When I woke up, I could feel that my throat was swollen, and I was feeling tired. I ate breakfast at the hotel since it was included with my room. The modern hotel was large and offered a wide spread of breakfast items. I was excited to eat some westernized food like eggs and toast. Like always, I showed up right before breakfast was finished, so I had the place to myself. Because of the 13-hour time difference with my family, they video-called me right before I headed down to eat.
The only people in the breakfast room were employees cleaning up, so I thought it would be okay to continue my video call with them. I had been looking for a house to buy in St. Charles, Missouri, that I could move my stuff into and out of storage in Los Angeles and rent it on Airbnb while I was traveling. Unfortunately, I didn’t find a house when I was there in January, so I gave power of attorney to my dad to sign for me.
My parents and sister looked at two houses that day, but we all agreed not to put in an offer on either. It was entertaining video-calling them while I was eating. It felt like they were there with me. We also discovered that adding a hat or sunglasses made it all the more comical.
It was time to checkout of my hotel, so I took my luggage into the elevator to get to the lobby. Unsurprisingly, three women on the cleaning crew laughed at my height. It was like “tiny, small, medium, and large.” I left my luggage with the front desk because I had some things to do and people to meet that day before continuing south.
I ordered a Grab motorbike to take me to a store that appeared to sell supplements. I needed some magnesium because it helps my muscles before bed. The driver pulled up and handed me a helmet. He didn’t speak much English, but he commented on my height. It must be strange for a driver to have a person on the back who is much larger than them. As we pulled away, he adjusted his mirror so that he could see me. He asked where I was from, and we briefly chatted on the way to the store.
The driver couldn’t find the store and pulled over twice to ask for directions. We were in an alleyway with locals who knew the area. They told me to go around the corner to a pharmacy. The driver said he’d wait for me to make sure I could get it there. Using Google translate, I asked for magnesium. They gave me a packet of eight pills for $90,000 dong ($3.80 USD). The woman who helped me find the pharmacy around the corner walked in and confirmed that it was magnesium. People were so friendly and helpful.
The Grab driver took me back to my hotel and talked to me during the drive; however, I struggled to understand him. When we arrived at my hotel, I gave him extra money for waiting with me at the pharmacy and the ride there and back – $40,000 dong ($1.73 USD). He told me that I was very beautiful and I took a selfie with him.
Shortly after, Ben and Berry arrived at my hotel. I met them during the four-day motorbike tour of the Ha Giang Loop in the northern mountains. They just arrived in Da Nang and we had the hotel hold their luggage while we walked to the beach a couple of blocks away.
The first restaurant we tried to eat at didn’t have prices on the menu. On our way in, we saw many tanks filled with lobsters. We figured that our American dollars would go pretty far, and we could get an inexpensive lobster. We were very wrong! We walked around the tanks to see the prices, and it was $184 USD for 1 kilo of lobster! We weren’t familiar with kilos, but that was too expensive for us. We quickly left.
We walked to a restaurant nearby and sat outside enjoying food, drinks, and good company for the next few hours. Berry and Ben were in their early 30s and worked in Tech and IT in New York before deciding to travel the world for eight months. They were currently in their second month of travel.
Berry is from China and moved to Sudan in 8th grade. She lived there until her senior year of high school. Her dad worked for an oil company and she attended an American school with United Nations diplomat’s kids. Berry’s dad worked in a building next to a building Bin Laden had previously been in when it was bombed by the U.S. in the late 90s, shortly before they moved there. Berry remembered thinking that the U.S. was extremely precise; they only destroyed that building. All of the other surrounding buildings were intact. The casualties were spared.
Security was so tight at the school Berry attended that she wasn’t allowed to go home to play with classmates because there were separate vehicles for the United Nations’ kids. They had different badges and security. Berry lived there until September 11th, 2001. Her school was canceled for a couple of months. The first days after the tragedy, nobody knew who made the attack against Americans in New York, and Sudan was one of the suspected countries. The children of U.S. diplomats were quickly removed. Berry remembers being evacuated because the locals were starting fires and throwing bricks through the windows.
Berry moved to China for her senior year of high school but continued to attend an American school. For university, she considered America and Canada because her American diploma would allow her to attend either. Berry chose to attend a university in a rural town in Washington state. I asked Berry what her experience was like in that small town. She said Americans were nice to her. She does remember that some kids were sheltered and were shocked by her food, like seaweed.
Ben is from Taiwan but attended high school in Pennsylvania in the U.S. because his parents wanted a better educational system for teaching English. The school was like a boarding school. I can’t imagine what that was like – living in another country alone at that young of an age. During Ben’s first week at the school, the attacks of September 11th hit, and the school was closed for a while.
Ben chose to attend a university in that same rural town that Berry had chosen. He was one year ahead of her in school. The year Berry started attending, she met Ben on the first day of her first class. They started dating and got married.
I was so impressed by their stories. Moving at such a young age to a foreign country while still learning English must have been difficult. I don’t know that I would have handled all of it as well as they have.
Ben and Berry moved to New York so he could attend graduate school. They stayed there afterward because of a job. They lived there for ten years and now have their green cards, which aren’t sponsored by their employer. After five years, they can apply to become citizens. They weren’t sure if they wanted to stay in New York after their travels because it’s so crowded and expensive.
I could relate to Ben and Berry about trip planning, editing videos, and blogging. They were taking some amazing video footage of their trip and vlogging about it. It’s very time-consuming to travel and blog/vlog. I had such a great time with them that we ended up hanging out until 5:30 pm. They were so sweet and fun to be around. I said goodbye to Ben and Berry and we agreed to meet up at my next destination in Hoi An. I ordered a Grab to take me there because it was only a 45-minute drive.
It was dark outside when I arrived at my Airbnb at 6:30 pm. It was actually a small hotel with two levels that had a resort-style to it. The woman behind the front desk walked me up the stairs to my room. The lock wasn’t working properly, then the air conditioner was barely working, and when I tried to take a shower at 11:30 pm, there wasn’t any hot water.
The hotel and room were nice, but these issues were bummers. The woman told me that she’d talk to the owner in the morning because all of the rooms were booked that night. I was exhausted, so I had a protein shake for dinner and some free snacks that were available in the room. There was a TV with cable and English channels. I watched the last part of Inside Out and then King Kong: Skull Island while I updated my blog and listened to the rooster crow next door until I was ready for bed.
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