Thursday, July 19, 2012

Very Vietnamese

I love the tradition of buying souvenirs. It's one of those lovely concepts that benefits everyone involved. When I'm the lucky traveler, I enjoy the process of searching out small tokens for the people on my list, taking care to find something that is just right for each one. And what about that process of opening up your suitcase when you finally reach home, and digging out the little treasures and passing them around? So fun.

But I also love to be on the receiving end of a souvenir exchange. While the person is away, I take great pleasure hearing little hints and clues about what they might have bought for me; the anticipation and excitement fills in whatever loneliness I might feel in their absence. And it's so great to finally see what they chose for you - I find it interesting to see what a person in my life thinks I will enjoy.

My daughter returned home from a month's stay in Vietnam yesterday, and right away we had a lovely souvenir ceremony. She unpacked bags and bags of gifts for us - Vietnamese candies and cookies, sparkly colored pens, tiny coffee pots and a couple pairs of Asian flip-flop socks. Dying. I love those little pockets for just your big toe and I put them on right away. So fun.

In addition to the family gifts, my daughter chose several special items just for me. Does she know I love anything that is colorful and bright? Is she aware of my fondness for things that are handmade from fabric? Has it crossed her mind that her mother is obsessed with garlands of all types?

Yes, yes and yes. 

She knows me pretty darn well.

It's awfully hard to trump a sweet bird garland, but an elephant coin purse might have what it takes. Right after whales, elephants are my most favorite animal. And I love everything about this little darling, from her pom-pom-covered hat to her curly pink trunk to those floppy long mismatched legs. 

At this point in the festivities, I was more than satisfied with my gifts. Both are adorable, happy additions to my life; they each give me a Vietnamese vibe that will forever remind me of my daughter's trip to Asia.

But at the very bottom of the biggest suitcase, there was still one more gift for me. A pair of glossy oversize Vietnamese postcards.

Well. I've already explained how I feel about postcards. I love to make them, I love to send them, I love to get them in the mail. More than any other gift or souvenir, I appreciate a picture postcard as the perfect token of a faraway land.

Look at these two cards: I see a cool aerial view of a crazy crowded street scene, people on motor scooters zooming all around a couple huge buses and some cars. I've heard a lot about the insane traffic in Danang, and this gives me a perfect picture of what the chaos is all about.

The other card reveals the natural side of Vietnam. Setting sun, gentle water, bobbing boats - this scene shows me the peace and timeless beauty of the countryside. Paired with the city scene, these two cards teach me volumes about the different lifestyles of the Vietnamese people, and that fascinates me.

I love that these cards came in heavy plastic protective sleeves. It shows me the pride of the people who made and sold these cards, their respect for their country, and their desire to present this beauty as flawlessly as possible to the people who visit them and buy these cards. While I'm not normally a fan of plastic-coated anything, I think it is a very sweet gesture and I plan to keep the cards in the sleeves for a while.

So there you have it, three lovely gifts from my world traveler. I love them all because they are so cute and pretty in their own right, because my darling daughter chose them just for me, and maybe most of all, I love them because they are so very Vietnamese.

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