Master Thanh stood on the steps of the temple directing disciples as they brought tray after tray of blessed gifts into the temple. Packages of ramen noodles, bags of monosodium glutamate, peanut candies, rambutan, star fruit, and grapes were all piled high on round aluminum trays. Someone brought spirit clothes, another carried votive offerings, and a third person arranged flowers on the altar. Tania and the others had just arrived at the temple after an eighteen-hour trip from the United States and a three-hour car ride from Hanoi, the last leg of which was through narrow, muddy, and potholed roads. The village, nestled in low-lying green hills, was as gray as the bricks its residents made while the votives and blessed gifts were so brightly colored they stood out in the monochromatic village. So did Master Thanh. He was dressed in pink satin pajamas and a pair of women’s sandals, and was decorated with false eyelashes, pink lipstick, and sparkle make-up. Once he recognized the Americans the master smiled and greeted them. Tania responded “Hello, Miss” and whispered to Karen under her breath, “Look! He’s even wearing a bra!” This was an important day. Tania had saved for more than a year for this trip. She would finally enter a new level of mediumship by being initiated into the realm of Chúa Bói, and get spiritual permission, much like a license, to practice the fortune-telling she had done for years. Like many other U.S. mediums, Tania had traveled to Vietnam to practice her religion in its homeland.
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