8,745 MILES: DAY 6 IN HANOI

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Today was another stay-at-home day. I slept in until 10a, which was a first. I’m thinking it means I’m over the jet lag, which was a pretty quick turnaround from what I hear. It’s something good to keep in mind for future travels.

For breakfast, I had pomegranate yogurt (a mistake – my stomach still isn’t ready) and I cut up a green apple and put it on a plate with some of the peanut butter I brought from the U.S. for Trang. It was only Trang’s grandmother and me in the kitchen. She started talking to me in Vietnamese and making hand gestures, which I couldn’t understand, and then she just talked louder, which didn’t really help. But I eventually figured out she was asking about my stomach, so I just sort of rubbed my stomach, nodded and smiled. When I fixed the apple and peanut butter on the plate, I offered her some, given she has probably never seen peanut butter before. She shook her head no, but put her face close up to the plate to study it. Then she just watched me eat it for awhile. I didn’t have wifi down there, or else I would have Googled an image of peanuts to show her what it was made from. It was a mostly successful nonverbal conversation.

Since Trang’s mother retired – it is required at a certain age in Vietnam, 55 for women and 60 for men in government jobs and 60 for women and 65 for men in non-governmental jobs – she has been crossing off a list of things she’s wanted to do since she has more free time. Learning how to swim is included. When she came back from her lesson this afternoon, she was telling Trang about learning the breaststroke and Trang asked me to help explain it. So I stood up from the kitchen table and moved my arms and legs to demonstrate the stroke. If anyone had walked in, it would’ve looked hilarious. Trang said we may go to the pool with her mom one day and I can help her learn. That will be interesting. It reminds me of a time when a little girl from Germany joined the swim team I was coaching for and didn’t know English and I had to teach her to swim. One of the more challenging experiences I’ve had with a language barrier. Thankfully, if we go, Trang will help translate. I think it would be fun!

It occurred to me today that I can just use a USB flash drive to transfer the videos from my camera’s SIM card to Trang’s computer to my computer. Duh. Now we don’t have to worry about diminishing the video quality through uploading to and then downloading from Google Drive. I started transcribing our first interview with Jenny after my two-hour afternoon nap (whoops). That’s going to take a while. I’m not transcribing everything because we have an established direction for our documentary, so just the necessary stuff. This was a relief to me when I learned this in the documentary filmmaking class I took last semester, because my least favorite part of journalism is painstakingly writing down every word of the interview. The only difference is that we probably will still need to use the text not just for the documentary script but also for subtitles.

For dinner, I tried eel for the first time (I’ve had it in sushi, but didn’t really pick out the taste then). It kind of looked and tasted like mushrooms, but some parts of it are a little spikey. Trang’s mom prepared it with onions and I ate it in rice. Good stuff. While we ate, we watched the news. The anchor was talking about the Russian hacking investigation in the U.S. It was sort of weird to watch it from this side. After that, the news showed a special program celebrating the national memorial day for veterans, which is tomorrow, July 27. There were different shows being broadcast, with singing and dancing that signified the loss of the nation’s sons and daughters during the Vietnam War with the U.S. I couldn’t understand anything, but one singer’s voice gave me goosebumps. An older woman was presented with her former earrings that her son had carried with him as a soldier before he died in the war and she sobbed on stage. It was very moving to watch. Grief is a universal experience.

An update on the áo dài, the traditional Vietnamese dress that is currently being tailored for me: the amount of fabric Trang and her mother gave the tailors (the standard amount) is not enough for my body measurements. So it looks like I won’t have sleeves. I kind of had a feeling this would happen, too. It’ll work out though. I’m still excited.

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