unfolds in front of my eyes with generous lines of trees, peaceful speed of life and gentle, respectful people. Wooden floors, tricycles, 1920s colonial feel. Motorbikes are not allowed here, public bus service can be chaotic.

Yangon seems like a fusion of Hanoi in the 90s with bits and bits of modernity and *democracy*. It feels like traveling with a time machine to the past, present and (political) future.

Developing countries, smile ~ breathe and go slowly, please

15 may 2016

~ and that present became history again…

coconut skins

You have fancied that ice-cream coconut for a while. Today you finally bought it, turns out they put factory ice-cream inside the coconut right in front of you.

Your dad ‘likes that you’re interested in a green forest film event’ at L’espace on Facebook because he ‘follows’ you. He and your aunt both like your post though they argued and don’t talk in real life, now they get to see nice chosen photos of each other online.

After an(other) anthropology talk-discussion event, which is often a good masturbation for the mind, you and the speaker talked about study options to end up with – the happiest thing to do is probably to grow vegetables. But of course you gotta try it first, you might not be able to. We’ll see.

The ice-cream is alright, because you’re sitting on a beanbag looking to West Lake with some wind playing around you.

4. 4. 2017

you can hold her hand
and show her how you cry
explain to her your weakness so she understands
and then roll over and die

you can brave decisions
before you crumble up inside
spend your time asking everyone else’s permission
then run away and hide

you can sit on chimneys
with some fire up your ass
no need to know what you’re doing or waiting for
but if ever anyone should ask
tell them, i’ve been licking coconut skins,
and we’ve been hanging out
tell them, God just dropped by to forgive our sins,
and relieve us our doubt

you can hold her eggs
but your basket has a hole
you can lie between her legs and go looking for
tell her you’re searching for her soul

you can wait for ages
watch your compost turn to coal
but time is contagious
and everybody’s getting old

so you can sit on chimneys
with some fire up your ass
no need to know what you’re doing or looking for
but if ever anyone should ask
tell them, i’ve been cooking coconut skins,
and we’ve been hanging out
tell them, ‘God just dropped by to forgive our sins,
and relieve us our doubt

covid please

release us

we’ll feed you indeed

from our breathing out

can you hide in the cloud

no need to give us a shout

just be there and chill out

take care of your crowds

has it been fair enough

for humans to balance what we’ve caused

locked down in the house

with fears to embrace

to play more indoor

reflecting on our cores

instead of more, more, more

treating our sores

and flaws

draw our dreams

watching old films

streaming with our teams

making our own creams

parents living together peacefully, finally

mum even made apple cider vinegar

and practised yogaaa

thank you for pushing us inwards

with your swords through our chests

to rest and balance the harmony we lost

when we fought for what we got caught in

to be seen with what we “should” be keen on

to clean our sins

has it been enough

breathing in

we release you, covid

breathing out

please go play above the clouds

and slow down

~ sam, scribbling in bed before and after sleeping

17 feb 2022, hanoi ~ with omicron spreading

new home, february 2022

eat, play, love

the right dish for me is the one that i enjoy having most of the time, more so when i’m tired ~ thinking about it makes me feel better, cooking it makes me feel good and enjoying it makes me happy. guess it’s the same with people, though it needs to be two ways in later case

does a mum truly understand the baby inside her after 9 months? it takes much longer to understand another whole person

saigon, 22. 3. 2016

all we do is to p. a. s. s t. i. m. e

until there’s love

to f e e l

in a dance

in a bowl of noodle soup

in hands in hands

in silence

eyes closed
lips gently opened
nose sniffing

embracing another soul

intertwining with yours

saigon, 22. 3. 2018

my sassy girl (2001)

the sorrows of wars

local barber in a lane on Hoàng Hoa Thám street, Hà Nội

grateful to see small local-owned businesses still alive and well in Vietnam

my paternal grandfather and his older brother used to be professional barbers ~ they owned a ‘western’ barbershop in the old quarter of Hanoi on Hang Ga and Hang Khay during French time. planning to come visit with the address given by my uncle and aunt (finally did with my uncle in 2020 or so ~ will share more on this later…)

when communists took over after Dien Bien Phu battle with France,

my grandfather had to join the communist cooperative and was ‘moved’ to Cho Gioi, a flea market in Hanoi, started to drink and my dad’s family went down together with the communist time ~ its aftermaths passed down to my father thus my mum and i…stories of many other Vietnamese families…

my grandfather’s older brother went south to Saigon

continued his barber shop on 49 Le Loi at the central of Saigon, now sold and rented by a Converse store. the only relative-in-law left there was waiting to be paid by the government for the few-decade metro project. it was an emotional visit for me when i first came to Saigon last year

my uncle shared with me yesterday that they didn’t see each other for 20 years until 1975

my uncle and my dad visited Saigon, worked for their uncle’s cafe in their teenage years

‘from 6am to 12pm. each has our own individual meal, no time to play. i was used to having more time sleeping in Hanoi. i wanted to stay in Saigon, not coming back to Hanoi because of the sad family but i finally got upset and jumped on the top of the train without a fare to get back to Hanoi. another guy who worked there followed a boat to go overseas’

i remember seeing black and white photos of that grandfather’s family with fancy white suits and car in front of a villa in Da Lat

he had 13 kids, first one studied in France, had some mental health issue and finally passed away in Vietnam

the rest moved to the US through different journeys ~ some worked for the Southern army, some through refugee camps through out the 90s. it could have been interesting to meet some of them when i was in Cali but we lost touch

my uncle compared politics to a ‘prostitute’, always sounds nice whichever guy/ side (s)he’s with…

hanoi, 31 august 2017

march 2022 ~ the bored politicians/ power gamers can gather in some stadium and fight among themselves and let civilians alone? who want to support that can pay for the tickets to watch them?

through love

december 2017

chanting sometimes these days in Sanskrit at Sivananda yoga center in Da Lat i like some melodies yet held back a bit by some loss ~ that not far from here, ten tears ago, there was a place where Vietnamese could sing Vietnamese mindful songs from Lang Mai tradition nurtured by thay Thich Nhat Hanh

people say it’s the vibration i should pay attention to, not the meaning of the words yet there’s more fulfilment when i’m connected to the words as well as in feeling good with someone physically is not as good as when there’s mental connection as well

i see policemen a few times here already if there’s God, bless Vietnam will you

february 2022

now i can connect more with melodies, vibration, energy ~ spiritual connection is more important or isn’t it the actual connection ~ similar to Norah Jone’s musical vibe whether the lyrics is sad or creepy, she sounds soft, calm and loving

i guess the people’ energy at Sivananda Da Lat didn’t exactly harmonise with the melodies? some vices or circle of work/ pressure i guess…it’s in a concrete resort isn’t it

như chờ tình đến, rồi hãy yêu

~ như cảm thấy tình và muốn xây dựng, vun đắp, thì là yêu

p.s. refined sugar goes faster into your bloodstream like an intense crush? when the honey moon phase is over and you’re not blinded any more, having seen each other’s ups and downs, darks and brights ~ and wanting to embrace all that and grow together, then you’re in the mood for love

through love, the bitter becomes sweet
through love copper coins become gold
through love, the dregs become clear
through love, the pain becomes healing
through love, the dead is made living
through love, the king is made a slave
and this love is the result of knowledge
who, in foolishness, ever sat on such a throne?
through love ~ Rumi

through love with yourself ~ be love

có khi yêu như là

Z said each time i fell for someone, it seemed like the first time all over again ~ that was summer 2011 when i fell for M in Cambridge ~ chilling on the hill looking up at night skies filled with stars, his fingers playing moonlight sonata, his sleepy mind thinking about universe physics, i climbed out of the few hundred year old castle’s window playing like a child

10 years of self and family healing, gratitude to the longer term relationship with B ~ music, patience, food, passion, road trips, preparation to be apart each year and to be back together one day

20s romance and relationship, passionate and whole, youth ego and pride, study career, a bit then a whole lot of geographical distance

30s first years are here ~ M’s now working in finance after a PhD in Maths, A too, B’s still playing music ~ not so much classical any more, we make compromises with life

i (re)encounter people in our 30s with scars still be to healed in their hearts and minds, learning to love themselves with morning/ night routines, essential oils, yoga mat, mindfulness retreats, some sex – agreements, few night stands, tinder, netflix series, scared to open up, scared to have opened up with me, falling for people who are not in the same place, we’re still young enough to curse political borders – sometimes

when we’re more settled with career, are we ready to love – again, wholeheartedly, finally? before we share that love with our children who are needed to remind us of purity and liveliness. climate change, world issues ~ why we need family and our own families to go through life together, as animals with human political correctness

thankfully my heart is still pure enough to feel and fall, my mind is still clear enough to see (in)compatibilities yet also to have less barriers to welcome differences, to open up to possibilities, to be more patient towards people’s wounded hearts as how B was to mine ~ here and now while still walking towards where i feel like home ~ there’s no way to happiness, happiness is the way

we’ll meet on our shared paths, my dears : )

hanoi, 2020

và 2022, cứ “yêu” như là

coming home

i used to sing popular music or simply the one my crush liked when i was a kid until early teenage years, contemporary punk, then country for its beautiful lyrics and melodies, soul, folk, jazz, musical ~ sad and fun songs upon my mood, then a period of mindfulness songs to heal. now i can appreciate sad music again and embrace sadness

this song, i listened to it as part of the whole ‘plum village song’ playlist for a few years now yet not until an early day of october last year ~ when i sang along with the words that it really touched me, tears fell down and warmed my feelings ~ among all the changes, transitions, human suffering, i feel ‘happiness’ singing this song. i start to think of ‘happiness’ as a luxury sometimes, as the ‘new suffering’ if we’re after it ~ yet it is beautiful to feel whole and simply ‘happy’ the moments i sing these words along with the harmony of vocals and instruments ~ the song opens our selves to let life fill in it seems : )

again, today, i’m reliving the joy singing this song again and again along with the heavy rain of the north, in grandma’s room ~ after joining ‘summer farewell’ ceremony at the hamlet’s little temple, enjoying buddhist citing along with the traditional little wooden drum ~ most of the olds seemed to do it as a ritual yet it reminds me to have again the daily nourishing ritual of listening to, reading zen buddhist teaching from thay Thich Nhat Hanh/ Plum Village : ) farewell ‘end of the world’ summer, thank you, i guess, for giving me a new experience with extreme heat – climate change, for pushing me to stay at grandma’s for more than a month with all the family politics, aggression and love in their own way ~ that i haven’t had for almost 9 years since i left vietnam

‘home’ is sleeping peacefully enough, among all the chaos, with grandmother every noon and night

and i welcome you to enjoy this bliss with me

see my eyes, please be welcome

see my heart, please be my guest

see my hands, i fold them towards you

a lotus to be

following the rising and falling

of the great breathing deep inside of us

so that together we can come home

in the heartbeat of our embrace

~ summer 2019, finally i’m deeply grateful for this summer that i had quality time with my dearest now late grandmother…

p.s. my singing these days

be there for each~other

for your inner self
for the food you eat
for each walking step
for each breath ~ in, out
for the words we say
for each movement, touch

for parents
for the small and big family
for sisters and brothers
for friends
for neighbours
for strangers
for love

hanoi, 2017

no coming no going

i first read thầy’s books Anger, The Art of Power, Understanding Kiều tales with Zen eyes summer 2009 ~ wished i had known earlier when Plum Village was in Vietnam 2005-2008

cried and had a dream about him when i first heard he fell ill in 2014, wished i had come to Plum Village France earlier. i first came to Plum Village France summer 2015, happy tears rolled out ~ that feeling of finally coming home to my spiritual family

2016, i took my mum to Plum Village Thailand ~ 2017, my dad ~ we had beginning anew session with sư cô Chân Không. thầy was there ~ together with another girl, we looked at him sitting in the wheel chair on the second floor of his hut from distance, gentle loving tears rolled out. later on, thầy moved around to say hi to people ~ i came and touched on his hand gently. my dad, after many years of getting and giving violence, came home and shared with people about Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching. a few more years and now my parents are living, separately in the same house, quite peacefully as housemates

throughout the years, i have met and practised with brothers and sisters in london, dordogne, lyon, rome, saigon, hanoi, pak chong, huế, khánh hoà, sóc sơn and to be continued ~ and share the practice when people need them

thank You thầy, my spiritual grandfather with wild spirit, warm heart, artful soul ~ a writer, poet, social worker, leader, painter, peacemaker ~ i hold you close to me, i release you to be so free ~ because i am in you, and you are in me 💫

không đi đâu, cũng không cần đến
không trước cũng không sau
cầm tay nhau, đứng bên nhau

rồi chia tay, bước cho thảnh thơi
cũng bởi vì chúng ta đã có nhau rồi từ lâu
cũng bởi vì chúng ta đã có nhau hoài mai sau

con trong thầy và thầy trong con ~ mây trong thầy và thầy trong mây

con cảm ơn thầy ~ người ông tâm linh ~ thầy đã, đang và sẽ mãi luôn là phước lành của chúng con

sẽ gặp lại thầy, chùa Từ Hiếu, Huế, sư thầy sư cô và anh chị em gia đình tâm linh năm nay