The rain seems to be coming down more frequently recently. I had a nice little splash in it as I was headed to class today. I was at my usual café for studying today, but sometimes I’m there for reading, and of I’m always there for it’s primary purpose: to drink strong coffee. The sky was sprinkling a little around 12:30, but I didn’t pay any attention to it. I figured it would spit itself dry in ten minutes or so. Then, as I was asking for the bill, it started to come down heavy. “Sit down, sit down,” the owners were telling me. “I have to go to class,” I told them. This one statement in Vietnamese sparked a few questions from the shop matriarch. “How old are you?” she asked me. “Twenty-two,” I said.
“What country are you from?”
“Do you have a wife yet?”
“Not yet. I’m too young.”
“How long have you been in Vietnam?”
“About six months.”
“When do you return to America?”
“I’ll live here for two and-a-half years more.”
These answers seemed to satisfy her immediate curiosity. It was now closer to 1 o’clock. “I have to go.” The older man at the shop waved at me as I stepped out into the rain. “Thank you,” he said.
The rain really came down when I was in class. The classroom is on the third floor of a building, and when we have breaks from class the teacher and students go out onto the open hallway/balcony for the fresh air. This hallway/balcony happens to overlook a construction site for a new building at the university. Today it was turned into a huge mud pit. I don’t know how they could work there at all for a week.
When class was over the rain had stopped, and I made it back to my room by avoiding puddles. Then I was sitting and working on something, and the thunder and lighting seemed to be crashing right outside my window. It made me jump a few times. And the rain was pouring once again. At least I wasn’t out in it.
Then finally the rain stopped, but the leaking from the building across from mine was deceiving me again. Eventually I went out for dinner. I had a spicy noodle dish and the young man who works there sat down a few seats away to ask me a question. “What is more delicious,” he asked, “pho or bun bo?” Pho is usually my standard when I go to this particular shop, but lately I’ve been digging the bun bo there. “I like pho and bun bo,” I told him. When I was paying and he was bringing me my change, he gave me the greatest compliment I’ve received in a long time. He said, “Rat giong Viet Nam.” I understood those particular words, but didn’t really get the meaning at first. I asked him to write it down. He did and as I was walking away the full meaning of the phrase struck me: “You’re very similar to the Vietnamese.” At least that’s the best way I can interpret it.