03 September 2006

Ta ve^` ta ta('m ao ta...

...du` trong du` ddu.c ao nha` va^~n ho+n. That's the Vietnamese equivalent of There is no place like home. After almost nine days driving all over Canada, home is where I want to be and I finally am. Yes, I was at my front door with the porch light without its bulb because it stopped working and I took the bulb away, planning some day to inspect the wiring to see what went wrong. Also at my front door was the wireless doorbell that sometimes worked but not other times. Back to my old rust bucket of a minivan - compared to the rental 2006 Chrysler Town & Country, my 1993 Plymouth Voyager's steering wheel and gas pedal are so stiff. I'm sure I won't be able to tell the difference in a few days.

Some quick observations/notes from my trip, before I forget them all during the daily grind that sure will catch up to me in a few days:

  • On the way to Montreal: Traveling along I-87 north, I noticed many of the roadside display panels were outfitted with solar panels. These panels display useful info like traffic conditions or reminders about drinking and driving, etc. They are in the middle of nowhere but spend all day in the sun so it makes sense to have them run on solar power. They may cost more initially but in the long run, it's good for the environment to use something free like the sun's energy. Kudos to New York State!
  • Montreal: We stayed in the Downtown area. There were many restaurants but none were all Vietnamese. I guess the Vietnamese population isn't that big there. Or perhaps the Vietnamese gather elsewhere and not on Catherine Street. The only full day we were there it rained most of the day. We spent a few hours in the Science Center, then walked to Chinatown, but on the way back we were caught in some big downpour.
  • Quebec: Gotta love those hills in Old Quebec! By the time we set out from the hotel, we caught the last elevator up to the side of the hill, the portion that Highway 404 runs past. On the way back, we had to walk down. It was somewhat scary for the kids in the group, but all was safe and sound. Like Montreal, Quebec had a strong French presence. My three years of high school French didn't prepare me to converse with anyone, but it helped somewhat in reading the signs on the street, although half of time they were in both English and Francais.
  • Ottawa: Nothing to see but the Parliament area. They even cancelled the light show at 9pm and 10pm, then the next morning we found out the last Changing of the Guard was held last week, no more for the rest of the year. Our large group of 14 was snuffed by the waittresses at some famous restaurant called Coaster or something like that. They squeeze us into a corner that fitted maybe ten and wouldn't bother us. We ended up leaving the restaurant and ate at a Vietnamese place on Somerset. There had to be many Vietnamese in Ottawa because the parking meters had Vietnamese instructions, along with the usual English and, not surprisingly, Chinese.
  • Toronto: Fruits, fruits, and more fruits. We spent maybe 500$Can on fresh fruits. I knew all the fruits from my days in Vietnam but my in-law went crazy over them exotic fruits. My favorite is rambutan but ma~ng ca^`u dai (sorry, don't know the English name) is good too. The environmentalist in me quickly noticed that in the Toronto area, "garbage" is supposed to be separated into organic (fruit peels, food leftover, etc) and the usual recyclable (paper, plaster, glass) or real garbage. Don't forget yard waste. I'm sure it's a little pain to adhere to the regulation but that's really helpful to the garbage problem. I suppose the organic stuff are collected to be turned into compost, perhaps sold for cheap or even given away.
In case you are interested, the literal translation of Ta ve^` ta ta('m ao ta, du` trong du` ddu.c ao nha` va^~n ho+n is I come home to bath in my home's pond, whether the water is clear or muddy it's still better. I think way back when the phrase was created, the author, like many Vietnamese of the time, lived on a farm where creature comforts such as indoor plumbing didn't exist. He would wash ( ta('m )himself in some pond or shallow body of water, the Vietnamese word for which is ao. You may have noticed the appearance of the word ta. It stands for a special form of I, as in I am - special meaning it's usually when one talks to oneself or thinks in one's head. Ve^` means return to or come home to, and Ta ve^` means I come home. There is no Vietnamese equivalent for my, his, their, and their possessive ilk. My pond is ao ta, my house is nha` ta, etc. Yup, just take the object and stick the pronoun after it and voila we have possession.

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