It started here


Lan Xang, Land of a Million Elephants. Laos.

Sean, my brother, born in Savannakhet, joined the journey here.

The simple but distinct smell of jasmine rice cooking takes me back to my first home in an instant, as does the smell of plumeria–the “frangie-pangie” of my childhood.

Vientiane still has the laid-back feel of my childhood, but it took this trip back for me to remember the gentle, quiet ways of Lao people.

So many memories, enhanced by making new ones with new and old (old!!!) friends.

Favourites-Thép Thavonsouk

December 11, 2015

My paintings grow out of silence; a dreamlike morphology suggesting tranquility and a sense of spirituality as figures dissolve into landscape. The fleeting passage of their quiet moments seen on my canvas and rice paper shines the light on the immensity of our universe and the insignificance of human beings. Thép Thavonsouk’s work takes me […] Read more

Sean thinking

The gift from Laos

June 23, 2015

I have a brother, Sean Doron Westlake. Most siblings get a few months head’s up about impending newcomers, but we’ve always done things a little differently in our family, so Sean just kind of popped in one day: two weeks old and the cutest baby in the universe! We arrived in Laos in the mid-1960s, […] Read more

Art-Grilled frog

Five things Laos (5): Useful phrases

March 19, 2015

It’s always helpful to have some useful phrases down pat when you’re traveling. When people ask me how many languages I speak, I usually ‘fess up to “market language” in a number of languages. This usually involves helpful phrases like: One through ten How much? Too much! Are you nuts?! No, I cannot take you to America. […] Read more

Best toilet in Laos

Five things Laos: Lao bathrooms

March 18, 2015

If you’ve read my mom’s piece on the toilet at the Green Latrine, you’ll know that Lao bathrooms can be, um, challenging. Note: I’m not really speaking to the men, here. I’ll use whomever’s toilet is most expedient—men, women, or unisex—so I have some perspective, and dudes: really?! YIKES! So I’m not that concerned about the niceties of […] Read more

Laos-Cold lady

Five things-Laos (3): Hot. Damned hot

March 17, 2015

How do you say “Holy crap, it’s hot out!” in Lao? So! New Orleans summers too warm for you? Think DC is nothing but a hot-air swamp? Find Minnesota summers insufferable? Heh! Welcome to Southeast Asia. Two seasons I took this photo of a poor shivering soul at about 10:00 am on January 26. The weather for that particular day—broken […] Read more

Be nice-girls

Five things Laos (2): Be nice!

March 16, 2015

I’ve traveled a lot. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I’ve said that before, but to be clear: I’ve lived in a lot of places. So I’ve had the good fortune to get to know something of the people amongst whom I’ve lived. Well, on a superficial farang level, at least. My point is: I knows of what I speaks […] Read more

Piles of Kip

Five things Laos (1): Counting Kip

March 15, 2015

If you’re traveling to Laos, leave your wallet at home. No, not your cash. Just the wallet. Because it’s not going to fit your cash. A large sunglasses case, on the other hand, is just the ticket! Given the exchange rate, which seems to be fairly stable at around 8,000 Kip (₭) to US$1, Lao […] Read more


Coming home to Vientiane

March 9, 2015

As I noted in my last posting, I am skipping the rest of my Vietnam trip for the nonce. I’ll be back there soon (blog-wise and travel-wise). Instead, I want to get my thoughts on Laos down while they’re still relatively fresh. So here’s the first installment: Coming home to Vientiane.  

Post Report

1966 Embassy Post Report–Vientiane

March 2, 2015

As I get my stuff together (and studiously avoid having to deal with iMovie this evening!), I thought I would start out our trip back to Laos with the 1966 U.S. Embassy Post Report for Vientiane, Laos. The times they have a’changed a tad, so those of you from an earlier generation will probably be even […] Read more

Sneak preview

February 14, 2015

Alan Craig, my schoolmate from Laos and Taiwan, has started a video project about our recent reunion trip. With his permission, I share the teaser that he sent to us–it’s a blast, and I can’t wait to see what comes next! Thanks, Alan!   2015 ASV Reunion Trailer from Alan Craig on Vimeo.

Vientiane: Folie à Deux

January 27, 2015

For reasons probably dictated by watching too many movies about the war in Southeast Asia and having lived here during the 60s and 70s, I have a continuous stream of Credence, Stones, and Hendrix running through my head. Fortunate Son, indeed. We arrived in Vientiane on Saturday, January 24, 2015. Almost 48 years since I […] Read more

Crossing flat notes

Good lord, is that a D double sharp?

January 25, 2015

Okay, I know I’m getting a tad behind here, and I rather figured that would happen. But before I do anything else (you know, like just Beer-Lao out with a diverse and fun group of TCKs) I have to share two things from dinner last night. First, dinner was excellent and the company superb. Wine selection: not so […] Read more

Compression Socks

A $50 pair of socks?!

January 14, 2015

Your first thought on seeing this post is probably: Really? The first photo she posts from this magnificent journey into her Southeast Asian past is a pair of freaking SOCKS?! To which I must respond: Why, yes. Yes, it is. Because if a journey begins with a single step, then truly that first step should […] Read more

“Bathroom Incident” at the Green Latrine

January 5, 2015

It was Paris and we were sitting outside a café, blissfully sipping wine and studying the backside of Notre Dame de Paris. A friend had just returned from the bathroom. “Ah,” she sighed, settling into her chair. “The French are soooo civilized.” One or two of us twitched an inquisitive eyebrow. “Unisex bathrooms, of course.” […] Read more

Going “home”

January 2, 2015

At some point in one’s I-Shall-Write-A-Blog madness, it will occur to the discerning author that one must actually start writing. I have hit that point. This evening, I received part of my itinerary for a trip I have wanted to take for a very long time. I started planning this blog only a few days ago, and whether […] Read more