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  • Writer's picturejohnny b

saigon: relinquish that which distracts

besides a couple instances of food poisoning that i so happened to neglect to write about...i mean hey, blogging is kind of like social media, you only post about the good parts...this trip was running fairly smoothly. oh wait, and the police raid at the internet cafe two nights ago...maybe some updating of previous blogs is in order! ok. so, beside all of that. this has been a typical backpacking trip in terms of ease. i have my passport and prepared all visas and other governmental documents needed before leaving, allowing for ease of south eastern asian nation hopping.

until now. flying out of siem reap, i got to the airport with plenty of time to spare (2 hours

before my flight) heading to ho chi minh, vietnam (or saigon, depending on where your allegiance falls in regards to the vietnam war). with a smile on my face, living in the moment as tolle has so gracefully taught me, i approached the bench and discussed my position with the acting judge who was the attendant at the vietnam airline's check-in kiosk. reminiscing about my time at the angkor wat temples. my eyes drifting around the surprisingly modern and dustless airport, this cambodian visit was quite enjoyably spent, one day with my new buddy robert and the second day of temples with my ma.

"sir, do you have your visa for vietnam?"

"of course, let me just dig it out of my passport fanny pack." unzip...nope. unzip...nope. i can't find it...i step to the side and i rummage through my backpack. shit, i only printed out 1 of 2 pages. i have one unnecessary document, and no necessary visa!

ok Tolle, help me out! i will have no problems in life, if i understand that what i am dealing with in the moment, is how things are exactly supposed to be. so, i'm not supposed to have my visa? but i need it. so i should have it, right? no, i messed up and didn't print it. so actually, i shouldn't have it. this is exactly how things are supposed to be. HA! damn you tolle, you're absolutely right. ok, well, i have it in an email, right? yes, ok good. let's go see how the judge wants to deal with the defendant.

"sir, you really should have it printed. but that's ok, we understand. email it to us, and you can print it in the office."

how nice. as the judge continues scanning the evidence, he seems thrown off.

"mr. john. your passport says 'john michael begale' but your visa says 'john begale.' they need to match"

strike 2! i need a coffee...a good one, glad there is a starbucks! also glad i have 2 hours, but time is moving quick. after some back and forth without much questioning, i have to contact the vietnamese government to expedite the process. it'll cost me an additional $120 usd by the time everything is said and done, but it should take less than 45 minutes to get an updated visa so it properly says "john michael begale" instead of "john begale." this seems silly, especially the cost for such a small mistake. but the key here is, mistake. i made it. i suffer the consequences. i also have no interest in being in limbo anywhere in the world, but most importantly outside of the usa, so i proceed with caution and get the deed done...with a starbucks coffee in hand of course.

a common theme on this trip. I'm becoming more and more aware of who i am at my core, allowing me to understand what my truth is. and to get here, it requires deep reflection, constructive criticism of the self, and the acknowledgement and ability to let go of what does not serve you, in the moment you are able to recognize. to best put it, "the more we can relinquish that which distracts, the more we can live our truth." this shows up day in and day out, highlighting that there is a lot of my life that was created out of fear of being seen.

very simple, yet a perfect example of hesitation to be myself, and in turn silencing myself. as i went to message a few friends i made on this trip a video of myself, reenacting an inside joke we had. a gentleman (who i spoke about in a past blog) i may have developed a crush on was to be one of the recipients. my typical thought process. "he might think you are flirting with him." "that would make him uncomfortable." "don't send it, just forget about it." and then i would move on with my life, strengthening this specific insecurity muscle, damaging my soul. so, as a result of me worrying whether or not a recipient would be uncomfortable with something i say, i silence myself.

not healthy, at all. it was to be a quick joke, that i began to truthfully understand would get some laughs from the group and then be subsequently forgotten about. but this thought process, i knew way too well. it's something that has ran my life due to my fear of being seen for who i truly am. so. i send it. quite honestly don't remember the reaction by the individuals of the group, and i think that's mainly because i was feeling a bit of a high in the current moment. i was rewiring a process that ran much of my speakable life. rewiring a process so i can live a life with more freedom. more freedom to be me.

as i got into saigon, exchanged some usd for vietnamese dong, got free wifi from burger

king...and got burger king, grabbed a cab, switched cabs after the driver grabbed all my money and wallet without hesitation in order to show me how much i would owe him, i finally made my way to my dormer for the night. a long day. a day i finished with some pho, one variation of vietnamese soup, and a nice shower before crashing.

the next two days were packed with tours, full of learning. i went to the củ chi tunnels, which the southern vietnamese built during the war. these tunnels acted as space in the ground which protected the southern vietnamese away from all of the bombings and viet-cong attacks. a decision that no one should have to make in their live underground to protect themselves and families from warfare.

between learning about the tunnels and agent orange, chemical warfare which held the purposes of defoliating forest areas that protected the viet-cong troops and destroying crops that may feed the enemy, it was a very eye opening experience. agent orange not only had an immediate affect of destroying camouflage opportunity for northern troops, it also caused birth defects by those who were exposed to it for generations to come.

day two of saigon tours was a boat ride on the mekong river delta. while yesterday's tour was extremely informational, this one was extremely relaxational. our tour guide, properly known as slim jim due to his love of smoking and scrawny stature, first took us to a cao dai temple. i am not entirely aware of this new faith, new to me, but it holds prophets form buddhism, christianity, islam, etc. something tells me they also lead with compassion, just as i was taught is at the core of buddhism.

being exposed to different faiths, cultures, governmental structures, family lifestyles, and so on is becoming more and more important to me. to a certain extent, the majority of this world lives a tunnel visioned life. not by choice, but situation. where you are born, the family you are born into, financial situation of your family, the open mindedness of those who raise you, etc. all play a role into what you are exposed to during your developmental years. for many, these factors even play a role as to what variety or lack of cultures/faiths/etc. one is exposed to during their adult life. no matter the case, my willingness to seek and receive exposure on this trip to that which is unknown has created a curiosity and yearning for this type of knowledge that will never be lost. i will constantly seek to learn about that which i am unaware.

immediately following the stop at the caodai temple, slim jim and our driver went full speed ahead towards the mekong river delta. once we fully boarded our boat (that also could have been properly nicknamed slim jim), it was time to let our hair down and enjoy the relaxing ride with a breeze flowing in our direction. in about 20 minutes we hit up our first stop which was an island within the delta which made local honey. we were all able to sip on some tea with this delicious, all natural honey while munching on some fresh fruit (jackfruit, mango, watermelon, pineapple) and listening to a few women singing and dancing in their traditional ways.

following another 20 minute or so ride, we stopped at another island which produces coconut milk candy. the villagers heat up coconut milk in a bowl while it is constantly stirring until it is cooked long enough to have the consistency of caramel. depending on the inventory stock, some flavor may be added like coffee or chocolate, but they also do make plain. i stocked up on a bit, impulse buy most likely, but like most things in se asia, very inexpensive.

our next stop was lunch, which filled our tummies but nothing quite special. surprisingly, most tour meals i would gladly have again, but not this one. nothing to write home about as they say.

we then broke up into smaller, more traditional boats without motors to experience how things used to be. another relaxing boat ride, so long as no crocodiles or snakes launched at us! definitely the perfect setting for anaconda 6, if they ever decide to revive that series for another lap.

as mentioned, this tour was more leisurely than anything else. but you know johnny b. while

I was able to enjoy the moment, get to know slim jim on a deeper level and become good buddies with fellow tourists, there was plenty of time to reflect while the boat was in top gear and the motor was blasting.

for my entire life, i wanted to be like everyone else. like heterosexual men, to pin the tail on the donkey. so yes, this meant my sexuality, but in case it has not been clear in the overall theme of these blogs, it meant i attempted to exist as i should within a heteronormative society. which plays to so many other assets of my being that are not necessarily directly related to my sexuality. how i show up in terms of masculine vs. feminine characteristics. how i show up as vulnerable vs. guarded. how my interests show up and whether or not they were heteronormative or not (sports vs. art, etc.).

as i recognize this, i can rewrite. i think what is an important variable to have when rewriting, is access to what you can rewrite with. knowledge of the options that you can replace your old ways with whether or not they are something obvious at your core or options you are exposed to from external factors.

this showed up very clearly for me as i met with, observed, and discussed vietnam and life at large with slim jim. while i very matter of factually discussed the bullet points of the mekong river delta tour above, there was the added variable for me in observing an extremely genuine, comforting, knowledgeable, compassionate, energetic, loud, and joyful being in slim jim that always had a smile on his face. even when he was discussing his love for america and our help with the war to fight maybe i'm a little biased here :P.

before moving forward with this thought, there is something very important here. i am at a place in my life where i hit my core. i am at a different place in my life than i truly have ever been. i can observe everything around me, digest, analyze, and ultimately decide how i want to receive it and how i want to move forward. so. i may have had these external influences in the past at home, in my family and friends, from strangers, etc. but i was not in this position. i could not receive the compassion and loving energy in this fashion, in the past.

slim jim. what an amazing creature. as mentioned, his smile guided him. from what i've seen, or was capable of seeing, due to the depression and anxiety which was ruling my life, i was supposed to always stay in line. don't rebel and do what your told. speak in a way that everyone will receive you well. don't question, just listen and be told how to think. if one is in a place of superiority, scold the inferior, bring anger to the table so they know what they did was wrong. if one is inferior, anticipate to be belittled if you are unknowledgeable or have done something wrong.

slim jim. he taught me something different. i was observing compassion and love leading the way. just like i was exposed to when learning about buddhism and the bhutanese culture. this is not to say that there is not a time for anger, or raising one's voice to correct a situation or steer it in the right direction. but from what i have seen, and i should mention i'm not referring to my family household but to the way of life in america at large, we are told to "get over it"/"stop whining", we are advised in a way that describes what we "should do" instead of being asked what we want to do and receiving guidance on how to achieve. i do acknowledge things are changing, society is evolving, and we are as a race leading with more unconditional love than we have in the past. but obviously there is still much work to be done.

what i recognized when leaving slim jim, was that for a long time i allowed heteronormative

men, that stereotype to influence me, instead of allowing compassion and my true being to lead the way. now, when i recognize beings who are "overly" social and compassionate and loving, i am able to recognize that this is how i want to lead my life...this is my core. and when the past whether internally or externally shows up and tells me no, it has become an easy deep breath which allows me to overcome. no more listening to the naysayers of my life, time to start listening to those who support the path that serves me best.

acknowledge your anxieties. relinquish that which distracts. find your truth. find your core. rewire, and live.

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