My friend Paul called me last night to invite me to one more lunch cooked by Duyen who we lovingly refer to as "The Boss". She is a mighty cook and a fun person so she is subject to lots of teasing when we meet up. Duyen managed a cooking class and street tour here in Hanoi when the tourism was going. Now she does food catering for mostly expats. She can cook just about any food but will always do a Vietnamese dish along with fried chicken, salads, etc. So I love being invited for food at her place because I always know she will cook. I mean COOK!
First Paul and I will meet at one of my favorite Vietnamese coffee shops for one more Ca Phe. I will so miss the Vietnamese coffee and the socializing and the people. I've mentioned that here in Hanoi and perhaps all over Vietnam coffee shops are social things. I've gone to a few here small and large but I really like the neighborhood places where the talk is loud and boisterous and the baristas are busy both serving coffee and talking with the guests. At the Goc Cafe I usually get a corner table and they know what I want. Then time to zone. To do nothing. Maybe a Xin Chao or four. Mostly though I have found space to just do as I want. So different than the Starbucks experience here where you get an hour of wifi for a thing you purchase. I could never do Starbucks here. Highlands is close but its rowdy and kind of crosses over to the local coffee houses.
The other thing most people do is buy food elsewhere and take to the cafes. Banh Mi is the favored food to take and I think it must be the most accompanied food with the coffee. Everywhere is a banh mi stand and they all do things just that much different.
Going back tomorrow will mean no more of the basic things I just took for granted here. Listening to this city on a morning. Horns and street vendors and kids yelling. Sometimes the piano being practiced drifts across the neighborhood. A riot of sounds I think. I'll always remember Hanoi for its mornings.
Now I sit here and have another few hours before Paul and I meet for coffee. Music comes and goes. Now I listen to this song which I like a lot. Soon time for another lunch and talk and fun. And sadness. And happiness.