birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


From the moment we walked off the plane, we knew nothing would be familiar. Even the Visa process was bizarre, a hybrid of pre-approval by the consulate, and on-arrival processing, with a fee paid in cash (non refundable, of course) to a Communist Government Official with a brand new iPhone. Hand over your cash, and all your documents, and wait for your name to be called.

The slow lane of the highway from the airport was blocked by a stopped moped, its driver pissing unabashedly into the gutter. But, as no one really cared much about the lane lines anyway, it was easy enough to veer around. Then it was our turn to block traffic. The driver stopped dead in the middle of a narrow street, and announced that we had arrived at our hotel. Within seconds, a uniformed bellhop dashed out to the car to collect our bags. The manager was right behind him to stop the moped, motorcycle, and bike traffic that zoomed around us. He greeted us by name and escorted us into the hotel.

Hanoi's Old Quarter was a world apart: craftspeople--upholsterers, gravestone carvers, barbers, butchers--practice their trade right on the sidewalk, squatting on tiny plastic chairs, their bikes or scooters parked inside their narrow stores. Thick bundles of electrical cables drape tree to tree, no power poles needed, and not a traffic signal or stop sign to be seen. You just have to be brave enough to step off the curb, and trust that you'll make it across. It's not for the faint of heart, but it is full of unexpected wonder.


Geo (re) Locating