Gender v. Genitals

Last month, I had an interaction on Facebook that really could have gone only two ways. Considering I’m writing about it, I’m sure you recognize that it wasn’t the best conversation. It was indeed interesting and well, to say the least, entertaining. One thing I learned was that I need to get into the practice of making screen shots. My paraphrasing won’t do the posting exchange justice. As you read this, please, know that I never approached this situation with a negative spirit. I was not offended by the post, nor did I get angry with the exchange. I was truly engaging in a way to educate. It wasn’t appreciated. The highlight though was watching the posters show their asses.

It started with this post Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 4.01.38 PM Okay, fine. Then someone responded with ‘angels don’t have gender’ and a gif that showed some kind of being lowering clothing from the waist down to reveal the lack of any genitals like a Ken or Barbie doll. So I posted, ‘Maybe you mean angels don’t have genitals.’ I was just going off of the responding gif. Well, that hit a nerve for the poster. His response hit my nerves.

His reply to me was. Me bouncing on his nerve…‘It’s a joke. It wasn’t meant to be seen through a SJW lens.’ (I had to google SJW-social justice warrior) ‘It’s a joke, just laugh.’ Man jumps on my nerve. 1st, since when is a SJW lens put to rest? Oh, yeah, with those who have the privilege to put the lens away, white people. 2nd, don’t tell me what to laugh at. I’m not going to sit back and let you laugh at me at my expense. 3rd, why couldn’t he just learn something new and move on.

I reminded him that I was only addressing the issue of gender not being equal to genitals. Nope, he needed to continue on about how people have different senses of humor and someone did, in fact, like his statement. He seemed very proud of that. I told him, good for you, but it doesn’t change facts. I also mentioned that as everyone might have different senses of humor the real difference is the feeling of having to explain and defend one’s sense of humor. It already admits that there is something wrong with it. I gave it the name of whitemansplaining. He comes back saying I called him a racist. I let him know that if it was just a joke, all he had to do was say so and keep it moving. I never called him a racist. How is calling a white person white calling them racist? White people, you need to unpack that on your own.

Enter, all knowing white woman standing by her man. I don’t know if they were together, but obviously of the same camp. ‘Political correctness is killing comedy.’ She equated my correction to being like an adamant vegan trying to convert meat eaters. I was told I was bad for the movement. She continued on to say that ‘obviously gender and genitals are the same. Why do we say sex change? Transgender people have sex changes.’ This is really where I wish I had taken screen shots.

This woman was so sure that she was going to school a trans person on what it meant to be trans. She repeatedly said, ‘transgender by definition is…’ How are you going to define me? How are you going to attempt to define a community of people as diverse as the whole human race?

All that was coming out of the keyboard led me to believe that this person doesn’t even know a transperson or our stories. Supposedly she does, as she mentioned an uncle married to a transperson, and she remained adamant about how transpeople are. Because if you heard one of our stories you’ve heard them all, not. I mentioned the fact that she was white and again I get the, ‘you’re calling me a racist.’ I responded with, “It’s always white people who hate being called white.’ When I say white people I don’t mean racist. I will just say racist. But let’s face some facts, white perception and movement in the world is not a boilerplate of what happens to others. Once white people recognize that the world isn’t how they see it they will always have a problem being called white people.

It became a little more entertaining was once she wanted to address my statement of cognitive dissonance. So, after mentioning some truth of her being white and claiming I called her a racist I gently reminded her that I never called her racist. She came back with, ‘Great diversionary tactic. How Trump.’ Then she continues to admit that she cannot grasp how gender weren’t equal to genitals. ….”I cannot reconcile that genitals don’t dictate gender, because it does.’ The rest of the conversation she repeatedly used the wrong terms as if she was using the wrong gender pronouns with me on purpose to be insulting. Very Trumpian, indeed.

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Again, I was called bad for the movement. Why? Because I called you out on your errors. Because I made you feel uncomfortable in not knowing? That’s the point of a movement. This person called themselves an ally, but refused to listen to someone she says she aligns with. How is that suppose to work? So, I found that once you make comments you can visit their profiles. I watched her wall as she made comments about the exchange we were having. At least I know they weren’t walking away from the interaction without questioning themselves.

Some observations…

1. So called allies need more information. You need to speak to your transgender friends about their experience. Collect a few stories, see how the stories are different and the same. A lot of things are parallel in our experiences. At the same time, a lot of things are different, by choice or even circumstances.

2. White people really have a problem being corrected. You know that joke could have continued to be funny if all that ‘splaining didn’t happen. Obviously, I didn’t get the joke. My correction had them in their emotions. Those emotions, which are good, were indeed informing the posters they were wrong and they couldn’t save face.

3. I’m okay with pissing people off. It’s difficult when communicating through electronics. No one can truly understand the other person or the tone intended. Knowing that, I thought I did well to stick to the facts. I held my ground and the other side didn’t like how I held true to my side. I’m also not going to let anyone tell me who I or my friends are and how we should feel about ourselves.

4. White people need to shut up. They always want to speak on other people’s experiences and they can’t even recognize their own in this world. Ignorance isn’t funny. Listen and learn. If what you’re learning changes how you feel about what you say or post that look into that feeling. Examine it.

6. It’s okay to be wrong. Just learn from it.

Now I’m not sure how the other two peoople walked away from the posting session. I’m satisfied with speaking up. I’m satisfied seeing white ass cheeks of ignorance in the wind. But if they learned anything or felt anything with that exchange then they are good people. If they just ended the exchange thinking I’m an asshole trans guy then so be it.

 

 

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The Workshop

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Well, folks, I have tried almost every craft brew bar and grill in HCMC and Thu Dau Mot. I enjoyed most. I will revisit some from time to time. Due to a weight loss challenge and a few bad after effects that come up, I am moving on to one of my other addictions, coffee. It makes me lively and thoughtful as beer, but without the same calories and swollen ankles. Before, beer…coffee. There is a coffee shop every ten meters in Vietnam. A lot sit next to each other serving the same exact drinks. Most are serving ca phe sua da, but I want to find those serving European style coffees. I’m looking for a quiet place, peaceful with soft conversations. I want to get away from the streets, maybe down a hem (alley) or up an old stairwell. I am avoiding plastic or wooden stools with my knees up high making my old hips hurt. Most importantly, I am looking for a cup of joe hand crafted for me.

I once found a small article listing unique coffee shops in HCMC. Most of these cafes are stated to exist in the Phu Nhuan district of the city, outside the city center with it’s own Vietnamese chaos. My first on a tour is not one of these. This cafe is located in District 1,  two floors above a tree lined and shaded street. It’s kind of classy. The menu is leather bound. One page demonstrates the different styles of making a cup of coffee. They offer pour over and immersion styles.

I first tasted Pham Manh Hung plain, black. It was bitter with an aftertaste of raisin as mentioned on the menu. The flavored lingered delightfully without the compulsion of cleansing my palate. The second taste -Halle Berry style- light and sweet with milk and sugar brought out the raisin and molasses flavor with some gusto. It was quite delicious. The problem with Vietnamese style is you never know how much sweetened condensed milk they use, and they tend to be too sweet. You never know if they are using robusta or arabica beans. It’s not common to get a Vietnamese coffee hot either.

I was quite delighted to find this cafe with the pour over option. It’s how I make coffee at home. I gave my French press to some young American guys because it was too large for just me. I don’t like cold coffee and that’s what happened with the press.

This cafe is called the Workshop and it lives up to it name. There is a separate conference room which was being used by people wearing matching polo shirts. Others were with a laptop or some paperwork. Some people were in small groups and pairs. There are small tables next to the large windows looking over the quiet street. There are also a few communal tables in the center. They have a counter, but the stools were a bit too high, with no proper bar to place your feet.

As I mentioned before, the street is quiet, lacking the chaotic HCMC traffic of motorbikes. The other noise, construction, is the reminder of the ever changing and developing city.

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CHEERS

 

Craft Beers

Beers

 

It was to my great surprise that I would find a good wheat beer here in Vietnam. I have fond memories of previous visits that included Bier LaRue on ice. Any beer really, on ice. The beer here is extremely light and chuggable. Most nights traveling in S.E.Asia involved drinking some of these beers names after big cats, like Tiger, Bier Larue, and Leo. I’ve never been a fan of Chang from Thailand, but a lot of people don’t mind the Changover, I guess, the next morning. It wasn’t until the end of my CELTA training course in Ho Chi Minh City that I found some craft beers. They weren’t cheap like the others offered but definitely tasty. I’m a fan of hefeweizen, ales and lagers. Imagine how one would feel being served by some tattooed Vietnamese hipster listening to western music of their decade. It was like home.

My first craft beer was had at Ong Cao. They don’t brew their own beer here, but serve some of the best made in HCMC. Open to the street, the music draws you in. As you look in deeper toward the taps, there are some cool looking young guys with mustaches, tattoos and stylish haircuts. They serve with a smile anything you desire from the menu. In my opinion their music choice is top shelf playing American soul, R&B, and some hip hop or pop from a time that was so good in my life. I enjoy singing along with a delicious beer in my hand.

Upon my arrival in Vietnam a year ago, it never occurred to me that a craft beer scene would be on the rise. Once I moved out of HCMC and settled in Thu Dau Mot I found out from another beer enthusiast that there were quite few options to experience some good beers. I am in no way endorsing any of these places, but just letting you know they exist. Whatever your flavor, sociability and hunger, you will find a spot that suits you just fine.

One of my other firsts was East West. Located a block away from the famous Ben Thanh Market, this craft beer operation does it all on site. From the front of the restaurant you see the large brewing equipment looming over a number of taps at the back bar. The place is quite airy, being warehouse like. There is plenty of natural light. There are a few couches with low tables to have conversation. Tables for small groups and a large communal table near the taps. I went during some World Cup games and enjoyed a delicious steak of Australian beef. This place gives you an option of taking a six pack or even a case of bottled brews home. It’s not cheap, but once you have your bottles home you can enjoy them at your leisure. Drives into HCMC are long and pricy. This is one of the best options. Go in on a case with a friend and enjoy.

Along with their 8 – 10 standard flavors, they are always trying something new for limited times. The past few times I visited they had just run out. My only complaint is that they should erase the name off the board as soon as the last drop has been drunk. The hefeweizen is my favorite, but the East West Pale Ale is something to try. It has just the right amount of hoppiness that doesn’t punch the drinker in the nose and throat. Their Mosaic Pale Ale brings in another interesting taste profile that it’s nice as a taster, but too much for a pint for me. In June their limited edition was a Plum Sour that I appreciated, because it didn’t squeeze the glands just under my jaw. The staff is amazing and the food is quite delicious

A place tucked away on a small street is the Winking Seal. Now, I must say that I do go to the breweries during the day. The earlier it is open the better. This one doesn’t open until 3pm. It was empty when I arrived save the owners who are a collaboration of Vietnamese and American guys. The music is a nice afternoon ambience. There are about six different flavors usually on the menu. The flavors are adventurous and refreshing. Their food menu is extremely small and not that great. Their chicken nuggets should be chicken wings instead. They do can their beers and some flavors are available to bring home. Along with being close to a Tous Le Jours bakery, this place is a nice little stop before getting on the last bus back to Binh Duong Province, which is early in the afternoon.

Another HCMC favorite is Pasteur Street Brewing. I didn’t particularly like this place. It wasn’t as welcoming by staff or even others imbibing on the juice. The spring rolls ordered were disappointing and the beer was expensive. Why did it take so long to pour the beer? I had a taste and a beer and then left into the rain to find another place open this early for lunch beers. I ended up at Gammer. I was expecting a little more from their beer. The place is extremely spacious inside and out. They do brew their own craft beer, but there are only two flavors, Golden and Dark. They come in a huge glass and the Golden goes down quite nicely. That was it though. Not much of an atmosphere or character to bring me back, yet a good place to avoid the rain.

My favorite place in HCMC is Heart of Darkness Brewery. I don’t know why, but it grabbed me by the beer belly and we made friends real fast. Liking Ales and Pale Ales they have a quite a few different ones to choose from. Their pilsners are quite strong and bitter for my taste. I had their truffle fries and sliders that were okay. Mainly, I enjoy the beer here. There are so many to choose from. They all have some cool name from the book. My last beer is always Kurtz’s Insane, and I reflect on the movie Apocalypse Now. From a taster of 6 to pint glasses, I have yet to be disappointed. I also like the atmosphere at the bar. People are sociable and don’t mind some small talk. If I lived in HCMC I would be a regular there, especially since I found that they have live music and trivia night. Just after lunch is a great time to sit and do some blogging also.

Then there is the Hen House, serving Red Rooster Ales. Just a block away from Bui Vien walking street in the backpackers area of District 1 is a nice spot for whole chicken wings and delicious beer. This place was found on the night I finished my CELTA training. The perfect combination of finishing an intensive course and then celebrating with chicken and beer. It was a good night. The wings are large and the beers are cold. It’s owned by an American and it shows. They have a nice blond, but other flavors are available. One thing I wish they had were t-shirts and stickers. An overnight in HCMC, draws me to this place, especially if I get into the city a little on the late side.

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As I mentioned before, the craft beer scene is growing. It’s spread out to the close provinces. Here, in Binh Duong, we have two notable places. One is Bia Factory and the other is Broken Bridge Brewery. They both brew their own flavors. One is a little more polished than the next. Let’s start with Bia Factory. Walking in, it’s nice to see a regular pool table available and shuffle board. I would say in general bar games are missing in Vietnam. Brick walls are kept raw amongst the other kitchy decorations of street signs and license plates. The high stools aren’t that comfortable and that’s when I become grateful for the bar games. It’s a chance to move around a bit. Music is my style. They have a full menu of food and beer flavors. None to take home, but it’s just a fifteen minute bike ride for me. Bia Factory is located in the New City, which is a developing area with small universities and other government industry. At a certain time in the evening, the other expats pour in. This group of expats kind of stick to themselves. Even the other Black guy wouldn’t acknowledge my presence.

The most recent opening of Broken Bridge was a complete surprise. Two young men own this small operation. They offer a small selection that they are sure to grow. One of the owners went to Michigan State and did home brewing while in university. He decided to bring the passion back to Vietnam. It’s a good thing. They have an APA and an IPA available that are quite tasty. They still need to work on somethings, mostly timing and dealing with their hops. It’s nice to have something even closer to my house. It’s nice for a quick stop there after work and enjoy a few wings before going home. It’s rather small and can get loud quite quickly with just a few drunken Vietnamese. I just hope that they continue to be inspired to improve and for sure it will be successful. They do need better seating. Fuck, I need a cushion and something not so high. Am I just showing my age or do other people just tolerate drinking in uncomfortable situations. Trust me, the seats don’t feel better the more you drink.

I made it to all of the suggested places to try good beer. Sure enough more are opening. The last venue I made it to was Bia Craft. I went to the one in District 2, but it doesn’t open until later in the afternoon. Luckily there is one in District 3 which blends into District 1. Bia Craft in D3 opens for lunch and has beers called Bottoms Up (chuggable), Let’s Get Naked, and Fucking Liar. All of them were delicious. As some advice, order food to pair with the beers. Having a taster of 4 and then ordering food will confuse you. It was extremely difficult to decide what to get off of their pub menu. Everything sounds awesome. The fish and chips sounds awesome, but it’s not. It’s been my experience in Vietnam that they always get the batter on the fish extremely wrong. They fry the fuck out of it to make it crispy, but the batter isn’t light and it takes away from the point of the highlighted item, the fish.

If you enjoy beer like I do, there is a place for you in Vietnam. There is good craft beer, freshly brewed Vietnamese beer and then beer named after cats or cities.

A lot of my beer enjoyment has happened solo. It has given me time to think and put words to paper. The earlier the better, which means a bit of peace and quiet. Usually, I would have the place mostly to myself. It has given me time to talk to staff about the operations, beer and Vietnam. I like beer. I’m glad I had a little beer tour. I’m grateful to get my pen to paper in this ways also

Think beer on ice is wrong, well, you’re wrong. It’s hot here and before you know it so is your beer. Would I put ice in a craft beer? Not yet, but I probably could.

Hotels in Vietnam

Specifically Ho Chi Minh City.

The first hotel since relocating was a bad experience. It was extremely uncomfortable. I was taking a course at the time and needed some sort of desk and there was none. The beds were horrible, and it was loud. I first tried moving rooms to get a window. It overlooked the alley, but I cut my head on some metal holding the air-conditioning unit. After my iPad was stolen from my room I knew it was time to go. Even though the location was close to school, it was inconvenient. I moved to a hotel in the Phu Nhuan district that had extremely nice accommodations. It was more a month than what I pay for my apartment now, but it had a pool and a terrace. It was surrounded by good and cheap food. It was also less chaotic. It was worth the $400 USD for 6 weeks.

Once I returned from my motorbike tour of the central highlands, I found myself in HCMC quite often. After finding a teaching position, I needed to get my affairs in order to live here for a length of time. I would find myself going to and from HCMC on almost daily basis. There have been times that I’ve spent an overnight, due to the lack of entertainment in the town I currently live.

Hotels of all sorts are everywhere. There isn’t a street you walk down that doesn’t contain some type of lodging. There are all types of accommodations to fit one’s needs and desires. Since traveling in Asia in 2015, I have been a fan of Agoda. Like BookingDotCom it lists all available rooms. The more you use it they give discounts and coupons. It’s good to see what hotels have available and a lot of the times there are major discounts. I remember the first hotel I ever stayed in, with my ex, during our Asia tour. It was sandwiched between two other hotels. The building was thin in width and had about 6 floors. The only window was between the bathroom and bedroom. It was quite closed in, with wallpaper showing a forest and a small spring. We ate breakfast on the roof overlooking the busy street and discolored tin roofs. A lot of hotels are like this.

When finding accommodations online, you should do it with an expectation that you may walk into a place that looks nothing like it’s posted photos. Read the reviews, but I don’t think those can be trusted, especially if they are posted by an American. I find that Americans and other westerners in general have grand expectations and are simply surprised so they rate the place low. For example, I recently stayed three nights in a Japanese style capsule. It was located on the edge of the backpacker area in District one. It was a glorified dorm with screens that came down to individualize the pods. The review said it was loud and smelled. People smell, especially, when you get about twenty bodies into one area. They also rented towels so I am sure some budget travelers were choosing to spend money on beer over hygiene.

As far as being loud, it was in the backpacker area, where it is full of restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s just not going to be quiet. The only thing in the review I agreed with was the hardness of the bunk. The mattress was about two inches thick but mushed down with wear. I basically slept on metal. I asked for an extra duvet to sleep on, just a little extra cushion. For $17USD for three nights and the location, it suited its purpose. I stayed in a different capsule hotel once before. It was trash. What I had walked into was not in the photos at all. So, you have to be careful.

There was a hotel I found just outside of the backpacker area I thought was a nice little gem. The night I arrived was like a story. It was raining heavily that night. The car had no access to the alley, so I had to wander a bit before finding my destination. I took the elevator to the 5thfloor and walked into the first hotel room I had in the city that not just had a window, but it had a view over some rooftop gardens. Yeah. It was spacious and it was clean. I ordered some BBQ using Vietnammm.com and watched as the lightening showed off for about four hours. How did I get so lucky?

Later that night, I went to the little market to grab some beer and met a few fellow Texans. They had been living in the area for a few years at this point and the market was like their little club house. We chatted for a while. They insisted that my living in Binh Duong wasn’t living in Vietnam. Sometimes I think that is true. That stay in the alley was just so romantic to me, especially being outside of the touristy area and winding through alley ways. There was something comforting being enrapt in the city in that way. I enjoyed the accommodation and experience. I continued to book nights there. The next occasion of an overnight in Saigon I stayed across the hall and this room had windows on three of the walls and a balcony. I was beginning to geek out on this place until it was time to take a shower. It was a bucket shower. Not really a problem, but the facilities I was experiencing were beginning to get worse.

The last booking I made at Happy Homes required me to walk 6 flights to my room. I had a window, but no functioning way to bathe. I had to use a tea cup and daintily pour water gathered from the sink. I haven’t been back there since. At one point I was actually thinking of making it my regular weekend retreat. Oh well.

September 2nd is Independence Day in Vietnam. It fell on a weekend and just in the way that I could spend a few nights in HCMC. I booked a hotel that  I would see from the bus traveling to and fro. It included a breakfast, always a plus. It had a window that had a sliver of a view of the park across the street from the hotel. A block away was Bui Vien walking street, the backpacker area. It was a quiet room with two double beds pushed together, but individually made up. There was orange Fanta in the refrigerator which gives this place a high score in my book. Anyway, HCMC quirkiness continues with this facility.

When I arrived, I had to lug a fairly heavy overnight bag up a flight of stairs before entering the hotel. It was only heavy because it was actually two bags, one including my laptop and some books. Once I had my key the “bellboy” took my bag and showed me to the elevator. He pushed the fifth floor, but my key had a number for the fourth floor. I pushed four and then he explained that we have to go to the fifth floor, walk up to the sixth floor and then walk down to the fourth floor. WTF?! Sure enough. We got to the fifth floor and then walked up a thin stairwell to the sixth floor. From there we walked down a hallway into a garden. We walked across the rooftop garden to basically another building and walked down another thin stairwell to the fourth floor. There is always something funky about places here. I had to retrace my steps each time leaving my room because I don’t know where the nearest stairwell would’ve taken me.

I would say, that staying in HCMC is a unique experience. Booking a room online is easy enough, but it does need some due diligence on your part or you only have yourself to blame. Read the reviews, a lot of reviews. Don’t expect the pictures to tell you any kind of truth. Location might be important for you, but consider the fact that transportation is very cheap. If noise is a factor then stay away from Bui Vien or pack earplugs. The price range is so varied you are bound to find something you like within any kind of budget. Having paid $140USD for a mediocre room in a Holiday Inn in Austin, I realize that the same price could afford extreme luxury here. At $50USD you can get a great room at the Pullman. Vietnam is definitely a country that has a surprise a second.

Seriously Ill in Vietnam

About a month ago I got seriously ill. I was ill enough to go to the emergency room and stay a few days. It was a Sunday evening when I got off of work and went to get a meal at one of the western style restaurants close to the school. It had been a long week with screaming children and teens. I don’t often eat out, I usually cook at home. This particular night I didn’t want to cook and was craving pasta. I was extremely happy to have some cheesy shrimp pasta, but I should have known better.

The first time I had eaten at this particular restaurant there was no incident. I ate a large plate of pasta and enjoyed a nice beer. The second time I went there I woke up a few days later with a sore in the corner of my mouth. I had had these sores before but never knew what caused them. I hadn’t had one in more than a year. Actually writing this I looked it up…won’t go into it. It was my third visit to this restaurant and I typically learn my lesson in threes. Well, I ate my plate of pasta and drank a large beer. I sat with my kindle and enjoyed the food before I took a ride home in the rain to end the day.

I got comfortable at home and began to lesson plan for the next week. I was working on my lessons when I began to feel extremely hot and started sweating profusely. Waves of nausea began to hit me from the left and the right. I felt it in my toes. I eventually went to the bathroom and sat by my toilet spinning. One thing I hate about my bathroom is how hot it is. There was no cool floor to calm my body’s reactions. I continued to sweat and eventually heaved up my meal.

Ah, okay. Maybe my ice cream float with a touch of whiskey wasn’t the best dessert choice. I went back to the couch feeling some relief. It was hard to believe that a shot of whiskey and a beer would make me sick enough to puke. No sooner had the sweat dried on my body that it all began again. I really hate puking and I don’t know anyone who does, but I decided to campout in the bathroom for a bit, you know, get it all out of me so I could just go to bed and rest. It was only around 7pm at this time, but I was definitely done in. To shorten the story a bit, after laying by the toilet for a few hours I decided that I would be more comfortable heaving from the comfort of my bed into a trash can. The steamy bathroom was keeping me in a state. I dimmed the lights and turned over every 30 minutes or so to drop off whatever into the can.

I lay in agony for hours. It reminded me of two Christmases ago when I lived in Berkeley. That Christmas Eve was spent with some friends at Clooney’s Pub in San Francisco. I had a few pints and a shot of Fernet. I woke up the next morning vomiting uncontrollably. Sick the whole day, I finally decided in the early evening to go to the E.R. I took the last available taxi to the wrong hospital and some generous people, who had been visiting a friend, took me to the correct hospital for care. There I was diagnosed with a virus.

Well here, once I began vomiting green bile I knew it was time to get a GRAB car to the international hospital, which fortunately is very close to me. Within an hour I was admitted and diagnosed with gastritis. FUCK. I was in so much agony at this time. I began to long for the U.S. because I just didn’t believe they knew what to do with me. I thought I would have at least gotten stronger drugs for the abdominal cramping at this point.

Administration bothered me about insurance. I gave them my card but I had forgotten my passport that was conveniently laid out on my dresser for this occasion. It just never made it to my pocket. At first, I thought, how rude. I’m in all this pain and all you can do is bother me about decisions. I ended up choosing a room shared with four people, because I didn’t know what insurance would cover. I couldn’t believe I was being checked in. In the States I would have been hydrated and sent home with a few scripts. I must have got something serious going on. They pressed on my belly, did some ultra sound tests while I continued to puke and writhe in pain. FUCK.

I was eventually wheeled into a room and there was only one other patient. I made more noise than him puking into my bucket and moaning in pain. Each time a nurse asked me how I felt I wanted to lash out, “How do I fucking look?! I feel like shit!” I didn’t though.

They sent food to my bedside and I wanted to kick it over. It looked nice, but the smell sent me over the edge. My stomach would flop at the idea of putting something into it. There were times I would lay on my back looking at the ceiling reminiscing about my times as an electrician. I was fascinated how the curtain rods were fastened to the T-Bar itself and not extending to the ceiling beyond. We wouldn’t do that in the States, especially in California, due to earthquakes. It’s funny how things and structures are secured in this country.

I slept a bit but in fits and spurts. Nurses would come and go from the room. Every two hours or so vitals were checked and in my case that included blood sugar. The lights were bright and nausea kept me just on the edge of falling into a real sleep.

I started the second day feeing extremely poor. I forced myself to take a shower. It was the best thing I did for myself. I at least felt human again. I felt I had gained just the smallest amount of strength, but no appetite. I had to be careful drinking water. Drinking too much at once sent me retching minutes later. I weakly spoke to my doctor in the afternoon wondering when I might feel better. Here he explained to me that I was used to certain germs and contaminates in the U.S., but there was a lot in this country that my body couldn’t handle at this time. We just had to wait and see. Rationally, it made sense, but it didn’t help me feel better emotionally.

The room began to fill up with patients. There were about seven hours I had the whole room alone, as the other patient was discharged. Now, it was jammed packed with patients and visitors. They had no qualm opening my curtain to stare at me. They spoke loudly and used electronics as if they were in their own private homes. I really wished I had asked for a double or maybe even a single room. What made it worse is that because I had no idea I would be admitted I brought nothing with me to entertain myself. I had been alone with just my thoughts. I had no one to call to bring my passport or even a book.

The third morning, a miraculous thing happened. I woke up feeling soooo much better. I didn’t have a huge appetite, but thought that I could at least eat a banana. I craved a banana. I was thinking of the BRAT diet. For some reason there were none to give me. SADS. It was good to communicate to my doctor that I was feeling better and he said that if the good feelings continued through the night to tomorrow I could look to going home the next day at some point. I needed to make that happen. I also needed my passport for insurance purposes, as hospital admin were calling my bedside hounding me for it. I didn’t want to pay out of pocket to file forms with insurance later. Then, I decided I felt good enough to go A.W.O.L.

I needed a few things other than my passport. I hadn’t brought clothes to change into. I needed my scrub towel to have an even better shower later. My phone battery had lasted a long time, but it was about to die. I wanted my iPad. My body hurt from laying in bed the past few days and it would be good to sit up and read for a bit or watch some movies. I called a nurse to my bed and asked her about leaving. It was hard for many to understand that I DID NOT have someone to call and help me. She said she would go and ask someone if I could leave. Well, she took too long for me to wait anymore. I had it in my head to go already. As I got onto an elevator I made eye contact with one of the nurses on the floor and slipped into the lift.

I got a GRAB car to my apartment. Someone from the hospital called for me on my cell phone and I explained I would be back within half an hour. It was truly a fast trip. I got the same driver back to the hospital after grabbing some clothes, a charger, iPad and a book. I’m glad I made the trip. I was now able to drown out the voices of others. I longed to surround myself in English. I’m not worried about them speaking about me, it was just so loud, so yeah, I grabbed my headphones too.

I was quite insistent on leaving the next day. I even told the school I would make it back to teach my class in the evening. I passed the time watching music videos and started reading Casual Vacancy, by J.K.Rowling. The way the book introduces the characters I found myself a bit lost, but it solidifies soon enough for the reader to not be too impatient.

I took another shower in the morning, dressed and waited until noon for the okay. I received a few scripts to continue taking for the next few days. Insurance covered everything and I was refunded half of my deposit. So in short my co-pay for the E.R. was 1.5 million VND ($65 USD).

Satisfied by the level of care and attention, even the food I could eat, I went home to rest for my evening class. I hope I never get that sick again. I am confident in the level of care in that international hospital. I probably left even stronger after being inoculated with whatever Vietnamese bug I got.

Bangkok for the Fourth

There are some things I wish I had done. There are some things I will never do again. There are a few things I am so glad I did do and others I will do time and time again. I really like Bangkok. There is so much to do and see. Always do your research and make plans.

1. Transportation… There are taxis, motorbikes, tuk tuks, and on my last day I learned they have GRAB. GRAB would have made my trip a bit smoother. GRAB is like the baby brother of UBER, which I believe has been kicked out of S.E.Asia. I had specific places to go and it is much cheaper than a taxi.

Some taxis are metered and some not. You should only take a metered taxi. You can negotiate with the other kind of drivers, but unless you are familiar with the baht and real costs, just avoid them. They will be approximately 6 times more expensive than a metered car. Motorbike is a good option if you are traveling solo, but you should know Thai and be prepared to haggle, which I hate. Also, stay wityhin a small radiius of where you start, because they do not use GPS. Tuk tuks just want to take you to certain tourist sites. They have different agendas. They want to take you to places where they will get a commission.

My first morning I was convinced to go on an hour tour. I was taken to temples that were barely visited, bare and under construction. I paid for a boat ride, supposedly at a discount and I kind of understand why. The floating market wasn’t happening and the river was bare of any activity. I was reminded of the term “Idiot Tax”. I paid my fair share on this trip. I mean, I only took a picture of the front of the boat.

The morning wasn’t wasted, but it could have and should have gone differently. Later, during my trip, after being approached by many drivers, I learned that they take the same route I had been on. Same temples, same tailors and boat ride. I seriously recommend downloading GRAB and get to specific desinations at a cheap price and miss the garbage. Otherwise, ride with a Thai friend and they will help you get around the best.

Things I won’t do again…I won’t stay close to Khao San Road. It’s just too touristy. I am so repulsed by the young, screaming, white, backpacker, drunk in the streets losing their minds. I’m too old for that shit. Since living in Vietnam, outside of Saigon, I really prefer being amongst only a few foreigners. The hawking of laughing gas, pasty white skin, it’s like a girls and boys gone wild video. I also don’t like how they are so culturally inept. I mean, learn how to say hello, thank you, and not spicy, if you can’t handle the heat for godssakes. I did walk the street one night looking for specific beer tank tops and I had to rush through. I picked up a few things for my bro, but found what I wanted the next day in the morning.

My best memories of Bangkok were the visits I had with former students. My first visit was with a young man who was living as a Buddhist monk. It’s a Thai tradition for young men in Thailand to do this for a two weeks, a month or longer. Knowing it was his father’s decision to spend the time, I knew it will be a long two weeks for him. It’s not an eay thing to do. It’s hot in Thailand and they live without airconditioning. They walk barefoot every morning to collect breakfast donated by other Buddhists. Then they spend time studying and meditating. They have free time to do whatever, but cannot spend money. They also cannot eat after 7 pm.

I spent some time with another young man I taught in San Francisco. He’s calm and thoughtful. He was gracious enough to show me a really good evening in Bangkok. We first tried to go to a rooftop bar, because I wanted a drink with a city view, but it was popular and already at capacity at 630pm. We took a tuk tuk, for super cheap, to the Chinatown area and began eating. Everything you heard of Bangkok and it’s food happens in Chinatown, except Mondays, it’s the law.

I started with some noodles, salty and sticky. Further in I had some soup that contained crispy porkbelly, liver and chitterlings (pork intestines). DEELISH. My mom always said to not eat them in other countries, but when the culture eats them more than Black people then you know they are good. It’s been my experience in Asian restaurants that they are amazing and clean. I would be hesitant if the chef was white though, just saying. On our way out of Chinatown we grabbed a quick dessert. I was a bit nervous because raw  was lettuce involved and it was dripping with water. The last time I had something with lettuce I got “Thai tummy”

The dessert was similar to bahn cuon, but it had chestnut. It was only slightly sweet, nutty, but very chewy. It began to rain, as this time of year is the rainy season. We grabbed a tuk tuk to go back to the area where my hotel is. The temples were brilliant at night in the rain. It’s too bad my iPhone had no more room for photos. We stopped at a bar but had to leave due to a private Ducati event. Another tuk tuk and we landed at Brown Sugar.

It’s a jazz bar, with live music daily. The front is very unassuming. Open, with a pool table. We walk through the open area and through some glass doors and got a still slap from the air conditioner. The music before the band was nice. What we in the States would call adult contemporary. A lot of them were remakes of popular songs, but all in English. There was a jazz mural covering all four walls. There was Duke Ellington, Amy Winehouse, and Dizzy Gilespie. The music began at 8:45.

A young and beautiful mixed race girl sang with a guitar player. She sang some standards beautifully and then thanked and spoke to the audience in Thai. The atmosphere allowed us to speak about life and ask each other questions. It was a truly pleasant night and I was grateful to spend it with him. There weren’t any World Cup games to stay up for so I didn’t stay up late. There were twlo things I still wanted to do. I wanted to see Wat Arun and the David Beckham Temple. That’s right, David Beckham Temple.

I woke up early like the previous mornings. I had breakfast and decided to take a ride to The Temple of the Dawn, a mistake. I should have just walked to the pier and taken the boat. Instead I paid an inflated price to the pier and took the ferry across the river. The sun was shining fully into the complex. I am grateful for my poorly tailored khakis. As poorly fitting as they feel they are extremely light, perfect for the tropics and temples. They did pick up the sweat from my knees which weirdly happen to sweat a lot.

The Temple of the Dawn is not what I expected at all. From afar it just looks like gray stone, but up close it’s brilliant white with cool mosaic pieces. I walked out of the complex, got the ferry and once I crossed I began to ask the lazing drivers about how to get to the David Beckham Temple. Then looking at the map I could see the temple was quite a disctance away. It was recommended that I take a boat along the river to get there.

I referred to the blog I had read about the David Beckham Temple and found the temple’s location. One driver told me he could take me to the pier, but mid way said he could take me to Chinatown. Once I closed my phone the location became foggy in my mind. The driver dropped my off in Chinatown, which during the day is another world. It was the complete opposite of the night before. It was brightly lit by the mid morning sun. The sky was a brilliant blue with strips of stationary white reflecting UV-rays. As the driver took off I took out my Google Maps and let out a puff of air. I was slightly closer to my destination, but still so far away.

I thought of walking in the temple’s direction and grab a tuk tuk on the way. That was a big fail. I got a tuk tuk and he went in the wrong direction even though I showed him a map. Then he wanted to triple the price we had agreed upon. I told him to pull over and went on foot toward the temple. I was following a large street. Sections of it was gem street and I thought of my mom, because she loves jewelry. I walked for about 45minutes and began to notice how the heat was sapping my energy.

I forced myself to get some water at a convenience store. I could feel my calves tighten up and cry a bit. I don’t walk this much in Vietnam. Places began setting up for lunch and I moved on. I was on a mission. Eventually, I came to an alley full of resting motorbike drivers. They were chilling and I got their attention looking like a hot worn tourist. I showed them my phone a discussion in fast Thai ensued. Men pointed their finger in different directions. Every once in a while they would mention the name of the Temple, Wat Pariwat.

They volunteered the oldest guy to take me. We rode for quite a bit, but the anticipation encouraged me. I was going to see my golden boy. Traffic is so different in Thailand. For one, cars dominate in Thailand. In Vietnam it’s the motorbike. Cars in Thailand stop for pedestrians when they enter the space. There isn’t a challenge of machine versus man. It felt safer and more considerate. If Thais doubt me, then I suggest you spend a weekend in HCMC and then tell me what you think.

The old man made a stop to ask an old woman about directions. We were on a large road, almost like a freeway. A young Thai person came walking by and he asked them. We were both relieved that they spoke English and I was only across the road from my destination. All I needed to do was climb some stairs and walk across the bridge. The bridge doubled as a platform for a train. Well shit, I wish I had found what train came this way.

My tired legs held strong as I climbed the stairs. On the other side I opened the blog for further directions. I was able to match landmarks. I fucking made it!

I walked down a long drive as described. The closer I got I could hear children at the school next door. I had closed the blog and without knowing which building to go to, I just walk to the first building that appeared to be a temple. I took a deep breath and got my camera ready. I got excited about my new camera bag I bought in HCMC. I could carry my camera and two extra lenses. I walked up to the ornate building and my eyes hadn’t trained on anything specific, until I saw a figure with a shark head. My heart began to beat fast. What the fuck am I looking at? I let my camera hang for a bit and walk up close to the structure. Whoah! Is that…Popeye?…Wolverine?…Holy Shit! I just got so happy. I didn’t stop smiling the whole time. I just found the most exciting thing in Thailand.

I couldn’t wait to find the little gold statue of DB. At times, I felt a little faint. I hadn’t eaten lunch and should have gotten a large bottle of water. I couldn’t stop though, sweating or taking photos. I switched lenses and angles and focus. I looked and looked but couldn’t find the likeness of my man crush. I couldn’t care more though, this funky place was amazing.

There was another building of similar build next door about 10 meters away. There was some type of construction happening. The amazing things were the likenesses under the eave of the building. First I saw a Viking…what the…a Native American figure in full headdress, a cowboy and then Che.

I gave the Wat a new name….Wat Thefuckamilookingat. Again, I cannot express in words the excited feeling I had mixed with hunger, exhaustion, and low blood sugar. I hadn’t even entered the temples yet.

A young man and who I can imagine was his small family, sat on the floor in front of a fan in the entrance of the temple. The inside was jaw dropping. The only thing to remind one it was a Buddhist temple was the large gold Buddha outlined in neon that changed colors. Then I saw Einstein, Julius Ceasar and Shakespeare. Their likeness in mosaic pieces. The art on the ceiling is immense with the color of blue cut by designs in more mosaics and gold.

I didn’t find David Beckham, but the trip to this building was worth all of the trouble and kilometers walked. I opened up the blog post again. There were more buildings to discover and I was really feeling my sugar level drop. I found the entrance to the building I should have looked for in the beginning, but the area was closed off. Definitely, no DB this trip. I did find a concession stand and grape Fanta. I cooled off in the shade before making it back to my hotel. I had been on the move all morning and afternoon.

I walked back to the large road. As I approached, a taxi had just dropped off a passenger. This when I learned the GRAB existed. He dropped me off on Khao San Road, quiet and hot in the high shining sun. It was steamy, yet quiet. I needed some souvenitrs for myself. I found the t-shirt stand I needed. She had the tank tops of all my favorite Asian beers. It was a perfect way to end my trip. I will come back Bangkok.

Link to more Bangkok photos…https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10156392489922226.1073741838.619127225&type=1&l=6c148501db

 

I’m Coming Out…

I have something to admit…

So lately, I have been feeling poorly and it’s been a few months now. It’s a combination of things that have been getting me down. After news of a few American celebrities taking their own lives, I was left to wonder how I even made it this far. I’m lonely here in Vietnam. I have spent time with coworkers, but I long for someone who already knows me, It’s difficult for me at this age to get to know new people. I’ve become pickier and now see that I need to be even more so with the people around me.

I do know some cool people, but the cool kids live in HCMC. We met at our CELTA course and they lead busy lives as I do, so we don’t get to see each other often enough. I long for intimacy. I long for a pet, but I’m not quite ready to make that commitment. I also find my poor feelings connected to teaching teens. I can honestly say I don’t like teaching the teens here, yet I persevere. Unfortunately, that doesn’t alleviate the exhaustion felt at the end of each of those classes. They don’t care to learn English, nor do they even want to be in a classroom. They lack curiosity and basically teens are assholes. Luckily, as of late I have been teaching more adult classes and I am grateful to be using familiar material, American English File. I am questioning my teaching options.

Besides that, I have an annoying and awkward situation with someone I work with. I do work with a Trump supporter, but this blog is not about him. It’s an obvious problem. But I have another coworker who happens to be transphobic. This experience with them has made me quite aware of the charmed life I have lead as a transgendered man. I haven’t felt loss. I’ve always had support. In a lot of my life I never had to come out. I never purposefully lead a stealth life. I was just being me, no explanations. I was married to a woman so the world saw me exactly as it should, a man. The only time I had to think about coming out was after my divorce. It was going to be a new and daunting thing.

Now I need to back pedal a bit…I had made some “friends” here in my current city. Two women. They live in my building. We work together. One is South African and the other is Australian. I thought a friendship could grow. I thought I had made a connection. The longer we were in this friendship the more I considered coming out to them. As I didn’t consider us that close I never felt compelled to really say anything about, but it was in the back of my mind. I’m not attracted to either of them so I didn’t think they needed more information.

Well, one night after the Tet holiday I had them over to share my Duty Free whisky purchase. We got a little messy with the drinks. It got messy enough for them to go home leaving me laying on the warm not comforting bathroom tiles. This wasn’t before the Aussie blurted out, “I’d fuck you.” Not knowing how to respond, I said nothing. I almost said, no you wouldn’t. It definitely got me to thinking that I needed to same something.

I never flirted with her. I never made sexual jokes or innuendo.  We’ve never even touched in a hug, high five or hand shake. The closest we’d been was when she drove me on her motorbike. Since she expressed attraction I thought I needed to say something, and we were “friends”, so. I invited her over once more to talk. A few days had passed and the longer it wasn’t being addressed the more I felt stress. Did I mention, I hadn’t come out to someone in over 14 years.

She sat away from me and I began to explain: “I’ve never had to do this before. It can sound a bit shocking. I feel very nervous, but I’m just going to say it…If we were ever to be intimate you would need to know something about me. I’m transgendered. Of course, she was shocked. There was disbelief. The conversation didn’t last much longer. She expressed that there was still an attraction and then rambled a bit about being with women before, just not an American. I don’t think she understood that I wasn’t expressing a desire to sleep with her. I never had a desire to be involved with her in that way. The air became more and more awkward by the minute. I asked her if she wanted to talk anymore about it. She didn’t and she left.

Then there was the silence. Okay, she needed to digest the information. I get it. There were about four days we didn’t speak after speaking everyday if not seeing each other going to a café or something. It was a deep silence. Not only did I not see her in the building, I didn’t see her at work. I told her on Monday and by Friday I felt I needed to check in. There wasn’t even a message of asking how anyone was so I knew this wasn’t good.

Friday, we met up in a café were would regularly go and meet. It serves so so western food, but nothing to really talk about. I thought that if things weren’t cool it would at least be respectful to tell me where she was at with it all. I shouldn’t be chasing her to find out. She left my apartment saying things were cool and her actions said something else. We ate and I had to ask her to catch me up with her thoughts. I think it would be better to be friends. Things can get complicated. I never wanted to be more than friends in the first place, but I did tell her something I had felt was quite intimate about me. She goes on to say, It’s a trust thing for me. I don’t know if what you have been telling is the truth. I mean I get why you didn’t say anything, but I don’t know what to believe. Match drops to bridge and immediate combustion happens. In other words she called me a liar.

Now, if I had pursued her, flirted, insinuated I was attracted to her, I could understand. I didn’t do any of that. In no way did I betray trust. What transphobic people don’t understand is that we were lying before. Being transgendered is the most honest life to live. Identifying leaves only truth for us. I am a man. This is my truth. I don’t have to lie or manipulate people to be in my life and I for sure didn’t do that with her. She basically called me a liar and that’s where and when isolation, depression, and rage crept into my life.

Well, shit. I live in the same building and could run into her at any time in the parking area or elevator. We work at the same school. Slowly, and noticeably she stopped making eye contact with me. Her being cordial ended when she asked to use my extra helmet, that I had given away to a buddy as a souvenir, and I told her I didn’t have it any longer. Probably what happened is that she didn’t believe me, for the liar she thinks I am. She then stopped talking to me all together. I went back to that garden café on my own to spend an afternoon. The owner asked me where I had been. I said around. Then she told me about a small gathering that my “friends” called me about. I should have come. It was nice. Oh, I get it now, because that phone call or message never came.

I no longer try to speak to her or make eye contact. At first it was strange. I had become a bit angry, but I’m not going to go out of my way to make her feel comfortable. I am angry at being called a liar. People are going to believe whatever they want to believe. I’m not here to educate them. I don’t have to have patience for them to get it. I just don’t need shitty people in my life.

It took me a minute to snap out of it. This summer would have been my 20th San Francisco Pride weekend if I was still living there. In the past I would make brunch and watch the parade on television, then go to the festival in the afternoon. In light of American politics today and my current feelings, this year’s event is very important for me. Fuck man, even my soccer club are LGBT supporters, because they fucking get it. I miss having people around me that get it. It can be a lonely struggle.

I maintain my identity. Whatever you see, the vibes you get is exactly what you should. It’s all me and nothing else is needed to be projected. There is nothing fake about me. Not one transperson is trying to fool you. Your trust issues are with yourself not me. I don’t feel compelled or have a need to convince you of my existence. Hence, I won’t go out of my way to make anyone feel comfortable about their own bullshit.

I have quite a few people to credit for my strength. Ortgans, years ’93 – ’96. My years at UCSB were more formative than my high school and teen years. I need to give a huge hug to my family who I do tend to hold at arms-length, they continue to grasp for me. I have an old school friend who would carry me to conservative evangelical christian events in her LUV. We came out the other side much better than before. My current friends, who haven’t blinked an eye as I tell this story, I wish there were more of you in the world.

Happy Pride Month. I know some warriors out there. Thank you for your perseverance and reminders of love. Your work is not lost, nor has it gone unnoticed.

I ate all the breakfasts and relished American English

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Order anything at the Cove on Castro that has Lorenzo in the name…

 

One of the first questions a person asks me about living in another country is, What do you miss the most about the United States? I miss American breakfast. And just recently I recognize how I miss American English.

Missing food from you country is kind of a given when you live in a faraway place. It’s not like I don’t like Vietnamese food. I love it. I tend to be adventurous about it, but breakfast has always been my favorite meal, so when you go to a country that doesn’t actually have breakfast foods then you miss what you are familiar with.

I live in a country where there is no particular distinguishing between meals. They eat food for breakfast and there isn’t a structure as to what is consumed at any given meal.  Donner Kebab? Breakfast, lunch and dinner… phở? Breakfast, lunch and dinner…bánh mì? Breakfast, lunch and dinner…fried chicken with fried rice? Lunch or dinner. I can say that you will not find fried chicken for breakfast, except maybe at Family Mart, which is like a corner/ convenience store.

Most restauarants that do serve western style food, well, let’s just say that the American style breakfast isn’t one of the styles easily found or delicious. There are some things you have to let go of…I live in a foreign country and my food is going to taste foreign. So be it. Vietnamese food is great though. Korean food is good, because it’s made by Koreans. There are a lot of Koreans in Vietnam. They basically have their own district in HCMC. So, yeah, breakfast. It happens to be my favorite meal style. I once had a fantasy of owning a restaurant that only served breakfast food. I would have called it Breakfast, Brunch and Brinner. I could reveal other ideas inside of that concept, BUT since I’m still considering it, I shouldn’t reveal too much.

If you are ever in these following towns during breakfast service you should try a meal there. Look further than what I ordered, the menus can be big like the servings. But always delicious.

Esaus, located in Carpenteria, California is a definite stop I make every time I am visiting. It has a classic diner set up. It’s full of booths and counter seating. The servings are very large and so are the flavors.

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IHOP. The International House of Pancakes is found in most U.S. cities. If you’ve never been to a IHOP, I recommend that you do. As a child I remember the commercials for their Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity. I always wanted to try this pancake order. To be honest I just like them regular and unadorned except for butter and syrup. There are choices of syrup flavors. I think that is just as good as the other additions you can make to your order.

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Another great spot for pancakes is Eddie’s Cafe. It’s located in an area called Western Addition in San Francisco. It reflects what made San Francisco. There are stickers all over the place, along with SF Giants baseball paraphernalia and a collection of coffee and tea mugs chosen especially for you. I recommend the three pancake combo that comes with eggs and another meat like bacon or sausage. Their menu includes hot links, pork chops and grits. They always have some old school jams playing in the background like, Prince, Donna Summer or Tina Turner.

The Grind offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I mainly go in for the french toast. It’s located in the Lower Haight area of San Francisco. It was so close to my home that a free morning meant taking my iPad to watch Korean dramas and slowly consuming my delicious egg dipped Texas toast. This restaurant will keep it’s window open on a nice day. You can watch the world wonder by. The menu takes the American palate to a new level with familiar ingredients that you can pronounce.

Cafe International is not really a place to get food in my opinion. I like this cafe, because the owner and her daughter have been familiar faces from the time I arrived in the city. I like overhearing her conversations with different people in the neighborhood. She’s sassy and opinionated. I appreciate the liveliness. I used to give English lessons in this cafe. What I do like on the menu is the iced coffee. She totally gets it with adding coffee ice cubes to the drink. There is no watering down of the drink. It does make it seem like the drink is never ending. It is a powerful drink. Take a chance to sit on the patio and enjoy the mural and wall plants on the back patio.

The Cove on Castro is basically my second home. I’ve eaten there from the beginning of my days in the City. There was also a short time I was employed as a cashier. I have watched it grow and change. It’s been owned by the same family since the early seventies. It offers up the best comfort food in town. The roast beef plate with mashed potatoes was the most awesome welcoming when I first arrived back.

As far as language goes, in Asia, most schools are using books that teach British English. I have picked up some sayings in British English, but I miss the familiar accent, pronunciation and particular American sayings, even how we might talk about language. I just miss my language. In that I miss my co-workers. I worked with some nice, smart, English geeky, quirky and wise people.

There isn’t too much conversation about language in particular. Maybe differences in English from different English speaking countries comes up, but as I will explain more on my teaching blog, we don’t teach grammar. We try to get them to communicate and practice their oral fluency more. They look for more activities than lessons. So I miss talking about the use of language, especially with another American. It’s interesting enough because there are so many places to be from in the United States that American English is even more varied with arguments of standard. RANTS! The teacher’s room was a great place for not just as a language resource, but things that are relevant to me culturally.

This was to be my last visit for a good long time. Knowing that I wanted to listen to every conversation. I wanted to collect and compare idioms. I kept my ears open and thankfully the conversations I heard weren’t ridiculous and as mundane as before I left. I listened with different ears. Ears that relished and hungered for the familiar sounds as much as I hungered for familiar tastes.

Bravery, Loneliness, Suicide

After speaking to a few people, I wanted to write about bravery. First, I wanted to understand what that means for people. The meaning seems to be universal from all perspecitves: The ability to face fears, feel discomfort and the willingness to learn lessons that lead to growth.

There have been a few times in my life that I have been given this moniker. I’ve shrugged it off due to the lack of evidence from my soul. What does bravey feel like? After long thinking and reflection, I came up with this: It’s the acceptance of the palapatating heart during adversity. It’s the flexibility around change. It feels like your heart is being chewed while still in your chest cavity. It also encompasses exhileration of accomplishment at the end of the struggle, but that is only the relief at the end. I would liken the feeling of bravery to pain. Humanity does it’s best to avoid this, and I am of course excluding those careers that forces one into danger on a daily basis, there you are not allowed to question the self.

As of late it has come to mind that I don’t want to be brave. I hate the idea of just living my life equalling bravery, but at some facets that is exactly what it is. To travel and seek safety in a culture where I no longer have to face authoritarian agression, especially from perceived authority, like the every day citizen. You have to admit that certain elements in American society are now so brazen and violent. To be alone, with little understanding of language and people is brave. I’ve made a point in the past to inform my students traveling to a confusing place like the U.S. that they themselves are brave. In time these kinds of things will change the longer I am away.

The sense of bravery is slow to wear away. To acclimate the mind, body, and soul is a process that is never fast. It’s amazing to see how everything is placed. Once the dominoes are stacked in line then you have to move carefully in order to miss the chaos of their tumbling, because as humans we do not choose the design for them to collapse. It never becomes a colorful spiral or even another mosaic matching what the soul truly wants to project. Now, my heart is in the last bites and mastication. It’s ready to be swallowed. I’m ready to be swallowed, but fear the other side. Now, there have been things I have dove into not knowing the outcome, better yet, not imagining what outcomes were even possible. Yet, I made those decisions. Sometimes those decisions haunt me to this day, because the future can play cruel tricks. Create a turn where there once wasn’t. A cliff can appear and you have to decide to fall/jump off or climb slowly down. And which of those decisions is brave.

Recently, a few people have decided to jump off. Into the unknown abyss. As most were celebrities we let into our lives on a semi regular basis we are shocked and saddened. These people made us laugh, cry, question and consume. There was something about them that made us hold them close to us. No doubt there are holes in our hearts but for many others who were actually close and knew them there are caverns. I never had a Jack Spade bag, but knew of Kate Spade from the beginning. We can agree that she was extremely young to die. I enjoyed more than few of Anthony Bourdain shows, mostly before CNN picked them up. Having come to Vietnam before his first show about the country, I just loved how he was able to spin his words to match my feelings about this country, their people and of course their food.

It was a shock and I was angered by AB’s death. It happened to come at a time where I was struggling with my own loneliness and discomfort in being of this world. I’ve come to recognize that I’ve always maintained a discomfort of being in this shell of a body. The discomfort can be so encompassing that lying motionless in a hammock swinging in the breeze of an electric fan in my own apartment living my own life, relief can appear to be far from reach. I think my anger came from being left here. How could he leave when I struggle in a sense to stay? I used to think suicide was a weak action. A cop out. How dare you fucking escape?

The more I live the more I struggle to not be judgemental. It’s more my goal to come to compassion and understanding of things outside of me, especially when what is inside me is so confusing at times. I try to key in to the type of filter I am seeing the world and temper it. I try to hold the judgement down, because what the fuck do I know?

AB lived a full life. I think he just couldn’t do anymore. He literally couldn’t fit it all in. Why should I expect him to do more than him. In certain ways he had so much beauty in his life, but at the price of previous ugly. There is always a balance. He knew about escape as he had a past with heavy drug abuse. He knew about life because we watched him travel, eat, speak and expand right before our eyes. 61 is a young age. I have no idea what the next 20 years of my life could even look like and I try not to. I want to be present. We have to admit that we saw AB present. All I can do is salute him.

To those left behind, someone who knows someone who committed suicide, I know they will find it difficult to believe that suicide could be beautiful. To choose when you’ve had enough. With AB and knowing what I know of his life I find it beautiful in a sense. To have had three or four lifetimes in one. I respect when someone might think they’ve had enough. He didn’t leave without regret. His regret is felt for those he left behind. I hope they can still honor him and the struggles he did survive. He took many steps in life we all would consider to be brave. There isn’t a thing he didn’t try. I can recognize how strong he was to live as long as he did. I recognize how brave it is to grow in the spotlight, but feel the darkness inside.

 

 

 

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