01 February 2006

Last Angkor Note / TET

There was one truly upsetting sight in the temples; that of the decapitated statues. One after one, outside and inside the temples, nearly all their heads had been sheared off and taken as booty. It was most unsettling. I tried to imagine how the looters could have defiled the figures in such a way, and not felt like they had just maimed someone.

I then started to notice the replicated Buddha heads used as decoration or sold as souvenirs and felt ill. These are the same heads we have all seen printed on t-shirts or sitting in restaurants, but never before had I realized that they were representations of temple robbers.

Back in Vietnam, 28 January was the first day of Tet/Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year. I was able to see the midnight fireworks from my apartment. In fact I could see three different displays. I liked the fact that I was very far away. (fireworks scare me).

That morning, I’d run to the supermarket to stock up, knowing that stores and businesses would be closed for the three days of Tet. Having forgotten juice, I managed to make it to my local corner shop just as they were rolling down the metal gate at noon. It wasn’t until later that evening that I realized I had forgotten to ask them to deliver my 20 liter bottle of water. I had visions of boiling gallons of water for the next few days.

It turned out that there were a few of the Korean owned, mini-marts open, so I was able to purchase as many 2 liter bottles of water as I wanted, and paid three times the price of my big bottle.

I had missed a lot of the festivities leading up to Tet, but thought I could get into town on the second or third day to see things. It was not to be. The shuttle bus I take was off for the holidays, and I didn’t feel like forking out all that money for a taxi in two directions. However, I must say that life at the homestead has been very nice indeed.

My whole neighborhood has turned into a ghost town, the best part being that there is no construction going on. So far, it has been five days of silence. I had thought everything would be closed for three days, but now I’m not so sure. The post office was open today, but the bank was not. The supermarket opened for half a day, but had no produce. I still have an apple left, but have had no veggies since returning from Cambodia. So it’s tofu and rice for another day.

Hundreds of potted plants and trees adorn all the entrances to the apartment complexes here, as well as in front of all businesses. Lots of flowering yellow trees and chrysanthemums, and other plants I recognize but don’t know their names. Some trees have red money envelopes attached to their branches, and lots of houses have hung red lanterns out front. It would have been nice to go to the Chinese areas in town to see the lion and dragon dancers and all the decorations, but I just wasn’t able to do it.

The house across the street was finished in time for Tet and the family, with the minimal of household effects, moved in Saturday morning. The main workers had finished a few weeks ago. I have been following their progress since I moved here, and was dismayed to see that not only had they moved on, but their entire, makeshift housing complex had been completely dismantled and removed in a matter of hours. I didn’t even see them do it which, for some reason, bothered me. I had been following their lives from afar for over three months. Then, for a period of about three hours I didn’t look out the window, and when I did, there was no trace that they had ever even been there. It was a very strange feeling.

All and all, it seems that the Year of the Dog is getting off to an auspicious start.
Prosperity and health for all.