I’m coming home.

A lot of time has passed since I last wrote something. A lot of things have also happened. Tons. It’s really hard to package all my thoughts together to articulate it well so for now I will just throw out a few bullet points and I’ll try and elaborate at another point.

  1. I left my old position as the 4th and 5th grade English teacher at the Asian International School.
  2. I started a new position as an English Language Arts co-teacher and English Language Development teacher at the American International School.
    tat business cards
  3. I now work with coworkers who I see as friends first and colleagues second.
  4. I’ve met some amazing people. Some really amazing people who’ve affected some recent and upcoming decisions. This is irritatingly ambiguous but I’ll leave it at that for now.
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  5. I’ve moved into a new home this past week.
  6. I started my teacher’s certification program from the University of West Florida and I just made my first pay installment yesterday.
  7. I’m coming home.

Number 7 is what I want to talk about. I’m finally coming home. I’ll be cutting through the skies towards Toronto by 5:30am tomorrow morning. I will only be home for 10 days to visit but I have a number of things I need to do while I’m home.

I will end the entry here but I’ll try to jump into the details and stories while I’m flying or during my layovers.

Take me back, Canada.

color me run Saigon.

I forgot to update with the final product of the event video that my friend, Nam, did for the Color Me Run event in Saigon. 

You can check it out here….

But I don’t think you can see the HD version in the embedded video so go to this link HERE to view it in full HD. Trust me, you’ll want to because Nam invested in a lot of sweet cameras and equipment to create this and it’s amazing. 

I was very lucky to have Nam call on me to contribute a few shots. In fact, I even made a couple of cameos in this event video. In the early part of the video, you can see a reverse shot of coloured powder being thrown at my face, and then later when they do the countdown. I’ll most probably be in Saigon around the same time next year should they choose to do a second annual Color Me Run and you can definitely bet that I’ll be there again. 

And Kelly Rowland was dope. 

postcard from boracay.

Alright, I know, I know. It’s been awhile since my last post. And I said I’d put up the postcard from my Boracay adventure. Well, HERE is the finished product. I actually finished it awhile ago but never got around to putting it up on this blog. I go through periods where a bunch of things happen in my day-to-day life that keeps me extremely preoccupied and I miss out on adding good content to this blog. I know that makes me sound a bit pretentious but that can be the nature of living abroad. I’m aware that last sentence is also seething with pretentiousness.

Anyway there has been an amazing amount of life-developments that I’m really excited to jot down onto this blog. I intend to do that in the next week or so. One of it includes a surprise rendezvous in Angkor Wat with one of my best friends from back home, Jamie Matthews.

ImageMe (on the right) with one of my best pals, Jamie. Were sitting on some ancient rocks in Angkor Wat (Siem Reap, Cambodia).

I also intend to craft some sort of video for that little trip with Jamie; although, I think I’ll take a different approach to the video editing method I normally go about and add something new. Kind of like a documentary/video diary kind of thing. We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, here’s the video postcard from Boracay. The video was filmed on my Canon 6D with the 24-105 f/4 L lens and the GoPro HD Hero 3 Black camera.

Music:
Part 1) Intro segment (airport and airplane scenes) – Onra – Introduction
Part 2) Boracay scenes – Blouse – Into Black

You may not be able to select the HD version in the embedded video above. You’ll probably want to watch this in HD, so check it out HERE and make sure HD is ON.

 

catching up.

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The last month or so has been a little hectic and non-stop. March was all about flatball in different places and spaces.

Last time I mentioned I had one tournament in Phnom Penh. Immediately a week after that, I had to jet over to Boracay in the Philippines for my first ever beach tournament. These tournaments were my first and they will always hold a special place in my heart for their amazing destinations, but more importantly, the great people they put me in touch with.

Boracay was particularly nice because I was able to meet even more people from further corners of the globe. The tournament, in its 12th inception, has garnered enough international attention that people around the world are willing to shell out a lot of money to make it happen. And they should, if they can afford the time and money. The experience in Boracay is unlike any I’ve ever had and I’m convinced that I will be returning or at least try my damned hardest to return every year.

In Boracay, I was able to go to town with my new GoPro Hero 3. I got some neat shots, both stills and video and I’m currently putting it together as a video postcard. It’s just taking a bit of time.

While I’m on the topic of GoPro, I also got a really lucky and awesome opportunity to use it again. So there is a Color Me Run being held in HCMC this Saturday at 3pm. It follows the same model of all the other color runs held around major cities in the world you see in that it’s normally a 5km run and you must wear white and throw coloured dust around and get everything as bright and colourful as possible. It’s quite a scene. Having been in New Delhi, India for Holi where people also threw coloured dust everywhere, I’m a big fan of this effect.

Anyway, my friend, Nam is a photographer/videographer based in Saigon and he won the contract to be the event videographer for this event. I guess he saw my stuff from Boracay and wanted to see if I could lend a hand filming with him and providing B-roll footage and POV shots specifically from the GoPro cams. I accepted the offer and now I got a paid gig! This is so much better for me because now I get paid to do what I was planning to do anyway. I was gonna get borderline blackout drunk and chuck coloured dust into people’s eyes but I guess since now I’m on a payroll for this, I gotta be sober. That’s OK though.

Oh, did I mentioned Kelly Rowland will be doing a show afterward at the after-party? I will accept Destiny’s Child’s second most memorable member as a party option.

Stay tuned for the video postcard. I will also see what footage I am allowed to use to put together a separate video postcard from the Color Me Run.

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a new passport and what to expect in the new (lunar) year.

So Tết has come and passed this year all too soon. I have now been in Asia for about 13 months. It felt like not too long ago I was incredibly giddy while anticipating my first Tết where I am old enough to remember what happened (my parents took me Saigon during the Tết holiday but that was a long time ago when I was barely walking). I have now experienced the Tết holiday twice since moving to Asia.

ImageThe kids at one of my aunt’s place scrambling for lì xì.

It’s incredibly scary thinking about how the year just bounced by. It’s enough to make me acknowledge a small number of things:

a)   One year abroad is not enough.

b)   As short as one year is, I was able to fit into an entirely new environment and get comfortable in it. Along the way, I made friends and various connections. I can even honestly call this place my lovely second home.

c)   Apparently, I can get homesick. I’ve never been away from home for more than a couple of months max. I was certain that even if I were to be away longer, I probably wouldn’t get hit with homesick that bad. Well that was a silly notion because I indeed can miss my original home. I don’t just mean my favourite restaurants, bars, friends, food and stuff like that. Everyone misses that sort of stuff when they venture off for any amount of time. I mean my actual home: my bed, my sheets and my dinosaur of a mother (just kidding, mum… sorta).

d)   Since I mentioned my mother, it’s also worth saying that my relationship with my mother improved considerably. We weren’t on bad terms but we weren’t always on the best terms. I have a thing for egging her on and testing her limits while she has a thing for nagging incessantly. I suspected the sour aspects of our relationship stemmed from the fact that my opinions and beliefs as a person are starting to solidify as I grow older and they happen to be markedly different from my mother’s own set of opinions and beliefs. I also suspected that distance would do well for our relationship but in the past I wasn’t quite ready to move out because I had an aggressive savings plan to bank enough money in order to move abroad later on. I think I can safely confirm my suspicions.

So that now I have acknowledged the above among other things not mentioned, what do I plan to do? Well, the first thing anyone who is reading this will notice is that I’m still writing from Asia. In fact, my original plan was to be back in Toronto sometime in February of 2014. It is now early March of 2014; I do not have a return flight home any time soon. I continue to work, live and travel abroad.

I do, however, intend to fly home probably in mid-September. I’ve been eyeing a couple of dates when the flight back is on the lower end. I made a promise to my good friend, Danielle, that I would be back in time to attend her wedding so there is no way I’m missing out on one of her biggest and most important days in her life. That is something I’m really looking forward to.

I also plan to stay in Toronto for about 4-6 weeks to take some time off to lay low, reassess what I want/need to do and reorient myself based on where I want to go in life and destination. Currently, one of my best friends, Seb is strongly considering going to Taiwan to work. There is a very real chance that I end up relocating to Taiwan to work with him. This is largely contingent on whether or not Seb settles on the idea, and right now it sounds like he’s keen on the idea. This is good because one of my old flatball teammates from our university days, Ivan Peng, is now located in Taiwan and working there until at least mid-2015. I have also made a few friends based in Taiwan and it would be really nice to hang out with them more on the regular. A few years ago, if you were to ask if I was interested in going to Taiwan, I would probably shrug it off. But after seeing some of my friends’ pictures, hearing about their experiences and doing a little bit of research, I am pretty stoked on the idea and possibility of relocating there. Not everything is certain of course but I like that there are serious talks and consideration for this.

Oh, Bangkok HAT 2014 has also come and passed. This was one of the biggest tournaments in Asia that I was looking forward to and it lived up to my expectations despite the recent issues and political tensions in Thailand. Of course, it was also a great excuse to meet new frisb fanatics and reunite with great friends from all over Asia.

ImageFrom left to right (above): Will, Ozzie, Tat (myself), Ryan, Sid, Jason Chen, Kim, Matt. From left to right (below): Julia Chan, Ekk, Mondster.

I did notice one or two protest sites that were going on and it was not as aggressive and messy as I had imagined based on some of the news reports and readings I went through prior to landing in Bangkok. In fact, Bangkok was incredibly peaceful and the protests appeared good-spirited. Not once did I feel myself threatened in any way. This makes me think about how much is embellished or sensationalized in the news regarding issues such as this and others like it. For the record, I am certainly not downplaying the severity of the issue nor am I denying that what happened at the protests and in Thailand in general have not been violent or chaotic. It just seems to me that when it comes to issues such as the one taking place in Thailand, responsible journalism should be of extreme importance. That means that the positives should also be reported in conjunction with the negatives. Responsible journalism and journalistic integrity is a big issue that I don’t want to go much further into so I’ll just leave it at that.

Prior to Bangkok, I was also in a bit of a pickle regarding my passport. Like I mentioned above, when I first left for Asia, I was intending on coming back to Toronto within my passport validity period. Obviously, things changed. I was soon caught in a weird situation where my passport was indeed valid but there was left than 6 months left until it expired. What this means is that it is very challenging or impossible to go to other countries as most places demand that you have at least 6 months of validity remaining on your passport. Fortunately for me, I was able to get some help from the Canadian consulate and get everything finished on time for a new passport. I might look like a registered sex offender on my new passport, but I got another 5 years’ lease on traveling and moving around.

ImageTop and bottom comparison of my passport 5 years ago and my current passport. Goofy-lookin’ 5 years ago. Still pretty goofy-lookin’ now.

So with my new passport, where do I go next?

Well, this coming weekend I will be in Phnom Penh for the first time in my life attending the Big Phat Phnom Penh HAT (BPPPH2014) tournament. The level of competition for this tournament has been increasing every year and it has a reputation for being a super sweet intimate flatball get-together.

The following weekend after BPPPH2014, I will be taking some time off work for another tournament and a bit of a vacation on the side. I will be heading back to the Philippines, but this time I’m going to Boracay for the Boracay Open 2014 beach tournament. This is probably a top 2 tournament I’ve been eyeing since moving to Asia and hearing about it. It’s a 3-day beach tournament on one of the best beaches in the world. I’ve Googled pictures of this place and I’m beyond stoked for this place. It’s going to be a good place to take a lot of shots, videos, and go nuts with my new GoPro 3 Black Edition. I’ll keep you all posted with pictures and hopefully a video postcard.

ImageLooks good as honey.

 I will probably be returning to Cambodia in May for another tournament. If I can get some time off, I would also like to make a stop in Angkor Wat and check out one of the wonders of the world.

There is a possibility that I take part of my June summer vacation in China to play Shanghai Open and explore a bit.

I am also committed to playing in the Malaysia Ultimate Open in July, so I will be in Kuala Lumpur around early-mid July.

One important thing I do plan on doing other than traveling is reassessing my goals, ambitions, objectives and whatnot. Over the past several months, I’ve been looking into some options on what I want or should do; some are short term plans while others are long term. Things are a bit vague with respect to this but I hope to have a more clear picture of what I want and need to do with my personal growth.

Alright, that’s it for now. I will try to get an update as soon as I can once I return from my trips to Phnom Penh and Boracay.

part 2: vietnam hat 2014, the magic of flatball, and tat’s first christmas away from mum

* This entry was written in several sessions. I had a lot going on and a ton racing through my mind so I would sit down and write a little at a time. That would likely explain the possible change in tenses throughout the post. I feel like there’s a lot to digest here.

The 10th annual Vietnam HAT has come and gone. Much of my sunburn has now settled into a crispy tan. The rest has long peeled off or flaked away. Gross.

I sign on to Facebook and see a bunch of red flags in the notification centre. They tell me that I’ve been tagged in so-and-so’s photos and such-and-such peeps have commented on them. I also see red flags indicating that I have several new friend requests; they’re all people from the HAT tournament.

My newsfeed is littered with photos of friends and other flatball lovers enjoying themselves at the tournament. There are plenty of action photos but also just as many shots of people smiling, laughing, and generally having a sweet time with one another off the fields. The expressions on some of these people’s faces seems to suggest that they’ve known each other for quite some time and hang out on the regular. The fact is, all of them are spread out and based in several small Asian countries. They know each other mainly from the SE Asian ultimate Frisbee community and usually see each other at scheduled tournaments throughout the year. Some, like myself, have only been around for a year and have only participated in a small handful of tournaments. Others have been around for a few years, and quite a few others have been around for at least the greater part of the decade. We all bring a little something to the frisb community in the Orient. This is the beauty of flatball in Asia.

Only recently did I come to realize how close and tight-knit the disc community in SE Asia can be. All it takes is for you to go to one tournament, talk to one or a small group of people, and suddenly you’re being notified of the next tournament and the next. Suddenly, you find yourself scrambling to save money so you can pack in as many tournaments as you can in your already busy schedule abroad. You go because you want to play flatball, and you want to stay (longer) because of the peeps.

I LOVE Frisbee back home in Canada. I rarely got fed up with playing. Well, maybe towards the end of the summer touring schedule when I was finally allowed to let up on the training and intensity. But for the most part, frisb back home is super sweet. I already went into detail in my last post about how it kinda brought a bounce back into my steps with regard to personal ambition and self-motivation. Keeping up my involvement with Frisbee meant keeping me busy and out of some trouble. It also kept me healthy and in shape.

GT

My first year on Grand Trunk with some stellar dudes.

For all of these reasons, and plenty more, I was devastated when I made the ultimate life-changing decision to pack up my things and move to Asia for a bit. Most of the people I played with on my club team (Grand Trunk) back home were people I first met when I first got into the game. We grew together and got better together. Most of us went through the Toronto system together and started from the bottom. We helped each other improve, picked each other up when we were down, and we fought hard together out there on the fields. Our goal was to play together and eventually reach a competitive level while nabbing some good results along the way. We did all of that. But suddenly, I extricated myself from the system and effectively from this core group of Frisbee friends I have come to love and trust over the short years that I have known them. I wasn’t, however, giving up flatball. No way. I made sure to pack two pairs of cleats and a disc along with some dri-fit/ quick-dry clothes into my backpack. I was determined to play some frisb in Asia.

Before I got to Vietnam, I had already Googled where I could possibly get some game time in. I got some intel that people congregated at RMIT University in District 7 to play this wonderful game. So, within a week of or so of arriving in Vietnam, I got on my new motorbike (a risky Christmas gift from my dad to me), and blazed across the streets of Saigon looking for some green pastures and signs of discs hanging in the warm air. I found what I was looking for, got my foot in the door of the Asian Frisbee scene, and of course the rest writes itself.

Where was I going with all of this?

Oh yeah. Flatball in Asia is the tits. I think I said this before in the part 1 of this 2 part ramble. I love the competitive scene back in North America, but anyone involved in the competitive/touring scene knows often politics and drama can be involved. I’m not saying frisb in Asia doesn’t have that, but I would comfortably argue that the Asian scene is a lot more stripped down from these elements. It is more of a return to the beauty of the game and the people that play it. There is fun bantering from the sidelines and the good-spirited chirping on the field. But once games are done, everyone comes together for a good time soaking in some good weather, sharing some laughs, and taste-sampling some of Asia’s finest beers (most of them are comparable to the trusty PBR of North America).

I hold in my hand a 333. The Vietnamese equivalent of PBR back home. The taste is on par as are the morning after effects,

I hold in my hand a 333. The Vietnamese equivalent of PBR back home. The taste is on par as are the morning after effects.

After the Mekong Cup tournament in Bangkok, a bunch of us enjoy some wobbly pops on the sidelines while watching the finals. During halftime, I get volunteered to take some question liquor shots.

After the Mekong Cup tournament in Bangkok, a bunch of us enjoy some wobbly pops on the sidelines while watching the finals. During halftime, I get volunteered to take a questionable liquor shot. You can see me savouring the questionable liquid in my mouth above.

Asia is a hotbed for ultimate. The skill level isn’t even that far off from the standards set in North America. Remember, ultimate Frisbee is very much a North American export, much like baseball. And the people who helped spread it and are continuing to grow it now and pass it on to the local Asian communities here are expats. It is here, in this hotbed of frisb, that I’ve met some of the most wonderful people in my life. Of course, they cannot replace the teammates I’ve grown up and played with back in Toronto. UofT and Grand Trunk fellas, you always have a special place in my heart. But these new friends and teammates represent all the positives of a new chapter in my life since settling in Asia for the time being. These people, beginning with the loveable peeps from Saigon Ultimate Club and Vietnam’s Vudoo to the countless players spanning from Taiwan to Thailand to Malaysia to China… and the rest of SE Asia, welcomed me into a new but simultaneously familiar community with the biggest arms and heart. It is familiar in the sense that I’m fairly comfortable and used to a Frisbee environment – but also new in the sense that there are new, strange, and loveable faces blending in with some great Asian backdrops.

Team BigEyez at the Mekong Cup in Bangkok. My first Asian tournament that got me into the whole scene.

Team BigEyez at the Mekong Cup in Bangkok. My first Asian tournament that got me into the whole scene.Playing for Vudoo at AOUCC in Singapore. Our first game against Ellipses, the eventual tournament champions from Australia. Playing for Vudoo at AOUCC in Singapore. Our first game against Ellipses, the eventual tournament champions from Australia.I picked up with Southern Spirits on my solo trip to Hong Kong in October. Solid group of peeps. I picked up with Southern Spirits on my solo trip to Hong Kong in October. Solid group of peeps.huckuna2Huckuna Matata at Manila Spirits 2013. I fell in love over and over with these pals and gals.Vietnam HAT. Team Forest-Green. First time as team captain with Daniel Bower. We did an OK job while our awesome team did the rest.

Vietnam HAT 2013. Team Forest-Green. First time as team captain with Daniel Bower. We did an OK job while our awesome team did the rest.

This new community, lovers of the frisb, keep me grounded here. They have the similar positive affects that the Frisbee community back in Toronto had on me. And much like the teammates I have back home, these people pick me up when I’m down, cheer me on from the sidelines, and are willing to shotgun a beer with me and get up to no good (on a wholesome Stand By Me-esque level). We (or most of us) work hard at our regular jobs/lives here in Asia, and then we work maybe even harder to reunite on the fields at various upcoming tournaments. Where was I going with all of this cheezefest love-rant for Frisbee?

I started off the post about signing on to Facebook and seeing numerous pictures from Vietnam HAT. Right. I was getting to the concept of “Frisbee withdrawal”. It might not be as physically uncomfortable as a coffee/caffeine/heroin withdrawal – but mentally, it’s a slugfest. For me, ever since playing flatball back in Toronto, I’ve always showed up to work or whatever I had going on the following Monday (or Tuesday if I was lucky and booked that Monday off) after a tournament weekend looking like hell. You would think that a guy who went away for the weekend and came back looking super tanned would be chipper and ready to roll. No. Not me. Never. That shit sucked.

Frisbee withdrawal is almost always defined by what I would consider going cold turkey, much like any other abrupt stop to some form of addiction. For most of the following week, your muscles ache. You probably feel dehydrated. Your head’s not in the right space, mentally. You don’t want to be where you’re supposed to be (i.e., work or school). You sit and daydream of sweet plays from the weekend and running down hanging discs. There was the hammer that was a good decision but didn’t connect. And the high-release flick upwind that you should never have thrown.

In Asia, Frisbee withdrawal is most definitely worse. At least… 5.34 times worse. I think it is because the seriousness and intensity of competition is scaled down while the factor of community and social gathering is dialed up. People often treat it as a major social event – and it is. What follows is tons of people taking great pictures of friends, capturing silly moments, and immortalizing an amazing tournament weekend on their cameras. All of these pictures get dumped onto Facebook almost immediately and people aggressively tag and comment on these photos. They are forever a reminder of how much fun you had that weekend and what you wish you were still doing. Then you get teammates messaging you telling you how much fun it all was and you guys talk about how much you’ll miss one another. You inevitably make plans to reunite at the next tournament. This is all great. But all of this exacerbates Frisbee withdrawal to the nth degree. You command all the strength you have remaining to get through the week meanwhile daydreaming about the next relapse.

Pictures like this make me feel super happy.

Pictures like this… make me feel super happy.jvdb cryBut then I get hit with frisbee withdrawal and feel like this.

Despite this unforgiving hangover after a tournament, I love flatball here in Asia. These are reasons why I love the people who play this ridiculous sport here in Asia. They’re also reasons as to why I’m willing to put aside a significant enough amount of my income for it with no regrets. The frisb has had a tremendous positive impact on my life when I first started playing it around third-year university and it continues to have that impact on me now. It has introduced me to some of the best mates I will ever know and now it’s providing me some good excuses to travel to some interesting locations.

After a tournament, why not go with a few friends to check out the Taal Volcano in the Philippines.

After a tournament, why not go with a few friends to check out the Taal Volcano in the Philippines.We're all having a good time. We’re all having a good time.

Just a bunch of grown-up guys being boys.

Just a bunch of grown-up guys being boys. Daniel (2nd from the left) is a teammate and one of my best pals from back home. He met up with me here in Saigon.

Speaking of sweet mates, Christmas 2013 was my first ever Christmas that I would spend away my family back in Toronto. I’ve always spent Christmas with my mum, my sister, and my aunt. But this year, partly due to bad planning and partly due to expensive airplane tickets, I decided to stay in Saigon for Christmas. Christmas isn’t a big thing in Vietnam. As many of you know, I had to work on the December 24th and Christmas Day. Things were looking a bit bleak but thanks to the sweet pals I’ve met playing Frisbee in Asia, I was able to have a pretty awesome Christmas Eve dinner at Cuc Gach restaurant with some great peeps who stayed around after the Vietnam HAT tournament. More reasons why Frisbee in Asia better than Wonderbread.

Christmas Eve dinner. Not so lonely after all.

Christmas Eve dinner.

What also made this Christmas particularly special was a special Christmas present I received from friends back in Toronto. Many of you know that I lost most of my photography/videography/camera possessions in Manila prior to the Manila Spirits tournament. Well… shortly after that, Rosie went behind my back and organized a group effort to pool together resources and get me a replacement GoPro Hero 3 camera to replace the GoPro Hero 2 camera that was nicked from me. Jason, who came in to Saigon from San Francisco brought the package over and handed it off to me. He told me specifically that I was not allowed to open it until Christmas Day. Big mistake, Jason.

My new GoPro Hero 3. A Christmas gift from many awesome friends back home.

My new GoPro Hero 3. A Christmas gift from many awesome friends back home.

I went into blackout mode the minute I brought the present home. Before I knew it, Christmas wrapping lay scattered on my desk and I was holding my unwrapped GoPro camera. This happened on the night of December 20th, five days before Christmas… the day I was suppose to open it on. You just can’t say things like, “Oh, Tat, you’re not suppose to open it until Christmas” and not expect me to go nuts. Don’t dangle a carrot in front of a donkey and not expect the donkey to move.

Anyway, seeing the Christmas messages and well-wishes from those who contributed to my present was the sweetest gift itself. I was so touched that people got together to help replace one of my most beloved toys. It was all unreal. Oh, on top of this, I also bought myself a Christmas present. I replaced my stolen Canon 7D with a full-frame Canon 6D, which an awesome friend of mine (Andrea Hitchman) from Toronto hooked me up with from her camera shop. Big ups to Jason once again for muling that beast over along with the Christmas present from friends back in Toronto. You’re prime real estate, brother.

My new DSLR - Canon 6D. Back in the game and this time I got full frame. Even Dexter Morgan is in awe.

My new DSLR – Canon 6D. Back in the game and this time I got full frame. Even Dexter Morgan is in awe.

Well, I guess that’s all for this latest entry. I’m finally wrapping this post up after spending a few days adding to it. In case those who are wondering, the next major tournament where most people plan to reunite is Bangkok HAT on the weekend of February 8th. It should be amazing if I can solve my current passport expiry dilemma.

Oh, one final thing worth mentioning: January 3rd marked my one full year in Asia. It was a very strange feeling standing in front of my class one morning, writing the date on the board, and then realizing this fact. I think I’ll give my thoughts on my one year in Asia at another time. I have devoted far too much time rambling about my love for Frisbee.

Looking at the word count for this entry, it’s as long as any of my first or second year history papers at U of Toronto. My liberal arts degree continues to haunt me.

*** Note: a bunch of photos were taken from a bunch of people/photographers. In fact, most of them except maybe two. If you own one of these pictures and are reading this, please let me know if you would like the photo(s) taken down. Thanks.

part 1: vietnam hat 2014, the magic of flatball, and tat’s first Christmas away from mum

A third post in a short amount of time after posting maybe once every month or longer over the past year. Hopefully, this becomes more of a habit rather than a doomed-to-fail New Year’s type resolution promise. Or like when someone with an historical tendency to eat crap food and exercise very little stands up and says, “MY DIET STARTS TOMORROW!” You just know they’re hitting the Cheetos and delicious Chapman’s ice cream harder than ever in about two week’s time.

This update comes to you on the heels of the Vietnam HAT slated for this weekend, December 21st and 22nd. The tournament begins tomorrow and I cannot express how stoked I am. Why am I’m so excited for some flatball and a good ol’ fashioned tournament? Well, I could go into a thesis paper on the topic… but a couple of my friends from Taiwan have already made their own post on loving the frisb and I’m certain they’ve articulated the sentiment far better than I could ever have. Here’s Austin’s and Joanna’s take on the love for chasing a piece of plastic. Skyd Magazine also published an excellent article by one Yacine Bara on the beauty of this sport, which you can find here. So, I won’t go into great detail on why I love this game so much. I will, however, provide a short origin story on how I got into it.

I want to say the year was 2008 or 2009 but I can’t be certain. End of the year papers, final exams, and all things school related had just wrapped up. The University of Toronto has a thing for scheduling exams late into May and sure enough I was the last one of my group of friends to finish. But I had made it; I had finished another grueling year at Toronto’s finest post-secondary institution, I was past the halfway mark of my university tenure, and I did it well enough. June was just around the corner and with it would come a sweet summer of insobriety, girls, late night pool-hopping episodes, and whatever other cliché mischievous shenanigans you can think of for 20-21 year old kids.

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I was starting to worry about finding a way to keep in shape. I had been playing the beautiful game of soccer in a league located in the boonies of Toronto but a decision (that was heavily influenced by a ridiculous amount of Old Milwaukee Ice) to punt an oversized garbage bag late one Saturday night had resulted in a very serious right quadricep injury. I was forced to stop playing soccer for the remainder of the league schedule. My friend, Sarah, who plays for the Toronto Capitals had been trying to get me to play ultimate Frisbee with her and her group of friends. The suggestion was for me to sign up and play with them on a Monday or Wednesday league night. I finally relented and joined them. I figured this would probably be better than getting on an elliptical at an overpriced gym with countless other middle-aged women who had no business wearing super-tight Lululemons or TNAs. Or worst, male retirees who decide to get fit but wear short shorts that would make Larry Bird’s thigh hairs tingle.

Anyway, I had finally decided to play ultimate Frisbee. But league would not start for probably another month so I had time to recover from my injury. One late spring/early summer night, I was in Ravina Park, a green spot near my house as well as my old primary and high schools. I was with several of my old high school friends and we were enjoying a suspicious communal “cigarette”. As the aromatic clouds billowed over the green field, a lanky figure emerged from the thick of smoke. It was an old acquaintance from high school and a former physics lab partner of mine. He was also smoking a suspicious “cigarette”. It was somewhat of a coincidence that he would come by and run into us. This guy, as it turned out, was also playing on the same league team that I had just signed up for. We talked about the game and I might’ve lied about how excited I was to run around catching Frisbees. From that night, a greater friendship emerged between us as he helped me learn the game and get better at it. This lanky fellow would later go on to make Toronto’s top club team, GOAT, and play for Team Canada’s U23 that captured gold in Florence.

It’s almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. I didn’t know it then but my love for a sport that has often been mistaken as an activity for pot-smoking hippies began to grow from a hazy conversation in the midst of dense fogs like a scene from That 70’s Show

Now that’s the story of how I got into flatball. And it’s important to me because it got me out of a potential a rut. It’s only later on in life that I realized that my younger-self back then was starting to develop bad habits and could have spiraled into a vicious cycle. You see, I might’ve partied too hard sometimes. I was working hard at school and at my part-time job but I was also working just to get through the week and land on the sweet, sweet weekends. When the weekends came, often times I was too excited and went overboard. I would justify this excessive behaviour by believing I had somehow earned it because I worked hard at school and at my job; things that I should be working hard at in and of itself. Consequently, my motivation was dropping in many aspects of my life.

But flatball changed things. It was changing my attitude and behaviour as well as my outlook on life. Suddenly, I wasn’t looking forward to blacking out on the weekends but remembering sweet, sweet plays on the field and incredible moments with my teammates.

This post is getting pretty long and I need a break to formulate my next thoughts. So, I’m gonna partition my thoughts into two parts. This is part one. I’ll get to part two eventually. For now, I will say this: what I feel when I chase that stupid flat piece of plastic must be the same feeling Harry Potter gets when he gets on his broom and chases after that elusive, sneaky-ass golden snitch. My mind is suddenly focused if only for a brief moment. More importantly, I’m happy as a clam when I’ve got that little sucker in my hands.

In the next part of this two-part blog post, I will talk about how the game eventually hooked me up with some of the best people I will ever meet in my life beginning in Canada and then later on halfway across the world. Some of the friends I made while playing this game will likely be the best mates I could ever have on and off the field. 

ImageThe Inbetweeners, anyone?

Stay tuned….

manila, you really did a number on me. but I still love you.

Manila, you really did a number on me. But I still love you.

Before I get into the gritty of my trip to the Philippines, I want to include an addendum to my previous post regarding me being alone. After I published the post on being alone and returning to writing, I was met with a number of responses, most of which were made in private. People were sending me well wishes and hoping the best while providing some good-natured advice. I can’t say thanks enough. When I wrote it, I didn’t intend for it to be a depressing message – it certainly did veer that way a bit though, didn’t it? It was merely my intention to acknowledge that I am now alone, and to consider what it meant to be alone, which can be a separate concept from the idea of being lonely. I also went to elaborate on the good things that can come from being alone, not just the bad. If it came out as a cry for help, it certainly wasn’t meant to. Regardless, I am extremely grateful for the support. I know some of the best peeps in the world.

Now, about the Philippines.  Some of you might be asking what I was doing in Manila. Well, I’m infatuated, nay, in love with this silly sport that has an even sillier name called ultimate Frisbee. I’d much prefer the sport’s name to be changed to flatball or magic flying plate, but I digress. The annual epic Manila Spirits tournament was taking place on November 15th – 17th, and a ragtag group of players mostly from Taiwan and Thailand, with ringers from here and there like myself, banded together to create Huckuna Matata. Our awesome cosmopolitan group of flatball players had landed in Manila and we were ready to play mean and party aggressively. Some of us had also decided to take an extra day or two off our day jobs to do some sightseeing and explore a corner of the Philippines.

Allow me to fast forward a bit and recount a misfortunate incident that happened to me while we were in Manila. As most of you who are more or less up to date with my goings on, I was robbed of my prized possessions on my first day in the Philippines. A few bad apples pulled the ol’ Houdini on me and snagged my camera backpack, which was loaded with my Canon 7D, a Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, Canon 17-40mm f/4 L lens, a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens, my GoPro HD Hero 2 camera, a couple of lens filters, and the usual minor accessories attached to cameras’ setups.

ImageMy prized possessions. The Nikon D80 wasn’t in the bag because I no longer own that camera but the other two were taken away from me far too soon.

Here’s the setting: our group of 7 or 8 people were sitting down for lunch at an outside patio. Now, normally, I’m very protective of my stuff and when I carry a backpack around, I usually place it on the ground with the shoulder strap looped around my ankle. Never have I experienced any suspicious activity against me. But on this particular day, our group sat down with a full 360 degrees panoramic view around us. I made sure to pull my bag close to me; it was even slightly touching my foot. Rosie was sitting perpendicular to me to my right and a few of us were sitting across from me with full view behind me.

Now I was told that a group sat behind me and was about to order off the menu but then got up and left after a few minutes. I did not give them too much of my attention. Obviously. Neither did anyone else in the group. When we paid the bill and got up to left, I looked to my right where my bag should’ve been between Rosie and myself. The bag was gone. It would be an understatement to say that I was livid. I was borderline murderous.

ImageJaleel, you were too late.

Looking back on the incident, I could certainly see why our group was targeted. A group of 7 or 8 happy, go-lucky peeps just happy to be in each other’s company and conversing with each other in good spirits meant our collective guard was down. Not to mention, of course, that we were already visible targets just by being obvious tourists in this country.

This unfortunate incident could’ve or should’ve left a bad taste in my mouth. I should’ve been miserable for the rest of my trip. Instead, I shrugged it off well enough and was still able to enjoy the rest of my time there.

Now for the more positive bits. Manila along with the Manila Spirits 2013 ultimate tournament was the absolute tits. The tournament was a huge hit and the party was nothing short of spectacular. I’ll save a separate post on the tournament and ultimate Frisbee at another time.

What I really want to get to is my trip to the Taal volcano by Tagaytay, about several clicks outside of Manila. This place was fucking radical. The setting looked like a scene straight out of National Geographic. I was stunned. Being with a super sweet crew consisting of Jess Chen, Alice Chirn, Rosie, David Wong, and Chris Price was also the peanut butter to the jam.

ImageDa crew.

We arrived at the top of Tagaytay to get a breathtaking survey of the land and seascape before us. After that, we drove down some crazy windy-ass roads and stopped at the foot of some mountains where we booked a boat ride over to the volcano. From there, we each got horses to ride up to the top of the volcano.  All for about $20 USD. The horse rides were a great touch, but certainly not necessary. The trek up the side of the volcano would be peanuts to do by foot and probably faster than riding a horse up.

ImageAt the top of Tagaytay looking at what’s in store for us.

Now, when it comes to animals, I have a soft spot for the mangy, scraggly, underdog type of animals. I gravitate towards them. It happened in Rajasthan, India, when I found myself a camel that looked a bit shyer than the others. It happened again here, when I chose a smaller horse that reminded me of the Tauntauns from Star Wars. The problem with this is that I ended up choosing a horse that was probably too small and weak to carry me up there. My Tauntaun huffed and puffed and grunted the entire way. But we made it! My steed and I were the last ones up but damnit we made it! My horse luckily didn’t die on me and avoided the fate of becoming glue.

ImageMy and my Tauntaun. The last one up.

I think if I write anymore, this thing will start to become an essay so I’ll just throw in a few photos and let you decide how rad this place was. Now, because I had lost my cameras at this point, I wasn’t able to take many pictures. But I was still able to snag a few shots with my iPhone 4.

ImageAbout to boat over to the volcano.

ImageA black and white shot. Some deep stuff.

ImageOh hey, Alice.

ImageHoly toledo, Batman!

Philippines, you were dope. I’m sure we’ll meet again.

a return to writing. blogging. wrogging?

It’s 11:07am. I’ve just arrived home from teaching my morning periods at school. On the way home, I bought a sizeable portion of cơm tấm and have already unpacked it on to a large plate. It’s my go-to lunch. I see a strand of hair in it and pull it out slowly. It’s too long to be mine. Within moments, I’m shovelling back rice while cải lương is being blasted from my neighbour’s. I’m taking short breaks from eating to get in breaths of air and type out a few words for this new blog post.

I’m anxious to write today. It’s an important day and arguably a turning point in my life. Today, I am alone. Truly and utterly alone.

“Wow, Alex. You’re being pretty vague and quite the Debbie Downer. And a TURNING POINT IN YOUR LIFE? Enough hyperbole, doofus.” Well, internet, lemme apply a generous (unnecessary?) amount of sriracha (cock) sauce to my lunch and then I’ll explain myself.

This morning, at the crack of dawn, I took Rosie to the Tan Son Nhat airport and saw her off. Rosie is now blazing through the sky at breakneck speeds en route to Manila where she will have a 7 hour layover before continuing on back to the true north strong and free (that’s Canada for you non-Canadians). After basically a year of Rosie and I working, living, eating, and doing everything together, she has now begun her trip home to pursue her Master’s degree and any other personal goals. I remain here in Saigon with no timetable for returning. I don’t know when I will return to Toronto, and if I do, it’s likely for a short visit before I attempt to take off again.

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Here’s a group of us after some pickup ultimate frisbee. A last hurrah of sorts for Rosie.

ImageHere’s us again before Rosie left.

Mmm, the ringing sensation on the corners of my mouth suggest that I went overboard with the cock sauce. Goddamnit, I never learn.

It’s a weird feeling when you spend almost every waking moment with someone and then suddenly they’re gone and you don’t know when the both of you will get a chance to see each other again in person. It’s almost a crippling feeling. It was on my cab ride back from the airport when I realised right then that I was alone. Utterly alone. And not just alone but lonely. That’s the worst. Being alone comes with its own benefits and sometimes peace of mind. Being lonely is different; it’s the sense of wanting something or someone or missing something or someone.

So there you have it, internet. That is why I’m now alone. That is why I feel this will be a turning point in my life. I honestly do feel that I am moving on to another stage in life, whether I like it or not. And as much as it sucks now, I have to look at the advantages and seize the opportunities of being alone. Like I said, it’s not bad being alone. For example, when I travelled to Hong Kong alone, I was able to stand on a dirty street corner for what felt like 20 minutes just to get a particular picture shot and video footage filmed. When I’m with someone, I am less likely to ask the person or people with me to accommodate my weird impulse to do things like this. Not everyone would have the patience to watch me get fixated on something, and I get that. But being alone does allow me to have these opportunities. My calendar and the priorities that clutter it instantly become strictly my own and adhere to no one else.

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Here’s a picture of just me by the Taal Volcano in the Philippines. It’s suppose to symbolize me being alone from now on.

So what is with the post’s title? Why a return to writing and blogging? Well evidently, I haven’t been writing/blogging my adventures abroad as much as I had intended to back before I left Toronto. Having someone there with you all the time is nice in that you can always vent your ideas, thoughts, rants, or whatever to them. Now that I don’t have Rosie around to hear me talk, I must find another outlet. I’m hoping I can let my streams of consciousness flow from my noggin, course its way down my arms and exit from my fingertips on to the keys of my Macbook. I also always have an ideas book nearby to write things down but I do like the organisation of a blog.

So that’s that for now. I guess this post has been a bit depressing. But things’ll sort themselves out. Oh, I did start a side-blog a few days ago. It revolves around my interaction with students at school and the content is born from the answers, notes, or responses I get from my students. For those who are following this and want to take a peep at the side-blog, check out a canuck teaching English abroad. I know, the title sucks, but it’s a working title.

There’s a few bites of rice left that look awfully bare of sriracha sauce. I’m gonna fix that.

Until next time.

hong kong beat.

Once again, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve lasted posted content on here.

When you work full time and try to manage a social life abroad, it can be hard to summon the motivation and energy to put together some content and sit in front of the Macbook to articulate it.

However, the past couple of weeks have been productive as I have edited some pictures and put together another video postcard.

Just last month, I took a solo trip over to Hong Kong and stayed for four days and four nights. I was there partly for an ultimate frisbee tournament and, partly for visa renewal purposes and of course to see the archipelago and give my weakened Cantonese skills a much-needed boost of practice.

This trip was a very nice opportunity to spend a few days by myself just shooting pictures and video to satisfy my photography/videography needs that I haven’t been able to do much of due to the amount of work I usually have going on.

Hong Kong is often remarked as “just another big city” – but it’s a pretty exciting city nonetheless. Towering skyscrapers, a saturated market for fancy wrist watches (real or fake), and a heightened sense of commercialism characterizes the former British territory. The people are genuine and the dim sum is above everything else you’ve ever tasted.

Here’s the video postcard of my trip. Hopefully, it’ll give you all a taste of my impressions of the city better than I can articulate at the moment. Enjoy!

Music – Tony Castles – Heart in the Pipes (Kauf Remix)
Shot with – Canon 7D, Canon 17-40mm f/4 L, Canon 50mm f/1.8 and Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 lenses.
Cut and edited with – Final Cut Pro X