As I finished my whiskey the flight to Saigon began boarding, so with Kaskade in my ears I took my seat. I gave up the music for some more Jack Kerouac, which I'm really enjoying. My aunt recommended "On the Road" to me, and Rob had gotten it for me as a going away present.
On my VN flights there has been a view from the cockpit of the runway displayed on all of the video displays during take off and landing. It's pretty neat and I'd never seen that sort of thing before.
I wondered how many miles I had traveled so far. It's too bad there's not a tool to go through my flickr page, order by date and create a rough estimate of distance traveled.
The controller for the entertainment system on this plane was labeled on the back as an "Enhanced Passenger Control Unit." I had to laugh at that, envisioning myself being controlled through some enhanced method.
After reading several pages, which is about how much I tend to digest of books at a time, I put it down and turned the music back on. I had beautiful, inspiring music in my ears and outside of my window were huge billowing clouds, some of the most beautiful clouds I've ever seen. I took some photos with my iPhone but they came out pretty bad. The motion of passing them was also part of their wonder. I became really inspired and began dreaming about the future... what I would do with my future, where I would go. My mind kept wandering away from my trip to Cambodia and so on, I was dreaming about a girl instead.
I was deep in the zone. "The Zone" is one of those things you have to experience to know exactly what it is. Some call it The Ether. I was having great dreams of great things and a great life. There are people that dream great things and let them go, and there are those of us who dream great things and make them happen. I had dreamed about quitting my job, selling my things and flying away to Asia and I made it happen. Now I was having new great dreams and I wanted to make them happen...
I landed in Saigon, only the name of a hotel in a note on my iPhone. Walking out to the front of the airport I thought Tien might be there waiting for me, so I stood by the window and looked for a while. I didn't see her, so I went outside and found a taxi driver who said he knew where the hotel was and we headed out.
Rush hour traffic was nuts, I've never seen traffic so chaotic, so packed. People were driving their scooters on the sidewalks through the park just to get around the gridlock. A man on a scooter ran into the back of another scooter and knocked her over. People were intentionally driving the wrong way down one way streets to get closer to where they were going. We drove down tiny one lane alleys with scooters coming at us and passing us. One of them hit the mirror of the taxi and knocked it inwards.
It took us a long time to get a short distance, but my taxi driver was on top of stuff and got us to the neighborhood quicker than others would've. The problem was that when we got there he didn't know where the hotel was. We had a minor argument in broken english and written amounts of money and he dropped me off at the Ruby Star hotel.
The Ruby Star ended up being a good choice. The staff was nice, the woman at the counter spoke english, there was WiFi in my room, a stocked fridge, and it was a block away from where all the backpackers were staying. I stayed in for the night, catching up with friends and checking e-mail, facebook and flickr. I chatted with Tien and she said she was in fact in Saigon and had intended to meet me at the airport, but traffic had been so bad she couldn't make it. I was happy that she had even tried, and more so that she was there in Saigon. We agreed to meet at my hotel the next morning at 8am.
She showed up right on time and we headed out for breakfast and to see what was nearby. Breakfast was good food and good company and good conversation. I was happy as could be to have her back, I'd missed her a lot on my trip and was sad that she couldn't go, especially since she'd spent so much time setting the whole thing up. I thought about the dreams I'd had the day before and was happy. We talked about life and traveling and I don't really remember what else...
Then we went and got lost in the city trying to find a book store. We didn't really get lost in the city as much as lost from the bookstore. People kept telling us to go different ways, and then when we found the bookstore it was closed so we had to find a different one. We finally found the other one and it was quite a ways away from the hotel, especially given the late morning sunlight beating down on us.
The book store was cool inside. We found some ESL books for her to use in teaching her neighbor. There were a lot of books, many of them with incorrect info about customs, typos, etc.. I found two that looked good though, things that I'd use if I were teaching english. We looked for another book to use that would teach small business conversation. I picked up one that had silhouettes of business people with one man talking on his cell phone and no words on the cover in English.
To my surprise, when I opened it up the entire book was all about graphic sexual things. There were diagrams of body parts and translations for things like exhibitionism, bondage and masochist. I flipped through it and sure enough, it was not at all about business and entirely about sex. I thought for a minute about buying it for my friends in San Francisco as a joke, but I thought the novelty of it was only worthy of a story and not of the book itself.
A Vietnamese girl spoke to me in very clear English, I was impressed with her pronunciation. Like all conversations with white people in Vietnam, she started out by asking where I was from. Then she went on to ask me why on earth the word "bad" meant "really awesome." Aside from using Michael Jackson as an example, I explained to her that Americans use a lot of negative things as slang to mean "really awesome." Phrases like the bomb, the shit, dope. It never occurred to me that this is how it worked until that moment. She looked so inquisitive, like she couldn't possibly comprehend why on earth we would do such a thing.
Then she asked if Tien was my friend. Tien thinks that everybody looks at she and I because she's so short and I'm so tall next to her. I think this is partly true, but people stare at me all the time anyway.
We went out and got some strawberry smoothies to cool off. Even in mid-day heat in Saigon you can still get brain freeze from drinking a smoothie too quickly.
We walked and walked and walked and got sorta lost and found our way back near the hotel. I was a little irritated with how loud the city was, how smoggy it was, and how hot it was. Saigon is an ubiquitously noisy city. There's nowhere you can go that isn't noisy. This noise is created mostly by scooters, and thus there is almost nowhere you can go where it isn't smoggy.
I found a park looking area at a central bus stop and found some shade on a short wall under a tree for us to sit in for a while. Tien began talking about sad things... about how she had missed me and how our cultures were different and how we could only be friends and she was going to have to accept that. I've regarded her as a girlfriend, so this was disheartening, and I didn't feel like leaving it at that since I knew she was giving up.
I asked her about what she would have if she could have it her way. If things could be great, how would they be? What were here great dreams? She didn't want to tell me, so I told her I'd tell her my great dream if she told me hers.
She said she wanted to be a pharmacologist, which is true and is great but wasn't related to what we were talking about.
She said she wanted to be with me, to travel around the world with me.
I told her my great dream that I couldn't get off my mind. The great dream that had been growing in me for a long time and had blossomed on the plane from Hanoi.
I asked her to marry me and to come back to San Francisco with me.
I told her that whenever I thought about the future of my travels I quickly ended up on thoughts of her and I traveling and discovering great things together. I told her that all of the great things I thought about for the future somehow ended up with her. I told her that we had an opportunity to have a great, amazing life together, in love, seeing the world, enjoying each other side by side from now on.
It was not traditional, it was not a Hallmark card. There in the mid-day heat on a little wall under the shade of a tree in that crummy park at the bus station surrounded by construction and oceans of noisy, polluting scooters in the middle of Saigon, without a ring but without any hesitation or doubts, with just a shared dream of being happy together I asked Tien to marry me and she said yes.