Our Grand Finale Tour of Southeast Asia

The words, “This is our last year in Vietnam” clearly struck fear into the hearts of my family members. Before you could say, “Tien’s your uncle” suitcases were packed, tickets bought, visas ordered and – lo and behold – they came, they saw, they loved it. For JD and me it was a chance to see them, to show off our city and to revisit our best spots.

So where did we go?

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Let Bucket Lists Kick the Bucket

Bucket lists are terrible. 100 Things to Do Before You Die must die.  Is this how pessimistic we’ve become? Death is imminent so make sure to have fun!!!!!  How about we change our minds to do what’s fun for you when it’s fun for you?  Yes, we’ll all die.  But, heck, I don’t have a countdown to that super special day.

There’s a point of these overtly obnoxious kicks in the butt.  Many of us are lazy, out of shape and perhaps in search of direction.  A “bucket list” scares us into moving.

But let’s act, not on fear, but on want.  Contrary to fashionable belief, not everyone has to skydive, or learn a new language or even *gasp* travel.  All we must do is be kind and support ourselves.  The rest is incidental.

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Ready to Dig In

What if you had told me I’d wind up in Vietnam for five years?  That I’d live here, all of all places, for longer than I’ve lived anywhere other than my parents’ house as a kid?  What if I had seen this house as my home instead of the forbidding Haunted Mansion?  What if I’d framed pictures instead of using each trip home as a way to offload a suitcase of souvenirs onto my very space-generous mom?  What if I had fully embraced Da Nang from the beginning?

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Friends

Blood may be thicker than water, but without water there is no life as we know it.  Friends give our lives so much of their meaning.  My friends are just…great.  Today is one of my best friend’s birthdays and also the day of learning about another best friend’s best friend’s tragedy.  The celebration/desperation conflict reminds me that above all else, friends should always be appreciated.  Cliché as this may sound, these pivotal moments in life are what inspire folk tales, puns and clichés, themselves.

In contemplating the value of friendship, I consider that one of these aforementioned best friends I’ve known since Kindergarten; the other I’ve known only 7.9% of my life.  Friendship is that unique relationship in life that wields both shared history and immediate compatibility into its fold.  My golden old friendship runs deep, with memories stemming from before the time when even some of my “thick blood” entered the picture.  My silver friendship has the immediacy of recent choice involved; I found someone I wanted to share time and life events with – and they liked me back.

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Look Me in the Eye When You Write about Me

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How quickly do we take things for granted?  How many years, days, hours before the initial wow fades?  Believe it or not, this isn’t a breakup blog post as Carrie Bradshaw would have you believe.  It’s an honest ponder.  I just wrote about my illicit love affair with the ocean.  Just.  Wrote.  It.  Only to realize the other day while sitting on the beach that I haven’t actually visited her since I’ve been back from South Africa.  Three weeks ago.  I liken it to the grandma you adore, but rarely make it to the old age home to see.

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The Hierarchy of Articulation

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What’s in an accent?  Surely that by any other pronunciation would sound as sweet?

Clearly the Bard was calling on base comedy.  I bite my thumb at thee.  Everyone knows accents are cool.  No, let’s be honest.  They’re dang sexy.  Well except for some.  Sorry, Midwest.  The best ours can be described as is “nasally.”  Not exactly erotic.

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Life Aquatastic

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Living by the ocean is the best.  The intoxicating uncertainty of her moods thrills me.  Will she be blue and calm, turquoise and flirty or gray, rough and full of fantastic anger?

Being near the ocean is an absolute treat.  It centers, grounds me, puts things in perspective.  It is my loyal friend to visit – well, my loyal friend with multiple personality disorder.

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Cape Town Unrequited Love

4I’ve met the best city in the world.  She’s beautiful; she’s cultural; she’s fun and interesting and she makes me happy.  She’s the city of my dreams.  And, wait, I’ve known her before.

Cape Town, the Mother City, is my one who got away.

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And That’s Why I Blog for America

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Back in my Teach for America days I was fat with self-righteousness, certain that my life was one With Meaning because TFA told me so.  I was the chosen elite; smart enough, brave enough, good enough to save America’s education system!

Now, I don’t really mean to diss TFA.  It’s a great organization.  It means well and it gets results.  But it’s even better at marketing than education.  It convinces 22-year-olds, otherwise set to become Contiki tour guides, that they have a greater purpose.  I’m thankful for their influence.

But now that the un-glamorous glamor of working in America’s worst performing school district has long past, and I am a sell-out, rich-kid teacher at a private international school, I am more cynical.

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A Diverse Reminder

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Southeast Asia continues to splatter Awesome and Weird onto its diverse, fantastic canvas.

Recently in Chiang Mai, Thailand JD and I marveled at ancient temples whilst sidestepping lady boy lookers.  We ate delicious pad Thai with a dessert of tarantula from a street stall next to McDonald’s.  We went whitewater kayaking through proper rapids, and quickly paddled out of the way of elephants bathing in the river.  They waved goodbye to us with their trunks when we moved on.  In the wake of the beloved king’s death, there was no alcohol served, except sangria and margaritas at Mexican restaurants.  In Bangkok, the millions of mourners who flooded in from across the country were met with stands of free food, free drinks and free tea to anyone who wanted it in the spirit of the king’s generosity.  As we learned, we were also welcome to partake.  We bypassed the magnificent paintings of aspiring Thai artists and, instead, bought beetle wing earrings as souvenirs.  We tuk-tuked through alleyways of the Sweet, the Strange and the Sublime.

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