Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holiday Parade

Recently Ethan walked in our local Holiday Parade with his Boy Scout troop.  It was a beautiful but cold day.

The new snow on the mountain tops certainly was pretty.

A sign post on the road leading to the capital building.  I guess I was in a great mood that day; I even thought the signs were pretty.

In a small town parade you don't get big, beautiful floats.  You get motorcycle clubs...

and girls from dance schools (LOVE their colors!)

There was one humble float.  I  loved it's message. (A sign not in this picture said "Thank you God for these gifts".)  I was happy to see that although this was a "Holiday" parade rather than a "Christmas" parade, the Christmas message was still allowed in.

There were a large number of fancy horses and riders.

 Of course there were some very handsome Boy Scouts.  (My son is the incredibly handsome one with red hair.  He did have his Scout shirt on under his coat, I promise.)

And there was of course a marching band.  I think putting a metal instrument to your mouth in cold temperatures must be highly uncomfortable so I applaud these kids for their toughness.

I am enjoying Christmas preparations.  I especially enjoy the decorating.  I hope to share pictures of that soon.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Places in Vietnam: Hoi An

Without question, if we had continued living in Asia I would have taken the family to Vietnam. It was nothing like what I expected. My trip was a whirlwind, lasting just a few days, so I know I saw only a few highlights. It would be fascinating to spend more time and see more of the country. However, from what I did see, Hoi An was the most unforgettable. It is a lovely old colonial town. Sadly, not much of this style survived the war.

Hoi An is a Unesco World Heritage site, and this is part of what their website says about the town:

The town is a special example of a traditional trading port in South-East Asia which has been completely and assiduously preserved: it is the only town in Viet Nam that has survived intact in this way. Most of the buildings are in the traditional architectural style of the 19th and 20th centuries. They are aligned along narrow lanes of traditional type. They include many religious buildings, such as pagodas, temples, meeting houses, etc., which relate to the development of a port community. The traditional lifestyle, religion, customs and cooking have been preserved and many festivals still take place annually.
The people were generally very friendly.  I noticed one thing which I found interesting:  There were a lot of locals who seemed to be just hanging around in various parts of every street.  I cannot be certain, but I do not think they were just passing time.  I suspect they were actually the primary means of communication between shopkeepers, a sort of primitive internet if you will.  I had two experiences which caused me to draw this conclusion:

1) I was in the first shop of my day looking at lovely silk fabrics and asking prices.  Because it was the first shop I didn't want to buy anything until I had an idea if their pricing was fair.  I left and walked a short distance to a second fabric shop.  When I entered the shopkeeper was not on any telephone or computer.  Before too long I asked the price of a fabric and was told something like "You were just in the other shop, the price is the same."  How did she know where I had been?  Somehow that had been communicated to her and I think the information came by runners.

2) I was looking for a very particular souvenir for my son which I finally found in one shop.  The shopkeeper here (the only unfriendly person I encountered in Vietnam) gave me an exorbitant price when I asked and he was absolutely not willing to negotiate.  Shortly thereafter I met my friends for lunch and told of my frustration over the situation.  One friend, our defacto leader who is an amazing negotiator, was convinced she could get him to bring his price down so she went to have a crack at it.  She also met a stone wall.  It is, of course, possible that this man was just grumpy, but I think someone watched me go to the restaurant and reported to him that I was sending reinforcements.

I'm not sure of that, it was just the feeling I had, but I found it an interesting possibility.


Beautiful Bougainvillea grew along many of the building's walls.
The exuberant colors of the chinese lanterns appealed to my love of color.

At our hotel there were lanterns hanging in the trees.  There were lit at night, which was beautiful.  I'm afraid that without a tripod I could not capture the night time scene.

One side of the famous Japanese bridge.  It's a very old wooden structure which crosses the narrow canal.

Most likely a temple.  (I am judging based on the decoration on the roof which is similar to that found on Taiwanese temples.)

What appeared to be dishes used as decor at the top of the temple:

Of course I had to photograph some of the flowers!

The main bridge spanning the river which runs through town.

I'm embarrassed to admit I have no idea what this actually is.  My guess is something to do with fishing, but I was walking alone and had no one to ask.

Pictures from on and around the bridge:

That round thing is actually a fishing boat!  I have no idea how you control it.

Passing by a bar during the afternoon, I thought the sheer purple curtains were lovely.  I am sure the light cast through these at night would be beautiful.

At the entrance to a restaurant, a rack on which to hang your scooter helmets.

It was quite hot and humid in Vietnam.  This fisherman was apparently taking a break out of the sun.

I apologize that my narrative is lacking.  Hopefully you find the pictures enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Faces of Vietnam

Realizing that I have never posted pictures from my trip to Vietnam, coupled with the fact that there is nothing of interest happening in my life lately, I decided now would be the perfect time to catch up on the old pictures.  For today, I give you faces of Vietnam.

Napping in a cart

Sweet old lady with no real teeth
The next three pictures were taken in a very unique shop.  (Unique to me as an American; however, it was one of at least three in the area I was visiting.)  Looking at this shop from the street, I thought they sold photographs of Vietnam.  Once inside I discovered that these ladies are laboring over embroidered works of art which, when finished, are so intricate and amazing that they do look like photography.  They each in fact have a photograph in front of them as well as a computer grid telling them what color to stitch into each space.  I badly, BADLY wanted to purchase some of this.  The price tag was extremely high.  It was absolutely justified, but buying one of these pieces would have meant that was the only thing I would bring home.  In hind sight I often wish I would have gone this route.  As a person who does needlework I have an appreciation for the labor that goes into these pieces and the final products were stunning.  However, I gave in to the desire for MORE and passed on this opportunity.  Perhaps I'll have to go back some day... 

This woman was one of many who were making lanterns.  They stretch silk fabric over wooden frames of many different shapes.  I bought many of these and hung them around the patio of our home when I got back to Boise.  They didn't weather very well.  When we moved I couldn't bear to throw them away, but they are sitting in my garage now.  I suppose some day I will have to face reality and get ride of them.  Once again, perhaps another trip will be necessary...

There is a lot of story behind these next two ladies.  I wondered off on my own one day, armed with my camera.  I came across these two lovely ladies who were selling bananas.  I didn't especially want to eat a banana; however, I assumed the bit of money it would cost me to buy their bananas would be more necessary and helpful to them than to me, so I bought some bananas.  After giving money to one woman, the other came up to me with her hand held out.  I think I looked at her sort of confused: I had already paid for the bananas.  She motioned with her hand to her mouth and said "I hungry too."  Obligingly, I gave her some money.  They allowed me to take their pictures (which was worth far more to me than any bananas) and then we parted ways.  I hadn't gone more than a few yards away when a policeman on a motorcycle swooped down on the women.  I decided to just keep walking.  I know nothing about how things work in a communist country and I didn't really care to find out.  I presume they were in trouble for something about their interaction with me.  I hoped that their advanced age would keep them from too much trouble.

Pretty Vietnamese Woman on a Pretty Scooter
On our first morning in Hanoi my friend grabbed me and said "Come on, you've got to see something" and she dragged me out to the street in front of our hotel.  The days catch had just arrived and there was a group of people sorting and cleaning the fish, right there on the street.  Fish heads and guts were flying and I was hoping to catch nothing more than a few good photographs.  As fast as you can imagine, this man would shove a stick in a fishes mouth, scrape the scales off, toss it aside and continue to the next one.  He paused to show me his handy work.

A random yet totally typical person on the street.

A woman whose flower shop was her bicycle:

I will try to remember to come back and post other pictures from Vietnam.  This trip was high on the list of "best trip ever".  I would have said it was number 1, but then I remembered Bali.