all the colors of the rainbow

Once again, web mail bit me. I was just going to copy a lovely piece of mail I wrote when a glitch hit and I lost it all. I cannot write my mail in notepad and then paste it because all my Mac readers get gobbletygook!

Remember green? That lovely green that is on the color wheel but not seen in real life? It is identical to the color of a rice paddy that is 2 weeks old. The purest, most irridescent green I ever saw and it surrounds us.

And the Vietnamese are not afraid of color. Brilliant pinks and reds and blues. Wild flowing flowery fabrics. All mixed up and beautiful. Yes, they also wear black pajamas but that is not all they wear.

The ethnic minorities are especially colorful. Red Dzao women shave their heads and eyebrows when they get married and wear a collection of 6 or 7 scarves on their heads that form a large, elaborate headress. These are embroidered by hand and each layer has meaning. The various sub-groups of hill tribes are so named because of the clothing they wear: Flower Hmong, Red Dzao, White Thai, Black Hmong, Black Thai, White Hmong, etc. It is beautiful to see.

While I suffered through 36 hours of food poisoning, Toby got to go 3 hours upcountry to a Sunday market where 9 different hilltribes shop. He was the only tourist there, he and Khanh and Mr. Cuong sat and watched. No one tried to sell them anything because this was THEIR market for gossipping and shopping. Everyone dresses in their finest and goes to town. Town, well, that is a stretch. The last 25km took an hour over the biggest bumps he ever saw.

Silence: you think you know but you don’t, not really. After 9/11, I thought I knew a little better because there were no planes in the sky and it was almost spooky. But here there are no long distance truckers. No people out late. No planes in the sky. Absolute, total silence when we wake at 2, 3 or 4AM. As dawn approaches, roosters wake, dogs and once in a blue moon, there is a cat fight. True silence, you can hear insects or a mouse, were there one around. It is very, very neat.

The opposite of silence: loudspeakers. The Communists have wired the country. At 5:45AM, noon and 7PM these loudspeakers blat the weather, news, and any other public information they feel is relevant. It lasts about an hour. It is very bad luck to live near one of these. I have noticed that in the hill tribe communities, I don’t hear them so maybe a few people have cut the wires. And maybe the officials haven’t noticed. And our hotels have generally not been near them, so has been a distant sound for us. But mostly the gov’t is intent on having these things used.

Weather is very vague. American weather forecasters have earned a new respect from me, who didn’t have a lot of interest in the weather before. The TV gives the weather every day, for the north is is 34-80 degrees. Period. No fronts, nothing more specific, sometimes they will have a cloud picture so you know it might be cloudy. But then again, it is cloudy every day. Plus the north is HUGE. From mountains to the sea. I really know how to dress here with such a huge temperature range!

We are about to enter Ba Be National Park for a few days and then go to the eastern part of the border with China–the Bac Po area in Cao Bang Province. I am sure there will be no internet.

Hope you are all well, we will be thinking of you!