Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

Hello, Hanoi
(Part 4 of Many)

Of course, I am just as trusting of the Vietnamese family as they are of me.

Two hours ago I have stumbled in, following the signs for cafe and wifi, only to find myself sitting in someone’s dining room table cum coffee shop… and when I finally need to use the bathroom, I leave my laptop and bag (with wallet) in their living room as collateral.

Don’t think that using the bathroom is as easy as all that. As I said before: every little thing a little bit more challenging than usual; every little thing an adventure.

After downing two cups of Vietnamese ‘speed juice’ as I’ve come to call it, I can wait to use the nhà về xin no longer. I asked the woman of the house (Bà) where I might find it:

“Bà, ôi! Nhà về xin ở đao?” Where is the bathroom?

Bà ushers me through a child’s bedroom and opens the door to a small bathroom. She walks away. The adventure begins.

First task is to find the light — it will always be where you don’t expect it. On the right hand side inside the door frame, almost on the ceiling? Of course.

Next is to close the door. The lock doesn’t work — as evidence at futile attempts, a groove has been worn into the wood, now painted over so many times the edges are round and soft from too many layers of white. Perhaps I can simply close the door, no lock required? but the door keeps swinging open. At this point I say Screw It, and squat on the low toilet to relieve myself, door flapping wide open. Of course, only after taking a long, satisfying piss do I realize there is no toilet paper. Of course.

I sit for a second, scanning the room’s pink tiled floor for an adequate substitute. There is nothing. I use my left hand, middle-eastern style. I’m sorry — but this is the raw, hard, traveler’s truth…

This is why I always pack Purell.

I pull up my pants gingerly with one hand, cursing that I’m not wearing any underwear. Of course it is today, of all days, that my hand-washed underwear has not dried on the line and that today, of all days, I have forgotten to carry in my pocket that ‘just in case napkin.’

I return to my writing in the living room.

Next time around I am prepared. When the urge once again hits, now at the bottom of my third cup, I ask Bà in English if she has any toilet paper. She calls to her daughter, who speaks a little English, to translate. There is no toilet paper, I am told, but am handed two napkins. I retreat to the bathroom.

I scan the child’s bedroom for a lock substitute. I find a piece of thin piece of purple string. Perfect. I tie one end to the outside of the door handle, and the other end to a nail on the inside frame. The string pulls taught, and I am grateful for it’s service when I hear someone moving about in the bedroom.

When I am done, I attempt to untie the knot I have created, and escape… 6 minutes later.

I return to my laptop, still there, still patiently waiting for more words. Bà walks by and points to the tray of lotus seeds and mango. “Ngon, không?” she asks me, and I nod my head Yes, Yes it is delicious — all of it — delicious in it’s own way…

§559 · February 5, 2009 · Adventures in Asia, Location-Location, Narrative · Tags: , , · [Print]

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