Last moments in Danang…


The last weekend I spent in Danang was full. Tien and Tam were touring the central highlands when I found out that I was going to be able to stay at least two more weeks in Danang. The night before they left was kind of somber thinking it just might be our last night together. I hadn’t even been able to gather the souvenirs I wanted to leave them and their children. They left the same morning I went to immigration to get my exit visa. Tien had a friend of his be available for any motorbike needs I might have while he was gone. I imagined I was going to get the exit that day and they would require me to leave over the weekend. I was so happy to hear that I could stay until October 20th, that meant I would be able to go on a central highlands tour of my own with the boys. I would get it at a cheaper cost than the normal tourist because of the effort I put in on creating their blog site (http://easyriderdanangtamtam.wordpress.com/) advertising their tours. Because I am a friend and I helped out I would get a full three days through the country meeting minority people, swimming in waterfalls, and possibly riding elephants. For sure I was going to see some war history as we rode along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Trust me when I say it made me real sad to put together their bog site thinking I wouldn’t be doing the same due to visa problems. They were very excited to hear that I would still be in Danang when they got back. I am also glad. I didn’t want to leave my friends on such a sad note.

The Friday they elft ended up being quite wonderful. I had energy to leave the hotel and go write a blog entry at the Young Cafe. After three times going in and working on my laptop they have been the most gracious serving me my Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk. Sometimes, one would look over my shoulder as I worked, pointing out pictures that they recognized. They weren’t into helping me with my Vietnamese pronunciation, looking for me to point out my order. A lot of time, even on the street they prefer I use English. I think it is a combination of wanting learn or practice English and my Vietnamese pronunciation is horrendous. Others, eating or drinking, stare, but they smile when I smile.  It is a fashionable cafe serving mainly young students or workers.  Lunch is also very tasty and cheap. When I am in there they make sure I have everything I need within reach.

Every other morning in my hotel I force myself to a set of push ups and abs to fight depression. It has done nothing to keep me in shape. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but I have lost a lot of the muscle mass I worked on for the past year. I do not believe I have gained any weight, but there is not enough meat in my diet to maintain mass. The tire around my waste and back is a little more evident and that is something I want to work on. I had Tien’s friend meet me Saturday morning at 8 to go to the beach to run and swim. The whole time I have been here I have not been able to fully enjoy what the beach offers. The Hai Chau district is quite far from the beach by foot. You basically need a motorbike to get to different places around here.

The days here have been absolutely beautiful since the last typhoon pizzled away. High clouds in the morning break away by 8am and the sun begins to warm the city. It was a Saturday morning and My Khe beach was empty of people except for a few swimmers and a few ancient looking men pulling in some sort of fishing net. The beach looks like any other, but the smell is totally different. There a sweet smell that kind of mingles with what little salty smell there is. I had planned to swim a little bit, but walked instead along the water. It was cool on my feet as I shuffled along picking up sea shells. There isn’t a thing spectacular about the place, but the sound of the waves will lull the senses as a beach should. With my plan to swim Tam told my driver to take me to My Khe instead. I guess China Beach isn’t that safe to swim this time of year.

The sun rose higher in the sky as I walked. The heat of the day grew, but there was a breeze to keep everyone cool. I made it to a section of beach where there were chairs set out under umbrellas. A young woman beckoned me toward her and i went to check out what she had to offer. For 20,000 dong you can rent a chair and they will bring you food and drinks. I forgot my money in the hotel, but I also had plans to go to Bread of Life for a pancake breakfast.

Bread of Life is a wonderful cafe that is serves western food and staffs deaf kids training them in ASL and vocationally in baking. It’s owned by an American woman named Kathleen who is simply delightful. It was quite busy when I arrived. I enjoyed eaves dropping on the English conversations. I watched as the English teachers came in before their afternoon tutoring sessions. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t recognize me. I didn’t feel it was worth my time starting up conversation because I am leaving in a week. I think that what is really disappointing is that they stick to themselves, avoiding other Vietnamese and Vietnamese places. I noticed a certain superiority that they held in their posture.There is something about “expats” that rubs me wrong. People who prefer to stay alien to their surroundings. Then they wonder why the Vietnamese people give mad dog stares as they walk down the street.

It was a quiet weekend. I thought about my next moves from this point. I continued to look for employment online. Emails were sent with no response back. My mood would dip and rise at the drop of a pin. The morning could move slowly until I ordered my bahn mi in Vietnamese, but then it would drop as I opened my email to an empty box. I thought about coming home every thirty minutes. If I had an opportunity to skype during my day I would see the cats gathered in the background and miss their soft fur and loyal presence. Karli’s face was in front of me, but I missed her soft cheeks under my lips. My time abroad would be so different if she was with me and I second guessed my decision to leave her behind.

I continued to work on Tam’s blog site, changing pictures and finalizing his itineraries. I would look over to my luggage and try to figure out how I was going get everything back in the bags, how I was going to lighten my load for travel. Before the end of the night I got a call from Tien telling me they made it back to Danang City early from their tour. They dropped off their Dutch clients in Hue and made their way back by Hai Van Pass. They were downstairs in the lobby. I put on some clothes and met them downstairs where we went to have some beers and some food.

This was one of the times I wish I had my camera. We sat down around the short plastic table on the short plastic chairs and drank some LaRue. They ordered some food. It ended up being some tiny clay-pot dish that cooked at the table. Inside  two small bowls was a bit of beef, some spinach like vegetable, a bit of spicy broth and an egg. The bowls sat atop each other and then on a dish where they poured some fuel and lit it on fire. When the fire went out we ate what was inside the bowl. Rat ngon! I could have taken more pictures this whole time, but then I felt like a tourist. It began to rain really hard that night. I didn’t know if we would actually leave for the tour of the central highlands. We did.

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