Place of worship in Cholon, Saigon’s Chinatown. Where ancient Chinese customs endure in this small enclave of the city.
Wicked light as well.
The best thing about a city is retreating to the coast.
Two hours outside the wonderful madness of Saigon are lavender skies and the loveliest stretch of beach you ever did see.
Nothing is peaceful unless there’s chaos. Nothing is quiet unless there’s noise.
Contrast is one of life’s greatest devices.
From the city to the coast and back again. These are a few visuals from my first few days as a resident in Vietnam…as seen through an iPhone 6.
A car breaking down in the middle of a national park in Tanzania is different than say, a car breaking down in the middle of a national park in Vermont. In Tanzania, things eat humans whose cars break down. All that was heard from our Safari driver for the last several hours was that when spotting animals he’d stop long enough for us to take photos but that we should “never stop for too long.” Very encouraging information given the set of events that was about to take place. I suppose the guttural clanking of the engine before its wildly dramatic death should have clued us in that we were about to become Lion finger food. Or at the very least playthings for the hundreds of baboons that had quietly assembled on the road before us as if they’d been anticipating our arrival and plotting our demise. Our demise happening sometime after their late afternoon butt picking session of course. (Visual aids below). Luckily for all of us, I’d recently finished the complete Planet of the Apes Box Set Collection, which gave me the confidence to realise that with a bit of humour, understanding and implausible Hollywood plot twists, humans and monkeys really can be best friends.
What I was worried about however, after the car screeched to a halt next to a Hippo watering hole, otherwise known as death’s door, were the words that next came out of my guide’s mouth. They sounded distinctly like “get out of the car and push.” I thought I’d been mistaken but in fact I had not. Never before had the phrase you get what you pay for been so wholly, painfully clear to me. It reminded me of that time I bought a discounted bra at a street market in Kuala Lumpur. It did about as much for holding up my boobs as a sieve does for holding water. Apparently I NEVER LEARN.
After three failed attempts at pushing we took a break and seeing as though we had the time, we had run out of things to do besides pray for survival, we walked over to inspect an ant hill at the side of the road. This was no ordinary northern hemisphere ant hill the size of your fist. This was the Everest of ant hills, it wasn’t a neighbourhood in there it was an ant universe. It’s size was impressive enough to render us speechless for a few solid minutes and as the ants diligently made their way to and fro I began to wonder if the ant world had it figured out better than the rest of us. Are they happier living in commune with one another and working towards one common goal? Is it insulated enough inside there to keep them warm on a cool evening but airy enough that it doesn’t get too stuffy? and if there’s some sort of ant mutiny rebellion against the establishment do they drive out the ousted leader and appoint a new King ant? Or is it more of a socialist self-governing society? I never saw the movie Antz so I don’t know. These are the kinds of existential entomological questions that I didn’t know I cared about until I thought I wouldn’t be around to think them any more. Amongst all of this thinking, I began to wonder if the ants, should I meet my fate inside the mouth of a lioness, would carry my lifeless and mangled body into their ant hill for refuge as to spare me from total annihilation by the vultures above. They seemed forgiving and empathetic like that. But one would hopefully never know. Fear of death has a quirky way of turning avoidant defense mechanisms into mildly interesting topics of conversation.
At this point we were beginning to feel quite optimistic about things and a bit lighter about the fact that with no phone service and light falling fast, meaning most of the other safari cars had already turned back, that our chances of having to spend the night in the car were increasing. No problem! It’s fine. So we’re in Lion territory, no big deal! So we’re fresh, vulnerable meat already perfectly seasoned with the salty sweat from a full day in the bush, who cares! It’s all good. Our faux confidence was as pathetic as the engine with which we road in on. After a last solid attempt to free ourselves and a death defying three quarters of an hour very literally trying to push a 4 x 4 out of a Safari park, the engine decided to return from the dead and reincarnate as a somewhat improved though still incomprehensibly crappy version of itself. As we drove away, the ant hill becoming a speck in the distance, our gratitude and joy quickly metamorphosed into an inexplicable urge to sing the “Circle of Life.” Apparently, challenging experiences in the wild can make you wiser, but they can’t make you less of a cliche.
South London’s answer to the local & organic food question is at Sutton Community Farm. A throwback to the days when we knew exactly where our food came from, picked it with our own hands and shared it with neighbours.
It’s a 7.1 acre plot where community members stop by and help out with the growing and picking. It’s all about slow food, culture, and community. Getting back to the basics and gettin’ your hands dirty.
Winter on the farm is preparation time for the buzz that is Springtime growing but there’s still vegetables for miles in mid Feb. You can smell the fresh leeks as soon as you rip them out of the ground.
It’s a hot cup of tea in the sunshine with friends versus an on-the-go latte. It’s slow and real in a world of fast and empty. It’s basic human instinct stuff and sometimes, just sometimes, simple is the most alluring thing ya know?
More on Sutton Community Farm and their VegBox scheme soon….
It’s a land of ideas, of insatiable hopes, of progress, and motion and change.
A place where the sky does not hold limitations and where the impossible is ever so strange.
Its steps are hurried and its strides are many as it’s continually setting the pace.
But just beside it walking confidently is its other self, the true essence of this complex place.
It continues to survive amidst the landscape of change and was there long before modern day,
It is deeply rooted in history and faith and despite progress that’s where it has stayed.
It lives in the sand and in the concrete of the city, it rises with the Arabian sun.
It is found in the unguarded moments of prayer and in each whispered voice one by one.
If you listen you’ll hear it and looking you’ll see what else of this place so enthralls….
It’s the mindful silence, the quiet in between, the reverence that permeates all.
For more of the image series head here.
I’ve just made a video for The Pastoral Women’s Council and their girls sponsorship program in Tanzania.
The program is helping marginalised girls receive the education they deserve and provides a lifeline for girls to escape forced marriage.
It’s a very worthy cause and if you’ve ever thought of sponsoring, please consider this program.
See the video here.