Digging A Path to Follow

Along Lý Quốc Sư Street

Along Lý Quốc Sư Street

18 April 2016
2:02 AM
Hanoi, Vietnam


I thought it was three in the morning, but I forget that Hanoi is one hour behind Manila. It is 19 degrees celsius and raining outside, quite a novelty. I keep wondering how hot it is back home, my thoughts returning to it again and again. Home, not the weather, I mean. Every new city I’ve been to, I seem to have Manila in my mind. Is that love or exasperation, I don’t really know right now.

Today my friend S. and I just walked and walked and walked. It’s all quite lovely, the charm of Old Quarters. You’re here and not here at the same time. And it’s not just the architecture where the old meets the new, where the lives of people go on ordinarily as they should amidst construction of more modern cafés and banks—it’s also about your place in the middle of all this. How you carve out space for yourself in an already busy street, just standing at a corner trying to take it all in.

S. and I talked about the seemingly non-identity of tourists. There’s that element of being able to do what you want to do, and who cares about all the rest. On the surface, you think you’re doing it because why not, and also, you’re not going to be meeting these people again. But upon further examination, I think it’s really this—every one of us here is a stranger. I am not a Tourist, I am a tourist. I am much a tourist as the next one, and he or she the same. I could be the guy lugging around a big hiking backpack. I could be the family being driven around in a bicycle cart. I could be the tall woman in a blue-striped dress holding a map, wondering where to next. I could be the old man down by Hoàn Kiếm Lake, smoking and sitting with his dog. And they could all be me. We are all existing and living in this place and nobody here would know us.

Emily Dickinson is suddenly in my head: I’m Nobody! Who are you? The non-identity comes first before the question, and in this moment, the question doesn’t really matter. I can do anything because I have lost who I am, if only temporarily. And this loss is such a gift.


One thought on “Digging A Path to Follow

  1. “Cold and windy, or dark and pathless, what is this forest in which we find ourselves? Or rather, where we lose ourselves, in order to find out way out of it? Going to and fro on the earth, and walking up and down on it, where do we hope to end up?

    A destination needs desire. To reach it requires will. The wanderer has will without desire, to move without getting anywhere, but to keep moving. One is always closer by not keeping still, says Thom Gunn. The wanderer tells himself that his aimless errancy is better than the inverse, desire without will. That would be simply to yearn, boundlessly longing for what can never be reached. Perhaps he feels that to keep moving is more heroic, less worthy of pity. It is not.

    Rather it is like the shark who must keep moving, moving to breathe, moving to stay afloat, or else sink, into the dark blue depths, under the weight of endless tons of water, where even the light of the sun, if it could reach that far down, would be pale and cold.” — Craig Arnold

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