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Odd, but Good

After four months of WordPress being blocked – the downside of living under a Communist regime – WordPress has miraculously returned, and so have I. Vietnam is still home for the time being, with travelling and teaching taking up most of my time.

Life has been good. I’ve even stumbled upon two women who, despite possessing ample good taste and intelligence in all other affairs, managed to fall for what could laughably be described as “my charms”.

The first of these two encounters was good for me. It was almost ten years since my lips had touched the lips of anyone other than M, and at the risk of sounding hopelessly pathetic it was a relief to find someone who wished to be intimate with me. Infidelity is a crushing blow, and it did crush me. I don’t think I’d realized quite how much.

I won’t go into details, obviously, other than to say I have never been with a woman who didn’t have the common decency to fake it. Am I getting to grips with the whole bragging thing yet?

The second woman, lets call her G, is an ongoing relationship. The same age as me, married within a month of me, unmarried at almost the same time, and with the same insane notion of fleeing her home Country to teach in Southeast Asia. So we have a few things in common.

We aren’t together together. Devastatingly atrocious endings to marriages tends to put you off the couple thing, but we do some of the things together that couples like to do.

She’s interesting, and laid-back, funny and good to talk to. She has good stories, and a laconic, dry way of telling them.

Like the Japanese couple in Indonesia, who complained very politely of a lizard in their room. The receptionist explained that geckos were everywhere, that they got into rooms and that little could be done to stop them but in any case, they were quite harmless. The couple listened, nodded, meekly returned to their room.

Only after they checked out next day did the cleaner discover the Komodo dragon in the bathroom.

I’ve had no contact with M, other than one picture of her on Facebook, on her birthday, in a restaurant. She’s sat next to a man I don’t know. A colleague? Lover? I don’t know. More importantly, I don’t particularly care.

I want to hope it is a boyfriend and that she’s happy and well, and in time I will. But for the moment, not caring is progress. I’m getting over her. Odd, but good.

Which, on a good day, is probably the best review I can expect from a woman with whom I’ve been intimate.

(Forgive my macho boasting).


“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Douglas Adams


Death in the Valley of Love

Other than 4000 places in Japan, my favourite surreal place in the World is Dalat. It’s one of the few places in Asia where you can be lead around a field, on a horse, by a Vietnamese man dressed as a cowboy.

I went there with an American friend, L, who has lived in both the Ecuadorian rain forest and a mid-western trailer park. She’s an overwhelming force for fun, with a laugh that translates into any language as this: I just thought of something dirty.

To the Crazy House, a Gaudi-esque oddity, both tourist attraction and hotel, full of maze like corridors, stairways to nothing and bizarrely rendered animal statues.

Next the former residence of Vietnam’s last King, to sit in traditional Vietnamese gowns on a thrown.

Having posed most regally, we entered the Valley of Love. If we’d had a Seismographer specially rendered to measure kitsch, it probably would have orgasmed.

Hundreds of gaudy statues in acres of parkland, couple swings and cowboys, and everything imaginable twisted into the shape of a heart.

It’s a top destination for newlywed Vietnamese. L and I are not a couple, and so we diluted the sugary lovliness of it all by posing for pictures as corpses.

At dinner – shellfish on the street – we got through 4 bottles of Dalat red wine and, stumbling home, came across the bright shiny lights of a nightclub entrance. Like two dazzlingly bedraggled turtles, we headed straight for the sparkling lights…

At 8.45am I trudged downstairs to tell the motorbike guys we’d hired that we wouldn’t be ready at 8.30am after all. However, all would be well at 9.30am, and at 10.45am on the dot we set off for the countryside!

Motorbiking through spectacular scenery is an excellent cure for hangovers. We hiked down under a waterfall, in true Last of the Mohicans style, took a cable car ride, and, over a lunch of chicken, beef, wild boar, tofu, fish, vegetables and silk work larvae, regained memories of the previous evening. Which for L was mostly spent swinging around a pole.

To a silk factory we trekked, the endless drone, drone, drone of the machines deafening. How odd it must be to work in a dreary factory every. single. day, and have privileged Western tourists snoop all around you.

Next, a presumably little known fact: Vietnamese weasels love coffee beans.

They eat them, and when they excreate them, the coffee beans have become gorgeously delicious. How inventive and darkly humoured nature can be.

In pretentious and snooty and quite possibly, trendy parts of New York, a cup can set you back $200. We paid two.

Thick and chocolatey.

I can’t afford $200 coffee, and never will. But I don’t have to work in a humdrum and glum factory. All round, I have reasons to feel pleased.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognising and appreciating what we do have.”

Friedrich Koenig

Eritrea and Being Alone

Is it weakness or kindness to feel compassion when someone has hurt you?

M called round this evening to collect some things. She wanted to know what my parents and sister, whom I’d just recently told about the infidelity and seperation, had to say.

I can’t deny a certain spiteful glee at unleashing the words theat they used. To expose her to them was unkind, but her reaction was perhaps kharma dealing me a fair hand. I felt no pleasure, only regret, at the way she crumpled and cried.

I hugged her as she did so, but it wasn’t comfortable. I hugged her in the way I imagine Prince Philip of England would hug someone. He’s no doubt familiar with the concept and has a rudimentary familiarity with the dynamics involved, but his execution would, as was mine, be somewhat awkward and stilted.

Tonight was another evening out, a leaving party for a friend due to departs this City. We attended an event celebrating Eritrean culture as the only two non-Eritreans to begin. My knowledge of Eritrea was sadly quite lacking but I can now confidently expouse the virtues of their cuisine, and dancing.

I also made a friend. A five year old who found the funniest thing in the World to be bouncing a balloon against my head. You can only envy someone who hasn’t yet been distracted by all the nonsense. He seemed to enjoy my exaggerated, comedic responses to his repeated inflatable attacks. He might not have enjoyed it as much as me. If only life were as easy as being hit by a balloon.

Dear M,

I wonder where you were tonight. You would have enjoyed it.


Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption

~William Saroyan~

Cognitive Dissonance and Ducks

Cognitive Dissonance might be the reason why Harold Camping still believes in the end of the World, and it might also be why I so failed to see M’s infidelity.

She didn’t try to hide it, just relied on my absolute trust in the goodness of her character. I knew something was wrong, but thanks to my brain and adaptive preference formation, I convinced myself that I was being unkindly suspicious.

This evening I went out and felt out of place and lost. I don’t want to be a single person. I did all of the single person things and bought the t-shirt in my twenties and I have no desire to go through the games all over again.

Life as a thirty-something single is daunting. In your twenties the rollercoaster is just an exhilerating ride. Post-thirty all you can imagine are the nuts and bolts coming apart and a vicious gruesome death befalling you at high speed.

Dear M,

You have stolen the happy memories of us, you have cheapened our entire relationship. You have made yourself someone who deserves to be unhappy and you have made me a fool, an idiot and a loser in the eyes of everyone, including myself.

Relationships are, of course, always hard. My friend told me of a friend of hers who had confided a problem with her boyfriend.

“What’s wrong?” She enquired, imagining something mundane. The response:

“He murdered a duck with a stick”

Maybe I shouldn’t worry about being single forever when men who murder ducks with sticks have girlfriends. At the moment, however, I still only want to be with M.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage

~Anais Nin~

Olivia A. Cole

Author. Blogger. Bigmouth.

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