My night out of Laos

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The Mekong River, Vientiane, 16th March 2020.

36 hours ago, after a day long workshop, and as part of a consultancy assignment for CARE in Laos, I had planned to visit my colleague and friend, Tanya, and her young family, for dinner. I’d a bottle of wine at the ready and Tanya was making chicken kiev. But it didn’t quite go to plan…

I always knew that taking a flight out of Vietnam, in these times of Covid-related travel restrictions, would be taking a calculated risk. However, this week I was to be headed to Laos – a neighbouring country with zero Covid cases reported, and I was in possession of the requisite existing Vietnam visa to get me back in.

So, my risk was indeed a well calculated one but, in truth, I was also too motivated to deliver the 3 day workshop for which I’d been hired to now cancel. My last occasion outside of Saigon on assignment was back in November.

I touched down in Laos on Sunday night and arrived at the office the following morning. The day came and went, a safety and security briefing, meeting the team, and preparing for the our time together. I took myself out that evening in Vientiane and enjoyed the fresh new surrounds.

By Tuesday lunchtime I was beaming. The sessions that morning had gone really well. The team were a group of seasoned practitioners, eager to problem solve and work together. The incoming Director was present and enthused by the way her colleagues were sparring off each other. We made some quick progress and, over lunch, I busily set about prepping for the afternoon group work. I’d even messaged home to say how energising it had been to get something positive done with this group, cocooned away from news and stories of Covid-19, as we all were for those few precious hours.

Our afternoon discussions kept up the steady pace of a group wanting to learn and support each other in that pursuit.

I was thrilled.

This, I felt, is where I belong. Steering conversations about poverty programmes, hosting debates about social injustice and gender norms, dropping in ideas here and there and helping to shape the decisions of a group of passionate people, driven to improve their own impact on the world outside.

It had been an all round good decision to make this trip.

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You can’t beat a flip-chart with some colourful post-it notes on it.

And then, around 4:15pm, as we were breaking for the day, the whatsapp message pinged through to my phone.

It was a forwarded ‘alert message’ from my Saigon buddy, Craig, that he’d picked up off the internet. There was to be a mandatory government quarantining for all people arriving into Vietnam from ASEAN countries. There are 10 ASEAN countries, and Laos is one of them. The measure was to be in place by midnight that night.

I had 7 hours to get back into Vietnam.

The prospect of not doing so, and being marched onto a bus upon arrival, and shipped off to a rural camp (there are plenty of stories online about these) for 14 day’s quarantine, was not something I felt would be optimal. On any level.

As much as the Government should be praised for the measures it has been taking here against Covid-19, and the concept of these quarantine camps might be included in that, I was not sure I wanted to be writing this story from one of them.

I packed up my things and went to find a driver to take me back to my hotel. It seemed sensible to verify the source of this latest news, so as to be in a position to respond in the extreme scenario that evacuating myself from Laos that night would be required.

Na, my driver, talked jovially about his day, as we weaved through the city’s main arteries and back to my quaint lodgings, perched alongside the Mekong.

Whilst he asked me questions about my family, my mind was upgrading its own level of functionality to “Def-Con” 2. I knew there were no flights now to Saigon as there was only one a day, in the morning. However, I was pretty certain there might be an evening one up to Hanoi, which would at least get me over the border.

It was 5pm. Na was asking what time I wanted picking up in the morning. “8:30am” I replied. Maybe this talk of ASEAN restrictions was all false news? Perhaps I’ll get back to my room and learn that the alert wasn’t real and, that way, I’ll still have time for a run up the river, before heading out to meet Tanya for dinner. Yes, that could happen still, right? I’d been craving chicken kiev all day.

We reached the Chanthapanya Hotel and I wished Na a nice evening and headed to my room and onto the wi-fi. The messages from my Saigon friends were brimming in my whatsapp in-box. Some further backing up of the initial alert seemed solid.

The butterflies in my stomach started. I went online to check if I could, in fact, get to Hanoi that night instead. Yes, affirmative. There was a flight scheduled for 7:45pm, landing at 9pm. That would get me in. It didn’t matter after that what happened, I’d be in and that (it was becoming ragingly obvious to me) might be all that counted for now.

Without consciously deciding it, I begun to throw clothes into my bag. It felt like I was in a movie scene, on the run. I switched up my shoes and put on a t-shirt, double checked my money and passport. Once this new tempo was underway, I knew I’d need to just keep going and try and make this happen.

Downstairs in the lobby a bemused receptionist took in my request for a car to the airport, and half laughed as he started to call someone for me, taking my room key as I stood with my bags and pretended not to look on edge. Heart rate was well up. Butterflies were amassing.

Another very courteous and helpful young guy appeared from nowhere, and I was in the hotel van, on my way. The airport was not far, but local city traffic meant we crawled at what I was judging to be slower than walking pace. I blinked purposefully out of the window, willing myself to appreciate the humble and charming backdrop of Vientiane, and the streets I’d been looking forward to exploring more that week.

What if there are no seats left on this flight? My fingers drummed away on my lap.

We reached the airport and it was blissfully quiet. The check-in staff sent me to the ticketing counter at first, 100 metres away. Then ticketing sent me back to check-in, and then finally, again, I was palmed back to ticketing.

During this little game of ping-pong we had managed to determine that I couldn’t change my existing return flight, because the destination had changed (Hanoi, not Saigon). So I needed a fresh one-way ticket. No problem. At this stage, the ticketing lady could have asked for $1,000 and I wouldn’t have flinched.

I could feel the rise and fall of my breathing, and my mind working like a network of pin-balls, zipping about and banging into each other, the threat of quarantine never far from thought. The inevitable grilling I would get at immigration, even if I did catch this flight, given the heavy restrictions on UK passport holders, was also lurking as a chilling reality.

Even though I knew my visa was sound, and arriving before midnight would be within the current rules, I was role-playing the scenarios in my head. If I had to go to a quarantine camp would it be down in the south, nearer Saigon? Would I have a connection to call Issy and the girls, as my phone was out of credit? I only had one book to read, and I was already halfway through it. With whom would I be sharing a dorm?

Around me, ticketing and check-in staff were fulfilling the mundane task of getting me a boarding pass. My internal questions churned over, and the adrenaline showed no signs of abating. Still, I kept a smile on my face and nodded at their questions, as 9 years living in South East Asia has trained me to do.

My luggage was tagged, I was handed a ticket and, in those seconds, was on my way up the escalators to departures. This really was happening.

It was after 6pm, but there was still time to calm my nerves, so I paid $20 to use the business lounge’s wifi and re-balance my blood/sugar levels with two cold bottles of Beer Lao.

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Beer Lao to the rescue!

Some messages were sent to confirm my situation. Issy was on the case finding me credits to use at a hotel in Hanoi’s Old Quarter (my father-in-law was due to stay there this week himself, ironically, but had cancelled his trip). I was beginning to feel normal again.

The official announcement then came out on the internet about this new ASEAN rule. With land borders apparently locked down, this flight, it now became clear, was the sole way I might be able to avoid being caught up in quarantine. It was almost 7pm and, in theory, a few hour’s from now I could be safely in Hanoi, with this episode over.

The airport tannoy sparked into life. “Would Mr Timothy Bishop, flying to Hanoi, please come to check-in”. At first, I pretended not to hear my name so distinctly enunciated over the speaker. The message repeated. It was my name. Gathering up my things and leaving half a beer on the table, I begun to sleep walk towards the door. The lounge steward took my bag and reassured me that “they’ve probably found a battery charger in your luggage, it happens all the time – leave your things here, no problem”.

I strided through the terminal. I didn’t have a battery charger in my bag. What could they need or want?

The alcohol helped mask my rising tension. Back through immigration, who held onto my passport, and through security down to the same chirpy check-in staff. They saw me coming and one of them pointed in my direction.

A new guy took over the job of speaking his best English to me to explain that “we need you to sign a waiver” – “OK, sure, what for?” – “well, there is a chance when you land in Hanoi that you will be quarantined” – “OK. But the new ASEAN rule is from midnight, correct?” – “yes, Sir, but there is still a chance, you need to sign this paper to say we’ve warned you.”

Just paperwork, I told myself. I’ve got the right visa, I’m landing before midnight. I’ll be fine. I reiterated these facts out loud, in the hope of some vague recognition from the, by now, six check-in staff crowded round us listening in. “You are very brave, Sir, but you are also very clever, you have everything OK, I am sure, but these days we don’t know.”

‘These days we don’t know’ isn’t such a bad mantra for the world right now, I thought. Maybe it should be printed on a T-shirt.

I signed the form, smiling from ear to ear, perhaps subconsciously in the hope that by appearing so cordial this guy would later message the Hanoi immigration team for me, and vouch for my splendid credentials.

I turned on my heel, bee-lined back to the lounge and drained my beer. The flight was now on its ‘last boarding’ call. Enough already, get me out of here, was all I kept turning over in my head, and I marched onto my evacuation flight.

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Mercifully, Vientiane to Hanoi is a mere 45 minute hop. No sooner had we peaked at altitude than we were in our descent.

I’d attempted a few pages of my intense Ian McKewan novel, whose protagonist is such a fallen character that I felt it might cheer me up, and distract from my own plight.

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Would you let this man into your country?

Butterflies took over again, however, and I spent parts of the flight with my eyes closed deep in thought.

What if I failed the temperature checks they’ve been imposing ? I took some paracetamol and tapped my feet on the floor.

A few more deep breaths and the reassuring skid of tyres on tarmac, and I was up on my feet, shuffling to the front and pitching forward down the skydeck.

It was pissing down in Hanoi. Apocalyptic style rain. I needed the bathroom, but made the decision to get into the queues early.

First up, the health check queue.

Clutching my form and coaching myself to remain calm, I handed over my passport and immediately the guard called for assistance and I was sent over to someone else. UK passports are red alert documents right now. I waited.

The new guy was leafing through studying my stamps. “Sri Lanka” he said out loud.  That was in January, I told myself. Nothing to worry about. “Thailand” he then blurted, and looked at me. “Over 14 days ago” I replied (it had been 15 days, I later realised).

Keep it steady, smile and be nice.

This back and forth continued. Another guard was called over to the huddle. They looked me up and down as the line behind me grew.

My bladder was protesting at this point, but I was focused on my expression being relaxed. Although, because of my face mask, you could only see my eyes and eye-brows. I kept smiling beneath the mask, hoping my happy demeanour could still be interpreted through the look in my eyes. Although I wonder if, instead, to the outside world I just looked increasingly deranged as a result.

Ten more seconds passed and then I got the passport back and my medical form stamped. I could move on to stage 2. Surely those had been the people who could have held me back but I was through and it was over. I was starting to feel good now.

Scanning for a bathroom, I decided instead to plough on to immigration. Perfecting my “happy eyes” pose, and feeling slightly lighter on foot, I was hungry for the finish-line.

A few more minutes of queuing and it was my turn. The escalators behind my customs official were in sight, and beyond them, baggage claim and freedom. I went for maximum happy eyes and handed over my passport.

Again, instantly, my guy called in for reinforcements. The passport was hot potato-ed around once more, and they guided me over to a separate visa counter for questionning. On the way there I took in what can only be described as a team dressed head to toe in bright yellow and black nuclear armour, examining boxes and bags.

You’ve got this, keep it together, nice and easy.

No less than three new officials then inspected the pages of my passport and randomly asked questions. I’d decided beforehand on some stock pieces of information I’d use when questioned and so, when each asked me anything I robotically stuck to my script, “I’ve been in Laos, for three days…..just Laos, I live here…live here for 9 years…yes, just Laos…9 years living here.”

I tried this with each new person who flicked through my documents, but nothing I was saying seemed to register. I held firm. “Just Laos….here’s my boarding pass from Sunday when I arrived.” More page turning. More silence.

And then, in between another sustained pause, and with my happy eyes refrain almost exhausted, I threw in, “my daughter, born here.”

This elicited a response, “your daughter?” “Yes” – I nodded, and held my breath.

The guard nonchalantly turned around and went to the photo-copier. I blinked away any residual stresses that might have been lingering in my tear-ducts, and joyously watched as he stamped the papers and handed them back to me.

Before anyone could change their mind, I darted back to immigration and, this time, I knew I was in.

The reassuring clunk of the date entry stamp and the slow head tip of the official happened in slow motion.

Elated, I made my most treasured steps forward of 2020, past the customs counter and then ten paces to the left, where I plonked my weary frame on the world’s most magical escalator, and was dreamily eased down into a world without panic.

All that was now left for me to do, today, of any life changing significance really, was to find a bathroom.

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Hanoi. At last.

 

The Sun House

The Sun House

A dark pink ginger petal
Curls round my wine glass stem,
It bends
As if to listen,
And I breathe in.

Frangipani trees watch,
As incense wisps through shuttered doorways,
Extinguishing inside on the
Scorched spines that stand in line,
Their perforations couching simpler times –

Joyce and Milton,
Sophocles and Ovid –
Mankind’s canon rests
Underneath these high ceilings,
And their enduring brocade.

A flickering breeze through palm leaf
Stirs,
At once a soothing balm and a fantasized being –
As I breathe out,
And place my glass on the table.

Feeling at home, far away from it

The weekend sun rising. Kuala Lumpur airport.

Pit-stopping on the way back to Saigon – Starbucks, Kuala Lumpur airport, no less – I’ve the usual frisson of excitement about walking back through our garden at home a few hour’s from now, picking up the girls (Issy is in Germany this week, checking out fashion trade shows) and flopping on the sofa.

After five days in Sri Lanka, to work with our Chrysalis team there (musings on which from earlier can be found over here) I don’t, in some ways, feel like I was away from ‘home’ much at all this week.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Sri Lanka about ten times since 2009. I’ve written about it quite a lot, and that, no doubt, underscores why it’s one of my favourite places to spend time.

Aside from the professional experiences gained from engaging with our team there, and the organisations and people I’ve met along the way, it’s the day-to-day flow of contact and the momentary interludes that weave through these trips, which I think bind each together in a way that feels so familiar and reaffirming.

Moreover, it’s the simple easiness curated by the people you meet which imbues such a comfortable backdrop.

Dropping down to Galle on a quick pre-wedding whistle stop reconnaissance earlier today, to check on bookings and inhale the ocean breeze, I learnt about the reality of the recent Easter Sunday attacks, in terms of their impact on the tourism industry.

Not unsurprisingly, many tourists canceled their trips in May and June as a result of the bombings, and some hotels had to close completely. July and August are typically low season months too, and so a few hoteliers I met spoke of the “double whammy” of the events happening when they did.

Bookings are picking up again now. And whilst there is heightened security evident, things seem to have settled down. The country just this week was elevated to “middle-income” status by the World Bank, and the high ranking top spot given by The Lonely Planet earlier in the year to Sri Lanka, appears to have been reallocated back to the country, even though most of Sri Lanka remains in a state of deep shock over the events of April 21st.

With such charming scenery, culture and opportunity for the visitor, let’s hope that a  positive trajectory of tourist bookings returns.

As my taxi driver, Mahinda, took a short detour this evening, on our way to the airport, to stop and offer me tea and bananas at his house, and the opportunity to meet his wife and daughter who was awaiting her ‘A’ level results, I was touched by the sentiment and the care he took to make me feel welcome.

I found the same hospitality and warmth earlier in the week when invited over to my Air BnB host’s living room, to share dinner with him and his wife.

Listening to Mahinda’s daughter talk about her plans for university, and for finding work somehow with her degree (biology) I couldn’t help hope that, in the future, not only will my daughters have the self-esteem and spark to be excited about a feeling of “doing my best” in the world, as this young woman did, but also that they – and beyond them, that I too – hold close that very core humanitarian embodiment of connection and understanding that I felt, sat with a cup of tea in my hand, listening to and being a small part of, this family’s time together.

The overwhelming feeling of being truly welcomed into their home, for a few precious moments, will stay with me forever.

Colombo at dawn.

 

 

Taking on Pu Luong

 

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Home from home. Annie, Lucca, Matt, Colm, Ivan, Issy, Jess, Phoebe, me and our terrific hosts, after completing the 2019 Vietnam Jungle Marathon https://vietnamtrailseries.com/jungle-marathon/ (photo by Sally!)

I woke before the shrill of my alarm clock. 12:50am. The wooden floorboards creaked as the weight of my body eased itself into a standing position, the fan above tickling my face. I excitedly purveyed the heap of running kit laid out on the floor next to my mattress.

Time waits for no man, and May 25th 2019 was here. It had been far off on the horizon when we’d signed up to run the 2019 Vietnam Jungle Marathon in Pu Luong. But, now, as I consciously took my first few breathes of the day and begun to get changed, that horizon was gone and this was starting to feel real.

I’d run one ultra marathon race before – https://definitelymaybe.me/2017/09/22/thoughts-on-motivation/ – and the memories of numerous painful moments during those 13 hours had gradually dimmed and vanished from my mind. This race was a 55km-er (so, 15km shorter than the one up in Sapa) but with plenty of steep elevation to conquer.

Although struggling with a heel problem since the end of 2017, I’d somewhat stubbornly set out and run 10kms a day on average since the beginning of January this year, and was determined to immerse myself once more in the comprehensive and full sensory experience that these events offer up.     Continue reading

By Lake Tanganyika

Under darkening clouds,
A dew-soaked earthen
Scent, cicada shrill,
Bicycle wheels drift on,
Whilst wood-smoke plumes
Hide Blue Band livery –
Oh, dawning hour of dusk.

The anticipation of tomorrow.

While You Were Sleeping

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The finest hour I have seen, is the one that comes between, the edge of night, and the break of day, it’s when the darkness rolls away – Nanci Griffith.

While You Were Sleeping

Be still, my loves,
Let sweetly dreams of fancy unfurl you
Elsewhere, whilst
Outside
Clicked shut our iron gate and running free
Through Saigon hems,
Weaving versions of past night-time jaunts –
Familiar neon shop signs and
Fragrant food-cart smoke,
Snaking shadows beneath
Sprawling high-wire silhouettes –
Cocooned inside this secret urban labyrinth
– I glide –
The purr and putter of market produce scootering by.

Be still, my loves,
Soft respite gains on moonlit quilt,
As my strides quicken with the breaking dawn and
I reach the water’s edge.
Beyond horizon,
Past horizon further,
Others whisper fond farewells,
Their last small patch of glowing orb ablaze, setting,
To manifest and transfix now in front of me –
Yellow white sparkles dance like needle shards,
Bedazzling in the ferry’s wake.

Be still, my loves, be still some more.
Beyond this turning point,
Homebound,
Backlit with today’s first sunbeam,
I fear only this –
As deep a contour and familiar now as the
Creased faces of street-vendor –
That time is lost.

With fingertip precision,
The keystrokes of our waking hours
Consume and safeguard
Daily beats, to which we all adhere,
And for which our spirit harkens.
Around that corner, over this bridge,
One’s salt-lipped search for answers
Makes for another’s
Truncated journey
To a higher stratosphere of meaning –
A life’s trajectory that comes in all forms,
Restless, stirring make-believe.

Be still, my loves.
In the end, there is only this.

Fighting Power

 

Like a wretched and merciless earthquake doling out continued aftershocks, that most unsavory and inappropriate of candidates, Brett Kavanaugh, was hastily confirmed over the weekend to join the highest legal office of the world’s “super power.” On these pages recently I could only write whimsically about a new order of political leader. Each time I’ve refreshed my news feed since then fills me with dread.

When will the next tremor strike? When will it all just stop?

That Kavanaugh’s appointment should come as any surprise is to belie the previous eighteen months of regular seismic shocks, and moments of social destruction, caused by Donald Trump and his self-serving administration of obnoxious dullards.

I am sure many people, like me, who take umbrage at Trump’s oxygen stealing existence on our planet, wake up each morning and feel that nervous anticipation of news of his demise as leader of the free world. But, here we are again, the Monday after another phase of utterly grim and depleting political subterfuge, with Trump at the helm, and we read and watch in despair.

Social media is lit up and, for all the brilliant satire that this administration has concurrently inspired, every news update, bar none, from the world according to Trump, casts an ever mushrooming, morose cloud of poisonous bigotry across our screens. Clogging fumes of festering carcinogenic elitism. And, like a cancerous foe in the system, Trump and his degenerate followers have so infected the world, in such a short space of time, that modern science stands even less a chance of making a diagnosis than if this were, indeed, some new super strain of cancer itself.     Continue reading

NOLA

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Fancy dress time. Labour Day weekend in New Orleans.

It feels like today – Friday 28th September 2018 – could go down as historic, as the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh into the Supreme Court of the United States will be voted on, after Christine Ford testified against him yesterday for his attempted rape of her 36 years ago.

1 in 3 women in their lifetimes will experience sexual or physical violence at the hands of men. That this statistic is not “industry specific” has been proven to be palpably clear time and again. Sports, politics, education, religion, and international development – choose your sector, the facts are clear cut.

However, although it feels this week (and, let’s face it, for a while now) that American political leaders sit at the top of the guilty pile, this post is not 100% dedicated to that. Instead, this post is about New Orleans. This post is about celebrating what can be curated when human beings channel their ‘decency genes’.

When I visited “NOLA” recently, it was Labour Day weekend and, for added spice, it was also the annual Southern Decadence celebrations and festivities – a 48 year old tradition now known as the world’s largest “Gay Mardi Gras”. This year attendance broke records with over 250,000 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender participants, and (according to the event’s website) an economic impact estimated to be in excess of $275 millon.

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Celebrating the city’s “Second Line” phenomenon.

The main event of the weekend took place on the Sunday, with a series of parades through the city’s French Quarter. There was no violence. In full tourist mode, with my colleagues nursing hangovers, I spent half of the day soaking up an atmosphere that could be described as the polar opposite to that which has been witnessed over the past days leading up to, and during, the Kavanaugh trial.

The continued hate-filled polarizing of the Democrat-Republican dynamic has reached fever pitch. The lying, the fakery, the anger, the seismic, self-centered vacuity of it all. An arena full of flawed power-holders, bigots, misogynists, and cold, calculating egos. A constant narrative of allowing wrong-doers a free passage, based on their rank and file. An inevitable and incensing circling-the-drain tempo of decision making, back-stabbing and profiteering.

And we know all this. It is allowed to play out, thus, today and tomorrow, on and on.

It’s not that the content of the quarter of a million characters who visited New Orleans, and with whom I paraded on that Sunday, is perfect. I can’t, equally, claim that the remainder of the city’s citizens are flawless human beings (I would certainly hope that not to be the case, in fact).

What I can be assured of, however, was that a more enriching, uplifting and contented time would be hard to come by, than the one I experienced in New Orleans.

Of course, the life of the entitled political elites is no doubt stressful. There is no live jazz music soothing the ear-drums everywhere you go, no “second line” spontaneity, no special NOLA cocktails, or the puttering of boats along the Mississippi River.

It’s a one-sided battle of environments, no doubt. The exquisite recipe and blueprint for sharing in “good times” for which New Orleans is renowned, cannot be topped. And I’ve not even mentioned the cuisine.

However, and here is the thing, in addition to all of those ‘enablers’ that New Orleans has in its armoury, the people living there are just so decent minded, and so, human.

From the Lyft drivers whose rapport and genuineness made you feel like you were in a car with your closest of relatives, to the clarinet player who mesmerized us all in the street, reducing one man to tears with her solos, and who then told us with a smile not to worry about our tip money getting wet in the rain, because “we all of us going to get wet.”

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French balustrades and palm trees.

Over brunch one morning, we met an old college friend to one of my team, Matt “Slushy”, now a journalist for The Advocate, covering stories about inmates on Death Row. Matt explained to us, over pots of brewed coffee, about the challenges of the penal system in Louisiana. To be honest, it felt like being in a John Grisham novel and I was hooked on his every word.

His anecdotes set up what then unfolded as a quite life changing immersion the following week, in Alabama, which I wrote about here recently. And, without re-visiting some of the heavy issues which sit at the heart of why so many young black men continue to face injustices in America, I’ve reflected that part of the compelling nature of talking to Matt that weekend was not only down to his commitment to pursue justice, plying his trade as a writer, but in how he authentically and calmly went about understanding the different perspectives and forming his arguments in a way that, again, contrasts so radically to the way in which the country’s politicians appear to be going about their work.

Taken up as I was by the sensory overload that New Orleans simply is, I cannot recall feeling so at ease and in step anywhere else I’ve travelled to in America. Shaped over generations by a cultural DNA of sharing, of resilience – in the face of events such as Hurricane Katrina – and a genetically rich and spiritual love for music, it was (and I am sure it is not this simplistic, but I don’t care) it was a window into a form of social utopia.

Granted, there are other places in the world where these characteristics, this ‘state’, is no doubt mirrored. My whimsical memories will remain just that. What is so tragic to me is how many worlds apart from even just a diluted down slice of what I’m describing are so many other versions of the country’s society right now.

This post won’t help any of that. All I know is that if anyone is waiting for the evolutional arc of men to somehow take hold in a way that redefines, in a way that recognizes equity, power, compassion and humanity – if that is what we want to see, then the true changemakers amongst us are not anytime soon going to be the country’s political leaders.

No doubt that sweeping generalization does a dis-service to many in politics. Again, I don’t really care. And, I am absolutely sure that, as an alternative, placing hordes of Southern Decadence-parading men, dressed in tight-fitting shorts and draped in rainbow livery, into political positions of power, would also result in a fair share of issues and challenging times.

But I know who I’d vote for.

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Time for a drink? A NOLA special – a “White Negroni” with Suze and Lillet Blanc.