Draft extract from the final chapter of my travel memoir
Lord give me a song that I can sing* Ho Chi Minh City
It can be hard to get a dentist in the UK, an NHS one anyway plus we’d have other things to do and might not get around to it for a while, so we’d decided to get check ups before we left. Anthony had booked the dentist when we were in DaLat. It was a private practice, very smart; the decor was leaf green, with green lockers where we put our outdoor shoes and green Crocs to wear. When it was our turn a member of staff took us up in the lift to the dentists. We were seen at the same time in separate rooms. We were struck by how many staff there were and how much attention we got, at one point I had three members of staff with me. Apparently lots of Australians come to Vietnam for dental treatment, even with insurance it is cheaper to fly to Vietnam.
We went to the army surplus market, it wasn’t as cheap as we’d hoped, the stall holders were good at the hard sell and it wasn’t at all easy to bargain. I bought army boots; Anthony bought army trousers and a long green coat. I liked the enamelled rice bowls supposedly used by the Vietnamese soldiers and considered getting them for presents. It was an indoor market and so incredibly hot we had to leave for a break.
We found a cafe where we drank freezing iced water, Red Bull and coffee. There was a waving cat on the counter, the man in the cafe told us about waving cats, businesses have them, he said, rather than waving, they are beckoning customers in. We asked him about whether the stuff in the market was real, given all the years which had passed. He said that some may be fake, but you’d ‘have to be expert to know.’ In the end we bought engraved US Army lighters for presents. Unfortunately these were confiscated at Air China check in. Every other airline we went on let us carry one lighter in hand luggage, Air China, none at all. At the counter there was a huge plastic sweetie jar half filled with cheap lighters, and our special ones were added in, sadly.
We went to the area popular with tourists, where there were narrow alleyways, lots of massage places, street food stalls, packed little shops selling everything and nice little bars and restaurants. We stopped at one and I ordered a mojito…
(We met *Geography of the Moon who we met here and went to see play, you can read about that here)
…I had only had only two cocktails, one mojito, and one cinnamon one called ‘The Struggle,’ invented by a previous bar tender, ‘She was going through something,’ the bar tender said, and one beer, with lots of space in between. But I got a contact high. Such a high of happiness. Later I lay there loved up, him asleep or resting, me thinking, appreciating him, thinking he may die, what would I be like. The next day I said, ‘I thought Oh my God what if you die, I’ll scream and I won’t be able to stop.’ I’d had a dream like that, like being out of body, trying to get a hold of myself and stop screaming. Anthony’s face was a mixture of horrified and sad. ‘No you won’t,’ he said, ‘you’ll say to yourself, ‘we had a great time together, and now it’s time to get on with the next phase of your life.’’
With two days left, I did my ‘Words are spells’ action plan/wish list. Interesting that post success life looks the same as what we are/have been doing… I imagined what I’d want, how it could start, someone could approach me about the blog… And they did. What next?
Jim Carey, ‘You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.’ The alternative is what we’d do anyway, get ordinary jobs, not suicide.
What is being a failure anyway? Leaving with nothing? You can’t take anything with you anyway.
In the coffee shop we had a conversation about The Future; Anthony saying I must finish the book and that he would support me, over coffee and iced peach tea and more free iced tea, so much liquid. Anthony said, ‘It’s funny how you get a free drink when you order a drink.’ And that at least in the case of coffee the free drink is often much bigger than the ordered and paid for one (a last metaphor!)
Just before we left we went back to the mojito place where we’d met Geography of the Moon. We ordered Anthony breakfast, me, Americano, a great big coffee. We had one last thing to buy, incense, we thought we’d have to go to China town but we were fed up with shopping. Like everywhere the restaurant-bar had a shrine with incense burning. We asked the woman where we could buy some. ‘Are you Buddhist?’ she asked. ‘Well we meditate, we use incense,’ we said. ‘Easy,’ she said, and told us to just go out of the restaurant down the alleyway and to ask at any shop, and wrote us down the Vietnamese word for incense on a piece of paper. Sure enough, at the first shop we came to, we were shown a big box full of packs and tubes of incense, perfect for presents and for us.
Lord give me a song that I can sing/Sing for me my lord, a song that I can sing (GOTM). Much as the mournful request is hardwired into me to love, I know really you can sing the song yourself. You can write the song yourself. You can write yourself the song you want to sing.
‘Your life is your life, go all the way’ Bukowski
Thank you very much for reading
For more photographs of HCMC see previous blog
Thank you very much for reading!
Sold house, left career, gave away almost everything else. Went travelling with my husband for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Currently in the UK, living on a narrowboat and finishing a book about the trip, a spiritual/travel memoir, extracts from which appeared regularly on this blog, and I am returning to India 31/12/19!