Chapter 6: Scared Shitless – My First Six Months Abroad – Arriving overdressed and underprepared in the Philippines. Being young and therefore stupid, and thinking that everything new is automatically awesome, and that all attention is welcome. The beginning of my brief eight-year period when I believed that karaoke is the single greatest activity that a human being can participate in. Being utterly helpless for the first few weeks, and luckily being doted on endlessly by my host organization. Convincing my colleague to take me to the notorious Smoky Mountain housing project, where my presence was not entirely welcome; not yet being fully aware of the moral dubiousness of slum tourism. Beginning an epic war of attrition against my unwanted collagen surplus, with plenty of help from alcohol and the tropical sun.
Chapter 7: Becoming A Shithead – As I become less helpless, so do I become less likeable. Discovering the joys of going out every single night, overcompensating for my former pretentious hyper-intellectualism with desperate hyper-hedonism. Trying and failing to dance. Metrowalk and Tomas Morato Avenue. Becoming slightly less confused and slightly terrified by women.
Chapter 8: Ninh Binh – Leaving Manila and ending up in the middle of nowhere in Vietnam, surrounded by rice wine, dog meat, and people standing inappropriately close. Realizing that my Philippine culture shock wasn’t even real culture shock. Isolation, gradual descent into madness, and the brutality of the northern Vietnamese summer. John, Kate, and how I managed to only go half-mad in Ninh Binh. Learning Vietnamese, somehow. Bicycling everywhere and getting very sweaty. Crazy Hương and the gentle sadness of Hằng.
Crazy 9: Haiphong City – Replacing the spritual and physical assault of Ninh Binh with a full year of gentle boredom and the best seafood I’ve had in my whole damn life. Navy Beer, the greatest restaurant in the world. Keeping the company of the the substandard rascals who are the Haiphong expat community. My mysterious mini-stroke. My highly offensive local translator/liaison officer, and his multitudinous layers of reprehensibility. Power cuts, summer heat, more sweating. Doomed medium-distance romance with an enchanting Filipina expat in Hanoi.
Chapter 10: Back to Manila – Becoming a digital nomad in order to return to my favourite chaotic Asian megalopolis, for some reason. Cultivating my culinary and musical talents in a failed effort to be slightly less of a shithead. First glimmers of attempted adulting. Hanging out with Tyler, the womanizing professional poker player who looks like Ryan Gosling, and looking quite a bit less attractive when standing next to him. My long, awkwardly ambiguous “relationship” with D. Having my gay landlord attempt to lure me into a gay orgy due to his (not uncommon) misconception that I am a closeted gay man.
Chapter 11: Back to Manila, But This Time A Different Condo: A study in the effects of extremely polluted air on an extremely allergic body. Being the sickest I’ve ever been, as an adult, so far, and how it helped me fall in love with SpongeBob SquarePants. Myanmar, Bangkok, and my final schism with D.
Chapter 12: Because I Hate Being Happy, I Moved to Davao City – If it ain’t broke, by all means, do fix it. Leaving my comfortable (albeit highly polluted) life in Manila to begin anew in Davao City, the durian-scented land of death squads. Civic pride in extrajudicial killings. Accidentally getting dogs. Isolation, frustration, and steadily amassed regrets. Eating durian all day, everyday. Regularly drinking palm wine at 8 AM on a coconut plantation. The slow death spiral of my uncomfortably mismatched friendship with C. Life in a lower-middle-income neighbourhood without fully paved roads. My sweet old neighbours, who shed literal tears when I moved away, for some reason – I don’t know if they’re still alive? Food was good!
Continued in Part 3