Just getting settled back into life at home after a week Madagascar. The trip included a layover in Charles De Gaulle and, of course, the requisite croissant. Now, back to a few more posts from my last trip to Paris.
I think we’ve finally reached the turning point and are headed into spring. After a frigid weekend, we enjoyed 70 degree weather yesterday and the 10 day forecast doesn’t show us dipping back 30s again. Thank heavens.
At this time last year, we were on our way to Paris for the Marathon de Paris. I didn’t run, but I couldn’t resist a trip to Paris in the spring. There really is nothing like it. Leading up to this year’s race, I thought I’d share a few photos if you’d like to see.
We’ve had a relatively quiet weekend. We enjoyed some fish tacos on Friday night followed by our weekly trip to Lowe’s, then poked around a gear swap at our local multisport store yesterday morning and had some spectacular sushi last night. We’re off to coffee with the NYT in tow, then to the pool for a few laps. Happy Sunday, friends.
In case you are looking for a little reading with your morning cup of coffee:
– How to make your long run easier.
– Just finished your long run? 25 beautiful donuts.
– Words from the week.
– 100 years of fitness in 100 seconds.
– Will you go see the Mad Men set exhibit at the Museum of Moving Image in New York?
And, in case you missed it here:
As I’ve run this week, my mind has continued to come back to this series of events that unfolded as I departed Vietnam:
Yesterday afternoon a woman was in the ward of a hospital I was visiting with a baby who had doe like eyes and dimples and the sweetest disposition. She offered the baby to me to hold. I took her and asked through a translator about the baby’s name and age. She is six months old and her name is Thien. I asked the translator to tell the mother that her daughter was absolutely adorable. The translator looked at me and said this woman is not the mother, the baby is an orphan. I felt my arms clinch the baby a bit tighter. I asked if she was being adopted. The woman said that she probably would not be. It was one of those moments when you know you cannot fix the whole of the problem, but part of the solution is right before you. Obviously, I couldn’t just leave Vietnam with a child, but still, the desire for this child to have a home, maybe even to share mine, was very real.
Twelve hours later I boarded a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hong Kong and then from Hong Kong to Chicago. Waiting in line for the bathroom on the plane from Hong Kong, I met a baby named Veronica who was on her way to her new home with her adoptive parents. Veronica was to receive treatment for the same condition as baby Thien that I met the day before. Veronica’s new parents were beaming. I told them I work with children like their daughter and spoke with them about what a bright, hopeful future lies ahead for Veronica. I inquired as to who would treat her in the States – a physician I was just with in Madagascar.
Sometimes problems seem so big and unfixable. A beautiful infant with no home and the thousands upon thousands of orphans that she represents. My inability to do anything about it. At the same time, quite literally on the same day, another baby is traveling home with her new, beaming parents. There are things unseen; matters are being arranged. Love is on the move. Take heart.
When in Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon as everyone calls it), here’s what you do: first, do a little shopping in District 1 and second, get a massage at Cat Moc Spa.
Hop in a cab and head to Duy Tan. This was the only shop I was able to find in Saigon that was selling artisanal goods. I’m sure there are others, but the majority of shops and markets that I popped into sold only mass produced, factory made junk. This shop had beautiful ceramics and tableware at very reasonable prices. The staff was happy to bubble wrap all of the breakable items that I bought. My favorite items were oil lamps constructed from glass soda bottles ($2-3 each). From Duy Tan, walk down the street L’Usine. Should you suddenly find yourself in Saigon with a pressing need for Rifle Paper Co. stationary, you are in luck. This store is full of high end hipster brands. Items are well-curated and it’s fun to browse. There’s a cafeteria upstairs if you’re hungry.
Next, head to Cat Moc Spa. I visited this spa two nights in a row because I had such a fantastic experience. After a series of subpar massages near my hotel, I turned to Trip Advisor and found this place. It’s not the cheapest place in town (though still incredibly well-priced, think $15/hour for a massage), but it’s a serene space with a very helpful manager who pointed me towards treatments tailored to my skin type. They use Dermalogica products and my facial was fabulous. Plus, they will call a cab for you and direct the driver back to your hotel.
I woke up to the beat of marathon finish line music this morning. I was at once relieved not to be mid-26 miles, but also pained by a twinge of jealousy that my morning won’t culminate with a mylar blanket. I mean, is there any better feeling in the world than being wrapped up in that sheet of foil? Which reminds me that I need to sign up for a race. In the meantime, it’s a quiet morning of coffee and clementines here. In a bit, I’ll wander down to the course and cheer on the runners. I’ve been the recipient of so many well wishes during race miles that it only seems right to pass on the same to this morning’s runners. Freely you have received, freely give. Those are this morning’s words.
In case you are looking for a little reading with your morning cup of coffee:
– “The best free, 10 minute online workouts“.
– Avocado hollandaise over a poached egg sounds like the perfect post-run breakfast.
– Zoolander at Valentino.
– Thoughts on writing and on “the middle.”
– How to eat like a local in Vietnam.
– Man Repeller’s rules on binge watching tv shows.
– And on that note, this weekend I plan on binge watching Tina Fey’s new Netflix sitcom.
And, in case you missed it here:
On Thursday nights we go to spin class.
This sixty minutes is at once my most anticipated and most dreaded workout of the week. We’ve been going to this spin class consistently for about two years and if my math is correct, I’d say that the average time from class start to feeling like I’m going to puke is 17 minutes.
Last night was no different. After being leveled by the flu at the New Year and an epic respiratory infection in Honduras, I am still building back to my fitness base state and, good heavens, I was feeling this workout.
The best part of this class is the instructor. My first memory of her is from about five year ago when she came to the gym on a Sunday morning with freshly marked triathlon numbers. At that point I knew nothing about triathlon and thought it was odd for someone to have their age sharpied on their calf. A few minutes later I overheard a fellow inquiring as to whether she’d completed a local tri that morning. Indeed she had, and then she casually mentioned that she won her age group…and was just getting in a bit of strength work after the tri.
Needless to say, this Thursday night spin class is a killer workout. But, here’s my favorite part: her words. What’s funny is that they are largely the same every week, which means I’ve heard them about a hundred times, but each class they seem to ring true to whatever circumstances life has dealt that week.
Each week as we climb she prompts us to “add another gear, don’t be afraid of it.” She assures us that our legs are strong enough to climb and that they will only get stronger if this week’s hill is bigger than last week’s hill.
I love running because mental knots seem to dissolve across miles. I come back from a run and my head is almost always clear. Cycling presents a challenge in this regard. I get into a ride and I feel both uncomfortable and stuck. When I run, I might feel uncomfortable, but I am moving and creating space. When I am breathing heavily in the middle of spin class, there is something about having my feet strapped onto the bike that makes me feel panicked and trapped. But, I wonder if this might actually be the best possible position to work through the fear. You cannot move, you cannot distract yourself with the scenery. It’s just you and the bike in a dark room. Feel the fear, but choose to add the gear anyways. I realized this is how I can avert the panic: confront the fear and ride through it.
After spin, I picked up Thai takeout then came home and while scanning Netflix documentary options stumbled upon Rising from Ashes. If you are having trouble finding motivation for your long ride or run this weekend, watch this. Seriously. The documentary follows the building of Team Rwanda, the nation’s cycling team, in the aftermath of the genocide. This is one of the best stories of sport that I have ever seen and it serves as a powerful reminder that “the most devastating circumstances can yield the most powerful forms of hope.” The documentary is at once tragic, full of hope, and a beautiful portrayal of the power of the bike as a vehicle for each of us. Ride on, friends.
Lucky for me, the New York Times’ updated 36 Hours in Hanoi was published the week before I was in Vietnam. I leaned heavily on this as a source of dining recommendations and was not disappointed.
Dinner at State-Run Food Shop No. 37 was by far my best meal in Vietnam. There was sauteed morning glory and pumpkin with garlic and all manner of goodness.
Dinner was followed by drinks at Tadioto which has a moody, cool vibe with oversized modern art paintings and dark walls. Mango cocktails were delicious.
My final recommendation is lychees — from a street vendor, on the breakfast buffet or in a cocktail. Eat the lychees. All of the lychees.
I was supposed to spend today in Ha Long Bay. Or at least that’s what I wanted to do.
The past year has held some pretty incredible peak life experiences – swimming with whale sharks, hiking the Ko’olau Trail, an afternoon sipping red wine in front of the Eiffel Tower, exploring Istanbul. Thinking back on it, 2014 held an incredible string of wishful pins turned into reality.
Beautiful scenery aside, this has been important. The act of calling forth images on computer screens into reality involves being so bold as to ask for beauty and the willingness to petition the universe for an experience. Ask for what you want, see what the universe will arrange – that was a theme for 2014. I’ve been astounded, nearly embarrassed, by the grandiosity of the result. And beyond peak life experiences, there are parallels in professional life, relationships, goals. Ask. Really, give it a try.
I had the intention of setting into motion another pin-worthy adventure recently in Vietnam. But, I didn’t. I very much wanted to venture to Ha long Bay, but the night before I thought the better of it. Saturday isn’t necessarily a weekend during work travel so I hung back at my Hanoi hotel in case anything work related popped up. And it did. A lunch meeting about upcoming work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. And then a three hour walk around the city with a South African friend and a colleague who lived in Vietnam for two years.
My colleague provided a primer on Vietnamese history and culture and then there was conversation of the war and POW MIAs. We walked past the “Hanoi Hilton” – the jail where prisoners of war were held – then towards the Metropole hotel, the only safe place to go out on a Friday night in the 90s. As was common at the time, the hotel served as my organization’s office space during that period. The Metropole was also the temporary location of the U.S. embassy before relations were normalized. I walked through the lobby, a beautifully preserved French colonial parlor with dark wood and white walls and woven rattan fans. Guests partook in chocolate hour and I counted seven types of chocolate fondue. We saw the Opera House and noted the French influence on the nearby architecture. We visited what used to be a cathedral, the only functional element of which is the clock at the top.
We went to an outdoor café for lunch where we ate green papaya salad, then made our own spring rolls and talked about development and poverty and politics. We got coconut popsicles then walked around the lake. After reading this, I wondered out loud if this might be what Afghanistan is like in forty years. We talked about the kind of change that is possible in a generation — from war and devastation to peace and infrastructure and life expectancy exceeding 70 years. We witnessed possibility. It wasn’t Ha Long Bay, but it was an afternoon that I won’t soon forget.