Alien Transmission


It’s becoming harder and harder to explain what living in Laos is like to people who live in America. It’s very much like a creative writing assignment I was given in fifth grade. The task was to describe a ball point pen to an alien from another planet. I was to assume this creature knew nothing of Earthly inventions or ways of life, but apparently that they did speak and read English. Even at ten years old, I saw the flaws in logic.

Life in Vientiane is that ball point pen.  Very little about my life here looks at all like my life three weeks ago. When I attempt to put it into words, it sounds like gibberish. I send pictures to my friends and family to show how beautiful parts of it are. I also try to take pictures of the realities I deal with such as immense amounts of garbage lining the streets. I want to give an accurate portrayal of my new home. I don’t know why it’s so important to me that everyone understands that it’s amazing but also very difficult. It’s that ten year old in me – always the realist.

I remember really struggling with that fifth grade writing assignment. I wanted to give an accurate description of that pen. I wanted to bring it to life in the mind of the alien.

So, for all my aliens out there following my adventure… please know I’m trying to find the words. I would love to give you an honest and real depiction of Vientiane.  Deep down I know that until you really live in a place, it will always seem like another planet.

 In other words: This is just to say I don’t know how to say what I want to say (yet).


  1. Love all your posts. I’m sure there’s no way to explain your new life. When my husband went to Haiti on a trip, he came back different. He too couldn’t explain what he saw or felt. Living where you are is a whole different animal then America. I do not know this from experience, but I do know from my husband, it will change you.

  2. I understand what you mean here. Our interactions with these unexplored places, these ‘undiscovered’ spaces can be so intimate, so personal…and so very foreign to anyone who has not breathed that same air, heard that same street-sound in the small hours. Don’t worry about the aliens. Trust your instincts. Trust your self. I think what you do in these dispatches is to share your experiences by sharing your interactions with the spaces you encounter. To do that is to give of your self. And I always think that it is a gift to reader and writer both.

    I was looking for a quote I like about being lost in a foreign land and the interpreter has has too much to drink…but I couldn’t find it. But then I remembered this Nelson one and thought it sort of fit, too.

    “I’ve never once thought about the interpretative, the storytelling aspect of life, of my life. I always felt like I was in a story, yes, but not like I was the author of it, or like I had any say in its telling whatsoever. You can tell your story any way you damn well please. It’s your solo.”
    ― Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere

    Soak it all in…!


    • What a perfect quote! I’m keeping that one and holding it close. When you referenced the drunken interpreter quote I suddenly thought of Hemingway. It sounds like something he’d talk about…being drunk and out in the world. The wisdom in your advice has fortified me once again. I will continue to share my personal interactions and movements here and that will give the story the shape and form I can’t create with basic descriptions. Many thanks.

  3. It bugged me all dang day…so:

    lost in the translation
    “There are some days when no matter what I say it feels like I’m far away in another country & whoever is doing the translating has had far too much to drink.”
    –Brian Andreas

    Happy Saturday.
    Chúc mừng phiêu lưu!


    • How did you know I’ve been in love with Storypeople / Brian Andreas since I was a teenager? My current favorite is one he posted on Instagram very recently.

      “This is her signature move where she leaps into the world with no idea of how she’ll land (& her other signature move is landing & looking back & thinking way longer than she needs to, What have I done?)”

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