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10 Honest Questions I Have for You, Vietnam

Vietnam Student Work
by Jacqueline Kehoe May 8, 2015

1. How do you not sweat under all those layers?

Is there some psychological power you have over your pores where you want light skin so badly that you don’t notice the heat? Because I’m over here going commando in a sun dress with beads of perspiration dripping down my forehead and eyeliner running down my cheeks and you’re in a sweater, gloves, and socks crammed into your sandals ––and yet you look perfect. Your beautiful, shiny, perfectly-straight jet black hair doesn’t even get plastered to your head under that helmet. How do you do it?

2. Where do you get all that inappropriate Chinglish from?

Okay, seriously. There has got to be some twisted native English speaker making all your t-shirts, sweaters, and notebooks because this stuff is too good to be accidental. I mean, c’mon, that six-year-old boy wearing that shirt that says, “I do your wife?” Someone thought that would be hilarious. Not “I did your wife,” or “I’ve done your wife,” but present-tense, habitual, constant doing of your wife. Who’s getting paid here?

3. How do you get your tofu like that?!

I’ve tried and tried to make tofu like your chay restaurants can, but to no avail. Well, I’ve tried about three times myself and dozens of other times at restaurants, and it’s never the same. How do you get it to look like a chicken drumstick on those lemongrass stalks? How do you turn it into fake shrimp, beef, and whatever else your Martha Stewart hands are capable of? Is it like Coca-Cola? Does some old woman have the magic recipe locked in a safe somewhere in the Cu Chi tunnels? I’d believe you if you said yes, by the way. In a heartbeat.

4. Seriously…you actually like durian?

5. What do you think of my crappy Vietnamese?

There’s about a bajillion varieties of English and about a bajillion people with a bajillion different backgrounds speaking it, so we’re pretty used to rolling with whatever version comes out of someone’s mouth. Are you used to people like me speaking — and butchering — your language? Are you surprised when I actually string a semi-complex sentence together? And when I use the wrong tone, how do you so quickly gather what I’m actually saying? Because I know I do it. I know I do it all the time and yet none of you barely bat an eye. What literally comes out of my mouth is, “Cow where pancake mom,” and yet you fully understand that I mean, “A loaf of bread, please.”

6. How do you live without an oven?

You can make all this glorious food on a stove…do you know what kind of power you could have if you just had an oven at your disposal? Think about all the delectable cookies, cakes, brownies, tarts, and pies that you could have on your lips and forever on your hips. You could stop eating things like cháo long for breakfast and instead have a nice pastry. Chè would no longer seem sweet after that red velvet cupcake. And sticky rice? You’d never go near the stuff again.

Okay, maybe you’re right. Maybe you should hang onto your magnificent cuisine and your lack of diabetes. I take it back.

7. Is there any amount of rain that could freak you out?

I’ll see a handful of you still managing to drive motorbikes when the water level is up to your knees. When would you just stay home and/or be convinced it was the rain-ocalypse? Three feet? Four? Five? Ten? Are you all secretly fish? Or maybe you’re all descendants from Gi, the Water Planeteer from Captain Planet. Something’s amiss here, that’s for sure.

8. Do you actually like wooden furniture?

I don’t get it. I mean, it’s pretty and all. It’s clear you spent some serious dong on this really shiny mahogany dining set with mother-of-pearl inlay, and the backs on these chairs makes me feel like I’m sitting on a throne, but…my butt just isn’t comfy. Is yours? It can’t be. How’s your back? Or are these just show chairs that are for decoration and your actual dining set is in the back?

9. What’s up with all the cartoon sheets, comforters, and pillowcases?

I’ve lived in many houses and apartments in your country, and I’ve been to my fair share of locals’ houses, too, and just about everyone has linens covered in babies or cartoon squirrels or Tom and Jerry or something that might’ve been appropriate when you were six but was still bordering on creepy. What’s the obsession with this?

10. How do you manage to fit the contents of a minivan on your motorbike?

I have a hard enough time carting around a friend that weighs more than 100 pounds, and you have three small children, two chickens, a mattress, and tonight’s dinner on the back of your 1983 Honda Cub? How did you learn to drive such a fire hazard on wheels? Not to mention the fact that you’re darting in and out of traffic, down too-small alleyways, practically underneath city buses, and you make it look like a breeze.

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