Good Morning Vietnam

I’m not a morning person. Nor am I a night owl. I love the idea of going to bed on time. Yet even with a long night of sleep, mornings still terrify me — now, more so than ever. I’m awakened by the strange screeches of bats kissing in the wind. No really, the bats actually sound like they’re violently kissing. And each time as I awaken in a foreign space, I feel lost and lonely.

Vietnam mornings signal an entire day of anything, everything, and also nothing. Trinh left for Ho Chi Minh and took with her my bike key and an English-speaking friend. I tell myself I need to fight the fear of the unknown. Go out on foot and explore Vi Thanh. But this morning I couldn’t.

I needed to exercise and I also didn’t know the language. I anchored to the chair, busying myself by practicing numbers. một, hai, ba, bốn, năm… I have to pee but my squat toilet was scattered with bugs so I couldn’t do that either… sáu, bảy, tám, chín, mười. Done. I had no excuse in thinking the farmers would rip me off. It’s time I go to the market.

But I’m dressed inappropriately. My soccer shorts didn’t drop below the knee. They would scoff at my insolence. So I remained at the desk, refusing to even pee. Time chipped slowly away until suddenly I shot out of my chair and mustered up enough strength to tell my fears to fuck it and start the day with a run. I can change into respectable teacher attire afterwards.

Motorcyclists swiveled around to figure out who was the stranger running around the college. Construction workers shouted strange sounds at me. The Mekong delta sun blazed onto my SPF 50 lathered skin (This one’s for you, mom) forcing the sweat out of every pore, and at this moment my morning fear passed and I was smiling out loud.

I didn’t actually make it to the market that day. Blame Fred and Khoa for whisking me off to a coffee shop, where I instead over caffeinated myself on an empty stomach and topical conversations. The night ended in great company, food, and a ride through the city. The day was over and I found myself falling for Vietnam and falling asleep.

This time the hoarse calls of frogs broke my peace. It was a new day and a whole new scary morning. The loveliness of yesterday had disappeared. But this morning was slightly different from yesterday. I knew how to count and with that I went to the market.

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