Unbundled incense


In his year-end Opinion, David Brooks of the NYTimes recited a story about people in Louisiana who had lighted a candle for neighbor’s graves.

This year-end here in Vietnam, I saw just that and more…incense, flowers and fruit.

People are either already home or on the way. They cook, clean and cater to many needs, among them, lighting neighbor’s graves.

A girl still in helmet, with parked scooter by her side, spent a silent moment praying, Then she would visit nearby lots, perhaps people she used to know from her village church.

In life and in death. You are not forgotten. A form of social immortality.

I read about a sinking commercial cruise, with captain and his crew escaped first to safety.

Would you want to ever step on one of those “luxury” cruises?

Living in style, dying solo.

I tried to nap today when neighbor knocked on my door to see if I were OK

(perhaps he was “xin” – beer + heat exhaustion). Then the Lion dance team went around the entire block reminding us this is their year, the year of the Dragon.

Flower Festival proudly displays mighty Dragon in all shapes and sizes, Vietnam’s version of Rose Parade.

Young girls pose for photo-ops, maybe later seen on Facebook or scrap-book.

The Earth seems to rumble.

People chat up with “natives”, knowing that whoever is left in Saigon, is from there (as opposed to workers, students and relatives who have gone home to their respective villages in the countryside).

City folks or country folks, everyone is gearing up to give and receive.

The gift baskets, the flower bouquets and the sticky “banh chung” (rice cake) have been delivered. Water melon (whose inside is red, signifying good luck), blossomed Hoa Mai and kumquat trees are on firesales.

Vietnamese talk about “khong khi Tet” – the taste, texture and ambience of Tet.

A sense of utter confidence that Heaven and Earth are in alignment and agreement to bless the pure of heart.

I can’t find no further evidence than someone who stood silently at an isolated grave, then lighted up incense for neighbor’s graves. Candles or incense, US or VN, we all long to live the rest of our lives the best way we know how and periodically to celebrate it the best way we can. Here, this way, is  familiar to most, but somehow, vaguely strange to me. I, however, found one constant: ABBA‘s Happy New Year played over and over to welcome the  Year of the Dragon. Tung Cheng! Tung Cheng! Tung Cheng!

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