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My parents are finally visiting me after having talked about it for over 2 years. And they’re disappointed at my living situation. To be honest, i was expecting just as much, but still can’t help feeling disappointed at their disappointment. After so many years i wish that they could finally understand that I’m simply not one who can go through the motions without any thought: graduate from college, get a stable job, get married, make babies, make money to raise said babies and maintain the the middle class lifestyle. I want my life to be more intentional, and more colorful and flavorful. But sometimes it gets pretty tiring not knowing what the next phase is gonna be and nothing is ever for sure. I can’t give my parents the guarantee that things will keep getting better, because i simply don’t know and no one does either. Đường rộng không đi sao đi vào lối nhỏ? Why don’t you walk on the big road instead of keeping to the small path? “Someone is giving you $50k a year for free why don’t you study something with a good financial return (i.e. econ) ; it’s one in a life time chance.” But mom, it’s one in a lifetime chance to study what interests me and have someone pay for it. “Why do you choose to waste your time in this provincial city living in a small rental apartment instead of living at home in our big nice house in a big city?” I know it’s not the most luxurious option but it’s perfectly adequate for a young single adult and i love big cities too but there are lots of tradeoffs and for now my work here is really good… I too sometimes wish i could see what’s at the end of my small path but i can only live and wait to find out. Not following a fixed route and living without role models is already taxing enough; i don’t want to have to be so defensive of my choices all the time to those dearest to me. I wish that they’d accept me as an adult who’ll always try hard to make the best of my situation even if it’s a bit unconventional. I wish they could be more understanding and supportive, instead of questioning and disapproving. Am i simply too stubborn to realize that I’m not living life responsibly enough? That it’s not good enough to simply be “good enough” and not “great”? I understand that parenting is a difficult job and to parents we will forever be small children, but I’ve lived by myself and without financial support from my parents for 10 years, at what point will I finally be granted a bit of recognition for my autonomy?


I recently visited a friend, a native of Tra Vinh, and we went to tour a few provinces in the Mekong delta. Along the way, we ate, drank and sang karaoke with a bunch of her friends, classmates, and business partners. They’re all high rollers in the aquaculture export industry, so we dined at nice restaurants and they ordered tasty hard to find fish for me to try. The question I got asked a lot was: What differences do you see between the Mekong delta and the north or the central coast? I’d mention the landscape and the accents in my reply. The easy things to spot. Lush vegetation, fruits hanging heavy, waterways and bridges and ferries, things that awed me during my first couple of weeks here. Lifestyle is a bit harder to talk about because I just don’t feel comfortable generalizing about millions of people, especially since I’m only a passerby. It indeed feels much more lively, much more festive down here. Even tiny villages have restaurants and cafes, even karaoke bars, and more people sit around ăn nhậu. But I only see from the outside. During this trip, I got to experience first hand for the first time and yes, let me confirm that they know how to party.

All the fun is not just for fun. In the words of T.A. “During work hours, we only think about where we’re gonna go for lunch and dinner. It’s while drinking that we talk business.” These guys meet with clients and business associates 27 days out of the month, and go to 60 to 70 drinking “shifts.” Simply picturing that lifestyle makes me panic. I don’t know how their wives deal with it, and how their bodies put up with the abuse. They agreed that it’s so unhealthy they’d have to pay a steep price in the future, and that they’re actually fed up. But such is business. “People don’t want to talk over coffee. They want to drink. And those that don’t want to drink wants to do other stuff, and that stuff is even worse. So I prefer sticking with drinking.” I was reminded once more how blessed I am with my current life. I choose when to go out, and when to stay home, and my time outside of work hours is entirely mine. I’m gonna go drink some extra water for those guys.

I can’t believe it took that long for me, a self-professed chronic procrastinator and internet reading junkie, to find this new lifestyle manifesto: Structured Procrastination.

It’s like when I was first introduced to the concept of introversion vs. extroversion: Not that introverts shun social interactions and extroverts seek them because I’m neither, but that introverts get energy from alone time, and extroverts get energy from group environment. Everything in my social life suddenly made sense; everything fell in place. Or when I came across the idea that there are specialists and generalists, people who have one all-consuming passion and people with many different interests, and they all have their places and serve their purposes in society. And I became so accepting of my self and my lack of devotion.

I’d always derided myself for my procrastination issue, but I can’t find a good reason to avoid activities like reading news and interesting stories and writing this blog or my Spanish blog. And I now thank Structured Procrastination for convincing me to embrace my way of life and making the most out of it. Following the advice given, I wrote down a lists of all my projects and tasks and sort of prioritized them but not really. And if I don’t want to get started or continue on with the topmost one, I’m just gonna be productive and work on others that are just as worth spending my time on. And if I want to avoid any other commitment, I look at my already long list and click my tongue regretfully and say no. So today, in no particular order: I rough translated a couple of chapters for my other blog, entered 3 surveys for my job, researched my travel plan, watched videos for my online course. And oh, I took a board out to paddle. It’s been a long long time that I was out in the water. My arms were killing my shoulder after 10 minutes of gentle paddling. But still so exhilarating and I just couldn’t help laughing like a maniac out there all by myself. Luckily the waves were loud enough to dwarf my laughter or else some people would be perplexed. Good day indeed.

To be healthy that is.

I have mentioned multiple times how saggy my butt has got over the last year. When I wrote the 1 year anniversary post, I also calculated how exactly active I was back in Hawaii:
– 1.5 hour of walking every day (to classes, to work, to my car),
– surfing 2 times/week (and carrying my big board up and down a cliff),
– jumping into the ocean at least 2 times/week,
– dancing 3 hours/week, and
– camping and hiking trips here and there.

And here now? I hop on my scooter to go to the market, to drop off packets at the post office, to swing by a coffee shop to see friends. I sit then hunch and slouch in front of my computer reading endless wikipedia entries and reddit posts. (Full disclosure: I’m a news and mildly interesting facts junkie). My occasional exercises come from walking a few flights of stairs, standing to wait for the bus, bumping my ass up and down on the scooter over potholes. Although I’m in no way a health fanatics, I am health conscious. I can recite that it is recommended to take 10,000 steps a day (roughly 8km), to exercise moderately 30 mins 5 days a week, and to not sit for more than 20 minutes without getting up and stretching. I failed on all counts.

Even without all the science, I already realized the harm I was doing to myself. My eyes were dry from looking at the screen. All my muscles were restless from being neglected. My mom noticed too. She squeezed my butt and said it was softer than hers.

The single biggest way to eliminate ass-time is not to sit when I use my computer. I’d heard of standing desk before and decided to put  it into my lifestyle. No way would I go out to buy or comission one, but I came up with a quick fix which involves stools and a carton box.

(PSA; If you care about yourself, google “sitting 20130824_153108health effects” right now!) The desk is not perfect because the screen is actually too low for my eyes, but it’s a good first step. I have strong leg muscles so it doesn’t bother me too much standing up a few hours a day. Of course I do not stand still like a shaolin monk. I twitch and fidget, raise my calves, kick my heels back, swing my hips, etc… which is even better.

Next, I needed something to remind me to break both my hands and my eyes form the computer. There is truly a program for every need. I found Workrave and set a mini-break of 30s for every 5 minutes of continuous use, and a work rest of 10 minutes for every 45 minutes. It makes me realize how deceptive time is when I’m engaged at the computer. For the mini-break, I walk around my apartment, stand by my window to watch traffic, pick up a glass of water, and the 30s is still not up. And yet the 5 minutes feel to be pass by in a fraction. It can be annoying at first as the workflow is interrupted, but I soon realized that I am never doing anything so urgent that it cannot wait 30s.

The scooter is much more difficult to replace. It’s just so damned convenient. If I lived more permanently in one place, I’d definitely get a bike for shorter trips. For now, my compromise is to go to the beach later in the day so that it’s enjoyable to walk there. The roundtrip is only 3 kms, still way short of the recommended 8kms, but my body already feels much better. I’m reaching my arm back to pat my shoulder.