Sometimes I get homesick for Vietnam. Having spent a good deal of my formative years there, I have flashbacks of the time I spent in-country. Some bad, some good. I think it is time I dwelt on some of the good.
Many is the night that I spent in one of the dark, dank upper rooms over the Wagon Wheel Bar in downtown Qui Nhon. The smells were unforgettable. The mixture of the odors of nouc mam (fish sauce used in about every way in the preparation of food), raw sewage, and the sea breeze coming in off of Qui Nhon Bay, rushes my senses every time I think of those melancholy nights.
The healing odor of eucalyptus in the little green bottle of medicine that was used for all sorts of ailments from headaches to common colds comes to mind. Of course, to this day I keep a bottle of it in the night stand by my bed. It comes in handy when the nose gets clogged during the night.
The arduous sounds of the street vendors laboriously pushing their carts and selling anything from a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup called "Pho", with the little shrimp on the backside of the tortilla-like cracker; to fermented/aged duck eggs. I can still hear them calling out their wares in the thick night air.
Up the outer staircase, as if carried by a floating feather, drifts the child-like giggling of "tea-girls" as they clean up the bar for the night and prepare to play cards or some other form of gambling entertainment for the rest of the early morning hours. Doesn't matter, they are able to sleep until late afternoon in preparation for another night of doing the "G. I.
And, of course, the unmistakable sound of plastic sandals on concrete as my girl for the night makes her way to my room.
Always the same, no matter which of the harem was there, "Ah, Anh Don, you numbah one. You, me, we can get place and stay together long time?". And my canned response, "No, baby-san, no can do. I beaucoup butterfly (like many different girls), too much. You cacaidau me (cut my throat) when I sleep. Tonight, that is all we have". Then, she would complete her business, pull out the large tin bowl and wash us.
Then, the china-doll-like angel of the night, would crawl into my arms, and, while being hypnotized by the cacophonic sound of the slow-turning ceiling fan, we would sleep.
Copyright © 2001 by Don Johnson, All Rights Reserved