From my journal on May 19:
“Today can only be categorized as absolutely bizarre.
We rode another night train and arrived in Hanoi around 5:30 am – walked around the strangely empty city without motorbikes – stopped into a pagoda service and Catholic mass – wondered if the people realized that the hymn they sing sounds horribly mournful to Western ears – stopped in for some tai chi and communal street aerobics – encountered multiple towels that can only cover about one shoulder – had a very awkward lunch complete with fish body, skin, eyes, and extra eggs, as well as a few chicken heads – again was attempted to be set up with a random Vietnamese man at least thirty years old – started off on an innocent “walk” through the rice paddies that transformed into the need to take off my mud-soaked shoes and instead trek for a very very long time barefoot in the alternating sensations of squishy mud and sharply painful rocks – had another awkward meal in which the presence of French fries was more redeeming than ever before – participated in a “cultural exchange” where many singers graced us with their lovely tonal and entirely unintelligible vocal skills.
New favorite song: Vietnam! Ho Chi Minh!”