Ex-pats

With sea air still in your hair and skin forever blushing you find yourself lost on streets with no lights and inexplicable sounds. After ignoring a man who drives up saying “1 2 3 marijuana?” you find what you are looking for; the one white guy at a local restaurant.

Ex-pats.

Burping from the crate of beer just consumed you can taste dinner as you squeeze onto a scooter happy that this night you aren’t on the back of the drunk Swiss’ scooter. Ridding a scooter through Hue you feel all the benefits of a bike without any of the effort, you could close your eyes and be flying in a way.

The bar dashes in front of you as nameless pop music replaces the cries of cicadas and cheerful laughter of the drunk middle aged men you find at the local places. French, German and so many degrees of accented English that you swear it’s a new language prance about the bar. Excited you talk, one is a teacher, another a long term traveler and the others become too specific to remember. It becomes odd to hear Vietnamese and besides the staff there are only two locals around you. Time begins to blur as you look around imagining the people in military uniforms or floor length skirts too warm for the weather. The world feels catered to you and them, none of the ex-pats know Vietnamese, they don’t need to, they know a local or two. Pillars of privilege support your world and theirs. It seems so obvious that you wonder how they don’t see it. An eerily chill covers your mind and you feel sober for an instant. “Oh, what’s your name? Where are you from?”

You drink a beer and laugh at a joke, forgetting your passing thoughts.

The bridges of Hue

 A river runs through Hue passing gingerly under two bridges, one the American, one the French. Traces of history linger in the air in Vietnam like constantly falling ash. Old women address you as madame or monsieur yet know no French. At the Citadel, the ancient royal residence, buildings held together by moss with geckos dashing in and out of bullet holes lay juxtaposed to rebuilt structures whose ornaments and colors waltz with your eyes. The market seemingly as old as time is constructed by clothes towering above, a mist of deja vu of the Citadel; bullet holes of A&F, Prada, REI, incenses, Marlboros, fresh meat, Rolex and scurrying rats while bubbles of English pop around you in a sea of incomprehension. Mercedes tumble by on the two bridges as a woman carrying two baskets with a bamboo stick waits for her turn to cross the ebb and flow of motorbikes. You feel lost in this rain of ash till you squat on a plastic chair for a coffee. Cigarette smoke passes by as words begin to flow like the rain on the sidewalk. How old? From where? Huda beer! Karaoke! Whiskey! And for a second the ash stops. There is no time in a conversation over coffee and cigarettes, there are bridges being built and lives crossing back and forth.

Morning in Hue

Cicadas

In the parks of Hanoi and dragon like environment of Hoa Lu you hear cicadas whose calls seem to hold up the humidity. The river, like the Brazos, isn’t clear but it has subtle interconnecting colors the same as any masterful painting. On the road to and from Hoa Lu rice fields hug the highway like cotton does in the South. Women beyond their years hunched over planting in a rhythmic fashion that echos thousands of years of humanity. Houses have been torn in half to build new roads. Modernization built by each fold of tar. Yet there is nothing as modern as the children that find a game in stones or cicadas’ calls shivering the air. Life and home are everywhere, just in different forms. There is no one thing or time that is modern, but there are different ways to view the world. You are home and ‘modern’ when my past and present meet in the sounds of cicadas, in the sweat of humidity or in the smile of a stranger.

Hanoi

The traffic moves like intersecting streams that you calmly skip across. You perch at a restaurant like a crane on a stone as you gulp down 50 cent beer with a waiter whose name you can never possibly remember. As you walk through the $1 cigarette smoke you see buildings as old as the legendary 400 year old turtle in Hoan Klem lake. The people, the interactions the city all flow like water through time and space.