NaBloPoMo: Why I Stopped Posting

NaBloPoMo was supposed to go differently – I was supposed to write everyday for the month of November in the spirit of National Blog Posting Month, but  instead I stopped writing and posting on Day 7. The month was going to be about writing in the here and now, and my intentions were to write from Victoria, Vancouver, Bangkok, and some other Thai city.  I  managed to blog from Canada, but then I boarded an airplane bound for Thailand and something happened. There were a bunch of forces that transpired against me; I decided to give in to the here and now, and just live life without blogging about it.

So, why did I stop writing? Why did I stop posting for NaBloPoMo 2016?  Why was I able to post through my 2014 breakup and make it to Day 19 in 2015? What was different about NaBloPoMo 2016?  Why did I drop the ball on Day 8?  I’ve been asking myself these questions, and have come up with some reasons/excuses.

  1. I was told not to write.  On November 8th, while enroute to Guangzhou, I was told repeatedly to turn off my device.  I was mid-way through my post titled, “Giving up my seat for Love”, when the flight attendant spotted me. Stuck between a Bali-bound drinker and a China-bound meditator, I thought I would discretely get some writing in, since I no longer had the luxury of leaning my head against the window. The elderly man in front of me was now leaning his head against the window, as his wife rested her head on his shoulder.  Before the plane had taken-off, through hand-gestures and smiles, I had given up my window seat to this couple. No regrets, but I wasn’t going to just shut off my device with a smile. Well, I did shut it off momentarily, then she caught me again, and I reasoned that my phone was on airplane mode, but she countered that it could still receive calls.  I just looked at her, ready to continue the debate, but then she said, staring at me coldly, “It’s the law.”  With that, I had a flash of prison in China, and powered my device off, forgetting to save my work in progress.
  2. Jetlag hit me. I spent half the month of November in a jetlag induced brain fog. For my first week in Bangkok, I was up before 6am everyday, napping every afternoon, and in bed before 9pm. During my awake hours, I had no desire to sit in front of a screen. I wanted to eat Thai fruit, lounge by the pool, ride motorcycle taxis, hang out with friends, read books, and just enjoy my old Thai life.  Once back in Canada, I was hit with another week of jetlag, and just wanted to enjoy my life here in my sleep-deprived fog. I was a space cadet that was fit to decorate a Christmas tree, but not her blog, with random foggy thoughts.
  3. I felt that I had to censor my writing. I’ve never felt this way before.  My blog is quite tame — I think the most risqué thing I ‘ve ever written about was in Thailand Firsts. However, while I was in Thailand, I made NaBloPoMo Day 3 private at the request of someone close to me.  It was a heartfelt letter that sprung from the prompt, “If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?” Funny, I always believed this special person never read my blog. Turns out I was wrong, and after a sleepless night, I moved that post to ‘private’ and emailed her. At this point, I had already decided not to carry on with NaBloPoMo, but this just sealed it.  I want to be able to write freely on my blog.
  4. The heat made me cranky.  The Thai heat did not inspire me to write. I managed to get two 5-kilometer runs in, and then decided swimming would be my new form of exercise. Cooling off in the pool made me calm, but I had zero patience for trying to write a blog post on my cellphone. I could just imagine a bunch of posts that would start the exact  same way, “I’m melting….”
  5. Blogging was not part of my Thai life.  I lived in Thailand for a long time — it will always be a big part of who I am. I was never one of those expats that blogs about all the crazy things that happen living abroad. Thailand was my home, my life was there — it wasn’t crazy. It was when I moved back to the West that I felt off balance and started blogging.  In the spirit of revisiting my Thai life, I didn’t want to blog — I wanted to just be there. I visited my old neighbourhoods, took the bus out to my old university, caught up with my old friends, and enjoyed the simple things — eating fresh mango, speaking Thai, getting a pedicure, floating my krathong. Being back made me realize that Thailand will always have a place in my heart, but it is no longer where my home is.

Those are my reasons, my excuses, for not posting during NaBloPoMo.  Instead of being disappointed with myself because I didn’t post everyday for the month of November, I’m going to rejoice in the November I had to just be in the here and now.  In saying this,  my hat does go off to all the bloggers out there who didn’t stop posting.  It’s not easy — it takes incredible discipline. Well done — I will join you another year :).

Thai house

 

Advertisements

NaBloPoMo Day 2: I Wanna Go

Hello, NaBloPoMo Day 2! You’ve come so soon, and all I wanna do is chill with my new favourite TV show, This is Us, but I’m here instead. My day was long and busy, filled with trip preparations, conversation club, and an 8 Km run with my run group. I’m ready for an early night.

Day 2, Victoria, 9:12 pm

NaBloPoMo Prompt: When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?

This is so subjective. Since I’m nodding off as I type this, I’m going to do something brave right now. I’m going to tell that little perfectionist voice in my head to go to bed. This does not have to be a stellar post. You have had a long, productive day and deserve a break. It’s okay. You’re going to hit publish, then brush your teeth, and turn out the lights.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with my latest musical crush, Yuna. I wanna go……to bed.

 

Me, Myself, and My Running Shoes

It’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) again, and I’ll be posting everyday for the month of November. I know I only made it to Day 19 last year, but I promise this year will be different. It will be like 2014 when I stuck it out for the whole 30 days, but this time I will not be dissecting my life abroad in Thailand and South Korea, or my crippling (sometimes humorous) breakup in my home country. This year I’ll be writing to you from Victoria, Vancouver and Bangkok, with no game plan. All I can promise is that I’ll be blogging from my heart in the here and now.

Day 1, Victoria, 7pm

NaBloPoMo Prompt:  “When you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?”

I go to my running shoes — they understand. They don’t ask questions, they just hug my feet and push me out the door. Together we chase the bad days away. They remind me that I’m strong and that I can handle the road ahead. They bring me to the here and now. The breeze on my face, the tunes in my ears, the breath from my lungs, the peace of mind, and the realization that everything is going to be okay, all come to me when I’m with my running shoes. That argument, that rejection, that failed exam, those canceled plans, all seem somewhat trivial after some quality time together. I’m inspired to move forward, not just out on the pavement, but on all the paths that make up my life. My bad days suddenly turn a little brighter, even on those rainy runs.

And running doesn’t just brighten my bad days, it turns my good days to great days, and my ‘meh’ days to better days. It’s the best mood enhancer out there, and I’ve yet to discover any negative side effects. So far the side effects have included new friendships, greater mental clarity, better blog posts, fewer colds, more restful sleep, and a stronger sense of self.  So, when my mental health is not where it should be, I lace up and  run, run until I feel that I’m ready to come home and see my world in a new light.

Awesome Memoir on Running!
Awesome Memoir on Running!

 

 

NBPM #19: My 100th blog post

FanTanSo, this is how it’s going down. It’s NaBloPoMo day 19 and my 100th post, and I’m going to write it in less than an hour. I’m already getting anxious and wondering how I’m going to pull it off. You see, I usually let my fingers hover over the keys for at least 30 minutes before the tapping begins. And that tapping usually involves the delete button being tapped repeatedly. Yes, that’s me, never quite certain how much I want to share, and never planning ahead. I’m sure most NaBloPoMo bloggers have a plan, or some kind of outline. Well, not me. When it comes to this blog, I just jump right in.  Whatever is on my mind is what you’ll find here.  Tonight, I’m quite certain that this will be a random ramble. You’ve been warned!

So, why do I write? Yes, I will write about that.  I like lists. Most of us like lists, so here I will share with you a list, a list of the reasons why I write.

  1. I have a monkey mind, and when I write my thoughts down, I stop swinging from thought to thought. It gives me some mental clarity.
  2. I have a sense of humour, but I rarely let it shine through in my spoken life.  Now that I am getting older, I’m trying to let my light side flow though my life, and writing is helping with this. I’m not the quiet, conservative girl, anymore.
  3. I like to share.  I’ve always liked to share. Whether it’s cookies, flowers, or my words, I’ve got enough to go around. Maybe my words will make someone think, or smile, or laugh, or feel a little less lonely.
  4. I think I’m good at it. Yes, I do.  And to be honest with you, I don’t think I am good at many things. Being able to write helps me boost my self-confidence.
  5. I like being alone. Writing is my solitude. It gives me time to recharge for the next social engagement.
  6. It helps me develop and articulate my ideas. Writing gives me the time I need to process my thoughts.
  7.  It’s my mirror, and I can take it wherever I go. It’s my camera, too, capturing snapshots of my life.

So, there you have it.  My 100th ramble on lotusgirl80!  Thank you for reading. (I hope it was time well-spent.)

NBPM #18: Wordless Wednesday

Oh, Wordless Wednesday, you have arrived!  After a long day at work and an evening of cleaning, I am out of words. However, I’ll share with you (whoever you are) a little story about the photo below. Every morning, I catch the bus in front of a trendy, retro hair salon. The flowers in the window change weekly, and I usually Instagram them. They bring a bit of joy to my mornings, so I like to share them.  This morning, a young artist was painting a tree, and when I arrived home tonight there was a lovely, winter scene. It was too beautiful not to snap and share!

Happy Holidays

NBPM #17: Arabic Lessons

As-salamu Alaykum  (Peace be upon you), NaBloPoMo day 17, and all my blog readers!  Thank you for taking this 30-day journey with me. Today was a bit monumental for me for several reasons: 1. A year ago today, I started working at my school. Although I’m no longer a teacher there, I’m the one behind the scenes making sure everything runs smoothly. 2. A year ago today, I was fighting off spontaneous tears throughout the day. (It was a wonderful first day at the school!)  I was heartbroken – part of me still is, but I’m moving on. 3. Today, I wrote my first Arabic conversation. I’m taking baby steps.

Learning another language is so humbling; it puts me in my students’ shoes, the ones they wear after they’ve just arrived in Canada.  I can relate to their pauses, their smiles, their blank stares, their nervous laughter, because I have been doing the same thing for the past 6 weeks. When they skip school, or are late for class, I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that they are lazy students.  Learning another language can be exhausting and discouraging — sometimes, you need to take a break.  For many of my students, they’re also adjusting to a different culture and/or living on their own for the first time.  I get it; I understand their need to sleep in, speak their own language with friends, and just take some time ‘away’ from English. I took some time away from Arabic, as my class was cancelled last week, and the children at the Sunday Arabic school had a fieldtrip. However, I am back at it — making progress, slowly, but surely.

I have to be honest; I’m not the most diligent student. I don’t study much, but I do my homework and seek ways to practice my Arabic outside of class.  At school, I greet my students with MarHabaa, thank them with Shokran, and bid them farewell with Ma’a Salaama. On Saturdays, I volunteer with a woman from Saudi Arabia, and she checks my homework and helps me with pronunciation. Her brother is a speech therapist, so I think she has some special insight. On Sundays, I greet the children at the Arabic school, and during their break time, they help me with my writing. I know I’m making progress; last week, when I was volunteering, one of the senior residents gave me a chocolate wafer.  I think his family must have sent them from Vietnam. There was French, Vietnamese, and Arabic writing on the small wrapper. I could read the word halal (lawful or permissible). And my manager received a gift from Jordan recently – a small bottle filled with a colourful desert scene and his name in Arabic inside. I could read it, and I knew he had the wrong bottle on his desk!

I love these little language victories! My weekend assignment for myself is to organize all my worksheets, and make some flashcards.  My teacher’s homework for me is to write a conversation in Arabic script. With a little help from my friends, I will manage to get it done, inshallah.

Tonight, I will leave you with a picture of my conversation in class. It is a dialogue between two strangers, Zayeena and Sameer, one is from Libya and the other is from Syria. Zayeena has a sister named Samyra, and Sameer has a father named Jameel, and a mother named Jameela.

Arabic

 

 

 

NBPM #16: Mourning Monday

I wish it were Wordless Wednesday. I’ve run out of words tonight. I feel exhausted, emotionally and physically, and cannot explain why. Is it this rain that never seems to stop? Is it this news of terror and discrimination that never seems to cease? Is it hearing the words, “I don’t mean to be racist but….” from a colleague? Is it this sadness that overcomes me when I see all the ignorance, subtle and not-so subtle, in my world? Is it this awakening to my Lebanese roots, a yearning to know more? These questions are too much for me tonight. My heart aches for the lives taken and their families left behind;for the refugees trying to find their way and a safe place to stay; and for those who have lost their way and their respect for their fellow beings. As this viral Instagram post starts, “It is not Paris we should pray for. It is the world.”

Today, it is my Mourning Monday, and I will leave you with some hopeful sunsets.

Symphony Splash Sunset 2<a

Symphony Splash Sunset 1

NBPM #15: Creating routines

I’ve reached the half-way point, NaBloPoMo day 15. Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I would make it this far, but here I am. Last night, I almost didn’t make it. I posted at 11:55pm, and then returned after midnight to edit my post. I’m taking this blogging thing quite seriously, you see. It feels good to get into the routine of writing everyday.  It feels good to get into another routine. I like routines – they ground me.

I’ve continued my routines in three different countries.  Although my routines have varied, they have most definitely been established.  Even when I travel, I like to create somewhat of a routine, and do things that I might do, if I lived there, like eating croissants, sipping on cappuccinos, and staying ‘home‘. I like the consistency of routine; I like having an element of predictability in my life. I like knowing that I have a plan, and that there are certain things that I do on certain days. Life is filled with uncertainties, and having elements that I can count on, brings me a sense of peace. And with routine, I am the engineer. I’m not leaving it up to chance. I’m the one creating my own habits and rituals; I’m creating my balance. However, at times, routine has crept into my life, and it wasn’t all my own engineering.

As a student in Salaya, routine crept into my life.  First, I started wearing a school uniform, then I offered a ‘wai’ twice a day after the national anthem, and  stood at attention in the movie theatre to show respect for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. I also started creating my own routines –   Monday to Friday aerobics to ’80s music, Friday lunch in the  market, Saturday morning in the campus pool, and Sunday temple outings and dinner with Thai friends. When I returned to Thailand to work, I created more routines.  Although I no longer wore my school uniform, I wore the appropriate colour for everyday of the week. (Mondays are yellow, Tuesdays are pink, Wednesdays are green, Thursdays are orange, Fridays are blue, Saturdays are purple, and Sundays are red.) During mourning periods, I blended in with the Thais and wore black, grey, and navy for three months. And I still did aerobics to ’80s music, but this time it was in Bangkok, and my Sundays were reserved for laundry and somtam. Near the end of my five years in Thailand, I was an office worker at the university where I was once a student, and I resumed my routine of Friday market lunches. When I tell people I lived in Thailand for six years, they assume I must miss the food and the people.  I do, but more than that, I miss the routine, which made it my home.

As a teacher in Uijeongbu, routine was something I created in my life over time.  I also chose to opt out of some ‘routines’. With odd working hours, 2:30pm to 9:30pm, I let myself fall into some laziness in the beginning, but I soon realized that I could do a lot in the morning hours. I reconnected with my love of running, and went for morning runs along the Jungnangcheon River, and took Korean lessons at my Canadian friend’s hagwon. After work, I would join friends at Kimbap Heaven for a late dinner, and then head home to bed. As time went on, I started volunteering one morning a week with North Korean refugees, and going on Seoul excursions, and out-of-town hiking trips on the weekends. I never fell into the after-work drinking and socializing with co-workers routine, because it didn’t mesh with the rest of my routine.

Back in Victoria, my routine is still evolving, but it’s not so different from my routines in my other countries. I am studying Arabic every Tuesday night, I go to the market and volunteer every Saturday, I do laundry every Sunday, and I’m trying to develop a daily exercise routine. Actually, routine seems more difficult to sustain in my home country.  I’m not sure why. For a long time, I think it was because I felt unsettled here, and didn’t have a stable job.  Now, I think it is because I’m still adjusting to a fulltime job, which isn’t always predictable, and a side job, that has it’s own set of demands.  Like I said, routine is grounding for me, and I know I need it to weather the changes, and become more settled in my life.  For me, writing is my new routine, and I hope to continue writing, even after NaBloPoMo ends.

Sunset

NBPM #14: Sage advice

“Aren’t you too young to be living on your own?” All I could do was chuckle and reply with a question of my own for the white-haired sister, “How old do you think I am?” She looked me up and down, and came to the conclusion that I was a teenager.  When I told her my real age, she smiled and said, “Oh my, you’re well-preserved!” In that moment, she had made my day. Then she continued to ask me the same questions, she’d asked the week before, and when the movie credits started rolling, she asked where she lived. I told her she was home, and she looked around at all the fancy wheels, some fancier then others, and nodded, smiling, “My brother is here, too.” I thought silently, “Oh yes, I know, and he always tells the volunteers they have erotic/exotic names.”

It’s funny, but the more time I spend with older people, the less worried I am about reaching their milestones.  I’ve volunteered with seniors since I was a teenager (a real one), and over the many years, I’ve learned so much.  And I am realizing more and more, that I don’t have to wait until I have white-hair and fancy wheels to incorporate their wisdom into my life. So, I’d like to share some sage advice that I’ve learned from the centennials (or near centennials) thus far.

  •  Be yourself, and don’t apologize for who you are. It takes too much valuable energy being someone else.
  • Ask for what you need. We all need help sometimes; don’t be afraid to ask for it.
  • Say No. If you’d rather stay home on a Saturday night than go to that party, that movie, that dinner date, then just say, “No.” And don’t feel guilty about it.
  • Take the time to listen. We all want to be heard. Listen to someone, even if you’ve heard their story before. Smile and nod (like you mean it), it shows that you’re there.
  • Ask questions, even if you think they’re silly. Questions help you understand the world, and show others that you want to know more.
  • Don’t stop reading. Read large font books or use a magnifier, if you’re eyes are failing you. You also have the option of listening to audiobooks. Keep your mind active and learn new things.
  • Say nice things. Notice the small things. Take note of your friend’s new haircut, or headscarf. Compliment your friends and family, and even strangers. Sometimes, nice words can make someone’s day.
  • Laugh at yourself. Don’t take life too seriously. If you’re locked out of your house, don’t fret, just crawl through the window. If you spill coffee on your favourite shirt, wipe it off, and laugh about your clumsiness. When you are nearing the 100 mark, you’ll have a lot more than spilt coffee on your shirt.
  • Establish a routine. A routine provides stability and comfort. It can promote calmness and greater awareness. It can also help us build our relationships. How so? Read more.

There you have it. That’s my sage advice, in a total random order (that’s my way and I’m not apologizing for it).  I’d like to write more on routine, but I’ll save that for another post.

Good night, NaBloPoMo day 14!

Paris