This isn't a post about product. It's about people and culture.
I went to Vietnam for two weeks with my partner. He studied there ten years ago and I went for the food. While the Bun Cha and Pho was indeed delicious, I found that the country was even more inspiring than I had anticipated. I miss the strong feeling of community and the smell of noodle soup every morning. It feels sterile and a bit lonely now here in the United States.
Short Story 1: The Best Tailor/Restaurant/Doctor Ever
We headed to Hoi An in Central Vietnam because it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it was well known for custom tailoring. "You can have an entire suit made in a day!" boasted our friends in Hanoi. We walked through the streets in the scorching heat with sweat dripping down our necks. Women reached out to us regularly, encouraging us to come into their stores. After taking a short break in the shade of cafe, we chose a tailor across the street based on her TripAdvisor reviews.
As soon as we stepped in, a woman approached us and pulled out two chairs-asking us to sit down. She gestured to another woman who brought us cold bottles of water and refrigerated wet wipes. Her face was tan and angular with thick, perfectly shaped eyebrows. She had a look of focus and determination.
Two hours later, we had been measured for two suits, shirts, and a few dresses. "You hungry?" she asked. "Yes," I replied. "I get you food. You try Cau Lau?" she asked. "Sure?" I said. I had no idea what Cau Lau was.
Five minutes later, her fellow worker returned with two steaming bowls of Cau Lau on a tray. She brushed aside the papers and fabric in front of us and served us Cau Lau right there in the store. With the intense heat and humidity, the site of food made me sick to my stomach. Regardless, we were hungry and we were being closely observed. We ate, gave her a thumbs up and smiled to show our extreme pleasure. She sent us back to our hotel with a bag of bananas and pineapples.
That night my partner came down with a gnarly stomach bug. Miserable and sleep deprived, he returned to the tailor with me the next afternoon. We arrived for the fitting and the tailor asked him how he felt. He said he was sick. "Bathroom all the time?" she asked. He nodded, embarrassed. "I get you medicine," said the tailor, waving to another woman who disappeared into the streets. Ten minutes later, the woman returned with five cans of Diet Coke, five cans of Pringles, and a mysterious plastic bag of pills. My partner looked at me with raised eyebrows. "We're headed back to Hanoi tomorrow so if you start dying, we'll be near a hospital soon," I said. He downed the pills and drank two cans of Diet Coke (she kept encouraging him to have more). He felt better from the sugar, developed a headache from the caffeine, and awoke fully recovered the next day.