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My Boss

I think I finally figured out what really, really bugs me about my boss.

It isn't just that her constantly giving me information late has interfered with my doing my job or even being paid on time. It's just this look on her face that says, "You're an errant child because you don't do your job." And I just want to chew her out and point out that every mistake I've made can be traced back to her not doing her job.

And just as everything finally got straightened out and I finally got paid four days late, they drop a dress code on us so strict that now means I only have one day's worth of clothing out of the four that I work. :P I can't blame my boss for that because it came from above, but I keep going back and forth on if I want to sign a long term contract with them. I like most of the kids and I like some of my co-workers but not a week goes by when the management doesn't piss me off.

Sense of Direction

I didn’t have much sense of direction when I was a kid because it wasn’t really necessary. My hometown was pretty much a grid, and when my parents drove around I was sitting in the back of the car reading a book. When I finally earned a driver’s license, I realized I didn’t know where anything in my hometown was. I had been to plenty of places, but never paid attention to the streets along the way.

My first year at my small college, which I often referred to as the feminist Mecca of the Midwest, the set up was simple. We had north and south campus, and the sun always shone through my window in the morning, so that was east. The remaining direction was west. For years afterwards to know my directions I just had to stop, pretend I was back there, and then I knew which way was which.

I suppose this conditioning started weakening when I moved to Portland, Oregon, because there the streets are in alphabetical order and designated SW, SE, NW, and NE. Each section of town had a reputation for where it stood on the artistic/activist/economic scale. Even the buses were color coordinated for those four parts of town. A sense of direction wasn’t needed. Clues were everywhere.

Then I moved to China, where the streets were laid out organically often before the United States even existed, and I had trouble reading street signs. I had to pain stakingly build a map of Taizhou in my mind based upon landmarks. Then I moved to Nanjing, and rather lazily organized my life around the subway lines. If I couldn’t take the subway or walk somewhere, it didn’t last in my world. But the subway is devoid of cardinal direction, you are cut off from normal considerations. The map of Nanjing in my head is uncoordinated and disparate, sections of city connected by lines. My mental image of Chongqing is even worse, because unlike Nanjing the subway map is misleading about where the physical center of town is in relation to the subways.

Then I moved to Exeter for graduate school, and my world shrunk down to where my feet could take me. Taxis in England are cost prohibitive for students and the university was close enough to downtown that more often than not I could walk to the grocery store in the time I would be waiting for the bus. I knew that area between the university and the city center really well by the time I graduated, but I never quite relearned directions. My orientation points were the university, the famous cathedral, and the grocery stores.

Now I’m in Hanoi, the least organized city I’ve ever lived in. I’ve used Google maps more often in a week than the rest of my life together. The first month I spent about two hours a week lost. I have to draw little maps to get anywhere as I again slowly put them together into a map in my head, but the disorientation is rather constant because when I am on my computer, north and south, east and west, appear to be in certain directions, but when I hit the streets they are exactly the other way around. So now as my life settles into a comforting routine, my orientation points are my job, my grocery spots, West Lake, and all points on the #9 and #34 buses.

A Short Tale of Two Women

So I hung out with two different women at two different times today. I had tea, lunch, and cards with one woman who is searching for herself in Buddhism and philosophy and the other in a bar this evening who is striking out on her own path with more beer, poetry, and dating than her parents would approve. Both of them want to study abroad to help find themselves, both are often more comfortable with Westerners than with Vietnamese, both of them are readers, even if the latter woman by her own admission reads less than she used to.

Unfortunately the one I'm more attracted to already has a boyfriend, but I don't get their relationship. She tells me she can't talk to him about things that are too intense or personal because she doesn't want to put too much pressure on the relationship; apparently she did lose a boyfriend once because she focused too much on him and drove him off. I think she needs to find a proper balance rather than going from one extreme to the other, but she is already aware of that.


Answer for question 4537.

How different of a person are you now than you were several years ago? Have you moved far away from what you used to know and believe, or have you essentially remained the same? What's the biggest change in your views of the world now versus the past?
My basic personality traits have remained the same, even if I am over all happier living in Asia than I was in America. I have a lot more information running around in my head, which sometimes lets me help people. My biggest change in my view of the world is less faith in many people's good faith, yet somehow the world struggles along and improves despite them.

Star Trek

I've discovered the mild new world of Star Trek fanfic videos, where people have created new episodes of the Original Series over the years. I was shocked at how much the interiors looked like the original sets, yet the exterior actions have much better special effects. As a general rule they aren't as good as the actual, canonical series (serieses?) but sometimes they really reached for it, especially one episode called "Fairest of Them All" about what the Mirror Spock did have the Good Kirk returned to our universe.

I really had no idea some people out there had put so much hard work into creating fan fic visual series.


Oct. 20th, 2015

Well, it's been a discouraging week. The plan had been to explore Vietnam while working part time until the middle of December, then go back home for the holidays and come back to work full time. Unfortunately, because I'm only here until the middle of December, people aren't that interested in hiring me. And while the older the students the better qualified I am, most of the jobs are for teaching kids.

But I have been seeing some interesting sights. Hanoi is the city of little lakes, and you never know when you might stumble upon a temple or park. Everyone is nice, and I've been using the excessive free time and freedom from distractions like Netflix to finish my novel: 82,000 words and counting. I just can't go out to eat or to the movies or anything expensive like that. I've put out feelers about private tutoring, but no bites yet.


Oct. 17th, 2015

I went to go visit a friend of mine at her college, a college in the British sense of the word in that it is a subdivision of a university where they study the environment and sustainable development. They were having a celebration of their college, so the central campus was like a little fair ground with booths and a talent show. The friend I was visiting was quite busy so I chatted with her friends a lot, too. She was a part of the interviewing committee for her club that is dedicated to volunteer work. I also partook of a mystery fruits salad and tried to help her and her friends make these paper tulips but since my fingers aren’t used to such precision work I mostly did the stems. Afterwards they gave me a small bouquet of blue paper tulips that are now adding a little color to my apartment.

Now, it took me about ten or fifteen minutes to find the #2 bus to take me another half an hour to her school. This is important because when I got on the #2 to get back, it went off in some weird direction and kept on going so I found myself with no way of knowing went to get off. So I counted the same number of bus stops that it had taken me to get to her school and got off, hoping that the two routes had some vague parallel course.

I was very, very wrong. When I showed people the card with my hotel address, they would tell me to take a taxi because it was too far to walk, but I would pat my stomach and say I wanted to lose weight (I couldn’t afford taxis before my boss cut my hours) and they would nod and give me directions. One man actually drew me a map on a slip of paper; he is some sort of fix it man, working on an ancient sewing machine when I asked him for directions. His shop had all sorts of old odds and ends in it.

So it took me two and a half hours to get home, but along the way I saw a new children’s amusement park, a park around a lake that combined family night and date night with a temple on an island in the middle, a store that sells record players and records, lots of high end restaurants and stores and more foreigners than I’ve seen since I arrived, and another park where they had a bat mitten tournament.


Oct. 11th, 2015

I’m not at home
I can’t stop thinking of home.
What is there?
What will still be there?
Who knows I’m gone?

I’m not at home.
I can’t stop thinking of home.
My brother and his wife
And their three kids.
My parents have their photos
I’m forty-five already.

I’m not at home.
I can’t stop thinking of home.
The GOP is sinking
And taking America with it.
Clinton is corporate.
Sanders is the unknowing
Moral majority.


Vietnam Museum of Ethnology

The VME has signs in English, Vietnamese, and French, which is good because the visitors were mostly tourists and students whose languages were English, Vietnamese, and German, but while in Germany I only met one German who didn’t speak English anyway.

The photo gallery were black and white photos by Jean-Marie Duchange, mostly of village life well into the interior. Some of the communal houses for story-telling and rituals had remarkably high, triangle rooftops, but since according to my guide they were telling stories around fires the smoke had to go somewhere.

The rest of the museum is divided by ethnic groups, but since the relatively uniform ecology meant relatively uniform ways of life, the museum focused on arts and crafts that stood out: the Muong’s musical instruments and weaving, Viet wood carvings, Tho hemp weaving, Chut hunting gear (cross bows and poisoned arrows are common among tribes throughout the region), and Dong Ho wood block painting tools. The crossbows didn’t look like they had much range, but with quiet feet and poisoned arrows they didn’t need much power from the crossbows. For mid-autumn festival the children wear these monster masks that would serve well at Halloween.

There is a large display of the 54 minority groups, some data about their ethno-linguistic background, and head shots of their members, but without their traditional hats, or in one case beehive hairdos, I couldn’t tell the difference between them.

Out back they are building a mock-up of an old fashioned village that will be good to visit again when they finish. It includes a 52-person racing boat, long and thin and painted with a flower motif.


Oct. 3rd, 2015

Last night I bought my groceries in the evening instead of the morning and the lady I buy my vegetables from pestered me into buying both her remaining heads of broccoli instead of just the one I wanted. They were both good quality and I want to keep her reasonably happy, she sold me six meals worth of vegetables for $3 and change after all, so I gave in.

I was writing my novel this morning and finally found some use for the book I’ve been reading on the Scottish Enlightenment. Just little snippets of historical detail; most of the novel takes place in southern England or Mexico, but the big philosophy books being read in the time period my novel is set in (the 1840s) were written by the Scots. David Hume, Adam Smith, James Boswell, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Burns had all published their major works the generation prior and set the intellectual context. Jane Austen was also published, but if I recall correctly the Bronte sisters were still on their way yet.



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