(Image of the skyline in Ho Chi Minh City after the monsoon rain. The sun is behind the clouds and is reddish.)


Lately, I’ve spent nights combing the interwebs to get the updates on the latest tragedies and political attacks in the US and abroad and it has not served me well. Especially, with the attempted assassination of long time human rights activist and friend, Brandon Lee, I’m reminded of the serious task ahead of fighting empire, defending the land and people. I’m re-centering as much as I can.


Images of Brandon in our younger days around 2006 picketing the Monster Cable company for unjust severance for hundreds of laid off manufacturing workers in the Bay Area. Shaw San Liu, the current executive director of CPA, is pictured in the top left photo with me and Brandon. (H/t to the Chinese Progressive Association)


After a month or so on this sabbatical, I’m more and more clear that my role right now out here is to build up new muscles because, to be real, I’m a bit flabby and weak in some areas. I’m actually pretty good at responding/reacting, grinding at work, letting guilt and judgement get the best of me, burning on fumes and sacrificing my mental, social, physical, and emotional health. I’ve definitely gotten better through the years and have learned through each moment of burnout but I’ve been flexing these muscles for a long time.

Some say it takes at least a month to unravel, get into a routine, and “detach,” so I think this is what is supposed to happen. Regardless, after many years of this, there is a lot of unlearning to do. How do I learn to un-sacrifice my health for greater resilience? How do I support others when I return?


It has been a journey (or maybe just a short trip so far) and here are some things that have helped me.


Cherishing each other more: From simple things like having family meals together and listening to Collin vividly explain his latest elaborate drawings (insert some nice belly laughs and fun tantrums/meltdowns) to spending much needed down time with Mychi, we are learning to cherish these precious times together. Surprisingly, Collin is even eating more protein out here. He’s loving that local Viet flavor! I’m even getting more sleep, drinking more water and less coffee (and alcohol!). #SabbaticalGoals


(Images of Collin and me with his latest drawing of fire trucks, helicopters and other vehicles putting out a fire; Me and Mychi at an art gallery; and the last one is of the three of us at that mall (VinCom) that we go to a lot. Collin is really smiling because he has a sweet treat in his hand.)


Building my core: I work out regularly now, which is a victory in it of itself. I stopped running many years ago after an ankle and wrist injury, separately. After getting physical therapy and a few attempts to get back out there, the injuries persisted and I gave up. But the last few weeks, I’ve been gentle with myself and have incrementally ramped up my workouts. Slowly, the pain subsided. As Bruce Lee said, “Patience is concentrated strength.” It turns out that I’m much stronger than I thought! Some of the simplest things are the biggest wins.


Finding Solitude (not isolation): I’m also getting in my alone time. I realize how much I missed running with just the sensation and rhythm of my breath. I reflect and write to get greater clarity. I’m making time to catch up with myself and come back to my breathe when I notice myself drift away. I’m studying a LOT. The last few weeks have been focused on learning the Vietnamese vowels and tones. It is painfully slow but I got this.


(Image of a vowel grid that I’ve been starring at and memorizing for a few weeks. There are letters and notes on mouth and tongue positions.) 


Driving a motorbike: This is going to sound out there but I started driving a motorbike, which has put a lot into perspective. It is really hectic out here (no joke!). It looks and feels like chaos on the streets but there is a communal logic and vibe of survival (first and foremost), awareness of self and everyone around you and most importantly everyone needs to be nimble and ready for any scenario. I keep saying to myself, “be like water… be like water…”


(Images of me and Mychi with our helmets and face masks on and of the intensive motorbike traffic.) 


Increasing spaciousness by 5-10%. The irony is that a lot of these things (besides driving the motorbike or time for language learning), I could have done at home with a little more (maybe 5-10% more) space and intention. It will take time to build these muscles and to unlearn some of these old habits. I’m reminding myself that saying YES to me more is also saying YES to everyone when we’re connected to others. I know when I return, it will be time for others to rest and recover.


What I miss and don’t miss: We are definitely meeting good people out here, but I miss connecting with everyone. I don’t miss “work” per se but there is something about doing something that I enjoy and fulfills my purpose. I don’t miss the toxic things like drama, anger and rage but I know they are part of the love and/or desire to be loved. I miss the connection. Thank you for all the folks who have stayed in touch with us with little notes and texts here and there. We’re on What’sApp now and can do virtual calls too 😉


I was going to leave you all with some more food pictures but Collin’s dance moves (or intensive exercise routine) have brought us all a lot of smiles and energy.  Here is another re-mix of new moves. Hope it brings you all a little bit of joy.

Finally, Brandon is still in critical condition now and is fighting for his life. Please do what you can to support the incurred medical expenses. Here is the link to the go fund me site: