I’m spending my last night in Vietnam in a budget hotel in the backpackers’ district of Saigon called “The 4 Boys Guesthouse”, which I chose solely for its name. Luckily it’s modern, comfortable, cheap and enjoys relatively good wifi. It’s actually probably the nicest place I’ve ever stayed for €7 a night, big comfy double bed, air conditioning, brand new en-suite bathroom, floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s great.
I’ve spent the last few days relaxing, recovering from a tough final few weeks at work, sleeping, shopping, eating out, meandering. Basically, I’ve been a lazy tourist and it’s been great.
Tonight I went out in the backpackers’ district. The atmosphere around here is much livelier than the suburb of Saigon I spent the last 5 months living in. I’ve been here quite often – it’s where the cheap pubs are and it’s where the travel agencies are for organising tours and day trips. It was particularly sales-y tonight. Lots of people selling sunglasses and zippos. Lots of street food vendors. Lots of people trying to tempt you into their pubs and restaurants. Three different guys came up to me and offered me marijuana. And so many prostitutes. I’ve had prostitutes approach me here before, but never in the numbers I came across them tonight. At one stage, there were three girls who were badgering me so much that I actually broke into a run to escape!
I’m too excited at the thought of leaving Vietnam to sleep properly tonight. In retrospect, it was a mistake to decide to leave Vietnam and then stay for four months longer, out of some sense of duty and pride.
And to be honest, Vietnam has knocked me back. The amount of laughing and mocking I’ve experienced for my weight here has made me less confident in myself than I was when I got here. In Ireland, I avoid places with a lot of children or a lot of drunk people, because drunks and kids are the ones most likely to call me names, but in Vietnam, the jeering was everywhere, and it made me stay at home more, and less likely to venture outside. I’ve described it here before. People following me down the street, imitating my waddle, doing giant sumo wrestler steps, while all the customers in the street food restaurants pointed and laughed. Or people miming pumping themselves up, sucking in more and more air to make themselves look fatter and fatter. And the sneering and name-calling and the people calling their friends over so they could laugh at me together. I haven’t had a haircut in 4 months. I tried twice, but both times as I walked up to the hairdressers’ door, the staff saw me and started laughing so much that I changed my mind and couldn’t face it. One of my first jobs when I get home will be to get my hair cut.
And, of course, there was the touching. The leer and squeeze was a weekly, and sometimes daily, occurrence for me here and I found myself adopting a kind of “victim pose” if I was in a confined space like a lift, crouching back and trying to make myself small if a Vietnamese person came in, because I hated the squeezes of strangers so much, which is strange for me as such a touchy feely person.
I haven’t just become less confident and more withdrawn here. I’ve also become sadder and I hate myself a little more than I did when I first arrived. I’m usually a happy person to work with. I sing little songs and I laugh and I’m easy to get on with. For the first time in my life, I found myself snapping at people at work in my last weeks there.
So it really is time to leave.
Also, once again, it’s time to do something about my weight. Since the start of the year, I’ve been spending at least five evenings a week watching weightloss videos on YouTube. I’ve cried at success stories and been convinced to live on vegetables alone, and then on protein alone, and then to count calories and then to never count calories again, and then to build muscle, and then to run, and then to buy this DVD and that book and these pills and eat only fruit, and give up all sugar including fruit, and go on a juice only diet, or fast completely, or eat nothing but acai berries.
I’m going to start slowly. Next Monday. I’m going to start trying to make small changes to what I eat and how I eat. Changes that can last for life. I’m getting back on the saddle.
I dread weighing myself. I’ve more or less lived on sandwiches and pizza for the last few months. And I feel really bad as a result, panting constantly, always tired, and my joints are in constant pain.
I know I’m the boy who cried wolf. I know I’ve written this post 2 billion times, saying that this time it’ll be different. Well, this time it will be. It’s gotta happen.
There’s another, more exciting facet of this plan that I’ll reveal at the end of the post. (I’m a whore for a revelation. I love a good reveal.)
As well as the diet, I have other plans for the coming weeks. As you know, I have my various writing and research projects. The plan is to get rid of my PhD corrections and get them over and done with in my first week back in Ireland. Then I’m going to spend six weeks getting my Body Histories project up and running. I’m really excited about it and I hope and pray it’ll work. The novel and the book-of-the-blog are also kicking around, but my first priority will be getting the Body Histories project up and running. I can’t wait.
Remember my plan to get a cottage to do all this research and writing in? I can’t afford it yet. I’m still working for my Vietnamese company online, and that will pay my loan repayments, but not much more than that. I have a definite offer of another part-time online job, as well as three maybes for other online jobs, but realistically, I’m not going to be making any money from them until later in the summer.
So the cottage in Leitrim will have to wait until September. So once I have my Body Histories up and running, I’m off to the Balkans again. After two lovely summers in Ljubljana, I’m going to Macedonia this time – to Skopje, to find me a new muscly man (and also to work).
So I’ll do Macedonia in June, Kazakhstan (as planned) in July, and then back to Ireland in August. At this stage, I’ll have saved money from my summer work, my online work should be paying me better, and maybe my Body Histories project will be paying too. I’m still thinking of getting a cottage in September, to write and be artistic and find myself, and possibly learn dressmaking and join a local socialist movement. (Those sound like jokes. They are not.)
It’s time for the big reveal I promised earlier. Are you ready?
In the beginning, almost exactly 5 years ago, in my first blogpost, I made a promise. I was starting a blog to get healthy and lose weight in an accountable way. My first big goal was going to be the Dublin City Marathon.
In the end, I didn’t train. I walked the marathon and only made it halfway. About 3 metres after the halfway marker, I put out my hand and got a taxi. Every year since then, I’ve hated the day of the marathon, wishing I’d done things differently.
Eventually, I did start keeping exercise goals. In January 2012, I said I was going to run and swim and box and I did it. I went to boxing classes for a whole term. I went to swimming lessons. I didn’t quite learn to swim, but I managed two strokes without holding onto anything, which I never believed could happen and was a genuine miracle. And I started running and I ran a 5K and then an 8K. And then I stopped. And I didn’t run a 10K and I took that hard.
I love Big Goals. But I’m not ready to run again. I was “only” about 22 stone when I did my 8K and now I’m at least 27 stone – maybe a lot more. Here’s my Next Big Goal. (You have no idea how excited I am just to be writing these words.)
I’m going to start walking again. I know I can do that. I’m going to start going for long walks. Regularly. And then, in the second half of August, I’m going to walk from Dublin to Cork. You heard it here first! It’ll be about five or six hours of walking per day for between ten days and two weeks. Dublin to Cork. And it’s crazy, but it’s doable. Even with my lardy carcass, it’s doable. I’m not going to chicken out, because I’m going to get sponsorship and do it for charity (probably a youth mental health charity). So, it’s on.
It’s on, bitches! Project Connor is back. And I’m turning it back up to eleven. Brace yourselves!