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When I visit a country and look for readings, I avoid books by foreign writers. It’s a little silly because great writers aren’t bound by their nationality, but for some reason I still feel like I’d get more of an insiders’ view by reading national authors. In Burma, unfortunately not many books by Burmese are available in English translations, except for those by Aung San Suu Kyi. And because of another silly thinking, I avoid those too. So I ended up with these 3: Burmese Days by George Orwell, Burmese folktales, and the Burmans by Shway Yoe (Sir J.G. Scott).

I started with Burmese Days. Orwell’s very first novel is not nearly as well known and well read as Animal Farm or 1984, but you don’t need to flip far to catch his insight and his odd wittiness. Right on the first page, this is his description of the local official U Po Kyin: “He was a man of fifty, so fat that for years he had not risen from his chair without help, and yet shapely and even beautiful in his grossness; for the Burmese do not sag and bulge like white men, but grow fat symmetrically, like fruits swelling.”

At the political level, the story deals with imperialism and the natives-colonists relationship. At the human nature level, it deals with the essence of our existence, the loneliness we face as we turn inward and the consuming desire for companionship and connection that can gnaw you to death. And this is what touches me the most. I cried for Flory, unattractive, weathered, jaded, stuck between his understanding of his own flaws and his desire to be loved regardless, stuck between the British world that looks down on the natives and his appreciation of the Burmese culture and people. He needs that one person: a girl who sees his birthmark and does not away, a girl who is British and can go to the local market and enjoy a show among the dark faces. Someone to rescue him from the humiliating British club’s circle jerk, to share his time in the jungle, his books, his thoughts, his feelings, his existence.


Dec 24, 2011
Halape, Big Island, Hawai’i

This is the life and everything feels just right. How else could it be any better than this? Here I am immersed in the pure beauty of this land that I fell in love with the first time I was on it without even knowing why. Here I am by myself and just can’t – I don’t know what to say anymore. This is the life. To be with these beings and these elements, so old and so wise. To sit here and breath in. To realize how transient my life and everything that I possess is. The futility of superficial pursuit. The arrogance of those who are removed from the land and thus place themselves above her. The idiocy.

The beauty in simplicity, in this seeming eternality. Everything is just right. Here my soul is at peace. Here my soul is calmed, my heart lullabied, my feet at rest.

Uala ka lani
Uala ka honua
Uala ka uka
Uala ke kai

And here’s my chant
To the sky
To the earth
To the mountain
To the sea
To all the beings that once were here
And to all that are here now
I humbly offer my soul to be one with thee

I don’t ask for strength and clarity anymore, at least not here, not now.
I don’t ask for healing
I only ask for acceptance, to be part of this beauty, this grace.

Halape, Big Island, Hawaii

Halape, Big Island, Hawaii

Halape, Big Island, Hawaii

My Khe beach

My Khe beach

6 months. Time flies. I almost forgot that ocean breeze that lightly caressed my skin and ruffled my hair, tempting me with the salty smell of the ocean.

I lucked out and found a nice furnished one bed-room apartment on Son Tra peninsula, close enough to the city center, and more importantly not far from the empty beaches. Have been dying to go surf, but no luck in finding a board rental shop. And it looks really flat these days; keep crossing my fingers that it will pick up a little bit during my 3 months here.

Even though I’m living in a rented room and off of a 50lb-suitcase, for the first time since I moved back to Vietnam, I felt like I have a place to call mine again. The bed is mine, the balcony is mine. I can leave my bag on the floor, my sunglasses on the table. The whole space is mine and no one’s here for me to inconvenience. The landlady’s employee who lives downstairs asked me twice in 2 days if I was bored by myself and I sincerely said no. I get to see and talk with plenty of people throughout the day, and it’s relieving to go back and pamper myself in quietness, talking only in my head, deciding the order of my evening, not having to ask anyone questions or answer anyone’s questions. The luxurious solitude.