Thursday, October 7, 2010

1,000 Years of Tranh Long

(1,000 Year Anniversary Pictures from Celebrations around Hanoi)

Sat shirtless beneath a banyan tree today and sketched a water buffalo, was startled by a garter snake, and watched a horde of ants devour a beetle. Learned wood flute from a child and the Vietnamese word for incense. Silly.
I had a go with a douchey French dude who wore a t-shirt with one arrow pointing up that read “The Man” and another arrow pointing down which read “The Legend.” I kept asking him, “Haven’t we met before?” To which he said, “No No No No.” To which I said, “Yes Yes Yes, I think we have… you are very famous…” To which he said, “No No No, I don’t think so…”
This conversation went on for five minutes.
I’m still giggling.
Spent ten dollars on a CD of Khmer Traditional Music recorded by a group of crippled musicians who had lost legs, arms, and eyes after stepping on landmines. The CD cost more than a night in my hotel room.
Walked down to the water around Hoan Kiem Lake, something made me want to skip stones, thought I saw something, but it was only ripples dancing away. I tried to strike it with a flat little pebble the color of an agate. I think I did.
It is the thousand year anniversary of Vietnam. A thousand years ago in 1010 they declared themselves independent from China and since then have successfully thwarted invasions from numerous invaders including the Khmers and Mongols.
There are celebrations throughout the city. Thousands of people crowded Nha Tho around the Old Quarter to see traditional dancers and hear ethnic music. Ceremonies and parades are held at all the local pavilions including the sprawling and communist architecture laden Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the cool little Ngoc Son (Jade Mountain) Temple, and two of my personal all-time favorites the Temple of Literature and the totally cool Women’s Museum, which is a tribute to female soldiers.
The people of Hanoi have been very welcoming to me. Whether I am crouched on a low stool sipping slow dripping black coffee strong as dark chocolate, or grunting my scooter into traffic with one hand on a camera the other on the wheel, or letting me dip extra slices of filleted fish in sauce after grilled on street charcoals (and by the way, I’ve eaten such good food here), they have welcomed me into their hearts.
I don’t know what to expect in Ho Chi Minh tomorrow. I know that I am going to be looking at the Vietnam War through museums and exhibits, that I am going to take a day or two and pollute my mind with images and stories of horror so that I can better immerse myself in the darkness of that time, to attempt to understand it.
I’m nervous.
But if this country can survive a thousand years of heartache, of separation, of destruction and atrocity, and still smile and wrap its arms around me, an American, well… I suppose I will just have to live to tell the tale. Wish me good luck.

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