Monthly Archives: July 2014

Travelling: Why I stopped planning

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I used to plan my travelling carefully and well ahead because I liked to be in control of as many parts of as many things as possible.

I needed to know where I would sleep at night in an unknown place whether it was a bustling city or a well-hidden river land. A friend of mine once told me something like this: You are a small-looking girl, an easy target. Look where you are going when it’s dark. I never forget the advice. So I like to make sure that I am on the safe side of my travel.

I also liked to know the must-see attractions in a certain historic town or a France-influenced but British-owned island. The old I would map out the walk from the station or my hostel to such attractions. I could only rest assured if I knew how many left turns to take.

The truth is that I got lost (many times) regardless. No matter how carefully I planned, unexpected twist of fate seemed to find me around some dull-looking street corner.

Once I took a 10 days trip on my own from North to South of the UK, from the mainland to an island then back to the mainland. I was on buses, flights, trains, and ferries. All transportation was booked in advance. All tickets and hostel reservations were printed and numbered in date order. Maps were also printed with highlighted routes. I had a smartphone then, but I liked the traditional way. Battery might go flat, but ink stays for a long time. Regardless of my well-thought-through plan and half a forest that I’ve destroyed with all the printed paper, I stumbled. Somehow I managed to book the right bus back on a wrong date. The uptight driver didn’t let me on the only bus that would take me back before nightfall.

I had to spend my last pennies to pay for a different train and took a longer route through a beautiful city called Bath. It was only one extra night, but it got me realise the beauty of go-with-the-flow. I always wanted to see Bath but hadn’t got around to go, till that day. So there was I watching the city of Bath turning in for the evening and its reflection on the river under the magical moon light. It was a full moon  night. I caught myself thinking of the one man who had left the previous moon.

Two months later, I bought a one-way ticket to a faraway foreign land to start the travel of my life with him. For once, I had no plan. I didn’t even have an onward journey ticket, consequently almost failed to get myself on that first flight. I did make it there after two more flights and 24 hours of very little sleep. The important thing was that he made it there as well.

Sometimes when you walk with your eyes close and your heart wide open, you can find the best gift of life. Undoubtedly, there are bumps on the road. But it’s often on bumpy roads the most interesting stories of your life start. I know I have one written in the Penang island.

I am going on our next adventure in a few days. Instead of taking the map out, I am writing this to remind me of being spontaneous and enjoy surprising gifts that life brings.

Happy Travelling, fellows!

When I talk about recycling

Once every week, I take out bags of used paper and glasses to the recycling point, five minute walk away from my flat. There are separate bins for paper and glasses waiting to be collected and made into a new form of usefulness.

I like that I can play my teeny tiny part to slow down the destruction of this planet. What I like even more is the thought that the glasses or paper grains are likely to be made into something else rather than rotting uselessly in a landfill. They would have a new life.

Back home in Vietnam, we don’t have recycle bins. Recycling has not yet been widely taken into account. Many people still need reminding to put their garbage into a bin instead of thoughtlessly littering on the street. I guess we have a long way to go in terms of centralised system and educated awareness towards recycling. There have however been forms of it since as long as I can remember.

When I was little, there used to be a communal bucket placed outside my house. Some farmers from some nearby village put it there to collect leftover food from the neighbourhood to feed a pig or two that they raised.  After dinner, my mum would ask me to take any leftover out to spare in that bucket. Quite often I would find rats running away when I approached the bucket. I interrupted their feast, I guess. The rats might not know it when they ran away upon my footstep, but I was a scaredy cat. I tried to be brave when I said yes to helping mum clean up. The truth is I was scared of rats and the ill lit yard. To make it worse, the bucket always smelt rather bad. But as little as I was, I never refused to do it. I dislike waste more than rats.

When I was a school girl, I recycled paper in a more market-driven way. By the end of each summer, I would gather all my school notes that I took precious throughout the previous year, as well as old newspaper that I saved after Dad finished reading. For a whole day, I would wait patiently for a pass-by dong nat – someone who buy paper to resell it for money. I would get very little money from selling to them but feel very pleased. Mum always let me keep the money as well. More interestingly, breakfast snacks that Mum bought from the market, were often wrapped with used newspaper. It is totally unhygienic from today’s viewpoints, but the resource was scare in Vietnam in early 1990s. I actually liked seeing the used newspaper because, in my silly head, it could well be the paper that I sold. Life had extended to its next cycle.

I came home last year to stay in my old bedroom though I was no longer a little girl. I found notes from my undergrad years. They were full of economic principles and trading tactics. I found them so alien. 10 years has passed and I have done many things but followed those principles. So I spent an afternoon looking through them to make sure I didn’t miss out any love letters from the past. Then I packed those notes into a pile and waited for a dong nat. None passed by the whole day. According to Mum, the business was so small that hardly anyone find it worth doing now. They all turn into housekeepers or baby sitters instead. But a few days afterwards, Mum did manage to sell my old notes. She kept the money though. And I don’t think anyone can get away with using my notes for breakfast wraps now. In a way, everything has changed. Life in a new form – is that not what I like about recycling?

Summer Note #3

The summer has taken a chill turn by the time I manage to write this third note. Quite often I would go out in a summer outfit and afterwards deeply regret. The weather in the northern part of Europe never seems warm for long enough to leave your cardigan at home.

The rain frequents, and sometimes stayed for a few days. I actually enjoy a drizzle when I am on my bike. It feels like the type of romance I used to love. It is not always a drizzle though. One night, I was woken up by wind whistling through slits between windows, and rain crashing down neighbour’s roof. The whole sky was weirdly lit by lightning that struck any other second for a good ten minutes. Thunder after thunder hurried to catch up. A reddish patch on the sky in the far distance made the whole scene even more bizarre. I grew up sleeping through so many torrential rains and the aftermath of tropical storms but I can’t remember wakening up to such outlandish nature.

There are still nice sunny summer days thankfully. We took out our BBQ kits and set fire to the coal. I grilled some honey-coated corn on cob and Ian made the most delicious pasta salad. I put my chilli plants on pedestal to get more sunlight. I dream of the day I see the reddish. Who to say I am a daydreamer?

chilli plant