The birds are the most active

I think, on first impression.

That is, until I wander by the monastery and see it’s time for the morning sweeps.

The two young men seem to be attempting to outdo one another.

Both arrayed in their orange robes, one shoulder with cover and the other without. Singular in focus, their bamboo and straw brooms, both shoulders doing the work.

It’s the early morning hour, but the day has begun.

Birdsong everywhere signals we are past the dawn. And it’s time to get going.

So, this industrious community of monks has taken on the task.

They’ve just finished almsgiving, a daily ritual, in which single file processions of monks march streets, and residents gather, lining with donations.

It’s a sacred walk, and there is light in it.

A couple stray dogs join the fun.

Shopkeepers have prepared sticky rice, and a pair of elder monks dole out crisp bills as these young gentleman make their way, silver containers, ready to receive, strapped around their shoulders.

It’s far from a spectacle, measured and reserved, but it is certainly spectacular

And, once the tithing and morning ritual is taken care of

The day’s work begins


Oranges come to mind

When you live in Southeast Asia, AQI is just a thing

And the air is thick today.

We take for granted, that, yes, it might be a day for a mask, and we might not be able to see across the river, or across the lake.

We manage expectations, live inside our circle of control, let go of influence, and concern. But sometimes those things bleed over.

We make the most of it, generally. But some days, it ventures into oppressive.

Laos is home to the exceptionally striking and charming town of Luang Prabang.

It’s a wonder – amazing architecture, orange clad monks mesmerizing, ornate temples, tree lined streets. Anachronistic, slow-paced, good for mindfulness

and the soul.

But today, there’s a bit extra. The AQI has ventured into unhealthy. We’re out for a bike ride, even the view across the Mekong is obscured by haze, and our eyes water.


look at the sun

It looks like a kumquat!

And as we cruise these beautiful streets, appreciate the history, the energy, and charm, I reconsider


That’s a blood orange

Checkpoint Fore

We round yet another bend

So the route goes:

right, left, left, right, right <straightaway>, left, wiggle-waggle, right, left, right, left, woggle-wiggle, left, right, left, riiiiiiigggghhhht, left, right

Sometimes as writers, we’re able to recreate our daily commute in our minds

No description, none needed. It’s there, I promise.

Such is the nature of routine.

Usually it’s Rhino behind me, silent as usual. Lost in thought.

He does that.

We’re on the home stretch of our daily route now, and a bit earlier than usual due footie practice.

And despite the early hour, this spot is hopping.

On the left, the Qigong practicioners, following the lead of the grey gentleman. He tends to bark out orders, pushing his crew to find balance, to move in rhythm

I wonder why he’s so loud, so early in the morning. But his crew responds, and moves

In harmony.

On the right, it’s zumba class. Every morning, mostly women, shaking and waking their thing. Moving in harmony.

In unison.

It’s common here, this sense of ‘we’, not me.

A commitment to being, being well, and above all

being together.

There is joy in these streets, goodness, and wellness. And I’m grateful for a chance to pass it by

without letting it pass me by.

Checkpoint 3

I look for her every time we come around the bend.

She is as constant as a clock, all parts, moving in rhythm, in the same direction.

Her conical nón lá shading her from the nonexistent sun, beige coveralls signaling her role, bamboo woven straw broom in hand.

But it is her silver, dented, 20-gallon trailer/cart/mini garbage truck that is most remarkable, perched upon three wheels, three axles, it carries the story of this adorable street.

Stretching from ‘sewage smell corner’ some 500 m to the ornate dragons that make up an iconic photo op, this street is her responsibility.

And she owns it.

By the time we pass her every morning, she has been hard at work. Her dented silver trailer/cart/garbage truck is full. A collection of leaves and branches, plastic garbage bags, the morning’s trash is all here.

Good morning

Each piece of trash says


I imagine she responds

I don’t know whether the relationship is an adversarial one

But I like to imagine her accepting it as all part of a day’s work.

And whether she likes her Trash friends or not, it’s clear she accepts and loves her work.

Each piece, every leaf, a testament.

Vietnamese do not shy from effort. When there is work at hand, they get it done.

We pass this way often. So often that we take it for granted.

It’s a charming street, dotted with restaurants, coffee shops, lined with trees. And in a city of 9 million people it has no right being as clean as it is.

So, this woman, who does her job so well each day, probably has no idea to whom her work matters,

and perhaps doesn’t even care.

But we can assure her that she is seen,

and it does.

You know what they say

I didn’t expect this

I didn’t expect to have so many conversations with strangers on the three minute walk back home

But every other person flashed a grin

And for some reason felt a connection

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t us, but maybe that’s part of the equation

I am by nature affable

I like to say hi

Get that from my Dad

What’cha got there

Looks like dinner eh

We had just finished, in fact, at one of our fave neighborhood spots. We’re super blessed to have a lot of options right around the bend.

And rather than scoot home to grab a container or even ask for a bag, this takeout dish comes with its own bowl.

Pineapple fried rice is one of our favorites, but tonight our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. So rather than a doggie bag, or even a paper sack, Today I’m taking the hollowed out pineapple, packed to the rim with a delicious combo of seafood, veggies and rice.

It nestles perfectly into my hand, the spiny sections warming my grip.

Elephant and I make our way home, and are stopped three times along the way

And R reminds me

You know what they say

If you want to meet new people, carrying a pineapple full of fried rice through the streets is the perfect way to do it

Out there in the world

Do you have your ziploc?


Okay, nice one getting yourself up and out the door with plenty of time to spare.

yeah, I had a good sleep

It’s exam day, and Concert Band practice. All the things. Today’s test slate is Economics and English.

He primed the pump last night by chatting with his buds online, and I happened to overhear some of the conversation

Governments should apply Universal Health Care but in the long run they don’t want people to need health care. The goal is to put health care out of business

He spotted me outside the door with a raised eyebrow and reassured me that this was indeed a study session, not just a chance to shoot the breeze

Don’t worry Papa, we’re talking economics

And I realize, yet again, that test scores aren’t the thing. Seeing him have actual conversations, about the real world, is where it’s at. Generating new ideas, forcing curiosity.

I’m grateful he’s found a crew to bounce ideas with

We’re hearing stories from a few colleagues of motorbike accidents, close calls.

The streets are busy these days.

Drive safely.

He gives me a thumbs up, and as I watch him ease the e-bike off the patio and into the street, close the gate and silently cruise away

I’m confident he’ll find his way


D, do you secretly have tent in here?


Do you secretly have a tent in here?


It’s a cleanout day, spring cleaning?

I’m dealing with the pileup. It’s not too bad, honestly. Just a collection of papers to be redistributed and reorganized. We’ve done a pretty good job of staying on top of things and I don’t feel disorganized.

Just a tune up.

You need it, once in a while. Keep the systems functional (or at least non-dysfunctional).

I find papers that mean nothing.

Straight to recycle.

Others that belong in a clear spot. Easy.

And still others that are a full on mystery.

Why did I write that? Why does this paper even exist?

And the work continues apace

Until I’m confronted with a collapsing 5-segment fibreglass tent pole, and confused by the question.

Hearts in Snow

President Obama famously described having kids as living with a piece of your heart, out there, wandering around in the world

And today, two pieces of my heart are not wandering, but sliding, gracefully down the snow-covered slope

In front of me

Sometimes slowing within reach, others wrapping around the bend, and drifting out of sight

When a piece of your heart is out there, in the world, wandering,




and, sometimes, hurting

The push and pull of being Papa rears its head

Keep them safe, above all

And, paradoxically, cheerlead them towards adventure, bravado,

and expansion, into this wide, wild world.

Some say that what you want for your child is just a mirror to what you want for yourself.

And maybe this is true

But when it rears its head as uneasy, unrealistic, and unfair expectations

It perches, extra weight, atop the shoulders of these two pieces of my heart.

But still, they say


We can do it, Papa

They carry this weight, without fear, or resentment, or scorn

and glide, silently in front of me,

gracefully making their way around the bend

On Track

My hands!

Her expression of fatigue leaps across the room

I can’t help but chuckle, and also feel proud of the hard work that’s going on.

K, are you okay?



It’s a quiet afternoon, we’re hard at work on our narrative on-demands. Quiet piano streams as the sunlit shadows and natural light permeate the space. I’m tired today, but it’s a mellow way for us to end the afternoon.

This group knows they’re writers, honing their craft and telling their stories. Their behaviour tells this story, as they work their hardest to emulate the mentor texts we’ve been exploring.

And as I share these slices with them, they see, in living print, proof of our mantra, that

only one person can tell your stories

Xom Chua

You’ve still got to be careful.

It’s not quite as torque-y as the other bike. However, once you get up to speed, it’s got quicker acceleration.

It’s also heavy, so take it easy.

You ready?

Yeah, Papa.

You’ve got to turn around, the trash is the other way.

He edges gently on the accelerator and u-turns. A larger bike, this one gas powered, has just enough room for the plastic black trash bin to nestle snug between the steering column and matte black seat.

And, for a slow u-turn, luckily, today is a quiet day on Xom Chua.

He manages the arc, and as he straightens out and pulls away seems a bit unsteady, but nevertheless picks up speed

And, as he peters away and approaches the corner, I hear him ask

Wait, where do I put my feet

It’s such an innocent question, but it’s one that stops me in my tracks

I immediately need to investigate why it resonates, snaps my reverie.

This is brand new for Rhino. First pass with a gas-powered bike. Fresh, unique

And I remember Amor Towles put it so well

When one turns seventeen and begins to experience that first period of real independence, one’s senses are so alert, one’s sentiments so finely attuned that every conversation, every look, every laugh may be writ indelibly upon one’s memory

I think this may be such a moment for him

Where do we put our feet

We wrestle with new, put ourselves out there, brave the road into vulnerable

And suddenly, there’s no ground

Where do I put my feet?

In spite of his question, and perhaps because of it, he makes his way around the corner and out of sight

Leaving me in his dust,

to wonder

Where will he travel

Who will he become

Will he find his ground

And sadly, perplexingly, agonizingly,

I have no answers

So, instead

I exhale a silent wish for him

And make a commitment to put my feet

one, in front of the other.