Good Morning, Vietnam!
The glistening sweat of youth camp dried off on the plane to Ho Chi Minh City where there was a bed waiting for a few hours of kip before a roller-coaster flight to Danang (“Don’t worry,”said a man, by way of assurance to his neighbour who sounded busy evicting the contents of his stomach into a little paper bag,”the typhoons only really come at the end of the year.”)
A moto for a quick breakfast bun bo hue in the dark (there was an area-wide black-out) and fill-in on the situation in Danang and environs, shy introductions after alot of giggling because the Vietnamese girls thought i was local and were shocked at the first “Hello”,
then a few massively sweaty hours of work with a necessary ca phe da break (but what a joy to see faces light up!)
before a dinner of banh trang accompanied by murmurs of cheerful exhaustion, exchanging personal narratives.
More discussions the next day after service over lunch (where little squares were to be used to wipe wooden chopsticks and oily mouths)
and more ca phe da (and also a “special tea” at MC Coffee with full Lipton credentials on proud display),
legged it to Da Nang International Airport to be back in Saigon mid-afternoon with a few hours to spare first at the Saigon Tax Trade Centre supermarket to stock up on lovely instant Vietnamese coffee (yes, the Nescafe is better here because they use Viet raw material),
and visit an old bakery haunt (Brodard Bakery (since 1948!), the branch off Dong Khoi – nostalgia won out here),
and to drop in on bo tung xeo and exotic friends at Luong Son (31 Ly Tu Trong, District 1). Photos of a foreign menu with hilarious English translations to be forwarded to smug friends? Check.
Tender beef named for the strips of flesh from flayed prisoners? Check.
Deep-fried crickets with groundnuts in their body cavities, stir-fried with spring onions and garlic? Check. Burnt scorpion for the holiday album while discussing the clean and unclean foods of the Old Testament? Check. Jumping live prawns (not jumping) awaiting a fiery end while their executors talked about the origins of the idea that this might be cruel to the prawns? Check.
Despite (or “because of”, since caffeine has a paradoxical effect on the ADHD body, delayed cicadian rhythm notwithstanding) a last ca phe at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, knocked out on the journey back in Singapore in the early hours. A few snatched hours of sleep before a meeting with the Indonesians. Thankfully, they were the ones on the red eye this time not us.
The forms of the word “encouragement” are used liberally in Christian circles, mostly to refer to some sort of worldly success in ministry. But if the biblical use of that term is restricted to an increase in godliness and God-centred-ness, then this trip was an encouragement because it was obvious that God does not need human intervention to act to save his own people (so none of that Christian-ised white man’s burden please, or assumptions of superiority that people can’t get it right/be saved if I don’t go) – rather he graciously allows us the privilege of being part of his unfolding plan to reconcile all people to himself even though we have the sinful/fallen-world tendency to muck up most of the time!