It hurts my brain to think about how insignificant we really are. I don’t think our brains are wired to truly comprehend such extreme distances or lengths of time. At least I don’t think my brain is.
It’s Monday night – about 6:30pm. My mom and stepdad, Allen, got to Vietnam safely at around 11:30pm on Friday night. They were tired, as could have been expected after about 33 hours door-to-door, but otherwise fine. Thao and I picked them up at the airport and got them checked into their hotel downtown, then head home and crashed.
We picked them back up at 8:00am at their hotel Saturday morning and went to have breakfast – vegetarian pho and banana pancakes at my favorite restaurant, An Lac Chay.
Then I had to teach my law class so my mom and stepdad and Thao came and watched me teach. I was surprised but it actually made me a little nervous to have them there watching!
After class, we took my mom to get her fitted for her ao dai (traditional Vietnamese dress) for the wedding. She picked out a pretty turquoise one. (Thao will be in red, I’ll be in green, Thao’s mom will be in dark purple, and my mom will be in turquoise.)
By then in was time for lunch, so we went to a good restaurant called Quan An Ngon and had a nice lunch. My friends Dave and Thoa met us there. That restaurant is so good – we don’t go there very much because it’s usually so crowded and you have to wait, but we sat right down on Saturday. They have Vietnamese food from different regions of the country – their menu is huge. We ate a big meal.
After lunch, my mom and stepdad went back to their hotel to take a nap, and I headed home to do the same. I drank too much Friday night and was feeling it on Saturday. The nap did me good.
At 7pm, Thao and I picked Mom and Allen back up at their hotel and we went to the Square One restaurant at Thao’s hotel, the Park Hyatt, for dinner. Thao’s mom, brother, sister-in-law, and three aunts met us for dinner. We had a great time. Even though Thao’s family doesn’t speak any English, and my mom and stepdad don’t speak any Vietnamese, Thao and I were able to translate enough that we were able to have a good conversation. My mom’s birthday was last week, and Thao surprised her by having a chocolate cake that said “Happy Birthday Mom” on it and a bunch of roses delivered to our table after dinner. That was a surprise to me too, as it was all Thao’s doing.
On Sunday, I met my mom and Allen at their hotel at 9am and we took a long walk all around Saigon for a few hours. We saw a lot of interesting stuff and they enjoyed taking a ton of photos. The only real destinations we went to were the Majestic Hotel, where our wedding party will be next week, and the big Ben Thanh market – other than that we just walked around various neighborhoods looking around. They checked out of their hotel at noon and my mom and Thao took a taxi back to our apartment and my stepdad rode on the back of my motorbike. They dropped a lot of their stuff off at our apartment, since they were leaving for Cambodia that afternoon and didn’t need to take everything they’d brought with them. They left for the airport around 2:00pm.
At that time, I went and met some friends at Lotte Mart for what was supposed to be my bachelor party. I got to the Lotte Mart at about 2:45pm and we bowled four or five games. It was actually really fun – as much fun as people like to make of bowling, it’s really a pretty fun thing to do when you do it. It probably helps that we were drinking a lot of beer and taking shots of tequila. The more I drank, the worse my bowling became. Anyway, although I don’t really remember it, we apparently left the bowling alley and went to a restaurant for dinner. I remember being there, and strangely I remember the address – 303 Dien Bien Phu – because my buddy Nhan kept repeating it, but I don’t really remember going there or leaving. I know that I sneaked out of my own bachelor party at around 8:00pm. I got one of my friends, Rizwan, who had come for the dinner but not the bowling to sneak out with me and drive me home on his motorbike. (I just acted like I was going to the restroom and never went back.) I know that was a lame thing to do, but I was already way drunk and knew two things: (1) it was only going to get worse; and (2) my friends were not going to let me leave.
I am well-aware that it is a very lame thing to do to sneak out of one’s own bachelor party. But, given how bad I felt all day today – even after cutting it short – I am glad I did. I will take the heat from my friends for being a punk. It’s okay.
So today, Monday, I did basically absolutely nothing. I slept late, got up and ate breakfast, then went back to bed. Around lunchtime I got up and set up my new Xbox that my mom and stepdad brought with them from the U.S., and I finally played Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 2 for a few hours. It’s a pretty good game. I mostly played the single player campaign, but I did play one game of multiplayer. It has a difficult time connecting to multiplayer matches for some reason – just says “testing matches” over and over again. Weird.
I haven’t heard from my mom and stepdad since they left yesterday afternoon. They toured Angkor Wat today and tomorrow will head from Cambodia to Hoi An, Vietnam. They’ll be in Hoi An two nights and will return to Saigon on Friday, the 24th. We have lunch reservations at a nice restaurant on Christmas Day, and then our wedding ceremony in Long An is on the 26th. Follows by our wedding party here in Saigon on the 27th. Then my mom and stepdad leave early on the morning of the 28th to fly back to the U.S. So kind of a quick trip – especially since they’re spending four days in Cambodia and Hoi An, but I think it will be an interesting one for them.
It’s 9:18pm and I have had enough to drink. Mom and stepdad arrive at 11:30pm. Just over two hours from now. We will be there! Thao is at spa but on her way home.
Tonight. Dave had a flat after three loops, so I did one more by myself. He caught a ride with a passing motorbike – pulling his bike beside them. He SMS’d to say he’d gotten the flat repaired and was back on the road. In Vietnam, help is usually never too far away!
My mom and stepdad’s flight left Atlanta at 7:25am Thursday morning their time (7:25pm Thursday night Vietnam time). We pick them up at the airport tomorrow night at 11:00pm Friday night Vietnam time (11:00am Friday morning Atlanta time). So, anyway you slice it, it’s about a 27.5-hour trip for them. Will be weird to see them in Vietnam!
My bachelor party/stag party/whatever you want to call it is this Sunday night. My mom and stepdad will be leaving on Sunday to fly to Cambodia Sunday afternoon so I will be up for whatever that night. All I know so far is it involves bowling. An Indian food. And I imagine beer, although I haven’t been told that specifically yet.
I just finished reading the book Drood by Dan Simmons. It’s about the last few years of Charles Dickens’ life – and is in particular a fictionalized version of the origins of Dickens’ last book, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” which was not yet complete when he died. Kind of a horror/mystery novel, which is not my usual genre, but it was very well-written and I enjoyed it a lot.
It’s a bit long at 771 pages, and I thought it was a little repetitive in some parts with all of the comings and goings, etc., but I read it very quickly because I kept wanting to find out what happened next.
I remember when the book came out in 2007 and was well-reviewed then – I remember thinking about buying it and I may have even had it in my Amazon shopping cart for a while. But I didn’t buy it then for some reason and just happened to see a copy of it in a bookstore here recently and bought it.
Simmons wrote another book called Terror which is a fictionalized retelling of the doomed Franklin expedition in search of the northwest passage. That story was also fictionalized in The Rifles by William Vollmann, which I read not too long ago and found very interesting. (Franklin’s ship was named the HMS Terror.) I hope I will run across a copy of that one too – or maybe I’ll just break down and get a freaking Kindle, in which case I could just download it for $8 or whatever.
10 days until wedding. 2 days until my mom and stepdad arrive. Wow! This is really happening!
11 days to wedding. Must. Keep. Fat. Off.
It’s Monday morning here. Rode 30km more last night. Good ride.
Today is my off day. I need to go into school for a few hours to work on a draft exam and also to edit my slides for next week. I finished grading my class’ second midterm exam yesterday – much better results than on the first midterm. Maybe we made it too easy.
Went over 30km tonight – my bike computer wasn’t working at first so not sure exactly how far. Haven’t ridden in a while – had a strange rash on my legs that required an antibiotic cream and pills to get ride of, so didn’t want to ride while that was going on. Ah, the joys of living in a heavily-polluted, third-world, tropical country!
Felt good to be on the bike – I have been off of my diet recently too and I could see my face starting to fill back out. Don’t want to get fat right before I get married! (Will at least wait until after! Ha!)
Two more weeks = married. For realz.
On Thursday we went back out to Long An (Thao’s hometown) for what was hopefully our final step in the Vietnamese government’s marriage approval process. Two Thursdays ago was mental health check at the hospital. This past Thursday was strange meeting with government official at justice department.
We had an appointment for 1:30pm but, like most things here, it did not start on time. At about 2:00pm, I asked Thao to go up and ask what the holdup was. No answer. At 2:30pm, I went up myself to ask. No answer. We were later told that the man who was supposed to interview us at 1:30pm had “gone home for lunch and gotten drunk,” so they had to arrange for someone else to interview us. Nice.
The guy asked Thao a bunch of questions in Vietnamese about when and how we met, how long we’ve been together, why we wanted to get married, etc. Then he told Thao in Vietnamese that he was about to ask me some questions in English, and he needed me to answer his questions in English very slowly and clearly because his English was not very good. I said okay, then he turned to me and said, very slowly “Do you want to marry her?” And I said, also very slowly “Yes.”
He then turned to Thao and said in Vietnamese “Tell him he can’t just answer yes. He needs to explain himself so I can understand his thinking.”
He then asked me again, equally slowly “Do you want to marry her?” I’m thinking “This is a yes or no question dude. I don’t know what else I’m supposed to say.” So I said “Yes, she has been my girlfriend for two years. We love each other very much and are very happy together and want to get married. We have been planning on getting married for about 4 or 5 months.”
He then told Thao in Vietnamese to tell me to look at the clock on the wall behind him, which I did. And he asked me in English “What time is it?” I said “Ten minutes to 3,” at which point he turned around and looked at the clock. He then wrote some stuff down on a piece of paper, shook my hand and said we were approved. I don’t know what my being able to read a clock has to do with our getting approved to get married in Vietnam, but whatever. So thanks mom and dad for teaching me to tell time. Otherwise I might be single forever.
My mom and stepdad will be arriving in Vietnam next Friday night, the 18th. They’ve got a pretty full itinerary – two nights in Saigon, two nights in Siem Reap, Cambodia, two nights in Hoi An, Vietnam, Christmas Eve and Christmas in Saigon, our wedding ceremony in Long An on the 26th, and our wedding party in Saigon on the 27th. They fly back to the U.S. on the 28th. Should be a great trip for them! We are excited to have them here in Vietnam.