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Published: February 24th 2009
My friend F would sometimes remark that it was turtles all the way down. Here's how Stephen Hawking explains the origin of this phrase: A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
Today I walked the Temple of Literature (Van Mieu). It's the country's first university and is almost a thousand years old. Last time I visited USSH, the rector referred to his school as the contemporary expression of that institution. When men graduated, their names were carved on stone stelae that are now mounted on the backs of
stone turtles. Indeed, turtles abound at the temple, some supporting stelae, some that are dragons with shells, and many with cranes standing on their backs.
You may recognize some of the Edward Gorey-esque birds. I use one as my avatar on a book review site.
It's not as easy to find NGOs and non-profits in Viet Nam as in Cambodia, but they're there if you keep looking. I visited Craft Link
's store near the temple. they work with NGOs like CARE, the United Nation Drug Control Program and Oxfam--Hong Kong on poverty eradication.
I walked on to the Viet Nam UNAIDS
office. I had a nice conversation with a staff member who told me that a new and more positive set of statistics for HIV in Viet Nam. We discussed several programs that are currently being used here, including some needle exchanges and methadone treatment. They were generous with materials. UNAIDS isn't looking for volunteers, but you can watch for job postings and find volunteer sites with direct service organizations.
I headed in the other direction toward Cafe Mai again. I had a cup of aliculi coffee, which one person online asserts is synthetic fox coffee, but
I can't confirm it. It was a little bitter in small sips, but sweet and somewhat chocolaty on the finish. A larger taste was sweet in the front of the mouth but not syrupy, a little bitter on the palate but otherwise smooth. I'll compare it to the Legendee at Trung Nguyen later.
At Wild Lotus, I had some very nice spring rolls with shrimp and mango, paired with an absolutely delicious clay pot tofu and mushrooms (it had fish balls in it, too, which enhanced the flavor but which I didn't care for in and of themselves, so I didn't eat them). I finished with banana with pandanus dip. I'm only sorry that some of you weren't there to share it with me. Write me a note--I'm a little bit lonely today.
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