Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A down day in Nha Trang

My parents left today, and I confess I am feeling melancholy about it. Their flight leaves Nha Trang in a few minutes and we won't see them again until May.

Noah and I also had a bit of tummy trouble today. Nothing serious, but we just didn't feel up to speed. So we skipped the trip to the aquarium and spent the last couple of hours lying in our room watching Animal Planet on tv. For lunch, Nguyen brought us a couple of loaves of French bread, right from the oven. They were still warm and were a great choice.

This has been an extraordinary trip so far. We have packed our days, and today was no exception. Before they left for the airport, we went with my parents to the Cham temple at the top of the hill in the neighborhood we are in. It is a beautiful place. The towers are from the 9th century and 4 of the 8 of them survive. Originally Hindu, they are now a mixture of Hindu and Buddhist. Inside each tower is a diety, to which pilgrims light incense and leave offerings. 3 of the towers are really small, and one is quite large. I left my shoes at the door of one of the small ones, as requested, and entered. It was filled with incense smoke and the interior walls were black from 11 centuries of smoke. The diety presiding inside was a stone depiction of a woman, I think, who was dressed in actual cloth clothing. The incense sticks were in a package next to a burner filled with sand, so I drew one out and said a little prayer to my God for the safe travel of my parents, and my thanks for such a wonderful, life changing trip. Then I lit the stick and poked it in the sand with the dozens of others.

Outside one of the towers, a trio of Cham musicians were playing. There was a flute player and two drummers playing traditional Cham drums. The drums intriqued me, of course. They are wooden cylinders, about 2 1/2 feet long. The musicians play both ends at once. On one end, they use a stick.... on the other, their hand. During a break, I squatted beside them and peppered them with questions, which Nguyen translated. The drums they were playing were so old they had no idea when they were made. The end they play with sticks is made of buffalo hide. The other end is goatskin. The ropes holding the heads on are also buffalo. The drums sounded beautiful. I asked one of the drummers if he knew of anyone still making these drums and it turned out that his brother does. Unfortunately, the brother lives in the mountains, several days journey away, so there is no way I can buy one. I said I would love to take a lesson from him some day. He said he would teach me to play and then make a recording for me so I could practice. Just like Sidy!

I asked the drummers if the rhythms had dances associated with them. At that, the drummers called over several women who were dressed in traditional highland garb. They began to play a different rhythm and the women danced for us. We were simply thrilled. Like African music, the rhythm changed in the song to indicate a change in dance steps. And like African music, the two drums were playing different rhythms which layered together into a very complex and beautiful piece.

Nguyen took a ton of photos, so as soon as we are home I'll post some of them. Talking with those Cham drummers was really a highlight for me!

But my tummy is still bothering me and my parents left today. I am going to miss them terribly.

1 comment:

Judith said...

Hi Rachel,

I have so enjoyed your travel diary! What a blessing to be able to spend time in a place so foreign to most of us. I can't wait for the photos!