Culture Culture

18/12/2018 - 08:16

Nostalgic season

A friend living far away asked me if Hue has come in season yet. Yes, it has, though late. It is the rainy season. The cold season. The nostalgic season...

I remember those long-gone winter days which seemed just like yesterday. A bunch of us, living away from home, huddled together on the tiny bunk bed in the dormitory. It was very cold. Our thin clothing did not keep up warm throughout the winter.

At the time, we did not have much information about weather forecasts. So, my friends would often ask whether the cold winds had come. Somehow I have always had a special sense when it comes to the weather. When the winter wind was still somewhere far away, I had already felt the cold frost on the tip of my nose. Taking a deep breath, I could sense the cold somewhere in the air.

Winter was when the sky was covered with a silver white color. The women on the street lightly wrapped scarves around their shoulders. The wheels of the cyclo revolved slowly. On the road to Thuong Tu, there seemed to linger the purple hue of the withering parasol tree’s flowers (Firmiana simplex) along the Huong river.

It was also when my best friend stopped by the banh xeo (pancakes) restaurant on Dinh Tien Hoang Street. The strange thing was that the specialty was even more delicious when eaten in winter. Maybe it was because of the blushing cheeks of the restaurant owner by standing next to the stovetop or the sizzling sound of the batter hitting the hot pan. The steaming golden banh xeo was folded in two, like two shells hiding inside the white of the bean sprouts and the red of shrimps, and dipped in the hot sauce. According to Ton Nu Ha, a culinary artisan, in order to make the perfect crispy banh xeo, the pans used must be the standard ones from the famous copper casting village of Hue.

Winter was also when he drove me by the street with flying flamboyant flowers on the cyclo borrowed from his neighbor, after I was discharged from the hospital. The street seemed to immerse between two rows of flamboyant leaves. The scent of dry flamboyant leaves mixed in the cold winter air, and the vague tune of Trinh Cong Son’s song seemed to surround us...

It was when I sat alone, counting the coffee drips in Tu Phuong Vo Su. It was when I listened to the impermanent time and history lingering on the tiled roof of Hien Lam Cac. It was when I stopped by Le Ba Dang’s gallery by the Huong River, silently observing the Giao Chi footprints. I could hear the sound of the waves in the wooden stakes on Bach Dang River from a display corner. I could also see the green meditation color on the paintings of salvation.

I do not understand why, but every time winter comes, I always have a vague sense of nostalgia. I remember when, in those long-gone days, in those late dry afternoons, I sat still on the stone bench, listening to time gently flowing by in the dark gray overcast on the Huong River. It was the homesickness of someone living far away from home. At home, my mother would have been cooking by the stove...

In one cold afternoon, my colleague showed me pictures of tourists strolling through the streets of Hue. One picture was of a kiss by Truong Tien Bridge amidst a gray color of the winter surroundings...

With many visitors, they want to go to Hue when it starts turning cold to live slowly. They say it is the season for love. With me, it is the season for nostalgia...

By TIEU MUOI

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