Monday, December 19, 2011

Keep On Keeping On Like a Bird That Flew

I have spoken in the past about one of the most difficult aspects of life as an expat are the goodbyes. More often than not, people are going to leave the foreign land they've been spending their time in, and when they do so, they'll be leaving behind people who love and care for them. The bonds between expatriates form so much faster and seem so much stronger than some of the relationships with people back home that we've known for years. it's partially because we have the whole isolation factor, as an expat we really are "in it together" and the other contributing factor would be there is an instant sense of solidarity due to the fact that we have something in common. We're all sharing something similar. We know how the other person feels, which is a powerful notion.

It can be overwhelming at times too, this warped sense of reality. I find that time is measured differently here. When I meet someone in America or Europe, it takes me several months to build up a friendship with them. In Asia, you meet and 10 minutes later you're making plans for a bike trip that weekend. It's lovely in a way but it also intensities everything and distorts perception. A day is still a day, a week, just a week, and a month is still just a blink in the grand scheme of life. It may feel like an eternity but later on in life, looking back, it'll seem fleeting.

I am lucky that I have met incredible and inspirational people, some that are still here, and some that have left and are scattered all over the world. There are now so many cities I can visit and have a close friend who lives there. We may not speak that frequently but we have a connection that will remain in existence for the rest of our lives.

For someone like me (who hates goodbyes) living here has been difficult at times, I'd get depressed at each departure. Cry and be miserable. I still don't handle goodbyes well. I simply don't handle them. I selfishly miss out on goodbye drinks or get togethers. It makes me seem like a callous bitch, and in some ways perhaps I am one. Or maybe I am just immature. I don't have an "out of sight out of mind" mentality, I don't think goodbye means the end of a relationship, however I don't want to make a deal about it. I'd rather pretend that it's not happening, that everything is the same.

There are, of course, some goodbyes that are much worse than others. Expats are just like everyone in the world, they want and enjoy having affection in their lives, so people start dating. And unless you're dating a local, or extremely lucky, chances are that the object of your attention hails from a different locale than you do. And that they're on a different time schedule than you. While you're living in the safety of your expat bubble this doesn't matter, you have each other and everything is perfect, but inevitably, if you're both foreigners, someone is going to have to leave. That's where the difficulty comes in. Do you leave the relationship behind? Cherish the memories but move on? Or do you romanticize that what you had was real, and will be real no matter where you are or how many miles are between you.

I don't think there is a set answer for that. In fact, i think the only thing we can do in life, is just go with it. I am a control freak. I like to know what's going to happen, to be able to manage expectations but one of the major lessons I've learned out here is that life is unpredictable. Especially if you choose to involve another individual. We never know what's going to happen. But then again, would we know what's going to happen in our home country? I have fallen out of love or stopped being friends with people when i was living in the same city as them, just because that's life, and that's a part of it.

I used to make all of these rules for myself: I told myself that i wouldn't start friendships with anyone who had less than six months left. I said I wouldn't date long distance. I said I wouldn't date at all. None of these have worked, because they can't.

Trying to predict or control something something as capricious as relationships is pointless. I have people in my life that i spent one week with traveling through some part in Asia that I speak to on a regular basis, but people that I grew up with, shared my secrets with, I barely hear from now that I'm not in their direct line of sight.

It recently hit me that all my life I have been so focused with the destination that I haven't really stopped to look around at the journey. So in the past month i have managed to refocus and re prioritize and kind of stop thinking so much. (I'm not suggesting that i float through without any goals or aspirations, but there are some things that perhaps I need to relinquish control of.)

I do have personal and professional goals for myself but I am not sticking to this rigid track, as I think that only imposes limitations. I am letting people in my life because I want them there, and am not thinking within long term timeline but rather whether I feel a connection with them or not. Maybe they won't physically be in the same country as me in a week or a month or a year but I've stopped thinking that matters so much. Geography and demographics might complicate things but things have a way of working themselves out. People don't have to be an arms reach away to be important, to be present, to profoundly affect you. I refuse to close myself off to things because of logistics or proximity, because as I said, I've been witness to these things not mattering.

I could write a long list of things that I should or shouldn't be doing, people I should run away from....or I could just do what feels right and enjoy what life has to offer without trying to plan it all out first.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving. Where Americans take one day out of their lives to stop complaining about everything that’s wrong in their world and concentrate on how lucky they are. I am as guilty as everyone else, fixating on what could be better rather than basking in the fortunes already bestowed on me.

This is now my second Thanksgiving abroad, the first one that I will be spending family-less (last year my brother was living here and we had pho.) and I will of course do the whole “soul searching and figuring out what I am so thankful for”

I’ll fire off the obvious ones, like I always do:

1. My family. I ramble on and on about how amazing they are. I won’t bore you again, but my appreciation for them is immeasurable. While I have always known this, recently, the importance of family has been much more apparent to me. My bonds and desire for proximity have increased. I hate spending the holidays without them.

2. My job. I have one. It may not be what I want to do for the rest of my life but I have a job when so many people don’t. And my job is interesting, unpredictable, it allows me to challenge myself, explore options, and provide a nice life for myself.

3. The people I surround myself with. I have amassed a collection of extraordinary people from every corner of the world…some from childhood and some as recently as last week…all of who inspire and enlighten me on a regular basis simply by being the wonderful and dynamic individuals that they are. I have learned something from every single one of them and I feel so loved and blessed.

4. My life is an adventure. In the past year I’ve been to the US, UK, Thailand (all twice) not to mention my various travels throughout Vietnam, and I have an upcoming trip to Sri Lanka planned. The year before that I was in the US twice, Bali, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, and Singapore. I’d say that’s pretty awesome.

5. My health. Today I found out that a good friend of mines sister was recently paralyzed. What she and her family are going through right now is unimaginable. I got the news while walking to work and all I could think about was how much she’d give to walk again, and I shouldn’t take it for granted. These things we just do, like walking, we don't even think about. But we should, because it's a blessing. For any of you who are long time readers of my blog, you may remember last year when I was diagnosed with psoriasis. I took it pretty hard, mainly, I’m ashamed to admit, for superficial concerns. But the more I read about it, the more I realize it is actually more serious than just aesthetics. While there is no cure, I am grateful that I am in a position to recognize what this is, that I have information and resources to help me manage symptoms when it attacks, and that (so far, knock on wood) my experience with the disease is mild and minimal. I can still walk, see, taste, hear and live.

Another thing I am thankful for is the fact that I have a choice.
Last year, I wrote about realizing that food, water, and shelter were not givens, but actually luxuries… and being able to have a choice is a luxury as well.

Everything I do is a result of a decision that I made. 99% of what happens in my life I have control over. If I don’t like something, I can stop. If I want to move or leave, I can. I am not bound to anything unless, in some way, I choose to be. I can say what I think, do what I want, and be who I am, and I can do this all freely. My world is a world filled with endless options and I take this for granted every single day.

I read the news and watch documentaries and feel outrage and despair when I read about tragedies all over the world, however until very recently, I’ve never stopped to view these against my own life. There are people, millions of people, who in some form, are rendered prisoner. Perhaps not physically behind bars, but in the sense that they don’t have options. Maybe they are from war torn countries, or are into forced labour or prostitution, are being blackmailed, or are just in a position where they are helpless, where they can’t change, where they are completely stuck and have no way out.

In these aforementioned documentaries and articles, we gain awareness of what’s going on. We can list off dozens of world issues we’d like to fix, people we’d like to save. Very rarely do people actually do something. I’m not saying that’s wrong or terrible to go on with our lives, it is difficult to be able to change or fix the world…but what’s not difficult to change and fix is our own perspective. While ingesting all of these horrors from the safety or our sofa, instead of just thinking, “That’s so horrible, those poor people.” We should also take heed of how it applies to us. Mainly that it doesn’t. We were fortunate enough to be born into an existence where these problems are beyond our realm of imagination and we should be eternally grateful for that. We should hear these stories and genuinely cherish how lucky we are.

So this Thanksgiving I am not only going to revel in my #1-5 but I am actually thinking about what it means to have a choice, and I am going to go beyond this holiday season and continue to appreciate what I have. This isn’t to say that I am never going to complain again, that is impossible, but I think it’s important for me to recognize that most of the things I find dissatisfaction with that I actually have some ability to fix or modify. As long as I have that I am better off than so many, and so are you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Crazy Train

In April, my housemate and I decided to have a beach getaway week in Hoi An. Her sister and sisters bf were going and she didn't want to be the third wheel. I was in between jobs and am never one to say no to 1. the beach and 2. fantastic food. The only snag was that we couldn't fly, as her passport was in visa renewal mode. A sub- catch? We weren't going in a sleeper cabin on the 15 hour train ride. No, we were going in the hard, upright seats.

While I am not a fussy traveler in the slightest, I am the first to admit that i like to be comfortable. However, I figured this would be an adventure, and an adventure it was. I am surprised it's taken me so long to write about.

The first thing I noticed was that we were the only foreigners in the cabin. This wasn't all that surprising to me, but to the other travelers we were anomalies. Especially to the two men directly across the aisle from us. The train crew kept coming up and trying to sell us an upgrade to the sleeper cabins. We said no and as the journey progressed into the evening, everything seemed to settle down. We had one women in the row in front of us projectile vomit, but aside from that it was normal.

Around 11pm, all of the lights in the train went out, apart from in our cabin, which strangely stayed glaringly on. Also the AC was blasting to frigid temperatures. However, people, Karen included, naturally drifted into a state of slumber. (Karen's way of beating the light and cold was genius-she put on her hoodie BACKWARDS) So it was at this time that the two men across the aisle decided to make their move...into the aisle.

For those of you who have never been on a train in Vietnam, or southeast Asia for that matter, the aisles are tiny. On par with airplanes. So these men, move into the aisle to play cards. For SEVEN HOURS STRAIGHT. Fine. Not everyone can sleep on trains (case in point yours truly was reading a book and silently cursing Karen)

It wasn't the playing cards that caught my attention, but the events surrounding the 7 hour card game. The complete lack of regard for the fact that it was sleeping time or that there were other people in the cabin at all. First of all-despite the NO SMOKING signs, they began chain smoking. Blowing the smoke in Karen's face as they leaned their arms on her seat (good thing she had the hoodie!) When the cigarette smoking wasn't enough of a thrill, they pulled out one of those long wooden bong type things and started taking hits from it. That was the point I started having a giggling fit. They kept this up, as I said, for seven hours. If someone wanted to pass them, they refused to move, and the person had to climb over them. They also engaged in very loud conversation, and let their mobile phones ring for a solid 20 seconds before answering each call, and then having a loud conversation. At this point Karen is getting this whole grumpy stop waking me up look on her face and I am succumbing to my delirium.

Around 7am, they retired to their seats, and with the game of cards no longer available to entertain them, they moved on to the next obvious form of distraction-the two foreign girls across the aisle. I think it's safe to say that these two men probably have every inch of my face memorized, have probably counted every eyelash and freckle that I have. When I say they were STARING I don't mean, giving us the one over. I mean STARING for, no joke, two hours straight. Even when Karen I looked back, they didn't look away. their expressions didn't even change, they just kept staring. What I couldn't fully understand was what were they looking at? I understand I look different, but why is it necessary to stare for so long? Surely it must get old after a while. It's not like we were doing anything or anything about our face would change. When they got off the train (Hue) they rubbed my arm and waved goodbye. apparently staring for hours and blowing smoke in our face is grounds for kinship.

We decided that the train ride back would be different. That we were going to sleep no matter what was thrown at us. We picked up some fantastic sleep aids at the pharmacy that start with "V" and end with "alium", popped two pills each and fell into a deep and undisturbed slumber, relishing in the fact that diazepam is OTC here. :) The 15 hours passed with ease and before we knew it we were pulling into Hanoi. I conceded to Karen that the train wasn't so bad after-all, I mean this journey was drama free.

As we stood up to collect our bags is when I noticed her. A woman running down the narrow and clogged aisle with her hand over her mouth, cheeks puffed out. In my dazed still under the influenced state, I weakly called out to Karen, "Hey Karen, watch out..." Karen took a step forward at the same time the woman rushing down the aisle could no longer contain her motion sickness, unleashing it all over Karen's leg and foot.

Anyone who knows me, knows that 1. I am a nervous laughter person. If something awkward happens I am in hysterics. and 2. Gross things/bathroom humour sets me off. So this was too much for me, I ran off the train, onto the platform and keeled over...tears streaming from my eyes doubled over in laughter, barely able to breathe. I still laugh over this. The fact that someone vomited all over my friend and that this is almost commonplace in travel here.

While I prefer not to take 15 hour train journeys when i can fly, i have to admit that a plane ride wouldn't have been as entertaining. K and I wouldn't have the memories, the laughter, the vomit. it's one of those things that make living in Asia so special.

Pic: the man across the aisle. I forgot to describe him. he had spiked front hair, with a long mullet. VERY VERY long fingernails. A Confucius mustache and Buddha belly.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Lost Art of Thank You (Notes)

Today I wrote three thank you notes and as I was writing them it dawned on me (not for the first time) how doing such a thing is almost obsolete these days. It's something I don't understand, why people have stopped expressing their gratitude in a formal way in a personal or social setting. I am aware that thank you notes (or emails) are still common in the business world or after an interview, but why don't why apply the same manners to our everyday lives?

I guess we often neglect to consider that despite people doing nice things for us (having us over for dinner, hosting us, giving us a gift, or even just taking us into consideration and engaging in a kind act on our behalf) that they don't actually HAVE to do these things, it's still an act of kindness. If someone takes time out of their time and their lives to make our world a bit better than it seems practically inexcusable to not express gratitude properly.

Growing up, my mother was a drill sergeant about manners. Actually, not even growing up, she still is. We were-and still are expected to behave a certain way. One thing I remember very distinctly is how she got us to write out notes---she made us really appreciate. I was not allowed to touch my Christmas gift or cash a birthday check until a note was written and sealed in an envelope. "You are not," she's insist, "allowed to touch that barbie doll until you have thanked Auntie X for it." As I child, i (obviously) hated it. I thought it was annoying, but somewhere along the line it became second nature for me. I can't NOT write a thank you note now. I obviously don't have to anymore, my mothers not breathing down my neck, nor do I do it because I feel like I have to or that i want to impress someone with my manners. I write them because I genuinely mean it, and because I'm big on appreciation. I, like evreyone, likes to feel appreciated, and in turn when someone does something for me, I want them to know that I their consideration and thoughfulness meant a great deal to me.

My friends sometimes call me and tell me that i make them look bad, by sending these notes to their parents. My ex boyfriend told me that after four years of dating i didn't need to send his parents a note every time they took me out for dinner or I stayed at their house (I still did) I've had people tell me that these notes aren't necessary, but me they are.

I don't know what the purpose of this post really is. I guess when writing these notes I just thought about how easy it was to do. Each note took three minutes to write. Going to the post office for stamps and posting will take five minutes. that's less than 15 minutes out of my day, yet I know despite the small of energy it took me to fulfill this task, that the recipient will feel genuine warmth when they open their mailbox and see that they have an envelope that is not only a NOT a bill, but also let's them know that their kindness isn't overlooked, expected or taken for granted. (Plus my mother still tells me in hushed terse tones when someone fails to thank her properly for something they should've)

Let's spend more time in our lives focusing on the good, the positive, the things that make us smile and the people who are behind it. Maybe you don't have to write thank you notes all the time (it could get ridiculous) but we should be more openly appreciative. After all, it's the little things, right?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Running With Coyotes

There is something about the bad boy that women simply can not resist. While we know that we are precious commodities that ought to be adored, nice guys seem to lack the edge that draws and keeps women interested in anything other than friendship.

Bad boys are exciting. They're fun. They're unpredictable (although, really they're not. It's pretty obvious how it's going to play out) They give you incredible highs followed by miserable lows which you forget about because they'll reel you back in as soon as your despondency begins manifesting into indifference. Bad boys, for me, seem to appeal to not only the rebel inside of us, but also the old fashioned traditional side of us.

From the beginning of time, women were drawn to great soldiers and knights because they represented the ultimate form of masculinity, and there was the underlying notion that they'd protect them and keep them safe. The bad boys today have taken over that form of masculinity. In fact, we view bad boy (as opposed to nice guys) behaviour as "a typical guy" and there is probably something deep rooted within us that compels us to these men. We concede that this is how they're supposed to act. "Boys will be boys"

Women spend countless hours agonizing over, crying, and making excuses for men. Which is ironic because the men often times couldn't care less. They don't sit around wondering what she's thinking or if she cares. They have better things to do with their time. (And so should we, ladies.)

I'm the girl who is friends with all of the bad boys. I get to sit around and listen to the way they talk (enlightening and frightening)and then watch them in action (amusing and repulsive) I also get to hear women complain about them, how awful they are asking me how could I be friends with such mysogynists. And the answer is simple: Because they aren't like that with me and they don't have to be like that with you. That guy who you slept with last month who not only never called but then went home with your coworker right in front of you the following week? I have dinner with him twice a week. We talk about current events, books, movies. When I'm sick, that guy who you were seeing that disappeared on you, brought me soup and aspirin. So I wonder, how can these men be so lovely and protective and caring to some women in their life but not to others? How can they hand me tissues and say, "That guy's an ass, you can do way better" when they've been the man they're berating 100 times over?

I think in large part, it is "standard" and "the way men are" but I also believe that, in some cases, it may be a little bit of peacocking for each other. Just like women dress up for each other, men conquer and share. In their mind, it's way cooler to sit around the bar talking about that hot girl they got last night rather than saying how wonderful it is to be in a serious relationship. It's almost like a right of passage or proving their manhood to each other. But it also, is a large part, the environment. Women tend to accept much less than they deserve, maybe because they've bought into this idea that they have to, or that "guys are just like that." We think we have no other option and since he can be nice sometimes, it's worth the times you're alone in your room staring at your phone wondering if he's still interested. If we stopped accepting this behaviour, set high standards for ourselves (so basically: You get what you give. Not settling for anything less than we're giving out) and actually went out living our lives in this fashion, I think we'd see a major improvement. Maybe not en masse, but at least in personal relationships. All of the above bad boys? Have had serious girlfriends. And they've treated them very well. I understand the draw and excitement of the bad boy, so if you can't resist it, do as I do...have them in your life, but just as friends. I can guarantee it's just as much fun.

Now before I get all of these messages in my inbox about how I'm insane or justifying men's bad deeds, I'd like to clarify that this is just a human interest speculation. I am fascinated by the concept of women who go for men who behave badly. In my particular case, none of this is really applicable to my actual life. My boyfriend is the furthest thing from a bad boy, which is one of the things that i like the most about him. I go for the nice guy, I always have. I like it when a guy calls me when he says he will, tells me how he feels, brags about me to his friends, introduces me to his family and makes me and my happiness a priority. I don't want to feel stressed or confused about how someone feels about me, just like i won't let someone I care about have any doubts as to how I feel for them. That's what i like, want and need and as a result...I don't settle for anything less.

In fact, I'll even go as far to say that I think nice guys are the modern day knights and soliders, that being a NICE guy is being much more of a man, a powerful man, because nice guys go against what the role that society is trying to put them in. they make their own decisions and are strong enough to say to the macho men, "No I'm not going to be like everybody else. I'm going to be ____." That's the stuff REAL men are made of.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

I live in the Old Quarter, a decision that leaves many expats shaking their head incredulously wondering how I could do it. "It's so loud and crowded!" they exclaim, "And don't you get bothered all the time with people trying to sell you things?"

This can be a major point of contention for foreigners in this country, both ones who have decided to live here as well as the ones just visiting. It is very difficult to be foreign and walk down the road without being approached, whether it be to buy some fruit, a t shirt, or offered a xe om (motorbike taxi) housemate was even asked how much it would cost for an hour with HER but that's a whole other story.

I admit, that it tries my patience at times that I can't even walk half a block without being solicited, and am ashamed to admit there have been times that I haven't always exercised perfect manners in my response (in my defense, I've only gotten snappy when the seller is persistent, following me down the street and not taking no for an answer and shoving things in my face) but as "annoying" as it may be at times, I, and other foreigners have to accept that this is a way of life here. This is many people's livelihoods and as frustrating as it can be, there is never an excuse for rudeness.

It's taken me a fair while, but I think I have finally mastered the effective brush off to these vendors. As I mentioned before, I can't condone bad manners (blame my parents who imparted proper etiquette on us from a very young age-to this day, I still write thank you notes, eat everything put in front of me/not starting my meal until everyone's been served amongst other things that to some seem fake and contrived but really are so ingrained in my subconscious that I'm not even aware that I'm doing them) nor do i have a stomach for the VERY common foreigner response which is IGNORING the sellers. I can't really bring myself to do it without feeling like a disgusting human being. No one deserves to be ignored, to do so is so elitest. It is not ok to treat people like they don't exist. (Now I know many people will disagree with me on this one, especially the expats who are harangued regularly and don't want to spend a huge amount of time each time they go outside fending people off.)

So what is one to do? How can we be left alone and be nice about it? To keep the peace while maintaining a level of respect towards the people whose country we're residing in? The answer is so simple it's almost laughable: be nice. I have discovered that a big smile goes a long long way, even if I am saying "no" when presenting it. In fact, not only do I find that with this approach I am usually left alone for further attempts, BUT I get a smile back. It doesn't take any more time to do so either, I go along with my business, flashing my grin and polite refusal without even a skip in my stride.

I, am by no means, saying that I am perfect or the best person in the world. Nor am i saying it's easy all the time, because believe there are times I want to scream LEAVE ME ALONE, especially when my "No" isn't accepted the first time around, but I am making a conscious effort to ensure that I am always pleasant and respectful. Not only because that is the type of person i want to be, but because when you sit down and think about it, why shouldn't you be? These people live a much more difficult life than i do, i don't have to sell fruit or a taxi ride to provide for my family. I'm not outside all day competing with 100 others just like me to earn my salary. Not only are these vendors working very hard, much harder than I do probably, but I am also living in THEIR country, and have no right at all to be anything other than grateful and respectful to them for them allowing me to do so.

Being nice is easy. Smiling is powerful tool. Try it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Be What I Set Out To Be

I have been such a miserable bitch for the past two months. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could stand me. I know I haven't been able to stand me so goodness knows how everyone else could.

I was on the phone last night with someone who knows me very well, someone who'd reached out to me because my twitterfeed read like a Greek tragedy and while they were supportive and encouraging they imparted some tough love: "What are you talking about, Alice? All isn't lost. This is a terrible attitude, really really sad and you can do better than that."

I realized then that they were right. (Yes, Jax, you have that in writing) I CAN do better than that. I've spent my ENTIRE life doing better than that and have no idea why I've let myself slip into to this dismal abyss. But the GOOD NEWS is that as of today I'm stopping. I am no longer going to be a wretched wench, I am going to start focusing on the positive and revert back to the enigmatic and enthusiastic firecracker that you all know and adore.

I am doing this not only because I know that my family, friends and boyfriend are sick of my morose attitude, that it is making me unattractive to be around but also (more importantly) I am tired for wallowing in a melancholy existence. It's exhausting and pointless and not who I am, and it's certainly not who i want to be.

Life is unpredictable, and the more one does the more of a roller coaster it can be. I've CHOSEN to live in a fast moving and dynamic world. I follow desire, crave excitement, and seek adventure. In doing so, I've relinquished the possibility to be normal and consistent. And while this is frustrating and isolating at times, I can't deny that that world I have built for myself is interesting.

I could focus on the negatives: not feeling fulfilled, being far away from home, feeling isolated from my family and loved ones, missing my boyfriend. or I could look at my life and see what everyone else sees: I am healthy; I have a solid job, that pays well, gives me independence and authority, and provides me with exceptional opportunities that i would most likely not be able to have elsewhere; I have collected friends from countries all over the world, with unique perspectives and fascinating approaches who i am constantly learning from and truly cherish; I've worked in some of the most electric cities in the world giving me a unique perspective and an edge in life; I never run out of things to to talk about; My family is a blessing; I adore and am inspired by my boyfriend who effortlessly compels me to be a better person while lighting up my world; I travel constantly and I'm thrown new opportunities regularly.

So i apologize to everyone who has been subjected to the dejected version of myself in the past six weeks or so. I know it happens and we can't be "on" all the time but still, I am ashamed of myself really for getting that way...and am really looking forward to having my spark back.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

When Your Run's Over Just Admit That It's At It's End

When I applied to law school, my father, who is a lawyer, sat me down and asked me why I did it. I didn’t have an answer. I guess I did it because I am smart, knew I could get in and do well, and like education, I certainly didn’t do it because I wanted to be a lawyer. Upon hearing this, he urged me to reconsider my decision. “I will,” he said, “Support you in any decision that you make. But I would prefer it if I knew you were doing something that made you happy. I don’t care what you do, you can become a lawyer, a politician, a truck driver, an interpretive dancer, a dog walker, any career you chose will be noble and you'll be a success. The only thing I ask of you is that you find your passion. That you do something you love, and you maintain your integrity and kindness whilst doing it.”

Six years later, they haven’t changed their stance. My parents are fully committed to support me, so long as I remain a good person and am happy. I’ve switched jobs and moved and made mistakes but they’ve simply told me that this is a part of life, that sometimes we need to know what we don’t want to find out what we do, that the little picture will make up the big picture. That nothing is wrong if I’ve learned from it. The gratitude I feel for them can not be properly defined in words, they have let me discover who I am and what I want for myself, never imposing their beliefs but always being there if I need them.

Keeping up my end of the bargain has proven more difficult than I initially imagined. Maintaining my integrity has been easy, it’s the being happy thing that hasn’t. I am a difficult person at times. I am, for the most part, the ultimate idealist, yet I’m also difficult to win over. I tend to compartmentalize my life, keeping things organized and controlled, making sure that nothing or nobody can get too close.

I’ve realized that my main problem in life is my emotional connection to things, whether it be a job, a city, a friendship, or a boyfriend. Initially, I am reticent by all accounts, I take my time to warm up to things. I won’t allow myself to connect. I observe. I wait…and then I dive in. There is no middle ground for me, it’s all or nothing. I embrace, and commit to the highest degree. I go from zero to 100 in the blink of an eye and this seriously hinders my ability to be happy. Because it's impossible to keep up and I always end up disappointed.

Oh, I’m happy for a certain period of time. It’s easy for things to be perfect and wonderful at the inception, but my issue is that my idealism gets in the way of reality. That nothing is actually perfect, that just because I’ve deemed something worthy of exploring doesn’t mean that it’s going to make me incessantly happy. That there are ups and downs, that there is a reason people ease into things. Jumping in the deep end won’t teach you how to swim. My inability to wade into the situation means that when i fall, I fall hard.

Another problem is my unfailing loyalty. Once I have committed to something, it’s almost impossible for me to walk away from it, despite if it’s no longer making me happy. It’s a struggle I’ve faced quite often since that talk with my father, because I don’t know what to do once I stop being happy. I feel like I’ve failed, the persistent soul in me wants to fix things, wants to make it work, wants to prove it wasn’t all in vain but in the back of my mind I remember promising myself that once something stopped working, that once it started making me more sad than happy that I’d walk way. That life is too short for anything else.

It’s easier said than done. I knew I had to leave NYC and while I did eventually, there were many instances that I almost pulled the plug. I have dated people for months, YEARS too long because despite being unhappy and knowing it was wrong, I didn’t want to look all of that effort in the fact and throw it away.

I am at a crossroads now because I am watching the life I have built for myself crumble all around me. I am questioning every decision I’ve made in the past six months, and having difficulty accepting that some of them have turned out to be mistakes. It has become blatantly apparent that I am no longer happy with pretty much EVERYTHING about my current situation (even the things that used to bring be joy) yet I feel like a failure quitting or moving on. I think it makes me weak. I hate being weak and I hate being wrong. But what I’d hate even more is feeling like I am wasting my life or energy on things that no longer are right for me.

I know I sound like a spoiled, pathetic brat who is slightly unhinged. Perhaps, these days, I am. But I also blame the extremity of my emotions to the fact I feel completely isolated and alone here, that I have an inability to open up and express myself, that I am not sleeping at night and that my heart is broken.

If anything, maybe this post will help people feel better about their own lives because at least they aren’t as pathetic as mine. ;)

I’ll pick myself up, I’ll move on, and I’ll rebound on to the next thing like I always do.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Passing Feeling

I am going through the motions. It's a feeling I am familiar with, one that is utterly dangerous for me and my current existence. It evokes a sense of panic in me, this notion of stagnancy. As soon as it hits I wildly plan my escape. Nothing is safe.

It began about a month before my holiday to London, which, by the way, was incredible. I've always been in love with London and unwavering sense that it's where I belong. Some of my happiest memories in my life have taken place there. I don't really know how to put it into words really, about why I need the city, about why I can't live without it, or why I am alive there in a way there that I am nowhere else. It is the only place that I have been 100% truly happy. I have always related more to my British heritage. All I know is, all of my life, it's as if everything makes sense when I am there.

The city itself offers everything that I can get in NYC; a fast paced dynamic environment, culture at my fingertips, excitement, exorbitant prices (hehe) but it also offers a few things that NYC doesn't...a deep rooted sense of contentment and belonging that comes with years invested there and, of course, my family. I guess those two go hand in hand. In London, I have the best of both worlds...the city and everything it has to offer and the comfort and security of family. I realized how much I miss the little things, things like popping round for tea with people who have known me my whole life, who understand me, who I can just BE with. Something I couldn't get in NYC despite being surrounded by friends I'd known for a decade or so. London has been a part of my life since my first trip there at the age of two months, and my relationships there are beautiful, genuine, and effortless. It is the only place in the world that I could never give up, that I will never walk away from.

I am good at that, walking away. I've always said that I'm not, but the more I examine my life the more I realize that I might be (initially) reticent to dive into new waters but once I'm in, I never look back. That my entire existence is temporary. No matter how attached I seem to anything I have a remarkable ability to not only leave it behind and move on at a lightening pace.

Not for the the first time I seriously look within and worry that something is deeply wrong with me. I become so enamored with the RIGHT NOW and throw myself in it until it stops becoming fun, until I've gotten everything I can from it and then one day the glitter wears off and all I can think of is what the next thing is. What will captivate and fulfill me. I am struck by the irony that despite being a loyal and dedicated individual there seems to be an underlying sense of lacking the ability to truly commit to anything, mainly myself. I've often felt like I keep chasing the impossible.

Until recently.

Being in London changed things for me. As I said, when I am there, things suddenly make sense, and this time was no different. I was struck with bolt of clarity about what it is I want and what I need to do to get it. My life plan is no longer a tangled mess but has a straight path. How long it'll be until I start down that path is another story, but I've started carving it out.

In all honesty, I have known that I'll end up in London. I've spoken about it my whole life, and unlike every other life plan of mine, this one hasn't changed. No matter what I've done or where I've lived, London was always in the back of mind, and it wasn't a question of if but when. To an extent, I have always resisted living there for more than a few months at a time because I knew once I set up a life there that I'd probably never leave. I knew that I had a nomadic restless element in me that I needed to get out of my system. I needed to explore and DO THINGS. I wasn't ready for any kind of permanence in my life, the kind of permanence that London will bring. Perhaps I'm still not, I may have a few years left of wandering about and exploring before I board that one way flight to Heathrow. However, what I do have now is a sense of knowing what I want. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, or perhaps I never quite realized the value of family before, I don't know. All I know is that I finally know what I want, where I belong, and what I can't live without...

(even if it takes me another several months or years to get there)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Love Remains the Same

I find myself talking about my parents a lot on this blog, which I hope they don't mind, They most likely don't, because they don't read this blog. Something about "respecting my privacy and life." They've never snooped into my life or spied, they've always figured if I wanted them to know something, I'd tell them.

Today is their 34th wedding anniversary. 34 years. In this day and age that is almost unheard of, yet they've managed to do it, and managed to do it well. Aside from being wonderful parents to both me and my brother (obviously, look how well we've turned out!) they have been wonderful human beings to each other and have taught me life lessons without even realizing that they've done it.

I am, as we all know, an idealist and hopeless romantic when it comes to love. I believe that we CAN have it all; I've walked away from seemingly perfect men and relationships not because they weren't great, but because they were lacking something. Something I couldn't quite place but enough to feel like a piece was missing. I once spent a significant amount of time trying to tell myself I was being crazy, that "we can't have it all" that "you have to sacrifice somewhere" that I should be "happy with what I have"...and it probably would've worked too, if it hadn't been for my parents.

My parents are still very much in love. My dad comments about how beautiful my mother is and they're openly affectionate, which results in me feeling a combination of grossed out and swooning over the cuteness of it. They have never sat me down and talked to me about guys, and what I should want or look for, or who to date or not date. Instead they did something much more powerful, they showed by example.

They are both strong willed, highly intelligent and passionate people who feel strongly about many things. Some of the time, their opinions clash, but I have never seen a disagreement where they've shown any kind of disrespect towards the other. They understand each other, and there is a high level of mutual respect and admiration. When it comes to all of the big decisions, they always had a united front, even in the smaller things they always supported each other. They supported each other against everything and everyone. They are a team...and you can't join.

Another thing I really respect is the fact that as much as they love being together, they are comfortable and confident when apart. Both my parents travel a lot, sometimes together, sometimes not. There have been times where they've been separated for a month, and of course they miss each other, but their worlds didn't come crashing down around them. They survived, probably even thrived. It gave me the realization that you can find the person you're supposed to be with but at the same time, you can keep your sense of self, your identity and independence.

They were pretty young when they got married, and faced opposition on both sides (for being so young and also for being from different continents, and a year of long distance) yet when I asked them about it, they said they had no doubts. In fact, they both said it was one of the most obvious and easy decisions they made. they just KNEW. I guess they were right. Maybe it's worked out so well because underneath any differences of opinion, they fundamentally have the same approach to life and the same values. They know who they are and what they want, and most importantly, they value it.

They have been a marvelous example for me, and seeing them has kept the faith alive for me that it's possible to have it all, to find someone who it just makes sense with, that you just KNOW, that there are no doubts. I have often said, and will continue to say, I will not be able to settle for anything less than what they have. How could I?

In case you're reading this, happy anniversary.

Monday, June 27, 2011

But I Keep Running From Something I Never Wanted So Bad(ly)

Sometimes when discussing my move to Hanoi with people they ask me what I was running from. As though that is the only explicable reason I would move here and start a new life.

I always maintain the same story, that I was living and working in NYC, that I felt uninspired at my job, I had an itch to do something different and that i didn't want to wake up in thirty years regretting that I'd fallen into a mundane routine. That I hadn't lived. I come from a family of intellectuals, explorers, who have an insatiable curiosity for knowledge, travel and cultures. My parents and closest relatives have never once questioned my decision, in fact they encouraged it.

Recently, I was put in a situation where I actually revisited my stance on why I moved out here. My reasoning of wanting something different has not been revoked but it's been coupled with something new, something that perhaps I had the inability to admit to myself: That I was running.

I was running from everything I had built for myself because despite years of imagining this life, and despite seemingly outward appearances of perfection, it wasn't what i wanted. I think that one of the scariest things in the world is getting what you think you want, only to discover it's not what you wanted. Because where do you go from there? In my case, it was Hanoi.

I am not saying my move was based entirely on running, I have always been adventurous, wanting to do new things and obsessed with traveling. But I realize now, that a subconscious part of me, was so adamant to do it because I needed to escape and rediscover what it is that I actually want.

Getting away from it all has proved to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I have learned to be independent and confident in who I am. I have learned that there is no right path. I have learned that I can do (almost) anything.

But I have also learned that i have no idea what I want. And this freaks me out. I have maintained my restless spirit, one that makes me look around and want to check out the other options. One that is never satisfied with what I have. i always want more, the next thing.

I find this increasingly worrying, that nothing is never good enough. That I seem incapable of settling down and being content. In theory, I love the idea of being married with children, living in a city and filling my days with routine. That is what i have always wanted in the long run. But in reality, I seem completely incapable of getting anywhere near there. I get bored too easily, I can't seem to stay in one place for more than a few years. The second I feel comfortable, i attribute it with boredom and call it "going through the motions." I then plan my next move. I haven't found anything or anyone to change that.

I have been telling myself for the past few years that it's because I haven't found my true passion, that I haven't found the right person, or the right place to plant myself, and perhaps this is acceptable... but my concern is will i ever? Or am I destined to wander this planet endlessly constantly searching for something better? More bluntly, is there something wrong with ME? I say i want all of these things but am repelled by the reality of them.

Lately, I have begun to ponder if I am living in Southeast Asia because of all of the "opportunities" it presents or as a shield from reality. It's letting me pretend without looking like a freak or failure. I don't want to live here forever so it's natural that I'd move around.

Somehow, I am getting a pass for being here, one that is very nice to have but that is causing me a bit of anxiety.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Working Song

I am becoming increasingly concerned with the fact that I do not seem able to leave Hanoi.

I have pushed back my moving date four times now. Four. In eighteen months. The other day, I was thinking and realized that I am not sure I'd be able to adjust back to life in the western world.

In theory, I should be able to, and I want to. I love it here but I miss my life back home. I miss the stability and the long term future that it offers. I simply, despite how much I am enjoying myself, can not see myself living here in the long term. (however, saying that I don't think I can leave either)

I don't know what makes life here so different, because for all intensive purposes things are the same as they'd be anywhere: I have a corporate job that steals my time and leaves me stressed and exhausted, I pretend to be dedicated to the gym, I have great friends, and go to dinner, have a cat etc. Yet something is different. it's not the work ethic because I'm working as hard as I ever have, and it's not really the lifestyle because, as I said, it's the same game just with different players.

I think, what it is, is that the grind is there but it's different. That when I work hard here it feels like it's actually beneficial to me and my career. When I was working in NYC, I lost the zest I used to have because I realized that no matter what i did, things would be the same. If I put in 55 hours a week, i'd get the same compensation and recognition as I would if I put in 35. I wasn't given any kind of validation when I did something right but was torn apart when I made the slightest glitch. I don't want to start bashing anyone or anything because that's not the point of this blog. It was tough though, to feel like I was racing, racing, racing towards nothing. Once I got to the place I was running to, nothing happened. I felt like my voice was getting lost, that i was drowning and I stopped fighting back. I looked at my superiors at work and didn't feel inspired to be like them, instead the prospect of their future looked dismal to me.

Here, it's different. I work hard, yes. I'm tired, yes. My friends say they're worried about me, yes. But I feel like it's for a reason. The opportunities here are limitless...I'm not pushed aside because I'm 27 and blond and a girl. I don't have to thrash my way through a sea of corporate mumbo jumbo bs to be heard and listened to. People believe in me, accept what i say, and as a result it's bolstered my confidence and opened my aspirations to a whole new horizon. If I put in the time and effort and push myself then I will be successful. The race doesn't have a set finish line...I can keep going for as long as I want.

Here I am given the tools, resources, and power to be my own person professionally. To grow and expand. To make decisions. To be innovative. To lead, both others and also myself into success. I am given opportunities that I wouldn't have back in New York or London without years of mundane paper pushing, air kissing and backstabbing. I'm not saying I want to cut corners or that i'm not willing to put in the work, but I do think it will be extremely difficult for me to go back to that world now that I've lived in this one.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Don't Stand So Close to Me

How many times have you waited in line, in a hurry, stressed out, and just wanted to run to the front and get whatever it is done? Turns out, you can. Just move to Vietnam.

I think it's pretty safe to say that once you've hit the six month mark in Hanoi, things change. You stop being amazed and shocked by things on the street, by helmetless infants or a steel cage of chickens strapped onto the back of a motorbike. When you find a hair in your food, you don't send it back, you simply pick it out. Or when someone vomits on your food after a train or bus ride, you just quickly scan your brain to see if you have time to change your pants before you go to work or if you'll just have to scrub it off.

There are some things, that while I've accepted as part of the culture, still make me say, "WHAT? SERIOUSLY?" One of them is waiting in line, or the inability to do so, and pushing.

Due to bring completely broke(I am living off of my parents until I get paid and borrowed from friends for rent) I am taking the public bus to work. I have a motorbike but it's broken and I can't afford the $15 to fix it so I've been taking the 32 each morning and walking back. It's not bad, I actually find it kind of relaxing (call me crazy) haha but the point is foreigners don't usually take the bus here. So each day, I am a bit of a novelty, getting stared at. This I am completely used to however I find the the bus situation one quite knows what to do with me. Sometimes I get tapped on the shoulder and ushered to an empty seat as though I am pregnant or elderly. Sometimes I get the person wanting to practice English, but one thing that always happens is pushing.

While I have a lot of respect for the mentality of having a goal and going for what you want, I am not sure it necessary to physically knock someone down to do it. During my travels in Southeast Asia (excluding Singapore) I've found that the concept of waiting in line is not even a concept, it doesn't happen. Instead, whatever target is being sought out, it is done in a full on way. People behind you will PUSH you aboard the bus. To be fair...the bus doesn't even stop. It slows down to a rolling pace and you have to kind of jog and jump. Handicap? Forget it. And it is a daily occurrence for me to be shoved or or pushed aside clearly indicating that I was in someones way. This actually doesn't really faze me. While, at first, I found it a bit of an adjustment, it never made me angry or shocked. Just different.

When it gets interesting for me though is while traveling. On a plane, instead of disembarking by's a free for all. The lady in 24c will push her way through the tiny crowd to get off. It never gets old actually. And rather than get annoyed I find it fascinating. The logic or, lack there of, of pushing through a crowd of people in a narrow alley rather than just wait for the people in front to move. You know they will, it's just a matter of a few minutes more.

Another thing is like the bank, buying tickets at the train station or anywhere where one would typically wait their turn. I tried when I first moved here to do that. Especially since some places have a "take your ticket" feature. I realized that is purely for show. Or for the benefit or tourists. Because it again is a free for all. The only waiy to get served is to cut. You must run up to the counter as soon as it's become free. Or just stand there, staking out.It reminds me of a more cutthroat intense version of getting a prime table at Hillside, a cafe at my university which was the seen and be seen lunchtime hotspot.

The only time I get annoyed is at the grocery store, when I am in line and someone pushes me aside and cuts in front of me. I am still not clear as to whether this happens to everyone, or whether it is just because I am a foreigner and it's assumed (correctly) that I won't fight back. I, unfortunately, believe it's the latter. I have decided that next time it happens I am going to make a mini scene and regain my rightful place in line. I've said this for the past year and a half, and haven't done it yet. But the more time I spend here, the more I believe I can.

An amusing game I like to play in my head is imagining what the reaction would be if someone of these things occurred in New York or London. If while standing in line at the post office, i just cut in front of everyone and threw my mail on the counter. Or if I deemed the man in front of me had a lot more groceries than i did so i just stepped in front of him and plopped mine down. It's so tempting. Can you imagine the OUTRAGE that the people around you would express? It's so comical to think about that I'm considering doing it just for laughs next time I visit home. It will be my social experiment...I can't wait. I'll commence when I touch down at JFK...charging my way through the sea of people trying to retrieve their overhead luggage and continue until I get beaten up or arrested for public disturbance. (ok not really, but we all know that would be the result of such antics)

Guess I'll just get it out of my system here...

Friday, May 27, 2011

Til Summer Comes Around

The office at my old job was not a fun place to be in the winter. There was no heating, at all. Not even space heaters, and as a result, I came into work each day in some kind of ridiculous attire. I was dressed for the ski slopes, but instead of resembling a mildly attractive ski bunny, I was more of a mismatched marshmallow. I digress.

The point is, it was cold, and as I sat shivering in front of my computer I vowed that once summer came around, I wouldn't complain about the heat. That when my arms were soaked with sweat within minutes of stepping outside, I'd take it in stride. I'll do my best to honor that, no one likes a hypocrite. Especially as, in most cases, I prefer the summer to the winter. I like the warmth. My mood is brighter when it's sunny outside, I feel better when I have a sunkissed glow.

However, there are certain things one must know about summertime in Hanoi.
1. From June to September there is very little chance of being attractive. Unless you are one of those people unaffected by seasons and look perfect all the time. Like my friend Clare. I can't stand people like that (jealousy) and this post is not for you. For everyone else, you're going to be disgusting. You will be dripping in sweat within two minutes of stepping outside your door, your feet will be filthy despite how many times you wash them. If you're a woman, there is no such thing as a good hair day. Just stop trying now. As for makeup? It will probably melt off of your face. Time to embrace your natural beauty or at least be consoled by the fact that everybody else (except for the "Clare's" of the world) is just as ugly as you are. ;)
2. Hanoi has blackouts in the summer. Make sure you have candles, lots of water on hand, a place where you keep your keys (so you don't have to dig around for them), and a spot that you can escape to, preferably one nearby that has a generator.
3. Pools are your friend. But they're also grossly overcrowded. If you want to do laps, the worst time (in terms of volume of people) is the early morning and evening. If you're like me and you just like lounging poolside, to get a good spot (or a spot at all) 12 is the latest you can arrive.
4. You'd amazed at how baby wipes have changed my life. You can buy little travel packs and believe me when it's hot out they feel amazing.
5. Drink sugarcane juice. Only because it's amazing. I have only just discovered this heavenly concoction...and I am convinced it has magical powers. It's the perfect combination or sweet and earthy. It's all natural, tastes delicious, and is the perfect pick me up. Tired? Grumpy? Bored? Hungover? One sip of sugarcane juice and you're revived. I am obsessed.
6. Don't do what I do. (Which is be stupidly unprepared for the summer rain) I grew up in a place where rain storms were ever present and intense. Did I own a rain coat? No. In university, when the snow and rain fell did I have proper protection. Negative. So in Hanoi, where mini typhoons appear out of nowhere and persist for hours at a time, have I the right tools to keep my dry and warm? of course not. But I am an idiot, and a lesson of what NOT to do. Buy a rain coat and keep it close to you at all times. The rain will fall, it will come from nowhere and you will end up trapped or soaked if you don't have a slicker.
7. Wear sunblock. This should be obvious and applies to anywhere not just Hanoi. Being tan is nice, it makes you look healthy and pretty. I get it, I am a complete worshiper. In fact it's hard to imagine that I was born with porcelain English rose skin. But I was, however by the age of 20 had destroyed it, altered the pigmentation by basking in the sun to striving to be a bronzed goddess. I regret it deeply now, not only did I not receive goddess stature BUT I am covered in sunspots and at the age of 27 have wrinkles around my eyes and some on my forehead that won't go away. My skin also looks weird when I am pale, I can never go back. So wear sunblock, especially in Hanoi, as the sun is really strong and you can get burned just by driving to work or walking around town.

Despite the blistering heat, the smothering humidity and the realization that I can't enhance my looks by any outside source, I do love the summer in Hanoi. The fruit is delicious, the pace is a little bit slower, everyone seems happier. There are fun events like pool parties, electronic picnics, barbeques, music festivals. Everyone is excited to shed the winter and take on the summer heat...their faces shining (with perspiration)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

There are Few Things Pure in the World and Home is One of the Few

When people ask me where I'm from I always say, 'I grew up in Florida, but haven't lived there for 10 years." This is true, I left Florida for university in Boston and from Boston I went to New York and from New York to Hanoi. I also spent a considerable amount of time in London and France, enough so that I'd consider them places I used to live. However whenever I've had to fill out a form asking for my "permanent address" it as my house in Florida. That was the one constant in my life. The place I always go back to. Despite not being a resident of the state since the age of 18, this is where I consider home. The place I grew up.

I'd never really imagined life without my childhood house a part of it. I didn't, obviously, believe that I'd live there forever, and I never had any intention to return to the state of Florida for anything other than a holiday. Yet, when I saw the "for sale" sign in my driveway I felt territorial and sad. The adult side of me understands my parents decision, the house is simply too big for the two of them, they want to spend more time in my mother's native Europe and don't need the space. The child in me can't believe that they're doing this to me. They're taking away the one form of stability in my residences. In NYC I lived in three apartments in my three and half years, and they were never mine, always shared and while I've been in the same place in Hanoi for over a year, I know that my time here is not forever, that I'll leave, making this whole residency and lifestyle temporary.

I guess I never realized the significance of my childhood home. I took for granted the fact that I always had it to go back to. My parents are getting a new place minutes away from the old one but I keep telling them i hate it and that it's not the same. I will feel like a visitor, not like I belong. The new place won't have the memories, it won't hold the same prestige of being THE place that all of my friends went to all the time, our social lives revolving around parties in my guest house, the new place won't have a path through the bushes to the next door neighbors house trodden down from years of back and forths (my best friend lives next door) "but now I'm going to have to walk or ride a bike to Alison's" I whined to my mother who replied that Alison, about to enter her third year of law school was barely home anyway. It was the principle that bothered me. the fact that I am never going to be able to do those things again.

I've often written about expatriate lifestyle and the transiency that it entails. When I first moved here, I had major de-attachment issues, every goodbye resulted in my feeling sad and crying. As time as gone on, it's become second nature, people come and go, it's par for the course and it barely even registers anymore. It doesn't bother me anymore, because it's the way it is here. So why does saying goodbye to the house bother me so much? Maybe because while I've accepted that life here is always changing, in my mind, Florida was the same. it was always supposed to be the same and the fact that it's not makes me feel a little bit more lost in this world, that I really don't belong anywhere or have somewhere consistent to go. That I no longer have a real home. As ridiculous and illogical as it sounds, I am devastated by this loss in my personal history.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I was driving to dinner last week, past the Mausoleum and got to the large roundabout and my bike puttered out. Died. Right in front of all these government buildings with no repair or garage in sight. Just me and security guards. I called my dinner companion to say I'd be late and they immediately offered to come find me. Then my phone died. so I was stuck, phoneless, bikeless and not knowing if I'd be able to connect with my friend. To make matters worse the security guards kept shouting at me that I had to move. I refused on the grounds that I was stuck and waiting for someone. Something I couldn't accurately communicate. This went on for about half an hour.I sat on the sidewalk dejected and feeling sorry for myself until I heard, "Hey...Alice? Bad night?" It was a new friend, someone I'd only recently met, on his way home from a barbecue and who just happened to stumble upon me. That's the beauty of Hanoi, you can't go somewhere without seeing someone you know. And the people you know are generally kind and helpful and genuine. This guy not only sat with me until my other friend came but took it upon himself to flag down a Vietnamese motorbike repair man and had my bike fixed on the spot. Despite not knowing me well, or having no obligation at all, he stayed for the additional half an hour/forty-five minutes that this took. Because he's a nice guy. Because that's how people are here.

I have often compared to expat life in Hanoi to being at university. The expat community is small, if you don't know someone, it's almost guaranteed that someone you know does. You can't get away with much here, any scandal and gossip will make its way through the community at lightening speed. I have a theory about this...we are transplants, we all have in common that we are expats. We are forced, to a certain degree to be integrated in each others lives. Because most expats I know don't speak good Vietnamese, we are relegated to associate with other expats or English speaking Vietnamese, so our network has little room for expansion. There is little to do other than go to work, engage in the occasional hobby and meet with friends and talk. About each other.

I went to the kind of university that thrived on gossip. Despite boasting approximately 9,000 undergraduates (and a few thousand in grad school) somehow everyone knew everyone's business and the rumor mill was rampant, sometimes accurate and sometimes not. My friends and I were sometimes the topic of conversation and part of me considered it to be a compliment (if you're spoken about you're relevant) but also was sick and tired of having to defend untrue allegations. I found the mentality ridiculous and was excited when I moved to NYC to escape all of that, to a degree. (It turns out NYC is not as big as you think, the circles are close knit and small. But the difference is, while people will talk, they care a lot less. They move on and don't dwell.)

Despite my penchant for blogging and tweeting, I do have a weirdly penetralian side. I appear open but I do hold some cards close to my chest. I let people know what I want them to know but I like to keep certain things to myself, to guard my privacy. I don't want the spotlight focused on my life. I like to be social, and knowing people, I just find it unnecessary to be the subject of gossip and speculation. Hanoi is a difficult city to maintain this and at times I am frustrated that I can't seem to do anything without everyone knowing about it.

Then there are the times, like last week, where I am reminded of why I am eternally grateful for the small town that this major city is.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Walks, Looks and Drives Like An Ace

Driving in Hanoi is a constant adventure. It’s a test of coordination, navigation and quick reflexes. Things that I generally lack but seem to oddly possess when it comes to driving. Perhaps because if I didn’t I’d be in the hospital or mangled on a daily basis.

Ironically, I had planned to write a post about the perils of driving and the day I planned to do so I get into an accident. (I’ll discuss my crash a bit later.) This keeps happening to me, maybe a sign from some higher power to STOP planning my blogs but just write them on a whim.

While the roads themselves are a picture of utter chaos, there does seem to be some kind of sense to it all. Yes, there are always motorbikes whizzing past you but the drivers seem to be in control. When I am walking, I rarely try and navigate myself around the traffic but tend to walk right through it, confident that it’ll bypass my body. I’m usually correct.

There are some glaring issues with the traffic here, mainly being that there aren’t many rules that are upheld. One way roads are simply a suggestion, sidewalks serve as an extra lane if traffic becomes too congested, red lights are actually just stop signs, and honking is more of an identification rather than a warning.

I must admit that I partake in breaking these rules; I have begun driving on the sidewalk when I didn’t want to sit in traffic, I don’t take the long way around if I can just drive directly the wrong way to my destination.

I don’t have an issue with these things because I truly believe most people riding motorbikes have a sense of what they’re doing. My issue is with the cab drivers and the buses. Who are, in my experience, among the worst drivers I have ever seen in my life. Period.

The buses have little to no regard to anyone around them. They seem to operate with a Goliath mentality, they can beat you so get out of their way. They don’t slow if they see a pedestrian or a motorbike in front of them. At a red light they don’t mind squeezing a parallel biker off the road to a scary degree. I’ve witnessed and been privy to a bus hitting someone and carrying on as if it’s the injured fault. They should’ve moved faster. I am genuinely frightened of buses simply on account of their lack of regard to anyone or thing around them.

Taxis are another story. They know what’s going on around them, but they still seem to be completely inept at allowing traffic to flow around them. They’ll run you off the road, and at red lights (when most motorbikes zip through the cars to inch to the front spaces) will block access. This doesn’t make sense to me, if there is a massive space for motorbikes in front, why block access to it? It doesn’t allow them to proceed to their destination any more quickly, it just seems to lack common logic. Instead of allowing more people access they’d rather “prove” to their passenger that they’re ready to go by moving a few inches, thereby denying anyone else the opportunity to move. I was stuck at a light for five minutes as a direct result of this. If only the cab had given me a tiny space I would’ve been able to go right through, but no, they didn’t, so I had to wait for two sets of red and green to finally make my turn. AGGRAVATING.

I’m a pretty good driver, if I do say so myself. I can drive in stilettos, carry 200 pound men and zip in and out like the best of them. Most of the time anyway.

Today was one of those days that reminded me, once again, that I am not invincible, and no matter how adept I think I am becoming at driving a motorbike in Hanoi, that it’s still a learned skill, by no means second nature.

On my way to work, I was driving down a one way road and out of nowhere someone comes from a side alley speeding in the wrong direction. Shocking, I know. Normally I’d be fine with this, but due to the rain, it was slippery and I hit the hand brake and skidded, and went down. Partially my fault, I should have mastered the foot brake but still stupidly use the handbrake 98% of the time.

I’m not hurt, really. Only my left side is damaged. Bleeding and cut/scraped up and my pants are torn. My only pair of leggings. I’m trying to mollify myself by saying it’ll make me look rock and roll but the truth is it actually makes me look trashy. Leggings with holes = not cool.

I did however appreciate the men who rushed to my aid. Picking me and my bike up, stopping traffic as I got back on, and making sure (using charades) that I was ok. I was fine, shaken up and the rest of my drive to work was a daze but no permanent damage, aside from that to my ego. Now, I’m in a degree of uncomfortable pain. Not unbearable but just annoying. Like I just got stitches or something. Also my wrist from a previous injury is now resurfacing. I can tell I’ll be really sore tomorrow.

I had been so good. When I first started driving (Jan 2010) I had a bad record, an incident a month until July, which was my first clean month. After July I was in control and golden (apart from the time I was mugged and pulled off my bike to the ground but I don’t really count that since it was extenuating circumstances and not in the least bit my fault/in my control) and now this. TARNISHING my almost year long streak. Typical.

I’m just bothered by the fact that I can’t seem to stay uninjured in this country. I always have some kind of affliction, and as soon as I start to heal another one crops up. My trips back to the US serve not only as visitations but also recuperation.

While driving here can be painful and exasperating, for the most part I love it. The motorbike experience is one of the things I adore the most about living in Hanoi. I love the feeling of being on the bike, the freedom it offers me, and the sense of accomplishment I feel when I drive somewhere successfully without incident. And it makes me look so damn cool.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

You Paint Me a Blue Sky and Go Back And Turn It To Rain

I have a bad habit of forming completely incorrect first impressions regarding the men I am interested in. I’d venture 75% of the time I am off base at first. The men I think are players and to be wary of turn out to be kind, loving and loyal while the nice, harmless guys are the snakes who leave me wounded.

Most of my bad luck as arisen since my arrival in Hanoi. I think it’s because the men here are just worse than anywhere else in the world that I’ve seen. There is no right way to say this, no way that it going to keep me from scrutiny or from receiving comments about being bitter. I don’t care, I’m going to say it anyway. There are very few eligible men in Hanoi. Hanoi (and maybe other places in SE Asia) changes people relationship-wise, often times for the worst.

Classic Hanoi Man Syndrome (CHMS). Here's how it happens: Ordinary/average/uncool unattractive men move to Hanoi. Experience a rush of attention from gorgeous, intelligent Vietnamese and foreign women. Believe the hype. Become miscreants. Treat women as if they are expendable. Experience no repercussions. Repeat process. Then go back to their country. Think the same rules apply. Reality hits hard.

I have seen men arrive here being wonderful and idealistic and then getting caught up and turning into a complete slimeball. One they have success with one hot girl they turn into a monster. Yet that has little to no effect on their “pulling” capability. They can be as terrible as they want and still have women crawling all over them.

I don’t think this makes me a bitter expat. I’d feel the exact same way if I noticed a man (or woman) behaving that way in NYC. Shabby treatment of people is inexcusable regardless of how “wonderful” or “attractive” you are led to believe you are. In fact, the more blessed you are, the kinder you should be to others. (Example: I know a man, who is breathtakingly gorgeous. People have been known to actually drop their jaw and lose their train of thought when meeting him for the first time. This man, however, is charming, humble, considerate, and COULDN’T be any nicer. Seriously, he’s so nice it can actually be annoying. If HE can behave like a stellar human being, so can everyone else)

While the men have it golden, the women who come here find themselves having to lower their standards if they want any chance at a romantic life. They find themselves getting involved with guys they’d never normally look at and putting up with situations they are much too good for simply because they have to. Because that’s the way it is here.

I don’t date out here. Not really anyway. I had one involvement(yes we all know about that) and after that I stopped. I have claimed it’s to get over him but it’s really because there is no one I’ve met here that I’d consider. Unlike so many women I’ve seen here, I am not going to lower my standards for a little bit of romantic attention. I’m perfectly content with my friends, hobbies, job, and Skype dates. I've relished in taking this time to be “single”

*I am only generalizing. I by no means think every Hanoi expat male is like this. It’s just some casual observations shared among others. I think there are a lot of amazing men out here, and am friends with many of them.


Despite my modern lifestyle, many are surprised to discover that deep down I am, in fact, quite traditional. It displays itself in small ways; when I write a thank you note (or letter), my desire that a man I date isn’t lazy in his courtship, my strong sense of family, and of course the traditions. Like religion.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m at church every week. Or that I agree with everything the church stands for. I am, by admission, a cafeteria Catholic, which will make me subject to remarks, I am sure, that I have no right to consider myself a part of the faith

However, I was raised in the Catholic Church, my entire family on both sides, is Catholic and always has been. While I may not show up to mass every week, and disagree with some of the politics of the church I find that I am pretty passionate about a few things regarding the church…and one of them in Lent.

Maybe it’s because Easter is my favorite holiday, or maybe it’s because the whole concept of suffering and sacrifice goes from a notion to something we can actually put into practice. It’s difficult for me to use my imagine and think about what it was like to suffer, it doesn’t resonate as much as saying “Ok for 46 days I am not going to do X” (I say 46 because unlike many people I don’t allow Sunday to be a “day of rest”)
I also don’t think it should just be a time of sacrifice but also deliverance. I try and take this time to be a better person, to be kinder, to do something nice every day.

Whatever it is, Lent is something I take seriously. I go to mass. I ACTUALLY give things up and stick to it. I don’t eat meat on Friday. I fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. I take it seriously.

So what am I giving up this year?
1. Chocolate. This will be excruciating for me. I tried giving up chocolate for a week once and got the shakes. But I need to push myself. It’s the only thing in my life that is really a sacrifice to abstain from.
2. Alcohol. This is kind of a fake one. I don’t really like drinking much anyway. Yet somehow get pressured into engaging in it when I’m out. Now I have an excuse to not partake. I’m ecstatic
3. A decidedly pointless and unhealthy relationship that I’ve been engaging in for entirely too long. It was fun at first, and there was reason for it. Now it’s just routine maintenance on account of boredom and distraction. Relationships should mean something, and upheld for a purpose. This is a “clearing my head” break. Can reevaluate in 46 days.
4. My bad habit of smoking when drunk or bored. I don’t like it, or enjoy it or need it. So I’m going to stop it. Simple.

I think we are so saturated with messages that we can do what we want, whenever we want that taking some time to “deprive” ourselves can only serve as an important lesson. This culture that we live in cultivates a sense of entitlement, and instant gratification. We (or at least I) often forget how lucky I am, and don’t take the time to appreciate life’s little blessings (like chocolate)

Going without is never easy, but I hope that doing so will allow my a better perspective of what thousands of people endure daily and also bring me a better sense of the meaning of Lent/Easter allowing me to appreciate the “haves” when I am allowed to indulge again.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Splish Splash: The Benefits of Eating Alone

As I was walking solo to lunch, I began plotting a blog post about the joys of eating alone. How in the US it's not something I would feel comfortable with but that in Vietnam it's common place. That here, I don't feel like a loser for eating alone.

However, the blog Gods intervened, clearly realizing that such a post would be boring and preachy. They decided to put me in my place, and remind me that I am a loser and a failure, regardless of what country I am in.

Fail #1-I was looking for this delicious bun cha place near my work. I wandered around looking for it, positive that I'd find it. I didn't. I opted instead for this nice looking pho place.

Fail #2-I sat down and indicated that I'd like a meal. It was the kind of place that options are limited and I didn't care what they brought me. I also said I wanted iced tea. I was ecstatic that they brought it. woohoo. I did something right. Turns out, that's the only thing I did correctly. I sat and waited for thirty minutes. I even made eye contact with the waitress and she made a motion like "one" and I nodded enthusiastically, thinking this was confirming my order. It turns out they thought I only wanted tea. Defeated, I shuffled out paying my 2,000 dong (10 cents) for my tea and started a dejected trek back to my office.

Fail #3-I passed a bun bo place and figured I could get this one right. They serve one thing...and I am clearly there for it. I confidently point to the bun bo sign and sit down. I order yet another green tea and I sit down. My food arrives and it looks delicious. I did have a slight incident with an old man clapping me on the shoulder and smiling and talking to me in Vietnamese to which I tried to explain, "I'm sorry i don't understand." For some reason that doesn't seem to deter people from continuing on a conversation where they are clearly asking you questions that you simply can not answer. That aside, things were looking like they were taking a turn in the right direction.

We all know (or anyone who has spent any time with me consuming food) that I'm not the daintiest or most delicate when I eat. I try, really I do, but somehow I always manage to make a mess. Whether it be crumbs on my clothes, rice and veggies fallen off of my plate, or chocolate on my cheek, I inevitably leave the table looking like a two year old. My friends at home used to smile and laugh at me in a nice way, leading me to believe this deficit was somewhat endearing, but really it was detrimental to my growth as a normal human being. People I meet out here aren't as accustomed.

I digress. Kind of. My third fail is a direct result of my inability to function properly at a table. As I was eating, the chopsticks splashed some of the spicy broth into my eye causing me to flail and grip my eye, in the process knocking over everything on my table and sullying up my table and my clothes. EPIC FAIL.

Perhaps it is better that I've learned how to eat alone. Clearly it's best that I keep the witnesses to my destruction at a minimum.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Gone

I have never considered myself to be pretty. I don't say this for an onslaught of compliments to be sent my way, I won't believe them anyway. I grew up being tall and painfully thin, with the kind of face that could never be considered cute but apparently I've grown into.

When I look in the mirror, I don't see the same thing that others see. I see the awkwardly unattractive girl I was when I was thirteen. There was a time I refused to pose for pictures and even now I delete a majority of the photos that I am in. I am always genuinely surprised when I complimented on my looks. I'm not good at accepting it. I always relied on my personality to be my most attractive feature-I'm funny, smart and kind. I'm not pretty.

My mother used to say to me that she hoped I'd never know what it was like to be ugly. That i was so lucky and didn't even know it. That one day something would make me appreciate myself from an aesthetic standpoint. She told me I was beautiful and exquisite and that many people would love to look like me. I rolled my eyes. I never realized she was right. That one day I'd wish i could look like the old me.

I woke up in December with these weird red bumps in my arms. I, being the hypochondriac, googled every possibility, and diagnosed myself with ridiculous ailments. I figured it was either some crazy disease or an allergic reaction. I couldn't have predicted the truth.

I went home for Christmas and got blood tests, convinced for some insane reason that it was syphilis. (There is NO REASON at all I should've suspected this, it would actually be impossible. I have not engaged in any precarious activities-or non precarious for that matter...but it's what came up when I googled "small red bumps on arms") Not surprisingly, I tested negative for it and everything else. I waited for my appointment with my superstar dermatologist, convinced that he'd be able to tell me what was wrong. Why an allergic reaction wouldn't go away. He took a quick look at me and delivered the news: I have psoriasis. A lifelong skin condition that covers one with unattractive scales and flares up for seemingly no reason at all. He gave me some cream and told me to get moderate sunlight and that I'd be ok.

I left the doctor feeling very happy, knowing what was wrong with me. I stupidly didn't understand the implication. I had no idea that the red bumps would disappear and be replaced with BIG WHITE SPLOTCHES that cover my arms and part of my legs. That the cream would do nothing to alleviate the unsightly condition that had developed on my arms and part of my body. That I'd have to rethink short sleeve shirts, that when I looked in the mirror I'd see a leopard standing back at me. That I finally had a legitimate reason to complain about what I looked like. That my mother was justified in her prior disdain for my cries of being ugly. I can't help feel like I've gotten what I deserve. And I have to deal with it for the rest of my life. There is no cure for psoriasis. I will constantly have to battle this, feel self conscious, and hate myself for being such a idiot before.

I know I am supposed to be better than this. That beauty is only skin deep. That there is more to life than looking good. I know I sound like a whiny superficial bitch for writing this post. That there are people with actual problems, serious health problems that they are battling, and my situation is pathetic in comparison. of course I know that, but it doesn't make it any easier.

This weekend it was gorgeous sunny weather, and I wore a tank top and saw people staring at my arms, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. I tried on many different outfits for my birthday party and opted out of the one I wanted to wear because it would expose the spots. I can't bear the idea of going out exposed because it'll evoke stares and add to my my already increased self consciousness.

I don't know how I am supposed to stop feeling embarrassed about this. How to stop caring. How to rise above it. How to look in the mirror and not see the stark contrast between my skin color and these patches. How I am supposed to tell myself to stop crying because I've lost whatever confidence in my looks that i was somewhat starting to gain. How can anyone possibly think I am pretty now? I certainly can't imagine how they could, because I certainly don't. I can't help feel that this is going to be what everyone notices about me when they first see me.

I really dislike that I am so upset about looking bad. I had always prided myself on not being vain but the truth is, everyone, I don't care who they are, wants to feel attractive. No one wants to feel like a freak or stand out for having some kind of physical aberration. It doesn't matter how intelligent you are, or how in touch with your inner self you claim you are, no one is immune to physical beauty-not just admiring it but wanting to feel that they, in some way, possess it.

I am not saying I'm ugly. Or that all I have to offer is the way I look. All I am saying is that for 26 3/4 of my life, i didn't appreciate what I had. I wasn't perfect but I had no real problems regarding my looks. Yeah I was gangly, my hair was a frizzy mess and people called me big forehead but I had nothing that made my physically different. I didn't have to think about covering my arms for fear of stares. I was a stupid self conscious girl without any justifiable reason (unless you want to blame Hollywood)

But now I do. Now I have an affliction that I have no real control over that I will never be able to get rid of. The only thing I can try and do is take whatever they recommend to alleviate symptoms (which, as I said, hasn't worked for me) and try and convince myself to get over it. That I should appreciate the other beauty I possess. That I am luckier than most.

I'll try and do those things. but until I have that down, I'll wear long sleeves and have the occasional sobfest in my bedroom.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shape of My Heart

I think it's pretty apparent to anyone who knows me or has been a consistent reader of my blog that I am a hopeless romantic. I LOVE love. I love cheesy chick flicks, flowers, love letters, and the whole notion of soul mates. There is nothing I look forward to more than finding someone who is "my other half" and taking on the world together.

That being said, I don't like Valentine's Day. Not really, anyway. Out of the last 10 Valentine's Days I've had a Valentine for 7 of them. Not bad. Certainly not anything that would make me complain about the day or harbor resentment. If anything, my Valentine's Days in the past have been filled with love and adoration. Huge bouquets, delicious chocolate, and the occasional sparkly present. No, I have no bitterness towards the day.

What I don't like about Valentine's Day is that it is so contrived. I don't like the concept of doing something because you feel you're supposed to, and I don't think over the top gestures are accurate depictions of the heart. I've always been of the mindset that flowers are great, but give them on a random Tuesday, not a holiday or birthday. If you want me to feel special, make it on a random day, not a day that tells you you're supposed to. Also, going out for dinner is a process. You can't get a reservation, the prices are too high, the menu is limited, and there is this underlying pressure to make it perfect and meaningful, therefore ruining the evening. I'd much rather have a home cooked meal (or take out, I guess) and watch a movie and talk. We can go out to dinner another night. In fact, it'll mean more if you plan dinner on a different night because it'll show you put thought into it not just because it's Valentine's Day.

As hopelessly romantic as I am, I don't value material things as much as I value thoughtfulness. If someone displays thought and consideration, just because, it goes miles beyond doing something showy. I've had guys plan the most "romantic" nights...walking along the beach at night, only to "find" a set up of roses, romantic music, chocolate and a necklace. That was beautiful. That guy cheated on me. A lot. Worth it? I don't think so. I'd much prefer the small thoughtful gestures, that show that you know me, are listening when I speak, and that you care. My stuffed rhino, Emily Dickinson poetry, HP set, and Berlin mug are all unconventional, little (except for HP set) gifts but meant the world to me because they were indications of consideration. Nothing sexier than that.

I also dislike Valentine's Day because it allows people to feel bad about themselves for no apparent reason. Just because you are unattached on this one day is no reason to feel miserable, yet people do. My boyfriend of four years and I only spent one Valentine's Day together on account of his job which (conveniently) required him to be out of state on this day. This meant that we couldn't be physically together but didn't change that I had someone who loved me, and he displayed it EVERY DAY, and on Valentine's Day he made sure I was showered with cards, flowers and chocolate. I really don't care about Valentine's Day, and I knew I shouldn't feel depressed and lonely but somehow I couldn't help it. As I sat alone in my apartment while all of my friends were on dates and my boyfriend was in New Orleans or Phoenix or wherever he was, I found myself feeling utterly miserable for "being alone." Even though I wasn't. Even though there were many nights I was alone in my apartment and never thought twice about it. Even though the man I was with had a way of making me feel loved and special and cherished 365 days a year. Valentine's just had that effect on me. And it does others as well.

I guess the bottom line for me is that there shouldn't be a day that marks being in love with someone. And if you insist that there should be, then make it private, like say, an anniversary. But love should not but something that is expressed on a single day but shown daily. Love isn't contrived, it's real, and it's honest and expressing it should come from within, not from a date circled on the calendar.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chuc Mung Nam Moi

There is something incredibly special about being in Vietnam during Tet. Not just because it means I got to have two "new year's" celebrations but because of the meaning and culture behind it all.

In the US, and other western cultures, we celebrate the New Year with alcohol, parties, and resolutions that barely make it through the month but there is no real meaning or significance to it. Just the start of a new year and the underlying notion of new beginnings.

In Vietnam, it's so much more than that. There are stories and traditions and beliefs that surround the whole time of year. Working in a Via real Vietnamese office, i began to see the holiday as not just a time that prices rise, streets crowd, and purses get snatched but as a real new beginning.

The Vietnamese reflect on the past year, and centuries almost and take the time to honor their ancestors and enjoy the time they have with their current loved ones. They pray to Gods to help bring love, happiness, health and prosperity in the new year, and what's more they actually believe it. Their strength in this makes it more than just revelry but turn it into something significant, something far greater than anything I've experienced before.

The time is about giving, peace and love. The debts and grudges from the years before are eliminated and they look at the new year with a fresh perspective and openness that is something I'd love to adopt and am trying to.

This goes back to the whole tradition and national pride element that I cherish so much about this amazing country. The people who reside here have followed the same rituals and routines for centuries and it is ingrained in their very being.

I was supposed to go to Thailand, but due to finances, I found myself in Hanoi in the eve of Tet, watching fireworks over Hoan Kiem lake before heading to Hoi An the following day for a week of sun and relaxation. As I observed the nationals at this time, I saw that of course they were engaging in partying for the new year, they weren't using it as an excuse to party, but felt genuine joy and love for the events going on around them. I think they are the ones who have got it right.

On December 31st, I danced around with my friends and drank and enjoyed the party. I made silly resolutions that I'm pretty sure I've broken but seeing Tet has made me rethink how I want to handle the new year.

This year is going to be another year of self discovery, self love and prosperity. I am going to start looking at things for what they actually are and valuing the greatness that has been thrust upon me. I have been given an immense opportunity out here, not only from a professional capacity but also from a personal standpoint as well. I am tired of claiming what I want, or who i want to be. I have decided, from this day forth to embrace who I am, to make necessary changes and to most importantly be happy in my own skin. I'm letting go of the past; past debt, past inflictions and everything else that I was allowing to hold me back and I am running forward to a bright and happy future.