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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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.

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.

California Love

The road was smooth. Every lane was the fast lane. I flew dơwn the 101 listening to the radio songs of my youth. The sky over the coast was clear but deceptively cool. During the day it got down right blustery during my stay in Carpenteria. I’ve traveled this particular stretch of freeway, the 101, many a time. It was like comfort oxygen being in the Santa Barbara area. I saw very few people. I laid low and walked around a bit at the UCSB campus. Walking through Isla Vista reminded me of times hanging out with some wild girls on Sueno. I recall bouncing around Sabado before returning to my own insane house on Del Playa. My time living in the central coast area has just such nice memories.

Making that drive can be exhausting, but I didn’t even try to stop. Traffice was magical. I do wish I had slowed down a bit. There were some scenic parts that reminded me of Vietnam. Particularly with a vast area of agriculture and the mountains in the background. I regret not pulling over for a minute to photograph it. The Central Valley of California is the true bread basket of the nation. This time of year a lot of the valley is lush and green with food crops.

The highlight of my trip to Southern California was staying with my brother and his small family. My little nephew turned one the day after I turned forty-five. He is a little darling. He starts off shy and slowly warms up to people. He just began walking and seems to really be concentrating on perfecting it. He would not sit still. He did laps around his living room at the end of the day speaking baby speak. I’m sure he had a lot to say, but his mouth would not let the shape of the letter form just yet. The remarkable thing was his smile. He smiles a lot. It warmed my heart when he reached out to me at different times.

Compared to my sister-in-law’s family ours is very small. I feel for my brother as he may feel a little bit of emotion as he doesn’t have family to quickly reach out to. I’m in Vietnam and our parents are in Texas. He might feel a little isolated… I imagine that I would. Well, I do feel that way on the other side of the world. I have a slight tug at my heart that I should be here in the States for my little nephew, but I admit to being selfish. I tell myself that I actually live far away for my nephew. His name is Atlas. I am collecting proof that there is so much world to see. I hope that one day I can show a little of it to him and he becomes a brave traveler on his own. I’m an absent son, brother, and now an absent Uncle, but I am absent with a purpose. I don’t want to be absent, but I have to be in the world. I just hope that one day Atlas won’t resent that.

It was a nice little visit before we made our way up the 5 to Sacramento. We didn’t do a thing execpt watch the baby walk every inch of the living room. That was enough for me. Driving was nice. While driving I experienced very little traffic. It was smooth and I am left wondering. Driving, moving from place to place, both the U.S. and Vietnam have been able to do it, but who is more efficient? What is cleaner? Could I actually drive in Saigon? We made good time to Sacramento. California was definitely showing out this weekend.

In Sacramento, I met with my parents at a friend of the family’s house. Mr. T and my father have been friends since their teens. There we celebrated my birthday with a proper Christmas dinner of turkey, dressing, greens, sweet potatoes, homemade dinner rolls and green beans. Just the kind of homemade food to feed the soul. A reminder of what you left behind. A reminder of the things that don’t change, good food and family. Little nephew came and we walked and walked around the backyard with him as he babbled on.

I had a chance to do a little bit of shopping at Costco. Secretly, I marveled at the diversity that exists in Sacramento. I miss seeing different faces. I miss hearing more than one language. The extra suitcase was beginning to fill up and I looked forward to the challenge of watching the weight slowly creep up to the weight allowance. I came with a bag packed in an empty suitcase. I left with two checked bags bulging toward the limit, still missing some needed items.

After shopping I rested for a bit, but I also felt I needed to do a bit more walking. I was doing big breakfasts while visiting and I needed to get some steps in. I napped for a bit and decided to walk in the early evening. Now the weather hasn’t been that warm. Weather in the 20s is chilly to me. (that’s 20 degree celsius) But the evenings have been nice. The first night I went walking around the area close to an elementay school and all residential area. After about 10 minutes of walking I started to feel a bit timid, worried. It wasn’t just two weeks prior to my visit that a young man was gunned down in his own backyard in the Sacramento area.

I was a new face in the neighborhood. They had never seen me before. I’m a black man walking around in a residential area. I’m also painfully aware of how the police in this area and throughout our country treat people of color. I began to get a little scared of the situation. At one moment I felt like there should have been a place for me to register myself and have neighborhood watch aware of my presence. You know, call down the phone tree, or alert the group chat that I was there and I was an okay Black.

The next evening I walked along a bigger road that was away from the residential area. It was more like a business park area. Low rise buildings with dark windows surrounded by parking lots lined the busy road. I felt a little more free to stretch my legs. I just kept walking until my legs told me they were tired. I guess that took me farther than I thought because I didn’t get back to the house until the start of sunset and that of course made the parentals concerned.

Even though everything is bringing the good feels, I am subtly reminded why I don’t live in this country. The underlying fear that just doesn’t go away while I walk down the street. It’s the real fear for my safety in any given situation. I am also extremely frustrated with this country’s cognitive dissonance.

My drive to return my car rental also went smoothly. The roads have treated me well on this visit. The last bit of freedom on four wheels was a nice thing. I appreciated the radio stations that now play music from my era. Thye’re not quite classics, but good grooves that should be continually played on the radio. Those songs were made for radio play, you know what I mean.

Growing up in California, the car has been an important part of my life. Driving closed the distances of this long state. The car took me home to San Bernardino County, through the central coast to San Francisco. I’ve covered those miles many times. A lot of things about the coast are still the same, enough to keep you clinging to those old memories where your youth cannot die, memories of blue skies, ocean views, Californian accents and lexicon, and the food that is light and rich at the same 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

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Snap Shot…

Since leaving my ex, I have had to re-evaluate what is real for me. I had to rediscover tastes. Certain things didn’t have the flavor she claimed there to be. I had to re-evaluate things life the type of effort things actually took. Certain things were actually easier than she made them out to be. I had to re-evaluate the worth or value I put on things. Some of my things are worth way less than she told me. Each time I didn’t question reality I had a stomach ache. Something was upset in my core. I’ve been trying to really listen to my feelings. I have been working on putting my own value on my own thoughts and opinions. All of this is to regain that sense of self I had to attract people in the first place. People can’t see it, but there is a deep dark hole. The circumference isn’t the issue…it’s the depth.

For some reason this past weekend I started thinking about my ex. It wasn’t as loaded with hate as it once was. It was kind of nostalgic really. There is a particular photo I shot of her while she was watching the Vietnamese country side from out soft sleeper car. She appears to be in thought. She’s quiet and there is no cell phone in her hand. She is in wonder. This is the memory I have chosen to remind me of the good times. The woman in that photo caught in that particular moment is when I loved her the most. I didn’t believe I was going to have any good memories of her.

I went through my day giving this memory in my head, this photo, this snap shot in time good energy. I pushed down the many many negative things that came up as I held onto this image. I fought to keep it precious. I came home to find in my mail copies of the sign divorce paperwork that had been filed with the Court of the County of San Francisco. Another reminder of how real it is. A reminder of how sad it is. I remember that day. I felt so light. I remember how light I felt on the train. How can two totally different things brings such feelings?

I think another reason for the feelings is that I am returning to South East Asia, where we spent a lot of time traveling around together. I also spent a lot of time in S.E.Asia in 2011, when I first tried to work abroad. Facebook is also posting memories on my timeline about those times.

You know what though, even though there is a lot of energy and emotion surrounding this move, there is one thing I know for sure. I know I can get through anything. In the past year I did things for and by myself that hadn’t been done in 13 years or ever. I went camping at a music festival on my own. I went through the holidays on my own. I brought in the new year with friends and crashed and burned on Valentine’s Day…but, once I was freed on my birthday I just knew things can’t get in my way and I am stringer than I have been lead to believe.

So…I am moving out of the country. This is something I wanted to do before there was even the threat of Trump becoming president. First, it was for the adventure of being in another culture. Then, it became about the police indiscriminately shooting black people. Now, it’s about the economy and other sorts of civil liberties that are being taken away for fear of an equal country.

My initials plans are to travel to Taipei for a few days and visit with former students. I hope to eat until I pop. Afterwards, I will spend a few days in Chiang Mai. I’ve never been to this part of Thailand. I know a few people to visit with and I want to party in baby Bangkok. From there I will get to Ho Chi Minh City to settle in for five weeks in a CELTA program. I haven’t made any definite plans from that point. If I like it in Vietnam I will stay.

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