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I’ve been in Việt Nam for almost a month, and I have yet to take a single picture. I find myself 100% incapable of even taking my camera out in public, and even if I did, I know that I’d never have the guts to actually point it at anything.

I had this same problem when I lived in Germany. Ask anyone in my family about my time in Hamburg, and they’ll probably rant about how the only pictures I ever posted were of graffiti. I never took pictures of monuments, parks, natural wonders, anything that normal tourists take pictures of. Instead, all my photos were either of run-down buildings, tags, pieces, or sidewalks.

Graffiti Piece from MSP

Typical picture taken by me. This one is actually from Minneapolis.

Why do I suffer from an inability to take pictures – at lest normal pictures – in public? Read the rest of this entry »


Finally I have a chance to write about Vietnamese folk poems, or ca dao. These are poems straight from the oral tradition: we don’t know their authors (if they have authors), and we don’t know their history.

Ca Dao: Vietnamese Folk Poetry

Cao Dao: A Gorgeous Book Which I Do Not Own

Interestingly, the folk poems I’ve come across are very different from Vietnamese folktales. Vietnamese folklore – as well as much Asian folklore in general – has always impressed me with its strong female protagonists. Yet the ca dao has a different view of women, one more simplified and directly tied to romantic love. Take this poem, for example, which first appeared in English in 1995 and was translated by Linda Dinh:

Wobbly, like a hat without a strap,
Like a boat without a rudder
Like a woman without a husband.
A married woman, like a shackle around the neck.
An unmarried woman, like a board with a loose nail.
A board with a loose nail a man can fix.
The unmarried woman runs this way, runs that way.
It is miserable to be without a husband, Sisters!

Now what are we to make of this? Read the rest of this entry »

January 2019
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