Greetings from Hanoi!
It's been an eventful week and a bit to say the least. The common denominator in all of this has been heat. I say this because before leaving London I felt stressed and really p*ssed off with the PCT.
The day before I left I had no letter from them regarding their decision on my funding for Top Surgery, so I called them. From being told they would write to me, I was now informed that they would be writing to my Doctor and then she would either call or write to me and this could take up to two weeks or up to a month. That was irritating enough without what followed. The person on the phone told me that she could see on the computer that a decision had been made. I asked if she could tell me and she said that it wasn't policy and that I would have to find out from my GP. This was after she had asked me for my NHS number, date of birth, address and other personal details.
I respect that there are policies in place, but at the same time I want to know why I am told that I would be written to from them regarding the decision and then suddenly a change occurred within that. I did challenge, politely that I had been told that I would be informed from them but she was very adamant that they inform the GP who then informs the patient.
I get that.
I was irritated (and still am) that she knew of my result and seemed to be getting a kick out of being able to enjoy her little piece of power. I wouldn't have left someone dangling like that nor inform them that I knew but wasn't going to tell them. A much better approach would have been to just say that once a decision is made the GP will be written to and then the patient would be informed.
I forgot to add that once she had attained that the decision had been made, she muted me whilst she discussed it with a colleague. So that too irked me knowing that two people knew yet I couldn't be told.
On that note I was pleased to get off the phone, curse a little and finish packing to go to Vietnam. She may have had a bit of power but at least she could sit and rot at her desk for the following 2 weeks as far I was concerned.
She also didn't give her name, which again with hindsight I should have taken from her so that I can make a complaint or find out who is higher up at the PCT. People I know that have had dealings with them have had to speak to upper tiers of management, so when I return if there has been no word or progress I might do that as I have quite a tight timetable for June.
On the 20th I have an appointment with Dr Lorimer at Charing Cross, then on the 22nd I have an appointment with my Surgeon's nurse in Brighton where she will discuss the operation with me and if a PCT decision is finalised by then I can then discuss workable dates with Dr Yelland.
I've also got loads of work on with my other company to plough through and other bits and pieces happening.
It's all go, go, go! But I am determined to make my surgery happen. I'm so close I can almost taste it and from being in Vietnam, this surgery is necessary.
When we booked we thought it would be high 20s and early 30s in terms of temperature, but most of the South of Vietnam which we started off in has been in the 40's! Which has been almost unbearable at moments when having to wear 2 binders, as they at the best of times are like wearing a thermal vest, but couple that with this heat and it is like experiencing heaven and hell all at the same time.
Yesterday when in Hue, I sweated so much that my stomach was tricking sweat out of my belly button and down my pants that it felt like I was wetting myself.
I hope the scales upon my return are kind because I feel like I have sweated out at least a few pounds in body weight.
Feeling too hot and too sweaty all the time is really uncomfortable after a few days. Still I do put things in perspective.
This is a beautiful place that I am thoroughly enjoying being in. In the run up to here I worked very hard to be able to come here, it's also given me lots of time to think and positively reflect on a few things happening in life and helped me to resolve a few matters of the heart and soul to some degree too.
It's also confirmed to me that I really do have no relationship with the breasts that grew on my chest. They can go in the bin as far I am concerned once they are removed. I should have never been born with them and I can't wait to experience a world where I don't have to hide underneath a binder.
I have an old binder I wear under a rash vest so I can swim without people knowing I have breasts which is liberating but there is a side of me that feels that I am still having to hide and feel uncomfortable so that no one knows and I don't freak out making myself feeling more dysmorphic than I already do.
When September comes I would have been binding for 3 years. That is a long time. I am reaching the stage where I actually can't bear it every day, having to make sure I have aligned myself correctly and not squidged one breast too far from the other so that I end up with a wonky looking chest or a strange monoboob.
Sometimes my binder slips and then I notice cleavage and I feel like a failure and sometimes a fraud. I also end up feeling revolting and just want to hide when that happens.
I remind myself that I am not a freak but sometimes it's hard not to feel that way. Especially when the rest of the time I console myself with what I am doing, that it's right and that I can adjust to a new life but the reminder of being born with incorrect body parts just makes me feel trapped.
I know that some people (no matter how liberal they may appear) have their own judgements and reservations and even assumptions as to how trans people live or should live. Because for some they don't understand and some feel uncomfortable about it all, and that is fair enough. I just wish sometimes that some people weren't so faux positive when that isn't really representative as to how they feel.
The crux of the matter is that a trans person tried to adjust and make changes in his or her life so that they can be as representative to the person that they should have been born as in the first place. In some ways it's like literally being born again.
Choosing a new name, identity, altering ones appearance and becoming closer to what you've always felt inside yet weren't born that way isn't easy. But its part of a journey that some people choose to take and have to take in order to feel that they are alive.
I say this because in what feels like a previous life I wasn't happy at all. There was potential but I felt I spent a lot of my life living a lie.
I despise dishonesty and I don't want to feel I was lying to myself or the people around me. The only expectation my Mum ever placed on me was to be the person I felt I was. As well as to make her cups of tea on demand even if she forgets about them and leaves a trail of cups wherever she goes...but then she does have the dirty nappy argument...like all mothers use!
The main thing I feel now is determination to make more changes happen and to do so from knowing without any shadow of a doubt about anything.
Being here has allowed me to recharge my batteries and seeing all of the amazing sights around me and sampling a different world and culture has given me back some much needed fire that I had run out of.
I have dreamt of coming to Vietnam since I was a teenager but am pleased that I was able to make this happen.
I was determined that before I was 30 I would travel to lots of places and not just because I wanted to be gay, fabulous and cultured...but there is an element of that too if I am honest.
I grew up not having holidays every year like a lot of my friends did. Because my Mum had to struggle for a lot of my childhood and I don't forget the many Christmasses that she had to do loads of shitty jobs so that I could have a present.
We didn't have a supportive family nor did she have many opportunities growing up either. When she met my Step Dad things did change, and I will always be grateful to him for a lot of things too as without him, I wouldn't have got my education nor many of the other opportunities afforded to me.
It is sad that they aren't together anymore, but at the same time I know I can maintain a relationship with them both and at the same time not forget all the good times and things that have happened from that union.
I also have discovered that I am in fact in love with a country. Vietnam has definitely stolen my heart and I can't wait to return here and explore more of the rural areas. Particularly Sapa and the Surrounding areas and the Central Highlands. Ho Chi Minh City is scooter tastic (and turns crossing the road into an extreme sport) and the city as a whole can make one feel like it's all a giant hustle in a lot of places.
People here aren't too corrupt...we haven't encountered too many hustlers here. But then no where is as bad as Morocco in my opinion for that. Here, it has been really obvious if someone is dodgy as they have been either trying to feed us false information (such as a guy in Hue telling us the citadel was closed for the next hour but he would ride us around - I didn't believe him and was pleased that my gut instinct was correct!) and another guide we had at My Son quoting us a one day trip to Hue with a car for 160 dollars when the going rate is about 75. But again he was too pushy and we gave him the brush off and all was well. He was also a very lazy guide so there was a part of me thinking why on earth people would want to hire him privately based on his lack of interest and passion in the tour he was currently working on. Still, these types of people exist wherever there are tourists, and it's just a case of working through what you want from a place,
Going to Hue with just a driver and no guide was perfect for us.
Hanoi is very pleasant but again the scooters here are a bit scary. Hoi An is just heavenly. I could easily stay around that part for a long time. We had a lovely man take us to Hue who was one of the sweetest people I think I have ever met.
We also saw the ruins in My Son too which were beautiful (shame about the dodgy guide), yet sad at the same time. They had a lot of damage as they were bombed heavily during the US War. There is still a feeling of rawness here over what went on, but I admire that there doesn't seem to be much of a bitterness. Same applies to the attitude towards the French too.
Vietnam is definitely transitioning within itself. It's also a very affordable place to visit - the greatest expense you would have would be airfare. Accomodation, food, transport and internal flights are very reasonable.
Most meals we have had which have included a tip have not come to more than ten pounds for two. We haven't been drinking very much so that too is something to remember as well. Beer is about a pound anyhow so it doesn't exactly kill the bank and the place we had nice cocktails at worked out at just under 2.50 a cocktail.
My wallet won't be crying as much as it would be if I was in Europe, lets put it that way. I have been making sure I have been tipping well though as I think that is only right.