A Letter On The Rat Race

As my family and friends approach Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years in another part of the world, I approach a small vacation from this strange caffein-fuelled rat-race I’ve landed myself in and what is sure to be a roller coaster of homesickness and weird feelings over the passing of another year at a time best spent with kin, so far away from the people I love.

I am tempted to share some recent highlights with you all. Mostly, because I have been incredibly vague about how I have been spending my time lately. This occurred to me while speeding through some hellish smog-laden traffic this evening.

I currently teach english to Vietnamese students of all levels and ages — from ten year-old children to grown professionals. I am paid for about twenty hours each week but spend at least an additional ten hours driving to and from the four or five English schools and English centres that I teach at — decrepit buildings in various states of disrepair. The schools themselves are disorganized and inconsistent; the work is usually maddening, and sometimes it is incredibly rewarding. I oscillate between loving this job and absolutely hating it — although admittedly this is a binary that is true of many things in my life.

Upon moving to this colourful city I almost immediately befriended a colourful British entrepreneur who splits his time between drinking jet-fuel and chopping motorcycles. It took me very little time to spend my remaining cash reserves on one, which now takes up too much of my time and occasionally makes my girlfriend jealous. It is a never-ending, on-going project — of the sort that requires many tools and misbehaves frequently. In short it is perfect.

I have a few fledgling friends who are mostly thirty-somethings, have their own businesses, enjoy moderate success, and have far more interesting stories than I. These people fascinate me, and have about as much time as I do for socializing, which is good because I don't have much.

In the little free time I have left between narrowly dodging other motorists and trying to feed a foreign language to the locals I have been designing logos and business strategies for small start-ups, usually owned by vietnamese-born expats fluent in English and low on start-up capital. This has been as steep and stressful a learning curve as any but I’ve enjoyed it and has been a natural progression of a lot of the work I have done in the last few years.

When I do not have paying clients to keep me busy on my days off, I have a been clumsily learning how to source fabric, work as a barista and rock climb. The energy here is frantically optimistic and the potential to learn or do almost anything is endless. Before my world fades into stillness each night I read a few pages of some books that are expanding my world.

Possibly most exciting (or maybe I am simply most excited about this) is a photography website & store that I have been in the process of launching for months now where I will sell fine art prints of my work. I will be launching this very soon and anybody can buy a print, at which point the digital file will be sent to a print-shop in California and a beautiful (I hope) print delivered to their front door.

I am also hoping to explore the third largest cave system in the world (found in Northern Vietnam) in a few weeks — so stay tuned for photographs!

As always, when my soul is tired at the end of a long day I reflect that this fabulous hustle was not what I intended to achieve when I set out for Asia and I dream of a single-fins, friendly swells, and empty lineups. Yet when I wake up each morning the insanity takes hold and I revel in the pace of life.

So I suppose everything is as it should be. There is light and dark, joy and despair. Life continues marching forward and we are all on a trajectory headed somewhere.

So there it is. If you are my family - I miss you all. If you are not, I hope you have a wonderful holiday all the same.