8,745 MILES: DAY 4 IN HANOI

Monday, July 24, 2017

Today was a stay-at-home and catch-up day, which worked out because today was also the day that the complete change in my diet caught up with me. I was sick for the whole day and it wasn’t fun exchanging the really good food like fatty pork belly for more bland meals with enough dried, sugary ginger to make my throat burn (apparently, it’s good for stomachaches, and it did help). Trang’s family has a routine of taking a quick nap after lunch every day, and what usually lasts a light 30 minutes turned into 3 hours of hard, sweaty sleep. I’ll blame it on the food and not feeling well. I feel like I’m mostly over the jet lag, except for waking up around 7:30 every day naturally without intent.

One exciting thing about my day was getting to visit the food mart. I remember traveling to Italy the summer before my senior year in high school and being excited about this too. I just feel like it showcases a lot about the region, with all the food splayed out right in front of me. It was walking distance from Trang’s house but we still clung to the sidewalk because it was rush hour. I told Trang I could never learn to drive here. It looks like a death wish.

On our walk over, a man sitting on the sidewalk said hello to me in English in sort of a taunting way. This wasn’t the first time something like that has happened. On Saturday, Trang had to literally yell “Stop looking at her!” to a teenage boy walking with a group past us. She asked me if it bothered me. I told her it doesn’t. I just find it kind of amusing. When we’re out, I catch a lot of stares but I get it. I’m the odd one out here.

When we arrived, we walked up and down most of the aisles and Trang gave suggestions about what was good, what wasn’t. Here were a few things I learned:

  • Choose Japanese products over Chinese products, because Chinese products are more likely to have unhealthy ingredients because they’re cheaper
  • Matcha is a big deal, not just for vegans like in America
  • Milk is only sold in cartons, like lunchtime during elementary school
  • Kinder eggs are definitely legal, unlike in the U.S.
  • The store, considered small in comparison to a nearby supermarket, was two stories: the first for food and the second for household items

I bought the following:

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  • White guava
  • Kinder joy egg – “for girls”
  • Pomegranate yogurt
  • Passionfruit herbal tea
  • Matcha-frosted sweet bread
  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Kellogg cereal from Thailand, granola with dried papaya, peach and apple
  • Condensed milk candy
  • Purplish-black sticky rice + yogurt
  • Wafer cookies
  • Some sort of dish typical during Lunar New Year that will be a surprise

 

 

 

 

I haven’t tried everything yet, thanks to the tumult my stomach has been in all day. But I did try the sticky rice yogurt and it’s pretty amazing. It has a texture similar to blackberries, which I didn’t expect to like, but I did, and it’s just sweet enough.

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The Kinder egg was just a classic Kinder egg – Trang and I were more excited about the toy inside and why it was only for girls. (It turned out to be a glow-in-the dark bracelet that you clip together. It fit loosely around Trang’s wrist and barely clipped on to mine.)

The white guava was another story. I have only ever tasted guava juice and flavoring so I was pretty excited, but it turns out I was expecting pink guava and this was totally different. It wasn’t bad: crunchy and slightly sweet, like an apple, but didn’t taste like what I expected. Trang’s mother said that Vietnam has white, yellow and pink guavas, so it looks like I’ll have to give it another try.

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The day ended with interviewing Trang’s sister, Thu, after she got home from work. She is 27, single, and very focused on her career in finance and also teaches high school students AP Economics. It was interesting to hear her perspective, especially about her career goals and how she measures her personal levels of success and happiness. She is incredibly driven and hard-working and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her personally (beyond the interview) while staying with their family.

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