Living up to my (Domain) Name

So this is half announcement and half musing over the wonderful conversation I just had with my friend Aaron. tl;dr: I’m now hosted at http://aquietamerican.com, and sometimes you fail and fall so hard in the process of hitting your target you wonder if you weren’t built to be a bombshell.

First of all, this Wayward Will’ll soon be moving to his own, self-hosted domain! This is great news for you and me, dear readers, because then I’ll have all SORTS of control over the content I post here, and you’ll get more bang for your buck (or at least the valuable time you spend reading). Unfortunately, this also means that my domain name will change (which I’ll announce as soon as I can), so I’ll try to keep y’all updated on where all this will be in the near future.

Secondly, and more importantly, though, is a lesson I’m still learning about persistence and failure. So, for all of you out there who want to start a legit blog, perk those ears up. I want far more than what this platform can give me, so I tried to upgrade to wordpress.org.

When you upgrade to the far more robust wordpress.org (and whatever hosting site like Bluehost or Siteground you choose to use), you’ve got to download WordPress onto your computer. Now, this is a problem, because although I love my Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch) – Silver (Certified Refurbished), I soon found that even dual-booting my chromebook with Ubuntu didn’t give me the power (or the practicality) I needed. So, I got myself a nice, cheap laptop courtesy of Hanoi Computers.

Problem solved, right? I booted the sucker up, got to work on a Bluehost account, and then, for some reason, my account was halted at the very last minute- after I had signed up and paid for a plan. So, I contacted customer support and kindly asked what the issue was. Turns out, the domain I registered was flagged for “fraud/risk.” I still don’t fully understand how or why this happened (since it was getting late and I was pretty done with curiosity, and simply wanted a solution), but I suspect it had to do with my physical registration being done in Vietnam and my given address being in the US.

Now, I’m being asked to jump through a number of flaming hoops to determine my identity with Bluehost, and to put a nice fat cherry on top of the cake, even my SiteGround account has locked me out.

But you know what? You’ve got to laugh. I laughed and laughed, used a different email, and spent the last few hours figuring out the code to give you what I hope will be the last place my site will wander:

http://aquietamerican.com/

It’s not pretty yet, and I don’t have anything new yet (save for some photos I couldn’t manage to upload here), but I think I’ve finally figured this all out. Persistence, and a high tolerance for failure- that’s my trick.

This is Concord, signing off from Hanoi, and WordPress.com…for now

 

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Traveling Alone: Am I missing something?

Over the past few months, I’ve met some wonderful people. It’s embarrassing to say, but I’m horrible at keeping in touch with people, and I let some of these wonderful people disappear from my life without a trace. As I continue trying to unplug (no podcasts or music) and practice my own brand of kinh hành, or walking meditation, before work and sometimes after work along the neon-lit streets of Lạc Long Quân, I think about these people and all they’ve given me. I feel a certain amount of guilt, which I try to let pass, because I feel as if I’ve taken from them more than I’ve given.

However, I’ve also mustered the strength to turn my back and walk away from other people who were simply toxic. People who reminded me of my old, bad habits. People who made me anxious to be around. If there’s one thing that dropping everything and moving to Vietnam has taught me, it’s to grow a bit of a spine, because academia made mine shrivel up like a salted slug.

When you travel abroad, especially when you travel alone, it’s always great to have a support system, because you’ll have so many different emotions assailing you on a daily basis that having a few people to talk to about both your frustrations and triumphs is, in my experience, an absolute life-saver. Strangely enough (if you know me well, that is), my support system developed out of my family (and many whom I consider de facto family). I see much of myself in my sister, and we share stories of our own travels.

 

And because I’m an incurable literary critic, my father and mother have taken on a sort of Id and Ego dynamic, and I know exactly when I need to talk with one or the other. I suppose if we want to simplify these terms, and make my father the base instinct and my mother the face of reality, I will become the Superego, the moral product of these two psycho-social influences.

I could truly dive down a terrible rabbit hole here, and I want to give this post credit where credit is due. I was inspired to write this after reading my colleague Huyen’s excellent blog: đi thoii (http://dithoii.com), and specifically, this blog post about traveling alone.

I seriously encourage you to copy and paste her articles, especially the traveling alone article, into Google Translate or just translate the page in Chrome, because she has some fantastic insight not only into the philosophy of travel, but travel advice for all of Southeast Asia. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

One thing that Google managed to translate from Huyen’s blog into something I could make sense of was actually quite beautiful: “So one of the pleasures of going alone is the fourfold friend. The accumulation of friends, clusters is the instinct of man, but when alone, the instinct is strong.”

The “four-fold friend;” it reminds me of Fight Club’s “single serving friends” Jack makes on planes. And I have to agree with Huyen- clustering is a human instinct- why else would I be questioning it now? And indeed, when alone, this instinct manifests even stronger- youmight even say fourfold. But what’s important to take away from what these quotes say in context is that you make some wonderful friends along the way, “a crowd of “guests” like dust” she calls them. People, in my eyes, who make you smile, like this:

She seems to have made great peace with this idea of traveling alone- so, I wonder, why haven’t I? I’m writing this blog to reach out to you, dear readers, in some attempt to connect. What I miss is sharing these experiences, in the moment, with someone else. I also miss having someone, like a character foil, who can direct the course of the ship from time to time, because it gets quite exhausting, being your own crew and captain.

I intend to explore this question further- I’ve changed a lot in the past year, and with those chances came so much positivity. Hell, in the past few weeks I’ve changed little by little. It’s important to ask these questions of yourself while traveling. Questions like the ones I asked myself in my more personal blog here. But I have to remember that whether or not I’m physically traveling with anyone, I’ll have those “fourfold friends,” a newfound appreciation for family, and of course, you, dear readers.

So Cheers to traveling alone, but never being lonely!

Hitting the Road with Hermes

Ever since I saw the horrifying after effects of  my uncle’s motorcycle crash, and after my own literal run-ins with disaster on my dirt bike as a kid, I had always scoffed at motorbike riders as “future organ donors.” Little did I know that riding a motorbike, especially in Vietnam, is a lot like getting a tattoo: once you get one, you just can’t stop. (Ok, it’s not the best, one-to-one analogy, but the point is: I can’t get enough wind in my hair or ink under my skin). 

I’m totally addicted to riding my beat-up Honda Win, which I dubbed Hermes; he’s my little winged companion, what the Ancient Greeks called a psychopomp or “a leader of souls” of the underworld. It sort of encapsulates the reverence I have for the trusty hunk of metal and the very real possibility that he could lead me straight into the jaws of Hades. Just listen to the baritone howl of the AH14 drowned away by Hermes’ ferocious growling: 

After my fantastic breakfast at the Hanoi 3B Homestay, I soon re-familiarized myself with the AH14, my old and well-trodden path I used to take between Hai Phong and Hanoi. Mercifully, Hải Dương is only about 34 km (or around 21 miles) from Hanoi, but I didn’t get nearly enough sleep the night before, so my drive took an extra half hour as I took a few quick naps on the side of the highway.

Travelling by motorbike in Vietnam may seem like a free-for-all, a Mad-Max style of chaotic weaving and wandering from lane to lane, but if you start to pay attention, you’ll notice some rules that should be followed. Most importantly, though, are some tips I’ve gathered to keep you from becoming a pancake on Vietnam’s motorways:

Driving

  1. ALWAYS test your brakes, whether renting or buying a bike. Just. Do. It.
  2. Make sure your tires are TIP-TOP. I’m talking rubber so fresh you can smell Hevea brasiliensis (These two will help you avoid my fate, which left me sprawled in the middle of a rainy highway between Hanoi and Hai Phong.)
  3. Always assume people can’t see you coming, especially if they’re driving right at you on the wrong side of the highway at 22:00 in utter darkness.
  4. DIrect 80-90% of your attention to what’s going on right in front of you. Hell, you’d be ok wearing horse blinders. Anything behind you doesn’t exist unless it honks or screams (in which case, be a good human and help, for god’s sake)
  5. Don’t give in to peer pressure and jump the 3-second red light remainder (yeah, traffic lights have counters here. It’s awesome). There will be someone screaming down the perpendicular street and turn you into Tay puree.
  6. Flow around pedestrians like a river to their rock. Both of your lives depend on it.
  7. Contrary to popular belief, there ARE road rules, and the first to take notice will be the tan-clad cops, who will, in turn, take as much dong as they can for an infraction.
  8. Don’t get stuck behind a bus or a truck unless you want all the cons of smoking a carton of Marlboro Reds in the span of 15 seconds. Also, they’re big and will pretty much turn you into hamburger if you challenge them.

Walking

  1. Be the steady rock in a raging river when crossing- cars and bikes will tend to move around you if you walk confidently and steadily.
  2. HOWEVER….no matter what anyone says, look before you take that leap. I didn’t- once. Once. I’ve never done a flailing cartwheel that fast since I first learned how to dance like Isadora Duncan.
  3. Use the waving, palm-down “cool your jets, I’m walkin’ here” hand gesture that’s popular with many Vietnamese people here if you really want some extra safety. I mean, just typing that last bit made me guffaw, but seriously, people respond to it. Just don’t be jumpy. See #2 above for what happens if you’re jumpy, as well.
  4. Motorbikers and cellphones go hand in hand like juggling nitroglycerine on a rollercoaster. Assume their call is infinitely more interesting than your attempt to cross the road. (And this isn’t just Vietnam- just don’t use your goddamn mobile while driving)
  5. Sidewalks are totally optional (I prefer the road, myself- it’s usually not as crowded with parked motorbikes) and sometimes (ok, pretty often) serve as another lane for motorbikes in a real hurry. Remember that honking? Just keep your wits about you.
  6. Finally, try to take the long way around any building guarded by soldiers- I’ve been chased to the other side of a 6 lane motorway for walking remotely close to the wrong (see: apparently restricted government) places.

Follow these few simple rules, and you’ll be sure to enjoy watching trepedatious tourists trying to tiptoe across a crosswalk. I was that guy a few months ago, but just remember when to be the rock, and when to be the river. Plus, if you make a stop over in Hải Dương, you’ll have a nicer, far more peaceful and scenic ride like this:

More to come soon, dear readers- I certainly didn’t set the best examples in this post, but I kind of like the raw footage I’m getting from my old, beat-up, but still tickin’ LG Aristo 4G Lte Metropcs Unlocked,T-mobile, At&t , Usa & International 16GB, and a bit of raw driving certainly compliments that, huh?

A Word of Warning: Test Your Tech

Before I post part III of last weekend’s travels, I’ve got a small word of warning for those looking to buy nice technology in Vietnam. I wont name names or talk smack, because that’s not my style- I’m just giving some friendly advice on how to stay friendly when things go awry with wired gear.

So I was absolutely psyched today- I had finally found a Polaroid Cube ACT II HD 1080p Lifestyle Action Video Camera (Black) – Updated Features

, a cheap, little action camera that was perfect for an amateur blogger/vlogger like myself. For 3 million VND (around $130), I had, after weeks of searching, found my perfect little starter camera.

I raced home, and even made this unboxing video, which I’m definitely going to do more of with some quintessential Vietnamese goods, because I find them really soothing to make and watch.

But before I could turn it on, I had to open it up and charge it, right? Well, this is what I found on the inside:

20180320_190414_Film1 (2)

It was, in fact, just a little box stuffed full of a wad of copper wire. I briefly thought that I had to hack my way through the wire, like a jungle explorer, to get to the charger and SD card slot, but then reality hit me.

I didn’t even have the time to be miffed- I grabbed my bike, raced back down to the store, and after 10 minutes of phone calls, talking with managers, and negotiating, I got my full refund. Of course, the key in any situation like this is to simply keep your cool. Don’t get mad, don’t get defensive- just be firm, and say “I’d like a refund or a replacement, please.”

The first point, of course, is I’ve learned to test my tech before leaving the store. I don’t want to be driving back to the store like a bat outta hell to try and get a refund, lest the next day’s workers aren’t able to honor the refund for one reason or another. The second, though, is always keep cool. I’ve been having some difficulties getting this blog to do what I’d like it to do- but I’ll learn. I bought a piece of garbage that I thought would take brilliant videos and photos- but I’ll find another.

And remember: it may have been a scam. Maybe it wasn’t just the “display model” that was so well packaged and included the SD card, micro USB cord, and all the gear that the Polaroid Cube should come with. But it also may not have been the store’s fault. Honestly, they were probably just as disappointed to lose a 3 mil VND sale than I was to lose a great camera. So don’t take it out on the salesperson, or even the manager- just keep your cool, be reasonable, and treat people like you’d like to be treated- with a little trust and respect (even if you’re secretly suspicious).