You are currently browsing Sue Fan’s articles.

Download a free 11-song sampler of the artists featured by NPR Music and public radio stations at this March’s South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

“Written in Reverse” by Spoon from Transference
“The High Road” by Broken Bells from Broken Bells
“I Learned the Hard Way” by Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings from I Learned the Hard Way
“Canadian Girl” by The Walkmen from You & Me
“Girl In Love” by Smith Westerns from Smith Westerns
“Airplanes” by Local Natives from Gorilla Manor
“Everywhere I Go” by G-Side from Starshipz And Rocketz
“Cleo’s Song” by JBM from Not Even In July
“Achille’s Heel: IV. Shur Landing” by Brooklyn Rider from Dominant Curve
“Hannah” by Freelance Whales from Weathervanes
“Swim” by Surfer Blood from Astro Coast

To download the ‘NPR Music At SXSW Sampler’ on iTunes:

1. Download iTunes for Mac or Windows, free of charge at
2. Open iTunes and click iTunes Store.
3. Click Redeem under Quick Links.
4. Enter the code here (expires April 30, 2010). Your download will start immediately. Enjoy.

i heart free music.


Never has the focus of energy been more present in my life. A walking meditation; calm, assertiveness, patience, forgiveness, aloofness are so important in training a riley dog. For someone who generally lives in the now, I am no dog. I have to learn to be in the exact second I’m in, otherwise, it’s all lost on him. Tacoma is a hard dog (corrections don’t affect him much, if at all), but also one who is insecure and anxious, has been abandoned, flinches like he may have been hit, has been dropped off in the middle of NYC where there is no quiet place to train or play – he must walk among a dog on every block, children running at him from every other corner – with so much love in his strong heart and excitement in his tiny brain, he is a little unsocialized, incredibly fast at learning, but surprisingly unaware.

As he stares out the window and then back at me and then lies back down for his 16th nap of the day at 8:43 am, I wonder what is running through his mind. If he simply waits for our next adventure, is waiting for me to leave him, or doesn’t think that way at all. If I could anthropomorphize my animal for just one minute, I think of all I could learn. Instead, I rely on my energy for us to relate and understand each other. I wish we could get there faster. I suppose we all walk at our own pace and while we both tend to be fast, perhaps only literally.

I’m exhausted. Summiting is certainly not what we had in mind in naming him after a mountain. Thank goodness for trainers (from our obedience class to YouTube), dog whisperers, and good friends. Puppy updates to come.

we met some of the last generation of tibeten refugees who fled tibet after china’s invasion. their hardships, their stories, their culture stay with them. and though in nepal they cannot vote, they cannot buy land, and they have limited freedoms, they live. and their faith pours out in a glow of beauty.

Help Needed: Haiti hit with massive quake.

Haiti was hit yesterday by what could be considered the worst natural disaster for the region in the last 200 years.

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.0, shocked the country just before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, collapsing buildings and cutting water and electricity services in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas. Aftershocks of 4.5 magnitude or higher continued through the night and early Wednesday, thwarting immediate aid efforts for an estimated 3 million affected by the quake. Thousands are expected dead or injured and many more will be displaced with their homes reduced to rubble.

charity: water’s two local partners, Partners in Health and Concern Worldwide, are reacting to the disaster swiftly and comprehensively.*
We need your support. In the interest of immediate relief, we’re asking that donations be made straight to our partners.

To donate to Partners in Health’s efforts, click here.
To donate to Concern Worldwide’s efforts, click here.

Already one of the poorest and densely-populated countries in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has struggled to overcome the effects of a slew of rough storms in 2008 before this week’s disaster. More than 4 million people (42% of the population) already lack access to safe drinking water. Disasters undercut development efforts tremendously.

*charity: water started working with PIH in 2007 and has since funded six freshwater projects with the organization to bring safe water to more than 25,000 people in rural Haiti (learn more here). Last year, we started partnering with Concern Worldwide in Haiti by funding eight spring protection systems, which will provide clean water for at least 6,000 people, once completed.

my very own packing guide to light and stress-free living in not-so-developed countries:

  • nalgene 2oz bottles for all purpose biodegradable soap (dr. bronners)
  • wet wipes (for an insta-shower)
  • hand rolled toilet paper
  • emergency / basics kit (band aids, sting relief wipes, neosporin, advil, benadryl, pepto bismol, immodium, cough drops, antibiotics, nyquil, bug spray/anti itch cream, hand sanitizer)
  • nail file
  • travel towel
  • sleeping bag liner (for sketch sleep situations)
  • mosquito net
  • head lamp with extra batteries
  • notebook/pen
  • map (sometimes free at airports)
  • magazines (shed weight by leaving them at a local cafe)
  • a travel guide (you can do your research ahead of time, download and print out lonely planet pages instead of carrying the whole book)
  • surge protector if you plan on bringing a laptop (free wi-fi usually available in coffee shops and guest houses/hotels)
  • grounded power adapter
  • water bottle
  • emergen-c packets
  • steri-pen
  • snacks (from cliff bars to chocolate bars)
  • something to cover your face for a little relief from city pollution (scarves double as cover ups in holy places)
  • quick dry clothing (underwear to shirts and pants so you can wash and dry overnight)
  • flip flops (if you plan on braving the streets) and shoes (for the days you want to remain hepatitis free)
  • skype account (with all your contacts and emergency numbers – credit card/embassy/etc)
  • unlocked cell phone for local calls (get a sim card upon arrival)
  • pictures of your home town and loved ones to show your new friends
  • extra passport size photos for visas/tourist passes
  • a watch

chances are, if you forgot it, you can get it for cheap at the local market, on a side street, from a bike vendor.

bring only what you need, carry-on is the only way to go (check your airline for weight restrictions) –at least on your way there, don’t expect hot showers, be flexible, leave time for serendipity, and take in every moment.  it goes quickly.

travel hiatus.  my favorite kind.

we’re in nepal and india for the next four months, volunteering for VCD Nepal, Pencils of Promise, shooting a lot, playing a lot, and testing out olfactory fatigue.

india has gotten more expensive, but really, the dollar is just not what it used to be.  not even since last spring.  good thing we’re in nepal now, where spending twelve dollars tonight seemed like an extravaganza.  great meals for a dollar or two.  hotels for less than ten a night.  had some delicious masala tea at the kathmandu guest house.  saw a breathtaking view of the himalayas on the flight in (travel tip#1: sit on the left side of the plane flying eastward, right westward).

i’m looking forward to hanging out in the mountains, rolling around a bit in greens and blues, shooting what makes me happiest, being encompassed by a new culture, and potentially learning to not gag while eating lentils every meal.

more to come!

six years ago, john and i had our first date in the small town of ooty, india.

this october, we are planning an extended trip to asia, flying in to delhi. india will always be our first love. the smells, colors, tastes – every sense is overwhelmed. we look forward to seeing northern india, feeling the energy of the ganges, the trains, the crowds.

with japan on the back burner, we’ve decided to move on and do some volunteer work in nepal and hopefully spend some time in bhutan. we spent a long time freeing ourselves of responsibilities, our kitties, jobs, nyc. there’s no saying we won’t return to any or all of those things, but life is here. we may as well live it.

it’s never easy to let go, but i let simplicity, inspiration, my husband, goals of a boat and a dog, a hut and some chickens, and an inherent need to do better and be better guide life, one we share so seamlessly. it’s so important we take time in our lives to breathe deeply, swim, share, learn, create, stretch, purge, and see the world. we all need a little more humility, a little more reality, to live out more dreams, to feel grass between our toes and dirt between our fingers. humans need challenges, sacrifice, adventure, and freedom.

travel lets me hear beauty, taste joy, see grace, and feel everything.

we can’t wait.

The great debate: To plan out a trip or wing it. Well, maybe it’s all about balance.

If our flight gets in late or leaves early, I want a place to stay. If it’s close to a holiday, spring break, anything that would make booking difficult, I want to plan ahead. Otherwise, I want to take a bus to some random small town and see what I find. If there’s an ashram, temple, homestay I’m interested in, I want to make sure I get there and find time to enjoy it, feel it, be in it. I think it’s important to read reviews, get suggestions, find some maps, get names of hostels. I want to know that I didn’t miss something absolutely worth seeing, while still avoiding tourist traps. When we got to Banos in Ecuador, there was a town evacuation because of a potentially erupting volcano. Normally I would pay no attention, but since it was on the BBC, we thought it would be a stupid way to go. So we took a bus, got lost, and found the Quilotoa Loop. Perfect.

We just took my parents to Puerto Rico. If you’re traveling with others, especially if they’re your parents, it’s best to plan a little bit. We had ideas of where we wanted to go, a general place to stay put for a couple days, and took each day as it came. There’s a lot this island has to offer. The Camuy Caves, Cabo Rojo lighthouse, the fishing village of Parguera (our home base), El Yunque National Park, Rincon beaches. It’s best to be flexible, get a good idea of how much time you’re willing to spend in a vehicle (my dad and I agree long bus rides are like cheap city/town/country tours), and see everything.

If you have a book, water, rain gear, flashlight, cash, a camera, a snack, maps, an LP or Fastcheck as a general guide, walking shoes, flip flops, a hat, something warm, something cool, and a notebook and pen, you’re all set.

Pick a destination. Grab a pack. Go exploring.


i just am.

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s it take to prepare a move? Homes for kittens and plants, giving away some small pieces, a small dresser, a rug, finding storage for three pieces of furniture we want to keep, clothes we won’t wear/have room for in two suitcases, pictures, books, music, tapestries, kitchen stuff. It’s surprisingly easy. And having left for six months of last year, it hardly seems daunting. I think the more you get used to going, the easier it is to let go.

The most difficult? Family. Who will munch on my niece’s cheeks? I’ll look forward to a couple weeks of play time before Japan. And as always, I’m playing as much as possible now. As for keeping in touch, Skype is a godsend. I am buying a web cam, hooking up my parents’ and probably cb’s, and will look forward to ‘seeing’ friends and family. Email. Blogs. Of course, visits are preferable. Too pricey? You have a free place to stay. Sales are everywhere. Keep up with Travelzoo, Kayak. Tickets are usually cheapest during the weekday, more so in the mornings than after work hours. Asia is cheapest in October and November. I’ll meet you anywhere. Save up, have a yard sale. Purge! The secret to life. The Story of Stuff. (What’s in your closet?)

Save up, pack up, let go, come play.


When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. -Barbara Bloom