March 31, 2013

Santa Barbara Middle School - Memories from the Past

By Alex

Today, we went to a Buddhist temple. When we got to the courtyard before the temple entrance, we bought
birds for 20,000 dong (1 dollar) each and set them free and said a prayer for good luck. We had to take off our shoes before we walked inside. When we did, we saw dozens of people praying to three giant Buddhas, with three monks leading the prayer. I took a stick of incense and walked around. In the back of the room, there were three altars with pictures and items that had connections to their ancestors. Our presents were girl scout cookies, which we placed on their alter, something that families have to show respect to the deaths of family members. On an alter, there is normally food, pictures, or the family member's favorite objects. 

We then went to my mom's old neighborhood. We got to meet people like her close neighbor, the new owners (Communist generals from the North) who took over her old house, and her childhood best friend. It was uncomfortable for the group because she was emotional, but at the same time, I was happy for my mom. I could imagine my mom greeting those people every morning and going to school with her friend. We got to walk around her old house too. Although it was very renovated and new, there was one screen door on the ceiling of the kitchen that my mom recognized and was really happy about. A street vender came and we ate this tofu in hot thin caramel, which added to the overall experience.  Afterwards, we went and had a buffet lunch at the hotel, which was average, but my mom told us her entire story of leaving Vietnam and escaping communism. One of my favorite parts of the trip so far was going to the market for an hour, and walking around with a partner. The market was giant, with stores of all kinds. There were food stores with sea food (smelled bad), snacks, candy, and drinks. Zac and I bought a drink right off the bat because there were so many people in one building. My goal was to find something I wanted, and to bargain it down to a really cheap price, even if it was already reasonable. Soon enough, I found a soccer jersey. The original price was 350,000 dong (around 18 dollars), and after a lot of "argument" and the unsheathing of my two dollar bill (worth more than just two dollars) I got the price down to 220,000 dong (11 dollars) which happened to be all the money I had. Zac got some post cards, and the other boys got fake Rolex watches for like 10 dollars. We left, and had a free evening to do whatever we wanted. Sarina, Jennie, my dad, mom and my sister, and Kelly got massages. Apparently they were a unique cultural experience. Meanwhile, everyone else went to the Stark Tower (in the Avengers and Iron Man) and ate dinner. It was a very good day.

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