The rain drizzles down tonight turning the sidewalks icy. My flip-flops skid along as I walk and I take short, firm steps so as not to fall. The phone booths here use some kind of tinted plastic on them, and this evening I noticed that car and motorbike lights shining and flashing through the tinted stuff made them look like flashing ambulance lights.

I had lunch today at my normal little place, and a cyclo driver sat down across from me. He normally has a post that is between my guesthouse and where my Vietnamese classes are. Most days he smiles at me and I’ve noticed him at this particular sidewalk restaurant before. He didn’t say anything, but I decided to try to talk with him. My listening is probably my weakest skill in terms of Vietnamese, and that was truly confirmed when I was talking with this older man. For those who are reading and don’t know, a cyclo is a kind of three-wheeled bike contraption. The driver sits behind the passengers and/or freight and pedals and steers the thing by kind of swiveling the front two wheels around. These things don’t have gears, and there is only on break on the rear wheel that is activated by pulling a wire behind the driver’s seat. Anyhow, this man sat down and started eating, so I asked him how many hours he works in a day. The answer he gave me must’ve been exaggerated somewhat, but I’m sure it’s quite a bit. I learned that he is 64, and from what I could see, he had one tooth. His fingers were big from a lifetime of hard work. He complimented my Vietnamese a few times. “Thanks, uncle,” I said, “I try, but sometimes it’s very difficult.” He gave me his big, toothless smile and yelled for another plate of rice. I had to get to class so I told him I’d see him later.


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