Jameelah and I have arrived in the city of Saigon after an actually rather pleasant 20-hour trip from Seattle. Before the trip, we had used the Nintendo Wii to weigh the luggage because the bathroom scale was too small. We were snapping at each other and were in unpleasant moods due to packing and cleaning and the general pervasive existential pains. But the free-flowing wine on the airplane, along with food served in tiny containers really helped. You’d be amazed how potent 4 one-ounce cups of wine could be at 36,000 feet. At one point, I was teaching Jameelah how to speak like a British person. “OK, repeat after me: Can I ‘ave a lit’o pudd’in?” “Can I have a lit-o pudding?” “No no, ave, ave, silent h. And pud-in, not pudding.” Sorry, Andy, that’s what happens when wine is involved on a plane.
In Korea on layover, we were excited to visit a Starbucks and saw a “Jelly in your coffee! Coffee in your jelly!” sign, so we ordered a soy frappucino with jelly. It had the sweetness of a pound of sugar, and just as much coffee, with ominous pieces of black grass jelly floating around. Kim chi too. OK, not really, but it probably would have made it taste better, considering how disgustingly sweet it was. I had half a mind to go up to the management and say, “I am from Seattle. I know Starbucks coffee, and your coffee, sir, is no Starbucks coffee.”
We had no problems at the Saigon airport, so I will save my usual rant about dirty, rotten, corrupt, good-for-nothing, ugly, halitosis-ridden, unhygenic, cruel and infantile airport customs officer whose souls are nothing more than lightless cesspools swirling with unveiled contempt for the common person and whose faces resemble cobblers’ aprons.
Jameelah met some of the relatives and I am proud to say that she has been trying very hard to use her Vietnamese. We’ve only had 2 waking hours here, and she’s been bright-eyed about everything. She was excited for her first taste of real Vietnamese food last night. Unfortunately, since we got it at 1am, when everything was closed, her first taste of Vietnam was a bowl of ramen. But at least it was genuine Vietnamese ramen, which means it was 80% MSG. Still, it’s authentic Vietnamese MSG, not that cheap imitation MSG.
Then she had her first Vietnamese shower. After 30 minutes, I came to check was was holding her up. She had a hard time figuring out how to use the shower. I guess I should have been more sensitive in giving her better directions, such as: Go in the bathroom, splash water on yourself with a bucket while standing next to the toilet; ignore lizard.
She’s still asleep. I’m going to wake her up so we can go explore Saigon and find some real Vietnamese food. We got here at night, when it’s dark. Now it is day time. I am wondering how the locals will react to seeing Jameelah and me together. Maybe they’ll think I’m her tour guide. It’s happened before with my other Westerner friends. I’ll just use it to my advantage, since tour guides get discounts for bringing foreign customers. We can pull it off, especially if she gets the British accent down. “Bloody ‘ell!”
Tonight we head out to the city of Nha Trang, where the streets are elegant, and the women well-swept. Or vice-versa. I’m jetlagged.