Posts Tagged With: Cao Dai

Holiday Blues

I feel blue. In this time of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s I feel an oppressing pressure to be joyful. Solitude -which I treasure- turning into loneliness at warp speed and in slow motion at the same time. I do envy those who truly like being alone. And regret not being one of them. I am grateful for so much and so many but today I just feel blue. Winter creeping on me both physically and metaphorically.

A snowy cold day on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Remember the movie Inside Out? On Halloween the year the movie was out (2015), I dressed up as one of the characters: Sadness. So this is an accurate portrayal of my state of mind now.

In the past my solution to my “blueness” was to travel. But I can’t anymore, so when I’m low I reminisce and travel again in my mind. For some reason Vietnam came to it. Which is odd, for of all the countries that I visited in Southeast Asia, it was the one I connected to the least. Yet, it was there that I was introduced to Caodaism. According to caodai.org: “The noble effort of CaoDai is to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world. CaoDai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers from a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”

A dirt path strewn with litter that leads to…
A beautiful, well-kept building…
Which is absolutely breathtaking inside.

I realize I am in Rossmoor and that in Garden Grove, only 17 minutes away, is a Cao Dai Temple resembling the one just outside Long Xuyen, Vietnam that introduced me to this religion. Did someone say I could not travel? Off I go in a virtual journey no more.

So the path to the temple in Vietnam is dirt and rubble. Here it is busy streets that lead me to a residential area in Garden Grove, CA. I see the colors and it’s as if they are mermaids singing to me. I must go to it. Hopefully this visit has a better outcome than when the mermaids lure sailors in.

undefined They have a parking lot and as I park I hear the sounds of a language I have not learned and probably never will.

The entrance is a mini-me of the temple I so admired and moved me in Vietnam.

However the main pole in front of the temple does not have the reversed swastikas which happen to have a Buddhist influence and is sacred to many Vietnamese. The swastika (a Sanskrit word) is also a tantric symbol to evoke ‘shakti’ or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness. I don’t doubt that its absence is due to trying to avoid controversy.

The one in Vietnam.

I take a few photos. Take off my shoes (as ordered) and enter another world.

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The place is smaller than than its parent in Vietnam but is just as colorful. The quiet I expected is not quite there for the side doors are open and in comes loud voices in Vietnamese from the courtyard. There’s a gathering of followers who are sprucing up the church. One side door is being primed and the other has already been painted yellow. It is noticeable that the congregation takes pride in their home. I kneel and find my inner quiet.

As I look through one of the windows and hear the background chatter, I am almost transported to Long Xuyen.

It is in the little touches of daily life and some writings that I linger.

Before leaving I explore the back of the temple. I pass about 15 people sitting around a table chatting and as they turn their head to see me, I join my hands in prayer mode and bow slightly, saying nothing. They go back to socializing; I go back to the car knowing that I will visit again.

And keeping my promise that I would end each blog with a song or two. Here are two. I did not see the movie that “I’m Standing With You” comes from (I think it’s about a mother and child) but I feel we all want that someone that stands with us through whatever we go through. I’ve been lucky to have those people beside me.

And then, one of Peter Bradley Adams, a singer that brings me happy memories. “For You” How can you not love a song that says: “If your wandering ever leads you, To a place where you don’t know which road to choose, Leave your worries behind, Take the road that leads to mine, And I’ll be waiting there for you”

Categories: California, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Oi Goi Oi!

Again my eyes open early though I can’t capture a sunrise on my lens due to the fact that the hotel is in a very busy area of Ho Chi Minh City.  Not much of a sky to see here.

After our morning ritual of coffee, breakfast and climbing on the bus we are all set for our day-long trip to Chau Doc via Cantho.

A few hours in, most on the bus need either a coffee or a bathroom  break so we stop at the Vietnamese version of a Starbucks.   Much more relaxed atmosphere than the chain, with much better coffee!  They use this aluminum coffee filter and place it on top of a glass, one-third filled with condensed milk.  They pour hot water on the filter of ground coffee beans and when the condensed milk and freshly brewed coffee meet, the result is heaven to the taste buds! Don’t know how these people remain thin!     

There are hammocks all over and when you order your coffee they will bring it to your selected hammock.  We congregate around some low, small tables so we can chat.  Again, Vietnam unexpectedly is providing me a flood of memories of my childhood and my country.   Hammocks are a standard in Paraguay.  Rarely will you see a back yard that doesn’t have one.  The shade from the trees they are usually tied to, providing a perfect setting for a siesta and shelter from the brutal sun, while the hypnotic side-to-side swing helps keep the flies away and you sound asleep.  But no time to sleep now.  I do not waste the chance to go back in time and space and lie on one, nonetheless.  I recall, while I do so, that it takes a bit of balance to climb on!  

After a few more hours (observing daily life alongside my window)  

and a stop at a lotus plantation

we arrive to Cantho   and it’s time for lunch near the river.   

Lunch of vegetable soup,  steamed shrimp with mango sauce,

stuffed pumpkin flower   and crispy pork with mushroom sauce, is divine.  Heavenly coffee, divine lunch… there’s an out of this world theme in this post. 🙂

There is a market on the side and I buy yet another scarf and t-shirt.   Our guide has taught me to say “Oh my god!” in Vietnamese and when I exclaim:  “Oi gioi oi!” when a vendor quotes me the price, I get a look of total surprise and the most charming  of giggles  as she calls the other vendors and has me repeat it.  This was me just before I said it.  They are having a ball.  Didn’t get me much of a discount but it did make for fabulous interaction.

A short distance from there we climb on scooters for another of what my tour company calls UFE’s (Unforgettable Experiences).  Scooters and drivers wait for us to take us to a bird sanctuary at the other end of the town, Banglang.    Didn’t spot many birds.

They leave us and we walk through town.  My “inside quietness” surfaces as I photograph their faces, their houses, their town.   


Back to bus.   Karaoke or Internet anyone?  

Long Xuyen is our next stop where we visit the Cao Dai Temple.  Not a promising start…  

Then a surprisingly pretty building…  

Then puzzlement when I see the monument in front with a reverse swastika embedded. Turns out that the reverse swastika, which happens to have a Buddhist influence, is sacred to many Vietnamese.  The swastika (a Sanskrit word) is also a tantric symbol to evoke ‘shakti’ or the sacred symbol of auspiciousness.

Cao Dai is a religion that aims “to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.  Cao Dai does not seek to create a gray world, where all religions are exactly the same, only to create a more tolerant world, where all can see each other as sisters and brothers form a common divine source reaching out to a common divine destiny realizing peace within and without.”  May get my vote on that premise.   I am mesmerized by its colors and by its principles.  About 2 million people practice it in Vietnam.  Persecuted by the communist rule, it gained in the ’80’s its acceptance.

Back on the bus.  Am really liking crossing the countryside.  We are taking this route so as to be near the Cambodian border.  Tomorrow we are cruising from Chau Doc, Vietnam to Pnom Penh, Cambodia on the Mekong River.

On the way we view a bit more of daily life.  School is out and some girls are in the traditional ào dái dress, used as uniforms in the school. They are heading towards the local ferry which will take them home.  A lot of life takes place on the river; they are so dependent on it.  

We arrive to the Dong Nam Hotel in Chau Doc.  I take a shower and again get on the bus to go to dinner at a local family’s house.  It’s actually a bakery by day and at night she hosts small dinners for tourists.  I try taro and rice soup –purple in color with what to me was a pretty strange taste.   Egg noodle with seafood –great.  Stir-fried morning glory (a plant not the same as the one in the US which is not edible) –delicious!   Catfish cooked in a clay pot –good.

When we arrive it was pouring. First downpour in almost 20 days of travel. It reminded me so much of the storms that hit Asunción and used to scare my mom so much. Ay Vietnam, what are you doing to me?  You have generated so many memories!

The rain brings in a visitor that was not invited to the table.    Mom did not like them; I liked them less.  She got accustomed to them; my aversion got stronger.

Back to the hotel.  The rain is steady and strong and turns into the prequel of dreams of times long gone.

Categories: BLT+ (Burma) Myanmar, Cantho, Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Long Xuyen, Ramblings, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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