A not so Vietnamese girl with burning Vietnamese questions

First I gotta say – Huyen Chip is no one new.

She got famous a few years ago with a book of her traveling around the world “Xach ba lo len ma di” (Pack your bag and go). On 3/5/2010, at the age of 22, Huyen Chip became one of the first Vietnamese crossing continents in 25 countries with only 700 USD in her pocket.

The book covered her courageous journey and stories stretching in different continents. It raised a storm within Vietnamese community, triggering inspiration and jealousy at the same time. The ones who are inspired want to do like her and the ones who get jealous think that they can do like that but somehow haven’t  (or maybe never? ;)). People even had to hold some conferences to prove if she exaggerate some points in the book. But always remember

No one ever kicks a dead dog

(Dale Carnegine)

The point is: she was smart, and courageous. People talk about Huyen Chip because she is worth talking about then, and still now. With media ripple effect coming afterwards, Huyen Chip was granted many opportunities and she is now focusing on her academic pursuit in Stanford University, enjoy the luck she created for herself, probably in a deeper journey.

It was  years ago, but until today do I read her blog. I loved it.  With her being the pioneer of Vietnamese travel bloggers, giving Vietnamese youngsters a cold water bucket, reminding us what we are missing out.

A(nother) new rebellious Vietnamese generation

vu-sach-cua-huyen-chip-nxb-co-the-bi-kien

In this blog post, Huyen Chip claimed that no one (I mean,  guys) in Vietnam is gonna love her. I find this very interesting. She is very unique, and also very typical.

Reading her blog will help you understand a new generation in this country, or maybe in the world, generation of youngsters who are becoming interesting in similar ways. You meet those people on the road who try to get rid of stereotypes by behaving very much the same. Vietnamese who are not so Vietnamese, Japanese who are not so Japanese, and much more. We are becoming a mainstream generation who try to claim we are so unique, seeking identity out of nationalism by blending into a boring chaos. Humans are similar in many ways, and you travel so long and so far to realize that. It is disappointing to realize that though. To understand others, look no further than looking into ourselves.

No one is cool or interesting, they are just like me and you. But before reaching that converging point, we need to break out and be rebellious.

 

A not so Vietnamese girl with burning Vietnamese questions

 

huyen chip in Ha Long bay

Huyen Chip pours out her heart-wrenching thoughts in this blog post “Living Selfish”. I was moved reading this.

My Western friends will never raise such a question. They live in a culture where individualism is fostered since they were a child and therefore, pursuing one’s dreams does not clash with family values, for example.

I do not mean Western society is perfect or individualism is something worth seeking. Western society has its own problems, yet it Vietnam, we are facing the opposite questions.

Huyen Chip, in her own journey, found answers she can be content with. She followed her dreams up to a point when it changed people along the way, when the so-called selfishness converges with selflessness. It is predictable, because everything we do bring value in all forms to people around us.

I’m selfish, in a sense that I do everything for myself. When I set out to do something, I never do it because it’s going to save the world or to change somebody’s life. I do it simply because I want to do it. And when I’m on my way to save myself, it’s nice if I can also help some others

Family indebtedness

In the same post, she said

“I can only hope that in a couple of years, I will have achieved something more tangible to show to my mother. I hope that one day not too far in the future, I will be able to take care of my parents the way a good daughter is supposed to do. I owe them that.”

This part, reflects a very deep-rooted Vietnamese thinking, of this family-centered society. What is “tangible”? Is that money? Is that social status? The thought of indebtedness as well as self-projection in families is always a question torturing us.

Why is the “tangible” more important than the “intangible” (time/ memories) for people you love most? And with the people you love most, it does not mean we are in debt of each other. We are here to love each other, not to create a debt to pay.

And nevertheless, that does not mean Vietnamese are trying to deny family values. There is great pure beauty of living in a family-centered society. If Westerners suffer from loneliness, we suffer from attachment. Others suffer a weird blend of both.

We all are suffering and forget that we need each other.

Why am I still fat and metabolism

Life is not fair – Thin, fat and metabolism

Weight has always been my obsession since early age. The critical point was when I high school.

High school, yeah the period of insecure self-image and peer comparison. I never dared to wear jeans because of big legs, jealous of rising female school beauty stars. But that is pretty much everyone of us. I just went a bit further out of stupidity spectrum. One day, after a binge-eating evening, I looked at mirror realizing that Doaremon is actually not fiction. Too depressed with that fact, I held my face, decided to skip classes to…go to the jungle behind my house in the countryside so that I do not have to see anyone else, including my parents on that day and returning home exactly at usual off-class hours. That actually happened. :)))

Of course, when I got out of the jungle, nothing changed: my face still looked like a Chinese Bun.

fat face

 

However, other than observing anxiously if my pants get looser to sign a relief, or my face gets chubbier to get anxious, I have never really did any researching to break down some very health principles. Why do some people lose weight easier than others? Why some gain weight easily and need constant exercise increase (energy)  yet some east like elephants but remain slim?

Why? Why ? I just wanna cry. Then I found out the criminal called metabolism

Metabolism – who are you?

Metabolism is a criminal. He must be born in Greece because his original name is “Metabole” which means “Change” in Greek. He is a change agent in our body. He can be friend or foe. You better be friend of him.

What are you doing to my body?

We can compare human body with a car. Just that we are more efficient than internal combustion engines because our muscles can turn chemical energy into work without making our body hotter than the external environment.

A car takes up petrol to run the moving engines and exhales fume, while us humans take up food for physical and mental activities.

Sim­ply put, metab­o­lism is the body’s way of con­vert­ing food into energy, and then using that energy to sus­tain and build the body.

(Personalfitness)

Crash Course did an excellent video (by which I mean videos I can understand ha ha) about metabolism. I find no better way then breaking it down to help me understand.

                    Our body needs energy for physical and mental activities. So we need input (Food)1. Food

To turn food into energy, our body need chemical reactions

There are 2 kinds of chemical reactions

catabolic reaction

anabolic reaction

Still confused aren’t you? Forget about this bolicikik term, we can just consider it as this: to build something (anabolic reactions), we need to demolish something (catabolic reactions)

Together with digestive system, these processes make up metabolism

together

funny

funny 2

Do skinnier people have higher metabolism?

To be fair there are people with opposite concerns: they seem to burn energy so fast that they are underweight constantly. But I am not one of them so I do not care.

What makes the difference is not body weight but the muscles in your body. Relatively speaking, bigger people also have more muscles inside the body (other than fat) so we burn a lot of calories while at rest. So it iis not metabolism to blame. What nobody wants to admits is that us fat people tend to underestimate the amount of food we consume (maybe due to psychological self-deception)

Other than this, there are so many factors that define our metabolism, body type, some overactive gland. If we smoke or under stress, we also burn calories faster (that is why smokers gain weight after they quit smoking).

 

How to boost metabolism

So it boils down to the main question, how do we boost our metabolism in 3 main areas of life energy channel: energy intake (food), rest and activities?

 

Due to laziness, I decide to copy this inforgraphic from Shutterstock. Maybe some of the tips are myths too ha ha but for now, I want to believe they are true ^^

stock-vector-tips-to-boost-metabolism-infographic-health-tips-for-healthy-lose-weight-vector-illustration-302556968

This topic is worth digging deeper because it will linger forever, until we die.

 

Reference:

http://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-Metabolism.aspx

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/8871.php

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metabolism

http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/59316/human-as-a-heat-engine

 

Hanoi Cyclists – From Classic to Hippy

With more than 4000 active cyclists, various lakes to stroll around and diverse options to get away, Hanoi can satisfy any demanding cyclist if he/ she know hows 😉

Hanoi Cycling Nostalgia

Before turning into a motorbike-crazy city, Hanoi used to be a haven of nostalgia. Decades ago, in subsidy period, bicycles were considered a great asset of families.  As the main transport means at that time, the bicycles are memories, romance and even pride of generations. Bicycle riders had to pass the test to earn driving license, have their bikes installed license plates. School boys carried their girls on the back of a bicycle with red flame flowers on the front basket, marking a classic icon.

cau long bien hanoi
Long Bien bridge, icon of a generation
chiec xe thong nhat
In front of a cinema where bicycles have proper parking space
chung nhan so huu xe dap
A decent driving licence for…cyclists.
hanoi thoi bao cap
An old bicycle kept in a Hanoi Museum

At that time,  the most desirable brands are  Peugeot, Aviac or Mercie with value can be compared to a car driving registration paper nowadays. A great source of nostalgia.

From being classic to being hippy

Decades passing by witnesses the huge transformation of Hanoi from an elegant cycling city to a crazy motorbike metropolis. I felt so sad when recently expensive imported pollution masks have been hunted, as a sign of trendiness and even..fashion. In rush hour, Hanoi is a nightmare, full of motorbike hubs.

respro masks
Well this girl has eyes worth dying for, but beautiful babe, do not turn this into a fashion icon

Nevertheless, a new generation is rising: youngsters who are health conscious are bringing bikes to the transportation scene. They are forming groups, actively participating in events, roaming around the city and out of it, either in their close-knit groups or in bigger gangs. They even connect with each other and support Cross-Vietnam youngsters in a mission to explore their home country and at the same time, themselves.

Tom, trainer of Hanoi Elite Fitness with his 6-pack friend on an early morning in Hoan Kiem Lake. Are they also the little boys in the picture? You wanna find out 😉 ?

emong mtb

Emong, an active cycling group, in one of their cycling charity Emong,trips to mountainous areas

banana bike
Minh Tran Anh, a member of Hanoi Banabike Club, set up by the French expat Yoann Forsure for Hanoi youngsters to try dirt jump
banabike club
Banana Bike members dig the dirt paths themselves
long bien bridge
A huge farm right under the city bridge
trang kiu
Trang Kiu, a biking enthusiast in her cross-Vietnam cycling trip

 

Hanoi is definitely not a cycling city compared to Amsterdam or Copenhagen, yet will not disappoint you when you know who to play with. Cool cyclists there welcome you with all their arms 🙂

 

A weird day out

Upon writing this, I have been torn between two decisions: polishing all images and telling an exciting, fun journey, or just pouring out thoughts about nothing but a weird day cycling out. I think about 10 years later when I read it again, and present audience I have in mind will already have vanished. Having acted a lot in work and life, I want my words to just be plain, no matter how fucked-up they appear.

When “the leader” does not want or prepared to lead

bike 2

This day out all started from an impulse of mine. Having biked enough for a month, a getaway  to wherever does not trigger desire or excitement. I had enough of being a tour leader in my work, so when it comes to a casual event, I really let it loose. Nobody pays me for this, no cash flow pressure, great.

In other words, I anticipate problems, a certain level of people’s disappointment, guilt from irresponsibility, bad bikers. And on top of that, I chose to make no effort whatsoever to connect team members, cheer them up, prepare in advance, or networking afterwards, or talking to them, or adding friends. Nothing.

So as predicted, 7 human beings showed up with their expectations ebbed and flowed, like a snake with a drunk head, leading to Can Gio in a 100km round trip, not knowing they are about to suffer, not knowing that the organizer actually does not give a damn. Probably the worst one they have encountered in their lives.

Interesting mix of characters

Nevertheless, the people that joined the trip are all interesting people. We had a German chef who has lived in Vietnam for 7 months after 4 years in Thailand with a diverse point of view, his adorable manager, a Hoi An young slim girl who is pro-active and firm in her own way. With them are interesting Saigon youngsters, a 18-year-old girl currently studying under graduation in Arizona and her 14-year-old silent brother. In an ideal scenario, someone should explore each of them then connect them in conversations, but I did nothing. I just wanted to observe and be an outsider.

Along the way we met a couple in their 50s but can beat everyone else in terms of style and stamina. The white ninja biking couple who always watch out and observe for other members.

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Together we formed a vast spectrum of age and riding skills. Some have been biking frequently and savvy as hell, some are first time long-route bikers who are still not ready to stretch. Stories of why they end up doing what they are doing and their reactions to various situations on the route, as well as exchanges about Vietnam are things we can take home. Brief small talks nevertheless, those interactions are worth to be thankful for.

 

To me personally, what I will keep remembering is how interesting the white ninja bikers are, which confirmed my perception: you can age elegantly, healthily, influencing others in a positive way just by being who you are. It is not youth which is worth worshiping, it is actually age added by stories and experiences that truly can leave legacy on others.

For people that are still young, maybe it is time to remove the illusion of youth. Youth may mean enthusiasm, but very often mean stupidity. The privilege of having optimal health or much time ahead for stories unwritten does not guarantee anything.

Yet on the other side of the coin, you can also become a freaking boring old person with no stories. Being old does not guarantee wisdom either. Neither youth or aging itself is something to be proud of.

Great 32 km route across Can Gio forest

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To be fair, when removing all unnecessary interpersonal details, the 32 km towards Can Gio deserves to be a path in dreams: lush green forest on two sides and clean street in the middle, with many bridges crossing various rivers along the way. If I can change, I will use Doaremon’s magic door to teleport there, ride for 32km then be back on bed immediately.

A route I would not mind to ride again.

 

 

 

Live in a meaningless world

The more I think the more nonsense things and people are. I will never attain enough data to see the transparent big picture, if there is such a thing.

Maybe I just need to stop. Just breath, immerse, follow my instinct and see how things turn out. Stop trying to make sense of the external surrounding or even my inner world. I cannot control it, just able to feel and decode a tiny friction of its complexity, or its mess. Embrace various shades of feelings without trying to twist them into a fancy term called “positivity”.

Maybe both external and inner world are meaningless, as they are. No such thing called purpose, just dense layers of change and awareness that deny and confuse each other.

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Tìm môi trường thực hành tiếng anh ở Sài Gòn ?

Với 9 triệu dân chưa kể xấp xỉ 40,000 expat và lượng khách quốc tế đến thường xuyên,  môi trường thực hành ở Sài Gòn vô cùng đa dạng.

Các nhóm có thể được phân loại ra 5 mục

Các CLB tiếng anh của local

Có rất nhiều CLB tiếng Anh mà với FB bạn có thể dễ dàng tìm ra chỉ với một vài từ khóa đơn giản. Có thể có đến cả trăm nhóm lớn nhỏ như vậy. Những nhóm này cũng thường xuyên có các sự kiện offline vào cuối tuần. Bạn có thể tìm nhóm gần nơi mình sống để sinh hoạt được thường xuyên hơn. Đặc biệt phù hợp khi bạn còn ngại giao tiếp với người nước ngoài.

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American Center Ho chi Minh city

Là câu lạc bộ do đại sứ quán mĩ lập ra với 2 chi nhánh ở Hà Nội và Sài Gòn, American Center có độ chuyên nghiệp cao và tần suất sự kiện đều đặn. Bên cạnh những chủ đề văn hóa (tất nhiên sẽ bị Mĩ hóa nhiều và sẽ trao đổi nhiều về du học mĩ hoặc văn hóa Mĩ), AC còn trao đổi các chủ đề về kĩ năng mềm, chia ra các nhóm nhỏ (e-reading, short story) và một thư viện sách khủng tha hồ học cả năm không hết (đặc biệt nếu bạn muốn đọc sách về lịch sử văn hóa Mĩ hoặc sách luyện thi các chứng chỉ IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC).

Bạn có thể update lịch của AC bằng cách subscribe qua FB hoặc xem trên website chính thức của AC.

Các CLB tình nguyện dẫn tour du lịch

Nếu Hà Nội nổi tiếng với Hanoikids thì Saigon Hotpot là một phiên bản student tour xuất sắc của Sài Gòn. Là tập hợp của nhiều sinh viên năng nổ, Saigon Hotpot tạo cơ hội trao đổi ngôn ngữ và văn hóa giữa sinh viên và người bản ngữ, đồng thời là môi trường rèn luyện kĩ năng rất tốt cho người trẻ (khả năng lead, hoạt náo, đáp ứng nhu cầu của nhiều đối tượng khách, tinh thần chia sẻ qua nhật kí tour).

Đặc biệt, các thành viên hậu Hotpot đã và đang có dự án riêng cho riêng mình, lan tỏa cơ hội cho các thành viên bên cạnh những chương trình trao đổi văn hóa thú vị với nhiều trường đại học trên thế giới.

Các nhóm trao đổi ngôn ngữ (dạy tiếng Việt) giữa Expat và Local

Một người bạn của mình muốn học tiếng Anh nhưng lại nhận xét “Đừng lợi dụng expat”. Mình chỉ buồn cười. Khi bạn đến một môi trường mới thì nhu cầu giao lưu với người bản địa là hiển nhiên, chả ai lợi dụng ai. Nếu mang tư tưởng đó trong đầu thì bạn chỉ bỏ qua những cơ hội giao lưu thú vị mà thôi.

Hiện tại mình chưa tìm thấy CLB tiếng việt nào ở SG, nhưng nếu bạn tham gia nhóm Expats & Locals in Saigon và subscribe event của họ thì sẽ có những event dạy tiếng Việt như dưới đây (hoặc nếu không có thì bạn tự lập 1 cái event đi, cũng okie) 😀

leản Vietnamế

Các event của expat (có thể đến nghe nếu t.a chưa vững và tham gia sâu hơn nếu t.a đã khá)

Expat ở SG có khá nhiều event hay ho, nên đến nếu tiếng anh bạn đã khá hơn. Một nhóm khá thú vị mà mình biết là

story telling

Cùng đến, nghe các bạn kể chuyện tếu và chia sẻ kĩ năng kể chuyện, tại sao không nhỉ?

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Tất cả các nhóm chỉ cách bạn một cú click chuột, chưa bao giờ lại dễ dàng đến thế 🙂

 

When life gives you rubber dust…

Meeting me at the new pier of Cu Chi tunnels, Adrian immediately asked with his broken English:

How many kilometer is our ride today?

I was stunned. Oh man, not again, I thought. With just 6 hour’s sleep and the boredom of riding the routes over and over again, now my customer is even bringing me more trouble?

Fixing my mindset in seconds, I patiently and professionally explained to Charlene and Adrian the riding route, step-by-step. Charlene fell of the bike after 2 minutes and decide to just get in the van. We look at each other’s face, each get lost in our own thoughts.

“We will see her after 17km. It’s okay”

Most of my ride with Adrian was predictable. I tried to clear my head, riding past by rubber plantations now turning ugly and wet after yesterday rain, stop by our frequent interest points now all becoming meaningless in my numb mind.

20160602_100044

After the second rubber plantation, after we stop to see people harvesting latex and exploring that meticulous process. Suddenly, Adrian asked me:

Are you married?

OMG why is he asking that? Isn’t he going with his GF? I thought. Something is wrong here.

“No.”

“I just got married 3 weeks ago. I am 25.”

@@ Really? I am 25 too. So, this is your honeymoon trip?

I felt an incredible guilt.  If I were Charlene, just got married and have a honeymoon trip, the last thing I wanna do is to let my husband go with a girl then be waiting for them in a van.

After a few small talks question of why I end up here or what I think about HCMC, I asked

So what do you do in your country (I cannot remember the name of that country, an island in Europe)

I am a firefighter.

Really? Do you like your job?

Yes. Very much.

Why do you like it? I mean, Isn’t it a job of danger?

Yes, my dad is a firefighter, too. But when you take people out of buildings and see expression in their face, it is incredible.

Do you keep in touch with people you rescued?

No. Not very often.

That moment shifts my perception forever. Believe it or not, grass looks greener now, sky looks bluer, everything smells good and waiting seems not be an annoyance anymore.

After we met Charlene, we decide to explore a mushroom farm nearby.

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The trip was brief, none of us learned much, and I will never see them again. In fact, very soon I will clear them out of my mind, as the rule of this industry. But nevertheless, with every interaction with people, we all have the choice of letting it turn sour or spicing it up.

So why not the latter?