Hollis, Leanna and Joe and I cabbed into District 1, followed (or led) by Vinh on her motorbike. In case I haven’t explained this before, she is a very pretty young woman at all times, but when she gears up with a face-covering mask, safety glasses, long-sleeved cotton jacket, big gloves and one of those semi-blanket type velcro-closing aprons that cover your business clothes from your waist down to your toes, she is quite a spectacle. The way you can pick her out in the crowd of bikes is that she the one sitting up ramrod straight, as if she’s playing the piano. This is in spite of also carrying my birthday cake in a big box (see above).
She took us through seas of traffic to a building we did not recognize as a likely place to have a birthday dinner for me: The Yummy Tutti Frutti shop on a street corner somewhere. However, there were six floors to the building, with different things on each floor (a yoga studio, for example, with moms and babies sprawled all over) and we climbed up to the very top where, overlooking the city but above the traffic fumes, we ate barbecue.
That’s the stove, in the middle of the table, and cooking on it are huge shrimp, okra, eggplant, beans, zuccihini, and something that comes from “inside the pig”.
There was also a great deal of serious conversation on topics of common interest, including the differences between being a Communist in Vietnam and a Communist in the US, with some historical context thrown in.
It was a great party. I miss Gabi and Jake but I got phone calls and videos from them that made me feel good.