june! 2nd, 2000
good, morning, vietnam
"hello!" shouted from the roadside, by children, teenagers, women, men, solicitors, beggars, poets, cons.... "hello".
"hello." shouted back by the gringo american touristo poetcon.
up with the sun and the roosters this morning. 5 a.m. tooling around on my moto out in the luscious countryside. realized my idea of a perfect moment is not stillness - a caught moment of perfection - but movement -moving out and through the open, on a country road - in a rental car in southern chateaux france - or in another - in rainy, sheep-laden, rolling scotland. or perhaps up or down the winding, vertiginous PCH in sunny cal in my own convertible - or - down the chinese boat-strewn mekong river from siem reap to phnom penh - or this morning - just out in the daily life of vietnam: puttering along on the way to breakfast at the beach, stopping, snapping photos of women on the way to market, heavily fruit and vegetable laden with poles over their shoulders, school children in communist white blouses/royal blue short pants, young girls kneeling/washing their clothes in the river, everywhere - rice - gathered, dried, shucked, husked, all over the road, cyclos (rickshaws), motos, bicycles - weaving, competing w/ one another for the lazy rural roads. rich, textured, colorful, wonderful. movement. life. before the american century.
buddhism? religion? yes, it's here, but it doesn't feel very "spiritual", intellectual, philosophical - the way we idealize it and study it in the west. it seems closer to ritual, routine, habit: prayer to avoid the bad things in life. ancestor worshiop, colorful wooden box shrines offered food, incense, flowers, tribute to the buddha or your dead family members, to keep the evil hand away. closer to animism (worship of water buffalo, the sun, the mighty gecko). buddhism, hinduism, even catholicism in the north (they love to eat dogs) - it's just part of the history and practice of the people, having survived and endured (in secret) decades of atheistic communism (you remember ol' karl marx: "religion, the opiate of the masses").
no, these are a smiling, practical, industrious people - the vietnamese - more interested in making a living, supporting huge families, children w/o mothers/fathers/abandoned by american vets. dollars not buddha. listening to the pervasive and innocuous karioke cover music rather than traditonal but still awesome gamelon and wooden flute sounds that you can occasionally hunt down and savor like aural nectar from the sky.