Thursday, February 24, 2011

Đà Nẵng February 20-21

Friday evening we arrived in Đà Nẵng for a few days with Fr. Bình’s family. The house where he was born is tucked into a neighborhood like most others, but inside had more than average space, which was necessary for his parents to rear him and his 10 brothers and sisters. We met his brother-in-law, Luan, who lives in Oregon, but still owns a bakery in his neighborhood run by his daughter and son-in-law. Luan was back in Vietnam (like a lot of people) for the Lunar New Year. Fr. Bình’s niece, Suong, and her husband, Qua, live in the family home with their two beautiful children. They run a hair salon in the front. It is quite common for families to run a shop of some kind in the front of their house (homes are side by side along the city streets, usually sharing a wall). In American city planning this would be called “mixed-use”. But it means that everything is close. You know your neighbor who cuts hair, or has a diner, or sells motorcycle helmets, or has an internet café, or operates a travel agency out of is home.

After dinner Fr. Bình wanted to show Sr. May, Huong and myself “The Lonely Madonna”. It is a shrine to Mary out by the water front that is enough by itself, not attached to a church, that she looks alone. We went there to pray. There are signs of prayer from flowers, incense sticks and “thank you” messages inscribed in stone for prayers answered.

The next day we visited the cemetery to pay respects to Fr. Bình’s father’s and his eldest brother’s graves. Then, Sunday afternoon, Fr. Bình and I con-celebrated Mass at his home parish. It was nice to see him walk down the street in his old neighborhood and hear people call his name.

We flew out late Monday night to Saigon to prepare for a Wednesday night departure. But there was 24 hours left and opportunity to do more charity work across the Mekong River southwest of Saigon.

The Lonely Madonna, named for its location all by itself near the sea. This shrine is a famous local landmark. We went there to pray.

Visiting the grave of Anton Hoang, Fr. Bình’s father. We also went to pray at the grave of Fr. Bình’s eldest brother who died this past year. In Vietnam it is customary to leave burning incense sticks as well as flowers at a grave. One usually has enough sticks to then place them at other graves nearby.

Standing at the grave of Anton Hoang are Huong, Sr. May, Fr. Bình, his brother-in-law, Luan, and me. Photo taken by Qua, the husband Fr. Bình’s niece.

Sr. May drives the motorcycle. Everyone needs to be able to operate a motorcycle as it is the primary mode of transportation.

Since the motorcycle is the only mode of transport for most people, one needs to be able to balance many different items on the back (and front, and sides).

Fr. Bình’s home parish.

A shrine to St. Peter is on the property because this is a fishing town with excellent seafood. In fact, Fr. Bình’s Christian name is Peter.

Every parish seems to have an outdoor shrine to the Blessed Mother.

At our last dinner in Đà Nẵng we enjoyed a local favorite, broken pot rice. It is more crispy on the edges. See video.

The presentation of broken pot rice, a Đà Nẵng specialty.

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