Mike from Alabama

I was sitting at Highland Café close to the VUS Dong Nia campus. I’ve been substituting there for a while now. It can be nice to move from campus to campus, but I personally prefer to stay close to home. I do what I have to do to get my full-time hours. I’m reimbursed for travel, but the commute takes time. I often go to the café to do small wind up with a cappuccino and a cookie before class.

One afternoon I sat outside with my notebook and met a Mike from Alabama. He offered to buy one of my cigarettes for 200K VND. Having lived in San Francisco for a while, I know this is a way for people to engage in your business and usually ask for something else. He looked tired. Maybe, it was the humidity, as it tends to be so much more than Binh Duong, or he was weary from spinning his wheels.

I was making the attempt to put some words to paper when he sat in the seat across from the table. I was a little annoyed as I got up and picked up my coffee from the counter. But, I kept my pen on the table and we chatted a little. He told a little about his origins and some of his struggles. 47 years old. Had at one time owned his own businesses. He had taught English in different schools. He wore his emotions on his face and I understood it all. I understood mostly his frustration, the frustration of feeling stuck. It resonated with me.

I had just recently shared with some people what had brought me to Vietnam. Right now, I consider my life as a small testimony of taking command of one’s self. I’ve learned that I have to live with my decisions, mistakes and lessons. As we talked, Mike told me how he preferred Cambodia than Vietnam. I told him to go. I asked him why he was here. Money was an issue. I don’t know too much of the English market in Cambodia, but it’s not as built up as it is in Vietnam. I imagine there is more money to be made here than there.

Humans have a high tolerance for emotional pain and frustration. It creates an inability to move. We’re more likely to create some kind of emotional destruction before we make a move. It’s not that he didn’t have some good ideas. He also had his own bike. Fucking pack it up and go! I just didn’t see the drive. It seemed like he was waiting for some type of switch to turn on. Really, he needed to flip the switch.

We spoke a little about my blog. How often to you write? Do you promote it? What’s it about? I don’t promote the blog and I should. As of now I just add tags so people looking for specific things might find it. He asked me what if someone didn’t like it or was offended. I told him hopefully they will just stop reading it. I’m writing it for me. My words may not be important to other people, but that isn’t the reason I write. My truth is important to me. I came from a marriage where my words had no relevance and I’ve learned that I should continue to put my words out there regardless. I shouldn’t allow others to police those words. I shouldn’t police my own words. A self-built prison is the worst kind.

I could see Mike’s pain. I understood his uncertainty. I related to wanting to have the perfectly laid out plan. I don’t truly know where Mike is in his life, but his blindness to his own white privilege, not just in America but the whole fucking world, I did want to slap him. Why was I fucking career coaching this guy? At the same time, I saw how beat up he felt, out of control. There is something deeper he has to climb out of. With a bit of creativity, he can do anything.

I wasn’t meant to put pen to paper that afternoon. I was drawn to this character for some reason… Brother, you are already here. Keep on keeping on. Change is painful, but we grow. You must truly evaluate and determine for yourself what it is in this life you want. Don’t let it go when things don’t go your way or go smoothly.

Our comfort is also up to us. It doesn’t come from anywhere but us. I used to believe that I didn’t have that kind of power, but I do. You do. Mike does. I hope he finds his strength. I hope he loads up his bike and goes to Cambodia. I want him to get there and see that there are important things there for him. Once you’re doing it the thinking stops. When the time comes, reflect. Reflect on how easy and hard it was to do.

I want to give a shout out to all the people who are doing it. Making things happen. Maybe there are late nights. Maybe a GoFundMe account was created or you just worked 20 extra hours that week to help you get it done. The film makers, writers, actors, musicians, educators and activists, you are the best examples I have of living. I have you as inspirations and thank you. You’re doing it. I’m doing it. That’s living.

I quit smoking by the way…


Getting Around

I’ve taken, planes, trains, motorbikes and buses. It’s easy to get around here in Vietnam, but’s not easy to get around Vietnam. I remember my first time in Da Nang in 2011. I successfully haggled a price from the airport to my hotel in a non-metered taxi. I hadn’t changed any money at the time and when I think about it, I probably still paid too much. My first time in Hanoi I needed to go back and forth to the U.S. Embassy a few times. I was persistent to haggle price before each ride, even if the car was metered. This was useful because it is very common for the drivers to take you for a ride. At least with this ride I knew when they took a wrong turn. Nowadays, in Ho Chi Minh, the taxi drivers will claim they don’t have smaller bills to give you change even though it is the middle of the day and you know they’ve been driving and have cash on hand. Carry smaller bills, or better yet, take UBER.

Everything is relatively cheap. With UBER, which I despised in the States, everything is basically 4 times cheaper. There is an UBER bike option to which is dirt cheap. Buses are about a dollar. Bus rides to a different province are cheaper than what a BART commuter has to pay from East Bay to the City. A soft sleeper car on the train is cheaper than a bus ride to San Jose from SF on Greyhound. You can fly first class within Vietnam for the same price as flying coach from SF to LA. The only excuse for not traveling with in Vietnam is time.

Touring the country by motorbike is the best way to see the country. I will cherish those trips in my heart forever. My ass will also never forget those trips. You can lift the shield of your helmet and let the country air hit your face. The air moving around aids the evaporation of sweat rolling down your back. You’re surrounded by the country’s beauty.

Touring by train can be very relaxing. It’s important to reserve a soft sleeper. Just be aware you may have to share the car with others, but don’t worry. Watching the country slide by from your air-conditioned car with vendors coming by your door selling snacks is an experience not to miss. IMG_1934

Let’s focus more on the bus travel. Do you like rocking motions? Do you have nerves of steel? Then take a bus. They run constantly to each province, well, except Binh Duong. It costs about $6USD to ride from the mountains to the beach. The most I paid was $18USD from Da Nang to Vietienne, Laos. They are a fucking scary ride and at times can be very uncomfortable.

There are two kinds of buses. There are seated ones and sleepers. In 2011 I took sleeper buses. Most of my trips were lengthy and overnight. It just made sense at the time. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter if it is a three hour ride, you’ll ride a sleeper. Sleepers have individual berths with seats that recline. The berths are tiny. If the Vietnamese rider happens to be unusually tall, you will often see legs hanging over the edge close to the person’s face in the berth below, but this doesn’t happen often. There is barely any room to stash your shoes as you are required to remove them when getting on the bus. I mean it’s a tight fit for most. I learned that the last seats at the back of the bus are bearable.

After my 5 days on a motorcycle, I couldn’t imagine taking a motorbike out of the mountains to the beach. I didn’t think I would mind the capsule to sleep my way to the beach. My hotel ordered my bus ticket and a shuttle picked me up to go to the bus station.

Note #1: Stay vigilant. Even though announcements are done in English at times the p.a. system is crap and you won’t hear shit. Always talk to the information person there. Again, stay vigilant. The info person will assure you that they will tell you when and where your bus is, but they easily forget you, even if you are the only black traveler wearing an orange shirt there. Stay close to them.

I was the last one on the bus and observed how people were diligently looking for their numbered berth. I remembered that the back was where I wanted to be, but somehow convinced myself that I should follow the rules and squeezed into one of the smallest berths that was directly behind the driver. This has to be the most terrifying seat on the bus, also, you watch the worst driving decisions being made. Like passing a truck on a blind mountain curve. I also had to listen to someone’s motion sickness for 1.5 hours.

Note #2: Fuck seat assignments. Go straight to the back of the bus, especially if the bus isn’t full. If you are American or just larger than the average Vietnamese, insist that you sit in the back anyway. It’s quieter and you can remain oblivious to the dangers of the road.

There was a lunch stop that happened. That’s when I decided to move to the rear of the bus. I mostly couldn’t stand listening to a girl constantly sick up in a plastic bag anymore. I was already scratched up on my legs from rubbing the plastic trying to rearrange myself into a more comfortable position.

The motion of the bus was like a ship on a stormy sea. We rocked and tipped. I remember a trip I took in 2011 where I woke up in the morning at the bus stopped as drivers from a few other buses surveyed a bus that had turned completely on its side in a pond. The way the buses move on the highway is more than reckless. The stormy sea did put me to sleep. I figure it’s probably better to crash as a ragdoll.

After lunch, we quickly came to another stop. This place looked like we were still in the mountains. Were we in Nha Trang or even near it? Drivers never explain shit. They get you on the bus and tell you to get off, no explanation. I was foggy from my short nap. Everyone was getting off the bus. I said, Nha Trang, and the driver just grunted and waved me off the bus. My backpack was the last thing in the compartment hold, but they rushed me towards a mini-van. Next thing I know they closed the compartment and I told them I needed my luggage. The kid opened the compartment then spat on the ground next to my bag. What the fuck man? I was so out of it from sleep, but he didn’t need to be an asshole.

There were two mini-vans that could hold about 15 each and they decided to put 22 people into one. I and another girl had to stand and some people sat in other’s laps. Every single one of my pores were activated. Within a minute I was drenched in sweat. The air-con wasn’t strong and the driver refused to let anyone open the window. The driver drove like a bat out of hell, leaning on the horn the whole way. Luckily, our first stop a group of 9 Korean guys got out at their hotel.

I finally got a seat and could see the beautiful beach and beach park along the way. The opposite side of the street as lined with high rise hotels and new construction. The turquoise water was so inviting. The view of the islands was stunning. As we rode along, I just waited for my frustration to dissolve in the salty sea air.

Finally, the driver asked the address of my hotel. I showed him the address on my phone, he nodded his head and put the pedal to the metal. He went around a curve and then stopped in front of a construction site. I looked up and it wasn’t my hotel. He got out of the van, pulled my backpack out and said I was there. I said no and then he motioned with his arm for me to walk down the road and make a turn. Fuck!

It was hot as fuck, I began to sweat even more and I was lost. I wasn’t sure how much data I had left on my phone. The whole time traveling I tried to use it sparingly. I pulled up navigation. Come to find out, the driver had pointed me in the exact opposite direction of my hotel. Luckily, it was extremely close. Hefting the backpack to my shoulders I had to get past motorbike drivers and others trying to give me a ride 100 yards to my hotel.

I made it to La Suisse. No matter what, I’m never taking another sleeper if I can help it. As I settled into my room I began to remember my bus ride to Laos and how it had left me at the border in the pouring rain.

The next bus ride I took was from HCMC to Can Tho. It was a seated bus. Again, I was told to wait somewhere but given no other directions. Remember note #1? Well, it seems that my bus was scheduled to leave minutes from my purchasing a ticket. Again, I was the last to get on the bus. I went straight to the back of the bus and sat removed from the rest of the group. No one said anything about that. But why did they put a bag all the way in the back next to me?

I did doze off a little bit, here and there. When we got to our last stop it was obvious where we were, a bus station with the name Can Tho. Someone was there to assist me getting a shuttle to my far-removed hotel. On the return trip to HCMC I should have gotten out at the rest stop. It included a rather large market. The ride to and from Can Tho was uneventful, just the way I like it. I hope to continue to travel the country in various ways. It’s too cheap to not take advantage. You just need the time.

Coming into 2018 like a champ.

I’ve written a lot since my last post, but typing thing is so annoying. I’m old school and prefer putting pen to paper. Typing isn’t challenging, just tedious. I just can’t focus when working on the laptop either. I go into editing mode  or Facebook mode, automatically. I remember a Stephen King novel I read as a youth where the writer in the story had his particular pencils he would use and a certain brand of loose leaf lined paper. I also have the same quirk, at least with writing implements. I’m also very picky about seating and table positioning for this task. I don’t have a proper table at my house and most cafes in Vietnam have low tables. My ass has had to settle quite a bit in this country. The main objective really these days is to just find a chair with a cushion. If the seating isn’t plastic then it is wood. My fat ass is simply not accustomed to the rigid surface. I have a slight hip impingement in my right hip so sitting for long periods of time on a hard surface makes my body ache. After sitting, I walk around like the old man I am.

All the words recently written are still very fresh, but they need to be cut down, made digestible. One of my new year’s goals is to make little capsules of my blog posts, and post them a bit more regularly. But life…it happens and sometimes living gets in the way. As we have moved into 2018 I will attempt to live true to my goals and give you what I’ve got and more. I am looking forward to getting my fiction writing together.

A little update…

In November, I had to extend my visa in order to get my TRC (temporary residence card). Then I had to extend it again as the police were not cooperative and gave my landlord some hassle. Other people I talked to didn’t have the same problem and I think the landlord should have kept the 500,000 vnd I left tucked away in the passport to help grease the wheels. Nevertheless, the little blue book is being processed along with my residency letter from the police and my TRC application. As of this posting, all is good with the documents. Legit until November 2019.

Settling in has become a bit easier day by day. I’ve been in Binh Duong Province, Thu Dau Mot to be exact, for three months now. It took me two and half months to leave the apartment IMG_2062 during the day because of the heat. It would be totally different if I had a motorbike. No one walks around here. One thing that helped was a drop in the temperature. A few weeks back the temperature dropped to 21 degrees Celsius which is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit to you Americans. It felt so fucking cold. I’m glad I had the foresight to bring my Clooney’s Pub hoodie. IMG_2265 It was especially cold on the back of a motorbike.

The cooler weather made it much easier to leave the apartment and actually walked around to see my neighborhood and surrounding area. I also forced myself to walk to work a few times, it’s an hour-long stroll. Any other time it is WAY too hot to just stroll in the middle of the day. Walking at night is a bit boring, as there isn’t much going on around my area and a lot of things are closed. I did find a few bia hois close by, but I have yet to go. I still have to get used to my work schedule. It happens during prime social time, 5pm to 9pm. I prefer my previous job’s schedule for sure, 8am to 12pm. It left a lot of time during the day to fuck around and meet people for lunch or happy hour.

One thing that has been helpful to feel connected to this place is finding a market, directly next to my gym. The gym that overlooks my market is quite posh and I am glad that trying to eat well physically puts me close the gym in the process. I go almost on a daily basis. There I buy meat from a butcher and vegetables and fruit from a few other vendors. My goal is to become a regular face and eventually have conversation with them. Now things are hand signals and calculator translation. I’m good with my numbers in Vietnamese in general, but then there is market language. I don’t have an ear for than yet. For meat, I point to the cut and signal what size with my forefinger and thumb. I grab my vegetables and feel grateful when they throw in a few extra chilis and herbs. The fruit selection is amazing. I have to be very careful in this area because my eyes grow and I want more than can fit into my refrigerator. I use the fruit mostly for my morning pre-workout shakes. Since, the first draft I picked up some Tupperware and now prep the fruit and place it in the freezer.

But there is an amazing thing that happens walking through a market. My cooking mind and my belly conspire. Most things are recognizable. Some things are very curious looking and I wonder what to do with it all. It is much cheaper to eat out, but these days my body cannot process all of the rice products. I am adopting a more of a ketogenic diet, cutting carbohydrates except from fruits and certain vegetables.

A colleague introduced me to a nice garden café with comfortable chairs a few tall tables that have chairs with a pillow.

As I type this blog they have been playing the jams from the 70s. It’s quite hard to focus and not bust out singing. Another settling thing is finding that the colleague that introduced me to the café is also a writer herself. She has been a motivation I didn’t know I would have access to.

After, or rather during my divorce, I needed to find what was the most important to me. There are few things in the world that I truly want. I have always wanted to be a writer. I wrote a short novel when I was in junior high that I never showed anyone. In 2009, I wrote a mystery novel that somehow disappeared from my jump drive. It was actually before my divorce that I began to observe the people around me and notice how people were hustling for their dreams, not settling for the old standard and allowing their passions to remain hobbies. I know film makers, musicians and artists who push themselves to be true to themselves and their passions. I have utmost respect for these individuals and told myself I needed to begin thinking about my true passions.

And I began to think about where I wanted my story to end? How do I see the end of my life? What do I want to accomplish? What is the end game look like? Is it too ridiculous to work for these things instead of the everyday subsistence? For a lot of people, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, that’s what living has become. Just getting by. Fuck that. I need to focus and keep my eye on the prize. I’ve found that there has been a lot of clarity since deciding the most important things I want. I want to publish, teach and be healthy. So, this year it’s about the triple ‘W’. Work, write and working out. Being in Vietnam helps me to afford this type of focus.

The holidays were a bit tough this year. Not as traumatic as last year, but hard all the same. I was able to spend it with other people. I had a subpar (subpar, because, well, I grew up with the best cook in the world.) turkey dinner at Thanksgiving, but I had turkey and I was with people I like.

I was able to keep that tradition. It was interesting to see ‘Black Friday’ sales posted, but it lacked everything I know of that day. Christmas decorations went up directly after Halloween, but it felt extremely hollow. Maybe it was a weather thing. I can’t truly say they don’t celebrate Christmas, but it felt so very different. There was Christmas music to a certain extent, but it just wasn’t the same.

I typically work on Mondays. Christmas fell on a Monday this year and with the ending of one of my courses, I found I had the day off. If I had thought about it I might’ve made grand plans for that day. IMG_2290 The holiday got even better for some as I was having Christmas brunch with my colleague, nursing a slight hangover from Christmas eve dinner, we received an email announcing school was closed due to an upcoming typhoon, so I had company to up keep another tradition my family had when I was young. My family would go to the movies and then Red Lobster for a seafood meal. So, I watched Jumanji and had some seafood fried rice and squid. The familiarity was comforting in a sense.

It was after the movie that I became melancholy as memories of previous holidays came flooding through my mind. Last Christmas was spent in the hospital sick with a virus. The year before that was the telling of the end of my marriage. The year before was the mourning of my innocence as the veil of disillusionment about my country and its attitude about black and brown skin finally lifted from my eyes. The reality of America even under Obama’s watch was fucking heart breaking. Other’s disbelief and society’s gas lighting brought me to a new, sharp edge. A few years before that was the death of my ex’s step-father on Christmas day.

As I have aged the holidays have gradually become a time of sadness and sometimes overwhelming stress. The tipping of the kettle of rotten holidays is when one of my favorite performers passed away…George Michael. This year, alone in my apartment I spend 2 hours playing George Michael videos singing along at the top of my lungs. His death is what I associate with Christmas now. Fucked up.



I believe the upcoming year shall bring a bit more stability in my life. I’m not sure how long it takes to get used to being in a foreign country. I mean, there are a lot of things that will take lots of time for me to get used to. There are some things I may never get used to. There may be some things I should never get used to. I do feel that gradually my day to day is normal. They days do tend to run into the next with no difference. There are a few things I still need to incorporate into the mix, like reading, moving around the town and serious work on my stack of writing ideas beyond the blogging.

With the focus on my own comfort and happiness there comes an awkward feeling because I can’t remember a time I focused on myself. It’s hard work and at the same time, I can do what I want, how I want to do it without justification or explanation. When the question of why comes up, I struggle with saying, “Because I want to.”

I hope everyone reading this and previous blogs had a great holiday season. If not, it’s over and time to keep it moving. We’ve entered the new year with whatever we have or need. I hope you have things to help you propel forward in life and not hinder you. Let’s always remember that the speed of happening isn’t always in our control. It will happen when it’s best to happen.

Here are some words I am ready to swallow. It took a very long time for the it to resonate with me. I’m grateful to be able to let go. I’m also grateful for allowing myself to clutch and not just toss my feelings away.

Stop breaking your own heart by trying to make a relationship work that clearly isn’t meant to work. You can’t force someone to care about you. You can’t force someone to be the person you need them to be. Sometimes the person you want most is the person you’re best without. You’ve got to understand some things are meant to happen, but just not meant to be. Some things are meant to come into your life, just not meant to stay. Don’t lose yourself by trying to fix what’s meant to stay broken. You can’t get the relationship you need from someone who’s not ready to give it you. And you might not understand WHY NOW, but I promise you your future will always bring understanding of why things didn’t work out. Don’t put your happiness on hold for someone who isn’t holding on to you. Some chapters just have to close without closure. Karen Suksabai

Nha Trang

At this point I have gained 3kg. I do not have a beach body, but I am ready to be at the shore. I had heard so much about the beauty of Nha Trang. Only being familiar with Da Nang, I have a lot of coastline to discover. I was looking forward to some sun and fun. It was a 3 hour bus ride from Da Lat to Nha Trang. The hotel I reserved was nice, well, except for the color of the room and the refrigerator. It was pepto pink. The refrigerator kept turning off once you took the key out of its power slot. No cold drinks and no cold insulin. La Suisse was a block away from the beach. It included a breakfast in the price. It was also located in the most congested and touristy area of Nha Trang, surrounded by large luxury hotels.

The area is expensive and loud with Russian tourists. Those who vacation in Nha Trang are predominantly Russian and Chinese of the worst kind. They simply aren’t nice people. They never smile and expect you to get out of the way on the sidewalks or in the road. They’re cold even when sharing an umbrella on the beach. With direct flights from Russia to Nha Trang the city caters to them.

My first night there, I went to an all you can eat seafood bbq place. The coals and grill are placed on your table. A torrential downpour pushed a lot of people into this place. Staff insisted on grilling my food. I eventually had to push them away as one kid just flipped and flipped my shrimp overcooking it. I enjoy someone grilling for me, when they know what the hell they are doing. The kid just didn’t care and I could taste that in my shrimp.

The next day I walked along the beach and got too hot. After a break in the hotel I decided to take a cable car ride, but I didn’t realize that the ride took you to an amusement park, Vinpearl. I should have done my research because that’s not something I would do on my own. Within 5 seconds of realizing what was going on I wanted to return. I ended up getting in an argument about going back. They said I could only go back at 2130. Oh, hell no, get me off this island. They almost didn’t let me go back until I raised a little hell with the security who didn’t know what I was saying in the first place. If I had traveled with someone I might’ve stayed a bit to check it out. I was pissed at the amount of money I spent for the ride, but I guess it’s part of my Idiot Tax.

I made it back to my room to rest in some air-con and a bit of insanity called CNN. My head was still reeling from the amount of money I had spent. I tried to think about how I was going to get out of the touristy area for the cheap seafood. I didn’t have a clue as to where to go and didn’t think to blindly take a taxi. Considering I paid $10USD for all you can eat seafood, I didn’t think too much about it. It was fresh. It was also minutes from the hotel, so I just chose a place around the corner from where I was staying. I had some fried fish and French fries for dinner. It was $3USD.

Before I went to bed I booked a boat tour. It would include the boat ride to three different islands, lunch, snorkel, and cocktails with fruit. Let’s do this! I love boats, thanks to a good friend from college. I was the only American on the boat full of Vietnamese people, just the way I like it. One of the guides spoke really good English. He took good care of me.

Our first stop was an aquarium. I was the only one on the boat remotely interested in getting off. It was constructed of cement in the shape of a pirate ship.

Very kitchy.

Once I got back to the boat we went to do some snorkeling. I was excited to get into the water. Most people grabbed chairs in the shade and ate some food they had brought with them. Later, the guide told me how Vietnamese people aren’t strong swimmers so it doesn’t interest them. You need to be a strong swimmer there.IMG_1874

I took my mask and snorkel and jumped in. I wondered what the fish were like. I remember having a great time in Hawaii snorkeling. Well, the water felt amazing. It was the perfect temperature, clear and blue. Once I took my feet off the bottom I felt my body swiftly drift parallel to the shore away from where I started. I freaked out as I am not the strongest swimmer either. I tried to swim back and made little progress. Okay, this is not going to work out for me. I’m scared. I grabbed onto the rocks on the shore and crawled back to where I stepped into the water. Once there, I found my compatriots from the boat and began to splash about there. I kept the mask on and dunked my head under to see a bit of sea life. I saw a sea snake and I was done. Time to get back on shore.

Back on the boat, we had lunch together as we motored to the next spot. I thought we would swim some more, but instead we tied up to another boat and had some entertainment from the crew. It was a lot of fun with a little bit of drag. They gave a shot of a “cocktail”. It was some kind of hooch from a plastic water bottle. I began to feel real loose at this point.IMG_1901

We went to another island where parasailing was offered. Again, most grabbed some chairs. I met a guy from Houston, as I was wearing my Texas tanktop. There was actually a sandy beach here. I stayed to myself and tried to not let my Havaianas float away. I found some pigeons eating coconut and thought of my Northsiders.IMG_1908 I wondered if I would find a local football team to support while in Vietnam. With not much else to do I grabbed my clothes and drank a few beers before it was time to get back on the boat and return to the tourist harbor. On the return to the harbor I commented on a guy’s shirt. I gave him a thumb’s up and he asked me in perfect English where I was from. So, I had a chance to speak to someone else other than the guide. He had lived most of his life in Australia, but was from the countryside outside Can Tho.

The trip made me very happy, but my ears were beginning to hurt again. After managing to get some eardrops from a pharmacy I ate some crazy looking seafood. I had some mantis prawns.  I also had some scallops, tiger prawns and tamarind crab. All of that for about $20USD. That is an extravagant price, but I did it again the next night without the mantis prawns, they looked so alien. But I finally ate sea urchin. It was so good, tasting like the ocean.

I felt so good that night I decided to take a cyclo. It had led lights on it, so “Why not?” Even though I negotiated he price before getting in he wanted to leave me in a strange area for that price. So, he really took me for a ride charging me double to get back to where he picked me up. On the way back I had to fight off people offering me whores and drugs.

The next morning, I went on a motorbike tour with Mr Hau. He’s another Easy Rider I met through Tam. This was going to be an all-day affair. He picked me up at 830 and we were on our way to the countryside. The first stop was to see how they made grass mats and rugs. The grass used grows alongside the rice, but it grows much thicker and taller. It goes through a process of stripping and drying before it’s dyed and dried again. Using a loom, the grass is woven.DSC01806

We then crossed a toll bridge and saw a large group of baby ducks.

Rice being the main source of food in this country, the people enjoy some type of variety in how they eat it. I got to see how noodles and rice paper is made.


The day began extremely hot, but there were a few downpours that made us stop on the side of the road and wait it out. First, we stopped at a granny’s house. She sat in her hammock as people would pull off the road on their scooters and sit under the tin roof of her front yard. The rain let up a little bit and we got back on the road until there was another deluge. Our second stop was in an abandoned brick building along the side of the road.

Once it went back to sprinkles, we got back on the bikes to stop at a tiny roadside market. There we bought some flimsy panchos. It’ll stop raining when we put these on. Mr. Hau said. Sure enough, 3 minutes later we drove into an area that hadn’t seen any of the rain that we drove through. I was drenched in my own sweat under the suffocating pancho. There wasn’t any rain on our way to the pagoda.

This was the most impressive of pagodas I’d ever seen. Not pictured are some new sculptures being carved out of wet cement. Tru craftsmanship.

From there we went to Ba Ho Waterfall. It was chance to swim! You pay a small price to get into the area. You hike about 800 meters to a crop of boulders. After the path ends red arrows painted on the boulders show you the way to different pools to swim in. Mr. Hau suggested I swim in the first one. More treachery. Climbing to the first pool was extremely hard. I once climbed some stairs to see some orangutans on the island of Sumatra. The stairs were half the size of a three year old. I watched that three year old climb up like a champ. The boulders were ¾ my size. I was sweating so bad and when I finally reached the first pool it began to rain again. Soak with sweat I changed into my swim shorts as others were leaving the pool. I just earned a swim dammit.

The water was cooler than the rain. Jagged rocks were just under the surface of the water. I had to gingerly lower my body in and navigate around the rocks. I shortly began to feel little nips on my feet and shins. I brushed my body a few times and didn’t think of it too much. I just thought my skin was twitching under the coolness of the water. Then I got a barrage of nips. River monsters! I’m done! The rain had stopped, but there were things in the water with me.

As I toweled off, disappointed in my swim, I saw one of the river monsters…it was one of those fish that they have in tanks to massage your feet. I did that massage once in Cambodia, but I knew they were in the tank and I could see them. This time, I didn’t appreciate the massage.

I luckily made it back over the boulders without an accident. They were still slick with rain. Through the humidity there was no way I was going to dry off. Deep in my bag was a dry shirt that I had while everything else was soaked through. My shorts eventually dried on the bike as we rode back to the beach. Mr. Hau stopped a few more times. One stop was a fishing village and then a Cham temple. I saw my Vietnamese boat buddy again there and we chatted a short bit.

It was a full day and it was good, but I hadn’t had a full day at the beach. I decided to extend my stay one more day to lay on the beach and drink some craft beers. Beach body be damned. Compared to most of the Russians on the beach I was still looking pretty good.

I read more of Langston’s life, colored in my coloring book, swam in the waves, drank and napped. I found a place to eat nem nuong for a late lunch and took a nap before packing to leave for Can Tho. I was going to need to take the train and then a bus to get there. I was able to get the train ticket at the front desk of my hotel and for $.25USD have it delivered to the hotel. My last meal was seafood and went directly back to the hotel to finish packing. I went to bed early as I was taking the first train the next morning.

5 days to Da Lat

I knew within the first week of the CELTA course I was going to need a vacation. It was the third week that I began to list the places I wanted to go and things I wanted to do. I knew that once I found work I wouldn’t have the opportunity to take the time I wanted to travel the country. Certain jobs don’t even have two consecutive days off. I might be able to manage a day trip, but that would be about it. Danang, Dalat, Nha Trang, Vung Tau and Can Tho were on the list. 

I chose Danang because it was the first city in Vietnam I really spent time in. I have friends I’d met in 2011 and it seemed like a good place to begin a motorbike tour. Da Lat because I’d heard such great things about it. There are cooler temperatures and tons of flowers. Nha Trang because of the beach and seafood. I thought of water sports, beach town vibes and there was a student during the CELTA course from there. I needed something mellow and something to quench my Aries fire. I put Vung Tau on the list for the same reasons. It is a day trip from Ho Chi Minh and there are more job possibilities than Nha Trang and Danang but, in the end I skipped this beach town. Can Tho because of the disappearing floating market. There is a little romance for me and the Mekong Delta. It is the place I first imagined before 2011 being the true Vietnam.

My first stop was Danang. This is where I would start my motorbike tour to Da Lat. I always liked this little city. It’s not as frenetic as HCMC. The people are nice. One of my CELTA classmates lives in Danang.  So I thought it would be a nice way to start. It was also where I needed some time to convalesce from a bad cold that I had developed at the end of my CELTA course. I stayed at Namunamu, with somewhat of a view of the ocean between new construction of high rise hotels. I did enjoy a sunrise on the beach.

I also took a dip in the pool.  As much as there are a lot of changes and development happening, it’s still nice mellow Danang. I wanted to stay. I always have. Schools have waiting lists for placement there. Not many job openings for ESL instructors. The turnover is very low. If you visit you will see why teachers don’t want to leave.

DAY 1: 21586569_10155588606492226_6000863706330353669_oI was still very sick and tired when we began our tour. Mr. Tam was nice enough to procure some cold medicine for me for the next few days. I packed my large backpack, he strapped it to the back of the bike and we headed on our way. It was almost within 30 minutes of riding that I wanted to pass out. I don’t know if it was the strong cold medicine, the lull of the engine or lack of a good sleep, but I wanted to close my eyes and wake up at our first destination. We made a few stops, but a key stop was at a Cao Dai temple. I think I had managed to close my eyes and bang helmets with my driver a few times before we pulled into a long driveway. They had rice drying at the entrance. Once I had my camera in hand and was about to walk around we were invited to a large vegetarian lunch. It was even a surprise for Tam.

It was quite delicious. An older gentleman could speak a little bit of English. He explained all the food and after eating he invited me to go into the temple, which I did and took a few pictures. This is when I didn’t really like my new telephoto lens. It would have been nice to have the wide angle available to capture everything. He explained a little bit of Cao Dai, and how accepting it is of all faiths. I liked the food, but I personally don’t care much for any religion’s message.DSC01201

Afterwards we got into some foothills. There we stopped so I can do a little swimming. It was really hot. I had a little flashback to the last time I tried to go to a waterfall in Vietnam. My blood sugar crashed after climbing and climbing and not making it to the top. Again, I had to climb. I began to get frustrated because I could hear the water, but the path was taking me away from it. As I turned around, ready to leave without swimming, I found the path. I quickly changed into my bathing suit and found the swimming hole. The last word of advice from Tam was, “watch your luggage”. Well, dammit. I walked from out of the trees to see about 15 teen boys splashing, climbing and jumping into the water. How was I going to watch my bag with camera and clothes and enjoy my swim? I wish I had changed at the motorcycle and left my bag with Tam.

So, unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the waterfall and new friends. I just didn’t want to reveal what I had in my bag. With bad feet on all the rocks, I kept my eyes on my bag and didn’t venture too far into the water. It was just enough to cool off and watch them do backflips into the water or play chicken. I didn’t want them to run off with my stuff. Eventually, a few came up to me and we began to compare tattoos. My lion impressed them and they showed me some of their stars and koi fish. I kept trying to introduce myself, but they never offered their names when I asked. My Vietnamese pronunciation is horrible. Then we took some pictures with each other. They used their phone. Again, I didn’t want to open my bag so they could see my shit. Terrain wise, they could have taken advantage of me. I was slightly scared.

When traveling alone I feel adventurous, but I also like to keep my belongings in tact. They were nice enough kids. As small numbers of them began to leave I thought I would climb higher to get a better view if not a chance to take some photos. They told me not to. I don’t know the reason, but I left the swimming area with them. Once we returned to the motorbikes Tam did a little translating. We talked a bit about tattoos. How much they cost, what it means to have a tattoo in Vietnam and such. You can see quite a few tattoos in Vietnam these days, mostly all black ink. They still have stigma in the smaller villages and towns. They told us that they get stopped by the police and they can’t get jobs if they have the smallest of tattoos. I feel a little silly not to have taken their picture and to have been so crazy about my daypack.

We stopped in the mountains right before the rain came down. Kham Duc. A shower and rest before dinner. Then a deep sleep. Riding on a motorcycle all day is exhausting.

DAY 2: I had just finished the cold medicine I had. The start of the ride was cool. I wanted to keep the mask of the helmet up, but I felt myself getting stuffy once again. I wasn’t convinced that I had enough cold medicine to make it to Da Lat. We pressed on. There was an opportunity to get into another waterfall, but the morning wasn’t warm enough for me. A swim is a nice treat in the afternoon when you’ve been on the bike for a while. I should’ve gotten in. There was a separate little section that was a hot spring. Bridges…not that great in this country. They ride and drive over them while I am nervous walking over them.

As we passed fields of tapioca I could only think of the tremendous lines in front of Boba Guys. After visiting Taiwan I could only think of the price people pay in the States for that drink. We stopped in a few minority villages, but we stopped in the largest one I had ever seen. I had my own little bag of coconut candy I had brought from my Mekong Delta trip. Children from far into the village came running for some candy. First there were five, then ten and then more. I was glad I had a lot. This time, with Tam’s help, there wasn’t the fighting that happened the last time I brought out some treats. These were the Van Kieu people.

Our stop for the night was Kon Tum. There was another large Catholic church. The oldest in the area. Tam explained that elephants had helped to bring the lumber through the jungle to build this church. Behind the church was an orphanage. We had some local food, banh xeo. Delicious. It was extremely fresh as she continually made the little pancake in front of us and grilled the meat right there. We rolled everything up in rice paper, I didn’t think I could get enough of it.

DAY 3: Another night spent in a nice hotel, nice enough for lovers. It’s just been reminder of how I am alone now. The CELTA kept me distracted from my real life, but travel in Vietnam has been a reminder of my travels with my ex in 2015. It was one of the things we could do together, deferring to one another when necessary. My reality was slowly sinking in at this point. Sleep would come, but reminders of why we aren’t together woke the next morning with me. Some of that loss and anger at loss would wake up too. In 2015 we did a similar motorbike tour, but we had headed to the north through the central highlands. This time I was headed south. Same country and driver, but different territory.

Tam, who I consider family, pushed us through day 3. There wasn’t much to view and we made few stops. Stops are important for rest and breaking up the day. It started off cool in the morning, but the temperature rose. I couldn’t help but reflect on 2015. It was blazing hot on that particular tour. It wasn’t until we hit a patch of rain that I decided to leave her on the highway in those mountains. I left her in the mountains along with the other lost souls from the Vietnam war.

That is something one cannot escape when driving through the country side. The remnants of bones, landmines and baby forests cover this beautiful country. While passing smaller and older motorbikes (scooters to be exact) a European face would appear. The legacy of the French and Americans linger as facial characteristics. Pepper, coffee and tapioca cover what once was jungle.

Tam’s face scrunches up as he talks about 30-40 years in the past, in the mountains. He’s reminded of the poor road conditions, lack of soles on shoes or even flip flops and very poor people. Then his face would light up as Mercedes and Landrovers passed us as we spoke on the side of the highway. It’s still quite evident how poor the people are in the countryside. Tok toks pull all types of lumber, feed and produce up and down the highway, driven by young poor farmers. They don’t typically look as nice and new as the picture.

3 days is the longest I’ve been on a bike tour of this kind. My hips have reached their limit, but I am 2 days from Da Lat. I absolutely love the central highlands and it’s beauty. The people are more relaxed and humble. They are curious about me and my tattoos. I don’t even mind the hard long stares. I laughed when they laughed without knowing what had been said. I imagine it was more about my weight than anything else. (My beer belly was creeping back with the lack of swimming and extra vacation beer).

Without the frequent stops my thoughts were trapped under my helmet with no where to go. Making it to this point I needed to cleanse myself. Each kilometer reached was closer to freedom and healing. With that freedom, debris needed to be cleared away from the progress I wanted to make emotionally. Day 3 was an exhausting and emotional day. I’m glad we finished when we did in Buon Me Thaut. Nem Viet otherwise known as Nem Nuong was dinner. I’m getting to the point where I can remember the food I ate and look for places to get it. This was my favorite introduction because of how fresh it was.

DAY 4: I visited Dak Lak Museum. I walked slowly around the building to stretch my legs and hips. I wasn’t quite ready to get back on the bike for the ride.

From there we went to a major waterfall. Getting there was a pain in the ass. Literally. The road was absolutely horrible getting to and from. The temperature was also rising. I thought I might be able to go for a swim. Not. Walking around, sweating my ass off I ran into an Aussie and his Vietnamese girlfriend. They asked me how I was getting around. A few comments at how dangerous it was to travel by motorbike. It was a short exchange. I got a few more shots in before stumbling back to the motorcycle. They were also on a motorbike, but with small suitcases, not tied down.

The Aussie’s girlfriend spoke to Tam for a bit claiming she was also from Danang, but her accent showed through and Tam found that she was from the countryside outside of Danang. They took off for lunch and we headed to Lak Lake. Funny thing though. As we made our way from the waterfall we noticed that they had left their guide behind in the literal dust. He couldn’t keep up with them. Bumps and holes finished, we came to a highway. I was grateful for every stop we made in the shade. There was a small damn and a fishing village on our way to the Lake.

This short part of the journey I thought I would wear my camera on my shoulder and take pictures from the bike. It ended up being switched on when I wasn’t using it.

Once we reached Lak Lake the camera battery died and I pulled out my iPhone to take pictures of the long houses. Some Easy rider tours will take their clients to the long houses to stay over night. Thankfully Tam didn’t think it was nice enough for me so we went to Lak Lake Resort instead. Before landing at the resort we saw the couple again and they told us how they had to dump their “guide”

Lak Lake resort also had a long house on the property. Beyond, I had my own room, but the television didn’t work. I could only charge my phone in the bathroom. My camera had gotten so hot in the heat I had to wait until the middle of the night until it was willing to take a charge. The room wasn’t the best, but the surroundings were quite beautiful outside the room and the dining room.

NOTES from Day 4…keep your knees in, less stress on the hip joints. Keep camera in the day pack to not have it switch on accidentally and get too hot. Lay down in the hammocks whenever possible. DSC01510.JPG

DAY 5: This was our last push to DaLat. I was ready for the end of the tour. I think Tam could sense my weariness also. He kept his humor, where I struggled. Our day started with a bit of coffee by the lake. I was able to Face Time with my parents. The wifi was so good in this remote area. We waited for a while for my elephant to come down from the jungle. I was going to take an elephant ride/swim. It was a little disappointing though. I thought about my first ride on the island of Sumatra. There we washed the elephants and fed them and then took a ride through the jungle and river. This one took a little dip in Lak Lake. It felt like we were moving backwards the whole time. The sun was blazing this morning. It was nothing spectacular. Not that I’m a connoisseur of elephant tours, but you know. The main thing I remember was not feeling secure in the carriage.

After the elephant ride we were back on the bike to Da Lat. Holy Shit! The roads were rough at the end of the tour. Emotionally and physically I relished getting off the bike for a rest. My body cried each time I swung my legs over the bike to get back on the seat. I had forgone my opportunities to swim earlier days. I sorely wished there was swim time this day. If you ever take a motorbike tour take advantage of each chance to swim. You never know when the next one will come up. It’s a life saver.



When we stopped for lunch the road was broken rocks. It looked like the government was waiting for drivers to tamp down the rocks before they made any effort to pave it. It was rough and full of ruts that at times were full of water so we had to swerve often to avoid them. It wasn’t a straight simple shot. Lunch was banh cuon. More rocks after lunch but after a while we were on a paved road again. The trees changed. They were tall straight pines. We could have been in the mountains in America or French Alps. The temperature was cooler and we kept climbing up.

It was a relief to reach Da Lat. We had passed flower plantations and pine trees coming into the city. The amount of traffic compared to HCMC was almost nil. There are a lot of people on the road, but it was so much more manageable. There is a large lake in the center of town and we rode around it to my hotel. I thought I would see more of a French influence on the city as a whole, but it was a Vietnamese city and very quiet. I still had to see what made this little mountain town so special and notable.


Sorting thumbnails suck…

So, it’s been a while. Five weeks really. I was super busy dealing with this CELTA thing. Done and done. You’ll have to go to my teaching blog to check out that post. I’m also currently trying to curate my photos into a google album so you can see more than what I post here. I’ve taken quite a few. The only problem is trying to choose. Those damn thumbnails are tiny and I haven’t figured out yet how to resize them to where I can see them before I upload them. I’m hoping to become. little more capable in this publishing thing.

Here’s a little something to snack on:

When I first arrived in HCMC I was expecting a bit more to my accommodations.IMG_1583 I first got a room with no window. The ever important AC didn’t work. It was also quite noisy. I spent three days in the room before opting for a larger room with a tiny balcony. DSC00909 Still problems mounted. Someone servicing my room took my iPad. Of course I turned on the locater but it still has yet to be located. The manager was so confused certain her staff would return it if it was “found”, but I wasn’t. I know it doesn’t take a lot for it to be unlocked and sent to away to be sold again. Then going to the balcony I cut the top of my head on a metal bar that held the AC unit. The room was musty and my breaking point was the bed. It was basically egg crate on top of plywood. There was no way I could survive 5 weeks in those conditions.

Luckily for me, I wasn’t the only one who paid for the full package that included Vietnamese language lessons, language awareness and the CELTA course. I met this big Welsh guy and a bromance began. Ian and I went to classes, ate lunch together and eventually left the Green Suites together to a hotel much further away. As the distance could be a little inconvenient it worked out great. We had a rooftop pool, IMG_1586were the only foreigners in the area, and I had a bed with a true mattress. IMG_1585 Both of us moved to Vietnam for lifestyle changes. This was a great start. It didn’t cost us more except for the UBER ride which we split.

I think we were good support for each other. Right before the course our teacher took us on a field trip to the Mekong River Delta.

Her son Skippy came with us. Young, talkative and very friendly, Skippy was a super cute kid and a great representative of the children we will likely be teaching once finding jobs in Vietnam.

I am grateful to finally finish the whirlwind course. It was something I never expected. My main objective was to be an empty head and take in as much information in as I could. I’ve taught for about 6 years now, but I couldn’t interject any of my own ideas. That wasn’t going to work for me. I did have an opportunity to share what I know, but I needed to stay open. I met some wonderful people and came across some interesting personalities. IMG_1663IMG_1687

Being kept as busy as I was was a great distraction. Now that I have time to reflect, I need to organize some othese thoughts and feelings being out of the U.S. Watching the news and checking my newsfeed on FB has reassured me that I made the right decision to leave. I know that it isn’t the option for many people. As much as I wanted to escape I also need to focus on what I want my life to be. I want to continue to eat clean food. I want to be able to schedule in my exercise. I want to take time to escape into a book. I also want to get my words down because I have been quiet for so long. More importantly, I want to stay stimulated. The new, odd, questionable and sheer beauty of S.E.Asia is just that for me.

I hope that this is a good little appetizer for you. I just need to get it all together. As of now, I am sweating it out in Danang. I have a bad cold involving a cough, sore throat and an earache. A lot of my cohorts got sick during the course and I was able to stave it off until the last night. Sleeping at night is almost impossible right now and I’ve taken all of the cold edicine I brought from The States. In two days I get on the back of my friend’s motorbike and head to DaLat. Getting back on the Ho Chi Minh Trail excites me. This time we are going south. After cooling out in DaLat I will travel to some beaches and some smaller cities to do some recon on places to work.

Just allow for a few weeks and I hope to share the CELTA experience and get photo albums together.


Dreams Do Come True

Travel can be hard, tiring, and sometimes downright frustrating, but it is all so rewarding. It’s been two weeks abroad and I feel like it has been a lifetime already. I for sure think I have sweat all my body hair off. I didn’t really have a lot of arm or leg hair, but from what I can see it’s gone. So, I finally feel comfortable enough to compose something. My first accommodations, contracted through the school I am attending were sub par. It would have been fine if I hadn’t had my iPad stoled and was’t sleeping on egg crate and plywood. Another student, an older guy from the UK and I found a place further from the school, but has a pool on the roof and is super plush. Pics in a later blog.

The first week was fast and furious with travel. First, I went to Taiwan. When I mean dreams come true, they do. I have been an ESL teacher for 6 years. I have met some wonderful people from all over the world. Some of those people were the most gracious of students. Of course, they all say, “Come visit my country.”, “Tell me when you come.”, “I will show you everything.”, “I will show you traditional blah blah blah…” My students from Taiwan didn’t let me down.

One student hosted me in his apartment. 20258028_10212659381614513_2908390315955454039_nHe fed me in the morning and drove me around the country side. I ate stinky tofu. It stank, but tasted like tofu. It didn’t taste like the smell.

They took me to a baseball game.DSC00260

He also organized a small reunion of sorts and we ate a tremendous meal. After the meal we went to see some live music. 20292704_10214082459919468_7031791408513259374_nMy dream has been to get as many students as possible together and party.  Thanks Sean “Uncle” for making this happen!

Unfortunately, I was extremely jet lagged. There is so much more I need to see in Taipei, let alone the rest of the country. I also need to see more of my wonderful students. Honestly, Taiwan now rivals Korea as one of my favorite places. Watch out Taiwan. Next time, I will have an appetite.

Traveling from Taiwan to Thailand wasn’t so bad. I continued flying with EVA Air and then a small Thai boutique airline. I reached Chiang Mai wanting to do a lot of self care, like sleep. The hotel wasn’t really a hotel. It was more like a timeshare. DSC00399It had a pool and was very quiet. A friend recommended a place to stay, but honestly, from the pictures online it just looked like a big party…maybe next time.

The first day/night I didn’t leave the hotel room. Well, I didn’t after going to the market to grab some fruit to keep in the fridge. I slept, swam, and watched “Stranger”on Netflix. It’s a nice Korean mystery drama, starring Bae Doona from Sense8. The next day I walked around Chiang Mai old town taking pictures of Temples and checking out the sights.

I was really tired still so I didn’t do too much. I was glad on the other hand to use my new wide angle lens while photographing. Later that night I went to see Muay Thai boxing live. The ticket sales are heavily pushed on international fighters, so I had to negotiate and explain that I didn’t come to Thailand to see westerners fight.

They started young and light. There was even a fight with some tough females. I didn’t make it to the main event though. I was too tired. Come on, there are five rounds to each fight and they do a ritual before every fight, so…

Of course I made friends with the taxi driver from the airport. We had arranged that he pick me up and take me about the day after. Mongkol is his name. Super nice guy. He picked me up and drove me round in the air-conditioned taxi where ever I wanted to go. The first place was Soi du thep. This is a golden temple in the mountains. I walked up more than 300 steps. The drive up was cool. At the bottom, you think, such nice weather in the mountains, until you start climbing the steps. Sweating from effort, it never evaporates to cool you down. The breeze stopped and it was just sticky. Not oppressive, but you noticed.

From there we went to see the Karen people. Thais call them the”Long Necks”. This tribe is where the women adorn themselves with gold rings and it stretches their necks as they add rings. I wanted to take more photos, but felt very strange taking their picture. Other times I have taken pictures of people they ask for money. Here they didn’t ask, but I felt obligated to give it. DSC00642The village area we see is quite tattered. There isn’t much to it except for booths to sell souvenirs. Each booth has the same exact thing. If they see you buy one thing all of them try to pull you to their booth to buys something.

I picked up a small little bag to hold my money. After pulling sweaty money out of my pocket all day long, I thought they might appreciate getting dry money handed to them instead of soggy sweaty money. Actually, I’m sure they don’t care as it happens all the time. For me, it feels better giving people dry money.

I tried to get the driver to take me to the arboretum, I’m so accustom to going to places like that with K. Plus, I have a new camera with a lens that can get so much area, I thought it would be a great chance to get some good photos. It was also heavily shaded. Instead, the driver took me to the Royal Garden. No shade.

I’m not so interested in flower gardens. I like things a little more natural and not so manicured. Also, the sun had come out. It was like fire walking in the sun. I grabbed a few photos and high tailed it out of there.

After Mongkol dropped me off, back at my hotel after lunch, I arranged for him to pick me up in the morning for my early flight to Ho Chi Minh City. That evening I met with a friend for dinner. She lives in Chiang Mai and recommended a really nice restaurant. There was a garden where we sat. It was just far enough from the band playing so we could have conversation and catch each other up on our lives.DSC00721

Chiang Mai is a wonderful little place. Like Taiwan, I need more time to explore it. I was glad to get a little taste though. I know I will go back.

I’ve learned a new term since being in Vietnam. “Idiot Tax”. I’ve paid my fair share so far.   So, I left Chiang Mai to HCMC. I had booked my flight through Air Asia. You can get a deal with this airline, if you travel light. I mean real light. I should have stuck to a larger airline, as they allowed my luggage to fly basically free. One bag was overweight and I paid about $30USD extra to get “Rolando”, my suitcase has a name, to Asia. Well, Air Asia thought that Rolando was worth a first class ticket to Thailand from SFO…$1082USD.

As I sat on the plane, which was no better than a Southwest airline seat, I thought I probably should have just bought another ticket all together. It bugged me the whole way to Bangkok and then HCMC. Damn you Zion! Pay attention! Having spent the money, sitting on an uncomfortable plane compared to EVA, and being tired, I just wanted to get to Saigon. I was really more embarrassed than anything. I brought my world with me and that’s what it cost.

As I mentioned before, my previous accommodations were not that great. I just didn’t do more on my laptop than watch Netflix. I hope that I will have an opportunity to catch you all up with what is happening in Vietnam. Tonight is my first night sleeping on a proper mattress and classes begin tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the next month.



21 Day update

It doesn’t matter how many times I’m asked “How are you doing?”, in reference to my big move, I just don’t know how to answer. In that moment alone I could be feeling three different emotions at once. The definition of each emotion is blurred with how fast they change inside of me. I risk being called moody. I’ve been called this all my life in such a negative way. I was told in such a way as if I was suppose to change how I related to the world. I can see how it made people feel uncomfortable.

At the risk of seeming moody I remain straight faced when answering. I answer the questions vaguely. I often try to led people to their own powers of empathy and let them try to grasp what I might be feeling…play the scenario…How would you feel…? Can you imagine the range of emotions from just the past year? (troubled marriage, separation and divorce, or from layoff to moving to South East Asia…crazy right?!) I mean, yeah, I’m still processing the past year and now the ever changing feelings.

In general, I am all over the place. Once I recognize which emotion it is I feel another has moved into its place. Considering that I am constantly trying to organize what I got going on in my mind it makes sense that my emotions would shift. Sometimes, I just go into autopilot and just do what is in front of me because it needs to get done. Other times I spend time ruminating on how it is my first time doing something alone or even doing something in a really long time, but not being able to share that with someone close.

At 21 days before leaving for my new life abroad, I am nervous and confident. I am dreamy, expectant and anxious. I’ve been nostalgic for old times, old San Francisco, and certain individuals. I’ve never lived in one place for as long as I have lived in the Bay Area. 19 years! A tremendous amount of life happens in 20 years. Some of it was really great and there were a few shitty things along the way. I can’t imagine my life happening anywhere else…but, what a weird fucking trip it all has been.




The Purge: Bits and Pieces…healing, letting go, and moving on

I keep returning to that snap back. It’s a painful reverb that has yet to be tempered. A ringing, not in my ears, but in my heart. I remember all too well the last time she told me, “You expect me to believe you?” Why wouldn’t you believe me when I say the cats are fine? SNAP! Reality…I had to get back to me. In the narcissistic (Abuse/Victim) cycle I had become very distant from my true sense of self. I got away from any sense. When your idea of love includes the feelings of anxiety, withdrawal and frustration it’s time to take a look at the situation.

Something I had learned about myself is that lesson learning comes in threes. After two times of my ex telling me, a statement that still shakes me, “I don’t believe your feelings”, I understood it to be truth the third time she said it. She was using her words. This conflicted with what I had in my mind How could you not believe someone’s feelings? This conflicts with my idea of  avoiding conflicts , avoid conflicting ideas and feelings. Now, I know that feeling of being conflicted. It means something is wrong. I still can’t imagine not believing someone’s feelings, their truth.

It’s going to be many years and a lot of personal work to come back to romance.  I don’t even know what I am coming back to since my view of love is so screwed up. Being a late bloomer like I am, it is overwhelming to think of the prospect of the work I need to do on myself before even peeking into the possibility of dating and romance. I reflect on the therapy that has gotten me this far. The nine years of comfort, or better yet, complacency left me at a deficit, emotionally.

This deficit created a void deep in my core. It’s so deep I can feel the cavern inside of me. I don’t think I have ever felt this empty. At the same time, I am completely aware of what I might feel in any situation, but I just don’t. I definitely can sympathize, but my empathy is truly lacking. There was a time in my youth when I was bursting with affection. This wasn’t just the at the end of the night at the bar when taking last shots we entangle arms and shoulders and confess to our best buds how much they mean to us…I was prepared and waiting for love.

I have a bit of joy. I can experience joy. It’s just that I am almost completely depleted, exhausted. How can I ever look at pictures of us ever again? We were very different. They say opposites attract, but how do they stay together? How can I honesty look back and not be confused about the reality and nostalgia?  Memories reveal more that I can handle at times…What about her and that FB memories that pop up? Does she even look through them? Do any of these memories bring a smile? Does any image serve as a background for the moment? Is the moment the same as the person, can they be separated? Does the person in the picture make or break the moment? Will the whole picture taint the ‘snapshot’? Can it all be revised?

There have been a lot of comments and questions about what the hang up was in our divorce. We didn’t own property together. We had a tiny bit of debt on a credit card. In the end the issue was about money, my money. I received a monetary gift before leaving her. Without getting into the details of the dispute, I can honestly say this where I dug in. I felt conflicted because the first month after I left I went to divorce seminars, spoke casually to other divorced people. Divorce can get as crazy and expensive as YOU make it. I didn’t want it to be a difficult process, but I had to dig in.

I had to dig in because I make less than a third of what SF poverty level is. I had to dig in because I left a rent controlled apartment in the center of San Francisco,   to a market rate apartment in Berkeley near CAL, incurring an $8 dollar day commute. I had to dig in because I now had to pay for expensive Covered California, and insulin is outrageous. I got better coverage under Health SF. Reflection was never her strong point…but come one. She makes 40K not including bonuses more than I do.  I wish she had, you know counted her blessings before coming after something that was legally separately mine. In the end I settled for a fraction of what the court calculator determined to be fair. For me, I just wanted to leave. Her lack of reflection has made it difficult for me to let go, because when I reflect on all the times I did let things go, I have a lot of regret.






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