Four City Impressions: Tokyo, Saigon, Columbus, San Francisco

It has been three and a half years since I first came to San Francisco to work on the career aspect of my life. Things have gone according to plan, I’ve settled into a routine and time has gone quickly. In fact, this is the most time I’ve spent in once city in the past decade.

This past month I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the cities in Asia and America I call home in rapid succession. My reason for doing so were simply to remember what life is like over in various cities and to think about the future. The one problem with moving from city to city is you always miss the ones you’ve left and there is always a sort of pull beckoning you to go back. It was this voice that I wanted to quiet a little as well as determine which world would be most suitable for the future.

When one is away from any city for a long time, the image of that city is continually built up in the mind and may make it seem better than it actually is. My mind especially reinforces the good aspects while negating the bad. I had to return to put it all in perspective.
Further, it is the experience one remembers and not the city as it actually is and not all experiences will be the same. However, I also believe that one has the power to physically change any experience simply by choosing how the mind will perceive it. This is why some will have negative experiences while others enjoy the time of their life even though they are experiencing the same city.

I went on my trip as one returning home and not as a tourist. I simply wanted to revisit the places and neighborhoods that were my home at one time.
Therefore, I thought it might be wise to write down my thoughts while they are still fresh and to share my experiences in these vastly different places.

1. Tokyo

– Tokyo is a city that could be described as a futuristic place in the present. It is clean, orderly and crime is almost non-existent. The technology is very advanced and returning to San Francisco, I can’t shake the feeling that it seems 10-15 years behind!

My neighborhood in Tokyo runs from Ikebukuro up to Kawagoe and westward along the Yamanote line to Shibuya. It was here that I ate at my favorite restaurants, had coffee in places where I used to study Japanese and had some beers at my favorite hangouts. It seemed as though time had not really changed things and I could easily slip back into that world.
Yet, it would not be the same world if I were to return. I was there as a student and English teacher and did not have to fight the crowded trains day in and day out. My Japanese is good enough to live in that world.

If I were to return I would be faced with the monumental task of improving my Japanese to native level which would take many years and dedicated nightly study. One part of me finds this to be difficult. Yet, whether something is difficult or not simply depends on the mindset when doing it. There will be peaks and valleys but with the right attitude there will be more peaks along the road.

The tougher aspect would be integrating into a mostly Japanese world. Before, I spent a lot of time with foreigners and achieved a very comfortable level of life. Going back I would have to integrate 100% which one can never really achieve since Japan is a homogeneous society and I would always be an outsider. However, with the right attitude one can get very close and become “accepted,” even if becoming completely “Japanese” is not possible.

In regards to integration one will have to become part of various groups. These groups are the people you work with, the neighborhood and even society at large. One must then abide by all the rules of these groups which inhibits individualism. Here in the USA we are individualistic and pursue our own goals in which we can sometimes bend rules. It reminds me a bit of the movie “The Matrix” in that Neo has the power to shape his environment as he wants it to be. In Japan there are no bending of rules and the Matrix is as it is with the individual having no power to change it. One must simply keep trying to accomplish what they will in a static fashion and various opportunities are spaced farther in between. One must pursue the aims of the group over the individual.

To put this in greater perspective, I left Japan Airlines (great company) due to my own aims and career goals. In Japan, this would not be a normal thing and much harder to do. In fact would almost seem like a betrayal and perhaps seen as a negative on the resume.

The positive aspect to moving back here is that my faculties would be awash in the culture and language. It would be like a child exploring an entirely new playground even if he knew how to navigate a select few of the obstacles. My Japanese would improve tremendously and I would have to keep myself more alert in order to advance.

Here in San Francisco it seems I rarely need to think at all and could sleepwalk through most days. It is as if the current of life has picked me up to carry me along the way and all I need to do is float. In Japan I would have to tread water pretty quickly at first and watch out for the boulders in the stream to keep advancing.

In short, Tokyo would be a great place to return to but life would take a lot of effort. But again, it is only as difficult as my mind tells me it is and if I regard it as simple and fun then so it would be.

2. Saigon

– The best part about Saigon are the people. I love the Vietnamese and regard them as very warm, kind and full of life. These people have been through so much yet it is very easy to find a smile in this city. Further, the expatriate crowd is extremely interesting as they come from all corners of the globe and usually have interesting stories to tell. I like the fact that I can walk into almost any restaurant/bar, converse in different languages and hear their story. The simple fact that they are in Saigon makes them adventurous and one can easily get a completely different viewpoint of any situation which simply doesn’t happen in the USA.

As for the Vietnamese, I don’t think I’ve every really met one that I didn’t like. Sure, sometimes there are struggles but I would be hard pressed to think of even one Vietnamese “sourpuss” if you’ll pardon the expression. When I encounter the service over there it puts a smile on my face and is very easy to be positive. Here in S.F. it can sometimes be a challenge to remain positive and keep that karma flowing.

Now, please don’t misunderstand, there are many great people here in San Francisco but there are also those that are not very happy with their life and it really drives the point home that money does not equal happiness. Even the street vendors offer a great smile in Vietnam where customer service here sometimes gives me the impression that I am bothering the vendor. I may be explaining this point poorly but my point is that it is very easy to be happy in Saigon where in S.F. it sometimes takes a bit of work (especially if you commute).

Yet, Saigon really no longer feels like home and that is due to the rapid changes in the city. Saigon has no recession, buildings are going up left and right and young people are finding plenty of nice office work. There is nothing that brings a bigger smile to my face then watching the young Vietnamese on a company outing with the same color hats and shirts on and their smiles simply beaming!! A beaming smile while working in S.F. is very scarce.

The Vietnamese are enjoying life at the moment and are definitely on the up and up. It is as if you can really see the people for who they are and nothing is hidden. And they are a wonderful people!! In Tokyo, the people are very polite but there is a distance between everyone. This lubricates the society but it takes a very long time to feel close or make good fr
iends. In Vietnam this could be accomplished in seconds.

I have gone astray and must digress a bit to Saigon not feeling like home. The reason is that before, it was still a pretty small city and it seemed as though all the expatriates new each other. We attended the same events, went to the same bars and could theoretically attend every event going on in the city! Further, there were quite a few Vietnamese who also attended these sort of foreigner events and I knew most of them too.

Now, there are foreigners everywhere, many more functions and associations and it is impossible to know everyone. I really became aware of this when I first arrived at the airport. In 2004, I could shoot through immigration in 30 seconds as there were no lines and only about 10 inspectors. Now there are around 40 inspectors and lines!! Further, I could not believe how many foreigners there were!

I was amused at the foreigners in front of me at immigration who were obviously new. The inspector rebuffed them due to some paperwork error and they seemed surprised that they were not being let in. Being haughty to the immigration inspector also does not get you in the country any faster and I was glad to bypass them and be let in immediately.

In town I also realized that a lot of my favorite hangouts were now gone and that there were many new hotspots in town. Dong Koi street is no longer the foreigner hangout it used to be and is now over behind the Sun Wah tower! Going into these places I only recognized between one and three people instead of the usual 10-15 as before. I did feel special as one of the bartenders gave me a free drink and called me “old meat” which meant that I was one of the old crowd returned instead of all the “new meat.” My friends which were still there also informed me that even they did not recognize most of the foreigners anymore since there were so many of them.

Finally, an enormous change has been the Viet Kieu which are the returning Vietnamese that left in various waves fleeing the country. They have also changed the face of Saigon and have brought money with them. I was fortunate enough to meet some really great Viet Kieu and none of the bad. The bad ones look upon foreigners as though they don’t belong there because it is THEIR country and can sometimes be rude. Fortunately, the ones I met were very outgoing and we had a lot of fun.

This social dynamic is really going to change things and it will be interesting to watch how the Vietnamese adapt to these new returnees especially when they have a lot of money. So many people left and so many are returning that it will have a very big impact. In Japan, there are few that venture outside the country but the ones that do might have trouble re-adapting since they might have a hit of “foreignerness” about them. I don’t really want to go into this and mention it just for comparison with Vietnam.

In conclusion for Saigon, I’m very excited that the young people are doing so well and the country is progressing. I do feel a little sad though that the Saigon I knew is gone but I am just one traveler whose time there has passed. This does not mean that I will not be back for visits however and I sincerely hope that I cross paths with Vietnam frequently. Yet, as for living there again it does not seem optimal unless a very large business opportunity were to present itself.

3. San Francisco

– Out of all the cities in the USA (that I have visited) San Francisco is my favorite. The people are not as warm as the Vietnamese and the city is not as advanced as Tokyo but San Francisco is magnificent! The natural beauty and the talent of this city are unsurpassed. The people are also more laid-back then those down in LA except of course during their commute.

I love this city due to it’s walkable nature and its compact size. San Francisco can be taken in in its entirety yet there is always something new to discover. Tokyo on the other hand is overwhelming and one can only take one small area at a time which even then can never be fully discovered. San Francisco though is able to be digested in each of its unique neighborhoods over the course of a year or so. Further, the variety is astounding in that one could be snowboarding (Lake Tahoe) in the morning and drinking wine outdoors in 80 degrees (Napa) in the evening.

In regards to entertainment, even the small venues draw extraordinary talent. I used to believe that quality entertainment costs about $100. Yet, I have recently learned that it can be had for $15 and even great wine can be bought for $20.

The downside is that this city costs money. It is an adult playground but in order to play one must pay the fee. Further, it is not very easy to make friends without a lot of effort. In Saigon one makes friends whether they desire to or not. In Tokyo, many people are curious about foreigners and even though it takes a lot of time, with a positive attitude friends will come. Yet, in S.F. it succumbs to the “big city” mentality in that even though people can be friendly, one can only get so close before it becomes uncomfortable. Friends can be made but they must actively be sought out.

This could also simply just be my mindset as there are plenty of young adults around. Yet, I no longer go out to meet people but instead have set plans be it a restaurant or simply staying home and watching Netflix.

San Francisco is a great place to live if one can afford it and does not tire of all the activity. After three and a half years here I still enjoy a modest amount of activity but it is far from the nightly scene of Saigon.

4. Columbus

– My first impression about Columbus was that the people are extraordinarily friendly. I had begun to think that Americans were modestly friendly in comparison to the Vietnamese but that was my mistake and I had become to accustomed to San Francisco.

The atmosphere is much more laid back and I felt very much at peace there compared with the noise and activity of San Francisco. The main activity was going to a Blue Jackets game and talking about Ohio State Football. The politics also seemed much more reasonable and easy going than in S.F. where everything is a constant battle.

It almost seemed as though life was a bit slower and that my town of Grandview was like the fictional town of “Pleasantville.” People get along and are friendly but unfortunately Ohio State Football is more of a discussion topic than international affairs. This is not a slam in any way as I love Ohio but I miss listening to viewpoints I had never even fathomed (Saigon) rather than the usual opinions.

In Columbus, it seems to me that one could have all (or most of) the material things they wanted since living expenses are much more reasonable. A decent sized house, two cars, large T.V. and maybe even a pool table. The people are much more welcoming and friendly which really endears me to the Midwestern life style.

Yet, I feel I would miss the excitement of the international scene and any material items would soon become boring. I have always much preferred experiences to material things and I think it is too late to turn back the clock now. Yet, in terms of livability Columbus is very hard to beat in terms of raising a family.

In conclusion, each city offers distinct advantages while others would have to be sacrificed. It is so easy to simply coast along in life and let the current take you where it may. It is quite another deciding to get up out of the stream and place yourself in a completely different one, swimming like crazy until one is coasting again yet trying not to think of the streams they had previously left and if they would lead to a more perfect lake.

Greatest Criminal Mind Ever – Mateo

There are times in life when one really cannot make sense of what has just transpired. Times that seem life is playing a joke on you or that you’ve been “set up” by unseen cosmic forces. After the event ends you’re in a a state of shock and confusion and swear that perhaps those have gone before you may have had a part to play.

One of these moments happened to me this morning of May 8th at around 8:30am. It was actually suggested by a real police officer, during a real traffic stop that I may have “the Greatest Criminal Mind Ever.” Without further delay, the events unfolded as such.

I had only been in my car for five minutes and was driving through the unsightly Tenderloin neighborhood going to my first customer. I was following a rather wide shuttle bus that slowed and pulled over to the side of the road. I started to go around when I saw a police officer directly in front of me telling me to stop and pull over. The officer then proceeded to pull the next 10 drivers behind me over as well.

I thought that perhaps there had been an incident up ahead or perhaps some sort of protest. When another driver asked why we had been pulled over he told us that we had all failed to stop for the small school bus on the corner which had its stop sign out.

Now, in the Tenderloin I am extremely cautious because people will walk out in the street in front of you and one has to be careful. However, I have no recollection of any school bus but sure enough there did happen to be one behind me on the corner. Therefore, I’m thinking I’m dead in the water I’m definitely going to receive a ticket.

As the officer had stopped at least 15 cars, the traffic was quite backed up. After about ten minutes of waiting he comes to my window and asks for my drivers license. I pull out my wallet only to discover I do not seem to have my drivers license. I search pretty thoroughly only to confirm this fact. The officer only waits about 5 seconds, tells me to keep looking and goes on to the other vehicles.

At this point, I am a bit confused since in my three years of living here:

1. I have never been pulled over
2. I have had my drivers license every single day

Therefore, it seems to make no sense that on the one time I get pulled over my license just happens to not be in my wallet. Suspicious indeed…………

Now, there are about 5 other policemen taking care of the situation yet in no rush what so ever. So I decide to get out of my car and wait. The original officer comes back and asks if I’ve found my license to which I reply, “I’m sorry sir but I don’t seem to have my license.” He tells me to find the license number and will come back. So I check my insurance information which I had recently renewed but did not happen to have the up-to-date insurance information with me and realize I had left it in my apartment.

Further, there is no drivers license number on the insurance or DMV registration.
By this point another officer came next to me but said nothing. The original officer comes back and the dialogue is as follows:

Officer: “Did you find your license yet?”
Me: “No sir. I think what may have happened is that when I renewed my insurance I might have left my license on my desk.”
Officer: “Find your license number.” “If you can’t find it we will have to tow your car.”
Me: “I understand sir.” “I really do not know why my license just happens not to be in my wallet at this particular time sir. This is strange.”
Officer: “Find your license number.” “Can’t you call your insurance company.”
Me: “Well, it’s Geico, and the customer service isn’t very good.” “I’ll keep looking sir.”
He proceeds to write me a ticket.
Officer: “What is your hair color”
Me: “Brown”
Officer: “Eyes?”
Me: “Blue”
Officer: “Weight?”
Me: “180lbs”
Officer “What is that a Scion?”
Me: “Yes sir.”
Officer: “Who makes that?”
Me: “Toyota Sir”
Officer: “Did you find your license number yet?”
Me: “Yes sir, it’s 4, 5, Henry, Charlie…..”
Officer: “No, that is your license plate number I need your DRIVER’S LICENSE number.”
Me: “Oh, sorry sir.”
Officer: “Ok, I’ll look it up on the computer.” “You’re not going to be one of those guys I have to tow are you?”
Me: “No sir.” “Sorry to keep holding you up sir, I really do.”
Officer: “We get paid by the hour, I’ve got time.”
Officer goes to the patrol car for about five minutes and comes back.
Officer: “There are a couple of people under your name, what is your date of birth?”
I tell him my date of birth and he goes back to the patrol car. He comes back a few minutes later looking at me and shaking his head.
Officer: “I don’t think you have a license!”
Me: “I do have a license sir.”
Officer: “In California?”
Me: “Yes sir, it’s California.”
Officer: “How long have you lived here?”
Me: “About three years, I live right up the street, I have my Blockbuster card, my Costco card, but strangely, I just do not seem to have my drivers license.”
At this point, I’m really laying the Midwestern charm on very thick and that I’m most likely the only one who is being polite and extremely cooperative about being pulled over. The other drivers are grumbling about having to be on time somewhere.
Officer: “You are not in our database!”
Me: “I don’t know why that would be sir, my last name is spelled C, X, X, X, X, X”
Officer: “Like the things you hang on the window?”
Me: “Yes sir, without the a.”
Officer: “Do you have any parking tickets?”
Me: “Yes sir.”
Officer: “Well go get them”
Me: “Uh, I mean no sir, I got one last year but paid it. I don’t have one with me.”
The officer addresses the other.
Officer: “Call it in and see if they can find him.”
Officer #2 “Yea, I need a D-L on a C, X, X, X, X, X”
Dispatcher: “No record”
Officer: “Do you have any identification?”
I hand my Bank card (with picture) and business card to officer number 2
Officer: “Where do you work?”
Me: “I work at (name of company).”
Officer: What is that?”
Me: “I sell industrial supplies to the skyscrapers downtown.”
Officer to officer number 2
Officer: “You know, he really doesn’t seem like the type that wouldn’t have a license.”
Officer #2: “Yea that or he’s the greatest criminal mind ever.”
They share a laugh and I as well although nervously. Officer then addresses me.
Officer: “Ok, get out of here, go find your license.”
Me: “Sorry about that, thank you officer.”
Officer: “Go!”

And so I went.

I came back to my apartment and looked all around but no drivers license was to be found. I still had to work so I went to out to visit customers. I entered the Transamerica building and stood behind someone checking in with security. The security officer asked to see his identification and the light went off. I bet I left it at the (insert name) Hotel!!! Sure enough, I had left it with security on a customer visit a few days ago.

It would seem the cosmic forces have gotten me (or saved me) on this occasion. I still cannot understand that even though I have had my license with me every single day the one day I get pulled over it is not there. Further, I DO NOT SHOW UP in the database!!!
Cosmic forces indeed……..

10 Things I Love/Hate about San Francisco

My first thought of the day is the image I get when I hear the word “blog.” To me, it conjures images of taking a dump on a page. Eat your fiber and blog all you want! Yes, I know it means Web Log but I would like to petition to change the name to something more appealing. My suggestion is “escrivette.” Combine the Spanish word “Escribir” which means “to write” with a French suffix that usually means a smaller size of something.

10 Things I love about San Francisco

1. The scenery
– mountains, ocean and the bay. It’s beautiful here.

2. The Diverse Neighborhoods
– Just a few blocks from any point and you will arrive in a different neighborhood. North Beach, Fisherman’s Warf, Soma, The Haight. They all have such different characteristics and there is always something to do

3. History
– San Francisco is steeped in history. From the Spanish explorers up to the technology age San Francisco has history on every single block. One interesting fact is that East of Van Ness Avenue is relatively new buildings due to a large fire burning everything down. Yet West of Van Ness the old Victorian houses still remain.

4. Proximity to other unique areas
– Napa, Lake Tahoe, Silicon Valley, The Ocean, Santa Cruz. – You can go skiing in the morning and be surfing by noon. Best not to mix wine tasting between the two however.

5. Compact City
– One can walk from one side to the other but it is best to go around the hills. You do not need a car to live here.

6. Public Transportation
– This city has the best public transportation in all of the USA. The Muni, and Bart can get you anywhere in under an hour.

7. Entertainment
– The level of talent here is unsurpassed. Not everyone becomes a superstar but this does not mean they do not possess extraordinary talent. Those folks end up in up in superb attractions such as Beach Blanket Babylon, Teatro Zinzanni and an unlimited amount of small intimate theaters. Superstars they may not be but many are famous in their own right and end up on Broadway. (Broadway is not only in New York but the casts do travel here)

8. Restaurants
– World Class restaurants seem almost unlimited. My favorite are the small places with only about ten tables. Due to the economy reservations only really need to be made about three days in advance and using yelp.com really helps with thousands of reviews

9. Politics
– Sometimes the city goes a little far but I mostly appreciate the mentality of progress and testing the limits of society here. Conservatism to me is akin to not wanting to advance. If conservatives ruled the world we would still be stuck in the Dark Ages. Society will continually progress with periods of stagnation or even recede but San Francisco is always testing those limits. Without liberal thinking and trying new ideas we would not have Google, Apple, the Green movement or equal rights of every citizen. San Francisco always pushes the envelope.

10. Weather
– The mild climate is perfect and no air conditioning needed. Most San Franciscans wear pants year around and one can always spot the tourists in shorts, short sleeve shorts who may be comfortable around noon but in the evening are covered in goose bumps

10 Things I hate about San Francisco

1. Beggars
– Due to the liberal nature of the city there is one neighborhood “The Tenderloin” which it is better not to go. This has severely degraded most of Market St and although it is a minor hassle one tires of the constant pleas for money. As the mayor Gavin Newsom pointed out, San Francisco is not pushing these people to the outskirts like New York but trying to integrate them as best as possible. Integrating these people however is a very difficult task due to lack of education, broken family structure, drugs and violence. This is unfortunate.

2. Drivers and traffic
– When people get in their cars they turn irrational and extremely selfish. If one causes another a minor inconvenience while driving then one should expect a very large horn blast. The inconvenienced drivers rage will also hit boiling immediately and often they will step on the gas and speed around as though you called their mother a lethargic donkey.
Drivers need to chill out!

3. Driving in general
– Watch out for the Cable Cars, crazy homeless people and the fact that San Franciscans only take the “do not walk” sign as a suggestion. They will not wait for the light to walk if there is no traffic and 10% will proceed out into traffic anyway. This has become such a problem that they sometimes have police watching for jaywalkers.

4. The Weather
– As I mentioned, I do like the weather but during the Winter months it is usually gray and chilly. This is not what I had in mind when I thought of California. The temperature is usually not warm enough for shorts but I wear them anyway because I love my cargo shorts with all the pockets.

5. No Parking
– I love walking but hate having to pay $260 a month for parking when I do not even use my car that much. I keep it at a nearby hotel which requires that I have to walk 6 blocks to go get my car. When delivering groceries back to the house I must stop my car in front of the fire hydrant. I have not received a ticket yet but this is the only way to take my groceries upstairs.

6. Expensive
– If you step out the door then money will also come out of your wallet as well. If one wants to do anything in this city then it usually involves spending some cash. As for housing, forget it. A modest house is around 1 million dollars and many condos as well. One could acquire a condo for around $600,000 but you have to be quick.

7. Apartment Living
– I love that my apartment is in the center of the city. However, it is very small and spending too much time here is not so relaxing. When I travel back to Ohio my favorite thing to do is sit on the porch swing for hours just taking in the peace and quiet.

8. Noise
– Ambulances and cop cars never cease. Crazy people also like to yell ( I live in the “Tendernob” which is between the worst area “The Tenderloin” and “Nob Hill which is the best area. My neighbors are generally respectful except for the kid upstairs who likes his music. I hate to hear the Chinese neighbors arguing but love hearing my Japanese neighbor play his Hawaiian-like music.

9. The Muni (Public Transportation)
Great to get around but never on time and full of crazy people.

10. Concrete Jungle
– There are beautiful vistas but very little green. I live in a concrete paradise full of pigeons.
I do enjoy living here and the experience but will not be here forever. It will be good to read this post again in the future when I curse myself for ever leaving San Francisco.

San Francisco City Life

I have recently become interested in reading about the ordinary (extraordinary) lives of expatriates through their blogs. Daily experiences, joys and frustrations of other major world cities are very fascinating to me which got me thinking. When I lived in Saigon and Tokyo I only blogged when some event left a deep impression be it cultural, political or just an event I had never experienced before. The daily, monotonous routine however was deemed not interesting enough to write about. However, now that I look back I wish I had kept more of a journal so I could go back and read what my life was like back then.

It then occurred to me that I am currently living in San Francisco but will not be here forever. Thus, it might be a good idea to write about my daily experiences which may be interesting for those living in other countries or even cities even though it is not interesting for me at present. Yet, in time I would like to come back to these posts to further understand where I had been and what my experiences were.

So without further delay, here is my ordinary day starting with a frustrating event.
After work, I often like to hit the gym across the street. It is rather small and unlike my other gym experiences I do not relate or even talk to the other members of the gym. Here in SF, people are generally friendly but at a distance. I really do not feel that close connection that came to other gym members in Tokyo or Saigon. Here I put on my headphones, work out, steam bath and shower then go home.

Yesterday, I did have an unpleasant interaction as I was on the elliptical doing my hour routine. A young blond woman came up to me and asked how much time I had left. I told her about twenty minutes. She told me I had already been on for thirty minutes and there was a time limit. I replied that there were other machines available and that I was not getting off. So she went to a young staff member who came over and told me I had to get off the machine. I replied that there were other machines available but the blond chick said this one was a “little different.” So, realizing I could not win this round I did get off but then asked to see Tony the manager. I explained that the intent of the rule was if all machines were occupied then out of courtesy one needs to limit their time but not if 90% of the other machines are open. I also told him this was the second time this woman has asked me to get off the machine.

He agreed with me and said he would talk to the bimbo and his staff member. Apparently I had won but am wondering if this chick will come up to me again. If this happens then my strategy is to have a sit down discussion with her and the manager to sort this thing out.

I am amazed by my capacity to resolve a dispute while keeping my emotions under control. Sure, I would like to express that “this bitch is pissing me off,” but realize that in order to win I simply have to outsmart them and use reason to get a desired outcome.

I also am trying to fight the urge to compare this situation to Asia. In Japan and Saigon this had never happened because the people are more respectful of each other and I have never experienced someone taking advantage of a rule for their own personal benefit. This also could be another “culture shock” as perhaps in this culture (big city life) people are quite selfish.

After the gym I tried to put it out of my mind by watching the Wizard of Oz in preparation for the musical Wicked. It has been quite difficult to forget about it as the battle might not be through but if I am trying to adjust my mindset and think of it as an opportunity for growth.

After the movie was over I went to bed only to be awakened by a car alarm at 3:00am. This alarm went off three times for a total of 15 minutes. At that moment I was thinking about going out to flatten the tires of this car or at least hoping someone would call the police which odds are probably did happen. A car alarm going off at 3am in this neighborhood has effectively awoken at least 600 people. Odds are someone called the cops. And, if I flattened the tires it would probably just set off the alarm again.

This morning I had a very important meeting with a large customer whose sales have tanked quite badly. I went with an upper level colleague of mine so we could strategize together. The meeting went well and we did identify a few areas where we could be a great resource helping the customer save time and money but the issue is this “boss” cannot mandate to the four buildings. I do have a great relationship with these buildings but the challenge will be getting them to cooperate, standardize and allow us to take over some of their existing business.
The weather is uncharacteristically cold and wet. A perfect opportunity to clear out a bit of the administration/follow up work which I have just completed.

Today is also Friday yet working from home I never have that feeling of Friday elation. I do my work, wait on 5:00 but at five no joy magically appears. I then try to decide what to do as it is Friday but even though there are a lot of options I find myself very indecisive. When you live in the city, even though there are many things to do, they have all been done before. On one hand I want to be productive or at least do something that will bring joy. Yet, I cannot shake this feeling of melancholy.

It at this moment I think of Saigon and the wonderful expatriate crowd there. I had a complete list of contacts that were most likely already out and about and nothing could be better than having a few drinks and conversing with them and their distinct points of view.

I tried to replicate that here by going to a bar down the street that is full of Asian barmaids and they even have a dart board. Yet, nobody plays darts and the conversation is very boring. The last conversation I heard was someone discussing movies and how “Bad Santa” was the best movie ever made. These guys just get drunk and have a dumb conversation. No other way to put it really.

I did join a few language clubs which did seem interesting and it is fun to speak another language but the fact is these people are strangers. Again, one just cannot connect with others as easily as in Asia.

So what to do with myself tonight? Go to the gym and pick a fight with the blond bitch,, er, I mean, young woman? Go to the bar and listen to boring conversation? Maybe just watch a movie, read, or play an online game? Go out to a restaurant which I have done 1000 times before?

It would seem that my batteries are drained and I could use a vacation. City life does wear on you and I rarely escape. Tomorrow I am going golfing with my ex-colleagues which should be fun but unfortunately there is rain in the forecast.

I’ll leave it at that since writing does not seem to be dissipating the melancholy. At least I’ll always have a record of the last 48 hours.

Until the next adventure I remain,

Mateo