Postcard from Vietnam (6)

Dear friends,

It’s been a while since I last sent you a postcard. Ages. I don’t know what to say. How to explain it. It feels as though I closed my eyes for a minute and was lost. Or just forgot. What have I been doing. I often think I’ve been waiting for something. And get the feeling whatever it’s gone.

Haven’t been surfing in a while.


I write to you from Hanoi, where we returned the other day after a week in Nha Trang, on Vietnam’s south-central coast. Hanh had a bit of research to do, together with some anthropologists from Hanoi, and Gung and I went along to see what Nha Trang’s like, since I had a bit of time on my hands after not getting a job I’d applied for last month.

While the researchers spent a few days at some temples, Gung and I went to the beach and rode around town. One evening they complained they’d had to go vegetarian three days in a row, being treated at the temples where they’d been working. I asked if I could join them one time, and they invited me to a ceremony the next morning. The people of the fishing village at the northern end of town were going to be praying to their whale god, and I went there thinking ‘O Whale God who broke through me today’. Mixing this ceremony up with that Snyder poem. Looking on, I got into a conversation with another onlooker, a local who seemed to speak perfect English, and she told me the participants in the ceremony were praying to a dolphin god. With eyes bulging, Adam’s apple bobbing and stomach rumbling, I continued to watch and think stupid boring thoughts.

Nha Trang lies along a long beach, a good part of it lined with hotels. The town, or at least part of it, is full of vacationers, Vietnamese and foreign, many of them Russian. One morning at breakfast I got into a conversation with a New Zealander. He said he liked Nha Trang, and I said I liked it too but wished its beach had waves. He said it reminded him of Kuta, Bali, and I spent the rest of the day trying to remember what Kuta had been like. Sounded like, smelt like, felt like… Sand full of butts? Butts full of sand. Something lively, exciting, alluring, offensive, horrific, stupid, boring, ordinary, beautiful, sad, happy about it? It was hard. Half the time I think I might have been remembering things I’d been told, not things I’d experienced. I guess I’ve lost a lot of it.

Anyway. At least I have these stupid boring thoughts.

Back in Hanoi. Besides looking for work, I’ve been gardening a fair bit. On the balcony of our city apartment. And in Hanh’s father’s garden an hour outside town. Hanh and Gung have, too. Gung just loves the spade, and the hose. The secateurs! But we try to keep those out of reach. Now’s the time of year for it. You should hear the summer storms. You’d blink to see how fast everything grows. And the sun bursts through the leaves when a storm has passed. I’ll try and find a shot of that next time.

For now here’s a couple from Nha Trang.