A busy day in the lake

After a week of 100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures early in June, the summer has settled down to intermittent heat, humidity, and thunderstorms. Thankfully, the near-constant cloud cover has kept the temperatures down, mostly around or below 90.

But the big Ho Tay lake still attracts local swimmers who wade in to cool off, especially on a weekend afternoon. I applaud the water-time recreation! Though, frankly, I’m not sure I’d want to get in myself. Maybe I’ll get to go on the lake in a boat sometime…

2017-07-01 17.23.45

2017-07-01 17.22.56

Seed Knuckles: the pacifist alternative to brass

Are you really angry but unsure about resorting to violence to solve your problems? Need an alternative to punching the daylights out of the person who is driving you mad? Strap on these seed knuckles and plant a non-invasive species instead!

These fully organic, fast growing grass seeds are harvested sustainably in the paradise that is California. And unlike buying brass knuckles, springing for seed knuckles means you won’t support extractive industries with your hard-earned cash.

So, next time you need to get out some aggression toward that person who really riles you up, avoid court fees and possible jail time — sock it to Mother Earth as an alternative! Simply put on your seed knuckles and punch the ground.

Instead of an enemy, you’ll make a plant!


Brought to you by Swords Into Plowshares Pacifists Inc.

Keep calm and pull on your poncho

I sing Hanoi’s hardy two-wheel drivers:
load-carrying magicians, traffic connivers.


When clouds decide to let torrents free,
they slip into something a little less comfy

then go back to delivering kegs, chickens, crops
so fast they dodge ’bout half the raindrops.


They poncho up, these fearless riders:
bicycle pedalers, motorbike striders.

The hanger-on-back just an extra bump
under the liner, like a camel, two humps.


The deluge could thunder like this all day,
but they just shrug and sigh and say,

“It’s part of life, this getting wet.
We gotta get where we gotta get!”

Photo: Note the high heels!

Take Long Bien bridge over the river,
water and wind makes you shiver.

Hail, storm, and lightning so hard to ignore!
Yet a whole city rides on through the downpour.


So inspiring, so courageous, so colorful: it’s huge!
I’ll poncho, like them, through any deluge.


I happened on something really cool last week

Last week I looked up the street and saw a bunch of colorfully dressed people standing around. Hey, a parade about to start! I stuck around to watch.

There were dragon and lion dancers. Drummers and bands. Altars and palanquins carried on shoulders. Some mean looking dudes all dressed in black. And lovely yellow-robed ladies swaying in unison.

Here’s dragons!


And then a palanquin so tall it didn’t fit under some of the things hung in its path, while a soldier waited to keep an intersection clear for the procession.

Apparently, it’s common for local temples to have their own little festival, which might include a parade, in the month or so after Tet, the Vietnamese celebration of the lunar new year. I’m glad I caught this one.

Finally, here’s a quick video so you can see (and hear) everything in motion, a little bit as I saw it.

Joust, thou knave!

It seemeth that knights of contemporary Hanoi have left behind their lance in favor of sundry lengths of pipe. And their steed no longer hath four legs, but wheels of two. What is more, their field hath become a thoroughfare thoroughly paved, with the sun-dappled, grassy arenas of yore forgotten by all but the most hoary head.


Kumquat trees, before Tet


Pick your tree.
Dig up the roots.

Pay your money
to the farmer in boots.

Kumquat trees are potting,
so Tet is coming.


Pluck that branch.
Watch the trees dance

through traffic and lights
on reeling motorbikes.

Kumquat trees are trucking,
so Tet is coming.


The lunar new year
is almost here:

plot some good luck
and plan some cheer.

Kumquat trees are blooming,
so Tet is coming.


Goats and a motorbike to start the year

Goats alive! Apparently motorbike is the conveyance of choice for the modern goatherd.


Dodging goat pellets on a walk during a recent trip to Ninh Binh, we were rewarded with a sighting of the pellet producers. The small herd was being driven by a driver astride two wheels.


Happy new year everyone. May friendly goats greet you at every turn.

It’s Christmas in the city…

From karaoke singers in the streets to snowmen in front of hotels, Hanoi likes to get in the Christmas spirit. An unexpected rush of holiday decorations has sprung up around the city over the past few weeks, and I’m enjoying it. “Another holiday to celebrate? Lights to put up? Gifts to buy and give? Bring it on!” Hanoians seem to say.

There’s a famous shopping street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter named Hang Ma. It sells the decorations of the season. Over moon festival time you could find star and fish lanterns. At the end of October, masks and costumes for Halloween. And, nearing Christmas time, artificial trees, wreaths, Santa suits, and decorations of all kinds sprouted from the shops that line the narrow, motorbike-clogged street.

(click on the photos to view at larger size)

Lights, ornaments, and trees are up all around the city, especially in the atriums of shopping malls, the entryways of apartment buildings, and the lobbies of hotels both grand and grungy. Santa is everywhere on his sleigh, it seems, and schoolchildren here anticipate his visit on Christmas Eve night just as much as in the US. There’s even famous landmarks from America sprinkled into the decorations. It makes me feel right at home.

(click on the photos to view at larger size)

So, all in all, I’m having a great first Christmas in Hanoi. Now I have to go put on my reindeer antler headband and sing some caroling karaoke. Happy holidays to all!