Saturday, August 5, 2017
It was a slow, rainy morning in Ha Long Bay today, the kind of day when everything is gray like the sky. I woke up at eight for continental hotel breakfast, went back to sleep for another three hours and then had lunch. Afterward, it cleared up enough to go back to the beach. We swam for long enough that my body felt relaxed and sticky from the salt, one of my favorite feelings. Both Trang and Thu were stung by jellyfish on their arms, but somehow I escaped. I don’t get it. I’ve never been stung in my nineteen years of swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, which has jellyfish almost all the time.
Dinner was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. I told Trang this and she said, “In Vietnam?” I said, “No, like ever.” All five of us went to another hot pot restaurant, though this kind had the pot on top of the table instead of within it. The servers lined up plates and bowls of fresh-out-of-the-water shrimp, clams, crab, sea snails, fish. We put it all in the boiling pot of water, along with noodles, chili, and assorted vegetables.
Early on, one of the shrimp literally jumped out of the pot onto the table right in front of Trang. We all died laughing. It was also my first time eating sea snails. Trang and her family showed me how to use a safety pin to pull the steamed snail meat out of the shell. It tasted fishy, sort of, but in a good way. The fish we ate was mild and the shrimp was really tasty. It was so delicious.
While we were eating dinner, a little boy approached me with his mom behind him and said hello in English to me. I said hello back and he sort of yelled back questions in English. WHAT’S YOUR NAME. I told him and asked him his. HOW OLD ARE YOU. I said nineteen and he told me he was nine. WHERE ARE YOU FROM. I told him the United States. WHERE ARE YOU FROM. I tried America. WHERE ARE YOU FROM. The United States of America. WHERE ARE YOU FROM. We kind of moved on from this one. His mom fussed at him in Vietnamese for pointing his finger at me while he was talking to me. Of course I didn’t mind. I was just flattered that he wanted to come talk to me and show off his English. He went and played with his friends and then came back and asked WHAT AREYOU DOING. I said, “Eating! What are you doing?” He said PLAYING. Then he would swing his friend around and say, LOOK AT ME. Later on, he came back and said LOOK, showing me one of his thumbs, which was split into two fingers, and then holding on to my thumbs in comparison. I told him he was special. The whole interaction made my whole night. His mom asked for a picture when it was time for them to leave. Look how proud he looks!
The cab drive back to the hotel was really something. I got to see more of the surrounding city: a Ferris Wheel, a bridge that changes to the colors of the rainbow. It turned out to be really good day, despite the rain.