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chữ Thuận - Quốc Tử Giám It’s the last day of the year of dragon. After 7 years, I once again feel the spirit of the new year. Cherry and kumquat trees everywhere. House mopping, furniture dusting, bed sheets laundrying. Whole days of prepping food for all the prayers and for the next few days when the market will be close.

After lunch today, I managed to squeeze out a couple of hours to go to the Temple of Literature (dedicated to Confucius, teachers, scholars, and learning in general) to ask for lucky characters. It’s an age old and Chinese influenced tradition: people went to esteemed scholars for a couplet, a pair of hanging scrolls that they would put up by the house entrance to greet the new year. With the introduction of the Vietnamese alphabet and the decline in Chinese scholars, this tradition almost went extinct. It wasn’t till the early 2000s that we saw its revival. I still remember going to the Temple the first year that the new year’s calligraphy giving-away was organized; I was surprised seeing so many young calligraphy writers. The traditional image was that of an old scholar with balding gray hair.  Read the rest of this entry »


Every day i read the news about street celebrations and yet never got a glimpse of it, quite unsurprising, since my route comprises of going to the office from Mr. J’s house at 10 a.m. and going back at around 8:30 p.m. and it takes 2-5 minutes each way, depends on whether i walk or go by car.

But finally, got to see it in close-up, and it was also the final day of the festival. Indians did live up to their tradition of being crazy dancers. It was a lot of people. (a lot as in A — LOT, even by indian standard). And also got to see the immersion of Ganesha, which was actually scary. The paper reported 3000 idols immersed in Ahmedabad alone, including 800 in big size. Imagine all of them diluted into the river which is not even that big and which flows right through the city, cutting it into two.

But maybe even though all of the idols are made of plaster and painted with chemical paints, it’s in the end nothing compared to the waste released directly from all the factories along the river. Nothing compared to all the fuel burnt when i take the plane to cross the world.