It’s here.  The shortest day of the year.    A few thoughts:

Living here with our ingrained western perspectives in a fairly unrestricted eastern country continues to challenge our ideals and beliefs.  That, combined with the disastrous political changes taking place in the US and around the world, plus understanding the pending climate disasters that will befall us sooner than we expect…gak.  We should be depressed.  Sometimes we are. But life goes on and the gratitude meter reads high.  Life really is the little things.  Here are some of our daily little things.

We have teeny weeny tiny ants that live with us.  They are unnoticeable until they move.  Sometimes they remind us of the scope and breadth of life on this planet.  Other times they remind us to not leave food out on the counter.

New noodle discovery  ON OUR BLOCK called Ngu Xa style.  Hot oil, batter, noodles and egg are involved.  We also stumbled upon banh tom (shrimp and sweet potato fritters) and fried swan (meaty white duck) with lemongrass.  3 blocks away!

Together we bought a cheap motorbike (Yamaha) then discovered it’s a money pit.  It is for sale.  We are now renting a Honda.

Beth continues teaching English to a class of 13 year old teens.  They are not accustomed to adults asking them about their feelings, so of course that’s how each class starts.  They like it and even the shy quiet ones are finding their voices.

There are still things we absolutely do not understand.  Like midnight fishing.  A small, mysterious group of men and women appear about 1am with boats, bins and a large net.  They pull in hundreds and hundreds of fish, toss back a few live ones, then cart them all away on motorbikes and evacuate the area at 5:30am, when the morning loudspeakers start playing music. Who are they?  What do they do with the fish?

Doug should be receiving an advanced degree for all the climate change research he’s been doing.

Beth’s primary transportation is một chiếc xe đạp.  A bicycle.  She’s recuperating after experiencing a Hanoian rite-of-passage.  An accident.  One evening, bike, body and a slow-moving swarm of motorbikes collided at a ginormous intersection.  It could’ve been a lot worse than it was.  The bruises are amazing.  (Direct hit to elbow and knee, bones intact, cartilage…not so much.)  She is looking forward to being able to touch her nose once again.  A human element to that story:  the swarm included a group of singers returning from rehearsal.  They helped clear the mess and stayed until help arrived.  And serenaded her with love songs filled with grandiose passion.

Buses work well and cost 7000 VND (30 cents) per trip. If your arm is in a sling, the bus attendant will yell at someone to move and make a seat available.

While walking around the city, sometimes it smells so bad that we can’t inhale.  The beautiful aroma of a bloom emerges.  The balance between the two is astounding.  And instantaneous.  Sometimes life here feels like that.  Contrasting and alive, changing in an instant.  Dynamic, scary and invigorating.

Mận.  Our newest fruit.  Called a plum here.  Called a water apple in other places.  Gorgeous red, looks almost like a red pepper.  Crisp, tart, sweet and crunchy.

We often get stared at.  Not because we’re white. Because we’re old, and together in public.  Yesterday we were informed by the banh mi shop owner that we were the cutest old couple he’s ever seen.  He sat down with us to explain that we give him hope.  He’s been married 10 years and thinks life is hard, so seeing happy old people warms his heart.  Then he dragged his mom out to meet us too.

These interactions warm our hearts, too.  The human connection is not trivial.  As for juggling between the eastern and western cultures?  Pick and choose from both.

Thanks for being our friends.  You matter to us.

Happy Solstice, with love.


Music sharing with another musician.  The smile says it all.






  1. Kate

    You take care of yourself, Beth! That bike accident sounds scary. As usual, I just love all your descriptions and thoughts… and photos.

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