Monday, June 28, 2010

Waka Waka

Apologies for any of you who endured the torture of my last post, I was having a really bad day and took it out o the cyberworld. As you may notice, it was deleted ad I'll avoid long whiny poor me posts in the future. Let's talk about something fun: the World Cup.

I have been getting really into the World Cup. While I don’t pay much THAT much attention to what’s going happening on the screen, I enjoy the camaraderie and atmosphere that the event brings. I like the social aspect. All of Hanoi has come together ad joined in cheering on their respective teams and each match is a new opportunity to have fun and meet cool people. (Even though my three teams are all out...)

I’ve always enjoyed sporting events, my boyfriend in New York thought I was “so awesome” for watching Sunday football with him and his friends, but the truth is I love wings and beer, and sports are a good excuse to indulge.

The World Cup has thrown my "Bali diet" and "no drinking in June" aspirations out the window. I have been a garbage disposal consuming pizza, beer, hamburgers, nachos, fish&chips, fajitas and beer o a nightly basis. Usually I've managed to be responsible, limiting myself to three or four beers for the whole night but after England's embarrassing defeat, I drowned my sorrows on a pretty intense level and the night got a bit uh, crazy.

ON TOP of my usual awkwardness (actions, texts, and comments) these are the things I did last night that could qualify as ridiculous:
1) Upon getting dropped off IN FRONT OF MY DOOR, I proceeded to get lost and wander down my road for a block or two.
2) 4 shots of tequila and one of vodka and Tabasco and about eight beers
3 Going around Jaspa’s taking an “unofficial poll” of the men there on the subject of “Would you write a love letter to a woman that you were interested in?” and forcing them to answer the question.

(My) Songs of the Week:
Darrelle London-Bad
Mates of State-The ReArranger (and My Only Offer)
from the Nine soundtrack-Unusual Way
Lucky Boys Confusion-City Lights (and Broken)
My Favorite Highway-Bittersweet Life
Dierks Bentley-Sideways
Howie Day-So, Goodbye
Jay-Z-On to the Next One
Passion Pit-Sleepyhead (and Moth's Wings)(and Little Secrets)
Sophie B. Hawkins-As I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Into the Wild

It's hot in Hanoi. Stiflingly hot. The kind of hot that makes you seriously consider giving up all forms of social activity and just cocoon yourself in a cold, dark air conditioned room. It's not as if heat is foreign to me, I grew up in Florida. Living in Hanoi this summer makes me abandon any notion of looking attractive, it's impossible. Make up melts off your face, hair frizzes the instant the air hits it and clothes are soaked through within five minutes of walking around. Suffice it to say that my efforts to be cute and fashionable are put on the back burner, I stick to the basics these days...going for the "natural look and of course showering three of four times a day.

Today I hit a new all time low. In Vietnam, it is common for the power to just shut off for hours at a time. This is slightly annoying, especially if it's nighttime, you're mid blow dry, or you're Skyping your parents and you suddenly disappear, but it's usually nothing life altering. Today, when I woke up I discovered we had no power. I figured by the time I got back from the gym and my errands that everything would return back to normal. It wasn't. Oh,I thought, I am going to have to shower in the dark Not the worst thing in the world but obviously not my favorite thing to do. I peel off my soaked gym clothes, run to the bathroom and turn on the water. Nothing. Tried the sink. Nothing. This has never happened. Being the resourceful, quick thinker that I am, I don't panic. I used my well honed strategic thinking skills to quickly think of a solution. I ran to the fridge and pulled out my two giant water bottles that I had purchased earlier. I proceeded to soak myself with one bottle, lather up and then rinse off with the other.

While I am a big fan of the simple things in life and often daydream about traveling back to the Victorian era, I do have an appreciation for the comforts in life such as running water, and my "old fashioned" way of showering today didn't have quite the romantic connotation as a Keats poem does.

I am hopeful that when I return home from Puku (cafe where I am typing this) that all will be restored and I wash my hair, sit in my cold dark room, and return to the 21st century.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

You're Never Too Busy To Get What You Want

When I was a junior in college, I read the book, “He’s Just Not That Into You” and am embarrassed to say that it changed my life. It forced me to look at relationships (all kinds) through a different perspective, one that dragged me down from fantasy land to reality.

While relationships (both platonic and romantic) are not always easy to maintain, we are compelled by human nature to put forth effort to the ones we hold dear to us. If someone is important to us, we find a way to ensure that they remain a presence in our lives, regardless of where we are in the world or how busy we are.

This statement seems obvious but often times we forget it and allow ourselves to get caught up in one sided relationships, where only one party is putting in all the work and struggling to keep the connection going. We justify it to ourselves by telling ourselves how important this person is to us, that we want them in our life or that we can’t imagine life without them. This is all very well and good but the important question we should be asking ourselves is: Is it mutual? If we stopped making an effort, would they still be in our lives? Would they text/email/call? Do they care as much as we do? Does our presence in their lives have as much bearing as theirs does on ours?

Usually, if we’re even engaging ourselves in this internal monologue, we know what the answer is (it’s no!) However, sometimes, because we tend to live in denial we need some kind of “proof.” A good way to gather this kind of evidence is by moving to different country and see how many of your “loved ones” actively pursue keeping the lines of communication open. Another is to take a step back, stop contacting the person/people in question and let them come to you. This is so difficult to do, excruciating at times, but an effective method that should serve as a wake up call.

I’ve had several instances in the past few months where I’ve had to implement the latter into my life, and as demoralizing as it was, realized that I’ve been chasing relationships that I could never catch up with. That I was running in a race with myself. That I just needed to let go.

He’s Just Not That Into To You” may have been written about romantic relationships but some of its lessons can be applied to all kinds of relationships. It reminds us to examine our relationships:

To remember that you’re never too busy to get what you want. If someone wants to talk to you and have you be a part of their lives, they’ll make time for that to happen.

Stop making exceptions for people

It’s pretty obvious when someone cares and someone doesn’t Realize when to move on. There are plenty of people who are aware of how awesome you are and want you around. Focus on them.

Friendships/Relationships shouldn’t be that hard. You shouldn’t have to be constantly seeking approval or trying to prove yourself. The people who matter will love and accept you for who you are.

The more time I stay out here, the more evident it becomes who will be in my life for the long term. While I am sad by some of my fleeting friendships/relationships, I’m happy knowing the ones who I’ll be surrounded with are the ones who truly matter.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Contradictions Get Me Everything I Want

It’s no secret that I get bored very easily. Even in simple conversations, I bounce around from topic to topic. My mind is always racing. I am always in search of fun and excitement. I can’t sit still for very long, I like to be busy. I’ve had more “life plans” than I can count. These plans are always changing. Some people may call it unstable or crazy, but I think it is a simple matter of having no idea what I want.

While I take this approach to life unabashedly (as I see nothing wrong with “keeping things interesting”) but I am aware that my running around in circles can make those around me feel dizzy. Those who “try to figure me out” are sorely out of luck, since I’ve yet to figure myself out. I never know my next move, I improvise as I go along.

I think most people would agree that, at times, I am a walking contradiction. I am all or nothing, never really knowing how to find the middle ground. My life is either a frenzy rushing from a work 12-hour work day to dinner with friends OR taking the easy road, not really working hard and retreating into my own space in my “free time”

I find that the more I work, the harder I work at my social life as well. As much as I cherish and love my “Alice-time” as my friends from home call it, I am a social creature by nature. I like to be around people and the idea that I’m achieving healthy work-life balance.

These days, I’m a workaholic. This happens every once in a while. I become consumed with work and let it take over my life. I take on many projects and am always rushing from one place to another. I’ve noticed that this usually coincides with a sense of loss or extreme boredom. When I don’t know what to do with myself, the obvious choice seems to be throwing myself into my “career”

So that’s where I am right now. I am in the mindset of working hard, getting things done, creating new fantastic life plans and being completely exhausted. =)

(My) Songs of the week
1. Muse-Time is Running Out
2. Smashing Pumpkins-Perfect
3. My favorite highway-bad habits
4. Jay z-On To The Next One
5. Tom Petty-You Don't Know It It Feels
and the new Eminem album

PS-Happy Early Birthday to The Only Living Girl in Paris aka my friend Francesca (she has a great blog as well)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Heat is On in Saigon

I fell in love with Saigon this weekend. I went knowing I’d like it but was surprised how quickly I fell under its spell. There are some cities that, when walking around, I feel completely comfortable, at ease, and that moving there would be a seamless transition. Saigon is one of those cities (London and San Francisco are the others)

Saigon manages to possess the perfect blend of western modern while maintaining an exotic Asian feel. The city has an energy to it that is infectious, and the kind of beauty that brings you back in history while never letting you feel out of touch.

I had a discussion with a friend a while back about our idea of the perfect place to live. We both expressed the desire to live in a bustling city with a mild climate that was close to the beach. We, at the time, agreed that it was very difficult to find a city like that, so concessions are usually made. Coincidentally, the same friend was in Saigon and it didn’t take long for us to conclude that Saigon, in fact, could claim many of the ideal qualities we were seeking.

The city itself is stunning, very easy to navigate and has the luxury of real pavements. You can wander around daydreaming without worrying about getting hit by a motorbike. The people, from what I saw, seemed more open-minded and friendly, and it’s a more accessible city, both from within in Vietnam, or to other parts of the world.

Saigon isn't perfect. Obviously. In fact, when I was there I had a nasty experience of someone trying to steal my bag (which contained my passport, camera, wallet etc) around 5pm in the afternoon. They made way with some useless item that was at the top of my bag and proceeded to rip it in the process (jerks) but even this doesn't dissuade me from loving this city. I would also say that food in Saigon is not as good as the food in Hanoi. Saigon's food is too sweet, and would take some getting used to.

I in no way want to disparage Hanoi, as I have a special relationship with this place. I have had many happy memories here, have been enchanted by the people I met, have loved the arts scene and found the city to be chaotic frenzy with a charming small town feel at the same time. It’s not that I don’t adore Hanoi, it’s just that I think I’m in love with Saigon.

It’s only a matter of time before I’m a Saigonian.

(on an unrelated note, people are always asking me for recommendations and what’s on my playlist-which is weird because my music taste is questionable, but here’s what on repeat on my itunes) :
Bob Dylan-Emotionally Yours*** and Tangled Up in Blue
Sister Hazel-Beautiful Thing****
Jay Z-Young Forever
Julian Perretta-anything and everything (not the name of a song. just mean that I love everything by him)
Passion Pit-Moth’s wings
Phoenix-Long Distance Call
Ok Go-White Knuckles (I am beyond obsessed)*********
Charlie Mars-Close to Home
Maroon Five-If you only knew***
Jewel-Stay Here Forever***

*** marks especially overplayed

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Don't Feel Like Dancing, Dancing

I normally don't post back to back, but I felt like this evenings events warranted an exception to my rule.

Since I am re-entering the realm of social activity after a hiatus (see previous post)I am throwing myself into "the Hanoi scene." Tonight this meant heading to the Press Club for their "Friday Night at the terrace."I must admit, that I've been there a total of four times now, and each and every time I've stayed less than an hour and a half on account of the fact that I find it very boring and borderline creepy (I go because my friends go) Tonight was no exception except something weird happened to me.

I was on the dance floor (not dancing) and this Vietnamese girl runs up to me, in the haze of the lights and not wearing contacts I thought it was my friend Natali so i got very excited.i soon realized that it wasn't as she literally yanked me off the dance floor to "talk to me." Immediately my mind goes into panic mode, my paranoid mother made me grow up convinced men could be hiding in the bushes and sub sequentially I've somehow developed an irrational fear of being kidnapped and sold. I digress.

She brings me into the main room where there are three other girls there. They explain that it's a modeling agency and that there is "a big expat party" at a bar the following night. They say that their clients want "tall pretty girls" to dance around the DJ/on stage to get the crowd going. "Don't worry, it's not showing underwear or anything." They ended their pitch with saying I'd be getting paid 1.3m VND. They then told me that I'd need to go with them right now and meet the client.

You may be surprised to hear that I turned the opportunity down. I need the money. I've spent too much on plane tickets, but even I have my limits. The idea of dancing around with full hair and makeup and some skanky outfit and getting paid for it is outside outside the lines that I am willing to cross. I found the whole thing and idea of it to be VERY sketchy and almost degrading.

I don't feel like dancing, no sir, no dancing today.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Another One Bites The Dust

I am terrible at saying goodbye. Even as a young child, when my parents used to go to out for the evening (leaving me with a babysitter) I would cling to their legs or chase them out the door. I don't like being left. I also don't like leaving because I constantly wonder about what I am leaving behind, what I am missing out on.

Being an expat, saying goodbye (on a regular basis) to the people you care about is par for the course. I mentioned that (mostly) everyone you meet out here has an expiration date, and you just have to deal with it. My ability to say goodbye has not improved, so when one of my favorite people in Hanoi (and ever) left this week, I fell apart. The weeks leading up to his departure, all of my other friends were cast aside in favor of him. I wanted to drink in as many last moments as I could.

That's another thing about being an expat that I mentioned...the people you meet out here are different than the ones you meet back home. the expats or the nomadic travelers don't fit into the stereotypical molds of whatever country the come from, they break the taboo, cross boundaries, and make you look at the world in a different light.

My friend, who just left, is an example of that and has left me with something very special, something I can't even really put into words. Let me stumble around and try:

I grew up in a very well educated, worldly family who all hold very different viewpoints that they are equally passionate about... so it's no surprise that nothing excites me more than a compelling argument or a thought provoking discussion. I like to read, I like to argue about philosophy and politics, I love hypothetical and "what is the meaning of" questions. For the most part, it seems, I don't engage in such antics with the people I surround myself with. Maybe it's my fault, or maybe I've been shut down one too many times by people who thought my provocative questions were "a little much" or I'd be told "that's enough, Alice," "ok I get it." Those words are always such a blow because I want to think and be heard, just like i want to hear others thoughts and outlooks. To me, that's what makes the world interesting place.

On first glance, my friend seemed almost stereotypical American (apart from the fact that he's lived all over the world) but upon further inspection I soon discovered that my first impression couldn't have been any more off base. He and I spent hours upon hours debating everything from "how do you think time works?" to philosophers, world theories, politics and "hot button" issues, why people get married and lots and lots of talks about books. No topic was off limits and never once was I told "that's enough"...more like encouraged to go on and have my views either challenged or agreed with.

Not only did this friendship result in constant mental stimulation but it made me feel smart and start valuing different things. It made me not care if I didn't look pretty that day (I stopped wearing make up.) It gave me a realization that there were far too many times that I took the easy way out, played 'dumb" and sold myself short intellectually. It is more apparent now that I need the constant state of mental ablaze, that I can't-and won't-be able to settle for anything less. Most importantly, it made me truly believe that I had MUCH more to offer than I have been previously allowing people (and myself) to see.

So thank you for that, and I miss you.