Friday, April 27, 2012

Meet Me in Hong Kong

 I travel every opportunity that I can, any excuse for a new adventure or exploration. If someone mentions wanting to go somewhere that I also want to visit, I’ll enthusiastically and genuinely tell them that we should go, and actually follow up. (Sometimes people can find this a little overwhelming or a bit unique but whatever it’s who I am.) When a friend living London told me he was “currently boarding a flight to Singapore” for a four day business trip, I booked my flight and was there two days later. People often remark that I’m “never in Hanoi” (gross exaggeration) but it’s true that it’s not uncommon for me to be out of town. Part of the reason I moved to Southeast Asia was to travel. I had a list of must see places before I got here and the list is ever expanding on account of hearing the tales of others…I’m even at the point that when I think of repatriating, I think, “But wait, I haven’t been to X, Y, or Z, I can’t leave yet.”

One of the places I was always intrigued by was Hong Kong, but despite it being only an hour and a half way, I only just went for the first time last week. This is, in part, due to the fact that going there for a weekend requires a fair bit of advance planning (the Sunday flights from HK to Hanoi are sold out for at least a month) and on top of that, flying there is exponentially more expensive than say, getting to Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, or Malaysia. It was also because Hong Kong is not the kind of place you go solo in the hopes of meeting up with other travelers so I wanted a companion for the journey and had yet to find one. The night I MET my (now) boyfriend, he mentioned “really wanting to go to Hong Kong,” my eyes lit up and, as I said above I am prone to doing, I started planning a trip with him on the spot. Luckily, he was receptive to this and a month later we were there.
view from hotel room

I didn’t really know what to expect from the city, even though I’d heard accounts of it from multiple sources. In truth, I guess I thought it would be a like a more condensed Singapore with taller buildings but was mistaken. I'd describe Hong Kong as a combination of Manhattan and San Francisco (two of my favorite cities) but with better weather. I am a city girl through and through and Hong Kong lived up to everything it is that I love about being in a big city: I thrive on the buzz, need the culture, enjoy the myriad of options at my fingertips at any moment, so being in Hong Kong was like coming home. I was instantly comfortable and found myself yearning for the big city life I used to have. I am by no means complaining about where I live or the life I have now, Hanoi is where I have chosen to be right now and I’m here because I want to be, but at times it’s still difficult, an adjustment, and it’s nice to fall back into my comfortable former existence, even if only for a weekend here and there.

 I’m the kind of person that isn’t a major planner when on a vacation. I find hour-by-hour itinerary plans incredibly boring and restrictive and it’s why I will never go on a tour because it would drive me completely insane. I like to be aware of what’s available in terms of top sights and attractions and signature dishes, but for me, travel shouldn’t be rushing to do everything. It should be enjoyable and fun, not a mission. My parents are the same. When we go places they say, “left or right” and from there just explore, wander, immerse. I was also incredibly fortunate that I was going with someone who was willing to figure everything thing out (complete with phenomenal surprises) but is also cool enough to go with the flow. The perfect combination when traveling.
view from table at Spoon

 The first day we arrived we checked into our hotel which was attached to Pacific Place (an incredible shopping mall-more on that later-with a movie theatre) and as we only had a few hours before our dinner reservation, we went to see “The Hunger Games” since I am obsessed with it and it’s not coming out in Vietnam. A great start to the trip. From there, we went out for dinner at Spoon, in Kowloon, which had a stunning view of the city lights (not to mention incredible food) 

damage from shopping
The Blind Pig
The second day it was raining, and we were tired so we were incredibly lazy until we ventured out into the city to shop, then we, or at least I, was filled with a sudden burst of manic obsessive energy. I am a compulsive shopper, and as anyone who has gone with me can attest to, it can be a bit of a problem. I don’t need to shop ALL THE TIME, I can go weeks or months without buying something, but once I start I can’t stop. I am practically incapable of limits or restraint. I can’t choose between things so I buy them all. If it hadn’t been for James practically dragging me out of the shops, I would’ve kept going. I still managed to get away with: five dresses, one top, one blazer, one pair of shorts, and six items from the Benefit counter. After this excursion we met up with a good friend of mine from home (who now lives in Shanghai but was coincidentally in HK for business) on Hollywood Road at a place called Heirloom, which had a trendy NYC-esque vibe with fantastic food. I had the salmon, great stuff. For dessert, I had the chocolate bread pudding which was so sensational that I am not going to do it the injustice of trying to describe it. Just have it, you’ll love it. After dinner, we wandered around the neighborhood, getting a feel for it and ended up at Lily&Bloom to say hi to another friend who was also coincidentally in town. Lily&Bloom made me miss NYC so much, it’s dimly lit but in a atmospheric way, rather than seedy. There are candles all along the bar giving everyone a soft, subtle glow.  The drinks are well mixed and delicious. It also contains a “hidden” cigar room (though not really since everyone knows about it and it’s not at all challenging to find) called The Blind Pig which we also checked out.

Dim Sum at City Hall
Day 3 was touristy day, commencing with dim sum lunch at City Hall (thanks @stickyinhanoi for the recommendation) which was an experience in itself. We both envisioned it to be like street food in Vietnam, on the street, a little bit dirty and hectic and were surprised to find that it was held in what appeared to be a grand ballroom complete with white table cloths and chandeliers. I wondered if we were in the wrong place but was assured that we were not, so sat down and had a delicious and fun meal. Following this, we did what every other tourist does and took the cable car to the peak overlooking the city, which was well worth it, even on not the nicest of days.

view from the peak

We went back and relaxed (our hotel had a bathtub which I spent minimum one hour a day in, it’s kind of a weakness and a huge luxury since I don’t have one in Hanoi) and went out to dinner in Kowloon again, this time spending some time to wander around the area as well. We ate a lot and again had incredible dessert (ice cream sundae for me, chocolate soufflĂ© for James. Both dishes were “to share” but we decided to tackle them individually.) After dinner we went out again, experiencing a Friday night in Hong Kong, which again, reminded me of NYC, the masses of people out and about (which was far larger than the night before) We begrudgingly left the following afternoon.

view from the peak
 Since then, I’ve been emailing out of town friends who frequently do business in Hong Kong to find out when they’re next there so I can have an excuse to go back. I loved it but know I only slightly scratched the surface and want to explore the city more, take it what it has to offer.

*Thanks to everyone for the tips on where to go, to JLF, MM, and KS. who added an extra fun dimension to being there, and James for everything*

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Seasons of Love

Hanoi has two seasons: winter and summer, and as Hanoians we complain about both of them. We aren’t given the luxury to adjust to the extreme climate. It’s either HOT or COLD. I would say we have a total of two (maybe three) weeks of “autumn” or “spring” and these days are my favorite. The sunshine is out but the temperature is moderate and the humidity level isn’t high. We can walk around in lightweight clothes without feeling like a hairdryer is being blown into our faces.

Winter starts showing its grey, cold, damp, rainy self in November and doesn’t really leave until the end of March, and the whole time we lament over how dismal it is, we yearn for the summer to appear. When it does, we’re grateful (albeit a bit baffled by seeing the world in color again) we rush towards our local pool and excitedly discuss the joys of being in a bathing suit again. We meet on rooftop bars and have picnics because it’s “fun again.” However, this quickly subsides when the blackouts occur, or when we are drenched in sweat after a two minute walk to the supermarket. We begin to speak of this practically nonexistent autumn in wistful tones. We love this city but we hate the weather. So which is worse? Summer or winter? For some it’s obvious, some people detest the heat or the cold, so will obviously opt for the latter, but for others, like me, it’s a toss up of pros and cons…some of which I’ve listed



Tet: Tet is a magical time of year, not just because we get a week off of work. Sure, the traffic is worse than usual and prices rise, but the vibe and energy around Tet is contagious. People are stressed out like they are around every holiday season but there is an excitement, a joy that is palpable. Not to mention the celebrations themselves are something to be experienced.

Great hair/make up days: This is pretty self explanatory. You can style yourself. It’s possible to wear make up in the winter, because it will stay put, unless it’s raining. Also, bad hair days are few and far between. The frizz isn’t as prevalent.

More motivation at work: When it’s dark and gloomy out, the last thing I want to do is be outside…so while getting out of bed (or showering in the freezing cold) IS a challenge, once I’m at work it’s super easy to stay focused. There aren’t as many distractions, I’m not wishing I could leave to go for a stroll outside or lay poolside.

People are around: Aside from the obvious trips during Tet and Christmas time, the expats in Hanoi tend to stick around during the winter. There are more dinner/house parties, and a great chance that your friends will be around when you want to go out. Sure, there may be the occasional weekend away, but not like the summer, when people are leaving (either for good or for vacation)

Arrivals: People seem to arrive in the winter, new people, fun people. While the transience of the city can be, at times, exhausting, the expatriates are part of what makes it the place that we love so much, and when new batches come in, it’s something to look forward to. (Better arriving than leaving)


Weather: When people from other parts of the world look at the temperature they say things like, “It’s not that bad.” But that’s because those people are not here experiencing it. It’s a whole new kind of cold. The kind of cold where you can’t get warm. It’s damp, humid, and most places lack heating and aren’t properly ventilated. It’s more cold inside than out. Furthermore, most of us use a motorbike to drive around which only makes it worse. Sure, we’re not in the freezing degrees, but frankly I prefer a blizzard in NYC over the winter in Hanoi. Also, it’s gray and when it rains, it's a freezing rain.

Laundry: Dryers are not par for the course, and a lot of us have to hang our clothes to dry. In this weather, the clothes take ages to dry and also have a weird, musty smell. Luckily dry cleaning is relatively inexpensive.

1. Get a hot water bottle. Avoid an electric blanket (though that’s a different story entirely)
2. Drink lots of tea
3. Gloves, hats, and scarves
4. House parties
5. Two good coats: one for rain and one for cold
6. Escape to the warmth for a weekend or two



Sunshine: I’m one of those people who likes the bright sun. I can even handle cold weather if the sun is out. I just don’t like gray. In Hanoi, the summer means sunshine (or pouring with rain) but for the most part, the city is shining with sun rays. I think it puts everyone in a better mood.

Outdoor Activities: Rooftop bars, picnics, outdoor concerts, drives around West Lake are all enjoyable and typical activities during the summer in Hanoi. In the day time, it can be rather stifling in the heat, but at night it can be lovely. During the day, many of us relish our time at Thanh Loi pool and evenings at bia hois are standard….and excursions such as boat cruises and swan boats. Also, take some time to enjoy the lotus flowers on Tay Ho. Summer also means: outdoor barbecues, electronic picnic and the CAMA Festival.

Laundry: Unless a rain storm strikes (which is, of course, common) it’s much easier to do laundry. Clothes dry within hours and aren’t plagued with the aforementioned smell. That being said, I still want a dryer.

Vacation: Summer vacation doesn’t end when we graduate, it’s still very much something of the present. Whether it be a weekend away, a motorbike trip, or a few weeks in a different country, summer means travel, and traveling is one of the best parts of living in Southeast Asia.

Juice: Is there anything more delicious than sugarcane or coconut juice? I think not.

Health: In the winter, due to the conditions listed above, someone is always sick…the flu, a terrible cold, and on a personal level it’s when my psoriasis flares up. In the summer, however, aside from heat stroke and dehydration (drink lots of fluids!) the illness level is down.


Ugliness: I’ve spoken of this before but once, again, it is very difficult to be attractive in Hanoi during the summer months. Hair is either caked to your face in a sweaty mess, or a frizzy disaster. Makeup melts off (not an appealing look) and bodies are constantly slick with sweat. It’s not a time to look your best. However, on a positive note, it’s a good time to shed the excess weight that winter inevitably brings.

Lack of motivation: Who wants to be stuck inside an office when it’s beautiful outside? I don’t. I’d much rather be out and about, or by the pool reading a book and sipping on a mojito, but this isn’t possible during business days. In the winter, I often stay past my 5:30 end of day time but in the summer I’m watching the clock…this distracted behavior doesn’t only apply to work life but also social life. It’s hard to leave an air conditioned cocoon when it’s a zillion humid degrees outside and working out? Forget it. Not happening. (But as I said above, we eat less...)

People leave: Summer is bittersweet in that it’s a time for goodbyes. Though people come during all parts of the year, the summer brings the most. People often start graduate school or new jobs in the fall so June and July are filled with going away parties to those we’ve gotten close to.

Blackouts: It is a frequent occurrence during the Hanoi summer for the electricity to be shut off. The power will go out. Maybe it’ll be for a few minutes but it could be for hours My longest blackout was for 18 hours, though I think case is pretty extreme. If it’s the former, it’s manageable, but when it’s for extended periods of time, especially at night or when you’re sleeping, it’s hot, it’s uncomfortable…and if you’re like me who never knows where my keys/phone etc are… it’s inconvenient.

Typhoons and Floods: It’ll be my third summer in Hanoi and both summers before there were cases of severe flooding and at least one typhoon. Being from Florida (hurricane central) I found the typhoons to be a joke but the flooding is not. Luckily, my area is not prone to it, but many people will have to deal with crazy roads, having to abandon their motorbikes or empty out their ground floor of knee high water. Not fun, not to mention the water is filthy!


1. Carry baby wipes. They are refreshing and make you feel less gross
2. Always have a beverage on hand.
3. Sunscreen and mosquito repellant. Wear them.
4. Light clothing both in texture and color. You’ll sweat, and that lovely turquoise or coral outfit isn’t as cute with wet patches all over it.
5. Go outside. Plan fun things with your friends, go for drives.
6. For blackouts: I’d recommend investing in a chargeable fan with a light. They can be found at: Nguyen Kim round the corner from Hoan Kiem. Cost is approx 1m VND (thanks Steve “@ourman” for the tip)
7. Carry a raincoat with you. The skies can-and will-at any given time open up and come crashing down on you. Usually around 5pm.

The truth is, Hanoi is a great city to be in, whatever the season may be. It's not perfect and I'm sure we'll always have a "grass is always greener" mentality when it comes to weather'll always be too much or too little, never just right (except those few glorious weeks I mentioned) but we know despite our complaining, that we love it here.

*Thanks AH, EL, and SJ

Monday, April 9, 2012

Karen: The Hardest Goodbye

As an expat I have gotten so used to people flitting in and out of my Hanoi world, goodbyes barely affect me anymore. I know that real friendships and relationships will withstand the distance and separation and the rest were just fleeting and fun.

However, today, I am experiencing a new kind of heartbreak, one that I’ve never really felt before. My best friend, housemate, partner in crime (you name it) is leaving Hanoi and not coming back. It’s as if someone is cutting off a limb and taking away one of my lungs. I’ve had people leave before, close friends, boyfriends, but none of them left me feeling like this.

Try to imagine Hanoi with no motorbikes, and that’s a little bit how I feel about Karen leaving. Not that I am hugely attached to motorbikes, but more like they are an intricate part of what makes this city, if they suddenly disappeared, everything as we know it would change. We’d have to re-adjust, re-learn, rethink our entire approach and way of being here. Which is kind of where I am now. I had a life here before Karen (for 10 months actually) and though it was fun, there was always something missing, and for me it was having a best friend, someone to understand and share things with.

I am not going to spend a great deal of time listing what makes Karen special and why anyone who has spent any time with her is alongside me in mourning the loss of her constant presence in Hanoi. I also can’t put into words the magic of the relationship that we share. Anyone whose been around us has seen it, and more often than not, are baffled by the secret connection that we share that allows us to just burst into laughter or random dance moves at the same time, over the same thing but without uttering a word. It is not uncommon for those around us to say, “Am I missing something?, “I don’t get it,” “What’s happening?” or the ever, “You guys are really weird.” Yes, we are, but somehow it was ok if we were in it together. When Karen leaves, I will still have those around me who understand the quirkiness, but I lose my partner in crime, who not only gets it but is a part of it.

It’s incredible to me that I was fortunate enough to meet someone who matched my zaniness, understood my neurosis, challenged my ridiculousness, and taught me so much. Despite the amount of time we spent together, there was never a time where I was sick of her or felt like I wanted to get away…even at 4:30am at Track Bar debating whether or not to go to Phuc Tan. This is incredible, it’s very rare that I don’t feel the need to disengage and retreat from someone, but maybe it’s because I never really needed “Alice-time” from Karen because she is, in so many ways, an extension of myself.

I know that her leaving is incredibly emotional for her which is why I have done everything in my power to make it easier. I’ve fought my natural inclination to cry and be emotional (or completely de-attach myself) as that’s the last thing she needs. Instead, I’ve pretended like everything is normal and the same. I’ve tried to ensure that I was the rock that she has always been for me and that her final moments here were joyous.

Most people who have lived as an expatriate for an extended period of time have almost identical stories but somehow this does little to mollify me, understanding of the situation doesn’t make it any easier to withstand. It doesn’t change the fact that I don’t have a best friend here anymore. (Part of me also feels bad though, because my other friends are all incredible and I love them too, and I don’t want them to think otherwise) The logical side of me knows that this was to be expected; expats come and go on their own timetables, it’s rare for two people to have the exact same schedule or next destination (unless they came together), and the constant motion is partially what makes this world so dynamic and exciting, what draws me to it. However it is also these moments that I question why I have chosen this life for myself. Yes, the life is interesting, yes we do different things, we have opportunities that others just dream of, we're exposed to incredible things on a daily basis, and the people we hang out with are the best of the best: open minded, interesting, worldly, and full of perspective...but this lifestyle lacks stability. And that can be a difficult thing to give up, it can leave us feeling a little misplaced. It's something that I, well all expats, have accepted as part of our world, one of the bads in a long list of greats.

As for Karen and me, I know this isn't goodbye forever, we’ll always be a part of each others lives, that what we’ve shared and who we are will forever be intertwined. Connections like this don’t come about every day, and though I am beside myself and heartbroken, I see the beauty in the sadness, it makes me grateful that I am fortunate enough to have someone like Karen in my life. It’s the end of an era, but I look forward to the new ones. Like following her to Seville.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Enjoy Yourself, Take Only What You Need From It: First Dates

For someone who has spent most of the past twelve years in some kind of relationship, I haven’t really been on that many dates. Or let me rephrase that, I haven’t been on a lot of first dates. The kind of first dates with people I don’t already know. I don’t really like it. It feels forced and contrived, which as a result makes me feel uncomfortable. I’ve always tended to kind of fall into relationships; meeting someone in a low pressure setting (friends party, work event, extracurricular activity) become friends with them and then all of a sudden we’re together. In fact, for the most part, I’ve managed to skip over the fumbling bits that lead us into a relationship.

Dating is weird. The whole concept is awkward. You’re basically interviewing someone to find out if you want to hang out with them again, eventually get physical, and potentially enter into a relationship with them. You’re basing this on several factors: being attracted to them, chemistry, connection, all of which are supposed to be achieved within a high pressure several hour time frame. It’s worse than a job interview because if you’re not asked out again you can’t even tell yourself the lie of being under qualified or it being a factor of nepotism, it’s simply because you’re just not that compelling or good looking. Even if you didn’t want to go out with the person again, you want to be the one to make that decision, not vice versa.

I have discovered that there are several types of people, those who view dating as nerve wrecking and those who view it as an adventure. The latter approach it as something exciting rather than panic, they go in feeling like they have nothing to lose (which to be honest they don’t) They’re usually stellar on first dates. They’re also great to go on first dates with because they put their partner for the evening at ease and make the process more fun. Sometimes though, the issue with these people is they tend to view dating as a sport, a game, and you may think something is going really well and there’s a connection but for them it’s just a way to pass the evening. (This is obviously not applicable to everyone)

I’m pretty sure that I’m the former. Especially if I don’t have a pre-established foundation of friendship first. When I like guy that I am not already good friends with, I become incredibly stupid and even more awkward. I blurt out inappropriate and offensive things, I’ll get drunk and start insulting them, or I’ll spend hours in their presence only to run away. I can not tell you how many times that I have literally run away from a man who I liked. After a date, my friends don’t ask me if I kissed him, they asked me if I ran. The more I like you, the worse I am. The good news, is that upon talking to people about this, I’ve discovered that I’m not alone in this. Other people do this too. Feelings are scary.

I may be getting a bit ahead of myself, as this is supposed to be about first dates not what happens after them, and, if you’re single, first dates are an inevitable part of life. Like it or not, we’re going to get to the point with someone we’re interested in that we have to go out with them, regardless of how “laid back” and “casual” we are in our approach to life and rekationships. In addition to speaking endlessly to my friends about this, I have also spent the past three months being “single” and going on dates, some successful and some disastrous (I might actually post about those for just sheer entertainment purposes) and think the following guidelines can help with the initial stages of dating:

1. Location is everything. Intimate meets interesting... find a place that is busy enough that you don't feel like the last people on earth, but quiet enough that allows for conversation... at least for the first leg of the date. If the spot is interesting, it is a conversation filler for those awkward moments. It also will make a good story at your engagement party. "Our first date was at the ho tay waterpark and we got stuck on the ferris wheel" (on a side note, I’ve got great date spots in Hanoi and NYC for those stuck on ideas) Instead of the “dinner and movie” (or just one of them) route, do an activity. It’s an ice breaker and makes the whole process seem like less of an interview and more like what it is, a fun activity. Since you probably don’t know much about the person you may want to do a little research (asking mutual friends or them) what they’re into but you can pick something different. Examples: food festivals, art gallery opening, museum, cooking class, rock climbing etc

2. Dates are always better with a little lubrication. A glass or two of wine (or beer) can help relax you but don’t get too drunk.

3. Get weird. You know you are hitting it off with someone when it starts off very normal with polite conversation but by the end of the night you are talking about horse humpers on youtube. (If you need some inspiration please see:

4. Don't judge a book by its cover. The worst thing you could possibly do is write someone off as soon as you meet them... if anything, you could end up as good friends

5. Accept the awkwardness. First dates are painful for all parties involved. Accept it and go wtih the flow.

6. The world is your oyster. The best thing about first date is you really can't run out of things to talk about. Cover all basis to keep the conversation flowing- where are you from? Why are you here? What do you do? Favourite movies, etc

7. Have some wild cards. Ask some crazy questions or tell some bizarre funny stories about yourself to make the date interesting

8. Don't show all your cards on the first date. Leave something for the next date(s)

9. Put your mobile on silent. It’s rude to text others or answer your phone during a date. This may be the 21st century, but don't forget your manners. (If for some reason you have an extenuating circumstance like a pressing work obligation, family issue etc, inform your date before…”I want to apologize in advance but there is an issue at work and they may call me.” But DO NOT use the age old emergency phone call from a friend. Everyone sees right through it.)

10. Manners. Just a quick follow up on the mobile phone issue. MANNERS MANNERS MANNERS. You learned them, so don't forget them. Don't interrupt or insult your date. There is never an excuse to be offensive or rude, even if your date is. Also, don't forget to say THANK YOU.

11. Be honest, but not too honest. Always be yourself, because everyone shows their true colors eventually. But, don't forget to play the game. Don't let yourself seem desperate, but don't be too aloof. Talking about past relationships on the first date is probably not a good idea. Keep it light, if you disagree- don't start an argument, but use the chance to show you have your own opinions. Be polite, keep it lighthearted and have some fun.

12. Let things happen organically. If you have a connection with someone it will be obvious and you won’t have to try and force things such a follow up hang out session. Try to not even think in those terms of whether or not they’ll want to see you again, it’ll detract from your natural self.

13. Don’t have expectations. This kind of falls with the above but is different in the fact that we often go into things with an idea of how they’re going to play out, which is not a good idea. It will only lead to disappoint and will affect your behavior. A personal example of this, is I spend the latter half of dates worrying whether or not the guy is going to try and kiss me, which, for the record, makes me nervous. I then begin behaving erratically and, by some people’s definitions “weirdly” which is just ridiculous. There is no rule that says you have to kiss someone on the first date, just like there is no rule that says you can’t sleep with them. Do what feels right and don’t worry.

14. Listen. This is essential, not only is it important to seem/be interested in the person you’re with but if you listen, REALLY listen, you’ll find out a lot about the person you’re with. It’s also a great way to determine how to see them again if you want to. Getting someone to share something they enjoy with you is one of the best and most natural way to have a relationship progress. If the person mentions something they’re good at or enjoy doing, it’s normal to respond with, “Oh I’ve always wanted to do X” and, if they’re interested, they’ll make it a point to include you in that activity. I use street food as a way to spend time with people. I love street food and know great spots, and can suggest places to go in a non pressure environment that still results in time together, but also doesn’t expire. The street food options are endless.

15. Keep intrigue without playing games. If you want to see the person again, tell them. Let them know that you had fun and enjoyed yourself. Maybe not send them excessive messages but a simple note the next day is important. Just like being overeager and desperate is a turn off, playing it cool is overrated.

As we all know, there are several different stages of dating: First dates, casually, exclusive, committed relationship and each chapter brings new excitement and anxieties but that’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?

Thanks AH for most of the tips on this, MV for the donkey documentary and JF for making the process way easier than it should be