There are not many opportunities in life to do things differently. Habits are hard to break. Time always seems like an enemy. We get into our patterns and routines and believe that complacency is happiness. Trust me I do love a nice routine. It makes me comfortable. It is easier. Less tiring.
Being accepted into the Pulse program gave me an opportunity to do things in a new way. I came here very conscious of the habits I had coming to Vietnam with and what are the ones that I would like to change. Here is what I did
- TV: Vietnam does not really have a TV watching culture. They all have TV’s and I believe that the younger generation may change this but currently it is not the focal point for people. Like many Americans, I do not believe I watch too much TV. However coming here I wanted to limited that even further. So I completely cut TV out. Now that is the actual TV. Even though I do have cable here with several movie channels, I decided that turning the TV on needed to change. I do allow myself some Netflix. However that is dependent on the wifi signal and timing. What I have learned is that I do watch too much TV. That it is a time suck. You can justify sitting there for hours without really doing anything. You can learn things by watching and hearing, but what about the other senses? Now I have limits and will not even have cable when I return. I will keep Netflix so I can watch a few things but I see this as a chance to use all 5 senses for life.
- Beard: Ha! I decided coming here to stop shaving. I have never had a full beard. I am currently in the 5th month of growth and I have been told it is epic! I am not always sure what to think about this. I will say that the Vietnamese love it. I am constantly asked about it and and if they do not speak English they will hand jester to it. I will say it has a mind of its own. Sometimes it looks like Captain Caveman and other times it looks tidy and in control. I have noticed I now stroke my chin like a Bond villain. Beards are high maintenance. Products are needed. And in a country where they do not have facial hair you cannot find those products. My partner from the states did bring me products like beard oil. It has really helped. We shall see if I keep this difference when I return.
- Fitness: Fitness is always important to me. But in America I do the typical gym membership and lifting of weights. I can say I was really burnt out on this routine. I also did yoga and some spinning as well. I hate cardio. My body is not made for endurance. The first couple of weeks here I lived in a hotel. I did yoga and used the gym in the hotel, but I wanted to change this. When I moved to Tay Ho there was a Crossfit place. I had never considered it in the US because it is expensive. For Vietnam it is as well, but not compared to home. So I joined. The first two weeks I could not walk or move my arms over my head. It is about functional movement, body weight, some barbell work and mobility. Once I got through the first couple of weeks, I was hooked. It pushed me. Every day the WOD (Workout of the Day) is different. The coach (Michael first and now Karl) program us to get stronger. I can not only see a difference physically but mentally as well. When something became physically challenging to me I would easily stop. Now I do not. When I was out of breathe I would easily stop. Now I do not. This showed when I entered the Throw Down 2 weeks ago. It was a Crossfit competition for Hanoi. It was an all day thing. 4 WOD’s with a variety of exercises, times limits, repetitions and all of it was judged. I entered because it would raise money for the box (that is what the gyms are called in Crossfit). I had no expectation. My goals was to survive. In the first WOD I was 3rd. The second WOD I was 3rd. I knew the 3rd WOD I could do well. And for the first time I mentally told myself not to give up. Don’t give in. I could not breathe! But I ended up 1st. One more WOD left. I was put in the final group and a guy in the first group tore it up. I had to finish second at least to win (mind you I was unaware of this at the time). The final WOD was 100 kettle bell swings directly into 50 air squats directly into 25 wall ball squats hitting a target. It was all for time. The winning time was 3 minutes 30 seconds. I got 3 minutes 40 seconds. This meant I got second but 1st overall. I am now call the fittest man in Hanoi:)
- Social: People automatically assume I am a social person because of my personality. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I tend to be a homebody. My job is very social so when I get home I don’t have much left to give to other people. But I wanted to change this. I decided to change this. Here, the culture is very social. Very communal. They always meet for meals, coffee, tea and snacks. I am not social every night, but I can say at least 4 times a week, I am out and about. I am having food, tea or sight seeing. Many of this is with the other GSK volunteers. But many are with the locals as well. Many I do not know well, but they will invite you for a meal and drink. It is built into the culture. I will do my best to bring this back.
- Be tired: Many of these are related and interconnected. Many times in the States, I believe that I was not social or would watch TV so I could get to bed early and not be tired. I made an agreement with myself that it was ok to be tired. I can get sleep when I return. This has been a bit of a life changer for me. Instead of relaxing on the weekends, I pick up and travel now. I am better for this. I have explored most of Vietnam. By the time I return home I will have seen 8 countries. All with different cultures, languages, and sites to see. Now who cares if I am tired. I was just sitting here thinking I will take the last weekend here and relax. Nope. I booked a trip to Kuala Lumpur instead. Why no? Because I would be tired? I will be tired, but I will also be happier knowing I took full advantage of the experience. I was talking to a colleague about this. In Europe they seem to have this desire to travel and it is built into their culture. In America we do not seem to have this. Growing up we went on a total of 3 vacations. All were to Disney World in Florida. All were us being packed into a car and driving 12 straight hours. I did not grow up with this “holiday” mentality. So I do not do it. I have made myself at times. But I never use all my vacation time at GSK. What was I thinking? Work has always come first. I will assure you now there will be a better balance. That “holiday first” will be my new mantra. I love work, but work is not living. I am lucky to be able to afford to travel. But it does not mean anything if you do not do it. So I will continue to be tired. It is worth the price to understand the world and see what it has to offer.
There was one goal and change I was not able to make. I wanted to stop drinking Diet Coke here. There has absolutely no nutritional value to it. I was thinking it would be easy here. But no! All their drinks have loads of sugar in them. So I have actually consumed more here. So to keep my sugar down I have stuck with Diet Coke. That is ok. I can do that when I return:) Habits are made to be broken. Routines are made to be stopped. Here is to breaking as many as I can in my life!