Over the years, I’ve noticed three things about books about Vietnamese culture:
They are all written by foreigners. A guidebook to a country written by a foreigner is like a cookbook written by someone who has only had experience in looking at the food. There needs to be a book about Vietnamese culture written by a real Vietnamese.
They all start with the war. Come on, the war ended 4 decades ago! There are so many more cool things in Vietnam.
They all read like textbooks at best and phonebooks at worst. I believe that books should be not only informative but also entertaining.
I’ve spent the last two years interviewing many people: foreigners who have traveled in Vietnam, foreigners who have lived in Vietnam, foreigners who have never been to Vietnam, Vietnamese who have lived overseas, Vietnamese who have never been outside the country, etc. I’ve combined their opinion into a book called “How to not get your ass kicked in Vietnam: The native’s guide”. But I still need more input to make the book as comprehensive as possible. So please help me through this short survey:
I just finished reading “I am Malala” and I realized that I’m not patriotic. I never talk about Vietnam the way Malala talks about Swat valley, how she yearns for the mountains, the trees, the people of the valley. If she is traumatized that she is displaced from her homeland, my whole life I’ve been working to be able to be away. If she talks to her friends in Pakistan every day when she’s in England, I talk to my family probably once a month and my friends back home around once a year.
I don’t miss home. I don’t have that overwhelming sense of pride when I tell people that I’m Vietnamese. It doesn’t matter to me if I was born in Vietnam or in England or in Malawi. I took no part in deciding where I was born, therefore I deserve no pride in my nationality.
Asher Leiss is a good friend of mine who once spent 5+ years bumming around the world. He’s now based in Taiwan to learn Chinese, and is kind of a celebrity there because he has explored hundreds of waterfalls and documented them all. Talk about passion. Check out his website and Facebook to see a crazy white dude jumping off different waterfalls.
When Paul told me that he’d drop out of school to travel for a couple of years, I asked Asher to give him some packing tips. Paul found them helpful, so I hope that you find them helpful too. I’ll also prepare some packing tips and post them soon-ish.
Today, I found out that something I wrote got featured on SFGate. Someone asked on Quora about the cheapest place to live for a year. I answered and SFGate republished it.
I have been to more than 30 countries in Asia, Africa, South and Central America and I would say that if cost is all you care about, regardless of the standard of living, you would have plenty of options to live under $300/month. Below are some of my favorites:
When we first arrived in Edinburgh, as an introduction to Scottish culture, they had us sit and listen to two gentlemen in suits talking in a monotonic Scottish accent for 4 hours. They had powerpoint slides and everything, and they just read things off the slides like tenured professors who have stopped giving a flying duck. I went out looking for water but before I knew it, I was walking to the nearby ice cream shop and ordered myself a nice, mouthwatering scoop. When I came back, Delenn whispered: “My god you missed it. This guy just read Scottish words off a dictionary for half an hour. Every time he finished a word I thought he would stop, but he just kept going.”
I have this charming habit of staring at my phone during breakfast. The only reason I’d be inclined to talk before noon is because something bad has happened to me in that 15 minute window from bed to breakfast and I’d like to file a complaint. When other people delight themselves in small talks and weather discussions, I’d be scrolling through my Google Now cards and read the news Google has suggested me. Maybe because I have been reading a lot about Brexit, Google has suggested a lot of news about New Zealand. They probably assume I’m a British national who is looking to migrate after their country’s giant farce. And god, they are right about me wanting to move there. New Zealand sounds like the best frickin’ country in the world.
Today, thousands of locals flocked to the streets to witness what was considered the first sighting of the sun in Edinburgh since the Great Miss Sunshine in 2001. According to several eyewitnesses, the sky was lit up blue for more than two hours from 11am to 1.10pm, Friday, July 1 2016. The leaves dried up and suddenly, the locals realized that the leaves were of a cheerful shade of grey, not just a sad shade of grey.