Ugh! Just writing this is making me down on myself! I'm going to stop, and think about it some more, and watch the Uruguay vs. Netherlands World Cup Game. Ok?
Talk to you soon, hopefully.
I'm packing up my life and moving it to Ho Chi Minh City. This is what it's like.
I wrote a post a while back discussing my general feeling that this time in Vietnam, while it is my life right now, doesn’t feel like my real life, the way I imagine my life to be. I’m not saying that this experience doesn’t “count”, I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity and I think that it has helped me evolve into the person that I am always striving to be. However…
I’m ready to move on. I’ve already stayed longer than I expected to, having extended my contract six months past the expected end date in order to gain more work and life experience. But what I’m feeling now is that I’m approaching the limit where the experience can be growth-inducing and where it can be detrimental to who I am. In essence, it’s wearing me down. My tolerance for culture clash is growing smaller and smaller, reducing me to feeling like a racist asshole who can’t stand “the Asians”, which just isn’t me. As I’ve explored before on this blog, it’s a constant battle between my occasional frustration with this foreign culture and then my immediate guilt trip and self-consciousness at feeling said frustration. And it’s exhausting.
Of course, I have a lot of dreams and ambitions for the future, some that have only developed recently. I now know that I like working in publishing (albeit not in…certain circumstances), and would like to keep trying it, in different genres, working my way towards getting involved in the fiction world. And I know that I need to go to New York, and I’m impatient about getting there and starting a new adventure. And now that I know these things, being here just feels like I’m stagnant.
And much of it has to do with culture. I’ve said to my friends (with a deep guilt at saying so, mind you) that I look forward to having first-world problems again. These are problems I know how to manage: having little money, working all the time to pay rent, finding an apartment or room to live in, finding a job, writing cover letters, getting around places, managing my time to work, see friends, relax. I look forward to being able to focus on these challenges without, say, the constant fear of being hit by a motorbike while walking on the sidewalk. Or the annoyance of having “Hello! Where you from! Motobike you?” shouted at me five times daily. I look forward to being able to pay my own bills because I will be able to read them, and not have to ask the neighbor for help to order more drinking water.
As anyone who knows me is aware, I’m a control freak. When I’m not in control of a situation, I go a bit bananas. The more control I have over a situation, the better I feel about it. I recognize when I don’t have control, and as long as I’m aware that I don’t, I can adapt myself to keep control over the things that I can, and accept the things that I can’t. Here, the things that I can’t control seem far more than I’ve handled before, in Chicago, Paris, and Los Angeles, and they are more constant. Here I am constantly assaulted by the things I can’t control, and it’s tough.
I know when I get back to the states, I will once again be overwhelmed, less with traffic and food choices and communication, and more with reverse culture shock and unemployment and moving to New York. But these are things that, in some form or another, I have dealt with before, and I am ready for it.
As far as specifics goes, this is my “plan”. My last day of work is April 5 (Wooooooooo! Sorry, had to get that out). My parents will be here April 3 to the 23, and we’ll be travelling a bit in Vietnam, and they’ll go to Angkor Wat to get all templed out. Once they leave, I will (Visa providing) head to Laos for a week or so, then back to Saigon to gather my belongs, and fly home to LA the first week of May. Once home, I plan to do many things, such as: sleep on my tiny twin bed, surround by stuffed animals and pillows, for at least 2 days; play with my puppy; have a welcome back party for myself at my house; overdose on In-n-Out (sp?), Mexican food, and diners; drive around LA a lot; and—most importantly—plan for the future. In a perfect world, I would somehow figure out how to do a cross-country road trip with NY as the final destination: I’m thinking drive up the coast, then over the Northwest, stop in Chicago for a bit, then over to NY. However, the logistics are tricky, as I have no car, I don’t want to buy a car only to sell it in NY, and renting one is pricey. So it probably won’t happen. Yet. Eventually, yes. (Have I talked about this on here before? I feel like I’m repeating myself. Oh, well.)
In any event, this is my plan. And I’m excited about it, and thus my excitement about being in Vietnam is waning. Has waned. You get it.
But I don’t want any of the negativity that I may feel towards being here to overwhelm my last months. I want to end on a high note. I think having my parents here will help greatly, as I will get to show them things, and participate in their experience of a new place (they’ve never been to Asia before), as well as have some family adventures (hopefully all good ones). We’ll see.
For now, I am working on dividing my thoughts between the future and the present. On the one hand, I am excited about my New York adventure, and on the other, I want to enjoy my remaining time here, one day at a time. So I am doing that, while still preparing myself to depart and embark on a new journey.
Ok, I think that’s enough for now. Love!
I decided to list some of the many things that I am thankful for this year, at this exact moment, in no particular order besides the order that they pop into my head:
1. Having a job in this economic climate, albeit a job that drives me insane. It pays, it gives me experience in the my chosen field, and for that I count my blessings.
2. Having friends here, especially friends that I work with, who make work much more bearable and even enjoyable.
3. My health, which is in general very good. At the moment, I have a pretty gross head cold, but comparatively that’s not too bad. I haven’t been afflicted with swine flu, dengue fever, malaria, the runs, or any other serious illnesses. I can handle a little bit (ok, a lot) of mucus. I’m sure you needed that mental image. You’re welcome.
4. My friends in general, who keep me sane, and have let me reach out to them when I have needed to.
5. My parents, who are amazing, and who know I’m crazy and don’t mind. My crazy is their doing, anyway.
6. Puppies. Because they still make me happy. Especially the one who lives near my office, and lets me pet her and wrestle with her, and gives me happy puppy nips.
I think that's all for now. I am grateful for many other things, I'm sure, but they're currently eluding my mucus-addled, nap-needing brain.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. Love!
After wrestling with my camera, my laptop, and Facebook, I have succeeded in uploading photos from my work computer. Not during work hours, of course. [Cough.] Never. So I now can write about my adventures and link you to the albums as I create them.
On Sunday, September 13th, I left Saigon for Nha Trang, which is a city on the coast of Vietnam (see my map in the older post for a reference). The bus ride was easy enough—the bus wasn’t full, the 9 hours passed uneventfully, and the weather was nice. I arrived around 5 p.m., found a hotel that was $6 and run by some friendly folks, and then set out looking for somewhere to get dinner.
[Me on the first bus]
While strolling the backpacker/tourist district, I was beckoned over to a table already covered with empty beer bottles, and introduced to some new friends—Sheri, a Canadian, and Tom, Andy, and Steffie, all German. Later we met Thomas, another German, at another bar.
Something to explain: Nha Trang seems to be known for primarily 2 things: the beach and the bar scene. It is a party town. Practically every bar had ridiculous drink specials (For example, the bar where I first met these guys was having a happy hour that lasted all night, where you could get 2 bottles of beer for 15,000 VND, which is about $0.85.), and because all the bars are competing with each other for business, they all keep things super cheap. We went to one place where a double cocktail (2 shots of vodka, splash of tonic or whatever) was 10,000 VND. That’s $0.60. And most places gave you a free shot just for walking in. Needless to say, once I had found a good group of people to hang out with, we did a fair amount of drinking. (Nothing unsafe, Mom and Dad, I was responsible, I promise.)
So, that first evening, I made new friends, and we drank some beers together, had dinner, and then played pool (or, as I like to say, “playing pool,” as I have zero pool skills whatsoever) over more beer. The next day 3 of them (Sheri, Andy, and Steffie) went with me on a boat tour of some of the islands off of Nha Trang. At the first island, we were given snorkels, and waded into the sea. The water was clear but the marine life was limited, save for millions of these small, translucent jellyfish that stung us; they are harmless, just annoying, and leave little bug bite-looking marks all over one’s body. After snorkelling we got back on the boat and had lunch, followed by a “floating wine bar,” where all of us hopped in the ocean in inner tubes and drank local wine from plastic cups. And met more jellyfish, some of them less friendly than others, and these were fished out by the guides. Following this, we went to another island to chill out a bit, and then went to yet another to go to the Nha Trang aquarium, where they had sea turtles that looked incredibly disapproving, and giant fish and moray eels, looking sufficiently intimidating. After returning to Nha Trang in the afternoon, we all went back to our hotels and hostels to shower and rest a bit, before meeting up again for dinner and drinks.
The next day, Sheri, Thomas, Steffie and I rented 2 motorbikes and headed off in search of a waterfall that was supposed to be scenic. Thomas had ridden one before, Sheri had motorcycle experience, and I was just eager to try it. It turned out to be a nice little motorbike adventure—not enough traffic to be truly terrifying, and enough straight highway for practice. On the way out of town we stopped at a temple with a few giant Buddhas, which was exciting, as I’ve been working on a book about them for months, and there they were. Then, after 40 km of biking and a few near accidents in puddles (I now know that instead of trying to swerve around them, you should just power through them, otherwise you have the tendency to lose your balance and topple over), we found the waterfall—only to be vaguely dissatisfied. But the ride was a rush, and now I feel a smidge more comfortable on a bike.
[Sheri, rockin' it on the bike]
I was never planning on spending more than a few days in Nha Trang, since I had expected to be on my own. However, since I had connected with a good group, I was easily persuaded to stay longer. So, on my third day, we all slept in and then headed to the beach, where we had some wine, listened to music, read our books, and just chilled out.
That evening, we parted ways, somewhat: Sheri was staying in Nha Trang before heading south to Saigon, and Tom, Steffie, and I were heading north to Hoi An. It turned out Tom and I were on the same sleeper bus that evening, and as soon as we arrived in Hoi An we spotted Steffie getting off her bus. The group was not disbanded! The three of us ended up exploring Hoi An together.
So: Nha Trang was a great introduction to my trip: the weather was beautiful, I got the beginnings of a tan (for those of you who know me, this is a feat), and I found some awesome people to hang out with, so I wasn’t wandering around on my own as I had anticipated. The photos are here, and there will be more to come soon.