So the wider context is, after almost two decades, I am back in England and trying to set up a new home.
First up, internet. I booked a week in advance with John Lewis Broadband. Fine, that’s the way it is — I’ll sit in an empty house and read a book till they come to install it. They made me choose three different installation slots. I chose Friday AM, PM and Monday.
And maybe I might wait in a little more comfort. I bought a sofa from an antique shop on Ebay. …
Recap: four-months ago, life unraveled.
A separation that had long been on the cards and yet had always seemed so unlikely.
To me at least.
I didn’t think it’d happen, until it did. I thought I could keep on dealing with everything.
Until I couldn’t.
The strangest thing about getting out of a bad relationship is the oddness of feeling good again. How curious happy feels.
Being a lone parent means early starts, school run, work (mixed with a little bit of what can I feed her tonight) bus return, eat, play, wash, bed.
And kids being kids, eight o’clock…
The espresso machine was left behind. That beautiful shiny expensive silver thing that did the gorgeous bean alchemy.
Myself and my daughter are heading back to the UK.
In the meantime, while the world and our paperwork sort themselves out, me and the little one are in a new temporary apartment.
During the very worst of this, I mean the bits where I literally physically couldn’t talk about anything, a new espresso machine was the finish line. A new country, a new home, a new school and, although finances aren’t great — maybe an espresso machine.
Awake at five-thirty. It’s not quite worth going back to sleep. Doom scroll in the dark till six. Get up. Wrestle the little one into her uniform and down in the lift to a waiting school bus.
Seven, emails. Seven-thirty, grind coffee.
My wife gets the first cup. Our usual ABC beans (which are great). It comes out the espresso machine looking good. Reassuringly gloopy and golden. I squiggle the milk on top in the closest approximation I can manage to latte art. My inability to do this properly amuses us both.
One thing that stops me from writing more these days is the need to include a disclaimer at the outset.
Failing to reveal and appreciate privilege before starting to share anything remotely “lifestyle” makes you sound like a Guardian feature writer.
So here’s the deal. Remotely employed white man in Hanoi. Local wife. Locally adopted child.
Employed but no package. No one else is paying for education, healthcare, rent or flights. But still, lucky. Very lucky.
So let’s talk about the extreme options when it comes to education.
International? Realistically we can’t afford it. I mean we could but then…
I was going to cook Thai food. I bought the bottle almost as an afterthought. We’re running out, right? No harm in getting another bottle. I paid, put it in the bag and drove home.
I arrived, hot and sweating. Lifted the bag by its handles. Upright, onto the kitchen counter and watched in horror as the fish sauce toppled, pivoted out of the bag, and — in slow motion — despite my desperate lunge — it fell and hit the kitchen floor.
Immediately you’re torn. Got to get the glass up quickly. Broken glass is dangerous plus…
I arrived in Vietnam in 2004. There were four of us in my volunteer program. Three language teachers and me.
For the first two weeks we had Vietnamese lessons every day. They knew what demonstrative pronouns were. I struggled with my own language before I ever struggled with Vietnamese.
Before we go on, it’s important we stop and underline the fact, that my language excuses are just that, they’re excuses. Nothing more. They’re not viable reasons. I am not that self-unaware. These are the excuses I have made to myself. …
A friend elsewhere in Asia has an elderly parent in the UK. Chatting online she told me she’d read about this “slow-motion grief” affecting people as a result of the Covid-19 situation.
She told me she went on runs and cried through them. I admitted too I wasn’t sleeping. The smallest thing would make me emotional. I couldn’t think too far into the future because it all seemed too dark.
After Wuhan, things moved pretty quickly in Vietnam. Our little one’s nursery closed. Masks became compulsory. Track and trace was in full swing. An app was launched that offered various…
It’s not just the road less travelled. It’s off the map. It’s about hiding not adventure.
It’s about leaving peers behind. School friends, college mates, colleagues. It’s about not being compared. Your career, your family, progress (or lack of it).
It’s about not going to the same pub at 60 that you went to at 20. It’s about not seeing friends and family age. It’s not growing old publicly.
It’s not competing. Not even taking part. All expectations avoided
It’s taking no responsibility. What my country does is not my fault. Neither my birthplace nor my adopted home will embarrass me.
Not bravery. Cowardice.
But everything you avoid is replaced. An anxiety vacuum is created.
You can escape everything but yourself.
When did you first have air con?
“We didn’t have it until after I started work. I went out an bought my parents four of them. They didn’t work. There wasn’t enough power to run them so they hardly made any difference.
“The only way was to switch three of them off and all sit in the same room.”
But then, surely, it must have felt amazing?
“Not really. It wasn’t so hot then.”
Single dad/lone parent. NGO comms homeworker. Hanoi resident.