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Posts Tagged ‘ybonesy in Vietnam’

HaNoi ceramic wall (one)HaNoi ceramic wall (two)
HaNoi ceramic wall (three)HaNoi ceramic wall (five a)
HaNoi ceramic wall (six)HaNoi ceramic wall (seven)
HaNoi ceramic wall (eight)HaNoi ceramic wall (nine)
In a flash, HaNoi’s Ceramic Mosaic Mural as seen from the taxi, October 2010, iPhone photos © 2010 by ybonesy, all rights reserved.




Entering the city of Hanoi last week, I immediately notice that the ceramic wall is done. This four-kilometer-long work of art, which has been in progress for the three years since I started visiting here, runs along the city’s Red River dyke system. Earlier this month, just in time for last week’s celebration of Hanoi’s 1000th birthday, the completed wall officially became the world’s largest ceramic mosaic, as recognized by Guinness World Records.

The idea for a ceramic wall along Hanoi’s Red River came from young journalist and painter Nguyen Thu Thuy. About the world record, she said:

We are very proud to have successfully gained a Guinness World Record achievement. This project reflects the vibrancy and complexity of Vietnam’s capital city, and is the ideal way to commemorate Hanoi’s 1,000 year anniversary. The integration of international artists and children’s art depict many different moods, cultures, eras of history and styles, and they have all been created with the greatest craftsmanship. We hope that this achievement brings pride to Hanoi and that the people of the city enjoy the mural’s beauty for many years to come.


The collective public work of art—Vietnam’s first—began in 2007. The mural is organized in 21 sections and was designed by 35 professional artists from ten countries and supported by hundreds of artisans from traditional ceramic villages in Vietnam, Vietnamese and other children, and students from fine arts colleges throughout the country. The murals depicts Vietnam’s landscape and peoples, and is said to be a visual narration of the country’s history.

The mural embodies the country’s rich tradition in ceramics, of which I barely scratched the surface during a day of sightseeing to the town of Bat Trang. The entire village, it seemed, was dedicated to the making and selling of gorgeous plates, cups, vases, sculptures—you name it, they made it.

More than anything, Hanoi’s Ceramic Mosaic wall reminded me of the color and buzz and energy of Hanoi and all of Vietnam.

You can read and see more about the wall, including video clips showing artists working on the mural, in the official Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural website. The Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural blog includes many interesting photos, such as the original Photoshop artist renderings of the mural back when it was only a concept. That site also talks about the artist and staff of the project. Finally, this Travel Blog entry includes close-up photos of the wall in progress.

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Exactly three weeks have passed since the girls (my daughters and my nieces) and I made the journey back from Vietnam. It feels like a dream, those days walking through Saigon and feeling the energy of the city. The beach city of Nha Trang is my new favorite spot, and I’ve been to many wonderful places in the country.

One of the things I noticed about the trip was that I didn’t have much time alone, and yet I was not torn between solitude or not solitude. I relished the hours spent with my family. We traveled together well. We shared a similar sense of adventure.

I would love to share in this blog post a story or two about our trip, but I’m in the middle of writing a print publication essay about exactly that. So I’m at a loss of what to say. Unfortunately, I need to save all my best words for the essay.
 
I can share this screen shot below from the last essay of mine that was published, this in SAGE, a monthly magazine for women that appears as part of the Albuquerque Journal. It came out while we were in Vietnam, which was fun timing since the writing happened to be about one of my previous trips to the country. You might recognize the photo from one of my previous blog posts. It was especially cool that three of my photos got published along with my writing.

The country has become as much a muse for my writing as my art. That’s a recent shift. I wonder, when I sit down and think about it, how many essays about my travels there I have in me. Maybe quite a few.



Let there be Pampering (from SAGE)
Let there be Pampering, by Roma Arellano, screen shot from SAGE, The Albuquerque Journal, July 2010, © 2010 by The Albuquerque Journal.

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Our guide was named Anh. Like Anne, but a long a. Ah. Ah-n. She had the look of a backpacker. At first. When I took in the rucksack and light jacket, I thought maybe she was a trekker who’d landed her dream job. Tour guide on a medium-sized wooden boat, fits about 20 passengers, floating up and down the Mekong Delta.

But first impressions are deceiving. Anh was from Hanoi originally, now living in Can Tho. She wore thick flesh-colored socks with sandals. A face mask and a traditional Vietnamese hat to keep the sun off her skin. In Vietnam, the women want to remain as fair-skinned as possible. Stark contrast to the Norwegians who shared the boat with us. The two women in that group tied silk scarves over their bathing suits and sat in the hot sun until the silk turned dark with sweat and their skin a sort of freckled orange-brown.

My friend Marcia says that eventually, given enough time, we will all evolve to look like one another. Vietnamese women will get lighter; fair-skinned Norwegians will turn a crispy brown. We’ll all go after the universal beauty ideal. Add a KFC on every corner of every city in the world and Wham-o!, we’re all the same.

Until then, I will enjoy our differences. And prawns with attached heads, which we had for lunch. And cuttle fish, passion fruit, rice. Meals on the Bassac II are gourmet. How it turned out to be just me and the girls plus a Norwegian family of four—I don’t understand. This is the best boat ever, the best crew. The captain is the same one who steered the boat the last time I was on it, and both times he masterfully navigated our vessel through narrow passages where barges carrying silt dredged from the bottom of the river came within a foot of boats that are floating fish farms. And us.

As we gawked at other people’s lives, all while eating steak and fish for lunch or sipping Tiger beer, I imagined we were a nuisance on this commercial waterway. The Vietnamese float by with all their worldly possessions contained in boats only slightly larger than canoes. And yet, they are so tolerant, even nice to us as we float by in all our laid-back luxury.

The crew of Bassac II recognized me when I boarded, and I reminded them that I said I’d return and bring my girls next time. Dee was enamored by the boat immediately, the cool of the cabin and its smell of hibiscus and lemongrass. She wandered around the boat as if under a spell, that slow walk from this end of the deck to that one, all the while tracing her hand along the deep brown wooden railings. The place suited her internal clock, slow and content to not do much.

Em explored every corner of the boat she had access to, bouncing a few minutes around the upper deck, then a few more on the deck below. “Mom, I’m going to check out the front of the boat,” she informed before shooting off again. She waited impatiently for hours, unable to just rest, before we finally boarded the canoe and made our way to a village along one of the canals.

Not being from Can Tho, Anh didn’t know the off-the-beaten-path spots where you could find a temple that wasn’t officially on the tour. Nor did she have the same sense of adventure that prompted our last tour guide to stop in at a Cao Dai temple while making our way back to the boat from the village.

But that was fine. Anh was calm and friendly, and she loved the girls. She spent a generous amount of time in the floating market, took us to a cottage factory that produced soy sauce and salt, and let us sit for almost an hour eating exotic fruits while she showed the girls how to make jewelry and animals out of palm leaves.

When I asked her if she liked her job, she smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and then looked out in the distance. “I miss my children,” she said, “when I come overnight for the tours.” Believe me, I wanted to say, I can relate. Instead I looked over at my own girls and said, “Bring them with you one day, Anh—they’ll never forget it.”

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vietnamese children (one)
 
 
                   vietnamese children (two)
 
 
                             vietnamese children (three)
 


Here I am, crouching in front of a temple in Hue, surrounded by children. They squeal, I smile. They tug at me, I hug them. When my guide enters the courtyard and sees me, he marches toward me, beside himself. He pulls me up from the spot where I am, a small child like them. “Watch your purse,” he hisses.

He’s not unkind. He just knows how children can be with tourists. But I’m not afraid. If they take something from me, more power to them. I shouldn’t be such a naive soul, should I?, for letting them dupe me like that. It’s the price I’m willing to pay to be with children, even if they’re not my own.

But the truth is, these kids don’t even try to take my things. They want to test their broken English and throw me some universal signs. Peace, love, all that. At this point on a trip to Vietnam, I need all the peace and love I can get. I notice children everywhere I go. I am beyond homesick.



child monk




Fast forward to today. Em packs Froggy and Meow. Froggy is a frog pillow that presently rests in the space between me and Em. His green warmth at my side assures me as our plane lifts from the tarmac and begins its bumpy ascent. Dee packs no stuffed toys, although this morning she took Merry, the horse she’s had since age three or four, to stay with Jim for the almost three weeks we’ll be gone. We’ll be gone. Me and my girls. Finally. In Vietnam.

This is something I’ve always done with my girls. Not the international travel, but whisking them away, the three of us sans Daddy. I’ve taken them to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, where we tried unsuccessfully to put up a tent in the wind and ended up walking into the administration office and sheepishly asking for a room. We’ve been to Santa Monica, at the Hotel California, and when we drove into the parking lot from the airport—you won’t believe it!—that Eagles tune was playing on the rental car radio.

We’ve gone to Denver, with my sister and her kids, and also taken a road trip with them to San Francisco via Las Vegas. In Taos, the girls and I stayed in Mabel‘s room at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, and I didn’t tell them that my blog partner had once seen the ghost of Mabel in that very same room.

But those adventures pale in comparison to the three plane rides it will take to get us to Ho Chi Minh City. One of the flights is 13 or 14 hours long. I try not to dwell on it but wonder if I’ll be able not to when I have an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old sitting next to me. Not to mention Froggy.

And this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see my girls’ reactions when I take them to the crowded colorful market where women tug at your sleeve and say “Madam, Madam!” or when we eat a steaming bowl of rice noodles and chicken for breakfast or morning glory sauteed in garlic for lunch. Will they agree that Vietnamese food is the best in the world?

We’ll float down the Mekong Delta, travel by domestic plane to a beach town I’ve heard about but never been to, stay in a luxury two-bedroom apartment right in the heart of bustling Saigon. All month long as the trip looms closer, I drive them around our hometown and tell them that driving on the streets of Saigon is nothing like Corrales. I want them to feel the chaos, the aliveness of it all. To see how a place half a world away wakes up, eats, lives, go to sleep. Is.

We are on the plane now. Em shows me a photo she just snapped with her cell phone camera of the landscape out the window of our plane, somewhere west of the Grand Canyon. The image on her small screen resembles those photos of Earth as seen from outer space. There’s the curve of the terrain, layers of atmosphere growing from light to dark blue as you move away from the land toward the expansive sky.

This is like us, I think, in the world, high above it all. On our way to places beyond.


safe travels


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It is two weeks and two days since I walked through my own door, the door to my home, after being away also for two weeks. Four weeks, then, a month since my last trip to Vietnam, where everywhere around me there are doors.

Bellhops dressed in long satin traditional robes and hats who open the glass doors to my hotel lobby the night I arrive from the airport. I come sweeping in, even dog-tired after more than 24 hours in transit, and the moment I enter that grand foyer with a big marble table in the center and on the center of that table an oversized floral arrangement, I feel exhilarated. It’s usually 11:00 pm, and all I can think of is laying my body flat on a bed, but still, I have that Mary-Tyler-Moore-in-the-big-city moment, a feeling of being in the center of the action, in a global hot spot, where people come and go at all hours of the day and night, people from every country to this epicenter of the world.

The doors to my own home are parochial by comparison, set in the past, of a certain era, a place, a quiet time. They are large, two entry-way doors across from one another in the foyer of my home. Made of plain wood, birch perhaps, double Dutch doors, one set facing the front of the house, the other set the back courtyard. These doors also stand out. When I walk through them I notice the way they require an extra nudge to open them. They are heavy and sticky, substantial doors reminding me that this is the place where I, too, am destined to pass long years of my life.

Have I always been this comfortable in two places? I close my eyes and see myself striding, yes, not merely walking but striding in and out of those glass doors in District One, the first and oldest and most vibrant district of Saigon. It’s not that I don’t feel alone there, but rather in my solitude I feel strong and independent, like I know the place, and I almost wrote, like I own the place.

The hotel lobby is like any other hotel lobby, imposing and luxurious, with a certain lighting and an aura of hospitality that makes the traveler feel cushioned. Cushioned from the inconveniences of being away from the familiar, a toaster and a green tea kettle, butter pecan in the freezer. Cushioned from the thousands of miles of space and time from those we love.

There is a Gucci shop where young Vietnamese men and women dressed in black stand talking, store employees so elegant and hip they intimidate. I pass by their doors without staring and out I walk into the humid street where cafes and restaurants sit next to shops selling men’s suits and silk scarves and children’s dresses.

I walk through the door of the French bakery and buy an almond tart on my last night of this trip, and I tuck it into my purse as I consider whether to venture into a Spanish bodega where young expats eat tapas and drink red wine from goblets or get my last fix of Vietnamese food from Lemongrass, one of my favorite local spots. Either way I will sit alone, eat alone, consider solely how this trip has been and how it has revealed a few more mysteries.

And just in the moment when I am at the point where the people around me seem too jolly, where they only seem to appear in pairs and threes and fours, parents with children in contrast to me alone, I get to walk out of the glass doors held open by the man in robes and into a waiting taxi. Through the sliding doors of the airport and the gates and the portals and the passageways I go, flying through the day and night, back in time, back to the place where heavy doors wait, welcoming me to the other familiar.



-Related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC — DOOR

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doorways (three)





Door etymology: Merger of Old English dor (pl. doru, “large door, gate”) and Old English duru (pl. dura, “door, gate, wicket”). The base form is frequently in dual or plural, leading to speculation that houses of the original Indo- Europeans had doors with two swinging halves. Form dore predominated by the 16th Century, but was supplanted by door. First record of dooryard is c.1764; doorstep is from 1810.





doorways (one)






Symbolism of Doors

Doors symbolize hope, opportunity, opening, passage from one state or world to another, entrance to new life, initiation, the sheltering aspect of the Great Mother. The open door is both opportunity and liberation.

Gates shares the symbolism of entrance, entry into a new life, communication between one world and another, between the living and the dead. Gates and portals are usually guarded by symbolic animals such as lions, dragons, bulls, dogs or fabulous beasts. At the gates of the House of Osiris, a goddess keeps each gate, and her name must be known to enter.

A door is an important element of a house, a symbol of passage from one place to another, one state to another, from light to darkness.

Entrances to holy places (temples, cathedrals) are not necessarily invitation to participate in the mysteries contained inside. The act of passing over the threshold means that the faithful must set aside their personalities and materialism, to confront the inner silence and meditation that it symbolizes.

As an access to a refuge or the warmth of a hearth, a door also symbolizes communication, contact with others and with the outside world. An open door attracts because it signifies welcome, invites discovery, but a door can also signify imprisonment, isolation. A closed door signifies rejection, exclusion, secrecy, but also protection against dangers and the unknown.





orange-red door





Doors in Literature

A doorway has a narrow view of the world, but a person can walk through the doorway. The doorway is their opportunity to actually make a difference in the world. People who are more willing to make a difference in the world have an easier time walking through the doorway then others.

Characters in stories that are too scared to walk through a door are also scared about what the world might do to them. They would rather keep that doorway as their shell from the rest of the world.





red door





Words for Doors



“Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.”

~Emily Dickinson




“A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.

~Ogden Nash




“I look like just like the girl next door…if you happen to live next door to an amusement park.”

~Dolly Parton




“The outward man is the swinging door; the inward man is the hinge.”

~Meister Eckhart




“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

~Johnny Cash





doorways (four)




Your Door Assignment

Write about doors. Doors of perception, cellar doors, sliding doors, The Doors. A portal or entry. A doorway. Indoors and out of doors. A door to your mind, locked doors, open doors. What does a door mean to you?

Off your hinges? You make a better door than a window? Katy, bar the doors! ybonesy is on her way, and Lord knows, we don’t want her shadow to darken the door.

There are so many door idioms. We beat paths to doors, get a foot in the door, see someone to the door, close one door only to have another open, and think fondly of the girl next door.

Pick up your fast-writing pen and your notebook and write without stopping. Cross that threshold, but don’t cross out. For 15 minutes. Now.

(Pssst. If you want to photograph doors, please do so and share your thumbnails in the comments section below.)








white doors doorways (two)

doorways (six) doorways (five)

All photos were taken by ybonesy in January 2010, in or around
Hue, Vietnam, at three sites: the Citadel, the Palace of Emperor
Khai Dinh, or Emperor Minh Mang’s burial palace.






Sources

About Doors


About Vietnam (photos)

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halong bay (one)

halong bay (one), view from a grotto, August 2009, photos
in collection © 2009-2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




Once upon a time, soon after the Việt people established their country, invaders came. The Jade Emperor sent Mother Dragon and her Child Dragons down to earth to help the Việt people fight against their enemy. Right at the time invaders’ boats were rushing to the shore, the dragons landed down on earth. The dragons immediately sent out from their mouths a lot of pearls, which then turned into thousands of stone islands emerging in the sea like great walls challenging the invaders’ boats. The fast boats couldn’t manage to stop and crashed into the islands and into each other and broke into pieces.

After the victory, Mother Dragon and Child Dragons believed this country to be so beautiful that they didn’t return Heaven but stayed on earth at the place where the battle had occurred. The location Mother Dragon landed is now called Hạ Long Bay and where Child Dragons descended is now Bái Tử Long. The dragons’ tails waving the water created Long Vĩ (present Trà Cổ peninsula) and formed a fine sand beach over ten kilometers long.

~Legend of Ha Long Bay, adapted from Origin Vietnam website



halong bay (three)


girls in boat (halong bay)


village (halong bay)


halong bay (four)


halong  bay (two)


village by the rocks (halong bay)


boat house (halong bay)





Every time I come to Vietnam, I try to see a part of the country that I don’t know. Last trip, August 2009, I went north to World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay, in the Gulf of Tonkin. The photos speak for themselves.

Tomorrow, Friday, I’ll fly to the Central Highlands, to the ancient citadel of Hue. (I have been to Central Vietnam before, to the city of Da Nang and the ancient village of Hoi An.)

Sometimes I wonder, How did I get so lucky as to come to know this beautiful country and its compassionate people?

I’m curious. Do you believe in luck? Do you ever marvel at your good fortune? Do you curse bad luck? Let me know if you get a chance.

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