Even by my standards, yesterday was an unusual day. It started out by receiving the shocking news about the death of a friend. This weighed heavily on me as I went through the motions of trying to uproot myself once again and moving to a different city.
I was in Hue, Vietnam and was going to Hanoi. My flight wasn’t until 4:30 p.m., but of course hotel check out time was 10:00 a.m. (very common in this part of the world I’m learning). So, all this time on my hands…what to do. There is a park near the hotel where I was staying, I thought I’d just go there, find a bench, and just read until lunch. Afterwards I’d go back to the hotel, collect my luggage and just go onto the airport and hang out there.
As I was on the bench reading a young lady sat down beside me, uncomfortably close. She asked if she could talk to me. Of course I was skeptical but she quickly explained that she was a first-year university student majoring in English and that she had to seek out foreigners for English conversation. I was still thinking “yeah, right,” but she kept trying to make small talk. She asked a host of questions and one of the first ones was “Are you catholic?” When I asked her why she would think that she replied that she thought I was sitting on the bench praying. Twenty minutes, and several pauses in the conversation later I ended the conversation. She learned a new word: skepticism. I explained to her that’s what I felt when she sat down.
After lunch I went back to the hotel to collect my luggage and have them call me a taxi. The hotel was down a “kiet” which is a little walking street. The hotel called my taxi which would meet me at the end of the lane. The porter insisted that my big suitcase go to the street on the back of his scooter rather than my rolling it down the kiet. That was quite a sight.
When I got into the taxi, he asked where I was going. I’d assumed that the hotel had already told him that I was going to the airport so I gave him further clarification by stating I needed the “domestic terminal, Vietnam Airlines.” He looked at me like I was crazy and said “airport?” I said yes.
When we got there, I only had a 500,000 Dong note (about $25.00) and the fare was 235,000 Dong. He was unable to make change. We we went inside to see if we could get change and we were the only people in the airport. There was one concession stand and the lady who runs it was asleep on a cot behind the counter. All the lights were off. We woke her, but she could not change such a large bill. We finally found an office for Vietnam Airlines, woke them up, and got change. I sat in that bizarrely empty airport for nearly an hour before the next passengers showed up, a couple from London.
About an hour before the flight, the terminal came alive with people. I made it to Hanoi, and the drive from the airport was nearly as long as the flight.