On my way to work this morning, I ran into a significant traffic jam. No big deal. After determining that I could not, in fact, see any end to the line of cars and xe may, I decided to grab some coffee and wait it out--I had time (and no one would have cared much if I hadn't). So I went into "Sunday Coffee," ordered myself a caphe nau da, and spent about twenty minutes reading Great Expectations. As I was paying and preparing to leave, I glanced outside and noticed that the surface of West Lake was choppy and the sky was black; approximately two seconds later, it started pouring. Without any consideration whatsoever, I sat right back down and reopened Dickens.
As a few other women clad in business attire--clearly caught on their way to work--jumped off their xe may and into the cafe, ordering breakfast and coffee, I smiled to myself, thinking, I am so Vietnamese right now.
I sat, alternately chatting with one of the other women, text messaging Ali, and reading my book, for another hour, until the rain let up--not even feeling guilty about not being at work. I remembered how, during my first month or so in Viet Nam, I had gone to great lengths to wrap my bag up in five plastic bags and had ridden through a pounding storm to arrive--sopping wet but punctual--to a completely empty office. When my coworkers sauntered in an hour later, they expressed surprise that I had not waited the storm out at home.
So, see how well I learn? How well I have adapted to life in Viet Nam after 8 months? I have even started to plan to be places late sometimes, because I got sick of always waiting around for my friends to arrive. But before I get too cocky, I should probably relate an incident from this afternoon.
This afternoon, Hannah and I were drinking coffee next door as usual (let's not stop to calculate how many of my stories involve the phrase "I was sitting drinking coffee...") and a woman walked by selling pineapple from the baskets hanging off either end of her shoulder pole. Being the eternally hungry person I am, I bought some. Turns out, the pineapple had been sitting in her basket for some time...it was rancid. As we headed back towards our office, I grabbed the bag intending to throw it away, but saw another woman with a shoulder pole, the baskets of which contained what looked remarkably like trash...so I threw mine in. Not only Hannah, but also a few people around us chuckled--turned out the woman's baskets were not intended for trash after all, but the recyclable materials she collects and sells. Oops! Too bad, because sometimes it is still a struggle for me bring myself to drop trash in the gutter by the side of the street, even though I know that by the next day, someone will have swept it up.
Well, they say, you win some, you lose some. I say, sometimes you just win. Because I had a great time reading and watching the storm this morning. And this afternoon, I made people laugh. Besides, I'll admit that I don't mind if I never get in the habit of comfortably throwing my trash in the gutter. And I'm going to count on the fact that I will be able to re-assimilate into an American version of timeliness fairly easily since, as we have seen today, I am an expert at cultural adaptation.