We left the bus in a dusty lot and walked into the village. The path wound along a stream that widened from time to time into pools reflecting the roofs and trees. The homes had their own distinct space and yet they interlocked in a tightly-woven pattern. Our hostess, a young women attending art school in Hanoi, led the way, eager to bring us to the home of her grandparents.
The walk lulled us. Some of our group dawdled, forgetting the social niceties in the spell of the calm. Continue Reading »
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Before we left for Vietnam, each of us had to provide extra information to the Hue provincial authorities, who thought a group of Americans traveling together might constitute a problem. Or at least be worth keeping track of. There is, after all, a history of activism in the area.
In May of 1963, a protest in Hue against President Ngô Đình Diệm’s brutal persecution of Buddhists ended in nine deaths that Diệm, a Roman Catholic, blamed on the Communists. Continue Reading »
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Buddhist pagodas in Vietnam have a strong aesthetic. There is a lot of dark wood, gleaming surfaces, smoke, red and gold. While many are tranquil and meditative, in urban areas they are busy places. People come and go. They buy fish at the gate to release into a pond as an act of mercy. They stand in prayer position, shaking their tented fingers in reverence. They leave offerings of fruit, bread, candy and cakes. Continue Reading »
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When I took this picture I was conscious that I was telling a story. I composed the elements, moving a napkin away and pulling the glass closer. I wanted the drink, the elegant box of nibbles, and the computer. The flower vase was a nice touch, I thought, and there’s my story:
It was a free afternoon in Saigon. (I know the official name is Ho Chi Minh City but I like the sound of “Saigon.”) I ran through all the possibilities of places I might want to go and decided to have a drink at the Caravelle Hotel, where the journalists had hung out during the war. As the location of the Saigon bureaus of ABC, NBC, and CBS it had been the hub of communications. Continue Reading »
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I am not a photographer. I have a camera and I take pictures, but the camera is not the way I think. So I look through my pictures now because I am curious. What motivated me to pull the camera out of my bag? What story does that choice have to tell?
I find a lot of pictures of food. That makes sense. Food is how I negotiated Vietnam on my first visit. These images might reflect a subconscious need to be fed, or to take refuge in a common language.
I find contemplative images because I am drawn to Buddhism. I remember taking some of those pictures because I liked their aesthetics and for me aesthetics and spirituality are linked.
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After a while it got to be funny. Mysterious things would happen, things that seemed to go against our expectations or that appeared not to make sense. Finally, Dan exclaimed over one of these things. I said, “And you know the reason for that?” We said together, “Because we are in Vietnam!” Annoyance melted into delight. We savored the pleasure of being in a place that had the endless capacity to throw our preconceptions up in the air so that we could watch where they came down. Continue Reading »
Posted in Journey, Vietnam | Tagged Bodhisatva, Buddhism, compassion, forgiveness, Lady Buddha, Quan Am, Vietnam, Vietnamese culture | Leave a Comment »
They are gentle men, courteous, willing, courtly even. I invite them to sit in a chair and I bow to them, a greeting they return. I take their hands one at a time and rub lavender oil into each palm. I rub my own hands together and invite them to do the same. Then I hold my palms in front of my face and breathe. They mimic me, usually gasping a bit with the effort to please. I mime breathing slowly and deeply. The lavender is meant to calm the nervous system and maybe it works. What works for both of us is my hands on their hands. Continue Reading »
Posted in Journey, Vietnam | Tagged La Vang, old wounds, Quang Tri, scars, Vietnam War, Vietnamese veterans | 1 Comment »