Lucky Seven

Trip Start Jul 15, 2007
Trip End Jul 16, 2008

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

We have been very fortunate on this trip that just when the kids are having a small bout of homesickness, a familiar fast-food enterprise somehow appears to save the day. Starbucks in Bangkok and Au Bon Pain in Phuket were the saviors in Thailand.  The airport in Siem Reap, Cambodia provided us with Dairy Queen, which seemed as incongruous as Jim at a Ralph Nader rally.  Since the kids spent their last U.S. evening with friends at the D.Q. in Dilworthtown, it was especially sweet, and they easily talked me into large Blizzards.  Interestingly, the world's most ubiquitous food appears to be Pringles, the only "food" we have seen in every country thus far.
The vein of familiarity runs also through our last 24 hours, which have been fantastic.  The kids pleaded for Italian food for dinner last night, and we weren't sure how well we would do in Hanoi.  The restaurant that our guide, Canh, recommended was straight out of Tuscany.  There was aged Balsamic and good olive oil for the insalata mista, the pasta and pizza were deliciously authentic, and the wine was from Montalcino, our Italian stomping grounds.  We were giddy even before the wine.
En route to our next destination today, Canh took us to his family's house for lunch.  Canh's parents and siblings are rural farmers, and he is the only one to learn English and attend university.  His elderly parents greeted us effusively and made a lovely lunch, most of which came from their garden (and chicken coop and yes, there's lots of bird flu here too, but it looked well-cooked).  The kids then played soccer with Canh's nephew and another boy from the village. 

Afterwards, we walked through the rice paddies, where all of the village families have a plot.  As we were watching people plant and fertilize their rice, Alex, who is seven years old, lost his seventh tooth.  It somehow seems auspicious to lose your seventh tooth in the middle of a rice paddy in rural Vietnam when you are seven, and he's thinking he will have a really lucky life (like his mom, who thinks having a family like this one just doesn't get any better).   


Amy has asked me several times over the last few weeks how I think this trip is changing me.  I've never had an answer.  For the first time, I have a hint of one. 

During our visit to Mai Chau, we went for several walks in the countryside.  In a local White Tai village, we saw the local blacksmith, cigarette dangling from his lip, making farm implements over a charcoal fire.  He used steel cut from an old 500-pound bomb, probably dropped by a B-52 during operations more than three decades ago.

Looking at that bomb, and thinking about the random mayhem caused by American carpet bombing during the war, I found my sympathies with the Vietnamese and not with the Americans. 
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