After discovering a beautiful gem of a rooftop in Hanoi, I decide to look for the famous Vietnamese street food (very tasty and very cheap). As I’m walking down an unknown street my senses get tickled, specifically, my nose…
Following the incredible scent with my eyes, I see this young guy grumpily stirring yummy looking food in a wok. He doesn’t seem to be eager to see me and waves me away. Most likely ‘cause he doesn’t understand me and finds it scary. The food looks and smells so good tough, that I won’t allow him to dismiss me that quickly. Patiently, I ask, by using my hands, if I can have whatever it is that he’s cooking. The boy still looks at me as if I’m a nuisance and then ‘Super Huong’ comes to the rescue! Thank god! I’m quite hungry at this point and this food smells so delicious!!
Huong translates the menu for me in his best English, and explains which dish I want to have. He’s patient enough to allow me to try to pronounce it in Vietnamese myself. It doesn’t take long before I get my food and it tastes even better than it smelled. I’m in heaven! They gave me some cilantro soy soup which was soooo tasty nom nom nom. Anyway, drifting off….
So I can’t contain myself and I have to tell the people that work there how much I like the food and I once again put up my thumb. I’ve got to start learning how to say that I like it in Vietnamese! Everyone in the place laughs and I feel a bit silly. Huong is sitting with a bunch of people at the table and I guess he can tell I feel laughed at “Do you want a beer?” he asks. At first I decline. Come to think of it though, yeah, I do want a beer! He joins me and we have a nice little chat, you know just the simple polite questions. Even though his English is not fluent, we seem to find a way to understand one another.
I ask him if there is fun stuff to do around that area, such as Karaoke. I love myself some Karaoke. “I can take you there, it’s close. You finish your food and I’ll take you after”. Should I tell him that I’m a very very slow eater? Naaah I’m sure he’s already spotted that. Plus eating with chopsticks does NOT speed up the process. Even though I feel that I am great with chopsticks, being the sushi monster that I am. He looks at me quizzically. Focus Mo! “Yes, that sounds great, let’s do that!”. He patiently waits till I’ve put my food in the doggy bag (there’s no way I’m letting this delicious food go to waste!) and when the grumpy guy comes with the bill, before I know it Huang has already paid for my meal and beer and everything! Whoa, so nice!
Tonight’s super moon night and at exactly 21:00 o’clock it’s supposed to be closest to the earth. We walk around and the air is nice and warm. Great night for a little stroll in the moonlight. We reach the coffee place that I had seen earlier that afternoon, but decided not to enter ‘cause the place seemed dead. Funny to be back here so soon. It doesn’t look like a place where they sing Karaoke and there’s still hardly anyone inside, but who cares?!
As predicted, there was no Karaoke, but we sit down anyway and continue our conversation about life. He tells me about his business and that he’s married. “Are you married?” he asks. “No, I’m not” He pulls a face “But you are pretty!” He says surprised. “Why you are not married? Is your heart made of stone?” and he points to the fountain outside. This makes me laugh out loud. “I don’t think that’s the case, I just don’t fall in love easily, plus I love being single”. He doesn’t understand that, because in Vietnam when a woman is not married by the time she’s 25 people assume something is wrong with her.
What follows is an in depth conversation about the cultural difference regarding marriage and romantic relationships. He is shocked to hear that both my sister and my brother have kids and are not married. We share our points of view and have a really open and honest conversation without passing judgment, just plain and simple curiosity.
The connection I felt in that moment was very intense. Human to human. Maybe it was the super moon, maybe it was the random act of kindness that Huong had shown me. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful that I got to experience it.