Saturday, July 14, 2018

Shea and Truc

Another unexpected highlight that was destined to be a part of our trip: Truc, who was ten last time I spent time with her, is now 17 and in her last year of high school. Even though Thuy and Thanh practically raised her and her brother, it never occurred to me that she had grown up.


On the first day she and Shea became best friends and spent the next ten days together. In fact, the night before we left for Central Vietnam, Truc texted me how much she was going to miss 'us.' "I want to come with you," she texted me. When I read it out loud, Shea said, "Why not?"

Buying an airline ticket of any kind is out of the question for T and T's family, so the last two times she has traveled with me, her tickets have been purchased for her: once as a gift from my parents, and this time by me. So I said to Shea, "Do you want to split the cost with me?" (around $200), and in Shea style, she answered "yes" before I finished asking the question. That's the kind of person Shea is - she was given a huge gift in this trip, and she did not hesitate to share it. So we went straight over to their house - at 8:00 the night before the flight - and asked Truc to go. Truc was thrilled to say the least - and Thanh was a bit hesitant because Truc would have to fly on a different airline. Truc wasn't scared, though. She even upgraded herself to first class for an extra $5. So she and Shea were able to continue their BFF status and were motorbike partners, swimming partners, jammie partners (bought by Thanh), milk-tea partners, and para-sailing partners. I am a ton of fun, for sure, but I think Shea would have gotten tired of me eventually. I mean, maybe. And Truc is lovely (as is Shea), and I know they will stay in touch. Shea really wants to bring Truc to the states, so we will see where that goes!








And one more word about Shea. Yes, she was a phenomenal traveler. We had our hot, tired and cranky moments (she more than me, haha), but overall, she was a pleasure to have along. Everyone loved her. Thuy and Thanh have adopted her. My former students thought she was cool. Truc would step in front of a train for her.

But here's the thing: yesterday, when I asked her what some of her highlights were, in second place was "food."

Now, I know everyone is not "me" when it comes to passion and palate. But Shea showed very little interest in food, other than pho. Shea could eat pho every meal for the rest of her life and be happy. She was non-plussed by the market for the most part, and while I got up at 6 each morning to explore, taste and hang out with T and T and read to Monkey Boy #2, Shea slept. She did not find every taste fascinating. Now, this doesn't exactly bother me. I can eat on my own for sure. I guess it's more like "pity" for those who don't really "get it." You know? I mean, I like pho and all, but it's just ONE of the tastes here, and it is readily available at home, yes...I know it's not as good. But hey, anyway...I found "food" to be an extremely strange answer!

I will give her credit for this: she is mostly vegetarian, and she did eat a lot of seafood. And she ate chicken a few times, and a little beef. She was sick after each time, but she did it. And that deserves credit!

Shea is going to write about the trip when she gets home, so I will be sure to share it here.

Taste is not really something you can learn. I think you're either born with it or not.

Friday, July 13, 2018

My Other Job

One of my goals in coming to HCMC this time was to fine-tune the Street Food Tour Thanh and I started five years ago. At that time, we drew an old-school map and I hand-wrote descriptions of the food on the back, including pictures. Between Pam and me, we have given this map out to about fifty people who have found the fabric stand and eaten their way through the market with Thanh. It has been a great source of income for her family - she paid for her mother's cataract surgery as well as her father's hospital bills. "I didn't have to borrow," she told me. That's big here.

While Old School is great, we needed to update. So I wanted to make Thanh a website, and was happy to have the mission to take pictures of every single thing we ate. I really should have been a food photographer/writer, as you will see. Thanh researched the food of central Vietnam for our trip to Hoi An and Danang - even though that is not part of the food tour, I was in food picture-taking mode, and had a lot of fun capturing all of it:


Market food (standard tour):

















Seafood Feast on the Street of Nguyen Canh Chan (a new offering for Thanh's business):










Hoi An/Da Nang (Central Vietnam):







Thanh's list of things to eat in Central Vietnam:
















Food tour anyone?