“…If you tell the Truth, you don’t have to remember anything…”
Ho Chi Minn, Vietnam, February 2012
This picture was taken on my second day in Ho Chi Minn. I was just walking around Ben Thanh Market when I saw those two sitting across each other, having (as it looked like) a conversation. I’ve noticed the distance between the two stools and I wondered if it was really a conversation, an argument, maybe a game they were playing. Maybe even some sort of treatment or a game they were playing.
I didn’t want to come closer (even though I was very curious) as I didn’t want to interfere with their dynamics or change the balance. Sometimes, a photographer just need to capture a moment, and the rest is like ‘filling in the blanks’…
One of my closest friends tends to measure her Birthday and the year that passed by the number of places she has visited and the number of people she fell in love with. In other words, a good year for her will be a year well travelled (to some new destinations) and a year she has experienced love or fell in love at least once. When she shared with me this information, I smiled and paused for a second but just because I had to think about her great idea and evaluate my past year according to her standards; Love and new destinations.
Looking back at where I was and what I did and how I celebrated my previous Birthday and having a check point to where I am at now (few days before my birthday) I must admit I have covered quite much of the plan. Yes, I’ve been traveling quite a lot for work or to catch up with family and friends and I met some interesting people.
Last year on my Birthday I packed my camera bag and another Gemini friend (Sharyn) and we went to Nassau, the Bahamas. We both wanted to escape New York for a while. We didn’t want to deal with velvet ropes or high priced drinks as we did in previous years on our Birthdays. Obviously the Bahamas was a great escape, even though I experienced a semi-Tornado storm on the day of my Birthday for the first time in my life.
On the day of our Birthdays we both wrote our goals for the next coming year (sort of a habit we keep). I think Sharyn wrote hers on a piece of paper and shoved it in a beer bottle and then she threw it to the water. I wrote mine on the back of a Murakami’s book I was reading back then. Whereas I am not sure how much did Sharyn complete her list, I think I covered almost 60% of mine.
It has been an exciting year for sure, and even though 60% of my goals were covered, I’ve managed to achieve some extra new ones I didn’t plan before;
I have traveled to some new destinations and came across different and various cultures. I made some new friends. I might even lost some. I tasted new kinds of food I would never imagine I try, not to mention where I found it. I learned how to translate my thoughts and ideas into pictures and words. I struggled with lighting equipment. I started to like negative space. I met and photographed famous people. I got nervous before doing that. I tried to decide what should be in focus. I took blurry pictures. I probably bad worded something up. I got confused more than once because of a guy. I considered getting off facebook few times. I finally gave in to Twitter. I found my name printed in some global websites and magazines. That was exciting! I got impatient so many times. I fell few times while running. I tried to be courageous. I talked to myself while taking the Subway. I took a 24 hour flight (almost non stop). I took a night train all the way from Hanoi to Sapa just to realize there was too much fog for a shoot. I took the midnight train back at the same day. I left my camera bag in the middle of a Starbucks in Tokyo. I watched a lot of French movies. I searched mostly for natural light. I took pictures of the interiors of other peoples homes and actually kind of liked it. I had some second thoughts regarding my unconventional life. I tried to forgive and forget. I had days based on coffee and dark chocolate. I tend to say YES to opportunities that came across and I freaked out when time was moving too fast.
And even though I feel I was quite slow paced the last couple of months, I can’t wait for the new ones to come.
It took me only one day in Vietnam to realize the Vietnamese mothers are actually like the Jewish mothers; They like feeding people. It took me only one day to realize the Vietnamese are also like Israelis; Food is at the very heart of their culture. Almost every aspect of social, spiritual, and family life, revolves around food.
In Vietnam, food is everywhere in sight. In every street corner, a woman pulls out plastic stalls around a a dish, or a huge pot of soup. At each train stop, vendors rush up to the passengers, offering homemade treats such as shrimp cakes, sticky rice, grilled corn, mango or pineapple covered with sweet red chilly flakes, sun dried squid, dried fish, dried fruits, little black dotted eggs or French baguette. The Vietnamese cooking is fresh, healthy and light, and more over, colorful and beautiful to behold; Yellow corn, pinkish-orange shrimps, deep orange crabs, red hot chilly peppers, vivid greens, pearl-color glassy noodles.
In Ho Chi Minn I was drawn immediately to Ben Thanh Market, a popular and touristy destination, watching the women washing, peeling, cutting, cooking and serving food. And in Hanoi, I visited particular street vendors who were located in the alleys around the hotel I was staying in. I learned to recognize the specific type of food for every hour of the day; pork sausages on skews served as a morning snack for kids before they go to school, grilled pork in a marinade of sweetened fish sauce with a side of rice vermicelli for their parents, airy baguettes, then throughout the day one can find pork and mushroom dumplings, spicy Pho noodle soup, white porridge soup served with crunchy croutons, grilled seafood on skews, rice noodles in so many variations, and of course, the Vietnamese coffee; thick, rich with a sweetened condensed milk, that makes it all worth it.
Quick tip: If a place is busy, it’s almost certainly fine to eat there. Don’t eat anywhere with slow turnover (this includes fancy-yet empty restaurants) and make sure to drink a lot of water.