Blog of the month - July 2008
My name is Ben August. I'm originally from God's Country…or as some of you non-Garden Staters might call it, New Jersey. If you're not from America, New Jersey is kind of the unofficial capital of the United States. You might have hear of our Governor, Bruce Springsteen.
I'm from a fantastic town called Livingston. Livingston is located about thirty minutes from NYC (without traffic of course) and has without a doubt the best town council in all of the USA. And no, I'm not only saying that because my father is the Deputy Mayor.
Where are you living now?
I currently living in Hanoi, Vietnam. Unlike New Jersey, it's the official capital of this country. I've been in Vietnam for four months and in Hanoi for just over two months. I'm planning on living here till February 2009.
Have you ever lived abroad before?
I studied abroad in London, England in 2000. But coming from America and living in England can hardly be called living abroad compared to settling in 'Nam. It's kind of like crashing at your older brother's apartment in NYC for a night versus camping out on the streets of China Town.
How many countries have you visited?
I've visited nearly every country in Europe except for the Scandanavian ones. I've also been to Canada a thousand times (my family didn't fly when I was a kid so all our family trips ended up in various Canadian cities). I've also been to Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Cambodia, Mexico and Mississippi.
When did you decide to go and live abroad? Why did you choose to live in Vietnam?
When I graduated from college in 2001 I passed up an opportunity to teach English in Korea. Since then I've thought often about moving abroad to teach. Over the last seven years I've been living in Los Angeles attempting to start a screenwriting career. With the WGA strike this past December I thought it was a great time to depart for a year. I chose Vietnam since I've been mildly obsessed with the country my whole life. I chalk it up to watching Platoon at an early age.
So, how is Hanoi?
Hanoi is kind of like Santa Monica, California where I was living prior to here. The only small differences are that there are a lot less white people and about 14,672 more Vietnamese restaurants than the one in Santa Monica. Besides that the other differences are cars are replaced with motorbikes. Driving laws are replaced with driving suggestions. The beach has been replaced by lakes. And the public transportation system…actually both Los Angeles and Vietnam have equally bad public transportation systems.
I'm currently teaching English at night at a great local private school called Language Link. In the mornings I work on my script writing and email my people in LA who thought they were finally rid of me when I moved abroad.
Strangely I haven't experienced much culture shock. The only big difference is that my landlord won't let my Vietnamese girlfriend come into my apartment after about 10PM. When I asked why the landlord mumbled something to me about not being able to trust Vietnamese girls and the police knocking on my door. Huyen, my girlfriend, explained to me that many Vietnamese girls target Western men so they can steal from them. Coincidentally after she told me this, my wallet went missing.
Do you miss your homeland?
I miss three things from America:
1. My family and friends.
2. Deli sandwiches. Specifically Bay Cities deli in Santa Monica and Espositos in New Jersey. (My stomach literally just growled while writing that).
3. Concerts. Specifically this is the season for concerts on the pier in Santa Monica. Every Thursday from the end of June till Labor Day my friends and I usually picnic and drink wine on the beach as a band plays music at night.
Oh yeah, I also miss clean air.
But what I'm really GOING TO MISS is the birth of my first niece/nephew in August. My brother and his wife are expecting their first child on August 20th. It saddens me deeply that I won't be there to knock on the glass window and make funny faces at the baby.
When did you start your blog?
I started my blog while waiting for my fly out of JFK airport on February 2nd. I thought it would be fun to have an online journal but really I just started it so my mother could keep up with my life and not have to worry herself to sleep every night. Somewhere along the line a bunch of other people started to read my blog too (although I'm not totally convinced it's not just my mother pretending to be people from China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Australia). About two weeks ago I put up a counter for the first time and I'm averaging a little over 100 hits a day. With so many people now peeping into my life I've put a little more time into the blog. I spend about fifteen minutes a day on it now versus ten minutes. In fact, the amount of time it's taken me to type up this interview is about a week's worth of blogging!
When did you register on expat-blog.com?
I registered for expat-blog in May. My roommate Ryan told me about the site and I immediately signed up. Ryan also has a blog: www.allegedtraveler.blogspot.com . Expat-blog is a great way to check out other people's experiences too. I've searched for other Vietnamese blogs before but Expat-blog is by far the best way to see other's sites.
Your worst experience?
That's an easy one. On the ninth day I was living in Hanoi my house was robbed in the middle of the night. A ninja literally came into my room between 2AM and 6AM and stole my two cameras, my laptop, my cell phone and my ipod. What is extremely impressive about this is that I had two friends from America sleeping in my room along with me. The ninja literally climbed over all of us to steal my stuff. My hat is off to him. That said, it was hard as hell to blog without a computer that week. And no, I got nothing back. And no, I had no insurance. And yes, I moved houses.
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