My day job is an interesting combination of marketing writing, teaching Business English and being on the Community Aid Committee of the wonderful Hanoi International Women’s club. And of course those tasks get juggled alongside everything else that most women (and yes, some men) deal with on a daily basis – currently that includes moving house. So it will come as no surprise that I cannot function without a daily To Do List, combined with jottings and slips of paper in a desk calendar, a pocket calendar and electronic calendars all neatly synched between laptop, iPad and phone. Simply keeping these aide memoires up to date and colour co-ordinated regularly provides endless hours of entertainment (I think that was someone’s catch phrase but don’t know whose?).
In that wonderful way that only the universe fully understands, my various ‘worlds’ often overlap and merge in a very satisfying way (and occasionally collide in a less pleasant manner) and I marvel every time when I’m asked to write an article on a subject that is just the topic I need to know more about at that particular time.
Two recent examples illustrate my point. The first, more positively than the second, was an article I wrote for an e-newsletter where the topic was how to handle email overload in the office. I have the Post It Note in front of me as I type: Do, Delegate, Designate Time and Dump and I have to say, this system works very well for me (when I remember to use it!).
The second article was a longer piece about business blogging – why you need one and how to get started. Researching this article had me engrossed and I enjoyed writing it so much I even decided to implement some of the advice. An hour or so later I had a hand written, a typed and an Evernote version of my blog’s mission statement, frequency, editorial calendar and keywords.
That was back in April and since then I ‘should’ have written fortnightly on:
- Public Holidays in Vietnam
- Getting a second dog
- Trailing spouse syndrome
- Visiting Thailand
- Staying home alone in a strange country while hubby works away
- Visiting Phu Quoc island
- The CAC and HIWC
- Moving house, what you look for in a home when living abroad
- Holidays redefined – when going back home is not a holiday
And since April I think, from memory, I’ve posted about two blogs and probably not actually covered any of these topics. In fact, I haven’t felt inclined to blog at all. What had been a pleasure that I admittedly didn’t indulge in as often as I would have liked, had suddenly become a chore. Creating this plan took all the creativity out of the process for me. What had been fun has now become work.
Three months later here’s what I’ve learned – not all plans are good plans, you don’t always need a plan and – if it isn’t working ditch the plan!
So, hopefully I’ll be back more often and writing about the stuff that appeals at the time of writing rather than following a ‘features calendar’ and hopefully my readers will enjoy the randomness of ad hoc writing. I’ll leave you with a photo of me and the hubby getting soaked playing splash with an elephant in Thailand – just to bring the fun back into this blog!
One of the things I was particularly looking forward to about moving to a completely new place was the feeling that I would suddenly have more time. Back in the UK I managed to fill all my time – with a combination of work and leisure activities – so that I never seemed to have the time to take on anything new or even ‘enough’ time to do some of my activities to the extent that I wanted to.
In Vietnam though I felt that things would be different. For one thing I wouldn’t have friends and family around and although I love spending time with them all, without their presence I should, in theory have spare time.
Five months in and that just doesn’t seem to be the case. My husband reckons that the day I die I’ll still be complaining that I haven’t got, or haven’t had, time to do everything I want to do. Maybe he’s right, maybe I am just one of those people who is constantly dissatisfied. But I don’t actually think that’s what he meant. I think he meant it as a compliment. He often says that I have an insatiable curiosity and interest in life, a thirst that can never be quenched. Hmm.
So what exactly do I do all day?
Well let me see:
Monday – free in the morning to catch up with marketing writing and other bits of admin related to owning property that’s rented, pensions, general ‘stuff’. The afternoon I try to meet up with my writing buddy to do a couple of hours of creative writing. Walk the dog – which takes the best part of an hour and a half made up of walking for around 45 minutes, cooling her off and feeding her and showering and changing clothes. Often I cook on a Monday but Chi will have acted as sous chef so not usually too much prep to do. The evening is spent chatting to hubby and watching one of the many series we enjoy on DVD. Bed and read either one of the book group books or something I’ve chosen.
Tuesday – 9.30 – 12.00 – teaching English to a Vietnamese lady. Sometimes on the way home I’ll stop at a shop to buy some of the Western groceries that Chi doesn’t buy. Chi works all do so usually cooks on a Tuesday. In the afternoon I walk the dog earlier and then go to Lacquer class from 3 – 6p.m. Home to finish off the supper and eat with hubby.
Wednesday – 9.30 – 1.30 – Play Mah Jong with a group of International Club ladies followed by lunch. In the afternoon as I’m in town I will do any admin or buy items we need from shops in the centre. Today for example I went to find and pay the tour operator we’ve booked some forthcoming trips with. Home to walk the dog. Catch up on marketing work and keep in touch with friends/family. Cook supper and evening with hubby.
Thursday – a.m. teaching Vietnamese lady as Tuesday. If I haven’t made it to my writing buddy on Monday I go in the afternoon. Otherwise I prep for a Business English class tomorrow, read a Book Group book if I find time and play some learning sessions of Mah Jong. I do ad hoc writing work for clients in the UK in addition to retained work so often fit this in here. Walk the dog – of course. Evening – Chi works all day so cooks. I might need to do a bit of prepping but otherwise – evening with hubby.
Friday – 8.10 – 2.00 I go to hubby’s work where I teach all the Vietnamese staff Business English, followed by lunch with hubby and colleagues. Home to walk Sally followed by cooking supper if needed. Sometimes we go out on a Friday night but not always.
Saturday and Sunday – 9.30 – 12.30 on both days I teach the Vietnamese lady’s 2 young children.
So, in between these ‘set’ activities I belong to the Hanoi International Women’s Club and go to coffee mornings or other events they run; belong to two book groups and a writing group. We swim at least once a week and go probably three times a month to the independent cinema club to see a film. On average we eat out with friends once a week and I try to meet a friend for coffee or lunch once a week. We are about to buy a bike each to go cycling at the week ends and so I can do my short run journeys by bike instead of needing a taxi to get everywhere. I knit in the evenings and we sometimes listen to a story on CD but hubby usually falls asleep and I get fed up having to listen to the same chapter the next evening x about four before I refuse to hear it again and we give up! Once a month we’ll go to a cultural event – at the English book shop perhaps or a wine tasting. I write a journal and occasional blog!!!
I’ve just volunteered for a role in the HIWC Charity Bazaar annual fundraising day held at the end of November. It sounds like a pretty big role but in all honesty the work hasn’t started yet so that isn’t taking my time.
Now, what don’t I do that I want to?
Go to pilates classes every week; go with the ladies to the orphanage to teach the girls to knit/spend time with them; more creative writing; join the weekly ‘hash’ walks on a Saturday; baking; cultural things with a friend – visit more museums, pagodas etc.; some time with absolutely nothing planned; more trips and week ends away.
Some of these we’ve got planned – we will buy bikes this week end, the hash walks will start up again I guess in September, when I finish the lacquer course I’m going to use that time for the orphanage/pilates/cultural things with a friend and we’ve got number one son coming to visit next week and have two pretty full-on weeks planned of visiting Saigon, Danang, Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi and Sapa.
Is my husband right – do I just want to do more things than there’s time for? Life is for living right and absolutely every component within mine has been chosen by me – how enormously priviledged am I. So none of what I’ve written is a complaint – more an observation that perhaps some of us are born to be dissatisfied – in a good way!