Dolla Dolla Bills – The Badge for STMT X Viet Nam
Some cultures feel familiar, despite the fact that stereotypes we learn aren't totally accurate (and often head-shakin', jaw-droppin' wrong). But sometimes we get a true glimpse.
Pretty much since the city was founded, Seattle has had a large Asian community. I grew up with Vietnamese friends, so way before I visited a corner nail salon or had my first bowl of phở, I ate bún chả giò. Another thing I learned about Vietnamese culture? Their deep connection with Buddhism. I loved how every family, every business maintained a shrine. I loved how different each shrine was – the different offerings, different sizes. They always looked so fancy compared to the Korean shrines I grew up with. Plus, Korean shrines aren’t part of daily life – the only time my family set up a shrine was to mourn a death and on the anniversary of the person's passing.
A big part of the Vietnamese Buddhist culture is joss paper. I first learned about it from a local Vietnamese grocery shop. I spied some in an aisle and right away started fillin' my cart with stacks. The texture of the paper, the gold, the bright colors, and especially the pieces lookin' like watches... so rad!
I asked an employee about ‘em. He explained that they're burned for offerings. I went home and immediately pinned a few pieces on my wall. I didn't burn the stash I purchased. I kept it safe.
During our STMT x Việt Nam sourcing trip, I knew I had to buy a phat stash to doll up our kits! We bought our entire stash from a sweet lady who was amused by us Americans – speakin' no Vietnamese, but so clearly smitten by joss paper. She spoke no English but smiled and laughed and kept scrawling numbers on a sheet of paper as we collected more and more stacks of awesome.
The stall was located a few doors down from the Jade Pagoda. There we saw joss paper in action – locals visiting the site, burning the paper and making offerings. Stoked we got to experience this bit of culture firsthand – and even MORE so that we get to share it with RAHstrs!
(PS – Why Việt Nam instead of Vietnam? How the locals do.)