Insert Coherent, Concise, Astute Title Here: Notes on Starting the New Year with a Question Mark

Mon pays c’est l’hiver. Not.


One of the downsides to writing every three or six or eight months is that all of the half baked ideas that might have made up a dozen different posts all burble to the surface and battle it out to be the opening line.

Hey, I’m still living in repetitive suburbia in Koreatown in toasty, floody Saigon and everything is nail bars and foot massage and golf shops and barbecue joints and ridiculously oversized SUVs driven by incompetent yet entitled jerks and every day seems to bleed into the next until a year has passed and no one noticed and I’m starting to think I’ve totally gone off the idea of travel because travel blogs really piss me off these days but I really enjoyed our trips to Cambodia and England this year and we are off to Mui Ne in a few weeks and I’d kill to take the train from here to, oh, London via Hanoi, Guilin, Beijing, Ulaan Bator, Ekaterinburg and St Petersburg, but I think I really just want to go home and live in the forest and grow veggies and go hiking and start drawing again and bake bread and faaaaack all those superficial assholes who drive their oversized, overpriced SUVs like they’re driving a bike, weaving and honking and going the wrong way down the road as if it was perfectly normal and hey, I really like my job and I think I want to stay in it for a long time because I finally feel like I’ve got the hang of it and the people I work with are really nice and the kids are fab but I think I really want to go home to grow veggies in the forest and actually get some exercise but going home feels like giving up and I’m scared I’ll be lulled back into the Canadian velvet rut and end up working retail somewhere shitty, earning $9 an hour with a part time contract- Oh, and the pollution here! The pollution- and did I mention the SUVs? The noise? The malls? The traffic? The mental exhaustion of trying to balance toddler with MA with job with also trying to be a well-rounded, healthy, creative, curious human? 


Oh, fuck it.


Deep breath.

I’ve stopped writing here for many reasons (exhaustion, pessimism, cluttered thoughts), which is a curious thing because for the past few terms at work I’ve been increasingly working Morning Pages writing exercises into my classroom routine, which the students have told me repeatedly has been a meditative, joyful start to their days.

I’ve also stopped reading for pleasure for many reasons (MA burn out, exhaustion, cluttered thoughts), yet have added regular long chunks of silent, pleasurable reading to my classroom routine, which the students have told me repeatedly has been a delightful revelation to them (more, more, more!).

I preach, yes. But no practice.

Other Things I’ve also neglected over the past year or two or so:

  • art, drawing, photography, mops, creative cooking, Wok With Me
  • exploring great swathes of cities on foot, finding things, looking for things, wanting to even try
  •  attempting to learn another language or even practice a semi-known language or even want to bother trying
  • curiosity

This is not a new year post, nor is it a resolution post nor a looking back post. I think it’s more along the lines of a Talking Heads How did I get here? post. I’m looking around me, thinking I kind of don’t recognize myself anymore.



This blog used to be easy. It used to be easy to lightly, wittily, darkly, dryly document the weird shit and minutiae around me, to explore the shifts and changes, to make sense of things that were baffling. I called it an expat blog, a travel blog, but really it was more about sorting out all the shouty bits in my head.

It doesn’t seem to work anymore, and I am not sure if it is the medium, the message or me.

Most of the time, I simply don’t want to say anything out loud. The rest of the time, I don’t know how to say it. The little voice in my head shouts, intermittently, it’s none of your freaking business, dumbass. However, this lack of writing here means I haven’t allowed all of the competing thoughts in my head space to be articulated and to battle it out for viability.

I think what needs to happen next is a big shift in mental attitude and perspective. Time to actually get things sorted out, evaluated, reevaluated, chucked away and accepted. What with toddler and MA and all, I think the next few years are going to be really important for building the next stages of my life, our life.  Something needs to give. Something needs to be rebuilt.

I don’t know if I can do it internally, with all of the ideas punching each other in the face, screeching obscenities, then retreating into the far recesses of my brain for a little cry. Stupid ideas.

Tips? Suggestions? Caveats?

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About MaryAnne

I live in Hanoi. I used to live in Shanghai (hence this blog's title) but I left in 2013. I tend to travel. I cook stuff. I read a lot. I try to scare myself silly with regularity. I write about it all. A lot.