Eating out in District 8

I wanted to take my girlfriend to the zoo yesterday. But I wanted her to wear the nice dress I bought her. She didn’t want to wear it because it showed off a little too much. It had large open sleeves… she’d never worn anything like that and was concerned about showing off her breasts. I find this absolutely baffling because like all Vietnamese girls she always wears the most tightest fitting tops and pants and frankly I think THEY show off too much, but for some reason girls here think it’s ok to wear wonderbras and tube tops, but that if anyone actually sees your skin it’s not cool. I feel the opposite. I’d rather see her in a nice, loose-fitting dress and figure she shouldn’t care if someone sees a tiny bit of side-boob. It’s a cultural thing that I don’t really understand because we very much disagree on what a girl should wear. I hate what she wears. I actually made the comment to a friend “The only girl who wears tight, hot pink jeans in Vietnam is either a kid or a prostitute and I really hope my girlfriend is neither, but sometimes she is more of a kid than I realise”.

Anyway, we didn’t go to the zoo. I tried to take her clothes shopping first because she was already complaining how hot it was out and I was like “Well that’s because you’re wearing jeans instead of the nice cool dress I bought you, idiot”, but she was sorta annoyed and she wouldn’t even go inside when I took her to two different clothes stores. Yes, I know right ? An Asian girl who actually says “No” when her boyfriend wants to take her clothes shopping ? I didn’t think such a thing existed either.

I made the excuse that clouds were rolling in and it wasn’t a great day for the zoo (I wanted to take pictures and therefore needed better light, not to mention her being better dressed) and we went home instead. She didn’t come upstairs with me. I called her and asked her to, but when I tried to talk to her, I spent an hour trying to explain how I felt and what the problem was. I figured I had to be frank and unambiguous or she wouldn’t understand so I just told her that I was a bit pissed off that she dressed like a 16 year old sometimes and while that was ok around Pham Ngu Lao, it was definitely not ok if we were going out somewhere nice and I expected her to dress more like an adult.

She was not happy. OMG was she not happy. She did nothing but ignore me and sulk and say “Don’t understand you. I don’t speak English” for ages. I totally get that she doesn’t understand everything I say. Then again, a lot of native English speaking girls don’t really understand what the fuck I’m on about sometimes either so it’s really not a big deal. She understood me just fine and I know that this “I don’t speak English” thing is a revenge tactic that Vietnamese girls use sometimes to try and get across the point “If you don’t understand me, maybe I don’t understand you either”. She was just furious at what I’d said is all.

At one point I jokingly said “Daijoubu desu ka ?” She covered her face and said “No ! No daijoubu !” I said “Oh my god. You know what that means ? I wasn’t sure if you’d know that word”. She glared at me from behind the pillow and said “It means ‘are you ok’ in Japanese, right ?” I grinned and said “Yep. And if I tickle you, you would say ‘kimochi !'” and I tickled her. She slapped my hand away and said “No kimochi. No daijoubu. Angry at you”. I sighed. We talked it out and then made up. Making up with her is always nice because once she stops being angry you can tell she’s let it go and she doesn’t hold grudges. She’ll be angry as hell, but if you can work it out and apologise sufficiently, there’s a point where you can see the anger just disappear and you breathe a sigh of relief.

But I had to make it up to her somehow, other than how we made up at home. I’m always trying to take her out for dinner to foreign restaurants. I want her to try Indian and Japanese and Thai food all the time. And she does, even though she doesn’t always like it. In the morning we had breakfast at a local cafe and I got her to try a Thai squid salad, and then at lunch time I bought a little sushi to eat at home. Vietnamese people absolutely HATE sushi. They will NOT eat raw meat for health reasons. They think it’s EVIL. Honestly, one time I tried to give my landlady a slice of pepperoni and she said “NO ! Cannot eat uncooked !” and before I could say a word she threw it into a hot flying pan and fried it before eating it out of the pan with chopsticks. I facepalmed so hard. I’ve taken two girls out to Japanese restaurants who have said “Oh yeah I’ve eaten sushi” and then watched them either try the food and then regurgitate it under the table, or just stare at it in abject terror and say “The fish.. it’s not cooked !”

So it’s not easy to convince a Vietnamese girl to eat sushi I can assure you. I know they don’t like tuna rolls (despite being a culture that eats a lot of tuna… go figure) nor do they like nori (the seaweed it’s wrapped in) so it’s a hard sell. I figure they will eat a little teriyaki chicken sushi or something, but to be honest my local places don’t make this. But I had some nigiri yesterday. I teased Yi with a prawn with a ball of rice on it by pretending it was alive and swimming around her. She said “I’m not eating that”. I said “Come oooooon. It’s tôm (prawn) and cơm (rice). You eat both those things all the time”. She tried a little bit and admitted it was good. She’s definitely not sold on sushi, but I think certain types of nigiri might be ok. No raw salmon that’s for sure, but a little prawn nigiri seems acceptable.

But to do something nice for her that she was going to enjoy I had to not take her too far out of her comfort zone, but still do something interesting. So I said “Let’s go eat in District 8. Have you ever been there ?” She said “Once”. She doesn’t have much cause to go wandering across the city for no reason. But because I always try and make her eat foreign stuff I think she doesn’t believe me when I say that I do eat Vietnamese food too. And there’s no area I know in Saigon that is more urban and Vietnamese than the area along Pham Hung in District 8. And I used to live in that neighbourhood (much to the incredulity of my foreign friends who wouldn’t even go there if you paid them) and I wanted to prove to her that I could get outside my comfort zone and order and eat at a restaurant where the menu was entirely in Vietnamese and noone spoke English.

So I took her to Cau Xanh first. It’s a karaoke restaurant. I’d told her I’d eaten ếch (frogs) there the first time I ever went there and to my amusement she exlaimed “Oh my god really ? I love them. We used to eat them a lot in the countryside but not very much anymore. I haven’t eaten them for years but I like them”. Ok. Cau Xanh for karaoke, frogs and a plate of cubed ostrich meat for me. It’ll be just like old times in District 8, except with Yi there this time instead of Merry (involuntary shudder).

I deliberately took the long way to District 8 by going through District 5 because while busier and with heavier traffic, it’s much more beautiful to ride the full length of Tran Hung Dao at night time on a motorbike than it is to just cut through the slummy part of District 4 and get there quicker because riding down Tran Hung Dao at night on a motorbike with the warm Saigon night air in my face was always one of my favourite things about living in District 8 and I figured she’d like it too.

When we got to the restaurant though it’d changed. They’d expanded quite a bit by removing some of the extra rooms along the side and making their dining area much larger. She looked around with an amused look as a woman prepared to sing karaoke and Vietnamese people dined around us. I asked “Surprised I know a place like this ?” and she said “Yes”. I said “I figured you would be. That’s why I brought you here. You like it ?” She just said “Yes. I like it”.

But the problem was the menu had changed. No more ostrich ! They still had wild boar on the menu, but when I asked for it, I was told they didn’t have any that night. Sacrilege ! I told her we were having one beer and getting out of there, but she’d already ordered a plate of frogs legs be brought out to the table and cooked on a burner so I figured we’d stay and have that because I had promised her the place served good frog and she said she really wanted to eat that. I would have rathered it was fried or especially grilled, but in typical Vietnamese style, she preferred it boiled in a curry with vegetables.

The meal came with banh mi (a small freshly baked baguette), and she tore off some and dipped it in the curry and held it out for me. I ate it and asked “You like the curry ?” and she nodded. I said “You know, this style of curry is the same as a Penang curry from Malaysia. I can cook this curry”. She looked at me and said “Malaysian ?” I said “Yeah. On the island of Penang in Malaysia they make a famous curry that is exactly like this. Tastes same as this one”. She pondered over this until I started chuckling over something funny I noticed.

The staff had brought out a single fork. Obviously for the idiot foreigner to use. She was using it. It took me a while to notice and then suddenly I started laughing quietly. She glared at me and said “What you laughing at ?” I pointed at her hand, holding a frog’s leg on a fork, and then me, holding one between a pair of chopsticks and said “There’s only one fork, and the Vietnamese girl is eating with it while her Australian boyfriend uses chopsticks. You don’t think that’s funny ?”

She grinned in embarrassment and put the fork down and picked up her chopsticks. I just laughed even more. Until she kicked me under the table anyway. We finished our frog curry and paid and we jumped back on my motorbike and I said “I know a better place. That place used to have great cheap food, but it’s changed. The prices are higher and the food is boring now. But I know an amazing restaurant that you will love”.

See I could have taken her to Binh An Village on the little river island of Binh Quoi where I went for the jazz festival, but it’s pretty upper-class and I think she’d feel uncomfortable. So I decided to go with a similar style of place in District 8. I’ve only been there twice before, and the menu is entirely in Vietnamese, but it’s very beautiful and they have many gardens and ponds. When we got there though, troi oi the place had changed so much. The restaurant had expanded to cover easily three or four times as much property.

They’d knocked down the main buildings and they’d just stretched out so that it had become this enormous outdoor dining experience that stretched for blocks and blocks. There was lush gardens and the hugest big artificial pond in the middle that must have stretched for several hundred meters with little bridges and pagodas all through it, and people sat around the edges on wooden decks eating dinner amongst candlelight and people were even fishing in the lake. Despite the fact that it had changed so much and I was a little confused, and the place was so enormous and absolutely packed with hundreds upon hundreds of people eating, I tried to act like it was totally familiar to me and found us a quiet table beside the lake several hundred meters from where the valet had taken my motorbike to park it.

We sat down and a waiter whizzed up to us on roller skates, stopping on a dime. They have to wear roller skates there because the place is enormous and the kitchen is sometimes hundreds of meters from where the customer is dining, so all night there was these tall, well dressed Vietnamese guys whizzing around on roller skates carrying plates full of food. Between the atmosphere, the menu and the customer service I could barely tell if I was in Vietnam, Bali, France, or 1950’s USA, LOL.

Yi sat looking out at the lake and I said “What do you think ? Nice place ?” She just said “It’s beautiful”. I said “Surprised again that I know a place like this ?” She just nodded. I don’t actually recall the name of the restaurant though she will if I ask her, and if you didn’t know it was there, you would never find it. You turn down a tiny alleyway off Pham Hung, with tall narrow brick walls on either side for a couple of hundred meters and then suddenly out of nowhere, behind the tall buildings and shops there’s this magical lush resort full of lakes and outdoor dining. It’s quite amazing to be in the middle of busy District 8 traffic and dust and motorcycle fumes one minute, and then the next be in the middle of some Fantasy Island style resort paradise dining experience with candlelight and people with fishing poles and waiters on rollerskates. I’ve been trying to show off this amazing little gem in the middle of suburb Saigon to my friends for years, but they never have time to come. I was glad Yi was the first girl I’d ever taken there.

She ordered some grilled chicken in a vegetable salad and I ordered exactly what I was craving that night and wanted so bad… da dieu luc lac… pan fried cubes of tender ostrich meat. Oh my god. Ostrich meat is the finest red meat on the planet I swear. I’ve heard emu is pretty amazing as well, but I haven’t eaten it. Earlier in the day I’d been showing Yi photos of a wildlife resort in Dong Nai I’d been to and when I showed her some photos of alligators she cringed and said “There are many of those in the Mekong”. I said “They farm them in Dong Nai. It’s a popular delicacy”. To my surprise she didn’t even know people ate alligator, so when I spotted “cá sấu” on the menu that night I pointed it out and said “See ? They serve alligator here. Told you. Lots of restaurants in District 8 serve unusual delicacies, but always Vietnamese style”.

After ordering our main meals (I deliberately made her show me what she wanted and then I ordered it myself in Vietnamese) I spotted something on the menu I wanted to try and was curious if she’d eat it. Con hàu pho mai. Oysters with cheese. I asked “You ever eat hàu ?” She shook her head. “You want to try ?” She looked at the picture of them on the menu and I guess she thought “This is a Vietnamese restaurant… it’s written in Vietnamese.. it can’t be that bad” so she agreed. If we had been at a foreign restaurant and I had pointed out the same dish she would have said “no way”. This was my underhanded way of making her try new things without realising that they were technically foreign delicacies that happened to be enjoyed by Vietnamese people. I don’t think it would have ever occurred to her that frogs were a French food, oysters were British, and ostriches were originally eaten in Africa. They were presented as Vietnamese delicacies, so that’s what she took them to be. Sneaky aren’t I ?

It was with some relish that they arrived and I grinned at her and said “Still want to try them ?” She nodded and tried to pull one out of the shell but didn’t realise the meat was stuck to the shell. I assisted her with my own chopsticks while she pulled the meat off with hers and following my lead, ate the whole massive oyster in one gulp. I waited for her to spit it back out or shudder. To my surprise she didn’t. Not even a grimace. She sipped her beer a little and I asked “Did you like that ?” “Yeah, it was ok” she answered. I said “Oysters are a delicacy all over the world. They are so expensive in most countries that you only eat them very rarely, but in Vietnam they are so much cheaper. I don’t eat them often, but they are good for you”. She just nodded.

I had two Tiger crystals and she had a regular Tiger, but she only had a few sips and just let the ice melt until it was basically water. She tells me she drinks beer, but she’s just sort of bragging. She hates it. She just drinks it because she thinks I expect her to drink it. In Asia, girls drink beer. I don’t mean… teenagers knocking back cans of VB in Australia or American girls sucking on a Coors. Adult women drink beer in Asia. In most western countries girls will shun beer and expect to be bought a vodka cruiser or a glass of wine or some crap. Real Vietnamese girls drink beer and I respect that. But I also respect that she doesn’t really like it much and rarely drinks more than half a glass.

We ate slowly and talked. I don’t remember what we talked about. Just stuff. A lot of it is me just asking her what she likes and doesn’t like and translating a lot of words for her on Google. She can speak English ok well enough for us to talk, but she has a limited vocabulary and she wouldn’t know what the hell an “oyster” was unless I translated it into Vietnamese. But we’ve been together for a while now and I don’t feel there’s anything lacking in our communications. Do we have in-depth discussions about philosophy and politics ? Well… actually… sometimes we do.

You’d be really surprised how serious a discussion you can have with someone with only the most basic language. You don’t have to use the most flowery adjectives to explain a political issue. You just need to give a simple example and then say “I don’t like this”. Linguistic eloquence isn’t always required to communicate how you feel about something. I may be a writer and enjoy having a way with words, but sometimes when I talk to my girlfriend, I only care about her point of view and her emotions… not the way she explains it to me. It’s not how you say something that matters. Actions and opinions mean much more than the words themselves do. It’s what you’ve actually GOT to say that matters. And sometimes that only takes a few simple words to express.

She was reluctant to leave, but it was getting late and I knew we had to be getting home because Hoa, the landlady, would have gone out leaving only the cleaner at home to mind the place. But she speaks no English whatsoever and so is unable to deal with customers, so Yi is supposed to be at home when Hoa goes out, though a little half hour window with noone at home is acceptable. So we paid the bill, which I’d just like to say that for this amazing resort-style experience was an amazing 277,000 dong for main meals of sautéed ostrich and roast chicken and two gigantic half-shell oysters and three beers. Yes that’s $12.69 AUD. Told you it was a great place. Why do you think it was so packed ? When a place sets up in an inexpensive neighbourhood in Saigon and serves THE finest food for a really cheap price in the most beautiful resort environment they have no problems making money I can assure you and it’s clear why the restaurant has expanded and become such a great success.

We went home back along Tran Hung Dao and I sped through the much more empty streets a little faster than I should, occasionally dodging as a bike pulled out of a side street unexpectedly into the flow of traffic. I turned and said to her “If I ever say ‘HOLD ON’, you know what I mean, right ?” She said “No. I don’t understand”. I said “If I say ‘hold on’ it’s because someone’s in our way and I’m going to have to stop really suddenly to avoid getting in an accident so I want you to put your arms around me, ok ?” She said “Ok. I understand”.

We continued speeding through the busy but no longer congested streets and I could feel her drinking up the warm night air just as I had done so many nights riding down Tran Hung Dao late at night in the opposite direction. We pulled a tight curve around the roundabout outside Cho Ben Thanh where she works in order to get back in the direction we were going. I could have cut across at the start of Bui Vien, but there was no hurry. It’s not that I don’t break some road rules in Vietnam because I break plenty. I ALWAYS turn left on Cach Mang Thang Tam even though it’s totally illegal, because EVERYONE does it.

But there’s a time when you break a road rule because to not do so would send you 10 minutes out of your way through busy traffic, and a time when you don’t because it’s really not necessary. Some people were doing a U-turn in the middle of Tran Hung Dao. But I had Yi on the back and we were almost home so there was no need for me to do the same. Besides, dodging Vinasun taxis as you twist the accelerator on the Cho Ben Thanh roundabout and gun the bike to cut in front of them and across three lanes to exit the roundabout is one of those awesome fun little things about living in District 1 in Saigon.

We went home and I left her in the lobby to talk to the cleaner about all the cool food she’d eaten tonight and I went upstairs to pour myself a drink. I stopped to check Facebook and chat to a couple of people when suddenly she called me and said “David, please come downstairs. I need you”. I laughed because I could guess what the problem was. When I got downstairs there was a guy sitting there. He’d just arrived from Dubai, but he wasn’t Arabic. I said “Hello” tentatively and he spoke to me and I blinked and said “I’m sorry. No speak Russian. Where you from ?” He showed me his passport. “Belarus ? Cool” I said.

He said “Reservation. I have”. I turned said “Yi, he says he has a reservation. Are you expecting him ?” She talked to the cleaner and then frowned and said “We have noone coming tonight. No reservations”. I said “Well, he says he has one”. I said to him “Your reservation. Internet or phone ?” and I mimed typing on a keyboard and talking on a phone. He said “Internet. I use ?” I nodded and turned on a nearby PC for him. He brought up a small email conversation on his Russian email provider between him and a girl named Phuong Pham. I said “Yi. Who is Phuong Pham ? Noone who works here has that name. Could this must be someone from another hotel ?”

Yi just said “I don’t know. I don’t know”. Eventually I went “Wait a minute. Your sister’s name is Phuong. Hoa’s daughter-in-law”. She covered her mouth and said “Oh my god”. I said “Oh are you serious ?” She grinned sheepishly and said “I forgot her last name” I facepalmed and said “Nice. You don’t remember your sister’s husband’s name despite them coming here all the time. OMG I cannot believe I realised that your own sister sent this email and you didn’t”. She just hit my in the arm with her fist and said “Shut up. I forgot ok ?”

The Belarusian guy just sat there looking at us, clearly slightly annoyed. I chuckled and sipped a vodka and orange and said “Very sorry. Owner not here. We just live here. Person who take your booking not tell anyone. She not work here. We have a room available but I am sorry, it is not $10 like you were told. It is $15, ok ?” He looked very unhappy. He said “This is big price !” I said “I’m sorry. There are cheaper hotels nearby, but this is a good place, so the price a little more big. Please, come look at the room and decide if you want to stay”.

Yi led him up to the first floor room as I followed along and she showed him the place. He said “Nice. But I was told $10”. I said “I’m sorry. That email was old and that person does not work here. It’s up to you. Please stay for a night and see if you like it. You can save $3 by trying a cheaper place, but it will not be good. No bath. Old airconditioner. For $10 you will not get airconditioned hotel in this street. Very sorry”. He grumbled but accepted the room and I said “Please come downstairs with your passport when you are ready”.

Yi and I went downstairs and she lay down on the couch and laughed and said “Oh my god. Thank you. I did not know what to do !” I said “Well I don’t speak Russian either but he spoke enough English for me to understand him”. When the guy came down, Yi passed me the passport reporting form and said “Will you do it ?” I said “No. That’s your job. Come on, it’s just a European passport just like any other. It’s in dual language. Surely you’ve read enough passports to work it out” and I sat there and watched while she confirmed each question with me and asked me what she was supposed to write.

I made an interesting observation when she got to the “length of visa” question. When she asked how long it was I said “Look at the dates. It’s a 14 day visa”. After she finished the form and I passed back his passport and wished him goodnight I asked her “Have you ever seen a 14 day visa in Vietnam before ?” She said “No. I don’t think so”. I said “I know right ? Because Vietnam doesn’t issue them. You can get a 10 day emergency visa, but the minimum tourist visa is one month for most countries. You know why he has a 14 day one ?” She shook her head. I said “I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because Belarus was once part of Russia, and many years ago, Russia were a strong ally of Vietnam. That is why I think Russians have a special agreement with Vietnam and can come for two weeks without paying for a visa. Because other Europeans, Americans and Australians cannot get this 14 day visa. I have never seen one before”.

She just looked down at his country of birth on the form and said “I don’t know where is this”. I laughed and after correcting her grammar (as I do all day and night.. but she is ok with that) and said “Neither do I. I only know it’s near Russia because he speaks Russian. Give me your new phone”. She passed it to me and I said “This icon is Google Maps. Touch it and then type in ‘Belarus’ and see where it is”. She did and I sat behind her and rested my chin on her shoulder as it loaded. She scrolled around a bit and I pointed and said “You know Germany right ? And Poland ?” She nodded. I said “Belarus is in between Poland and Russia. I did not know where it was either. I don’t know some of these countries in Eastern Europe. Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova. All very small countries and I have never met anyone from these places in my life”. She looked thoughtful and said “Me either”.

I was careful to not push her to do anything not Vietnamese today. When she came to my room I only played Vietnamese music. She actually listens to really hardcore traditional Vietnamese music. Most of my Vietnamese friends don’t listen to much Vietnamese music at all because it’s all a bit pussy, but Yi actually listens to really oldschool stuff with traditional instruments and stuff and I teased her by saying “You listen to the same music as old men. I bet your father listens to this music doesn’t he ?” She went red and tried not to smile. I went “HAH ! I knew it ! You listen to this because your father listens to it ! That’s ok. I grew up listening to my father’s music too, but it’s a lot different to your father’s”.

She doesn’t know most modern songs. She didn’t even know Wanbi Tuan Anh. But she DID know Bich Huu’s “Em Yeu Anh” and when I played the techno remix of it she goes “Oh oh ! This one !! I love this !” I said “This is the same as the earlier song. But this is a remix” She goes “Yes, but I know this one. I like it” and I grinned happily, because while it took me a long time to appreciate Vietnamese singing, I absolutely LOVE some of the dance remixes of popular female singers and I try and play them all the time when I DJ at bars, but mostly the owners get shitty and say “No Vietnamese music !” because they think it drives away the tourists.

So today was supposed to be a Vietnamese day for us since she unexpectedly just didn’t go to work, claiming she was sick. Bullshit she was sick. She was just tired and didn’t want to go to work and slept until nearly midday instead hahaha. I didn’t even know she had stayed home until she rung me at 10am so I hope noone thinks I asked her to skip work. But I tried to play only Vietnamese music for her, and while we did eat a Thai squid salad for breakfast, it was at a Vietnamese restaurant, after which we drove around Saigon for ages and later that night went to two very good Vietnamese restaurants that were definitely not for tourists and the only time English was used was between the two of us, because while I do speak Vietnamese when I’m out on my own, I am horribly embarrassed to speak it to other people in front of her because I know she facepalms and thinks “my god his pronunciation is so terrible”. But still, last night we saw a great Korean movie and today we ate Thai food, French food, African food, British food, Japanese food (OMG I didn’t realise how much we ate yesterday until I listed all that), we drank Singaporean beer, we fought in Japanese and made up in Korean and at the end of the night we pondered over where the hell Belarus was and looked it up on a map.

I like my time with Yi to be an educational experience. I’ve been fortunate enough to have travelled more than the average person, and I also have a big interest in foreign cultures and I want her to as well. Saigon is a very international place. People come here from all over the world, so if you open your eyes and look around you can be exposed to some of the most amazing culture in the world. Vietnam can be the great equaliser in many ways. It doesn’t matter where you come from (unless its Singapore, because those people think they are top shit when they come to Vietnam, no offence), in Vietnam it doesn’t really matter. You can be like “I’m a rich Japanese businessman” and people don’t give a shit. “Shut the fuck up. You’re in Saigon now so you aren’t shit” is what I would say if someone said that. Some American wanker once commented to my friend Khanh his bar “I am so rich in America I could buy this whole bar with one snap of my fingers because I have a million dollars” and Khanh with his typical “whatever” attitude had just said “Ok. The bar is for sale for two million dollars. Let me know when you have enough money to buy it”.

Saigon is a great place. It’s not the whole world even though it sort of is to my girlfriend. But it CAN be the whole world, if you get outside your comfort zone because the whole world is here in some shape or form. The convenience stores are packed with Korean snacks and their music plays from so many bars. There are American burgers being served underneath Italian restaurants beside Japanese noodle bars. Pham Ngu Lao is full of Indian restaurants. You go to the cinema and half the movies are Chinese. They serve Fosters on tap at a restaurant not 300 meters from me. The whole world is here if you want to appreciate it, you just have to go outside and give it a try. Go have some Thai food for lunch in Ben Nghe. Have a Mango Lassa in Pham Ngu Lao afterwards and then drink a beer from Belgium and smoke a cigar from Cuba while nomming on some frog’s legs and a baguette. You can do it all right here in Saigon… if you’re brave enough.

These days we don’t study English very often. Spending time with me is enough of an English lesson. I started out as her English teacher, then became her boyfriend, and now I like to be her geography teacher *chuckle*. I’m glad I gave her an Android phone because tonight I can install Google Earth on it and show her some satellite photos and pictures of places in Australia and elsewhere. I think it’d be cool if whenever a guest came to the apartment to stay that she could look up their home town on Google Earth and see what it looks like. There is a big world out there and while she’s scared of it, if she gets exposed to it little by little, it’s clear that some of it fascinates her.

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