Monthly Archives: November 2013

Winter is coming


It has been one month since I set foot on Dutch soil (and water). Winter has taken its toll for temperature drops to zero and trees give up most of their leaves standing so naked. I can see ice on the grass outside early in the morning. I can feel the freezing cold on my sweetheart’s cheeks when he gets home from work. I hunch my shoulders waiting for the tram until my tense muscles tell me that I need to stand up wide and tall to fight back. So later, I put on my trainers and my hoodie heading to the park for a run.


It’s a beautiful day

the park in a nice day

The sun comes out shining in the park. Wet grass of yesterday rain sparkles in the sunlight. The indulgent warmth from the sun lures quite a few people to the park in a Friday morning.

A little boy in his blue rain boots jumps up and down in a puddle. He stops to stare curiously at me when I run past waving him. A little cutie. As I heard Sarah Kay’s Spoken Word Poem “B” yesterday, the rain boots make me think of silliness and broken hearts. He still has plenty of time to enjoy the puddle fun before some can possibly break his heart. The little cutie.

At the entrance of the park, there is a drinking water fountain for thirsty wanderers. Today a man uses it to wash his clothes. Three plastic bags are full of clothes. He patiently put one after one under the tiny flow of water to soak them clean. I wonder how long it would him to wash them all. He is there when I get in and still there when I get out. What is his story? What goes through his mind when he does his laundry in a park among many passers-by?

What is the story of a guy who mediate in the park under the sun. I envy him. My head occupies with worries and anxieties. I find it hard to set them aside to sit still enjoying the warmth and the beauty of a sunny day. I choose to run until I am out of breath, and until my eyes water from the cold and the exhaustion. That is how I clear my mind of the bad stuff, and fill it with the good. I know it’s a beautiful day.

Thanks for queueing

In England, there is one rule of queueing, which could be named as “no-obviously-queue-to-disorientate-outsiders”. The English form an orderly queue. Of one.

English queue

In many places, there are no straight lines (but rather invisible ones) that signify a queue. The English just know. You do not. If you fail to join, you will be reminded of it either with many eyes’ rolling or loudly in words.

I wonder how an English man would feel if he were in the very yard of this Vietnamese pagoda:

queuing in Vietnam

Yeah, we do not queue in Vietnam. Not for buses. Not for cinema tickets. And of course, not for sacred returns.

It seems to me the Dutch don’t take queueing too serious either though perhaps in a more civilizing way than the Vietnamese. When I was at a bus stop yesterday, I noticed that people were so unwilling to form a queue. There was no pushing and shoving though. I thank Buddha for that. Here comes my thanks.

When you make a payment over a counter in Newcastle of the UK where I used to live, the conversation is more or less like:

– It will be eleven fifty. Thank you.

– Here you are. Thank you.

– Your receipt and your change. Thank you.

– Thank you.

I am not exaggerating. Any English will agree with me. ( Thanks for the support)

Most or all of the “thanks” are not likely to be there if the conversation is in a Vietnamese supermarket. I grew up learning to show my gratitude and politeness through a smiley face or a slight bow. When I got back from England, the temptation is to replicate the above conversation every day, at least with my share of thanks. But I found it difficult to do in my mother tongue because when I speak Vietnamese I act Vietnamese. I stop following the English social etiquette of thanks.

Among the first words in Vietnamese as well as Dutch that my English boyfriend learns, “thank you” was the obvious. We even had a so-called argument about how to pronounce it in Dutch. We did it differently, which is rather predictable.

Anyway, thank for queuing!

“If you’re still breathing…

….you’re the lucky ones. ‘Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs. “

My best friend always tells me to take deep a breath when panic seizes my brain. Occasionally, I forget.

My boyfriend found me not breathing at short intervals of nights after tiresome days. He said it’s a sleeping disorder that could be fixed if I go to see a doctor. I do not like seeing doctor.

When I go running, I am very much aware of my breathing. After a while, the vital thing that keeps me moving is not my feet but my breathing. It is simply fundamental.

“And if you’re in love, then you are the lucky one..”