喝一杯 DrinkWithMario recommended by William Peregoy (Interviews)
美食關鍵詞 Taster Life recommended by 三qtwn

KMT Protest Against Chen Chu’s Appointment as President of the Control Yuan

KMT supporters protesting Chen Chu’s (陳菊) appointment to the presidency of the Control Yuan, with the slogans 「拒絕酬庸撤換陳菊」 (Reject cronyism, withdraw Chen Chu), 「民主已死,暴政必亡」 (Democracy is dead, tyranny must fall) and 「民心已死,還我民主」(The hopes of the people are dead, give us back our democracy). There was a middling crowd outside the Legislative Yuan in the morning, where KMT legislators occupied the floor. These were taken after work.

Use your phone as your EasyCard with Samsung Pay: Update

Now you can use a virtual EasyCard in your Samsung Pay wallet for all your EasyCard needs, including MRT turnstiles, YouBike rentals and mobile payments by EasyCards. First go to your Samsung Pay app, and click the EasyCard option on the front page (if you don’t see this, you should do a software update on your phone or check if your model is compatible):

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EasyCard Wallet Mobile Payment App (finally) Foreign Resident Friendly: Update

True to their word, just as all the introductory offers are ending, the EasyCard Corporation have held their noses and finally allowed foreign residents to register for their EasyCard Wallet app at the end of May (they should probably add this in English on the Play Store too):

The May 29th update, includes registration being opened to ARC holders in Taiwan, along with under 20s and resolving some other small issues.

You can either click on 「悠遊卡付專屬」 or 「我的」 as below:

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Book Review: ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ by Ocean Vuong

While ostensibly chronicling his family history, from the war-torn Vietnam his mother and schizophrenic grandmother witnessed, to the immigrant experience in the US, the author of this novel provides a breathtaking look at contemporary America, from morphine addiction to racial and class-based inequality and the politics of integration and queerness.

The novel is structured as a letter to the author’s mother, who cannot read in English, giving the author license to say things that he may never have been able to communicate with her in their common tongue, which the author describes as follows:

“The Vietnamese I own is the one you gave me, the one whose diction and syntax reach only the second-grade level. […] a time capsule, a mark of where your education ended, ashed. Ma, to speak in our mother tongue is to speak only partially in Vietnamese, but entirely in war.”

All through the book, the author plays with language in a fascinating way, at times veering into poetry, at times examining language itself, facilitated perhaps by the distance provided by his mother’s unfamiliarity with the English language:

“How often do we name something after its briefest form? Rose bush, rain, butterfly, snapping turtle, firing squad, childhood, death, mother tongue, me, you.”

For me, as well as its emotional impact, many parts of the book have a powerful wit and humour to them which made me linger over certain passages.

The immigrant experience in the US (although one could also say more generally) is captured in passages such as the one that follows, about the nail salon in which his mother works:

“In the nail salon, sorry is a tool one uses to pander until the word itself becomes currency. It no longer merely apologizes, but insists, reminds: I’m here, right here, beneath you. It is the lowering of oneself so that the client feels right, superior, and charitable. In the nail salon one’s definition of sorry is deranged into a new word entirely, one that’s charged and reused as both power and defacement at once. Being sorry pays, being sorry even, or especially, when one has no fault, is worth every self-deprecating syllable the mouth allows. Because the mouth must eat.”

The author later echoes his mother’s self-deprecation, while working on a tobacco plantation, when he meets his first lover for the first time:

“I would know only later that he was Buford’s grandson, working the farm to get away from his vodka-soaked old man. And because I am your son, I said “Sorry.” Because I am your son, my apology had become, by then, an extension of myself. It was my H

But the novel also touches on other issues in the US, like the impact of the marketing of oxycontin by the pharmaceutical industry to doctors leading to drug dependency among wide swathes of the US population and the overdose deaths of many of the author’s friends.

What I loved about the book was how real the author seemed in his thought patterns, in the realistic way memories flitted up during conversation and associations click in his mind, even if they weren’t verbalized by the character at that time. There is also an honesty to the portrayal of his sexual experiences which makes them rawer and more real. Think Peep Show‘s portrayal of sex without the comic aspect. I also liked how real his coming out conversation is with his mother, as the ball is taken completely out of his court as she confronts him with her own truths, which I think is part of a lot of people’s coming out experience.

One of the tidbits of cultural information about Vietnam was about the use of drag performers in funeral processions, which is similar but different to the gaudy performances at Taiwanese funerals:

“City coroners, underfunded, don’t always work around the clock. When someone dies in the middle of the night, they get trapped in a municipal limbo where the corpse remains inside its death. As a response, a grassroots movement was formed as a communal salve. Neighbors, having learned of a sudden death, would, in under an hour, pool money and hire a troupe of drag performers for what was called “delaying sadness” […] It’s through the drag performers’ explosive outfits and gestures, their overdrawn faces and voices, their tabooed trespass of gender, that this relief, through extravagant spectacle, is manifest. As much as they are useful, paid, and empowered as a vital service in a society where to be queer is still a sin, the drag queens are, for as long as the dead lie in the open, an othered performance. Their presumed, reliable fraudulence is what makes their presence, to the mourners, necessary. Because, grief, at its worst, is unreal. And it calls for a surreal response.”

Anyway, there’s so much more that I don’t really know how to describe, but a great read, would definitely recommend.

5/5