Eating Mystery Lunch in Hanoi, Vietnam

I walked alone down a bustling street in the heart of Ha Noi. The sun was hot, the air was thick with humidity, and my skin was slick with sweat. I stuck to one side of the street, partly because it was in the shade, and partly because crossing the street here is scary! The road has three lanes, but with the scooters, cars, and trucks all squished together, a terrifying traffic wall forms. The only way to cross is to play a real life game of Frogger. Step one: begin walking slowly, making eye contact with scooters in your immediate path. Two: continue walking – don’t stop! Don’t forget to keep eye contact as the scooters and cars fly by. Step three: Ignore the laughter coming from the Vietnamese onlookers, it will only distract you. Step four: When you get to the other side, stop holding your breath, exhale.

I walked until the sweet smell of delicious food being cooked nearby stopped me. I walked in, and found myself to be the only non-local in the room. A man behind a counter looked at me. I smiled. He stared. I looked around. Everyone in the restaurant looked at me. I smiled. They stared. The man behind the counter motioned for me to sit down. I did.

I looked at a menu for only a moment before I realized it was all in Vietnamese only. It didn’t matter though, for the man from behind the counter brought me something. He placed a dish in front of me and smiled a big, toothy smile. I smiled back! There sat a beautiful fried egg, beef (I think), another kind of meat, something that resembled green onion (and very well could have been green onion), potatoes covered in brown sauce, and something else that was green. It sizzled away on the plate. It smelled divine. I began to eat. As I ate, I tried to decipher what the heck it was I was eating. I had no idea. All I know is that it tasted so good.

The couple sitting across from me stared. I tried to ignore the stares, but I couldn’t. I choose to believe they stared because they have never seen someone as beautiful as me. I looked at them and said, Hello! They both smiled and nodded. The man said, Hello. The woman giggled. She pointed at her chin and said something to me in Vietnamese. Confused, I touched my own chin. Oh! There was a huge smear of the brown sauce dribbling down my face. I laughed and the woman laughed with me. I thanked her for saving me from embarrassment. I finished my dish, said farewell to my lunch mates, and prepared myself for the next game of Frogger.

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