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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The Power of Film: An American’s Reevaluation of Vietnam

Recently, my good friends over at The Tuscan Shed have been generous enough to post some articles I’ve written based partly on my experiences in Vietnam, and how movies have shaped many of my preconceived notions bout the country before I even arrived.

What I appreciate most about them hosting some of my writing is that these articles reflect so much about how Americans’ notions of Vietnam can be twisted and turned around by these (admittedly wonderful and beautiful) films like Apocalypse Now and Kong: Skull Island. (The latter, of course, I appreciate for its beauty, having been filmed all over Vietnam from Halong Bay to Ninh Binh.)

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My own ideas about Vietnam have changed drastically since I’ve lived and worked here, but the most startling part about this change has been looking back and realizing how “off” my visions of the country actually were based on the only lens we Americans tend to see Vietnam: thorough the War. I say “the War,” because I’m caught between two important perspectives: how the Americans call it “the Vietnam War” and how the Vietnamese call it “the American War.”

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This is, in my mind, entirely different from the idiocy that pervades some ideas regarding the American Civil War, and that it’s seen (by a very small group) as “the War of Northern Aggression. Ending slavery is one thing- the War in Vietnam, whether it’s American or Vietnamese, is entirely different, and that’s one of the reasons I insist on staying here; to get the other side of the story. Even the name “the American War” speaks volumes.

So, I invite you to check out some of what I’ve written here on Apocalypse Now and bipolar disorder as well as my piece on the responsibility of big-name, Hollywood stars to encourage sustainable tourism in Kong; Skull Island. (Perhaps even check out some of their other awesome content for some more light-hearted reads and listens, eh?)

My point is, I’ve learned quite a bit about this country and how my home country sees Vietnam, and I’ll be honest: it’s toxic. I can tell you, because I was obsessed with the likes of Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now growing up, and now that I’m smack dab in the middle of a country that is, paraphrased from Hữu Ngọc’s incredible Wandering Through Vietnamese Culture, in the middle of finding its identity after two consecutive and devastating wars, I’m drawn to a new vision of Vietnam, one that’s not filled with danger, Agent Orange, and death, but something quite different- something blossoming, something beautiful.

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Vietnam: Zombieland Rules Apply

So, if you’ve ever seen 2009’s Zombieland, you might remember Tallahassee and Columbus’ most applicable rule for traveling abroad, especially in somewhere so foreign like Vietnam: Enjoy the little things.

(As a side note, I love the idea of being named after the big city closest to you. If you do, too, you can call me Boston or Concord. I kinda like Concord. So, call me Concord.)

ANYway, it was one hell of a week. It didn’t start well, and even as I got over last weekend’s exhaustion/sickness, I ended it by bungling the times of a bunch of last-minute interviews at work. As you can imagine, everything in between was a hair less than peachy.

But today, two little things happened. First, I finally managed to dual boot Linux on my Chromebook, a problem I’ve been tinkering with for weeks (and the solution to which was, of course, simple, as most of these things are). To put it simply, I was damn proud of myself.

Second, my boss told me that he didn’t spend as much time with me this week, and said that we’d catch up soon. To put it simply again, I felt valuable. Not like “hoard of ancient Mycenaean gold and treasure” valuable, but that he cared enough to say so- and that meant so much to me.

I definitely identify with Tallahassee- I hate coconut, (not the taste, the consistency), a lover of Bill Murray, and constantly in search of the elusive Twinkie (except for me, it’s beef jerky. For the love of Groundhog Day, could someone tell me why it’s so rare and expensive here? Also, give that movie another watch. It’s a gem in the rough). I also can’t deny that he’s got his priorities lined right up with mine, for better or worse- and in a land you don’t fully understand, you can allow yourself a few pleasures, and only a few rules.

So, in short, enjoy the little things- because those little things may not be so little, after all. By enjoying some little things, today I feel pride and personal value. Whether you’re in Zombieland or Vietnam, those are the results of some rules I can live by. This is Concord, signing off from Hanoi.

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!