Damn My Quadriceps, I’m Walking (Sort Of) Home. Through the Park, Even

A technical diagram illustrating where the quadriceps tendon rupture occurred. Well it’s been a few days since I whined about my torn quadriceps tendon, so I figured I’d remedy that. Saturday, Feb. 25 – heh, just realized it’s a leap year – will be nine weeks to the day I had my surgery on Christmas Eve. I had a therapy appointment today – the physical kind, not the head-shrinking kind – and I had hoped in the back of my mind that today might be the day that I could actually spin on the stationary bike.

I don’t know whether or not it’s because I am a once and future avid cyclist, or what, but that is some sort of milestone for me, psychologically. I can walk now, sort of. I don’t use my crutch around the apartment except when I get in and out of the shower, and then it’s just a matter of being safe. I really can’t walk with a normal gate yet – my quadriceps muscle and the related muscles, aductors, abductors and so forth, along with my calf continue to get stronger, but they ain’t there yet — but I can walk unaided for short distances. Out in the real world though, I generally use the crutch, but as little as possible in terms of weight bearing.

But for the past two weeks, in spite of doing my therapeutic exercises with a near religious monomania, for the second week in a row, I couldn’t bend my leg beyond 100 degrees. You need to be able to bend it about 110- to about 120-degrees to spin on a bike. Based on others’ experiences with recovering from a quadriceps tendon rupture, most people don’t get beyond 100 degrees until they are into their third month of recovery – I’ve just begun mine, so I guess I shouldn’t be pissing and moaning.

But still.

I have dreams about running and riding my bike. And it’s like well … it’s like dreaming about sex. It’s so intense and so real and so amazing and then, well, then I wake up. And I look at my leg and think, unlike a sex dream, I can’t do anything about this except be patient.

Once more: Sucks, this.

Strutting: as much as one can with a quadriceps tendon rupture and a crutch

On the plus side, I can actually walk around when I run errands nearby, instead of having to take taxis three blocks. The xe-om drivers cry out “Motorbike you?! Motorbike you?!” But I shake my head and say “không cảm ơn” and strut on by – as much as a guy with a crutch and a mild limp can strut. Even in this manner it still feels good to walk. Sometimes I over do it and by the end of the day my leg is more swollen and sore than perhaps it should be, but to hell with it.

I’m walking, so take that, Universe. Put that in your metaphorical pipe and suck on it.

And further to the plus side, I was walking home early this evening through a nearby park here in Ho Chi Minh City, née Sai Gon, when someone approached me and struck up a conversation. I was a little leery and guarded at first, as I live on the edge of the backpacker ghetto, and for every time a nice Vietnamese person who just wants to be sociable and practice a bit of English, there is someone on the make looking to earn a quick buck one way or another.

For example, the first time I walked through the park after my surgery, about two weeks or so after, I was still in the big-blue straight-leg brace, using both crutches, and my knee was still watermelon-sized and discolored. Sure enough, a young lady came up and launched into the “Handsome man where you go?” routine. “You wan’ massa? Boom boom?”

I sighed, looked down at my leg, looked back at her and smiled sardonically. “Do I look like I’m in any condition for boom boom?”

To which she replied, without missing a beat, “It no problem. I get on top, ride like cow girl! I go wit you?”

Sigh. “Không cảm ơn.” That means “no thank you,” in case you hadn’t sussed that out by now.

Anyway, fortunately for me, tonight, this young man fell into the latter category – just curious, friendly and wanting to talk English. Once we got past the usual banter – “Where are you from? What happened/what did you do to your leg? Are you are on holiday?” questions, we had a nice talk as I walked home.

The conversation ranged from football (what the rest of the world calls football, and us Yanks call soccer, that is) – he was surprised a Yank knew anything about football, I think – to Thai culture vs. Vietnamese culture. He agreed that yes, if the American national team would play a more European/Central-South American style of football, we could probably win a World Cup. When I suggested we needed a British or European coach, he countered with a Brazilian or Mexican coach, to which I readily agreed that this would be as good if not better.

Before the football conversation started though, when he asked me how long I had lived in Viet Nam I had to explain that it was only four months this time, but that I had lived here before, both in HCMC and an hour north in sticks up in Bien Hoa (and I’m too lazy to conjure up the diacritical marks, so we’re doing to have to do without tonight)  with six months spent teaching in Thailand in between. I noted that I liked living in Thailand well enough, but that when it came to teaching English, I preferred Viet Nam for several reasons. He didn’t seem surprised by this and offered up the observation that Vietnamese were more friendly and open to foreign people than Thais, generally, with which I readily agreed.

But then he admitted the only place he had been to in Thailand was Pattaya. Then he said “Vietnam, we don’t have any place like Pattaya here.” I instantly thought “You’ve obviously never been to Vung Tau, young man,” but I kept my mouth shut. But then he added: “But Thai culture is much more open to that and accepting. Vietnam, it is too conservative for anything like that.” I agreed with that, as I think it is generally true – Vung Tau not withstanding.

But after we discussed Thai culture and football, we came to the point where we were headed separate ways; we exchanged names and I told him to keep an eye out for me in the park, as I often walk home that way – it’s a bit out of the way for me sometimes, depending on where I’m coming from, but if I’m coming from the backpacker ghetto, it’s the best way to avoid the touts, xe-om drivers and working girls on Pham Ngu Lao street.

This sort of thing happens all the time here in Sai Gon; it happened to a lesser extent up in Bien Hoa, where foreigners are still exceptionally rare and exotic.

Doogie Howser, making a thoughtful post on his electronic journal, long before the term blog would enter the popular lexicon.So yeah, that was a nice little counterbalance to lift my spirits after my therapy appointment this afternoon. Okay, I’m going to get all Doogie Howser here.

I guess in the larger scheme of things I don’t have much to complain about. I’m chasing dreams, living abroad in an exotic locale, and other than my Franken knee and teeth that are long over due for a trip to the dentist, I have my health. And my leg will eventually recover (I’m told) and I’ll get around to going to the dentist one of these days. So life is good.

And tomorrow when I feel like bitching about my leg maybe I’ll come back and read this post again.

Looking Back on a Father’s Death

Sculptor August Rodin's Falling ManWell, Dad, it’s been three years.

I sometimes wonder where I would have to go to escape the trappings and reminders of this time of year. The remote jungles of New Guinea or Argentina? The deserts of Africa? The Moon?

Then I wonder: were I ever to actually find such a place, would it really matter? Would it be enough to keep from thinking about what this time of year means? Would it be enough, when each hour, each minute that ticks by echoes and reverberates in my conscious, making me almost preternaturally aware of the passage of time, as it ticks down to these two black anniversaries looming – each moment resonating in me like the telltale heart that beats under Poe’s floorboards.

No, I suppose it wouldn’t. And as I’ve remarked before, part of me doesn’t want to forget, painful as it is to remember, painful as it is that your last breath lingers in a corner of my mind, and will for as long as I have one.

I did manage to forget about this time of year for awhile yesterday and the day before. I had just moved into my temporary apartment – because my actual apartment that I’m renting (in the same building as the aforementioned room) won’t be available until January 3. Upon moving into this temporary room in the same building I found not one but two roaches. Granted one was dead, and here Southeast Asia, frankly, as in any warm climate, there’s really no avoiding the occasional roach; you’re going to find one in your bathroom sooner or later. Still, it’s not a welcome site on your first day in your new pad.

But Wait, There’s More!

Then I woke up yesterday to find the hot water heater isn’t working. Okay, roaches and no hot water – maybe I should have spent more time apartment hunting, eh Dad? Maybe the extra money I was spending on that guesthouse was money well spent. At least it had hot water and no roaches.

Then last night, I log onto my bank account back in the United States just to verify the funds I believe I have in there, before I buy some plane tickets and hotel reservations for a trip next month. After all, Dad — even though I know you would look askance at my spending habits, being a child of the Depression and whatnot – some of what you and Mom tried to teach me permeated my thick skull: I make it a point never to spend money I don’t have. So a glance upon logging in reveals that there is considerably less money than there should be in my account – specifically about a $1,000 less.

I look closely at the recent transactions and see a bunch of transactions that show up as international ATM withdrawals – withdrawals that I never made. Four of the five of these transactions all appear on the same date as the day that I last used my card myself. I remember specifically when I last used it, as I have a local account with an ATM card here in Viet Nam, which I use for day to day cash needs. Furthermore, I save all my ATM receipts (again the influence of you and Mom).

Yeah, I know, if I would just use banks instead of ATMs, and actually deal with people this wouldn’t have happened. But you know, Dad, I’ve been using ATMs to do my banking since 1988, and this is the first time something like this has happened. Yes, I should probably consider myself fortunate, mucking about in parts foreign, that this hasn’t happened before.

But what’s really odd is that I still have my card in my possession. And no, as I answered to the customer service person I talked to last night, I never let anyone else use it, and it was never out of my possession. While the ATM codes within the transactions listed in my account are somewhat inscrutable, it appears that these transactions took place in Russia – Stalingrad, in fact.

Russian crooks here in Viet Nam have somehow spoofed my ATM card. Fuckers. Not sure how; even if they were able to observe me enter my pin, would my card have been out long enough to capture an image with high enough resolution to see the number on the card? Could they have hacked the ATM machine, either electronically or physically?

Furthermore, is it too late to nuke what remains of the Soviet Union? Where’s Ronald Reagan and Caspar Weinberger when I need them?

Damned if I know. I just know I’m not going to use the ATM’s in the backpacker ghetto of District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City anymore. And since I don’t have access to nuclear weapons, I’ll just have to bend over and take it. Of course I don’t know that they were actually Russian; just because the transactions show up as having taken place at a Russian ATM doesn’t mean the thief or thieves were Russian.

Anyway now those charges are disputed, my card is invalidated, and I have to have a bunch of paperwork and my new card delivered via courier to me here in Viet Nam at my expense. The bank will only ship it to my address of record – that being my address back in the States – so it falls to me to arrange to get it here; one hopes one can trust the employees of Fed Ex.

So yeah, the last thirty six hours have kind of sucked, but such is the life lived abroad. You deal with these sorts of things when they arise or you go home. On the other hand, I had my first observation review with my boss at the school where I’m now teaching – the observation having taken place last week – and that all went well. Even so, it has occupied my thoughts of late. To say that I’ve been preoccupied these days would be an understatement.

And yet, Dad … and yet.

Underneath it all, I’m still acutely aware of the passage of time; acutely aware of just what time of year it is. Despite the fact that temperatures are still approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and the weather is humid; despite the fact that the trees are green and flowers bloom and local fruit is readily available – despite this I know that it is winter and the time of dread anniversaries.

The trappings of the season one finds in Viet Nam, and indeed much of Southeast Asia – a secular version of Christmas with skinny Santas in flashy gold outfits and sappy versions of Christmas songs I never knew existed until I came here (I hear covers of Wham’s “Last Christmas” 10 times a day; it’s a terrible pop song so be glad you haven’t heard of it) – these all serve as reminders as well. The fact that they are almost always seemingly culturally out of place only make them stand out that much more – that and the fact that it’s all unironically and unapologetically consumerist in nature.

So here we are Dad, three years to the day down the road. Well, I’m here, anyway, but you are not.

And that is indeed what this is all about, isn’t it? The fact that you aren’t here, that you are gone, never to return. Actually as I write this it is only the early morning of December 16 back home in the States, so technically the anniversary of your death won’t be for several more hours yet. But here on the other side of the planet, that day is already here.

And even though three years of passed – and what eventful years they’ve been in my life – you’re still never far from my thoughts. It is rare that a day passes and I don’t think of you or Mom, for one reason or another.

A Road Less Traveled?

It seems hard to believe that three years have passed since your death, and that it will be 11 years in January since Mom died; this time of year always makes your deaths seem so close to me in time. Like my memories of her, some of my memories of you have begun to fade, while others sharpen. As my own age begins to catch up with the age you were when my earliest memories were forming, those childhood images I have of you seem to gain clarity.

It boggles my mind to think that when you were 42 – well, in a few weeks I’ll be 43, won’t I? – that I was already two years old, and that you had three older children, two of which were teenagers already. There but for the grace of God (or more precisely, vulcanized rubber) go I.

I suppose it’s somewhat ironic, this, considering the country where I live currently – many if not most of my students have parents my age; often they are even younger than I. Here in Southeast Asia people find it even more incomprehensible than you and Mom did that I have no wish for marriage and family – that someone would chose to be solitary, and happily so. Some of my students got me a piggy bank for Teacher’s Day here in Viet Nam because, according to them, I need to save money in order to get married. Then one of the Vietnamese people I work with asked me the other day If I had ever married; I told him with a smile that I had dodged that bullet. I added that I was engaged once, though, but that I had wised up before it was too late.

He looked mystified and just said “Oh, I’m sorry,” because in his world view there could be other response to this than condolences. It was one of those “Toto-we’re-definitely-not-in-Kansas” moments I relish living abroad. I grok a little bit more about the local culture and that of my own, and consequently myself – and this is a wonderful thing; it’s ultimately why we travel, yes?

I only wish you could be here to talk about all this in person. There’s so much I’d like to tell you about the last three years. I count myself fortunate that I at least had a few years to get to know you not as your child but as a fellow adult – albeit one whose life took very different turns than your own (sometimes to your chagrin, I know). I think I was only just beginning to come into my own person as a fully-formed adult – yes, I hear you laughing as you say that when I was in my 20s you didn’t think that day would ever come – when Mom died. I rue the fact that I was only just beginning to get to know here as one adult to another when death took her; if there is any sort of justice in the universe someone will have to answer for that after my own death comes.

In any event Dad, once again know that you are gone but not forgotten – that you never could be. That in some ways, even though life goes on, that time passes, that the ghosts remain quiet for long stretches of time, know that I’m still standing by your bedside watching impotently as entropy takes you away from me, that even as it does this, that I declare that it can be damned along with the entire universe before I will forget

Wherever you are now, know this, Dad.

Even though my siblings and I let you down in such a horrible way, I hope your spirit can find some solace in this.

Two Years Gone: Ruminating on a Father's Death

Vanity by Frans Francken the YoungerSo in less than two hours – if memory serves me – it will be exactly two years since your death. Two years in which so much has changed irrevocably, not the least of which is the fact that you are no longer here.

In some ways your death has been easier for me to accept and deal with than Mom’s; over here in Southeast Asia the ghosts have been largely quiet. They trouble me infrequently, and for that I am grateful. The only thing that haunts my dreams and disturbs my slumber is my usual angst over the usual things, and this, too, is rather rare these days, fortunately.

I’m not sure if this is because in those two years I’ve had the distractions of being laid off, moving half way across the world, and trying on a new career (which was an ill fit, to say the least). Perhaps it’s just because she died first, and I was at least somewhat prepared for what I was in for – as much as anyone ever is for the death of a loved one.

In any event, in spite of all this you are still never far from my thoughts even now. Even now I still sometimes catch myself thinking – for the tiniest and sweetest of instants – that I should call you, because it’s been awhile. This is becoming more rare with the inevitable passage of time, however. Even though it’s like a stab in the heart when I remember that you are dead, I still cherish those moments, in a small, twisted sadomasochistic way, because for that one brief moment it’s as if you are still alive.

And it’s a reminder, however painful, that no, I haven’t forgotten. Some cold comfort, in that.

Not too long ago I dreamed that I was back home in Cincinnati. As I lay in bed, drifting somewhere in that state that’s not quite sleep but not quite waking, I thought I was indeed still in Cincinnati; apparenlty the last two years were the dream. I remember thinking in that dim, somnambulistic state that it had been awhile since I’d gone down to Tennessee to visit, and that I was due for a roadtrip to see you.

Of course, with the thrusting of that knife in my chest I was instantly and fully awake. And you died once more.

It amazes me that even two years later one’s subconscious can still pretend that you are alive and well. But then we always want what we can’t have; our subconscious never lies or bullshits itself.

There is so much I want to tell you – so much about what I’ve gone through and experienced since you died. I’d love to gain the perspective of your years on my experiences living abroad.

It’s strange and amusing, when I think about it – we are (were) so different, you and I. My life’s path has diverged so much from yours, and yet I always still valued your advice, right on up to the end, even when old age had begun to color your thinking (or so I thought, at any rate). Heh, and then I would marvel at your foresight when I didn’t take said advice only to wish that I had.

Such is the bond of parent and child, I guess.

Like Mom’s death, I haven’t really “gotten over” yours – not in the strictest sense of the phrase. I don’t think anyone who truly loves another ever can. Death changes the living as well as the dead; the person that I was up to the moment you died, died with you. Just as the person that I was when Mom was still alive was buried with her.

So, gone but not forgotten, eh? I went back and read the first blog post I made after you died. It was a few weeks after your funeral. These words – culled from that meandering, near-stream-of-consciousness musing — still rings true:

Yeah, that beat-up, retread heart of his, the one that we thought for nearly 30 years would be the death of him, held out until the bitter end, the last of his organs to stop functioning. Even in death, even as his spirit fled his dieing, frail body, Dad had to be a smart ass and have the last word.

A twisted part of me wishes I had that heart – I mean that literally; I would carry it with me always as a sort of talisman, a tribute to the kind of spirit that laughs in the face of long odds; the kind of spirit that flips the bird in the face of adversity.

The kind of spirit that insists on just one more cast of the fishing rod into the water, even though the light of day is fading, we’re cold and miserable, and we haven’t caught one damn fish the whole damn day. The kind of spirit that taught me that you play every down as hard as you possibly can, no matter if there is less than a minute left in the game and your team is down by 50 points. The kind of spirit that taught me to play like it’s the first play of the game, and there is no score, even when it is the last play and we’ve clearly lost.

Win or lose, you play hard; you never play “give-up ball,” for that is the worst sin of all. You play that way every play, or you don’t even walk out on the field; there is no half-assing. I would carry that heart as a testament to the spirit that taught me that, metaphorically, that’s how one should live one’s life.

I suppose I carry that heart metaphorically, if not literally, huh Dad?

And then concluded with:

As for Dad, I’ll just say this, the words that I used to conclude what I said at his funeral.

If, at the end of my days, I can say that I was half the man my father was – just half – my spirit will be able to rest easy, for I will know that by anyone’s measure, I will have done well with my time here. Just half – for my father, William Blackburn Chappell, was that much of a man.

Depression, Banking, Cycling: A Day in the Expat Life

Urban Bicycling NerdToday was one of those days in paradise where I just wanted to take my toys and go home. Tuck my tail between my legs and skulk back across the planet. Today was one of those days where I just wanted to say “fuck it.”

Being prone to depression I’m not unfamiliar with such feelings; fortunately they are few and far between these days. But sometimes they do appear, like an unwelcome visitor whom you just can’t seem to find the courage to tell to go to hell. In retrospect I’m not sure why he chose to visit today — while this day has had its share of frustration, as far as a noob expat life goes it wasn’t terribly frustrating. And it came on the heels of a fun weekend in Sai Gon, so there’s really no reason for me to feel this way.

Lack of sleep? No. It’s true I didn’t get as much sleep as I normally do the night before, but still got about 5 or 6 hours. Sai Gon kept me up a bit, but I wasn’t in party mode, so no, that’s not it. Diet? Granted I skipped breakfast (which for me comes at lunchtime for normal people), and while that is enough to make me cranky or irritable, it’s not enough to make angry and depressed.

So why?

The fact that it’s Christmas time, a time of year that I associate with death and loss? The two-year anniversary of my father’s death is just nine days away (Mom’s, of course, comes in January — but she went into the hospital Dec. 3, if memory servers me). While it’s easy here to ignore the fact that it’s the dreaded Yuletide season, there are reminders though, even here. But Here in Viet Nam these reminders — Xmas muzak, Christmas trees, lights, etc. — are so far out of my normal Midwestern winter holiday context that it just makes me laugh.

So I don’t know.

Such is the nature of depression; it doesn’t need a reason. It’s days like these that I almost think that I should cave in and jump on the anti-depressant bandwagon, but that’s a fundamental line I just can’t bring myself to cross. start messing with brain chemistry and you start messing with who you are — what makes you, you.

Is tinkering with that worth having an even emotional keel? Again, I don’t know. No, that’s not true; obviously I don’t believe so. Maybe not with 100 percent certainty, but no, I don’t believe that it is. Even in my darkest days, I couldn’t bring myself to, despite my therapist’s suggestion to the contrary.

I’m not putting anyone else down for going that route — although I will say that I think the majority of people that use anti-depressants probably don’t need them. But it’s a deeply personal decision that no one else is in a position to judge or to say otherwise what you should or shouldn’t do. It’s jut not an option for me.

Anyway, whether it was the cà phê sữa đá, the bag of CreamO’s cookies, or the lengthy bike ride that has left endorphins and rubbery thighs in its wake, I feel somewhat better now. Just cranky now, I suppose.

Making an Ass out U and Me

Again, I’ve been gazing at my navel and my shoes trying to deconstruct this feeling — not sure why it’s here. Granted my trip to the bank to pay my rent ended up being this epic adventure that took several hours this afternoon. At one point I gave up trying to find this specific bank branch and tried to enlist the help of a cabdriver to take me to *any* Agribank branch, but couldn’t convey what I wanted.

So, it was back out on the bike, and this time I found it with no problems — I was actually quite close the first time, I just didn’t think it could possibly be down a dirt road. I was wrong — you’d think I’d learn not to color my instincts with Western bias by now, but apparently not.

Then the bank guard made a fuss, I’m not sure what about — whether it was the fact that I was parking my bike in the near-empty motorbike lot, or the fact that the bank was close to closing time, or what. This isn’t what set me off; I was in a depressed and angry mood before I set out this morning (morning being normal people’s afternoon of course).

But by this time, I wasn’t up for any hassle that I perceived to be bullshit, so I did what I would normally not do in Southeast Asia, because it usually doesn’t work — scowled angrily and asked in English with what was no doubt an angry voice: “What’s the problem? Why can’t I park here? No one else is here, and the bank is still open!”

I didn’t really think about what I was saying; I reacted instinctively from my gut — which is to say an angry and depressed gut.

This kind of reaction is usually the absolute dumbest thing you can do in this situation — confrontation backfires in Southeast Asia more often than not; culturally it’s just something people rarely do. It’s a loss of face for you and potentially for the person you are pissed at — and a very difficult thing for Western foreigners to grasp. Usually the sort of reaction I exhibited just makes things worse.

Normally in a situation like this I would smile and plead or feign helpless ignorance, if the other person knows no English and I can’t make myself understood with my pidgin Vietnamese. Or just shrug my shoulders and walk/ride away.

In this case, however, it worked. The bank guard backed off and left me alone — except for gesturing to the open side door of the bank. It may have been that he wasn’t trying to tell me not to park my bike, or trying to keep me from walking into the bank 20 minutes before they close — it may have been something else entirely; I don’t know.

Inside the bank, between the copy of my lease, pidgin Vietnamese and pidgin English, the English-to-Vietnamese dictionary on my phone and various hand gestures, I was able to hand over the cash and deposit it into my landlord’s account. Mission accomplished.

After this was done I actually felt rather elated — perseverance and self-reliance for the win. One has to take joy in life where one can find it. Now it was finally time for coffee and relaxing — and stretching my quads.

As I noted before, this wouldn’t normally be something that would make me depressed; it’s just the way things are when you live in a foreign country and haven’t learned much of the language yet (at least in my experience); the simplest tasks can become epic challenges. After a year though, I’m used to that — even expect it, chalk it up to learning, and move on.

While I was searching in vain for the bank, this attitude seemed to escape me for some reason, though. Usually I would have been happy regardless of whether or not I found the bank, as I was out riding around on my bike, and that’s almost always a good thing.

I, Am Not a Clown … I … Am … a Man!

John Hurt in The Elephant Man: he was a man, not an animal.Then, later in the evening something happend to me — twice — that used to happen in Thailand quite often, but fortunately doesn’t happen much here in Viet Nam. Twice I got the “hey foreign clown, entertain us” attitude from the locals.

I don’t think I’m going to elaborate too much just now; I’m going to save this topic for another time — I know I keep promising that; this dovetails into the whole Thailand vs. Viet Nam thing, the why-did-I-leave-Thailand-to-come-back-to-Vietnam subject that everyone always asks about.

But this post is getting long enough, and I have to settle down to work here soon. Let’s just say it’s one thing to be curious; it’s one thing to approach a foreigner and ask to speak English, or just to ask them where they are from and have a brief conversation. Even though It’s not something I would do, being more than a little bit of the misanthropic loner, I understand it and even welcome it, more often than not — I’ve made some great friends here who intially approached me in just that way.

But it’s another thing altogether to have someone jump up, get in your face so that you have to stop walking, and shout an exaggerated and obviously smart-ass “hello!” It’s another thing to have them and their friends laugh uproariously when you respond in kind — albeit stiffly, trying to be polite — because you got the crazy foreigner to respond and impress your friends.

Again, it normally doesn’t bother me, although at first it used to drive me bonkers when I first moved to Suphanburi, Thailand. It just goes with the territory, literally and figuratively. Besides, I realize it’s just ignorance (sometimes mixed with alcohol), not mean-spiritedness, usually.

But this evening, after this exact scenario happened twice in the span of 20 minutes, it really pissed me off — the bicycle-induced endorphins receded and the anger and depression came back. It was hard to walk away, that second time. Really … really … hard to walk away and not cause a scene at best,or do something that everyone involved would regret — me most of all — at worst. But I did.

Such is the life of the expat, I suppose.

Urban Warrior Bike Nerd, Viet Nam Edition: Facemask Protection

Urban Bicycling NerdBeen wondering wtf with regard to that picture above? I’ve been wanting to capture a photo of me in my facemask and helmet to see what I look like when I bicycle around Bien Hoa (the air quality is pretty chunky on the roads between the traffic and industry here).

You may be wondering if that mask actually does any good. I wonder too. You see a lot of Vietnamese people wearing masks when they ride their motorbikes, or are just walking around on a busy street — you see this all over Southeast Asia. All I know is, when I don’t wear my mask, my lungs burn — no joke.

Placebo affect? When I take off my mask in the middle of a ride, or when I get home, I’m immediately assaulted by a zillion smells — smells I didn’t smell with the mask on. So yeah, I’ll stick with the facemask.

I think the majority of the masks people wear do not do much good, at least in terms of particulates. After trying several of the cloth masks people wear here, I invested five bucks, or 100,000 dong — heh — in the industrial-grade mask you see in the photo. It actually provides a decent seal against your mouth and nose, once you get it positioned right. Not the most comfortable thing to wear, but if you fiddle with it long enough, you can get an acceptable fit dialed in.

Editor’s Note:

I actually wrote this a few days ago and decided to wait before posting. Whenever I write something like this, it seems it’s usually best to wait a few days. It’s not self-censorship as it is self-editing; sometimes these kinds of posts about depression or angst just make for crap writing, plain and simple. ‘

There are some posts on here, when I go back and read them, I cringe — not because of the private and personal nature of them, but the writing is just painfully labored. But after a few days, I deemed this one acceptable, so here you go.