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. 

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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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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….

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.

it seems like I don’t post as much. why?

I’m not posting as much. It’s true. 

A number of things were going on recently that I couldn’t put much thought to paper (computer screen?) and get it all out. I did put out a new video postcard recently, as those who are following may have noticed. 

Some things to jot down in quick point form since the last substantial posting:

– work permit application process in Vietnam is the absolute worst. I say this because since trying to get it done in early March, it wasn’t until two weeks ago that everything was finalized. Much appreciation goes out to the Asian International School for being patient and sympathetic with the grind that we experienced. If anyone from Canada needs help on getting a work permit as a teacher, I can probably say I’m well versed in it now. That said, rules here change, and it was due to a more recent rule change that made it much harder for Rosie and I to get everything done. 

– a number of friends of mine from Canada have come on over to visit me. It’s been incredibly nice. Particularly a friend whom I haven’t seen in a couple years when he took off to Australia to work abroad. 

– I went back to Nha Trang for a more local experience. The gist of that can be viewed on my video uploaded to Vimeo and posted on the previous blog post underneath this one. 

– I also returned to Phu Quoc Island to meet up with one of my friends from Canada, who came to visit me. One unfortunate thing about the trip to Phu Quoc Island this time was the fact that a storm was passing nearby. As a result, we got a lot of rain at least half the time. That said, we still got to explore the island on motorbike, which was excellent. 

That’s all I will write for now. I hope to get more time to update. 

A video postcard of the Phu Quoc Island will likely be the next project. 

Until next time!

My Saigon wolf-pup, Kee.

My Saigon wolf-pup, Kee.

My dad calls him Amigo but a lot of people just call him Kee, or Ky (both pronounced the same way as you think it would be).

I have a huge soft spot for dogs and one of the best things about being abroad are the street dogs. Kee, however, isn’t a street dog. He’s my dad’s pup over here since my dad is based out of Saigon more than half the time when he’s not back in Toronto.

Most people know that I love dogs (which is also why I could never indulge in a particularly special dish here in Vietnam). And now I love Kee.

this week will be bad.

This week will be bad.

Rosie and I are on the last stretch to push for all our documents to be sent to us in order to get the work permit process started. If this does not happen, we run the risk of losing this job for a bit before we can reapply. Rosie is waiting for her degree to come in from Toronto, and it is currently being held up at customs in Saigon but she cannot obtain it yet. Meanwhile, both our TESOL certifications have been reissued and expedited this time around so we hope to hear that it will land here by tomorrow.

Once we get these last outstanding documents, we need to find a lawyer to notarize it, then rush it to the Canadian consulate to get it “consularized”. In other words, we pay $50 bucks for them to simply stamp it. Kind of a pain.

One good news is one of my best pals from Toronto, Sebastien, will be in Saigon in the next few days. Probably by the end of this week. He bought a motorbike out in Hanoi back in the middle of March and has been making his way slowly towards the south. I’m extremely jealous because that’s a trip I really want to do one day. FYI, the run from Hanoi to Saigon and vice versa is about 1,700 kilometres. The topography of Vietnam can be crazy and the roads can be a bit hairy at times, especially in the central highlands (I hear), but that’s one adventure I’m down for.

Anyway, I can’t wait for Seb to get here and for this administrative nightmare to be over with. First video postcard will probably be delayed a bit longer.

Until next time!

seems legit.

 

I’m stoked. I finally get an official name tag from the Asian International School after having worked there for nearly three weeks.

Somehow, having this name tag to pin on my shirt makes it all feel more real – it cements the feeling of success and of having made it here in Saigon. Well… sort of. I’m still on my two month probation contract with the school, which ends on April 17th. Once I get all the stupid administrative/paper work completed to secure a work permit with the school, along with a good track record for the probationary period, then I will be offered a long term contract.

Still, this is one step in the right direction… right?

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my demo class.

I realized that I forgot to write about my experience with my first demo class that helped me land a job at the prestigious International Primary School. 

So two weeks into my TESOL course, Josy gets a call from Ms. Diep, the manager at the IPS. Ms. Diep was looking for native-English speaking teachers. Josy recommended Rosie and I for an interview. By the third week, Rosie and I went through an informal telephone chat followed by a in-person discussion. At the discussion, Ms. Diep asked Rosie and I to do a demo class the following week. The idea of a demo class is for the prospective teacher to be evaluated by the manager, director of studies, or whatever high-up position at the school. It also helps determine what kind of salary the prospective teacher can command. 

So Rosie and I worked hard on our demo classes with a lot of help from Josy to make sure we were prepared. We felt good showing up the following week to strut our stuff. I was first to be called in to do my demo class. What happened in literally the next minute seemed to be a page torn from a terrible TV sitcom. I entered the class, waved my hand in a highly animated ‘hello’ gesture and enthusiastically bellowed out, “Hello class!” Great start, yes? Well it would’ve been if the kid in the back right corner didn’t decide to projectile vomit on to his desk. That’s right. The boy in the back spews his breakfast on to his desk and gives me a panicked look. And I just continued with the class as if nothing happened. 

Some of you might wonder why I did this. Here are the factors that raced through my head when I tried to decide how to react.

– Ms. Diep, the manager of the school, glanced over at the boy then back at me as if nothing major happened. She looked at me expectantly waiting for my next move.

– Each class has a teacher’s assistant to help manage the class effectively and for any necessary translations to ensure lessons go smoothly.

– This demo class is an evaluation of my capabilities as a teacher – it determines whether or not I am hired and what my probationary salary will be.

With these factors in mind, I briefly asked if the boy was OK and returned to my planned lesson immediately. I gambled on the idea that the TA would be there to assist with situations like that… even if it involves a boy projectile vomiting on to his desk sixty seconds into class. I was correct in my assumption, so that was very good. I also played off Ms. Diep’s reaction and facial expression – she did not look worried  and seemed to wait for my next move. It was as if she planted the soon-to-puke kid there to see what I would do….

Fortunately, my decision to do what I did paid off. I scored a 19/20 on the teacher’s evaluation and Ms. Diep was thrilled to sign me on as part of the faculty at her school. I was stoked that the class went well because I thought for sure the puking kid was a bad omen of things to come. I even got the kids to chant and cheer “cucumber” and “potato” as if they were at a soccer match heckling. What caught me by surprise and made me incredibly happy to see was how well the students behaved and gravitated to you once you got them engaged with the lesson. Granted I gave each of them a piece of candy at the end of class, but when I was about to leave the school they made efforts to catch my eye and say, “Bye, Mr. Alex!” 

All in all, I’m extremely happy to be starting my first teaching job at this school. The facilities are top-knotch, the staff are friendly, the students are incredibly well behaved. It’s probably the best  possible start for a guy like me to ask.