14 July 2022

In keeping with my “holiday blog post” tradition, here I am again. Though not on holiday this time, just on the verge of one.

Tomorrow, we’re leaving on a jet plane to Bangkok for our summer vacation. And I’m terribly excited, for two reasons:

  1. My partner is coming with me this time, so there is no tearful goodbye in the morning as I rush off to the airport.
  2. It’s the first time in a really long time that I’m actually taking a break from work. I will be traveling sans laptop, and that is indeed terribly exciting.

Don’t get me wrong—the luxury to work from anywhere is definitely a plus, not a minus. But it does encourage me to take semi-holidays where I am in a different place and working minimal hours, but still working and spending a couple of hours on my laptop every day. I might be done by 12pm and have the rest of the day to relax, but I’m still starting off the day with work.

In fact, I don’t remember the last time I went on holiday without my laptop. It might have been a couple of days’ seaside holiday with my parents, which I suspect was in late 2020, but my Google Calendar has mysteriously decided to vanish all my calendar appointments from 2021 backwards, so I can’t confirm my hunch.

No, I’m lying. I think my holiday to Vung Tau with my partner in April 2021 was sans laptop, but I can’t be sure.

Anyways, that was only a couple of days. This time, it’s going to be a full two weeks without my trusted Dell. I don’t think I’ve spent this much time apart from it since my last trip abroad to Japan in… 2019? I don’t know anymore which year is which. Let’s just say pre-Covid.

This time, we’re going to be spending some time in a luxurious mountain resort, which will be our first time. Needless to say, I am greatly looking forward to it. We’ve done a luxurious seaside resort before and loved it—let’s see what difference the setting makes. We’re also doing touristy things in Chiang Mai and Sukhothai, all places my partner has never been to. So he’s excited (and I’m excited to be showing him around).

We’re also going to be spending a large part of our trip with my parents, so they also get to travel, which is something they don’t do often—so that’s a bonus. This will be my first trip with my dad since his cancer diagnosis last year. Fingers crossed his health holds up and he gets to fully enjoy this family trip.

As I’m usually blogging on holiday, the thought crossed my mind today to blog while I’ve still got my laptop around. I might well be in the mood and decide to write another post from the mountaintop with my phone, but I do hate writing on my phone so. It’s a less fluid experience and I don’t like straining my eyes on the small screen.

The thing I love about these holiday blog posts is they’re stream-of-consciousness writing. I’m writing whatever thought bubbles to the front of my mind, never knowing which word is coming next. It’s intensely freeing. Though I write regularly these days, it’s always for my newsletter where I’ve got to be focused and deliver value to my readers (my value proposition: make you “stop and think”)—I can’t just write, or you might say ramble, as I’m doing now.

The focused, structured writing is rewarding and enjoyable. But it’s not quite as cathartic as opening up my laptop and letting my fingers roam free on the keyboard, each word a springboard to the next. It’s lovely. Maybe this is why I keep coming back to write these holiday posts, because I enjoy the outlet so much.

Ah, I will actually be turning 33 during this two-week holiday to Thailand. Not a significant milestone age, but I do like the double 3s. I’m also highly anticipating my birthday treat. My partner asked me what present I wanted for my birthday (I’m notoriously difficult to buy for because I don’t usually want anything). I thought long and hard about it. And only one thing came to my mind.

Yes, for my 33rd birthday, the one and only present I want is a birthday cake. Specifically, a dark chocolate birthday cake with chocolate ganache and berries.

Nothing more, nothing less.

I am deadly serious about this birthday cake business. I even wrote the seller to check if the cake is dense and moist (the way I like it). They said yes.

Apparently, the smallest size is a 6-slice cake. As my partner is dairy allergic and cannot partake, upon my return from the trip I will have scrumptious cake to last me six days, if I behave.

Merely the thought of biting into that cake is giving me joy. I cannot wait.

I hope you’re all well. And if you like my writing and want to hear from me regularly, check out Val Thinks, my newsletter. It packs a far heavier punch. The writing is tighter. And it promises to make you “stop and think” every Friday (or Thursday depending on where you are in the world—I may have to re-think my newsletter send time at some point if I continue to amass more readers in the West).

Love as always,

Val

16 April 2022

Hello! It’s been 2 and a half months since my last post, which I guess is a considerable improvement from the 6-month hiatus pre-January.

Just like last time, I’m once again on a holiday away from Ho Chi Minh City. For whatever reason, I seem to have the urge to update this blog while on holiday. Maybe it’s the break from the normal work and newsletter routine, maybe it’s just the head space that comes with being on holiday, but in any case I’m glad to be here.

We’re in Hanoi for 10 days for a much-needed break for my partner. We were due to fly up to attend a friend’s wedding, which would have been a weekend affair. But I suggested to extend our stay in Hanoi and we’ve ended up with this long-ish holiday.

Well, kinda. I’m not taking time off work for this holiday. Just going to squish all my work into mornings and stop all non-day-job engagements. No teaching. No subtitles. Just my main gig. And I’ve done all that I could last week to make this week as light as possible. So I’m looking at having my afternoons and evenings free to explore Hanoi and lounge around our apartment.

For the first time while traveling, I’m staying in a serviced apartment. Me, the hotel addict. I’d never considered staying at apartments before, but this time it was the most suitable option. We needed a one-bedroom (as opposed to just one room) so I could get up early and work while my partner’s still sleeping. And one-bedrooms at the fancy hotels in the area we want to be in are simply too pricey for my (already rather generous) budget.

While searching on Agoda, a few luxury apartments popped up. I showed these to my partner and together we picked a rather new luxury apartment that claims to double up as a five-star hotel. It has an impressive indoor swimming pool, a sauna (which is a huge plus for my partner), and rooms that look rather nice, with balconies overlooking the lake. I called them up to ask a few more questions about the room and was connected to their reservations team, who emailed me all the details and proposed a rather affordable package that includes a buffet breakfast and a lunch/dinner every day.

So, here I am, typing away from the sofa in our front room. We’re here for 9 nights at a price that’s far more affordable than it would have been if we’re in Thailand (I suspect). And the service so far has been stellar. We had requested a special menu for my partner who’s dairy allergic. And the front desk, as well as the kitchen, were aware of this upon our arrival. All we have to do is give our room number and they know we’ve got a special menu to order from.

All the staff have been efficient, polite, and welcoming. They actually smile at you and acknowledge your presence when you walk past them, which I really like. One of the things I hate the most is when staff try to pretend to be invisible and look away when you approach—I’ve always found that rather weird and unwelcoming.

We did have a small glitch yesterday when my laptop wouldn’t connect to the apartment wi-fi. An engineer was sent to our room who seemed to have no idea what he was doing. Neither did he speak English. I got somewhat (read: very) agitated because he was fumbling about in my laptop’s settings and taking pictures of my screen to send to someone whose help he was seeking. But he did manage to fix it in the end following instructions from the mysterious colleague who now has pictures of my laptops’ desktop (which I’m still not pleased with).

But apart from that episode of getting pissed off at the engineer, everything has been excellent. Unless something goes seriously wrong in the next 8 days, I’ll wholeheartedly recommend this apartment to anyone who’s looking for a place to stay in West Lake.

My partner has gone off to meet a friend in the area, so I’m just lounging around the apartment for the morning, working up the motivation to go use our fancy gym and burn off some burger babies I’ve accumulated over the past week. Maybe I’ll let the food settle for another half an hour, maybe write up a newsletter, before hitting the gym.

Then we’ve got our lunch arriving at 12:30pm to the room, ordered from our special menu.

Ah, this is the life. Feeling extremely grateful (to myself) for having worked hard to be at a place in life where I can afford such luxuries. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it sure buys comfort.

Until next time, hope you’re all doing well where you are.

Love,

Val

31 January 2022

Well, what d’ya know… Turns out having a weekly newsletter means you spend all your writing time producing the newsletter, and leave your blog in utter neglect and despair. I am ashamed.

I guess it’s not totally surprising. We’ve got limited hours in a day. Something’s got to give.

I can’t believe it’s been almost half a year since my last post on this blog. I hope you’ve all been well and haven’t missed me too much.

Maybe you haven’t noticed I’ve been missing at all. (Boo!)

Since starting the newsletter in May 2021, I’ve been averaging a writing session every couple of weeks, which I guess isn’t too bad. But it’s not just been writing. I chose to have a presence on social media (I’m @valthinkswriter everywhere). And maintaining a regular presence on social media means producing content for social media, which ironically takes up just about as much time as writing.

I remember reading from somewhere that to try and make it as a writer, you spend 30% of your time writing, and the other 70% self-promoting. I have no idea if that’s true or if I totally made the figures up in my dreams, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what it takes to build an audience.

So far, I’ve got a handful of engaged readers of my newsletter, which I’m very thankful for. But the newsletter hasn’t been growing as I’d like it to. (In fact, it hasn’t been growing at all.) Which is why I signed up to this programme called Substack Go which is aimed at helping writers make it (go?) on Substack, my platform of choice.

[Here, have another shameless self-promotion link: CHECK OUT VAL THINKS ON SUBSTACK.]

It’s a month-long programme which connects Substack writers so we can “build our publications, together.” I joined it almost on a whim, with a vague idea that I’ll get to “meet” other writers and learn from their growth strategies. I was probably more curious than anything.

Anyways, I got accepted (yippee!)1 and tomorrow evening I’ll be struggling to stay awake in the kick-off session. 8pm is way too late for anything that needs proper focus for an ultimate early bird like myself, but it’s the only time slot that works because I’m not living on the right side of the planet.

The late hour isn’t the only inconvenience the programme brings. I’m actually also on holiday, which means I’d ideally like to not have to be kinda working at 8pm on two evenings. But I think (I hope) it’ll be worth it.

So far, I’ve already used the Writer Directory compiled as part of the programme to reach out to this Thai lady who’s doing something really interesting on a topic close to my heart—mental health. She seems legit cool, and I can’t wait to meet her in person for a coffee the next time I’m in Bangkok.2

So, even if these 8pm Zoom calls come to nothing, I will have gained a new legit cool person for my network. (The Empire expands.)

In typical “A Day in the Life of Val” style, I’ve rambled my way through this post, grasping at each strand of thought that appears, more struggle than fluidity. It’s not been a good 20 minutes for writing. My brain is all muddled up and I feel a dull throbbing on my forehead.

Maybe I’m tired from waking up early for the morning flight. Maybe 5pm is too late for me to be writing (oh God, how on earth will I survive the 8pm workshops). Maybe the Vietnamese coffee I got from the homestay owner at 12pm is wreaking havoc on my system. Vietnamese coffee tends to do that to me, which you might imagine would be inconvenient given that I live in Vietnam, but really isn’t because “Italian” coffee is available everywhere (all hail Arabica).

I’m thinking I should end this post now before it makes even less sense than it already does. But strangely, writing about struggling to write seems to be easier than writing about writing. Words are coming more easily now.

I want to make some sharp, witty, intelligent-sounding comment about the above paragraph. But I’m afraid my brain is in no state to accomplish such a task.

So I’ll just leave you with the view from the balcony where I’m currently sat fumbling my way through this post. A view I can’t actually see unless I stand up, which I’ll go do in a minute once I’ve published this.

I’ve missed this stream-of-consciousness writing. I shall endeavour to come do this more often. And I do apologise for my absence.

Love,

Val

Footnotes

  1. They probably accepted everyone who applied.
  2. We’ve actually connected on LinkedIn. I didn’t just dream up this coffee meet.

26 July 2021

Yesterday was a Sunday and, incidentally, also my birthday.

As lockdown birthdays go, it was as indulgent as could be.

Since we couldn’t go anywhere (HCMC is in a strict lockdown, thanks Delta), we made this a gastronomic birthday, with my partner slaving away in the kitchen most of the day cooking up delicious treats and doing the dishes (thanks honey).

We started the day off with pancakes. We couldn’t manage to procure a birthday cake, so my partner made me some of his buckwheat pancakes as a substitute birthday cake.

Mercury Rising was on the telly so I just munched my pancake while tuning in and out of Bruce Willis being all action star-ey. A relaxing start to the day.

We whiled away the morning. (Well, I whiled away the morning, my partner was doing the dishes.) And then we had lunch.

We had bought t-bone steaks the sizes of which can probably crack open a skull or two, and my partner proceeded to fry it to medium rare perfection. It was a most delicious lunch and extremely good for the soul.

Then we watched Your Name which I saw in the cinema years back and remember being very good. The second watch was less satisfying than the first, but my partner who was seeing it for the first time seemed to enjoy it.

Then an instant noodle dinner (very satisfying, I’ve perfected the art of boiling it just right to leave the noodles bouncy) and The Beguiled, my partner’s choice of movie for the evening.

And that’s pretty much it. Three meals, three movies. Plus a bit of Minions in the late morning as my partner was prepping potatoes for lunch.

An indulgent birthday during a stringent lockdown.

I couldn’t have asked for better.

Love,

Val


Before you go…

Did you know I have a weekly newsletter where I share a thought from me every Friday? I write on topics ranging from coffee to writing as therapy. It’s a perfect read to end your working week. Check it out.

9 June 2021

So this landed in my inbox this morning:

Val Thinks, my newsletter baby of just under 4 weeks, now has over 100 subscribers!

Given that I’m shooting for thousands, 100 seems a measly amount. But girl’s gotta start somewhere.

Half of the first 100 came from tapping friends, family, and my professional network. (Thank you!)

The second half came from promoting my newsletter in a Facebook group of 1.1 million members for Thais looking to immigrate. I positioned it as English practice… you know, read great writing and improve your English kinda thing.

I don’t think I got any subscribers from this blog yet, but girl’s gonna keep hustling.

If you’ve read this far, you might as well check it out. In the past few weeks, I’ve written about coffee addiction, energy management, and perverse incentives. And I’ve got dozens more topics, ranging from moisterising to identity, in store.

My newsletter will keep your Fridays fun and unpredictable, and will probably make you smile.

Now go show some love.

Yours truly,

Val

19 May 2021

I’m back with some news:

I started a weekly newsletter on Substack!

Yep, indeedio I did.

It’s not something I’ve ever considered. But last Tuesday I read an Economist article about the modern creator industry and the article mentioned Substack as a platform independent writers can get on to get paid for their writing directly. (Obviously Substack takes a cut, but you can’t have your lunch and eat it too!)

Since the platform was mentioned in a reputable newspaper, I figured it was worth checking out. And the article planted the idea of starting a newsletter in my mind.

I’ve been blogging for almost 8 years in a variety of places, and all this time I never really considered making money from my blogs. I didn’t think it would be viable. Plus, I was doing it more for personal enjoyment and to practice writing.

But I think the time has come (no time like the present!) to try and strike out on my own as an independent writer, and a paid newsletter seems like a pretty solid way to do that. My writing, straight to your inbox, and if you want you can feed me for it. (If not, that’s cool. There will always be a free option.)

So, the day after reading the article, I checked Substack out and spent 3 hours setting up my newsletter: Val Thinks.

The idea behind the newsletter is to share a thought with you every Friday. A thought for your metaphorical penny.

This newsletter will be the culmination of a lifetime of reflection, observations, and discoveries. It will cover anything under the sun, from the supposedly mundane to the controversial. I will share with you the best thoughts I’ve ever had that I think have the potential to make your life a better place, change the way you see the world, or even just put a smile on your face.

The first edition of the newsletter went out last Friday mostly to friends and family. The next email will land this Friday, and I think it’s time to share it with my lovely readers.

Check it out, subscribe, and let me know what you think.

Love,

Val

17 April 2021

Predictably, as soon as I got out of quarantine, life took hold and I left blogging behind.

It’s been a whirlwind three weeks. And as I find myself with time on my hands today, I figured it’d be a good idea to take stock of where I am since my move to Ho Chi Minh City.

Settling In

The priority once I got out of quarantine was to settle in and make myself at home. This was relatively uncomplicated and consisted of:

  • Unpacking: Done in a couple of hours the day after I moved in
  • Buying groceries: Flossy pork and freshly grounded coffee in the fridge, instant noodles in the cupboard, and lots and lots of beer
  • Getting to know Thao Dien: We live in “Expat Central” and it was a joy to discover while zooming around on the back of my partner’s bike the dizzying array of restaurants and cafes within a ten-minute radius from home. There’s even a New York bagel place, and yesterday we ate at a Balkan restaurant. The variety of food available here is impressive, to say the least.

The Domestic Life

Apart from settling into the new flat and new city, I’m also moving in with my partner of over 2 years for the first time. Somewhat surprisingly, there’s been very little friction to living together and in three weeks we’ve synced up in various ways:

  • Wake-up and bed times: I used to wake up super early (4-5am) and go to bed super early (6-7pm), but I’ve now shifted my hours backwards so I wake up with my partner’s alarm (6:30am) and we have a couple of hours together chilling in the evening. The trick to this, I discovered, was to take my bipolar medication later in the day. This was the culprit behind me feeling impossibly sleepy in the early hours of the evening. Since shifting my medication time, I’ve been able to stay up until 9-10pm with no difficulty. Issue solved!
  • Finances: We’ve been using Splitwise to track our household spending, taxis, eating out, etc. It’s been pretty easy and useful.
  • Space: My partner has a job which requires confidentiality, so he works most of the time from his office which is just across the road, while I normally set up shop for my remote job in the living room/kitchen area. When he watches TV in the living room over breakfast, I just put in my earphones and play ambient cafe soundscapes. If my partner needs to take a confidential call, he goes into the bedroom and shuts the door, and I put on my earphones so I don’t hear.
  • Food: We share the groceries bill and have been alternating cooking. I started cooking again after not having cooked anything for years, and am immensely enjoying presenting my partner with a variety of oyster-sauce-based dishes, to the point where he’s starting to good-naturedly protest for more variety.
  • Communication: We’ve always been pretty good at communication, and communicating face-to-face is far easier than doing it over a chat app or a phone call, so this has been very smooth since moving in together. We’re both very direct people and (I’d like to think) quite emotionally intelligent. None of the passive aggression and making unjustified assumptions about each other.

Unwinding

Both my partner and I have been working non-stop for the past few months, he more so than I as I’ve been on a few short trips here and there. But both of us wanted to unwind so we went to Vung Tau, a quiet beach town, for a 3-night getaway. It was good and probably much needed. We found the perfect spot: a fancy hotel’s private beach that you have to pay $10 per head per day to use, but it was worth it. We lounged for two days straight by their pool, swam, read, and just let ourselves drift off to the sound of the sea.

The Work Life

I got back to work this week and launched straight into an exciting new project. Nothing much to say here except that it was great to be back at work and it was comfortable enough to work from my new work set-up in the living room. The chair (which used to be the bane of my existence at my condo) is comfortable and I can sit up straight and not hurt my bum. Which is all I ask for really. And I get plenty of light coming in through the bay window. Nothing to complain!

The Company

One thing which went on pause while I was in quarantine was all affairs related to my company. But this week since getting back from the short beach holiday I’ve had meetings with my company accountant and bank manager, and (fingers crossed) I believe all the issues have been resolved. It’s not easy to figure out the financial management for my company, but I think my accountant and I have found a good solution. I’ve also learned how to withdraw and deposit money at the bank, including where the ladies’ are (which is very important).

Socializing

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle, creating a new community in Ho Chi Minh City. From the first week, I’d met up a couple of times with my partner’s closest friends whom I’d met before while visiting him in Hanoi. And things seem to be going well on that front. We’re continuing conversations over chat and it’s nice to spend time with them.

But also yesterday we went out to dinner with a bunch of people I’d not met before, and for the first time in over a year I got to introduce myself to someone new and get to know them. This was very pleasant and I surprised myself realising that I’d missed it.

This coming week I’ll be catching up with a former colleague who lives and works here, and also catching up virtually with a good friend. Now that work and company stuff is kind of sorted, I’m happy to get back to meeting people. I’ve missed my coffees!


And that’s pretty much it, a recap of my three weeks more for my benefit than for yours.

In short, life in Ho Chi Minh City has been great, and I’m very happy I made the move here.

Until next time.

Love,

Val

21 March 2021

As it turns out, quarantine is great for blogging. This is my fourth post in twice as many days.

I’m not sure why my attention has turned to this blog more often. Maybe it’s the lack of distractions resulting in both fewer options and more time. Maybe it’s the introspective nature of the activity that matches well with the nature of quarantine. But I’ll take it.

While in quarantine, I’ve also worked on my book. I really should have spent more time on it, and for a few days right at the start the aspiration was to write a little every day. But in the end I only managed to get around to it yesterday, a Saturday, which is usually the day I work on it.

I’ve had the idea to write this book for a really long time. I can’t tell you with certainty when it began, but my guess is probably around 2015 when I left the psychiatric ward after being briefly institutionalised for a manic outbreak. The intention behind the book is to share my story, to give a peak into the minds of someone who suffered, first, from depression, and then from bipolar disorder. To show that these mental conditions are treatable and if properly treated can be a blessing in disguise.

That’s the idea. But as I began writing the book this year, I’ve begun to have misgivings. The book will refer to a lot of people, and I’m not sure how they’ll take it. Since beginning the book, I’ve toyed with the idea of reaching out to key personalities and giving them a heads-up, and maybe also asking them for permission to mention them in a specific way. I’m not too keen on the latter as I see it as an editorial decision, and I want to tell the story from my perspective. But I’m not dead set either way.

And then I was having coffee with my dad, and he was talking about how he thinks Meghan and Harry shouldn’t have spoken out against the British royal family, how he disapproves of how they’re airing the dirty laundry in public. At the time I just expressed my disagreement and we didn’t get into a long discussion about it. But later when my thoughts drifted to the book, I began to wonder how my parents would take it. They feature quite prominently in the book (as would be expected), and I wondered if my dad would be hurt by our dirty laundry being aired in public.

And then a few days ago, a friend innocently asked if I’m writing the book for myself, or for the public. And that got me wondering whether it’s enough just to write the book for myself as a therapeutic exercise. That merely gathering and transmitting my thoughts onto the pages would make the exercise worthwhile. Maybe I can help others in a different way. In fact, I’m already helping others in my day job. There’s no reason why I’d have to have the book as a medium.

And then, yesterday as I was writing the book, I realised how one-sided and deeply inaccurate my account of my life story is. Yes, it’s my life. Yes, I’m putting it to paper exactly how I remember it. But memories are a fickle thing, and we will weave events into the narrative that we choose.

For years, I’ve told myself that I didn’t know how to make friends as a child. That people were drawn to me because of my academic abilities, not because of me as a person. But before I moved to Vietnam, just mere weeks ago, I was sorting through old belongings at home and found notes written for me by my school friends. Notes which showed genuine care and interest in me. Notes which proclaimed my humour and interestingness as a person. Notes which are completely incongruent with my perception of my high school days.

So yesterday, as I was writing a section on my theory of why I didn’t have any friends at university, I was constantly questioning myself. I was having to put in a proviso that my story is a biased account. But even with that proviso, I didn’t really believe the words I was writing. It felt like I was telling a lie that I want to believe about myself, but that anyone who knows me would immediately expose for its laughable falsehood.

If even I am doubting the veracity of my memory, of the narrative of destruction and re-birth that I’m using to describe my mental health history, then how can I put pen to paper and share that narrative with the world?

This is where my head is at right now with my book. I’ll continue writing it, that’s for sure. But what I’ll do with it once finished—that’s a different matter.

I guess, as with all things in life, we’ll find out in time.

Love,

Val

p.s. The quarantine is still going well by the way. On Day 9 now. I’m 5 days and a negative test result away from freedom and reunion with my partner! Waheeee!

18 March 2021

It’s Day 6 of quarantine. Tomorrow I’ll reach the half-way mark.

In a way it hasn’t felt that long. Six days confined to a room sounds like it’d be a very boring and stifling experience. But it hasn’t been like that. Days did tend to get boring toward 5/6pm, but for most of the day I’d keep myself engaged with various activities: work, reading, speaking on the phone, drinking wine/beer.

But in a different way, it feels like I’ve always been in this room. This room has become my reality, my present. Bangkok, parents, the flight—these are distant memories that I can whip up at will, but don’t occupy my mind much otherwise.

I’ve always been this way. I tend not to linger on places. I left Thailand for the UK when I was 17, and back then I remember not really missing home at all. And then I left the UK for France, then back again, then back to Thailand for good. People would sometimes ask if I miss the UK, where I spent a good 7 years of my life, but I really don’t.

Was life better there? In many ways, it was. London is a magnificent place to live. But once I leave a place, the break is clean. I don’t let my thoughts linger on it. I turn my attention wholly toward whatever present location I find myself in, and I get on with it.

I think this is a blessing. I rarely feel nostalgia (and when I do, it’s usually for my year abroad in Paris, specifically for this one memory I have of walking down the street near my college and thinking, “This is picture-perfect. I’m walking in a movie.”) I don’t really miss places, no pangs of sadness, nada.

So, 6 days after leaving Thailand, I don’t really miss it. Do I miss the people I leave behind? Also not. I’ve been messaging everyone and having catch-up conversations. I’ve spoken with my mom at length on the phone twice (on Saturday after I arrived and today) and once with my dad (in our regular Sunday morning slot). So I don’t miss them at all. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a long conversation with mom as the 55 minutes we spoke today. The forced physical distance has paradoxically reduced the emotional distance. I feel as close to my parents as ever.

I wasn’t going to open my laptop today; I had decided to take a day off my screen. But I’ve spent the day reading this book, Brain on Fire, and the author’s recount of her diaries sparked a strong urge in me to blog. So here I am. It’s a brilliant book, by the way. Fascinating. It’s one reason I wasn’t going to open my laptop—I was glued to my Kindle.

But another reason is I think I deserve a little time off. I’ve been working pretty hard this week, and the monotony of the work routine is getting to me a bit today. So though I’m already on my laptop now, I think I’ll give my work tasks a break. Get back to it fresh tomorrow.

Sometimes what’s needed is simply a day off.

Hope you’re all well.

Love,

Val

15 March 2021

It’s Day 3 of quarantine.

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday night, and have spent a full Saturday and Sunday cooped up in my hotel room.

Though “cooped up” is probably not the right word. I’ve splurged on a suite so I actually have plenty of room to move around. I figured if I’m going to be confined to a room for 2 weeks, better have the four walls as far apart as possible.

Quarantine life has been very pleasant so far. The bed is super comfortable, which is a big plus. Going to bed every night is a luxury. The furniture is well-designed. I’ve got an island to eat at in the kitchenette, a proper work desk set-up. There’s even a chaise longue by the large window where I can stretch out and gaze at the passing traffic below, which I did for a good half hour as the sun rose yesterday morning.

The food has been pretty tasty too. I went for the full-board option so I don’t have to worry about meals. And most of the things that appeared on the delivery chair outside my door have been delicious. Though I must say the portions have been quite small and I often end up hungry between meals. They also serve dinner pretty late (after 7pm), so what I’ve taken to doing is to save my dinner to eat the next day as I tend to have dinner around 5.

There’s also minibar and room service. Haven’t ordered room service yet and I’m not planning to. But I did order a small bottle of Merlot and a Saigon beer from the minibar.

In short: very pleasant.

I’ve been spending my time mostly in front of the laptop, either working or corresponding with people. I wrote all my friends to let them know I finally made it to Vietnam, and have been responding to their messages. There’s also a Facebook group of people who want to return to Vietnam of which I’ve been a member since late last year. It was a wealth of information for me during the run-up to the move, so I wrote up a nice long post to share my experience and “pay it forward.” I got some comments and questions on that so have been responding there too.

I also did a bit of reading. I finally decided to pick up Klara and the Sun, just because I know it’ll be a quick and enjoyable read. I’m probably 1/3 in and it’s proving to be another good read by Ishiguro. Not sure what I’ll pick up next.

Started listening to another podcast episode of How I Built This, this one on Patreon. It’s 88 minutes long and I haven’t finished it yet. I’m thinking of doing an exercise walk around the room while listening to the episode. That could work as an exercise routine. I did 2,000+ steps on Saturday just walking back and forth getting water, though my steps were significantly down yesterday. Not sure what I did differently…

It’s 14 days of quarantine, and I’m now on Day 3. Not long to go now before I’m reunited with my partner. It’ll probably be strange initially to be in his company again—today marks one full year of not being in each other’s physical presence. But we’re both taking two weeks off work to acclimatise and just chill. Which should be nice.

It’s Monday today, so my first work day in quarantine. I’m expecting to be very productive because of the lack of distractions. I’ve done hotel work-cations before and those have always delivered striking results.

I’d better get started with my day. Hope you’re all well.

Love,
Val