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. Read more
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. Read more
I asked Anh, our Vietnamese guide, what is “bánh canh”? He said it is a noodle soup with broth and meat to cook in the broth and veggies and herbs on top. That sounded awfully familiar. Noodle soup with broth and meat to cook in the broth and veggies and herbs … so it’s Phở, I asked? No, Anh said, Phở is completely different. Read more
In a corner of the main floor some young people are making flower arrangements and figurines out of beads. They greet us with radiant smiles, hugging John and eyeing the rest of us curiously. With only a brief hesitation, we move among them, admiring their work, thanking them for their welcome.
One young man is making a beaded cat. I tell him how lovely it is. In a panicked undertone he calls for help from his friend seated nearby. The friend knows English and translates while I show off my miniscule Vietnamese by pronouncing the cat “con meo.” Read more
Thousands of histories, memoirs, films, songs, novels, short stories, commentary and Americans still know almost nothing about Viet Nam. Indeed, for all the available information, Americans know precious little about the war in Vietnam and even less about those who fought there.
So we have come here to let our bodies feel the space, the rhythm, the air. We bask in the welcome and feel utterly at home in a foreign land. Read more
That storm is going to the south of me but bearing down on Philadelphia where I was scheduled to change planes for San Francisco. (It is also, and not incidentally, headed right for Dan.) Read more