Every year, sometime in the early part of April, on an actual date determined by the lunar calendar, Vietnamese Buddhists celebrate the festival of Quan Am, the Mother of Compassion. (She’s also known as Kwan Yin in China and Kwannon in Japan.)
In Houston, the Vietnam Buddhist Center gets in a little early, around the end of March. I’ve been there three times now, and each time it’s been a wonderful experience, if a bit hard to follow as I speak not a word of Vietnamese and the translations over the loudspeaker tend to be either inaudible or indecipherable. I just wander around trying to figure out what’s going to happen next and get a good angle on it… and of course make it a point of moving when someone comes to shoo me out of wherever I am. Some parts are easier than others; when all the photographers (and there are many) are looking in a specific direction that’s a pretty good clue, and there’s usually at least one gent in a monk’s robe with two or three cameras – I keep an eye on where he is and what he’s looking at because he’s likely to know exactly what’s on the program next. Ideally I’d have a translator or someone who knew the program, but there’s no budget so we make it work as we can.
This year I think it worked pretty well.