Because I’ve been chuckling to myself and I need to share.
1. Skyping with family.
I’ve been tracking developments back home. Dad’s rediscovered an accordion in the basement.
My gorgeous sister Jeannette has cut her hair extremely short. It keeps me up at night. All I can do is groan about it. Meanwhile, her best friends are busy finding more productive ways to handle the heartbreak.
Mom is apologetic about not sending enough well-captioned and photoshopped pictures of my dog from her new iPhone.
2. Things lost in translation.
Last time I checked, the Great Lakes weren’t located in Panama and the Antarctic ice sheet was a bit farther south. But I could be wrong. It’s science. You just can’t trust science.
So what you’re telling me is I can’t slightly touch the edge of the escalator with my right foot or attempt to slide down the handrail backwards….but everything else goes? Got it.
3. Encounters with “Straightfaced And Hilarious Hotel Receptionist” and The Door Debacle. It’s common sense that if you’re having trouble opening a jammed lock or door, you need to approach it with more brute physical force, impatience, and a long string of swear words. I’d been trying this tactic all last weekend with my hotel room door. So imagine my surprise when at last, I break the door.
Or rather, I break the key, leaving most of it irretrievably stuck in the lock.
“You’re not gonna believe this,” I say as I hold up the key in front of the evening hotel receptionist, a young Vietnamese guy in an extremely fitted black suit.
“I broke the key.”
He bursts out in laughter. This would be the first and last time I ever see the evening hotel receptionist laugh.
“Tonight, you will sleep on lobby floor,” he tells me with a straight face.
“It wasn’t my fault!”
“We charge you one million dollars.” He tells me, again with a straight face.
“I was gentle. I swear.” I reckon he’s kidding.
“You want free beer?” That’s his reply. You want free beer. I guess I look like I needed it. But more importantly, I’m learning that Straightfaced And Hiliarious Hotel Receptionist has a very interesting train of thought.
“No, thanks,” I respond. “Today is Day One of me undertaking a massive mental overhaul and physical detox to break literal and figurative destructive habits, and I’m vowing sobriety for the foreseeable future.”
“You want whiskey.” Straightfaced And Hilarious Hotel Receptionist tells me. He is not asking me.
“How’d you know?!”
“Please have a seat.”
If you can believe it, I turn down the whiskey. I have a seat though, and watch a disoriented French family in matching black Converses shuffle around in the lobby. Straightfaced And Hilarious Hotel Receptionist calls in backup to open The Door – a surgical team that includes the door guy, a travel agent, and I think someone else he’s pulled in off the street.
Straightfaced And Hilarious Hotel Receptionist And Co. make several trips to The Door and back, each time bringing a new set of tools and more people. The French family in matching black Converses are watching me with terrified looks on their face. I mimic their expression, which terrifies them even more.
In less than thirty minutes and after several utterings of “not easy” and “very difficult,” the operation is over and they’ve fixed The Door.
“Ok, I fix,” says one of the mechanics. “See you again soon.”
See you again soon.
3. Letting my clothing do the talking. For less than $3, how could you not add these sometimes inspirational and often incoherent pieces to your closet?
And this — can you even believe it?! — the Holy Grail of all second-hand Southeast Asia finds. A vintage ’80s chalkline Cleveland Indians varsity jacket. Found somewhere in Hoi An, Vietnam. Come to mama!
4. Eating well in Southeast Asia.
At my favorite restaurant in Siem Reap, Cambodia, I don’t order from menus. I order from novels. See that table behind this gentleman, of what appears to be the full collection of the 1998 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica? It’s not. It’s what’s for dinner — potentially. All 455 pages of it.
Elsewhere in Thailand, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a craving for Yum Look ESarn street stall’s signature dish, the “Mix A Finger Nail Mrs.”
But I can tell you that I crave spring rolls and rice pancakes, on the regular.
Back in the States, I used to do double-headers at Chipotle. Never the bowls, always the burritos; and I’m not too shy to ask they double up on the meat, cheese, peppers, and most of those other interior burrito components. I used to do this thing where I’d look real casual you know, and ask for “a couple extra peppers and onions.”
As if that’s all I was planning on asking for additionally.
It’d turn into, “a bit more cheese if you could?” and “yeah, actually, might as well throw some extra lettuce in there, too.” The burrito artists would never see it coming, so they’d go heavy on these optionals. This strategy created a sort of supreme burrito product where all fillings were at max capacity. Shit was phenomenal.
But here in Vietnam, I order fresh spring rolls. DIY ones, which is basically a botanical garden buffet on a platter. I’ve rationalized that since I’m eating a greenhouse of herbs and shrubs and leaves and things, I can come back for round two’s and even round three’s in a day. That’s gotta be at least marginally better for my waistline.
The boys who fix me up banh xeo’s at Banh xeo Zon in Hanoi’s Old Quarter understand this. They understand me. They understand that condiments and dipping sauces are more of a main course then just an accessory.
See, I know this because they’ve partitioned off a section off the restaurant for me. I’m pretty sure it’s because, like I said, I’m a repeat, twice-a-day kind of customer. I literally shake with excitement when I’m served; I fiddle and fling chopsticks everywhere. Things really go flying. We’re looking at somewhere between 50- 60% of the sauce ending up in me, 30% around me. That other 10% goes somewhere, I’m not sure, but probably on some lucky structure or individual.
Again, it’s ok though, I’ve got my own space here.
The real problem is, I’m a clean-plate kind of girl, and that protocol doesn’t apply well in Southeast Asia. People think you’re still hungry. So the boys have been doubling up my portions these days and I’m not even asking for it. Maybe they think I’m homeless, which could be why they’ve scratched “TIPS” off the jar on the counter and moved it to my partitioned-off area of the restaurant. Who knows, but man, do they make a good sauced-up rice pancake herb plantation.
5. Not eating well in Southeast Asia. “Thit cho” in Vietnamese stands for dog meat. Yes, that’s a dog carcass, and yes, that’s someone’s dinner, and no, this is actually not humorous at all, but I don’t know where else to file it.
6. Cigarette packet health warnings.
Gross, ineffectual, and always humorous.
7. Tinder dating versus real life dating. One time, I met a magician from Tinder in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I think Simon was just under 5’0”. Turns out four pictures, all of which present you, at an angle, alone, against a backdrop of mega mountains and expansive beaches are not good at all at showing scale.
Then again, one time I met a doctor in real life while sitting at a café in Luang Prabang, Laos. We chatted, shared a beer, and made plans to meet up later. We met up later, chatted, and had a beer. At the end of the night, we stood up to say goodbyes. Only then I learned that Paul was probably around the five foot marker as well; I hadn’t realized the entire time we’d spent together was while seated and I had no idea of his stature. Turns out, scale comes into play even in real life.
Another time, I met an American guy, Michael, in real life while having coffee in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I don’t see Americans a lot out here, so when I do, it’s pretty exciting because I can get nostalgic with someone else about westernized Mexican food you get at America’s fast-food chain restaurants. We made plans to get a beer later and talk about Chipotle.
While in Phnom Penh, I’d also been doing some leisurely afternoon Tinder swiping. I came across Scott, whose main profile picture is his headshot set against an American flag background. Again, it’s that American thing, so it was an immediate swipe right, no questions asked. We made plans to get a beer later and talk about handguns and halibut.
Later that night, I ended up having several beers with both real-life Michael and Tinder Scott, and talking about handguns and halibut and Chipotle. All at the same time. Turns out, they’re friends. Co-workers.
Well-played, real-life Michael and Tinder Scott.
8. Pseudo-Ohioans. You better believe I clothesline a brother when I see someone wearing any kind of garment that identifies them as being even remotely from my region.
Take Specimen A, as seen on An Bang Beach, Vietnam, wearing an “Ohio State Rally: Harley Owner’s Group” T-shirt:
And Specimen B, as see on Pub Street in Siem Reap, Cambodia, wearing a Cleveland Irish Fest t-shirt (and you better believe this guy got pummeled by me when I saw him):
Can you even imagine!? An Ohioan — and a Clevelander! — here, halfway across the world. The chances!
“You!” I said, in a way I can only describe as a blood-curdling scream. “I’m from Ohio, too!”
“I’m sorry?” replied Potential Cleveland Irish-Fest Fan In Vietnam.
“Your shirt!” I said, more of a yelp this time. “I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, too! What the hell brings you here, mate?!”
“I am from Germany.” Cue the falling action to this story’s climax.
“Where’d you get that shirt then?” I’m not even smiling now.
“Oh, I don’t know, I found it?”
I got a similar response out of the Pseudo-Ohio State Rally Harley guy. He was from the Netherlands. I guess they both just found these shirts in thrift shops.
8. Conversations with locals.
I was running along the beach in Nha Trang the other day when an art salesman stops me and gives me his pitch. Hun is approximately one fourth my size and two times my age, with kind eyes and dirty clothes. He flips through his prints depicting Vietnamese women in conical hats and ao dai, landscapes of fishing villages and rice paddies. He’s been selling paintings on the beach forever. His dad used to do it, too. They’re quite nice, but when Hun realizes I really have no money on me and this sale is over, we get to talking.
“You have boyfriend?” Hun asks.
“No,” I say. “I can’t, I’m never in one city for more than two nights.”
“So you have many boyfriends.”
“Not really, Hun,” I respond. “Too difficult.”
“Where you from?” he asks.
“I know America lady before,” Hun begins. “She single. Very strong. Not need man. Maybe 40. Like you.”
“You want boyfriend?” Hun asks.
“Not now, Hun. Maybe when I go back to the States.”
“You not like Vietnamese for boyfriends?”
I explain to Hun that’s not the case. He’s not sold.
“America lady like you…she stay in Nha Trang. I meet her on beach. She not need man, but she call me. Because I am good friend. She call me to her hotel maybe two times every week when she come to Nha Trang. She want friend for only maybe three minutes!”
“Oh? So you visit her in her hotel?” I ask.
“Yes, but only three minutes!” Hun says, now grinning widely.
“So she calls you over to her hotel for only three minutes?” I ask, because now I’m curious to see if Hun is a gigolo, as that would be an interesting perspective to hear about.
“Yes!” Hun says. “I can stay longer, but she does not like to spend time. She very quick! I not charge.”
I learn that no, Hun is not really a gigolo. He’s just gotten mixed up with some crazy American lady, one who happens to “as Americans say, ‘hit it and quit it,'” I explain to Hun. Hun is actually in love with someone else, a very pretty Vietnamese girl. But she doesn’t love him. I ask why.
“I do not look good. Not handsome.” I explain to him that looks don’t really matter. He’s got a good personality and that’ll see him farther. We philosophize about how universal unrecipricated love is, before I tell him I have to finish a run I’ve barely began, so I say my goodbye.
“Ok. Take my number,” Hun says. “You can call me later. You can call me any time.”
Thanks but no thanks, Hun. Cheers for looking out though.
9. Before there was “#basic.”
There was #typical.
10. Toilets with a view.
Because why not?
Don’t judge me for the shit pictures here, guys. They were all taken with the slick new Samsung Galaxy Young 239-8471bf, which comes in at 2 megapixels and a 1.2x optical zoom. I’ve since upgraded.