Yesterday, before I went to the beach – and after – I was somewhat apprehensive about spending four lazy days in Hoi An. My friend Dao was supposed to have met me at the Danang airport Monday morning and then join me for a busy day of sightseeing. When I arrived, however, a driver from my hotel was there instead, so I decided to spend some relaxing, agenda-free hours at the beach – not knowing whether she’d try to connect with me later in the day.
I’ve been operating at such an intense pace over the past few months, that before today, the thought of spending more than a few hours just lounging by the sea seemed somehow unbearable. I came to understand why my friend Tracy had a kind of idleness-induced panic attack in Cambodia. I don’t have my computer here, so there’s a lot of work I can’t do, but my hotel has a small Internet access lounge in it, and I admit I’ve checked work email a few times here. I’ve even responded to things that didn’t really require my input.
For the most part, though, I’ve lounged – on the beach, in restaurants, bars and cafes – and so having spent the past two days here doing almost nothing, I no longer fear the life of ease. Actually, I dread going back – especially since I know what’s waiting for me in my inbox. I shouldn’t have looked.
Anyway, my friend Dao is a receptionist at the Thao Nguyen (a.k.a. Grasslands) Hotel. I met her last time I was here, and we’ve been corresponding by email and IM fairly regularly ever since. She was working yesterday, so she called her friend Muoi – the other receptionist – to ask whether she would go with me to the beach.
Muoi had teased me relentlessly about Dao all day Monday – calling Dao my future wife, etc. etc., so I told her that joining me at the beach would give me a good opportunity for payback.
It is true that many Vietnamese seem eager to marry themselves (or their friends, daughters, sisters) off to foreigners, so I’ve had to be sensitive about that and careful in my interactions. Van, Dao and Muoi understand this though and constantly reassure me – between their jokes and teasing anyway – that they do not share this motivation. They’re sweet, smart, family-oriented women who aren’t interested in foreign guys, except to enjoy a little conversation influenced by the outside world.
So today, Muoi came to fetch me on her motorbike. She asked me if I could drive one – because in Hoi An, the men drive – and I said I could. But just as we were about to embark, she reconsidered and said, “I drive.” So we switched places.
She didn’t want people to see her carting a man (and a foreigner!) around town, but this was trumped in the end by her fear of me wrecking her ride.