Saturday, October 29, 2011

So You Want to Visit Ireland?

Well, the perfect opportunity has arrived to learn about a special part of that fascinating place.
Rosamund Burton is the author of the recently released Castles, Follies and Four-Leaf Clovers, a beautiful journey along St. Declan's way in rural Ireland.

Rosamund will be giving an illustrated talk about her book at Leichhardt Library on Tuesday 8 November.

The talk will include a Powerpoint presentation, so there’ll be lots of photographs of Ireland looking beautiful.

Her perspective is truly unique, and I have learned so much about Ireland both from reading her book and hearing her speak. So do go along and hear her and see some of the wonderful photographs that show the journey behind the book.


Piazza Level, Italian Forum
23 Norton Street, Leichhardt NSW
6.30-8pm, Tues 8 Nov

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Monk in Mis-Matched Robes

Here is a photograph of a young monk in Quy Nhon. The monk's robe is mismatched. If you know anything about Buddhism in Vietnam, his outfit is a bit of an enigma, and I wrote about him in Destination Saigon:

"At this point a very short young novice shuffled past the Abbott’s office. He was wearing the usual brown pyjamas that represent the everyday uniform of monks everywhere in Vietnam. But across his shoulders he’d thrown a saffron robe of the type and colour usually associated with Theravadin monks. He was wearing it in the manner of a shawl or scarf, and seemed quite confident in this sartorially peculiar combination. Thay Quang, the new arrival, nearly choked on his sweet green tea, and called out for the young monk to come back to the office this second. Thay Chau, the Abbott in charge, merely beamed happily at his young charge.

“What on earth do you have on, monk?” Thay Quang demanded. “You look like a Theravadin! You’re not meant to have that on! Take it off right now.”

The young monk, not at all concerned, tossed one of the ends of the robe across his throat and marched off, completely disregarding his senior. Thay Quang’s eyes bugged out, and he turned to the Abbott. “What in God’s name is he wearing that for?”

Thay Chau chuckled and said, “Oh, he’s back from a holiday in Thailand and it’s just a little thing he’s picked up.”

“But a monk just can’t wear whatever he likes! What will the lay people say?”

“Oh, they like it – they say it looks handsome.”

“Handsome!” snorted Thay Quang. “What a disobedient child he is. You really should try to control these young monks more.”

“Oh, no harm done. He’s quite charming, really. It doesn’t matter if he wants to dress his habit up a little.”"

Friday, October 14, 2011

Spirit Shrines

The spirit is ever-present in Vietnam – even on street corners in sophisticated downtown Saigon you will come across these small shrines dedicated to the wandering ghosts and the spirits of place.

These shrines are actively tended by people in the community who offer fruit and incense every day.

This is a humble example from Tan Binh District in suburban Ho Chi Minh City. In the countryside, especially in central Vietnam, the spirit houses become larger, more colourful and elaborate.

This speaks to an ancient animist tradition that still holds great sway in Vietnam.

Streets and suburbs are possessed of their own protective spirits, but even more so are mountains, old trees and waterfalls.

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