A Holy Cave: The Perfume Pagoda

Birds sing merrily in the trees that overhang the murky water.

The sun beams warmly down on the little rowboat that makes it’s tedious way up the river. The oars creak loudly, but except for that sound and the birds, all is still. Around us, a few other boats row peacefully up the Perfume River. There aren’t half as many now as there will be in the spring, when thousands of Vietnamese make a pilgrimage to the Perfume Pagoda. For now, it is calm. Our guide peeks out from beneath her wide umbrella to smile at us. She’s been telling us Vietnamese legends the entire ride.

An Artist And A New Name

In the corner of one room, an old man sits cross-legged on his mat, painting. His face is wrinkled, and his stringy gray hair is held back by a traditional hat. Absorbed in his work, he carefully brushes coal-black paint across the rice paper. Slowly, a powerful horse begins to take shape, flowing from the artist’s brush. Glancing up at me, he notices at last that I’m still here. He smiles kindly, and pats the space next to him on the mat. “You watch long time! Sit here!” I move to join him, and he shows me how he carefully wipes the brush after dipping it into the pot so that he won’t blot the page. I nod, and smile. He speaks a few words of my language, I speak none of his. Communication is hard, but not impossible.

Of Vietnam, Zombies, And Mayhem

It’s a morning of mayhem and madness.

I lose my hairbrush. Twice. Elisha has trouble holding down his hardboiled egg, and Ezra is grumpy as a result of getting up so early. Mom questions whether I really need my guitar, if maybe I should bring the mandolin instead. Dad announces that our driver has arrived almost forty minutes too early, and Mom accidentally dumps half a gallon of water across the kitchen. At 4:30 AM, none of us are particularly patient.

These are the things no one thinks of when they think of our lives. I think. The ridiculously early mornings, the times things go horribly wrong, the miserable moments that somehow become the best stories later on.