Sunday, July 30, 2017
We met up with Jenny, her boyfriend and a friend of hers at a coffee shop with a beautiful view overlooking the West Lake and interviewed the friend, a man in his late 20s, divorced, and convinced her boyfriend to let us interview him as well. We only recorded the interviews with audio because the first guy said he was afraid of our documentary going viral. I took this as a compliment.
I had a banana latte with jellies in it and loved it. Since I arrived, I haven’t had a coffee drink that I haven’t loved yet, actually.
While Trang interviewed the two men in Vietnamese, I was able to catch up with Jenny some. It feels like everything she says inspires me in some way. She talked about “those who grow and those who age” and how she grew through her experiences with traveling. She said to her boyfriend, “Maybe we should visit the United States next?” He said, “Let’s wait four years for Trump to be out.” She asked me who I had voted for and talked about how her perceptions of our presidential election and current political climate were limited because she only knows through Vietnamese media, comparing it to how my perceptions about Vietnam before visiting here were also limited by my media. I don’t think there are many perceptions about Vietnamese society back home in the United States. All I’ve ever heard is people talking about the war and the assumption that the whole country is a jungle (not true).
Mealtimes were hectic for some reason today. Lunch was at the most crowded restaurant I’ve ever been to, where we were ushered upstairs to an even more crowded room filled with what looked to me like plastic kiddie tables and stools. I should know by now that these tables and chairs are the norm here and are indeed for adults, but it still makes me laugh… until I’m sitting at one and my legs don’t fit under the table and I end up spilling all the food dripping from my chopsticks onto my lap because of how far it has to travel to my mouth and I’m continually kneed in the back and at one point have a server’s rear end literally sitting on my shoulder and everyone in the room is in such close proximity to each other that you have to yell over everyone else just to be heard by the person sitting next to you. Everywhere I go, I feel like I have to suck in and still end up knocking something off a table with my hips. If this is how I feel at 5’3″, I can’t imagine a 6’0″ man surviving here.
The food was good, though. It reminded me of beef stew.
We went out for dinner with Trang’s family and another family. We ate at a “hotpot” restaurant, where you sit around a table with an actual hot pot in the middle that cooks your food in layers. The food was really tasty: all kinds of steamed vegetables, chicken, beef, mushrooms. I tried chicken with black skin for the first time. It was smaller than other chickens and had so little meat that it didn’t seem worth all the work to eat it. For dessert, we had watermelon, white guava and pineapple that you dipped in a salt-chili mixture, which tasted exactly like the Mexican seasoning Tajín.
The diet change still hasn’t settled with me yet. At this point, I’ve accepted that my stomach will experience a little turmoil for the rest of my time here. Trang’s mom was concerned that I’ve lost five pounds and said I should eat more (we have four meals a day and I’m full after each one). I explained (through Trang) that it’s just because I’m eating healthier and she shouldn’t worry. I have pork with almost every meal and I still feel good. I’m happy eating fruits I’ve never previously heard of for dessert. With all the water I’m drinking to survive in the 100 degree weather and the 75% humidity, my skin hasn’t been this clear since probably second grade. I could get used to this.