Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Hanoi airport

The first few hours of the Summer of Splendor have been wildly eventful--and I even slept through 1/2 of my flight. Sooo, Fronm Taipei to Vietnam was interesting. I was bumped up to business class and then bumped down again because a legitimate businessperson decided to join the flight. The fact that I was ragingly late after a horrormovie encounter in Duty Free when I foolishly expressed interest in buying a 200 dollar Estee Lauder anti-aging cream that I really just wanted to mooch from because I'm high class like that. Yeah, so the Estee Lauder lady haunted me and prevented me from boarding by desperately thrusting every beauty product she had in my face. Next time I will simply be honest and say "actually, I just want to try this out, because you have it out to sample." relaly that wouldn't be hard. Anyway, when I got my classist demotion I ended up in section full of giddy Vietnamese women who have been working in Taiwan for three years and haven't been home since they first came over. The lady sitting next to me has two kids and a husband that she HASNT SEEN FOR THREE YEARS!! She asked if I had been vacationing in taiwan, and I said that I was working there as well. And she looked at me suspiciously and said, "But America's financial situation is good...why would you need to work in taiwan." Indeed, why would I flee AMerica when it isn't a raving shithole. I told her that I hoped Vietnam's situation would improve so she could return home. Clearly if Vietnam had not been a third world hole, she would not have run away. Why does anyone leave a nonshithole country? hmmm. I lied and said my husband was in business. I am sporting my wedding ring, after all.
Anyway, she and her friends thought I was the cutest thing since winnie the pooh and they kept touching me and patting me and caressing me. You know I've come to terms with myself as a non raging beauty, and most people in america seem to find chubbiness repulsive rather than adorable. and while i would not like to be harrassed by everyone walking down the street, I would happily exchange my adjective from grossly obese to adorably chubby, so i would appreciate americans reforming their attitude in this regard. Anyway, my neighbor kept grabbing onto me and hugging me--some major invasion of Julie Inc's personal space, may I say. The Vietnamese are even worse about personal space than Taiwanese. And this lady had no qualms clinging to me and staring as I wrote in my planner. She was staring as if she actually knew a damn thing I was writing. very bizarre. anyway, i guess we were best friends by the time we landed. she held my hand b/c she was scared. can you imagine if she had been next to someone who looked like me, but didn't deal with spontaneous affection and assault well? international incident, i'm thinking. what was very adorable though was that all the women cheered when they were finally on the ground--they were so excited to be home. and then they proceeded to exit like the running of the bulls at pamplona. there would be no lining up for them, no way! they were going home.

Ayway, the general pleasantness/bizarreness of the flight (although I think someone smoked on board, hmm) and the happy surprise that I will probably have my own in-flight entertainment system was replaced by serious annoyance when I arrived at the Vietnam airport to find that my transit hotel, upon which I had been banking for some major revitalization, existeth not. 14 hours in the Hanoi airport? Not my idea of a good time. It'll be fine. Upstairs there is a wide open cafeteria-like restaurant with huge booths which is required to serve me two free meals--I already had one rather delicious bowl of Pho and 3 cups of coffee. I have already made friends with the girl at the desk who is having a baby girl in July. Now I'm in the business class lounge because I bribed the girl at the counter. After getting the runaround from the VN airlines man--mr. bureaucrat who flipped through my passport for sport for 30 minutes just so i could stand at the counter...I was the only person in line!!-- about whether or not I got a transit hotel, an encounter in which the ugly american started coming out and i rather hilariously ended up shouting (after 30 minutes of miscommunication ) "I AM CALLING MY TRAVEL AGENT!!"...(those mild purveyors of world travel never sounded so powerful). anyway, I couldnt call my travel agent because i have no money to buy a phone card, and i couldnt pay to get into the business lounge because they don't take credit, and there are no ATMs in the airport and you are not allowed to leave the airport once you are in. so i had to go and bribe the duty free girls with a purchase of marlboros (ostensibly to bribe the russians with, but which may be employed by me if things keep going this way) and got them to tack 20 US onto my bill so i could wheel and deal around the airport, which led me here where I have paid 3 dollars for an hour of internet access and a soda water. hah, i think she thought she was ripping me off.

speaking of pho, i was wondering about the simple ingredients that make it so delicious and I realized that what Anthony Bourdain said is true: chives are a secret culinary weapon. They do perk up a pmeal. I don't know if many westerners know the simple goodness of beef and clear broth with noodles, scallions and a liberal amount of lime juice and cilantro. But it is the cat's pajamas. lemony pho broth+ cheddar cheese =love, by the way. yuuuummmmmy.

anyway, a flight is leaving in an hour or so and the business lounge has gone from ghost town to international village, and since I am an impostor, I must hie back up to the restuarant and sleep on the booth cushions. An interesting start. I do love beinga ble to say I've bribed people, though. Really, part of bribery is just begging and desperationa nd those powerful words "I Will Pay!!"


Anonymous Bethicus said...

Julie Hartle! This is reminiscent of your pre-Morocco stint in Amstermydam. Except since you can't leave the airport, I guess you can't get your beauty rest in a bucolic needle-strewn park. Best of luck with the remaining hours. And congratulations on bribery! I swear, it is more personally rewarding than any of that "random acts of kindness" crap.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

What fun to be following Julie's adventures! :)

I know what you mean about physically affectionate Vietnamese women...the women I met a couple of weeks ago here in Taiwan were constantly trying to hold my arm or give me a "side hug." Personal space is not an issue with them!

We miss you!!!!

6:56 PM  

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