Saturday, February 2, 2013

Dear Penelope [the noise]

My notes upon entering Hanoi: apple bottom jeans (as heard in the hired car), beer and a motorbike (as in i saw a guy unapologetically drinking it and driving). The next note was something about "lose/loose tree ?" for which i have no explanation and "horror" which correlates directly to the fact that my dorm room was 6 flights up. Later inhabited by a young german studying international law. He only annoyed me with his boy-ishness. Otherwise he was quite nice. Our last interchange showing harmonious domesticity with "honey, i'm back" and "did you have a nice time?" And on the last night I had the room to myself again since he was living large on his fathers dime 3 flights below.

Meanwhile I've been intermittently attacked by allergies. I think i dodged the cold that was hovering, which i can only thank solid sleep, and my obsession with eating lychees. The first day i stepped out onto the street i had that giddy feeling of ooo and wow and oh my! The noise. The incessant tapping, honking and voom of motorbikes- locusts taking and inhabiting every free space. Every sidewalk. Coming and going from every dimlit corridor. The jarring chirp of birds, which seem to insist on another kind of life. Had me jerking my head up and pondering their lives amidst the cacophony. And the charming colonial houses slashed and hacked and assimilated by the din, the electric wires, the black grime coating their graceful facades and the trees roping and twining and expanding and stretching all together it came at me with a way that was both glorious and terrifying.

Then the motorbike drivers "hello." hello." where're you going." and the fruit sellers "madame."madame." and the shoe patcher and cleaners... "madame, your shoes. look. i can fix." and then i wandered. acquired lychees with the man holding up 3 fingers to say how much i should pay. a kindness. as the woman playfully batted at my arm, her prey.  to the place where they shot a part of indochine. my first coffee stop. bread with honey. yogurt. another juxtaposition between decay and deliciousness.

The 2nd day brought the best coffee of all the ones i tried on the LP list. and a food tour- there was the typical deliciousness, and then the weird juice squeezed from a bug eaten with korean ricesavorypancakes and dogmeatdressedwithshallotsandherbs, back to beer and nuts, and building back to various fruits, discussion of weasel beans and crescendo'ing with coffee. Worth it. The best. From there I made it to the temple of literature- reluctantly not throwing myself at the mercy of the 3 femaledoctors who were all my age and single and indelibly cool who were on the tour with me. I wasn't invited. Sigh. And then I got lost for what seemed hours. It was not ok. The only highlight came romantically from an older man, impeccably dressed on a velo, whom politely uttered bonsoir to me as he passed. Swoon. Otherwise the predatory nature of the fruit sellers pressed in and taunted me at every wrong lap i took. And just hours before feeling overcome with the beauty of life and living- it was as if i had become swept out to sea and was in danger of drowning... and knowing even as i had sat under the tree at the temple, knowing the moment was about to be snatched.

The 3rd day brought more peace as I found time to meditate in a church, and read at every coffee shop and food place i went to. Slowing down. Slow down. and more of the same just yesterday. Hearing liturgy sung. Learning the short cuts. Finding a tailor- linen pants taken in for just $3. More and better lychees. An honest man. A recommended street food stall. The best croissant. More walking. Coffee. Deciding not to go to Halong bay because it wasn't summer and i coulnd't muster the energy. Realizing how much a moment defines the experience. Again. How deceptive and rapt it can be- to determine my impression.

Today I took a taxi to the museum. I was bored. Though the traditional tribal houses were cool. The real adventure came in determining and succeeding in how to take a bus back- and as grace would have it right near the food place i wanted. And then a random waterpuppetshow and now i'm back at the hotel drinking weak coffee, and chatting with you over the sea surrounded by strangers speaking all sorts of languages. My next stop is to get fried fish. And take the overnight train to DongHoi. And continue to keep hold of my budget. I must.

There's more about you and your life buzzing around in my brain. Klo'surgery. Hopeful. Stressful. Delicate. Resiliant. And everything humming and oscilating around you I can't touch. Can't quite see. No idea what sort of big game your referring to and the exotic and foreign nature  of what it is to have a family but there you are amidst it- building and being built by it.

Goodnight, penelope.


1 comment:

bruckner said...

Perhaps that young German was none other than a 21st century embodiment of Goethe's Werther, with you being his Charlotte. Sometimes it is the briefest of exchanges that have the deepest lingering impact on our lives. In this case, you talking to your German boy toy who will now likely kill himself having not won your heart. Germans can be very dramatic. And you thought he was simply studying international law!

Mendacious, oh how your adventure (and it is a genuine adventure, one brief colorful experience after the next) has transported me back to a time when my own heart was set aflutter by passing ladies just being polite, back when my behavior could be molded and transformed by Goethe's youthful words. Oh, to be young again, to be optimistic about how the human heart works.