Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Second Chances

I have a confession to make. I was horribly, horribly depressed upon returning to Hanoi. My first weekend was ok, because it was the excitement of seeing everyone again and them being excited to see me that kept my adrenaline jumping, but after that wore off I sunk in to a state of deep despair.

Despite my presence on twitter and in the blog world, I consider myself to be a strangely private person...I rarely tend to discuss my emotions or "put myself out there" so I spent my days of gloom essentially locked in my bedroom avoiding the outside world. I've always figured that no one really wants to hear your problems anyway, especially when your problem is largely a case of self pity, which mine was. It all started going downhill when I was at a party and I realized that I knew a lot less people than I thought. This happens in the expat world, because people come and go. I seem to have a knack of choosing friends who are here for the short term instead of seeking out the expats who've established a life for themselves here. I spent the entire evening thinking about my friends who left, the ones who are planning to leave and doubting whether I'd be able to find more friends. I'm actually pretty shy by nature and don't often initiative conversation or contact.

So I literally spent 36 hours feeling sorry for myself, refusing to go out, canceling all of my plans and leaving emails and texts unreturned. a Real joy. But as I said, I hate "sharing" or forcing my grumpiness on others. I was convinced that I had made the wrong decision to return to Hanoi. That my life, was in fact, in New York, and that's where I should be. I wondered countless times why I would leave something so incredible and what I was thinking coming here.

However, at some point without my realizing it, Hanoi won me over again. Its navigating through the windy and overcrowded streets didn't make me feel anxious and angry but comfortable and content. Being shouted at by ze om drivers stopped irritating me and I started to absorb everything that was going on around me. All the Hanoi has to offer, from culinary delights to culture, or the melting pot of people that bring different perspectives, it's eccentric charm that can leave one frustrated and exhilarated at the same time. Fighting over how much something costs, playing charades to explain what you want, shooing away an overfriendly ze om drivers hand on your leg (does anyone else have to deal with that?) are all par for the course, things I've come to expect and and enjoy. That somehow, somewhere all of the things that make Hanoi chaotic and stressful are the things that make me love it the most, and establish why it is that I came back.

Friday, September 10, 2010

And This Ain't No Place For the Weary Kind

Transitioning back into "work mode" after six weeks of frolicking around is no simple task, especially when having to adjust to a different culture as well. The process was two fold but I survived my first week back at work but not without a few bumps along the way but I survived my first week back at work )however not without a few bumps along the way.)

My first day back, I woke up feeling fresh and relatively ready to go...but it wasn't long before my first mishap occurred. Early into my thirty five minute drive to school, I discovered the front wheel of my bike was flat. I had thought the bike was driving oddly but thought maybe because it was a bike I'm not used to(I'm borrowing my friend since he isn't using it)

Upon making the discovery, I realized that I had very limited options. I could ditch the bike somewhere and take a xe om but feared that it wouldn't be there when I returned for it. I was going to drop it at a friends house along the way and retrieve it later in the afternoon but his gate was locked. So I did the only thing I could...I drove on it...all the way to My Dinh. It was bumpy and shaky and slow and every three seconds a Vietnamese person would shout at me about my flat tire. I kept pushing myself forward in my head..."Ok Alice, almost at the Daewoo...ok Alice at the roundabout....ok Alice at the bridge." I had concluded that I'd drop the bike off at the gas station near work and then just walk from there, which I did. I arrived at work at a reasonable time considering...but gross and drenched in sweat with the thought that this MUST be a bad omen.

In terms of work, I think I managed to forge through without too many blunders but, per usual, I was subjected to an inexplicable act of assault from one of my students who thought that my shin looked like a good target for kicking practice. I wish i could say this was an isolated incident but unfortunately, it occurs on an almost weekly basis. for a disciplinary standpoint, I'm not allowed to do anything other than reason with the student which, as you can imagine is wildly unsuccessful.

Apart from that, everything is seeming to fall back into place. I've embraced my way of life that includes twelve hour work days leaving me almost comatose with exhaustion upon arriving home each evening. I should be used to this pace of life having lived and worked in NYC for as long as I did, but this is a completely different level of draining. One that I am learning a lot form but don't think I could keep up in the long term.

Before I left Hanoi this summer, I'd established quite the work-life balance (aka burning the candle at both ends) which i haven't been able to adopt just yet. I'm still working on that. I can't express how wonderful it is to know that my official "work week" is over on Thursday and that I can use the weekend to recharge, relax and restore whatever sanity I have left.

Welcome back.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Are You my Soul Mate? Cause If So...You're a Blessing

I was having a conversation the other day with someone who claimed it was easy to figure out what people wanted, that all you had to do is listen to what they say. Seems like an obvious statement yet so many fail at being able to comprehend what makes those around them tick. Intrigued, I asked him what he thought I wanted and without hesitation he replied with “a soul mate.”

I’ve never denied that I am indeed a hopeless romantic but I had no idea I was that transparent (especially not to someone who only knew me a mere matter of hours). I admit that I’ve never hid the fact that my ultimate life desire is to find the person who makes the world make sense, who would be able to make me stop all my antics and just be. I am not saying I actively seek this person out, not at all. In fact, I truly believe that finding this person is by sheer circumstance of timing, luck and compatibility. It can’t be sought, rather than discovered. However, I read this quote the other day:

“People think your soul mate is your perfect fit and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet because they'll tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it”

After reading this quote my whole perception of what a soul mate is changed. Maybe I had gotten it all wrong. Maybe this quote is right, that to be “complete” we don’t need someone who matches us but someone who compels us to complete ourselves. With this mentality, though, does that mean we can have more than one soul mate? That perhaps we have several that come in and out of our lives, changes us and then leaves us a more astute person? Does the soul mate have to be a romantic partnership or can it be in the form of a friend, colleague or mentor? I’m inclined to believe that we learn more from people we’re in love with because we all have an aching need to fulfill those we adore in the way we want to fulfill us.

If the above quote is true than I can safely say that around six months ago, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon my soul mate (or at least one of them) someone who enchanted and infuriated me at the same time. Someone who called me out on all of my ridiculousness, who forced me to face my flaws with grace and maturity (while expecting to embrace my attributes), someone who wasn’t afraid to tell me when I was wrong and what I needed to do to become a better person. Someone who made me WANT to become a better person. It’s never easy to have all of your defenses stripped down and shown a picture of yourself that the world sees, rather than the one you idealistically paint for yourself, but I think it was the most important discovery I’ve made. On top of many things that I realized about myself, it was the first time I’ve ever been made to feel truly accountable for myself and my actions. I hated it and loved it with an equal passion but can confirm it’s one of the relationships I’ve ever had in my life that’s had the most impact. It changed me and continues to do so to this day.

Just as the above quote predicted, certain elements of the relationship had to fizzle out, but it never completely imploded (his words) and from an intellectual standpoint the connection is as strong as ever. I am lucky enough to have walked away relatively unscathed, having learned a lot about myself, about relationships and about life. I also left with a real friendship, one that allows me to continue to explore dimensions of my personality and self I had refused to encounter before.

If I decide to embrace the above quote then there are two things I have to accept: 1. that I’ve accomplished a life goal, since I found my soul mate and 2. whoever I end up with in the long term is, I fact, not my soul mate but just someone that I love, am compatible with and am able to sustain a mutually beneficial connection with. This is a little bit jarring to my “hopeless romantic” and “idealistic” outlook on life and love. It goes against everything I’ve ever believed in and aspired but it made me think. So I’ve taken certain elements of the quote and applied them into a new way of thinking however, I don’t think my former vision will completely dissipate, I doubt I’ll ever be a realist. I like romance too much, and the above quote quells any notion of true romance. I want to keep grasping on to this idea that our soul mate is our other half, the missing piece to a complex puzzle, the person we’re end up with, not someone who leaves when the work is done. I won’t discount that verity of the quote, since, as I mentioned above, I found a form of soul mate that came with an experience that I value above many other things…but at the same time I think I’ll hold onto the fairytale notion until proven completely otherwise

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Tangled Up in Blue

Every time I land at Noi Bai airport I am struck with the same realization Oh my gosh, I live in Vietnam. Really, you'd think I'd be used to it by now but the concept of it, at times, is still an abstract novelty. By now, I am able to navigate the chaotic streets with relative ease but the fact that I'm living this bizarre yet incredible life is not lost on me.

As I mentioned previously, it was very difficult for me to leave home this time. I thought it would be easy and painless, and was surprised in fact to find how easily I morphed back into a "New York state of mind" during my six week stint there, I really felt that i had progressed so much since moving here, that New York was great but that it was nothing compared to my adventures here.

I'm still "New York sick" but found that once I was in a cab heading home (laughing at the fact that my only "real" address these days is in Vietnam) that it was like I never left. Almost. I unpacked all of my things, and within hours I was immersed back into the Hanoi scene. It's kind of incredible to me that in 36 hours I am seamlessly able to transition from having drinks on the roof of the Soho House to eating street food and listening to music at Cinematheque.

Two solid days later, I've fallen back into my old routine. Same friends. Same habits. Same bars. The only thing that's different is me. When I left for vacation I was convinced that I wasn't ready to be a US resident for a while and this trip made me question that, so I am still pining a little bit for home. However, I have a feeling in the weeks to come (which will surely include several bowls of stellar pho) that the gnaw will dull and I'll be imagining how I could ever go back to NYC.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Leaving New York, Never Easy

Just when I thought I was getting good at goodbyes and moving on, I regressed. Standing in Alex's apartment surrounded by my luggage, already running four minutes late, I broke into sobs declaring that I didn't want to go back to Asia, that I belonged in New York.

I can attribute this little breakdown to a combination of severe sleep deprivation coupled with the realization that I'd once again be leaving the comfort zone which I had allowed myself to slip so easily back into, the one that allows me to be near my family and with all of my best friends, living out our lives together rather than digitally explaining what's been going on.

This is a far cry from my last post, I know. And while I can sincerely say that I meant everything I wrote last time, that it was a bit naive of me to think that spending six glorious weeks in my former life would have no emotional repercussions. I know I am happy in Hanoi, that I have things there I have/want to get done, but it was much harder saying goodbye to NYC and the US then i thought it would be.

I also blame my slight regression on my friends and family who are simply wonderful. Every moment spent with them was a reminder of why I am a truly lucky and blessed person. With them I am able to completely be myself and there is never a dull moment. Things aren't perfect-I was kicked out of an apartment, verbally abused via bbm, and had moments of drunken ridiculousness but those moments were all countered by every thing else. I wish I could write down all of the crazy antics that occurred while I was in the US-I covered San Fran, Florida was just FAMILY, BEACH, BOOKS, MOVIES, and Wender.

Every night out in New York with my friends results in the kind of story that we tell for years to come. It's never dull, always crazy (for better or for worse)it's hectic, exhilarating, and exactly how i remember it. I think that's the best part-that despite being gone for seven months, that I was just able to slip back into the routine like i never left. That to me, is the sign of solid friendships. I'm looking forward to my next return.

Meanwhile it's 4:30 am in my hotel room in Tokyo. I arrived at 2pm, finally got through customs and my bag around 3 and was going to check into my hotel and explore Tokyo. i am embarrassed to say that the past few extremely late nights coupled with a 12 hour flight caught up with me and I didn't leave my room. The lure of a hot bath (which was amazing aside from the tub being a little small for my 5'10 frame)and a soft fluffy bed won over the bright lights and bustle of Japan's capital.

Next time. In the meantime, I should try and go back to sleep...I'm going home tomorrow :)