Sunday Snapshots: Dam Market, Nha Trang, Vietnam

Dam Market in Nha Trang, Vietnam is listed as a must-do on several travel web sites. I was interested in Vietnamese spices but thus far, they had seemed elusive. Snake wine, dried seafood and dried persimmons were more ubiquitous. I found one woman selling spices, buried deep inside the Dam Market. She spoke no English, our guide was no help on the spices front and my pocket English-Vietnamese dictionary was curiously devoid of anything remotely spice-related. She shoved a piece of paper and pen in my hand and motioned me to write what I was looking for. I printed cardamom carefully so that my squiggly unreadable handwriting did not throw her off as it had Medha's elementary school teachers. She stared at it and then her face broke out into one of the widest smiles I have ever seen. She rushed off into a dark alley, only to return with a packet of fragrant smoky Vietnamese cardamom. I bought some cinnamom, too, happy in the knowledge that I was all set to make some authentic aromatic Pho when I got back home.

We had only a few more hours to explore Nha Trang so I did not go deeper into the market. I did get these pictures, though.

Puffer fish

And that's Indian, you say?

I cannot write this without getting into pet peeves, first.

<pet peeve>
Dal is not soup
Dal is soupy. Dal can be served as soup but it is not soup. We eat dal as part of the main course. We drown our rice in dal or use rotis to scoop up dal. Unless it is specifically made to be eaten as a soup—more an exception than the norm—dal is never served as the soup course. If it were, we would need another dal, kadhi or curry to wet our steamed rice, for we don't eat our steamed rice by itself.

We are not East Indians
The country? India.
Its people? Indian.

Simple enough, yes? Yet, in the US, Indians are called East Indians to make a distinction between native Americans, whom Christopher Columbus incorrectly called Indian, and people from the country of India. Others explain it as a need to distinguish between the West Indies and India.

A quick history lesson: The East Indies was and is a colonial term that dates back to the 15th century. It was used to describe lands of South and Southeast Asia, occupying all of the present India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and also Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The term East Indian is now used in the USA to refer to Indians from India. Folks from the rest of the countries in that set of countries got away from being labeled with this misnomer.

Please stop using it.

Accord us the respect we deserve instead of addressing us with qualifiers that reek of colonialism, another form of slavery. Are you listening, NPR?
<pet peeve>