Food Paradise Awaits Westminster Students

A pizza with pieces of chicken that tasted like a rotten French fry” and “jacket potatoes that are as wonderful as a piece of cardboard”. 

These are some student thoughts on the dishes you’ll find in the University of Westminster Harrow Campus Canteen. As a campus canteen, perhaps the best and only good thing about it is that it’s easily accessible to students. While it offers many large tables for your groups of friends, the tables are pure grime and you won’t exit the place smelling any better either.

As soon as the lunch break starts, make a sprint for the canteen to avoid the horrendous queue. It’ll take you barely a minute to scope out the options of salads, soups and mains. While there are vegetarian options, expect to find the same vegetables and rice every single day.  For all of you carnivores out there, chicken and fish taste about the same as your beans and potatoes.

And if you want ketchup with your chips, that may or may not be available on any given day, don’t hold your breath… you’ll get one small packet, if you’re lucky. A second packet will cost you. Good luck finding a dry tray or a fork for that matter. The next time you dig your plastic spoon into a potato, use two, because they’ll break.

Should you need a bathroom break, hold it unless you want to take a hike to find it. If you want to evade their horrible options, you’re free to bring your own lunch, but pack up 20p to heat them up in the only microwave down the other side of the corridor.

The only saving grace is that they serve food for only 1 hour a day – yes, that is the only time you can find food in this campus canteen that caters to thousands of students. Other than that, a Costa in the corner of the canteen may save you from starving your way through higher education.

To our lovely canteen, we give you 1 bright star!


Your starved students

A group work from class (Credits to Alexa, Petra, Jada, Elisa and Boryana)


The life of a butchered name

…is my name – and boy, has it had a whirlwind of adventures in its 25 years of existence. It’s been tossed into a linguistic grinder , verbally chopped and phonetically dissected to create possibly the most interesting sounds ever. 

I will have gotten your lips moving by now in your own attempt. No worries though, you won’t be the first.

From Ding Dong to All Wrong  

First day of 3rd grade, Mrs. Wainwright called the roll as her eyes glanced around our circle of 15 to fit the names with the faces. Each time a person’s name was read, the whole class would say in unison “Hi…” Kevin or Alice or John.

It was finally my turn and it’s still somehow engrained in the back of my mind, her knitted brows and the perplexed expression on her face as she hesitantly uttered “Dong?“.

Zuh-ong“, I replied , to which her face wrinkled up even more so, before stretching out to smile : “How about we call you by an English name, yes? How’s Jen or Jenny?” (what my classmate told me a year later)

You must understand, I was 8 at the time, I had been studying French the 2 years before and hadn’t a word of English in my head besides “Hi”.  And so I did what a lost person would do, NOD.

Only a second later, I realized what a huge mistake I had made, as the whole class shouted “Hi Jenny!

From Jenny to Jo – to Yoyo ! 

I still and forever will have sour memories of that name “Jenny”. By the time I was equipped with enough English to fend for myself, the damage had been done. Throughout the next years, I gave in to the “Jenny” stipulation, by doing the worst, introducing myself by that name. 

By high school, I was back in the States again and it was the perfect turning point to sack the name and begin anew. I even added a “z” turning my name into Dzuong, hoping it would somehow smooth out  the concerned brows.

The already-formed cliques of rebellious teenagers couldn’t give a beeswax about what Dzuong is and so the butchering began. You had everything from the coarse “Ding Dong”, to the softer “Zong” and “Zu” , and even “Zuzu”.  And, of course my AP Physics teacher, who just insisted on calling me “Jo“, to which some caught on and called me “Yoyo” -yes, like the toy.

It was a linguistic nightmare, and yes, I’ve sank to low points where I wished my name was just a plain and readable one.

Growing out the nickname phase

The college days were much kinder to my name. The poor thing had suffered enough and was in a such a tattered state, that it was shocked to meet people genuinely interested in getting it right.

My first dance performance freshmen year, I remember almost tripping over my next step, hearing a stark “Go ZUH-ONG!!!!! ” amidst the crowd. That was it, another turning point – the perfect time to grow out of the nickname phase.

Vietnamese explained

In Vietnamese, there are 2 “D” s in the alphabet and no “Z” s:

You have:  Đ which is pronounced like an English D 

          and:  D which is pronounced like an English Z 

Hence, my name!

I don’t really blame people for getting it wrong though. It’s a tough nut to crack even for Vietnamese, especially children. They usually say “Dua” or “Zuh” instead, which means Melon. There’s another one to my nickname collection. And I haven’t even started on the accents, Duong in Vietnamese is written like this: Dương.

The farthest thing from being unique

Both my parents’ names begin with D. They were pressed in a weird, perfectionist way to name their first child with a D word as well. My mom described the moment of an angry nurse tapping a pen on the side of the bed: “Either you give me a name now, or I’ll name your child for you on the birth certificate, hurry up” (That’s just how you were treated back in those food ration days in Vietnam) 

Unfortunate for me, it was the decade of hundreds of Vietnamese graduates coming back from the former Soviet Union, and everyone was naming their daughters : Thùy Dương , which means Russian Willow.

And so, with seconds and a pissed-off nurse to go, I was hastily named Duong, along with probably the tens of thousands of babies born that year. Needless to say, virtually every Vietnamese class I’ve been in, there has been another Duong if not 4 more. Along with the diverse array up there, for the teacher’s convenience, I’ve also been called Duong A and Duong B, or Duong number 1 and Duong number 3.

I started a part-time job in a Vietnamese restaurant here in London the other day, and what do you reckon, there were 2 other “Duong”s. And yes, the nicknaming has commenced again. The manager insisted and you’ll have to come to the resto to find out what it is (shameless advertisement)

This post is getting way too narcissistic, but to end it off and just to set the record straight once and for all: My name is Duong (pronounced Zuh-Ong)./.

Fun fact: my first dog – a German shepherd – was named Dim, to carry on the D-family tradition.

[UK] 4th week in London – Of Blogging and British Weather

A spin of my earlier blogs on this site and you will have learned a bit or so about the nature of my blogging habits – frequently sporadic (total irony, that pairing of words) and full of rants. With each new adventure, each turning around life’s little corners, I promised myself that I would record it to justice, somehow stretch the excitement and memories of those experiences well beyond the boundaries of my own mind. And of course, life got in the way or more so my laziness, and vulnerability to useless distractions.

Would London be any different? It does certainly promise higher prospects considering I’m being monitored by my course on personal blog updates. And yes, I haven’t blogged for 9 days, I promise I’ll make up for it. But beyond the mandatory nature of it all, I simply hope to live up to my desire of capturing this one year, as often as possible. That said, being in a journalism course renders you more aware of what you’re writing and you can’t help but think that everything you’re professing, click-clacking away on the keyboard is being more scrutinized. And so, the already procrastination-ridden me, adding the increased self-consciousness levels do not make it exactly as easy and carefree to “Publish Post” as it had been before. It’s all part of the learning process and a challenge that I gladly welcome and accept.

I also blame it all on the weather – the “bloody” capricious state of the British weather- yes it’s the scapegoat for my laziness ^^ and my helpless need to mutter “I’m exhausted” every 20′ either in my head or out loud . But honestly, make up your mind already, will ya? You were practically radiating sunshine, warmth and glory just now, and a breeze and two minutes later, you turn into this little monster, spewing out   cold gushes of wind and depressing rain, casting this eery, shadow of gloominess on us all.

You could tell that at least on one occasion, I’ve sprinted out in a t-shirt and jeans, fully ready to embrace a sun-filled day, only to come home at the end of the day, trembling, with enough water in my shoes to house 2 goldfish.No news in that, another rant about British weather, I know. Only 50 people had convinced me before I even left Vietnam that I should expect all of this and yet, there I was, still naive enough to reckon against the engrained spirit of the British weather.

It’s exciting nevertheless, this struggle to prepare for 4 seasons each and every morning, as I stick my hand out the window, trying to more and less predict the unpredictable. I’ve so far overdressed the past two days and found myself akin to being smothered out of breath in a bear suit sitting on the tube with my down feather, puffy jacket. The umbrella has become a regular resident of my bag, as has the scarf. All of my shoes have failed on me, in my amazing ability to step into every puddle I past by *_*.  So, my next quest will be purchasing a good pair of wellingtons or wellies – rain boots, if you will. And yes, a total face-palmer this one, but I will actually follow up on weather forecasts *Duh!*

4th week running! No part-time job yet , have yet to but will get to writing about car boot and Cambridge visit. Gotta get through with the initial big assignments first this week. Wish me luck!

[Babbles] Top or bottom …24 is the next limbo.

I’m sitting in a motel room, with 60s style marble floor, and hideously baroque-ish champagne-color drapes. There are 3 mosquitoes, which I have in the last 5 minutes, spotted circulating my area, ready to take charge at any sign of loss-caution. Outside, rain has finally stopped, but I’m not sure whether the sealed-in windows here are a blessing or a curse…the silence is deafening, the only sound heard every once in a while is of a mosquito or some kind of wasp who has lost his sight for one second, and therefore crashed, in what to me, is but a flickering sound, into the dreary blue lights of this dead-empty room.

I’m contemplating what my 24th birthday means to me, and I really can’t think of anything. I always thought working in a slightly noisy environment was quite more effective for me. Anyhoo, my 24th birthday might suddenly have meaning because THE world’s ROYAL COUPLE has chosen it to tie the knot…for all I know, if I were in England, I wouldn’t be bloody sitting 4 hours away from home trying to work out how to make badly-organized tourism stunts look good on television on my birthday. 24 is but a number, 24 is the point of reaching the top and is the moment of slamming into the bottom, 24 is me and I am 24…is today any less or more reflective of the fact that I’m any more mature and less prone to stupidities in my life? No…because it’s but a number, a motivation for people to believe that after a day that’s called your birthday, things might and could change for the better, that with age, comes perhaps more wisdom, more opportunities, more chances to not live the way you’ve wrongfully lived so many years before. The number means a lot this year though, because of those who treasure it, those who embrace it as a new starting point for me and for that I must say, it has become more than just a number, and I thank you for making reality a little bit less harsh. With love.

[Hanoi] April slaps me and tells me to live on

April is a bit breezy, with sun-streaks criss-crossing into peaking blooms of the ever rich aroma of hoa sữa, bouncing off the light rippled and flickering corners on the surface of Hoàn Kiếm…if it were only possible to glide along on a motorbike alone, hair in the wind, face well turned upwards taking in all of that ticklish warmth, running along your skin, and seeping the freshness of spring well inside of you. Hà Nội is the most beautiful I’ve seen it since I’ve been back. Or perhaps only in my deep contemplation of how much life sucks, does such simplicity become utter beauty …gosh that sounds like the BS stuff we used to squeeze our brains to get out in high school’s creative writing course.

But yes, in this month of April, when annually, through which I just glide either joyfully or apathetically, I find myself stumped on a big ball of mixed emotions, my mind taking strides from one extreme to the next, giving the rest of me less than enough time to react. Sounds like a case of bipolar disorder, but no, I just sum it up to be a really crappy month of work, of unfinished business, of blames and faults, of stress…of all these other blahs that need not be reiterated. And then all of the sudden, a ride outside has made all the difference – fresh air, faces that I don’t know, soft green blurs of sun rays spiking through canopies, and the blue sky…April is slapping me in the face and telling me to live on, cause there’s only 5 days left of its crap-ridden self. Need to get out more, that’s a def.

[Hanoi] Resolutions 2010

I’m writing this post, with my head seemingly tilted in an intellectually pleasing pose, as if I’m really contemplating yet another year more well-delved into my 20-something life. The truth is though, I just have a bad twisted neck from sleeping like a monk who slammed forward and snoozed off during his chanting session.

Now there’s the first resolution there, you shall sleep in a lady-like manner, whatever that means, as long as you’re not fooling people’s vision with your slightly awkward and stiff neck the next day. Okie, what I actually mean is:


1. Obey the clock! Accept the fact that I’m no longer an irresponsible, procrastination-prone college big baby. Sleep when I should, greet deadlines as they’ve been set and maybe then I won’t get a twisted neck. As my prof. from Reuters (met the guy today) says, DONT be on time, BE EARLY!

2. Live my weekends!  Yes this will happen, at least fully so for twice a month. Never can have enough time to spend with mom, dad, the fam, hubby and friends. Need to also Keep in Touch with people outside the country. That is why i’m still a facebook addict. I miss the cultural sideline events: cooking huge and risky meals, picnics on a green, seeing plays, musicals, exhibitions, a day out of town, an afternoon biking, leisure reading  ( seemed like it used to be all enclosed in a campus setting…now all I  have to do research for it in Hanoi or am I just lazier and older 😦 ) —> This resolution alone is a whole set

3. Eat Breakfast and Exercise! ? I won’t comment on this until I’ve made some solid progress if not start….

4. Progress workwise! I’d like to learn how to use Adobe After Effects and start a collection of reports, put my environmental studies major somehow to use. Any snazzy name for a short weekly sequence on the urban ecology?

5. Take the GRE! It’d be about time considering I’ve started carrying the book around since I was in France (2 years ago)

6. Apologize to Photography! something I’ve kind of  left hanging for the past 6 months and I can imagine if my D60 could talk, how much of a grudge it’d hold against me. Either need to continue doing what I’ve been doing or learn this the right way from the right person, Question: Who?

7. Travel Vietnam! It’s embarrassing to say that I’ve outweighed the 3 or 4 places I’ve been to in my own country with a long list of visited spots elsewhere. So I’m going to try to change this at least a little. Top destinations are: Moc Chau, Sapa, Phan Thiet, and Phu Quoc Island

8. Dance! This has been something very lacking from my life since the moment I graduated. I realized it was not only something that really got my spirit going, it’s also my reason to skip the 2nd part of resolution N0.3. Need to find a weekly hour-long class: ballroom? *mehh*, hip-hop?, jazz? or bellydancing? *hmmm*

9. Parlez Francais?! I won’t anymore if I just stick to reading Reuters’ updates every night. My host parents in Nantes, yes you remember them from my early blogs, we still keep in touch so that helps with the written language a bit. I’ve gotten some old novels too. For the conversation part, I’ve found this biweekly hour-long speaking club that’s free. I’d love to take classes at Alliance, but with its fee and schedule, completely not working to my advantage, the club will just have to do.

10. Make a 2010 30-second Year-in-Review! Now this is going to sound super-narcissistic, but I saw this video on CNN I-report, it was a submission to a 30-second year review competition. The man took a picture of himself every single day for the 365 days of the year that there are, at the same spot each time, put it together, reduced the speed to 30 seconds. It was like pantomime being fast-forwarded, absolutely  amazing his facial expressions, change of hair, beard, whatnot. It’d be wicked if I can do something like that, but I’m planning to have other people in it too./.


I almost added, ‘be cyber-ly updated’, but decided not to. Besides the fact that “cyber-ly” is not a word, you’d know by now, after the 2 years I’ve had this blog, that it ain’t going to happen…If it does then hurray, but otherwise, won’t spoil your plate of expectations.This is it so far, there are some others, but this isn’t gonna exactly be the Bridget -Jones’ -resolution -list -with -“Get the guy”, “Smoke 1 less cig”,- “slice 1lb off your bum”- kinda post. So yes, kept it nice, simple and transparent, easier to follow and also easier to accept the possible failure of a set of 10 things then obviously chasing my own tail with a gazillion ambitious peaks that will only seem blurrier as the year throws its fist at me. Happy New Year loves!

[Babbles] Always be prepared for the worst! ….not really

What can I say, I guess mothers always know best. She tells me to be constantly on my own feet, be prepped up and ready for the worst of all scenarios under whatever circumstances. Easier said than done, but always true. That’s life: You climb high, you fall hard. You depend too much on one person, the more lost you’ll be without them. You put excessive trust into something, the deeper your disappointment when that faith is betrayed. Life comes at you too fast and next thing you know, you’re flabbergasted by the things it throws into your face. “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” …Right, but what if the lemon is squashed flat on your nose  and you’re inhaling the lemonade instead of drinking it. Okay, so my imagination overwhelms me …but you can’t deny the truth of the  analogy. Nobody knows what comes tomorrow, the thing that sets us apart from each other is simply your readiness and my lack thereof.