Tuesday, April 01, 2008


The more I travel the world, the more I'm noticeably hampered by my near-vegetarianism. I've been a near-vegetarian for years: since I began eating fish again around my nineteenth birthday. For a whole decade before that I'd been a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian. Back then, I would feel guilty whenever my dietary choices meant my friends had to alter their dining plans to include me. This guilt has never really gone away. Added to that, I hear about the fabulous exotic dining opportunities in each new culture I find myself visiting, but I'm still limited to the salmon salad while my friends are ordering cabrito, or barbacoa, or Kobe beef. There's a restaurant down the street from my apartment offering field rat and bat. I've finally gotten tired of feeling left out. I've gotten tired of worrying if the soup I'm eating is made from beef stock, if the flavoring in the sauce is chicken, or maybe ox. But I wasn't going to let my near-vegetarianism lapse with a sissy whimper. I'm in Vietnam for cryin' out loud. I know it'll make me a little sick, but I can't change a nearly twenty-year lifestyle by dining on a chicken. As you know, Tuesdays are Ms. Hương's night to come and cook dinner. Usually, we send her a text message the day before to plan the menu. Yesterday, after we asked her to cook us a dog, she actually called back. Dog is pretty rare around southern Vietnam, often only eaten around lunar holidays and at the beginning of the month. Since today was both a holiday and a beginning, there was no problem getting dog meat to cook. It wasn't delicious--greasy and tough and since, the whole place smells like glazed dog. Tomorrow, I'm getting a damn chicken. [Cavin]

Monday, March 31, 2008


I spent all this weekend (it seems) working on photos to upload onto the web. This built up a little momentum, so I already have more pictures to announce. This speediness isn't all momentum, sadly: there wasn't all that much work to do. I opened my files from the wedding ceremony of my good friends Ellie and Dan to discover that all my pictures suck. I was afraid of that. Sure, I'd looked them over the day after I took them. I then packed them onto an external hard drive, put that snugly into a suitcase, and then moved out of the country. I knew these wedding pictures would be there when I needed them. Well, they were and they weren't. The most striking thing about this wedding, back in October 2007, was that it was oriented in a way that reddish-gold beams from the setting sun cut dramatically across the fetching courtyard at the O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro, NC. Beautiful for the photographer, but the death knell for picturing lively subjects before a quickly dimming color-changing backlight. I had a wonderful time that day, mostly missing between the few decent photos I walked away with. If what I did here seems peculiar, well, it's because a bunch of blurry, underexposed pictures can look halfway presentable if viewed small enough. So, aside from six or eight pictures I got pretty early on during the ceremony, I have collaged an uneven mix of whatever other faces I managed to capture before the light totally left me--which also ultimately left out such important attendees as the mother and brother of the bride, the sister and brother of the groom, and many, many dear friends and family besides. Oops. A much more thorough wedding presentation can be found here. [Cavin]

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Sunshine has a head cold. This hasn't prevented her from doing some very interesting things over the last few days (like going to the hospital today and observed several knee- and hip-replacement surgeries connected with some current altruistic medical something-or-other). What it's prevented is our being too adventuresome in whatever spare time we've had together this weekend. Mostly, we've been making soup and watching TV. Since Thursday afternoon, with more free hours than normal after the fire drill,* I've spent my alone time crafting and uploading photographs to Flickr. See here. It seems insupportably absurd for me to be spending these Ho Chi Minh City days lovingly processing photos I took last summer in the Eden Center Shopping Complex, the "little Vietnam" located at Seven Corners in Falls Church, Virginia. All the while I've been putting-off those photos I've taken of big Vietnam outside. But that's what I've done. On that particular Saturday, back in 2007, Sunshine had scheduled a telephone interview with a Venezuelan beauty queen in conjunction with her project, so I cleared out of our little apartment unit, and walked down the block to the local Vietnamese-American strip mall. I only had an hour, and didn't have any sort of plan, so I took pictures I deemed to be "beauty themed" in accordance with overall swing of the day. Sort of an art project, I guess. I cannot imagine that this theme-oriented idea would have even occurred to me, or been so faithfully adhered to, if Eden Center were not sprinkled liberally with hair-and-nail beauty salons and facial clinics offering "permanent make-up" to walk-in customers, arranged chockablock with dessert counters and restaurants. Now these photos are out of the way, and I'm one step closer (really, one step away) from posting actual Viet Nam pictures. [Cavin]