Monday, May 24, 2010

No, I Don't Need Another Half to Make Me Whole

My last blog received so many raves reviews that I am reticent to post another one. How can this post live up to the last one? Will I just crash and burn into the land of one hit wonders? The truth is, I could write about Hanoi all day and how much I love it and all of my day to day encounters, and while I do that as often as possible, this is afterall, a blog about ME... so my entries will contain smatterings of Aliceisms that hopefully my new readers will be able to tolerate :)

In my last entry, I spoke about my love of Hanoi and specifically how it is shaping me into a different person and allowing me the freedom to learn and discover new things about the world and myself. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there's more to life than the cocoon you've ensconced yourself in, and I think it took my moving here to fully recognize that.

One of the most difficult things I learned here was the impossibility of long distance relationships. When I moved here, I was in a relationship with a wonderful man in NYC, who truly has a heart of gold. I, we, truly believed that our love would be able to withstand the 12 hour time difference and the thousands of miles of distance. Somewhere along the way, we both realized that it was best to take a step back and accept that it simply wasn't working anymore. An amicable break up in which both parties had nothing but love and respect for each other.

This leads me to my newest learning experience: being single. This is an unknown territory for me and I find the whole thing a bit jarring. For the past four years, I've been part of a couple and before that I was always involved with someone. I can't remember a time from the age of sixteen that there wasn't a man in my life occupying my heart and attention. So this is the first time in ten years that I have been truly and utterly single. I must admit, I am having a complete panic attack about it, I don't really know what to do with myself. I'm really not interested in "going crazy" or even jumping into the "dating scene" (is there even one of those in Hanoi? I don't know)

I think it is perfectly fitting that this major life change is happening while I am out here exploring all kinds of realms that were unknown to me before. People are telling me to "embrace it" "love it" and "enjoy it" and maybe one day in the future I will be able to do all of these things but right now I am just learning how to be.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This is the Life That Everybody Asks for

I get asked, almost daily, when I am returning back to the US. When my little "adventure" and experiment is over. Let me answer you all, here and now. I have NO IDEA when I am returning, and I like it that way. I am going to stay in Hanoi until I stop loving it, and after Hanoi I don't know what I'll do. I may return to New York, or I may spend some time in France to bring me back to fluency, or maybe I'll live in London.

The truth is that I don't know and I don't feel like I should have to know. I don't feel like I am missing out on anything by not living in the US. Yes, of course I miss my family and friends, and there are moments (like my brother's 18th birthday or when K&D got engaged) that i wish I could've been a part of, but right now i feel like I am a part of something much bigger.

I feel like I am really living life, that i am enjoying everything it has to offer and that the opportunities out here are endless and exciting. Every day is an adventure. Some of my friends out here who read my blog have mentioned that I don't fully capture my whole life out here, that experiences and moments aren't shared with the rest of you. One even went as far to tell me that I'd be a terrible journalist (jerk) but I find that to share everything would be impossible...however if any of you are so inclined to take a trip out here, I'd be happy to show you my world.

Let's talk a bit about my world and why i don't want to leave it:
1. I live in an amazing house, in an amazing location with one cool roommate and one who I fight with daily but he's leaving in 8 days so hopefully by next week it'll be two cool roommates.
2. My job is three days a week. The guys I work with are two of the most hilarious enigmatic people that I've ever come across.
3. I am able to engage in a very enjoyable lifestyle and comfortable style of living here. I joined an amazing gym with a pool and I am often found poolside, working on my tan, sipping a cold beverage in my personal oasis from the hustle and bustle of this hectic city.
4. The people you meet while living as an expat are unlike the majority of those you'll come across at home. It takes a certain type of spirit to pack up and move to Asia, and so any stereotypes about nationalities must be disregarded. Most of the people I've met out here are educated, interesting, adventurous, and approach life with a fresh outlook.
5. Due to my incredible schedule, I am afforded the luxury of being able to hop on a plane and spend a long weekend (every weekend if I should so desire) in a different country or city and experience new things/culture
6. There are many more opportunities here for me right now than anywhere else
7. For the first time ever, I'm living life completely on my own terms. The only real responsibility I have is to myself.
8. I'm learning the meaning of growing up, being an adult and becoming independent
9. Hanoi is amazing. everything from the people, the food and vibe makes it difficult to not fall in love.
10. I'm happy.

So, that's where I am. Obviously life isn't perfect. Life as an expat means recognizing that most of the people you meet out here come with expiration dates, that they won't be here forever and inevitably the ones you become close and dependent on will leave you and there is a huge chance that you will never see them again. There are motorcycle accidents, lonely moments, internet outages, not having an oven, and the craving for a decent hamburger but I think the good by far outweighs the bad. The most important take away I've gotten is learning how to live in the moment, to take things as they come and to enjoy things while they last instead of worrying about what the future has in store.

Until next time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

There's Something Sexy About the Rain

I’ve been spending lots of time poolside working on my tan. While I know this makes me hideous by Hanoi standards, we all know that I have an obsession with being the perfect shade of bronze. Like any sun goddess, I realize that certain wardrobe choices and colors can to maximize your golden hue…

Yesterday, proud of my ever developing color, I made sure to wear a paper thin, billowy white top with a magenta pencil skirt. This was a great choice until my drive home from work (which is thirty five minutes) when the heavens opened up and pelted down for a solid fifteen minutes. Aside from the fact that the rain was coming down in hard drops (I was convinced I'd be covered in welts) at one point, a drop flew in my eye temporarily blinding me. I was driving through the busy streets of Hanoi (Kim Ma to be exact) completely drenched and driving with only one eye squinted open. Super attractive.

What did help rev up my va-va-voom factor though was the fact that my billowy white top was soaked completely through. This meant that I was driving through the streets of Hanoi for twenty minutes basically topless. Literally, I looked down and could count the freckles on my chest. At every stoplight I tried peeling the top away from my body but it was only a matter of seconds until it was plastered back to my skin.

Vietnam is a conservative country, and I, upon coming here abandoned my penchant for super short skirts/dresses and sky high heels to adhere to the cultural standards. What I couldn't predict was that the natural elements would eliminate me of the dignity I've been trying so hard to maintain whilst living here, or the reaction that it would have on the Vietnamese men who aren't used to seeing a woman's assets so readily on display. I endured close to a dozen "woohoo's" (the Vietnamese variation) on my long drive home and countless smiles and eyebrow raised head nods.

The positive is that this didn't happen on my way TO school, seeing as I've flashed the teachers enough

Note to self: Now might be a good time to stop procrastinating against buying a rain coat.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Power Junkie

I’ll admit it…I have having a bit of a mental breakdown and it’s driving me crazy. My ability to master my emotions and remain in control of everything seems to have dissipated as I slip into an abyss of crazy. Ok, perhaps that’s a little bit of a dramatization, but it’s the first time in a very long time where I feel like I am losing control.

Some may argue that this is a good thing. I’ve been told in the past that I am too de-attached, that I am emotionally inept, that getting through to me emotionally is nearly impossible. Somewhere along the way, I’d built up a fortress against seriousness and feelings. While I’ve never had an issue with it, many have and would say that what I consider to be a downward spiral as a step in the right direction.

I, however, hate it. I hate feeling this loss of control. I am not a fan of not having a grip on my emotions and feelings. I liked the almost glacial approach to emotions I embodied before my move here. Not knowing where I’m headed next is scary for me.

I wish I could cite the major stressful events surrounding my personal life as the cause for this shift, but I feel that I’ve dealt with crisis before in an effective almost robotic manner so I am grasping for excuses that simply won’t materialize.

For those of you who aren’t with me in Hanoi or don’t know me that well, don’t worry, I’m not totally off my rocker...:) I am simply in a different state of mind and being than I normally am, and I feel totally unequipped to deal with it. I’m used to being the one dealing with other people’s breakdowns and dramas, for not really having any of my own, for not oversharing…. I feel like the harder I try to revert back to my concept of normal then the farther I find myself immersed in the other side and it’s not where I want to be.

The guys I work with told me that at some point we all go through stages like this and that I should enjoy it. While I don’t know if I can go that far, I can commend myself in taking the first step to “recovery” by admitting that I have a problem.

On the bright side, this state of being will inevitably result in more interesting blog posts.


PS-In case you didn't pick up on it...the titles of my posts are usually lyrics from songs or song titles :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good Luck Shooting the Moon aka What's Wrong With Me?!

Pain. That's been the theme of the week. Every single day meant some kind of pain.

Monday was emotional as I had a very difficult conversation with a loved one. My Tuesday my heart was feeling better but I think it's because it passed along all of the pain to my stomach. I woke up Tuesday around 1am with what felt like a fire lit in my stomach, resulting in my laying in fetal position crying. Popped a lot of Pepto, went to work, and tried to forge through the next few hours all the while incessantly heckling my coworkers about what could be wrong with me and googling potential causes for my ailment...I thought it would go away by healthy living and not exerting myself too much.

On Friday, I did what any normal girl feeling lousy with the day off would do...I went to the spa to get pampered: manicure, pedicure, hair cut, foot massage and...leg wax. Now up until this point, I thought that I knew what real pain was. WAS I WRONG. In all of my years on Earth i have never experienced something to excruciating as getting my legs waxed (and that says something)and the worst part, for me, was knowing that this is something that i was not only a willing participant in, but that I was actually paying someone to do to me. I started questioning my sanity wondering what kind of a person I am that I'd pay to be tortured. I wanted to stop her so many times but I thought, "No Alice, tough it out." Then when i thought it was over I breathed a sigh of relief until she told me to TURN OVER and I thought I would really and truly die.

With my medical expertise (courtesy of my mother, WedMD and other internet sites) I surmised that my healthy eating and abstaining from all things fun meant that I was on the road to recovery until about 4am on Sunday morning when I woke up in a state. Making whimpering noises while clutching my stomach to no avail, it was undeniable at this point...there was something actually wrong with me and I needed medical attention. I was able to drag myself to L'Hopital Francais where I was given a doctor who was wonderful but spoke only Vietnamese and French. My French is ok...I can get by, but explaining medical terminology is difficult enough to do in ones native tongue let alone one that they are conversational (at best) in.

They proceeded to stick needles in me and have me undergo tests for approximately four hours. I had morphine injected into my veins for pain. I had an ULTRASOUND. When they mentioned "ultrasound" to me I thought it was just "xray" lost in translation, but's actually an ultrasound. Ultrasounds are the weirdest yet coolest things. Mine was actually a bit uncomfortable but they put the cool gel on my stomach (like in the movies!) and I was able to see on screen everything that the ultrasound was picking up.

I was told after my four hours of tests and one hour of waiting that I was "fine." That there was "nothing wrong with me." That I was "lucky." How, i wondered, could this be. How is it that I required an IV of morphine for pain yet there was NOTHING WRONG with me?! I know I'm a hypochondriac, I know i can be a bit of a baby but this is too much. They packed my purse full of medication and sent me packing?

Final injury of the day? Having my AMEX card denied.

Let's hope this week is relatively painless. My heart, stomach, and ego need a break.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Knew I Wouldn't Forget You, And So I Went and Let You Blow My Mind

First and foremost I would like to give a huge shout out to all of my amazing friends who have done extraordinary things to let me know they love and care about me.

DANNY MEZZ sent me mini eggs in a priority mail package
JESSICA DALES sent me amazing stationary
and then the whole music all know how musically obsessed I am. How one song can find its way to my heart and be on repeat for two weeks straight. So shout outs to Chris Sotillo, Josephine, FCH, and my roommate Shaun for opening my eyes to some cool tunes.

I know it sounds corny but even getting an email from someone truly brightens my day so keep them coming

Secondly I've compiled a list of things that have struck me recently:
1. My decision drive with headphones is a stupid one.
2. When I get drunk I have really awkward conversations with people. usually about food or speaking French. What's most troubling is that this occurs mainly with people I don't know but potentially have to see again
3. Securing a PO Box in Hanoi isn't difficult but extremely tedious
4. Apparently the grocery store is the new hot spot to pick up girls
5. I live with two guys now. It is no longer appropriate to walk around in a tank top and underwear. or a towel. I've forgotten this several times. I bought a robe to remedy the situation
6. Tequila makes me do idiotic things. Like losing my keys so trying to break down the gate to my house by going to the other side of the road and charging it.
7. I've gone from being reticent in discussing my personal life and emotions to being a chronic oversharer
8. I like cheese now. (For those of you who didn't know this...I DIDN'T EAT CHEESE!!! From the age of 5 years old i stopped eating cheese and it wasn't until the other night when Henri brought home some fabulous wine, cheese and baguette and offered me some and I refused citing my dislike for it that he, Shaun, and Lena basically told me I had to try it and so I did...I am kicking myself missing out on the wonders of good cheese for the past 21 years)
9. French, English, and Vietnamese are not good secret languages to use in Hanoi. Chances are someone will understand you. So if you are going to talk unfavorably about someone in a "foreign language" (which you should NEVERRRRRR do!) then make sure it's not in those three...I've heard Spanish is a good option but personally I am going to suggest that my friends and I take up Polish or Danish.
10. I'm a bad influence on myself.

Songs that are on repeat on my ipod and brain. If there is an star next to it that means that I dance around my room listening to it.
*1. White Knuckles-Ok go!
2. Sweet Emotion-Aerosmith
*3.Does this mean you're moving on?-Airborne Toxic Event (the whole album actually)
4. I Got you-Leona Lewis
*5. Stole My heart-Little and Ashley
6.+7 Paper Bag AND Mistake-Fiona Apple
8. Along for the Ride-Mates of State
*9. I don't feel like dancing-Scissor Sisters
10. Hey Soul Sister-Train

And as always the Battle Studies album, all of KOL, "Run Run Run", "Brown Sugar", "The Fear", and Julian Perretta

Last but certainly not least-Congratulations to Keeley and Danny. two of my favorite people in the world are getting married. your kids will most likely be hideous but at least they'll have really good personalities.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

"It's Better Than a Mango Even!!!!"

Only a select few of you will understand the title of this blog post so I will provide you with some insight (around 1:48 mark)

Last week, when my fabulous visitors descended upon the streets of Hanoi, they came bearing gifts. Lots of makeup, crest white strips, self tanner and an ipod.

I've been using the not having an ipod thing (since it was stolen)as an excuse to not work out. Before the ipod excuse I was claiming i couldn't find a gym.

The reality is that I haven't worked out since September, and let's be honest even before September I wasn't known for my dedication to the gym. However, the combination of the delicious Hanoi food and the fact that I have started drinking (for those of you who don't know, my drinking was a rarity in New York) I've noticed that I am getting puffier and I can't deny it. I need to hit up the gym. So I joined a fancy schmancy gym with an outdoor pool that I plan to visit four times a week.

My gym does very helpful things like play the Fashion channel on the tv so just in case i was feeling ready to get off the treadmill, I look up and see Gisele and instead just increase the pace at which I am running. The treadmills also face the pool which is good and bad. bad because obviously I see sun, lounge chairs and water and just want to abandon my goal of not being a fat blob...but good because I think that I will look less blobish in my bathing suit if I keep running. I can already predict that this will be a daily struggle. part of me prays for rain to force me to work out but another part of me knows that if it rains I will avoid commuting to the gym. I'll keep you posted.

The positive note is one of the guys at the gym called me "Alice in WONDERFUL-land" and gave me a mango.

Just Too Busy Being Fabulous

I am aware of the fact that I haven't written a "Vietnam blog post" in over a month, but as you can see from the title of this one, I've been just too busy being fabulous :) I am, however, flattered and amused by the outcry that my absence has ensued and the many emails and facebook messages asking me to post.

For a while, I attempted to keep bullet points of the funny happenings in my life in the past month but gave that up as well so I'll do my best to capture the essence of it all.

The first and most important thing to address is my change of location. Hard as it was to leave My Dinh behind, I forced myself to pack up and move into a three story house in the Old Quarter. The house is, amazing. It's a short walk to everything downtown. (In NYC terms: It's like moving from Stamford to Soho) I LOVE my house. I love everything about it! I have two roommates who are great, very cool and fun.

I also have a new job. This is also an exciting and sweet deal as I only have to work from Tuesdays through Thursdays from 8-4. This means that every weekend is a four day weekend. Being a generally lazy person, this arrangement suits me well. I need a job that doesn't interfere too much with the things I actually want to do in life.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of events...concerts, film festivals, fun nights out with friends and I had my first visitors to Hanoi and we had a seriously wonderful time with them. However, their visit has resulted in my having to join a gym :)

Ok, well this blog post is incredibly boring, so boring in fact that i don't want to write it anymore. Now that you have the cliff notes version of my life I promise I'll update more regularly and resume my (hilarious and witty) writing of my interesting encounters and daily life in Hanoi.

Until then.