Monthly Archives: June 2015

Why are you angry?

Drama

Yesterday, a guy crashed into me with his bike. From two edges of a right angle, we came into a cross point at the same time. I thought I slowed down to see whether he would turn or go straight. And, BAM!

Before I knew it, his front wheel hit my left leg and his bar handle went over my hands. Immediately he started to shout. Angrily. Even when he cycled away, he was still shouting.

I was speechless. The shock seized me inside out and left me with no words. Not to tell him that I believe I was right. Not to ask him whom he was so angry at? I was the one who got hurt, physically. He didn’t. At least not so obvious that I could see.

In a similar situation, a nice person would ask me if I were okie. Once or twice, I felt off my bike on narrow and slippery corners of Amsterdam. Always, someone stopped to check if I needed any help or just some comforting. Was it their fault I was hurt? Not at all. Did they have to care? No, but they did anyway. That is what a nice person would do. That’s whom every parents should raise their child to become.

Anger can make you a not-so-nice person because you are blindsided by your own feeling. All you could see is your frustration. You don’t see how the rest of the world struggle, sometimes because of you.

I used to be filled up with rage for no reason. Mostly there would be a reason, but in hindsight, it was often nothing so serious to be angry about. Back then, I lived in a small town in Northern England. Working as an interpreter, I travelled around the country to help people to be heard. I didn’t earn much but I got to travel a lot and I paid my rent. I had a close-knit group of friends. I was supposed to be happy. But I was angry.

Now and then, the rage would come and go leaving scars on me and the people I cared about. I would withdraw into the furthest corner of my room staring into the light under the only lamp. Or I ran out into the cold snow without a scarf and shook like hell. I was scared.

I don’t remember when was the last time I felt like that – thankfully. The guy yesterday reminds me of how lucky I am not being in that place anymore. Still I wish I could understand what he shouted out about. It was not in Dutch, English or Vietnamese. It could have been in any other languages of the multiple ethnic groups in Amsterdam. Or it could have been the universal language of pain – the one that most of us have felt but not so many could articulate.

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What I think about and don’t think about when I am running

running agains the sun

So I was writing an article for most of the morning. I wanted to have it done by the end of the day, nicely! But I was a bit stuck.

At one point, I glanced down to my belly. There seemed to have an extra layer of fat, compared with the last time I had checked. (Oh well, my boyfriend is a very good cook.)

Anyway, I decided to go for a run. I could do with clearing my mind and coming up with something punchy for the article, while getting the belly back under control.

So at 5pm, I was out of  my house and started to run.

Oaw! The park is packed with people. 

Some are lying flat on the grass reading a book. Others are having a BBQ. Then… a few pretty girls and their plentiful picnic.

I could have been any of those chilling people. 

I live so close to this park that I can even bring a blanket to sit on and a cold beer to sip through slowly. But no, no, no! I’ve chosen to work my arse out on concrete paths.

Why?

phuzz…phuzz…phezz…phezz… (that’s how I breathe, sorry)

Stop checking me out so obviously, guys!

It’s hard enough running in this heat under this bright sun. I don’t need the ticklish feeling of being watched. You guys have never seen a girl running? Oh well, there is the first time for everything.

Seriously, this is the third time I run past you. And you in orange. And you pretending to do weights. Cut it off.

whiz…whiz…phiz…phiz…(I also breathe like this)

Right, I am leaving you – the picnic gang and the people watchers. I am heading out for the canal.

phuzz…phuzz…phezz…phezz…

Man, it’s hot.

I should have been a smart arse and ran in the morning instead. It was cool this morning. And I know for a fact that it was quiet.

But well, I have done this before, I’ll do it again.

Remember that time when I ran with that group of friends on a super sunny day in Hanoi? It must have been at least 35 degree without a single cloud. I overtook all the boys, and the rest. In hindsight, they should use less of those motorbikes and more of their feet.

Anyway, I should stop judging and bragging – like, right now!

whiz…whiz…phiz…phiz…

Seriously, that little motivation from the Hanoi’s story does not last.

The heat is playing it tough. I need water. Why do I stray so far from the inner park where the water tap stands? It seems like I have been making a series of bad decisions here.

Right, I am going back. I can make it back to the water source!

whiz…whiz…phiz…phiz…

Oh, somebody is working out on my path. Maybe I act nice and run around on the ground instead.

Ocha! A damn hole. My left foot again. I am just about to recover from having twisted my left ankle in Berlin two weeks ago (again, I was not drunk).

The cute guy is running over to check if I am okie. Back off, boy! Have you not done enough damage?

Man, it hurts. I am not making it to the water, am I?

whiz…whiz…phiz…phiz…

Right, I admit. I might have sworn  a few times there and then.

whiz…whiz…phiz…phiz…

I am picking up the speed, though the sun is damn shining.

I will be so tan after this.

Mum will not be happy. “You are getting married in like a year. You should look white and shiny for the photos,”  She would say.

Nah, I am just being mean to my ma in my head. Sorry, mother. I tend to be meaner when I am tired.

phuzz…phuzz…phezz…phezz…

The tap, finally! Water – My Precious!

So I am back, guy in orange and girls with the picnic basket. Oh, this guy overtaking me is new, and fast. But it is okie. I am not in race.

Keep breathing, girl.

phuzz…phuzz…phezz…phezz…

Oh, I like this song.

And you are right, U2 – It’s a beautiful day.

And now I am in the shade. It’s not so bad after all. And the guy in orange seems okie actually. Even the new guy. He overtakes me again. Quite a bit shorter of a lap. But it’s also okie. Maybe one day, I will run as fast. Maybe not.

phuzz…phuzz…phezz…phezz…

You know what? V-day has finally come! The day I enjoy the actual run, not just the feeling that comes after the shower. How weird is it? I thought it would never get better. But it finally does.

My good old iPod just shuffles into Happy. First time I run to this famous Pharrell Williams’ track. I found it suggested on a runner’s website.

Man, it’s great! 

If you saw a girl clapping her hand and running at the same time earlier today, you must have seen me.

Because it’s what happiness feels like.

I stopped to go home when RunKeeper showed 8.2 km – just above the target I set two months ago. RunKeeper must be pleased.

I got into the shower and realised that I have totally forgotten to plan the article. But look, I’ve learnt some other solid truth:

  • Running will get easier, even if it does not seem so at all, on the first day or the hundredth day.
  • Some people run fast. Some people run slowly. Some do not run at all. It’s a choice to be made, not one to be judged.
  • Stay positive, stay happy then you will make it to the next step. Put your Happy cap on, folks!

Why I love trains

image-3

I always love trains but I am never really sure why.

I think it is in the way you move forward with trains. Each train has its own track. When you are on a train, you might see another train travelling in the opposite direction now and then, often near a station. But you rarely see another one overtaking you on the same direction. You are hardly in a race with other trains.

Also, train tracks are often built on rather remote areas, you don’t see car travel alongside you that much either.

So even if your train goes as fast as 500 kms per hour, you are almost never the one who races. You are inside a carrier, being relatively still. There is no rush. And I hate being rush. When I am on a train, I can really lean back and relax. Even inside the most chaotic trains I’ve taken, I found peace.

When I lived in England, I sometimes took a train as early as 5am to go as far as 300 km away for an interpreting job at court. The empty train station was always very cold in the early morning, because not many people were there to help heat up the chill air in the wide open. I’ve liked it though. As long as I was wrapped up, I could enjoy the freshness of morning dew. Then I would got on the train, pick a seat by the window and wait for the sun to come up.

Train Tacks Through English Countryside

When I backpacked through South East Asia with my now fiancé, we once took a train from Bangkok to a province at the border with Cambodia. It was full with farmers going to markets and back for trading, workers heading home in Cambodia, and backpackers like us.

We were crammed in a corner by the carrier’s door, on the floor. The air was hot and the floor was sticky. The train made huge noises whenever it started again. And it stopped multiple times for more people getting in. Basically, it was nothing like the Quiet Zone on a Virgin Train down London. But when the sun set above the heads of the crammed crowd, it was so red that it brought with it a sense of solemnity.

After more than two months travelling around South East Asia, I brought my then boyfriend back to Hanoi, my hometown on a night train from Hue – the ancient capital chosen by the Nguyen dynasty. It was on February. The train rolled into the new capital at the early hour of the morning. Soon the radio started to play a classic about Hanoi’s winter. I was home once again. The first light just arrived and I was on the brink of tears. The train slowly shook its way into the station.

Fasting forward two years and a few months, we were on the train from Amsterdam to Berlin. It was a seven-hour journey, more or less. There was no breath-taking scenery. It was a dull mid-may day in Northern Europe when the summer has not yet arrived. That means cold and grey. The landscape was filled with either grass field or patches of small trees. There were some nice views but far not often enough for a seven hour journey.

However, we had wine and each other company. We leaned back and watched a movie about Berlin from the old days. We enjoyed the ride pretty much regardless. Maybe it’s about the train. Maybe it’s about the wine. I will never know!

Four things I’ve learnt about honey bees

2015-05-11 16.50.07

Recently, I signed up for a beekeeping course because I want to know how I can help the bees. You might have heard that they are dying out.

Unfortunately, my course got canceled before I go into the practical parts of keeping bees. But I did learn some very cool facts about bees that’s definitely worth sharing

1. The flappy insect
Honey bees can flap their wings more than 200 times per second. 200 flaps in one blink of the eye. Doesn’t that sounds amazingly cool?

I found it even cooler that they flap their wings to adjust the temperature of their hives. By creating air flows, they can heat up or cool down their hive to the ideal temperature all year around. So when you pay for both central heating and air conditioning, the bees just move their wings really fast.

2. They like to dance
They do waggle dance to communicate with their hive mates about a new source of food, for example. They make a series of zig-zag moves to indicate the direction of the food source in line with the sun. Pretty clever, I would say. And it is really fun to watch.

3. An orderly society
A colony of bees includes a queen, a dozen drones and many many workers. They all have their tasks and their destiny.

99% of a bee colony are worker bees. They live for about a month (or more in the winter), and basically work themselves to death. Worker bees take care of many things, from household stuff (like nursing the baby and cleaning around the hive) to more “manly” tasks like guarding the door or collecting food and building honey comb. Remember that they are all girls!

There are male bees, too. They are the drones. But they don’t do any of the above tasks. So when food is scarce in the winter, drones often get kicked out of the hive. No contribution, no rent. Harsh, isn’t it? So make yourselves useful, folks.

You would ask what do drones do. Actually, their only job is to mate with a queen when she is out on a mating flight in the summer. However, they die right after the act. Again, it seems to me that drones have it pretty rough.

Every colony has a queen who bosses others around to tend to her needs and the one of her babies. She mates only once with a few drones, and will be fertile for life, which can last from three to five years. During her life, she keeps laying eggs to establish and expand the colony. A queen can lay up to 2000 eggs per day. Hardly any sex and a lot of births. I am not sure that I envy the queen much if at all.

4. Their food and our food

Honey bees feed on pollen and nectar from flowers and trees. Pollen is used as food to feed the young, while nectar will be processed to make honey for winter storage.

While bees take pollen and nectar from plants, they do give something back. They pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, like cherries, are 90-percent dependent on honey bee pollination. I was told the story of bee keepers who move their many bee colonies across the States every March – almond bloom time because almonds depend entirely on the honey bee for pollination.

Plants actually love bees. They create a special range of colours in their flowers, that visible to bees (but not human). Recognising the colours, bees know exactly where to land, get the pollen and do the deed of pollinating for fruits. 

2015-05-03 14.43.38

But bees are dying out because of the heavily use of pesticides and the out-of-control parasites. Some cold-hearted optimists say we should not worry about pollination. There will be more robots to do it instead of the bees. Or just very cheap labour for now.

But the bees are such amazing creatures. They are more than their work of pollination. They are more than their possession of honey. They fly around on sunny day, making that lively buzzing noise. They can teach us a lot about hard work, orderliness and sacrifice. And they are so cute when they dance.