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Sorry for the long delay in updating the blog. It is not because the newness has worn off. To the contrary, things just keep getting better and better as I continue my awesome journey as a Cultural Ambassador for the Fulbright Scholar Program and Texas State University (Go Cats!). It's that I've been crazy busy!! I have now been in country for 53 days!! Can you can believe it?! To date, I have taken a whopping 4878 photos!!!! Wowser! That is no exaggeration folks. Boy am I glad we now have digital cameras! So I spend a bunch of time processing raw data images. One of these days I'll get around to putting some up on the of these days.

Topic Today: Here be dragons.  There are six iconic symbols/animals that seem to be associated with Vietnamese culture: Heron, Phoenix, Turtle, Frog, Dog, and Dragon. These are deeply rooted in mythology and lore, religion, and legend. Ask any three Vietnamese about any of these creatures and you'll get three different opinions/stories/purposes/myths/legends. What I can tell you is this: they are ubiquitous. Generally I see the heron standing on the back of the turtle, the heron and the turtle standing by themselves, the dog by it's self or with a puppy, frogs alone or copulating (sign of fertility), phoenix by itself or with a dragon, and dragons alone or in pairs. When dragons are in pairs they are generally poised on each side of a full moon, which is above both dragons.

Now anyone who knows me well, knows that dragons and I go waaayyy back and dragons be my favorite. Soooo, I am all about checking out the dragons, and I'm here to tell you: Viet Nam LOVES dragons. The Vietnamese name mountain ranges after them: For example, the Lying Dragon Mountains in Ninh Binh province in the north of Viet Nam (about 2 hours south of Ha Noi). It is said that when the clouds of winter hang on the peaks of this particular mountain range, it appears that a lying dragon sleeps. I have seen these mountains (and so have you if you have seen the iconic movie Kong: Skull Island - every mountain you see in the movie was filmed in and around the Van Long nature reserve in Ninh Binh province) and if you squint your eyes and will see the dragon...I'll be posting pictures to the blog soon. The Vietnamese decorate temples with them, feature them in parades, use them in advertising, and name fruit after them: Dragon Fruit (thanh long) and Dragon Eyes (long nhãn) -both are scrumptious btw, Given all this attention to dragons, I was compelled to ask around in an attempt to establish how they came to be such a prominent part of the culture that is Viet Nam. Here is my favorite response: 

Viet Nam has many rivers and deltas. Viet Nam also has two native species of crocodile: the smaller Siamese crocodile and the ginormous saltwater crocodile. Crocodiles are, by nature, associated with water. When crocodiles swim, they move like a snake and we believe that crocodiles are Giao Long, the first dragons. They bring the rains. Now, I have to admit that every time it rains and I look toward the skies or around me, I see dragons everywhere...on the tops of buildings, along stairs, holding up drums, at the entrance to parks, and on a multitude of bags, billboards, and clothing. So maybe they do bring the rains...But then...I do like my dragons and when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

Until next time...Tam biet!

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