Monday, August 31, 2009

Well that was easy.

You know, I think I have a pretty good brain. All my senses process fairly normally, I can remember a decent amount of stuff. I can be a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, but most of the neurons seem to be firing ok most of the time. But my brain can also be my worst nightmare sometimes. I don't know why it works so hard to make me miserable.

A while back I was talking to Jeb about my travel plans and expressing my wishy-washyness about the whole thing. He commented that I needed to get my plan for visiting Vietnam worked out because "You can't just come and go whenever you want, you need to put the dates of travel on the visa application." This coupled with some visa horror stories I've read on other blogs, and the fact that a couple of my students have told me that the Vietnamese hate Americans (can't imagine why) has had me well and truly stressed out. I got it in my head that I needed to finalize my plans, and prepare for a big to-do at the embassy, which added to the dread, which added to the procrastination, which gave me more time to worry.... etc etc etc.

But I've been reading The Artist's Way and one piece of advice the author gives is to keep focused on the next step. You don't need to worry about whether or not the painting will sell if you haven't even put brush to ink yet. Obviously this is a good attitude for life as well. So I decided that rather than fussing and worrying about the trip I could take the next actionable step.

I printed out the visa application last week. Then I worried and stressed out about it for a few days. But then I took the next step. Read the instructions. OK...the tourist visa is valid for one month. I cannot enter the country before the 'valid from' date and I have to leave before the 'valid until' date. Um... ok. Considering I only have about 6 weeks off and I want to spend at least one of them on a Thai beach and another one in Chiang Mai, and was only planning on staying in Vietnam for about two weeks anyway... that's not much of a problem. I filled out the mercifully brief (and in English) application.

Then I proceeded to stress about the fact that I'd have to go to Bangkok the night before so I could get to the embassy when it opened and what to do if it wasn't ready by the end of the day, and I didn't want to bring a whole overnight bag but I didn't want to wear the same sweaty clothes again the next day and which guest house should I stay in and this is really expensive. But wait... what's the next step? Just get to Bangkok during embassy business hours. Ok... I can do that. I have all of Monday and the better part of Tuesday off, and the minivan only takes two hours.

Ok it's Monday morning, and I'm in the minivan on the way to Bangkok. Now, let's stress about something new... I know - I'll never be able to find the embassy, that's a good one! Oh wait.... hang on, I actually have a map. Well, I mean, it's not going to be *on* the map... I'll have to find the road in the index and look and.... oh wait - there's the embassy right there on the map - apparently walking distance from the skytrain, and only two stops from the mall I hang out at all the time anyway. Well that's not nearly complicated enough... let's take a taxi!

Uh oh... there's traffic. We're never going to get there before it closes for lunch... oh - we're here? OK but there's going to be a .... what, no line? Um okay. Here's my form.... here's my passport and my picture (I had a stack of them made when I got here so I couldn't stress about that ;) )'s my money. Be back by 4pm to pick it up*? Um... ok.

I briefly considered finding a tourist attraction to add to my day. You know, to make sure I had *something* to stress out about. But then I decided that all I really wanted and needed to do with the day was to get the visa and to eat western food. Conveniently enough there was an Au Bon Pain in the business complex next to the embassy... and yet another mall just a couple blocks away. I spent a good long time in the book/craft/hobby store (they had yarn - but nothing I couldn't find at home) bought an American crossword puzzle book and spent the next several hours hanging out at Starbucks. At 3:30 I headed back over to the embassy, picked up my shiny new visa and was ready to go back to Rayong by 4pm.

I don't know why my brain insists on freaking out about everything. When I first got to Rayong I thought I was developing some serious zen-like qualities. But no... I think that was still the shock & awe phase of culture shock. There's so much new stuff coming at you from every different angle you don't have time to stop and worry about anything. But if I'm not getting over my tendency to freak out, I am at least learning to deal with it. Take it one small, actionable, step at a time. Don't try to multi-task and combine sight-seeing with errand running... just do the thing that needs to get done and relax while it's being done.** Sometimes everything goes just fine.

Ok... so will you folks remind me of this next time my brain decides to go all 'worst case scenario' on me?

TAG: Code Watermelon

* I paid quite a bit extra to do this, I didn't want to give my brain the chance to stress about what could happen to my passport if it were off my person for more than 5 hours.

** I know this about myself, but I keep getting whacked upside the head with it. I need to be able to focus on one thing at at time and I need to be given the appropriate amount of time to do it. When I try to do to much, or don't give myself enough time, I'm a basket case.


Bezzie said...

A good artist also knows when to stop...sometimes when you overthink the painting and keep going too far you ruin it. Something to munch on grasshopper! ;-)

Cate said...

I am a total over-thinker, worst-case-scenario kind of person too, and it drives me NUTS!
We got our visas for Vietnam while we were in Chiang Mai...which means we paid a guy to run to the border and get them for us. LOTS of worst case scenario freak-outs during the 24 hours my passport was off with some random guy getting a visa put into it!

Jonathan said...

I see this type of stress in another fellow blogger in Asia... won't name names.

It's great you decided to just bite the bullet and look at the long term (beyond all the stress of the now).

By the way, Vietnamese people LOVE Americans. I just don't understand why. I mean you guys totally fucked up this country!

Looking forward to seeing you in Hanoi... When will you be coming?