January 3rd, 2010

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Jan 3 Epiphany Sunday

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

The 9.30 a.m. English service mass at the Notre Dame de Saigon was packed. English speaking ex-pats, tourists and local Vietnamese. Father Mario DiCicco, rector at the  Franciscan School of Theology, Berkeley, California ( http://www.fst.edu/) co-celebrated with two Vietnamese priests and father Mario gave the sermon. Some of you may recall that I wrote in my 2006 log (  http://cometosea.us/albums/log-Vietnam.htm ) that my first wife, Joan, and I celebrated Christmas Eve midnight mass at this same church in 1962.  After mass I crossed the street and paid a visit to the old post office. I totally missed this stop in 2006. It was an emotional confrontation with the early sixties. I made that phone call that made a drastic life change for me and Joan from one of the ornate Honduras Mahogany booths to urge her to come and live a year in Saigon. Journalists like  , Merton Perry who were personal friends at that time used these booths to file their dispatches to the world. Next stop, as I promised yesterday, was Givral. I had my Cafe Sue Nam and Flan; as I had reported in 2006 this is one of the few places that had not changed for the worse. It was a treat and it recalled the wonderful memories of the good times we had 48 years ago. It cost me twice as much as I would spend in this neighborhood on a dinner, but then who cares when it was 100,000 dong or US$ 5.55  But now I must also give credit for the places that have improved over the sixties. The Post Office has been cleaned up and is a feast for the eyes as the below pictures attest to. The downtown river front which was completely cut off in 2006 because of monster hotel construction is now again a promenade.

The afternoon I rode the rental bike down river from Saigon, away from the hustle and bustle and the tourists and I was once again the only occidental. I came upon a slightly older church than the N.D. de Saigon. This church Giáo Xu  Xóm Chiếu,  commenced in 1856 whereas the Saigon cathedral/basilica was started in 1863. There is a connection to Saint John Veanney and the church just celebrated the 150thanniversary of his death but I am not sure how it could be named after him when the church was started 3 years before he died. I will ask the new friends I made, while photographing the church, a church group dressed in a sort of scout uniform. This happy group (see below photos) invited me sit down and offered me a drink of a delicious fruit/coconut mixture. I did not see one single traditional oa dai dressed  lady at mass this morning but here in the hinterlands I did see several women and girls getting ready to go to mass in their oa dais.