Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Sunday night we went to a public Mid-Autumn Festival celebration in the large park off Hai Bà Trưng Street near the top corner of District One. For a few weeks now, vendors have been setting up temporary stores around town selling Mooncakes and Mid-Autumn toys. These toys are mostly also lanterns, taking the forms of inflated fish or five-pointed stars or even lanterns. It's easy to tell which stores are temporary Mid-Autumn Festival stores (and which toys are the appropriate toys) because they are all bright orange. Along Hai Bà Trưng, or here and there up Nguyễn Thái Học Street, or anywhere else, long orange stalls have appeared overnight selling a vast array of each: toy lanterns in orange bags and Mooncakes in orange trays. Mooncakes are heavy ornate bricks of bread, roughly four by four, with the half-glazed look of wet bagels. Inside they're stuffed with candied fruits and beans and nuts and whatnot in a nearly endless assortment of permutations. The ones I've tried seemed faintly fermented, their tops marked A4 in red dye. The toy lanterns all have flashlight handles and run on AAA batteries. These stores look for all the world like drugstore Halloween aisles: rows of seasonal candy and trick-or-treat gizmos. By the time we got to the park Sunday night, we'd already passed several dozen delighted children toting lanterns, canvassing the neighborhoods around our apartment, looking for all the world like trick-or-treaters themselves. My homesick started aching a little in anticipation of next month, when I'll be here and Halloween will be back home. But I was excited too. At the park, technicians were setting up the stage show: three Miss Earth contestants handing out toys to needy orphans. Kids with lanterns teemed, oddly transgressive in the light of their battery-powered traditions. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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