Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another Day, Another Walk

I would call spending a month in one place “living there” and cite as evidence that I have already twice said to one son or the other “when your dad gets home.” No, it wasn’t the threat it might have been in days past; it was just a statement of when we might do something. I say all this to lead into the fact that one of the luxuries of living in a place as opposed to visiting it or, on an even shorter scale, just passing through it, is that you don’t have to rush to do something. Our plans for today included finally visiting the Citadel and the Imperial City. Did we make it? No. Did we have another great walk through some new parts of the city? You bet!

The plan was that the sons and I would reconnoiter a walk this morning that went around the Imperial City, and then the husband would join us this afternoon for a similar walk but this time actually going into the Imperial City. Thursday is the day that the husband lectures from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The plan was for him to get tomorrow’s lectures ready, meet us for lunch at 1:00, and then we’d do the second walk. It was already quite hot when the sons and I set out at a bit past 9:00. I’m still contemplating changing my Facebook status to something like “Jean had to choose DEET or sunscreen; since the walk was by water, DEET won.”

The first part of the walk was down the river to one of the main bridges. Can you imagine this as the Kinko’s of Charlottesville? Yep, that’s a free-standing stall, maybe 10 feet by 10 feet if that, and by all appearances it is a major copy center. If you wonder where the power comes from, it might be something like this, from a shot I took later on the walk. Yep, that’s an electrical outlet on a tree. The wire comes down from the top. People make do with what they can here, and if that means making do with what they have. If that means rigging an outlet onto a tree, that’s what they do. Just past the FujiFilm copy center, we stopped at another stand so older son could purchase a notebook. The shopkeeper was quite gregarious and spoke much better English than most of the shopkeepers we’ve encountered. Before too many minutes had passed, she was helping older son with some Vietnamese phrases he’s been trying to learn, and I was reviewing some English she’d written in her journal to help her practice. Her motivation and enthusiasm were so incredible that later, I took the husband by, and we helped her with some more of her writing. I told her I would try to come back and see her again tomorrow, and I may take her one of the novels I brought along with the intention of leaving them here. Although her English is relatively very good, I think the Tolkien ones would be a real reach, so that leaves Ender’s Game. I will have to make sure she understands the science fiction nature of it.

We took another swing through Dong Ba Market, at which time younger son made a very interesting observation. When we walked through there before, on our rainy day walk, the ground was covered in mud. Not three-inch deep mud like we had at the Fall Fiber Festival two years ago, but mud nonetheless. Younger son noted that the path on which we were walking was not, in fact, a dirt path, but some form of asphalt. Where the mud came from, we don’t know, but muddy it was in the rain. We went through the market fairly quickly, though we did stop to purchase the latest addition to the homestead here. Younger son got one, too, (actually, younger son got two), so there’s a hammock on their balcony as well. I almost dozed off while reading there, the breeze was so pleasant.

After the market, we crossed an inlet off the river into another one of the neighborhoods I doubt many tourists hit here. I again wrestled with wanting to get some photos of daily life without being too intrusive. I usually tried to do this by looking as if I were taking a longer range shot, then quickly changing the angle and zoom to get the more personal shot. The boats below were on one side of the inlet, and the people washing clothes are on the other. In the case of the people, I tried to look as if I were taking a shot of the distant view rather than a closer-up one We were guiding ourselves using the “Walking Tour of Hue” brochure developed by Mr. Cu, the owner of the Mandarin Café. Marked as being along the street on which we were walking were the Bien De Pagoda and the Chun Ong Temple. (Both of those names have some of the assorted diacritical marks common in Vietnamese, but I am not about to try to figure out how to do those in Blogger.) We did see these buildings, but in all honesty I did not find them as interesting as the everyday things such as the woman fishing for what I think were shellfish using a huge net she put down into the water and then folded together to lift and empty. There were also several altars in trees and on tables along the street. I don’t really know the significance of these, though we did ask Mr. Cu about the rituals we saw being performed the other evening in which a complete dinner was set on an outside table, with incense lit in a ritualistic manner. Mr. Cu said that it was a ceremony dedicated to one’s ancestors and performed twice each lunar month, in association with the new moon and the full moon.

There were also some boys who wanted to mug for the foreign photographer
and a cyclo driver taking a siesta, and even a rooster hamming it up. I told the sons to keep this walk in mind when we got to Amsterdam, that I was greatly reminded of the canals there. The houses on the streets are different, but the water flowing, the streets along each bank, it all gave me much the same feeling. When we got to the end of the street along which I took all these photos, the map had us crossing a bridge. Unfortunately, said bridge did not look at all pedestrian friendly, so the sons argued for just going back the way we came. I argued a bit for making it all an adventure, but after a couple more motorbikes whizzed by, I conceded the two-to-one vote and back we went. Truth in advertising requires that I say here that some of the previous photos were taken on the way up the street, while others were taken on the way down.

The rest of the walk was not nearly as scenic as the first part. Did I mention it was hot? We walked down one street that had more electronics places than I think exist in all of Charlottesville. There was not, unfortunately, a café selling water. I got a bit cranky, a situation swiftly relieved when we got to the end of the street and found water. How dehydrated was I? Well, let’s just say I had no need to rush back to the hotel room’s bathroom despite downing a 1.5 liter bottle of water on the rest of the walk. I have gone back and forth as to whether I should post what is probably the most interesting image from that part of the walk, which was through a predominately business district. I finally decided to post it but offer up front the caution that I hope it does not offend anyone. One reason I travel is for the differences I see in other cultures. You would certainly not find this bottle holder in the States, and it is the only such one I have seen here, but I thought it merited a photo. I should also note that to the left of the figures shown were a series of white figures (dressed similarly) facing the black ones.

On the horizon are a welcome dinner, tomorrow, put on by the university for the husband and the other UVa professor teaching here at the same time; a day at the beach 14 km from here (the mouth of the Perfume River) on Sunday; and a 12-hour tour of the DMZ and other war sites (including one of the tunnel complexes) on Monday. In other words, stay tuned.


Karen said...

Jean, One of the things I enjoyed among all our trips is the private jokes/stories we were able to share after our return. Sounds like you will have quite a lot. I am so happy you were able to do this together. Steve and Don will never forget it.

Debi said...

Thank you, for another slice of vicarious adventure. I just can't tell you how much I'm enjoying your posts, Jean!