The atmoshere at Tranquil is superb for writing, which is why I am here—peace, quiet, thoughtfulness, and… writing.
Once again, though, what am I writing about?
I do not know.
Had one of the best coffees of my trip so far at Kafeville today, a micro-roaster tucked away down an alley near Bach Thao Park. After meandering my way from Tay Ho, along busy, and not-so-busy streets, then through the park, which contains a large pond; tall trees; wide thoroughfares for walking, running, or cycling; places designated for badminton, soccer, or any other game one could imagine; exercise equipment; large cages filled with a variety of birds—peacocks in one, and pigeons or doves (enormous, white ones, at that) in another—and men and women alike (mostly older) on said exercise equipment, I exited onto a busy road and took a left down a small side street that had me skeptical if the location was pinned correctly on Google Maps. That is until I arrived at my destination. It is a miniscule shop front almost all the way at the end of the cul-de-sac. The space is split about 50/50 between a seating area in the rear, and the barista’s work station and roast area up front, with a few stools for bar seating, and a low bench against a wall; as well, there is a small porch out front of the shop.
I hate writing like this, meaning purely descriptively—somewhat soullessly, but not completely soulleslly—because it’s meaningless, to me, and not enjoyable. I mean, what’s the point of describing an arrangement of chairs, or the color of the wood of a table, or the order flow in a cafe? This isn’t a magazine article, it’s a journal, a diary, something, hopefully, with soul, spirit, verve. What is written here must go deeper than surface details because otherwise there is no point. May as well throw the pen and the paper away and stick my head in the sand. It’s writing for the sake of writing because I feel like I should be writing. But why should I feel like that….
Everyday so far has seen at least one beautiful occurrence. Some days after my experience with the tobacco (which is what I found out later it was), and providing a story for a Vietnamese family to tell their friends about the foreigner they invited for a smoke and dinner, I was offered to have a free vegetarian meal at a buddhist temple I was exploring and photographing. While walking around the grounds, or, rather, while standing in place looking around, my head swiveling around on my neck, my feet doing a little dance as I turned around slowly on the spot, taking in the various structures, the layout of the grounds, the children running around playing hide and seek, the piles of shoes and sandals outside the thresholds of building entrances, the sounds of voices emanating from some of these buildings, the large grey flagstone tiles of the courtyard, a man came up to me speaking in Vietnamese, but also gesturing in an eating motion and pointing beneath a distant awning where a number of long tables were set up at which people were seated. He led me over and gestured to a series of maybe fifty or sixty bowls which were filled with veggies, stacked neatly and with purpose. I was to take one of these which I was then to give to a woman seated behind an enormous stock pot within which was more vegetables and of course a broth. This she ladled into the bowl and returned to me, and from there I was guided to a blue plastic stool at one of the tables. On the table were other dishes, one with a salad of greens and herbs, and another with some sort of small, bitter citrus fruit and fresh birdseye chilis sliced thin. These one adds to his soup to taste. There was no donation or payment accepted. It was, I thought, a generous act on the part of the man to invite me to eat, and generous on the part of the temple to provide such an abundance of food, particularly if this is something they do every Sunday to anyone who may be hungry. Besides that, it was just another wonderful example of the friendliness of the Vietnamese people. There was a woman who sat near to me and with whom I exchanged a few words in english. If only I was a french speaker we may have been able to have a conversation so that I may have come to a greater understanding of what these food donations were all about. Alas, I will have to satisfy myself with this rather unique experience that likely few westerners get the opportunity to partake in.