Pay Attention

Things have slowed down a bit near the lake

But there’s still plenty going on

I reach into the vinyl bag to pull out the shards of the shattered pot, but I’m distracted and not paying attention.


That’s gonna bleed

The sharp edge catches my pinky and I quickly withdraw my arm.

Gotta be careful

I unload the dirt, leaves, and aforementioned pot at the mini grey dumpsters that make up our trash collection spot. The bins are full.

They’re always full, it seems.

There is a small army of collectors, mainly women, who patrol the streets. For a city of 9 million, the streets are (relatively) clean. Who knows where it all goes when it leaves the neighbourhood, though.

I tuck the now-empty bucket between the seat and the steering column, and ease the bike ahead a few metres to check out the lake. It’s a clear night, crisp, perfectly pleasant.

I notice the 3-foot long catfish staring me in the eye. Just sitting on the sidewalk, maybe awaiting a friend for a romantic lakeside rendezvous?

This is where all the young lovers meet

And I can see why. On a clear night, Tay Ho (West Lake) shimmers. Provides space in a city with too little. Truly a romantic spot, as long as you don’t think too closely about sewage runoff or what might be going on beneath the surface.

I’m doing my best not to when I see the fisherman, silent in the dark. He effortlessly extends his bamboo pole back into the street, arcing his cast towards the lake depths.

Is he angling for dinner?

He peeks over at me, perhaps wondering if I have intentions of making off with his catfish friend.

I do not.

The bats dart close, then away. Looping erratically and in search of dinner. Across the lake, colored lights snake their way up and down apartment complexes, a daily light show indicating that Hanoi is (perhaps trying too hard to signal that it’s) on the up and up, a cosmopolitan and modern city.

We’ve heard from a few new folks scheduled to arrive in Hanoi in July. They wonder about AQI, Moldy March, the gray of winter.

But there is colour here, and vibrance,

and life

Sometimes you just need to pay attention.

Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

Join the Conversation


  1. The sense of place in your writing is so good. Your appreciation and ability to really see your surroundings paints a picture. I’ve enjoyed getting to know about this place.


  2. This description really brought everything to life. It was like watching a movie – the fisherman throwing his line out, the catfish, the lights on the apartment buildings. Very lively!


  3. The sharp shard, the clear night, the surprise of the catfish, the boat and fisherman eyeing you… as others have said, you truly paint a picture. A calm but intrigued mood. A picture of past and present and future of the city you now call home. And I love how water and land blend together in your words.


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