It snuck up on me. There was a warning, but I didn’t heed it. All of a sudden, it struck, and I’m still reeling. Jack is gone. He’s back to his hometown of Seattle and will be studying in Michigan this fall. I never think about these events until they pass, and during the last few days with Jack I realized that I should have spent more time with him when he was here. Four of us piled into a taxi at 4 a.m. and went to the airport, and then three came back. Jack disappeared into the vacuum of a building known as an international airport. I can only hope that someday we’ll meet up back in the States and take road trips like we discussed many times when he was here. I wish him luck, but I’ll miss his mellow and intelligent presence in Long Xuyen over the next years.

And once again I’m back in this city of motorbikes. When I came up here with Jack we had the windows of the car down, and later that day I could actually feel the dust and grime on my teeth. In certain places, there are walls that are built around construction sites, and they are used by some people as a convenient urinal. Sometimes when I’m walking past one I take a deep breath and try to hold it, as the smell can be pretty overpowering. But it’s all part of the experience I suppose.

Now today is the Fourth of July, and it’s strange. There are no booms of fireworks, and I haven’t yet seen anyone cooking out either. No flags suffocating the streets, no parades, but somehow being away from it all makes me miss it slightly. I wouldn’t mind having a bratwurst and then waiting till the sun goes down to see bits of gunpowder and chemicals explode in the night—hanging out with some good friends and driving around in the warm, holiday night air. I saw fireworks at Tet, and I’ll see my fair share here in the future.

Another thing that happened in the recent past is that my parents bought tickets to come visit me. They’ll be here in December, and actually be here for Christmas. That’s quite possibly the best present I could ever receive. When they arrive it will have been over a year since I’ve seen them, and it should be wonderful. I just hope I can be a decent guide around these places that I’m still learning about.

Now I’m about to go on a wandering expedition around where I live. I like just walking to see what I can see. I’m lucky to live in a section of district one where there aren’t many tourists (at least I don’t see them). And no tourists means that there are no people or children lying in wait to try to sell me something with a few words of English. I’ll just stroll around and try to enjoy this rather cool weather here, brought on by a few days of rain. It’s strange actually, last night I was very cold, having caught a motorbike taxi in a cool, drizzling rain and soaking my hair. Julie sent me the address of a restaurant, and I didn’t know where it was, and my driver didn’t know where it was, but we eventually found it and I’d never felt so cold here. It was that soaking cold that comes from rain, and the sun was down and provided me with no consolation. The rest of the night, even though it wasn’t raining, I was still cold as four of us wandered the streets and watched the western tourists wander by in a daze. We chuckled and laughed to ourselves. Julie gave a one-armed beggar with a crutch a hamburger.

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