[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!

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[Babbles] June June I croon!

3 years of using the VNPT service and this is the first time I’ve seen them decide to completely divert the blocking attention from Facebook to other forms of social media like WordPress and Blogspot. Why? who knows, maybe one day they just thought, the brain of the guy who sealed himself shut in his room, carefully scripted out the different interminable blog posts about the most inconsequential nonsense, must be a bigger threat than your average schoolgirl who refreshes her facebook profile every 20 seconds in anticipation of a new comment on her recently updated wall photo.But where would we (and Mark Zuckerberg and Matt Mullenweg (yah totally googled that one ) ) be otherwise? so really VNPT, what’s the point with trying to “tỏ ra nguy hiểm” as the colloquial slang goes?  Turns out all I had to do was add an “s” to the http and my “devastation” of being forever estranged from my already abandoned blog was completely dispelled. Yes, call me the prehistoric goon.

[Hanoi] The Great Return

It’s been 4 months and 3 days since my last post, a whopping 1/3 of a year gone in a blink of an eye.

My dear Benji graced the skies with his presence just a month after his first birthday, leaving our family, Sparky included, distraught. We miss you everyday precious, keep that free-spirited soul of yours roaming across the clouds up there 🙂 Perhaps no single dog would ever have the effect Benji had on Sparky. It was like chocolate, sweet and savoring while it lasted and bitter when we * flashback* think of times the furry giant bombarded his lesser-giant “grandfather” with his massive body. He was our oversized baby and I’ve decided to, instead of digging my head in the rubbles, celebrate the short yet carefree and joy-filled life of Benji – our 6th family member.  As the fam is looking to welcome home yet another rambunctious pup like yourself soon, Benji, our fam is growing once again with you and Nick and of course, much older canine relatives on a cloud just above us. Don’t forget to howl your heart out the way you do when you get excited, I’d like to hear you in the whooshing of the wind 🙂

Hanoi is still Hanoi minus or should I say, adding the outrageous percentages of increase in petrol and electricity prices. If I could, I’d drop everything now and just travel before the energy crisis falls upon us all and it becomes financially or resource-wise impossible to take the plane, hop on a bus or even drive a car. The truth is, unless they get solar, wind, nuclear to work quickly and widely, travel in the fossil fuel-based economy we thrive on today, is only going to get more and more exclusive to the ultra-rich or well, just become non-existent. Such a selfish and cynical advice coming from an environmental advocate, considering the size of the carbon footprint you’ll be stomping on the world each time you take a plane for example, but travel when you can, before it’s too late.

The hype in the past weeks has nevertheless been more outer-space than your everyday energy problems, it has been about the AG5 – that’s an asteroid that has been making as many headline titles here in Vietnam as some of the scandal-breeding celebs. “A 140-m asteroid to hit earth” reads some online news-flash. With little to nil scientific credibility, some headlines have even confirmed that this ‘bombshell’ would explode onto earth’s surface by 2040. Not stabbing my own career in the back or anything, but I think false information for the sake of views to this extent is just sheer BS. According to NASA, while the observations made so far imply that the asteroid would meet earth in 2040, the chances of this happening are 1 in 625. Each observation will yield new information as to how and if the course has changed. The earliest date for the next observations of the asteroid will be Sept.2013 and then better ones will come in 2015. Let’s continue our lives, make the observations and logical estimates, rather than fool people with crash-and-burn threats. To those checking off bucket lists in time for the end of the Mayan calendar this year, it’s never too early to start, end of civilization or not, bless ur hearts 🙂

Courage out to the Japanese people today ❤

[Babbles] Rainy Days and Mondays

Talking to myself and feeling old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hanging around, nothing to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

So said the anorexia-ridden Karen Carpenter back in her heydays. It’s depressing music to listen to, especially, today, a Monday, on which it just happened to pour cats and dogs and there was no doubt in my mind that somehow I needed to turn this song on and it’d fit perfectly. What a darn diggity downright punch-to-the-face way of starting out a week! There’s irony in the way I’ve been trying to work my life around plans and then those same plans backfire on me, rendering all previous efforts, to my disappointment, in vain. So yes, I had been for the last month – pencil-scratching, mobile-negotiating, forgoing any previous commitments that I would have these coming days just so this could happen, and now it’s not…so it’s a bloW. I’m being such a drama wreck, I know, but I literally stood in the hallway of my office building, gritting my teeth, anger, bitterness and pure disappointment all bagged up, and spewing out from under my breath. I don’t get so overly charged like this often so apologize for the cyber outburst… you could say it’s been hell of a day – soon to be over , thank goodness.

The only highlight of today, my series of talk sessions continue with a 16-year-old Spanish model – the gorgeous Andrea Aybar – more lovingly known in Vietnamese as “An”. She’s a stunning girl, of course, she’s a model for crying out loud. Google her and you’ll see. But what strikes me is she’s equally and perhaps even more charming in her conversation in English….and above all…in Vietnamese! This girl can speak Vietnamese like no other expat I’ve met. I might even say she’s ridiculously more awesome than I am in the slangs’ categories. An has lived in Vietnam for 8 years – half of her lifetime and really amazed me when she shared her thoughts of how going back to Spain of recent was for her “strange”. She proudly says that despite her appearances, she’s 100% Vietnamese and has even become a matchmaker between her father and a Vietnamese woman – realizing her dream of having a Vietnamese mother, and obtaining Vietnamese nationality…now that’s patriotism for you right there, and you don’t even need a flag to wave it or go stand out on Hoan Kiem Lake, heralding against China (no offense) to prove it.

Got me thinking a bit about the term of “TCK”, you know “third-culture kid” – where your life growing up, led by the circumstances of family moving about, has engrained in you influences of culture other than that of your original root, thus rendering your identity a melange of your experiences here and there. An can be thought of as a TCK who has done away with repatriation and become one of the locals herself. I think of myself as a TCK every so often…, my first move was also when I was 8, accumulated time away from my home country: also nearly half of my lifetime. I’m not certain, but for sure, I’ve always passed points of feeling out of place at either one place or the either, feeling like I own this split identity  that doesn’t relate me fully, as much as I would want, to Vietnam…or to anywhere else for that matter. Thinking about it, most of my close friends during college were TCKs, or so I understood them to be. The US you could say, the boiling pot it is known to be, is a pot of TCKs wondering at one point or another in their lifetime, what makes up their identity. Those thoughts for me have slowly blurred after having settled here now for 2 years, but always a fascination to me.

Rainy days and mondays, sad but leaves space for thinking… adieu!

For more of read on TCKs, do check out: DENIZEN MAG – The TCK Magazine

[Hanoi] The need to move

Call me a ball of energy on crack but I just really feel the urge to move, put my feet to work, dance, march, parade…whatever it is. The bar/club scene in Hanoi is dreadfully sad …well at least at the hours I’m out…no dancefloor, tables in isolation from one another, people huddling around bottles short and tall, doing their little bounces, and bobbing of the head. You know how they usually compare clubs to a zoo with all these party animals gone completely wild, well here, you’ve lost your way into the reptile section: subdued movement, reserved stares and drinking in much alcohol (rather than sun) hoping to warm things up a bit. It makes you feel  more or less like a complete awkward pack if you’re full out dancing. Anyhoo, I hadn’t gone out in a gazillion of  what seemingly is the laziness that accompanies age. The crew is now feeling the lag, and wtf, we’re like 24, already sound of cracks getting up from sitting too long, and complaints of trance music leading to migraines. Is it truly just a decline in the quality of life and health or is it just purely, people sulking in boredom so much, that 1 or 2 years after the good old days of partying, they feel like complete retired and washed-out folks? Such pessimism, I know…but complaining is a trait of any reunion, whether it be after months or purely days. Here in Hanoi, you can complain about anything and people would still listen, nodding their heads in agreement.

Today’s talk session was on Justin Mott, an American photojournalist and freelancer whose work has been featured on the New York Times, publications for the Smithsonian…etc. We focused on his life here in Hanoi, following a 17-yr-old Agent Orange victim named Nụ,
who cannot see, hear, nor speak. He first initially met her at the Friendship Village in 2007. What started out as a pure way of finding a topic to shoot some photos for work has gone beyond that. Skeptics would believe otherwise. Nevertheless, Yes, I genuinely believe that if Justin were in it for just the photos and fame of somehow capturing the un-captured then he would have left long ago. But he still visits Nụ when he can, offering her, the child in isolation, the friendship, not knowing for sure if she even realizes him, auctioning off many of his works to help find personal care for her. I find it touching, and inspirational. Have a look at Justin’s website and the story of Nụ.
And if time permits, Justin says one should come to the Friendship Village, see the children and Nụ , sometimes it’s as simple as a human touch that they need. I’m motivated and hope you are too.

Yes, I really feel the urge to move…

[Babbles] Windblown Monday

The hot spells, forecasting a dreary summer ahead, were suddenly interrupted as the week took off with rain throughout Sunday night, culminating in what was a really chilly Monday morning. Not so helpful when you have to dig yourself out of bed at 5:30 am, also not so encouraging that you have to go to this dead-empty Bao Son Paradise Park – nothing but a lifeless entertainment park that you’d likely see in the next sequel to Final Destination, and even more a blow to your already non-existent motivation to do anything is the fact that your contact at the place, supposedly the location to shoot this morning’s Talk, is still not picking up his phone after what seems like the 50th time you called him. You find yourself, despite all the damn foundation, blush and lipstick you have on, shivering and pitiful like a migratory bird diverted from the clan, struck down during a rain-storm, helpless, in the middle of no-where, abandoned by your supposed guide towards the south. We’re happy to announce though that after 2 hours of this dreadfulness, and having nearly broken 2 umbrellas, our contact finally picked up…and all was, despite being delayed, on track once again….

And so I thought…But before I continue ranting on about today’s weather, a few words on the talk, which my photos complement. Our guests were from the Brigham Young University Ballroom Dance Company, they’re a 32-member group, mostly all university students, who have travelled the world over, giving, what to me is definitely an extraordinary mix of classic ballroom figures with broadway musical with simple and utter creativity. Do definitely look them up on youtube if you’re into the whole dance scene, meanwhile here are some pictures I snapped at their performance in Hanoi.

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The talk was with the 2 artistic directors of the group as well as with 2 of the dancers themselves and I must say, despite getting to a late start, being seated on really low chairs in this reinterpretation of Hanoi-old quarters set of Bao Son Paradise Park and having our hair basically mauled by the wind gushing through every 10 seconds, and then having one or two flies satellite nearby every once in a while, the discussion was quite entertaining ^^. Dramatic events do pay off somehow, I guess. Anyhoo,that’s some behind-the-scene rant for you. Talking to the group today, definitely brings back many-a-memories of Bhangra, of days travelling (not abroad, of course) around to perform, and all of the stories on stage, backstage, en route…you name it. When will I ever fit dance into all that’s happening now?,…not really sure but definitely missing it much more after today. Must snooze now. Toodles!

[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.