On Recovering from Depression

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I always think one day all human beings would be destroyed under a giant wave. When that day comes, I won’t run. I’m not afraid of death. I’m only afraid of living without hope.

On Recovering from Depression

The topic of mental health deterioration is no stranger to Gen Z and in modern society. As a teacher I am quite familiar with the depressive symptoms that I sometimes see in my Gen Z students. And as someone who had to cope with severe depression in the past myself I know with my whole heart how difficult life is for them. No matter what causes depression, the end results are always the same: loss of motivation, loss of self-control, loss of sleep, loss of health, and sometimes loss of the sheer will to live. And now, also as someone who has overcome this despair, I’d like to share part of my story in the hope that others out there can relate and maybe get something out of it. 

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Badass Women in Manga and Anime: My Top Votes

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I am a feminist, no doubt about it. I respect and adore women and have an endless sympathy towards their physical and mental pain and suffering. Therefore, I always hold them in higher regards to men for men already enjoy too much of nature favour (isn’t it strange that sometimes I put myself in the third position when looking at the two sexes? Guess I am just constantly on the learn to walk on the Middle Way).

I always think that women can be and should be independent of men, and I have applied that notion to the point of turning myself into a “too independent” one (with a slightly negative meaning). I also think women are capable of everything that men can do, regardless of their natural weaker body build. Therefore, badass women to me are ones who excel in physical strength, rational leadership skills, and have a cool/masculine look and a distant/aloof demeanour. This type of woman is not easy to find in manga and anime where female characters are often portrayed as “kawaii” (cute) schoolgirls or women with over-sexualised bodies (or both). It is thus an irony (if you ask) for a feminist like me to also be a manga/anime fanatic. However, among all the kawaii female characters who are physically and mentally dependent on others, there are still a few amazing badass ladies that I totally fall for. My top votes are below:

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My 2022 Reading & Other Highlights

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My reading speed in 2022 slowed down quite a bit compared to the two previous years (only 25 books in 2022 compared to 30 in 2020 & 2021), partially because I got absorbed in work but also because I started to run out of books that I really wanted to read. Nevertheless, to compensate for those 5 missing books (academic ones don’t count as always), I got entrusted by some friends to read their manuscripts, which was quite a pleasant surprise. Guess I have truly made my reputation as one who can read! 🙂

Apart from reading, 2022 was an extremely remarkable year of awakening for me. I got to visit and meditate under the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha attained full enlightenment. I got a few brief moments of experiencing oneness and nonself and started to succeed in applying impermanence and letting-go into daily life. I experienced what a holy unconditional love felt like and began to practice true love and compassion. And above all, I got to meet an inspiring old lady who taught me how to be positive and useful until the very end, how to live with cancer, by herself, for a whole year, untreated, with immense pain, and still be useful for others. I didn’t know much about the lady but to me, she was a Bodhisattva who opened up my eyes to a new level of realisation, while to others, she was probably just a lonely poor lottery seller. I’m not even sure how many people realised she was no longer sitting there, at her usual spot on the street where she had sat in the past 20 years. After her passing-away, I made up my mind to start learning to care for others. And thus, I adopted a stray cat from a shelter, and now it is this cat that continues to teach me how to love, to care, to be responsible and to always look beyond my own selfishness. 

And now, looking ahead, my ‘book consumption’ strategy in 2023 is to cut down on new readings (except for a few classics that I have already put on the must-read list), and focus on digging more deeply into the ones that I adored so much, such as The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from Underground, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Gandhi’s Autobiography, Tao Te Ching or Thich Nhat Hanh’s The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings (that I only read a month ago). I would also like to spend time blogging about several recommended reads in some of my favourite genres such as dystopia, children’s books and manga (yes, manga, you heard me correctly), and perhaps putting more serious effort into my first short story writing.

Below are some great reads I have accomplished in 2022: 

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2021: My Russian Classic Literature Reading Highlights

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2021 is another successful year for an extra-introverted bookworm who enjoys social distancing, and an efficient minimalist who can survive on a negligible budget. In 2021 I managed to finish nearly 28 books (excluding the academic reads, of course – I’m very serious about not mixing work’s reads with purposeful reads). Different from the “transcendent” year of 2020 when my most favorite centered around enlightening philosophy (Autobiography of a Yogi, Autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi – see my previous post), in 2021 I focused primarily on classic fiction, specifically European literature, among which, the 19th century and early 20th century Russian classics are the highlights. I fortunately got to read Pushkin, Gogol, (more of) Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev and Bulgakov, and I was completely awed by the philosophical and psychological ideology in many of the works. For those who wish to start on Russian classics but do not know where to begin, I suggest following this list which I also find very helpful.

Below are some of my most notable Russian classic reads of the year, listed in the chronological order. I read them all in Vietnamese as I believe that the Vietnamese translation of Russian classic (mostly done by reputable Vietnamese writers and researchers who lived through our socialist bonding decades) is better than a random English version that comes to my hand.

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A Chill Weekend at the Hanoi Sofitel Legend Metropole

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The Sofitel Legend Metropole, Hanoi’s most iconic and historic luxury hotel located in the French quarter, is one of the five names representing Sofitel Legend brand, which showcases rare heritage buildings and palaces in culturally-rich destinations around the world. Living up to its legendary reputation, the Metropole has housed numerous high-ranking politicians, famous singers, actors, journalists and writers across its century of being. To international guests, a stay at the Metropole is not only a classy proof of their affluence and wealth but also expresses their elegant taste in culture and respect of history. Meanwhile, to Hanoi residents, the Metropole is a popular and stylish rendezvous whether it is for a classy treat, a wedding photo album or just to chill after a leisure stroll around the French quarter in a beautiful autumn afternoon.

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A Bookworm in 2020: My Top 5 Reads of the Year

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Let’s make it clear that 2020 is not a harsh year at all for an extra-introverted bookworm living in privileged conditions (having food, a shelter, and a job) in one of the safest countries in the world from Covid (if you don’t know, please Google the Covid situation in Vietnam by yourself as I’m not going to discuss this abundant topic anymore).

This year I have managed to read some of the greatest and most iconic books of their genres in both fiction and non-fiction. Being an eclectic reader, I read a wide range of topics spanning science, dystopia, history, mythology, fantasy, mystery, warfare, crime, thriller, education, philosophy, psychology, drama, sociology, spiritual and religious subjects in both fiction and non-fiction. Throughout the year I have read in full a total of 29 30 books, besides the required academic reads for study and research purposes, plus no less than a dozen manga series (let me be honest, I’m a total manga & anime freak). For a hard-core bookworm, everything thinner than 300 pages deems too light, and I constantly find myself reading books from 500 pages up. On average I probably read between 50-100 pages every day this year. Some friends tell me they can’t read because they don’t have time. Well, who does? I just cut down on sleep time, and also allocate none for nonsense gossiping and useless socialising. Easy. 

Below are my 5 best reads of 2020, which are also 5 of my most recommended books for anyone to read in their lifetime. There are several ‘honorable mentions’ at the end that you may find interesting (off-topic alert: ‘honorable mentions’?! Sounds just like DumbMojo! Oh wait I don’t call them DumbMojo, I stole the title off one of my favourite YouTube channels called TwoSetViolin – just follow them already – everyone deserves some good comedy and classical music!) Read the rest of this entry »

Green Seed Fund Bookshelf – Tủ sách Quỹ Mầm Xanh

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***Kéo xuống để đọc tiếng Việt***

As the Green Seed Fund coordinators & our friends are all sort of bookworms, these birds of a feather have decided to flock together, opening our bookshelves to circulate hundreds of fictions & non-fictions to other like-minded bookaholics, while helping to raise fund for the children in Tay Ninh province.

We offer 2 main “renting” locations: in Hanoi (near Giap Bat train station) and in HCMC (Nguyen Luong Bang, D7). Our bookshelf policy is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »

2019 Lunar New Year Road Trip: Tay Ninh – La Gi

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This lunar new year’s Tay Ninh – La Gi trip was my most recent road trip (after the epic 6-week tour-de-Vietnam in late 2017) and also the first one after more than a year settling in Tay Ninh as part of Teach For Vietnam’s fellowship programme. It was a 700-km motorbike drive from where I’m living in Tay Ninh (Suoi Day commune, Tan Chau district) to La Gi and back, together with some short excursions around the town and its surrounding areas. Read the rest of this entry »

Cảm ơn nhé, London

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Những người bạn của tôi từ Palestine, Cuba, Indonesia và Serbia – những người đã là London của tôi

Đã lâu lắm tôi mới lại “chắp bút”. Cũng đã gần 3 năm kể từ ngày rời London mà tôi chưa từng viết một chữ về thời gian sống tại đây. Tôi không nhớ London nhiều, cũng không giữ được liên lạc thường xuyên với những người bạn đã chia sẻ cuộc sống cùng tôi tại nơi này, nhưng mỗi khi nghĩ tới London, những kỉ niệm vẫn sống động trong tôi như mới ngày hôm qua. Có lẽ khi ta có quá nhiều điều để viết thì ta lại chẳng thể viết được gì, cũng giống như khi ta càng lớn lên, càng biết nhiều hơn về bản thân và về thế giới thì ta lại càng nhận ra mình quá nhỏ bé, quá ngu dốt, và tốt hơn là mình không nên nói gì cả.

Tôi đã từng yêu thích viết. Qua những con chữ, tôi cảm thấy tự do, tôi có thể viết những điều mình không thể thể hiện được bằng lời nói. Thế nhưng cũng đã lâu rôi, vì nhiều lí do, tôi không còn viết được nhiều như mong đợi, và thậm chí hơn 1 năm nay, tôi gần như đã ngừng viết.

Bỗng một vài tuần trước, tôi nhận được email từ ban biên tập trang blog của cộng đồng cựu du học sinh Chevening Việt Nam yêu cầu đóng góp bài viết, tôi mỉm cười và chợt nghĩ có lẽ đây là một dấu hiệu nhắc nhở mình chăng? Vì thế, tôi đã cố gắng “đúc rút” 1 năm của mình tại London trong bài viết dưới đây. Bản gốc đăng tại mindthegap.vn.


Tôi theo học tại trường chuyên ngành nghệ thuật và công nghiệp sáng tạo Goldsmiths tại Đông Nam London, nơi mà tôi luôn tự hào khoe khoang là “khu vực cool ngầu nhất thành phố”. Theo một số báo cáo, Đông Nam London là khu vực cực kỳ đa dạng sắc tộc, nhưng cũng là một trong những khu vực có nhiều vấn đề xã hội và tội phạm nhất. Thế nhưng trong con mắt của đám sinh viên đầy chất “nghệ” và “phá (cách)” chúng tôi thì Goldsmiths và Đông Nam London là khu “hịp” (hip) nhất, “ngầu” nhất, không đâu bì được. Này là những quán bar nằm sâu dưới đường tàu điện ngầm, này những tiệm cà phê nhỏ xinh phong cách rất nghệ, này những công viên xinh xắn, những nhà hàng của đủ người Thổ, Trung Đông, Caribbean, Đông Phi, Thái, Nhật, Việt. Sinh viên Goldsmiths thì sành điệu, triết lí và “phi chính thống” khỏi nói – “ạt” (art) mà! Tôi nghĩ cách mạng và sự thay đổi xảy ra được trên thế giới này ắt phải nhờ có những con người như ở nơi đây! Read the rest of this entry »

If you were an animal what would you be?

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“If you were an animal what would you be?”

Recently when I looked at my blog’s draft posts, I saw this one which was drafted 7 years ago and never published, along with other dozens of unfinished pieces. It’s amazing how one could have so many ideas to write about and then end up finishing only one of them annually, or at least it’s my case. However, it’s also great to observe how one has changed throughout the years. Below is what I wrote in 2012 vs. 2019. Read the rest of this entry »