No Sweat

Friday, April 4th, 2008, 11:01 am

With WiFi and constant power I should be cranking out posts, but you try writing ten-thousand words after the day we had. Drove out into the country to dedicate the new bridge at Hoi Yen, and it all went very, very well. A big turnout, even a number of former NVA and/or Viet Cong soldiers in their old fatigues. Saw an 9-year-old boy drive about 2 tons of water buffalo out of a field and into the yard right next to where we recouperating in the shade.

Because it was hot today. Like, REALLY hot. We had to wear long pants and the group had polo shirts with "Friends of Danang" made, but the Vietnamese take on "XXL" is not quite up to fatass American standards. It fit me like a second skin, but my decision to wear an Under Armor T-shirt underneath saved the day. Not that I wasn’t sweating like the proverbial showerhead. Thing is, if you start sweating, and you really don’t care that you’re sweating, you’re good. You just let the sweat cool you down and go about your business. Don’t worry about whether you smell (you do) or how bad you look (you look awful). Let your body cool itself and damn the consequences.

I was standing in the blazing sun for a good bit of the afternoon snapping pictures of the ceremony and on the bridge itself. There were lots of little kids about and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my brief time in Vietnam, it’s that the kids love having their picture taken. I took tons of pictures (I’m trying to upload a few right now) and I was walking back across the span (with a half-dozen kids in train trying to prounounce "Geno") when we passed three Vietnamese women.

Now, women here (and I think throughout Asia) do their damnedest to keep their skin as fair as possible. It’s the exact opposite as in the States, where people go to tanning salons and use spray-on tans to get darker. So it wasn’t unusual to see these women, dressed in the hottest, most uncomfortable conditions I’ve even experiences, walk up to me wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants, jacket, hat, and knit surgical mask covering the entire face save the eyes. Not unusual, but still hard to believe.

I could tell the one woman was smiling by the crease in her mask. She said something and ran her hand up my arm, which glistened with my desperate perspiration. The women all laughed and I laughed as well, telling them that I was from waaaaay up North, where the snow comes from. I don’t know if they understood but they laughed, and I kept on walking across the bridge.

A bit later I walked past and saw two other women sitting on chairs in the pitiless sun, dressed in long sleeves, long pants, hat and mask. They waved, I waved, and they laughed. They started talking and looked at me and laughed some more, and in my dehydrated and somewhat paranoid state I imagined the conversation went something like this:

First woman: Look at that slovenly American imperialist! He’s sweating like a hog and it’s only 149 degrees today!

Second woman: You’re suprised? Look at him! He has the physique of a bowl of tapicoa pudding!

First woman: A bowl of tapioca pudding that’s really let itself go!

(Vietnamese laughter)

OK, I don’t think the photos are gonna upload before I collapse from exhaustion. Got lots and lots of pictures, lots and lots of stories. Just need a few hours to share them.

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