Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

Book #24.

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I was born and baptized as a Catholic but I have always been open-minded about other religions and yes, atheism. This is my first from Sam Harris and the first atheistic book I’ve read. I must say, this book is very thought-provoking. It isn’t something that would convert the reader to become an atheist nor would it shake a devout Christian/Muslim’s faith, but I think it would help us understand what atheists are like.

It would probably be an uncomfortable read but I personally would still recommend it to my Catholic/Christian friends. Aside from a very easy to read writing style, I really find this book very insightful. With that said, I’ll leave you with this:

Clearly, it is time we learned to meet our emotional needs with embracing the preposterous. We must find ways to invoke the power of ritual and to mark those transitions in every human life that demand profundity — birth, marriage, death — without lying to ourselves about the nature of reality. Only then will the practice of raising our children to believe that they are Christian, Muslim, or Jewish be widely recognized as the ludicrous obscenity that it is. And only then will we have a chance of healing the deepest and most dangerous fractures in our world. -Sam Harris

Rating : 4/5

Quote of the Week

Sometimes skulls are thick.

Sometimes hearts are vacant.

Sometimes words don’t work.

-James Frey

Photo of the Day

A view worthy of the 2-hour hike!

Petra, Jordan

Quote of the Week

Ignoring your passion is slow suicide. 

Never ignore what your heart pumps for.

-Kevin Claiborne

Water Puppet Theater

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An outdoor Water Puppet Theater in the Museum of Ethnology, Hanoi, Vietnam.

Quote of the Week

People don’t always send messages in order to communicate the truth… just as people don’t always meet others in order to reveal their true selves.

-Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Book #22. I am not a runner but picking a Murakami book is not unusual for me.

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This is a memoir of Murakami’s affair with long-distance running. He talks about the joy running brings to him, the places he visits and the things he do in preparation for the events, as well as the ups and downs of running. Moreover, he talked about the change running has done to him and how it helped in his writing.

I’ve read several books by Murakami and I love every single one of them. So reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is refreshing because I get to know more about the man behind all the madness! I didn’t know that he is a dedicated runner, joined 25 marathons and also entered the world of triathlon. He runs not to win events/races, he runs to stay healthy and active. He runs because he wants to. And through running, he developed endurance, dedication and focus which we can clearly see mirrored in his writing.

So whether you are a runner or not, a Murakami fan or not, I recommend you give some time to read this. Whatever your passion is, the book will in one way or the other motivate and inspire you.

Quotable Quotes :

“I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.”

“When I’m running I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody. This is a part of my day I can’t do without.”

“In other words, let’s face it: Life is basically unfair. But even in a situation that’s unfair, I think it’s possible to seek out a kind of fairness. Of course, that might take time and effort. And maybe it won’t seem to be worth all that. It’s up to each individual to decide whether or not it is.”

“The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky.”

“It doesn’t matter how old I get, but as long as I continue to live I’ll always discover something new about myself.”

Rating : 4/5

Bun Cha

I love Vietnamese food. Last month, I had the chance to go back to Vietnam and as an avid eater, I tried to eat as much as I could. There’s nothing I didn’t like. Everything was wow just like the first time I’ve been here and tasted their food.

For this post, let’s have bun cha…

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Bun cha is said to have originated in Hanoi. It’s basically rice noodles, grilled pork in cold broth and herbs. So in a small bowl, you just have to mixed them all together then add some garlic, chili and lime. Most places include fried spring rolls when they serve bun cha and it perfectly complements the meal.

I noticed that bun cha is mostly served for lunch but I can eat it any time of the day. 🙂

The best place, for me, is the one in Hang Manh.

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Yes, there are tables on the sidewalk, and that’s normal. 🙂

Ede House

The Ede (or Rade people) is one among the 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam.

Below is a photo of a typical Ede House.

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This Ede Long House was originally built in 1967 and was reconstructed in the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in 2000. The house reflects many aspects of Ede culture. I learned that Ede families are matriarchal. The head of the family is a woman, children bear their mother’s surname, daughters inherit family assets, the groom moves to his bride’s house after marriage, etc. A new compartment is added every time a girl in the house gets married. It is said that the longer the house, the more prosperous the family is.

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An Ede House is divided in two parts: the Gah and the Ok. The Gah, basically the living room, as shown in the photo above, is used for gatherings. Jars and gongs are kept and displayed in this part of the house for the rich Ede families. The Gah occupies around 1/3 to 2/3 of the house and the rest is the Ok, mainly the area for sleeping.

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The most interesting part of the house for me are the staircases. For rich families, there are two staircases in front of the house, one for males which are just plain and another for females, where a crescent and female breasts are carved.

Photo of the Day

Enjoying a view of The Treasury from the top of an opposing cliff. It looks rather tiny from up there. 🙂 But awesome nevertheless.

The Treasury, Petra

After a little more than a kilometer walk in The Siq, you will be fascinated by The Treasury — the most iconic sight in Petra. Despite its name, it is believed to be a royal tomb. I find it hard to believe that this carved structure is more than 2000 years old because the design and details are still very well-preserved.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Book #21.

The book is about Rachel Watson, an alcoholic who forgets things including what happened on that one crucial night. The night when Megan disappeared. Megan lives near Rachel’s previous home which she happens to pass by everyday on a train.

The story switches between three narrators: Rachel, Megan and Anna. All cleverly flawed characters! Rachel, a divorced alcoholic in her early thirties, obsessed with her husband and living with her friend (who doesn’t know Rachel got fired and is unemployed). Megan, the woman who disappeared, the woman Rachel sees everyday from the train. And Anna, the new wife of Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband.

The author, Paula Hawkins, without a doubt understands psychology and suspense. And she did a great job to make her readers despise the characters, I think!  I’m not sure if everyone will agree with me, but yes, I despise them all. However, I still have to say that I like the way the book was written, it just wasn’t enough for me.

So this isn’t exactly a book I’d recommend but maybe for people who wants to try suspense and psychological drama, this ain’t a bad choice.

Quotable Quotes :

“I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”

“The holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mould yourself through the gaps.”

“Life is not a paragraph, and death is no parenthesis.”

“They’re what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.”

“Nobody warned me it would break us. But it did. Or rather, it broke me, and then I broke us.”

Rating : 3/5

Quote of the Week

Each person feels pain in his own way, each has his own scars.

-Haruki Murakami

Bench

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Perfect spot to rest after a long day exploring Petra.

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

Book #20. I just had to read it because it’s Gillian Flynn!

This is a short story with all the usual thrill present in Ms. Flynn’s books. It’s a story about an unnamed narrator who was first a beggar, then a “therapist” who gives a hand job to customers behind a psychic’s shop. She later became a palm reader or spiritual healer of some sort because she likes reading and she makes use of what she reads wisely to survive.

Though this is very short, it is very engaging. It definitely shows how the author’s imagination can go beyond her most popular novel, Gone Girl. It makes me want more!

Quotable Quotes:

“But I wasn’t a well-read bookworm; I was just a dumb whore in the right library.”

“People are dumb. I’ll never get over how dumb people are.”

Rating : 4/5

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Book #19. A story of hope and incredible strength.

This is a story about one family who were one night suddenly taken from their home in Lithuania and became victims of the mass deportations in 1941 to Soviet labor camps.

I found this very interesting because it was written according to a 15-year old Lithuanian girl named Lina. She is just like other 15-year olds and she loves to draw.

That night when the Soviet soldiers came to their home, Lina, together with her mother and younger brother, were taken to a dirty train car with other people. Her father still wasn’t home that night and so they were separated since then.

Throughout the story, Lina felt the need to draw everything she sees in whatever piece of material is available. She drew almost everything that happens about the people around her, during the long years of journey, who were all just trying to survive in that extraordinary time. It is through great love, incredible strength and hope that Lina survives.

This is my first book from Ruta Sepetys and I loved it. I liked the way the book was written. I personally found it very powerful. I had tears in my eyes at some point.

So if you haven’t read it yet, please do. It’s krasivaya!

Quotable Quotes :

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness.”

“Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?”

“Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy—love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.”

“I planted a seed of hatred in my heart. I swore it would grow to be a massive tree whose roots would strangle them all.”

Rating : 5/5

Red Cave Restaurant

I decided to have dinner here in Red Cave Restaurant just a couple of hours ago after reading good reviews about the place. I love the ambiance the moment I came in.

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I have been drinking lemon with mint since I got here and their version is definitely the best!

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I ordered mouhamara for starters…

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And Bedouin Ghaliyah for my main dish…

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The service was good, too. The staffs were friendly and willing to assist you. So all in all, it was a great dining experience for me!


I’d definitely recommend Red Cave Restaurant to everyone visiting Petra. The food is tasty at reasonable prices with hospitality at its best!