The staff were excellent - a group of them so attentive, and helpful. I had an idea of what I wanted but they didn't have the exact piece, so they offered their own suggestions (one of which suited my needs) and I came out of it with a beautiful black nylon backpack <3
It goes well with my shoulder bag as well.
I've been wanting to get a tattoo that says something about my Christian beliefs, and so after discussions with regular tattoo artist, decided to incorporate a line from the Bible in the middle of cherry blossoms (because I love Japan forever - even if they don't love people with tattoos - and I love spring, and I love flowers).
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"
It was a beautiful ceremony filled with laughter, joy, hope and love. Chinky and Lester had to walk a long and challenging road to get to this point and as witnesses to that road, those struggles and how their true love has won through - it really made so many of us cry tears of joy. The way Lester looked at his bride during the ceremony - you could see the tenderness in his gaze. He adores her and she has long thought of him as her soulmate. Chinky is one of those funny creatures who are gorgeous but have no idea they are. Absurd. She has always been the most beautiful girl I know since the day I met her -- and we will always be tres marias, lem and choy. 😘😍
Somehow, still one of the loves of my life... notwithstanding her pretty bad breakup with my twin brother.
I was asked by another of my brother's exes how I could still be so close to Ri... but my relationship with her is distinct from her relationship with my brother. We bonded, and I said it would be forever, and it is. <3
But - happy to note that my Arashi obsession has calmed down significantly. It's always good for everything to be in moderation anyway.
Highlight of last week was of course the surprise bridal shower we held for my dear Chinky. I just met some of the other girls in the entourage last week and I thought to myself that her friends are such good-looking people. Im the least good looking one hehe. She's going to have such a gorgeous entourage (not counting myself hoho) - I need to hit the gym again and reduce my ice cream intake :p
Major deliverable submitted last week, praise the Lord. I can take a break from that for a while, pending questions/requests for revision.
Got a present for the kids of the lady who has been helping take care of our household matters for more than ten years... that felt good. Sometimes I feel like there is no act of kindness that is completely unselfish because you still do these things to feel good or to ease your suffering. Like my donations to animal welfare organizations and sponsorship of rescued animals - I can't really call it unselfish, because seeing suffering animals depresses me. And doing something for them helps ease my pain. But this present for our ate's kids -- I feel convinced that it's one thing I did without getting anything in return (except, obviously, now I can write this and feel good about what I did).
But I do a ton of stuff for myself as well, come to think of it. I treated myself to a major thing this week. And then... I'm back in Ho Chi Minh (but this is for work). Still, it was such a comfortable trip!
And Viet Nam... for some reason... always feels like home.
I lived here for a few months in 2011 and made some very good friends; is that why?
I love it here.
I was semi-forced to stay in an expensive hotel tonight because this is where my boss is staying and we're leaving for the field early tomorrow and it would be too much hassle for me to take a taxi from another hotel to her hotel... so I gave in and just booked here as well. Because of this, I will not be able to save any of my per diem. Oh well. Sometimes, we just have to choose the path of least resistance.
I've also been thinking... I was talking to my mom a few weeks ago about how I've never made any friends by myself in the gym, even after going to the same one for almost 9 years. My mom, on the other hand, quickly made acquintances at the gym she's been going to for just two years or so. I asked her why, and she said that maybe it's because I don't look at people. And it's true. I don't go to the gym to make friends but the real reason I don't make eye contact is because I am a very insecure person. It's true. At the office, I generally don't look at people either. So after my mom brought that bad habit of mine to my attention, I tried making eye contact with people I meet in the corridors at work, and found that it really does make a difference. So yesterday, I ended up talking to two random people and all because of making eye contact. To be honest, I was only that pleasant because I mistook them for someone I ought to know (namely, my mentor's husband), so I was like all smiley and they were all smiley in return, and then I was like "are you Frank?" And they were like "no, I"m not Frank -- Oh, so that's why you greeted me so nicely". haha :)) So yeah, I should be friendlier.
Another lesson learned - prioritizing my health has helped me claw back my sanity. I burnt out but I couldn't afford to stop working, which the doctor actually said I HAD to do since I was in really bad shape, but I tried to do things in moderation - I've been paying attention to signals from my mind and body; I stop working when I hit a certain point of not thinking quickly enough; I've been exercising a little bit. And I feel so much better. I feel that I'm more productive as well. So now I live in fear of burnout. And only because it hurts my productivity. I'm not sure if that's ironic. But whatever. As long as it helps me stay healthy.. :))
I decided to write this the other night, while lying on my stomach during a one-hour aromatherapy massage in Pakse City. The masseuse pulled the towel down my back, saw my tattoos and momentarily hesitated. It isn’t unusual for people with tattoos to visit Southeast Asian countries, so I know she wasn’t surprised by the fact that I have tattoos; she was probably surprised by what I have tattooed on my back – your name, in Lao script.
I vaguely remember the first time I felt the urge to visit you. I must have been in college when I read a short piece written about you in some book or magazine, and something clicked into place.
I am someone you could describe as “outdoorsy”. I grew up in the mountains, among the trees, loving open spaces. You have an abundance of this, and life here – the cultural diversity, the basic friendliness and simplicity of your people, the sleepy cities, the food and liquor - it fits with who I am, and what I look for to be happy. It provides a counterpoint to the storm I have inside my head, and it brings me peace.
It takes some imagination to picture what a Lao city is like. It feels spacious because the population is sparse and there aren’t any skyscrapers or imposing buildings. There are hardly any neon lights, and nothing much to do past a certain point at night except have a cold Beer Lao and count the chickens and dogs strolling down the road. Vientiane, the capital city, is a bit different, but still the same. For example, there was an 11 pm curfew in effect the first time I visited, and my friend Kris and I would walk back to the guesthouse just before that, after having what passes for a few drinks when you’re 22 years old. It isn’t that I love curfews, but this helps illustrate how Lao cities are different, in my experience, at least. It’s like I have to rest here.
I first visited Lao in 2006. My mother and I stayed in a small guesthouse in Luang Prabang. Nothing grand, but every bit of that experience has been seared into my brain – the wooden floor under my bare feet, the smell of fresh laundry coming through the open window, the taste of the banana pancakes the guesthouse owner made every day, the lights of the lanterns sold in the night market. In Luang Nam Tha... A secret wish of mine was granted when we went on an early-morning hike through rice fields before the mist had lifted.
I visited Luang Prabang again in the summer of 2007, and also made stops in Vientiane, Vang Vieng, and Phonsavan. A quiet memory I have from that trip is of Kris and I going from one riverside eatery to the next, looking for the best mango-banana smoothie in Luang Prabang. The Vang Vieng of 2007 lacked streetlights, and did not have the sprawling luxury resorts it has today. Kris and I walked into ‘Ghostbear’s’ guesthouse and were shepherded to a second-floor room with a balcony overlooking the Nam Song river. Our days in Vang Vieng were spent hiking and kayaking for hours (“don’t think, just row”). My fondest memories are of the 2-day “Secret Eden or life” hike and kayak trip, where we took turns trapezing into the river after having shots of Lao Lao (a note: apparently, free shots by the river were banned in 2012) and which ended with us swimming across the river after our guide who had, without prior warning, stripped down to his green underwear and plunged in. On one night, we had to pry open the window after getting locked out on our balcony (we did not want to break the still of the night by shouting for help).
The only reasons Kris and I were able to pull ourselves away from you that summer were because we were low on funds and we had already bought our tickets to Cambodia. Otherwise, we may really have permanently disappeared into the mountains. Upon our return from Cambodia, I got your name tattooed on my back, along with a mountain scene from a picture I took on our hike to a Khmu village.
I returned to Vientiane in 2011, as an intern for a project to improve your urban water supply systems. That year, I met a girl, Galit, from across the world who was also on a (semi) short visit in the country, who also has a soft spot for you and has now become one of my best friends.
It is now 2016. After burning out at 31 years old due to my unsustainable work habits, I decided to pack up and visit you (and my dad, who has a project in Pakse) for a week, to rest, and to experience life away from the hectic world I’ve built for myself. One of the outputs of this trip is this letter.
I fly out in less than 5 hours. This goodbye is not as sad as previous ones, because you are more accessible to me now. My job, while being too much most of the time, has also allowed me to become independent (financially and otherwise), which is basically what I’d always aimed to be. I’ve grown up. I’m not the lost 21-year old girl I was in 2006 but some things don’t change, and it seems that my love for you has become one of my core characteristics. While the world keeps turning and undergoes (sometimes) irrevocable transformations, it is my hope that you will also stay the same in some core ways – same same, but different.
(March 28, 2016)
She who has had the most INSANE things happen to her. One of the few people who has been around even more than I have, and who was brave enough to start traveling on her own while in her teens. This girl, much braver than I am. <3
I miss her.
Lost my temper during a meeting with government officials, and felt terrible afterwards, so I asked my best friends if they could meet up tonight when I get back to Baguio City.
Had this for dinner:
Plus talk of both serious and light things.
Everything is so easy when I'm with them.
But then - some of us have known each other since we were 5 years old.. and we've all been best friends since we were 14 years old, which is almost 20 years ago.
I feel loved and blessed.
And now, back to work - have to submit a report tonight.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Bowie.
Next, well the Myanmar project is still extremely challenging. Looking forward to April.
Need to catch up on work for VIE. My mentor's project, so I want the output to be the best I can give. There have been delays, and I want to make up for it with an amazing output. I must work on it tonight after all meetings for the day are done.
My days off (I took a full day off yesterday!!!! - although I was worried about work) have more variation now.... Like yesterday, I finished the newest Robert Galbraith (pen-name of JK Rowling) novel and played a little one my 3DS - so no binging on TV shows, which used to be just about the only thing I did on days off. I have to say that it was the least enjoyable of the Cormoran Strike series (the first two novels really had laugh out loud moments), this one.. not so much. Also, it was much gorier than the first two. One of the things I found quite novel about this crime fiction series is that the descriptions of the crimes were not so... morbid. But it was still an enjoyable read. Could hardly put it down. I'm tempted to write more but want to avoid spoilers for anyone anyone who might be reading this and might be interested in picking up the book. :))
Now moving on to...
Now back to work.
An old (circa college) picture again because, for some reason, we hardly ever take pictures when we're together. Posting now because 2015 has been such a year for us (underscored by the update from Anne late last night).
I count myself as one of the most blessed girls in the world because of the friendships I've been able to make throughout the years. My friendship with Anne and Chinky is one of those that tops the list - always together during college (and well, even past that - especially for Anne+Chinky = Channe) so that people said you would have to drop a bomb on top of us to separate us... They have always been inspirations to me - intelligent, driven, diligent, independent, kind, and enduringly humble. Our schedules don't permit us to get together as often as we'd wish but somehow and no matter where I am, I always feel their presence and they are always just a message/call away during both rough and happy times. We are still id, ego, super-ego although the roles have shifted, I think. (ᗒᗊᗕ)
This is in celebration of 2015 (which is not over yet! More good times await), to the great times I foresee next year, and to all the years of friendship ahead. (❁´▽`❁)*✲ﾟ*
This was taken earlier today in my apartment in Hanoi. :)
Life here has been busy, fattening, hot (literally, sweltering hot) and good so far. :)
For some reason, I'm less lonely right now than I was while I was in Lao. I think I will be able to handle this trip better. I hope to meet another good friend like Galit.
I have a paper to finish. Be back later (or tomorrow).
Here's a picture of my Baby Bear that my mom took in Manila last weekend. Isn't he such an adorable little baby?