• My mom bought me a new backpack for Christmas. It has a detachable daypack; it has pockets engineered for easy snack retrieval; it has logically placed straps so I don’t choke myself in my sleep when I use it as a pillow on train station floors; it has the same color of my eyes. My mom actually bought me my companion for the next fat chunk of my life, on sale.
  • I arranged an automatic repayment plan for my student loans so I won’t have to think about them or look at them too much. They really kill the mood, you know?
  • As for apartment hunting, it seems Hanoi is teeming with French and Dutch expats in search of a new roommate. I don’t want to sign on prematurely, so finding a place will be my business for the first week. I just have to make sure I have a balcony and that my housemates aren’t question-answerers (“Let me tell¬†you about the AC unit. Why am I mentioning the AC unit? Because it has a weird button here, that, if pressed, will blow up the entire neighborhood”).
  • The place where I got my immunizations provided me with a thick booklet entitled, “Vietnam: Itinerary Prepared for The Squeaky Robot.” It is a customized collection of medical pamphlets and general travel information that I “need to keep on hand at all times.” Among the more useful tidbits, it advises that I avoid the sun, because of my light skin, and the night, because I’m a lone female. They do not provide a third time of day in which I’m allowed to go out. Also, I am to “avoid food on the street,” which is essentially an affront to my entire being.
  • I’ve updated my Kindle. This year I plan to read Lord of the Rings, some of Solzhenitsyn’s more ghastly works, guides to personal finance, and the books that are normally demanded of high-schoolers that somehow were never demanded of me, like Animal Farm. I know, I know, I feel embarrassed enough for the two of us.
  • I’ve secured enough hug karma from my dog Sammy, aka Penguin, for three lifetimes.
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  • I decluttered most of my belongings in my mom’s house. Most things have either been sold, donated, or thrown out. Not because I’ll never be back, but because I hate when shit sits unused collecting dust. One of those things collecting dust was a ten-kilo bundle of documents and research covering demographics of Uzbekistan, acquired four years ago for a human geography course. But alas, most paper evidence of my recent history is now being recycled.
  • I dumped Bank of America, for reasons large and small, in favor of a bank that’s more traveler-friendly. I’m talking no ATM fees on their side, monthly reimbursements for withdrawal fees from foreign banks. ¬†Happily, the design on my new debit card is called, “Penguin Parade.”
  • I have a new netbook to use; my old computer is slowly circling the drain and weighs too much for me to justify chugging it along. I plan on covering my new laptop with random patches of duck tape under the premise that it will dissuade potential thieves. I can’t prove that it works, but I also can’t prove that it doesn’t work.
  • I’ve set up a Twitter so that I can let my family know I’m alive in 140 characters or less.
  • I am in the possession of a tiny red address book. Finally I’ll be able to keep new contacts and encounters organized, prompting me to “keep in touch.” (Yes, my phone can do that too. Don’t ruin this for me.)
  • Finally, I have forty-eight new blank pages in my passport and a one-way ticket. Feel free to do the math.