My Trumpatorium was successful. My mind and spirit are still mostly in Southeast Asia where I found the people, the land and most of the food to be congenial, beautiful and calming. Back at home, I was able to listen to Trump making uncalled for and childish remarks about “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren when presenting the Navajo code talkers with medals for their service in WWII without wishing for a meteor to obliterate Our Fearless Tweeter.
Being in Southeast Asia a week ahead of the Teflon President’s arrival helped with my month-long Trumpatorium. In Hanoi there is an unrestricted flow of constantly moving life. In a city with few marked lanes and very few signaled intersections, gazillions of scooters flow purposefully, maneuvering around each other, turning in front of each other and yet not colliding. Older women in peaked bamboo hats wheel bicycles laden with products to sell through the flow of scooters. People make room for each other. Even the houses encourage flow—tall, very narrow, multi-storied houses, pastel-stuccoed and French provincial in design where families live together with grandparents on the bottom floor, the next generation on the second floor and the newest generation with their babies and strong legs on the top floor. They help each other, flow upstairs and down between floors and generations. Doors in buildings, like our hotel, don’t face each other across the corridor. Instead, according to tribal custom, they are angled away from each other to prevent arguing. Living together and yet making room for differences. So different from our country.
Unlike the cities in China, it’s quiet in Hanoi—quiet in the airport, quiet in the streets despite the scooters which dispense a constant drone of sound, quiet voices everywhere. If someone is talking loudly, they are probably Chinese tourists, not Viets or Thai. Most of the scooter riders wear cotton masks in colorful prints over their nose and mouth. Out of the Hanoi gloom comes a scooter bearing a woman shrouded in headdress, mask, long sleeved flowing top and long skirt—all in the same white cotton flowered print. Despite the flowers she looks like a ghost.
Tony, our guide, takes us to see Uncle Ho’s mausoleum, which is closed at this time of year, every year, for repair. The modern, spare lines of the mausoleum face ornate yellow stucco French-influenced buildings across the rectangle with some Zen-type gardens thrown in the mix. We go to the Presidential Palace park where another, ornate, yellow stucco building announces its use for government. But Uncle Ho didn’t like using the former French governor’s palace and the cement, almost windowless building he preferred, is behind the palace. The wooden stilt house built for Ho fronting the lake, has a clean, minimalist look too, but much more welcoming. Lots of windows. I like it very much, even though it’s connected by a tunnel to a bunker. I like what I’ve learned in the past month at home about Uncle Ho too. Idealistic, simple, focused.
On the flip side, we visit several pagodas and the University of Literature, first college in Vietnam. The altars are heaped with bananas and tobacco, soft drinks and packages of sweets. Buddha likes bananas, Tony tells us and most of the bananas grown in the area are for Buddha, not for eating. There are tiny birds imprisoned by the dozen in small cages for people trying to earn merit to purchase and set free in the temple area. The people who catch and imprison the birds are not doing a merit worthy thing so I would expect their karma to be awful as compared to the people who set the birds free.Seems counter productive to me. Definitely greed inspired, not Buddha-inspired.