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Vnexpress.net, the most widely read news site in Vietnam, has 2 sections that i check regularly: Letters from Readers, and Talk Confidential (similar to an advice column, but responses come from other readers in the comment section). It’s always fascinating to peek into people’s private lives of hidden torments and concealed struggles (hence the popularity of confession boards and postsecrets). There are too many stories of cheating and hurting, of love running astray and running dry. It sure makes me feel grim. I have to constantly remind myself that these two sections have an inherent bias: most people are motivated to write only in despair or at a loss. There are plenty of unwritten stories of hope and perseverance, of love and dedication. The following are the most recent that I’ve come across: Read the rest of this entry »

Work has forced me to reexamine my attitude toward aging. I’m still not concerned about the loss of youthful look and beauty. Wrinkles, gray hair, and arm flab are all part of a natural process. Why fight it and not embrace it? But growing old, at some point, will mean living in a body that is no longer yours.

A lot of the elderly that I meet lead a life of isolation due to their deteriorating health and decreasing mobility. They live with their children, grandchildren, sometimes great grandchildren; and although they are loved and cared for, they are no longer part of family routines. The whole family sit at the dinner table, but they’d have to eat by themselves in bed.

Men and women experience loneliness and frustration equally but in different ways. In general, a man’s world turns upside down when everyday activity is a reminder of his dependency. Even though he might have always been waited upon in the house, it’s still a big shock going from being served as the head of the family to being helped because he simply cannot do it himself, from a position of authority to a situation of helplessness. The women seem to adjust better to the role of the cared for, but they suffer more acutely from the lack of interaction. As most of their friends and acquaintances are also advanced in age, visits are quite rare, even in small villages that usually sustain a strong sense of community. Communication is further reduced as they’re also likely to be hard of hearing, or impaired in speech. So many of them get excited when I visit. They babble away even when they cannot hear what I’m asking, even when they know I could barely make out their words. Read the rest of this entry »

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