robertisenberg

What Was Said About Vietnam

In Uncategorized, Vietnam on July 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

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I told Harold about Saigon – how the city was now crowded with high-rise office towers and giant billboards advertising Japanese cars and electronics. How the wide colonial streets were mobbed with scooters and foot-pedaled cyclos. I told him how open the city felt – the scarceness of glass or closed doors, the outdoor markets and restaurants that feel barely enclosed, thanks to gaping windows and the constant flood of pedestrians entering with shoulder-bags and leaving with pho-soup poured into ceramic bowls the size of woks. I mentioned the spices, so potent that I sobbed through each meal, but so addictive and cheap that I’d eat four or five times a day. The fruit, served fresh from the Mekong Delta, was so tender and juicy that I drank its meat as fluidly as squeezed nectar. I grew to love the sticky, saline taste of the air.

I walked right into a courthouse, I told Harold, not knowing that it was a government building, and wandered freely through the dusty rooms, which were lit only by golden threads of sunlight and sounded only of the ghostly snapping of typewriters. The soggy heat plastered layers of dust to my face, and every breath sucked more exhaust into my lungs. The people were short and bronzed, and in the withering sun they gravitated toward the trash-strewn concrete – crouching low, resting their elbows on knobby knees, letting their wrists and forearms dangle. But Saigon moved, at a brisk and clumsy pace, with motorcycles weaving knots in traffic patterns, operated by shirtless men and old women and entire families, crowded onto a single Honda street bike. The streets throated the leonine roar of a million two-stroke engines.

— Excerpt from The Legend of Pangkor, ©2008 by Robert Isenberg, all rights reserved.

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