A rather strange thing happened to me today. I went to lunch at my usual place and was greeted by a few hellos from the owners. I ate a little later than usual and perhaps they were worried that I wasn’t coming today, but I showed up and had my rice and things. Then, it started to rain. I wasn’t concerned because the rain wasn’t coming down very hard, so I continued eating. I was eating a soup with my rice; a soup made with a bitter gourd/cucumber-type vegetable. I really like the bitter taste but some foreigners don’t. There was a middle-aged man sitting at the table across from me. I was telling a younger man there that I had to go to class soon and it was raining. Then the middle-aged man said something to me in Vietnamese. I didn’t understand it and said so. But then he asked, in excellent English, “You like the bitter vegetable?” and this sparked off a short discussion of what dishes were good with this particular vegetable. However, now it was time for me to go. It wasn’t raining particularly hard, but in the two blocks to the university, I knew I would get nice and soaked. Then the older woman who looks like she runs the place waved for me to stay. She went back in her shop and emerged with a plastic poncho. It was translucent blue and had white polka dots, but I didn’t really care if I looked good, as long as I didn’t get soaked. So because of the generosity of someone that I don’t know at all, I was mostly dry when I arrived at my freezing classroom.

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