Friday, Nov 20th, I woke early to a very rainy and stormy morning. Having less than a week left I decided to go ahead and figure out my plan for when I arrived back in America. Some of my friends were online since it was evening in the USA, and I figured out that I'd spend a few days in SF and then drive to CO just after Thanksgiving to spend some time with my family.
Tien was sleeping while I figured all of this out, and I was touched with a magic that so many other people in history have been touched with, that of being simply alive and doing normal activities while their love slept next to them, peaceful and in their own little dream world. It is a great joy being able to unobtrusively observe a peace that is completely independent from yourself. It's almost like a third person perspective on your own joy, because that person is such a part of the happy parts of your own life but at that moment they are detached from the waking realities, such as being ill while on a stormy weathered vacation.
I did some research online and figured that I probably had strep throat, or a number of other more terrible things. The medicines I had been taking were mostly ineffective, but not entirely. At least I had been taking the recommended pain reliever, tylenol.
We had pho for breakfast at our dark alley pho place, which wasn't so dark during daylight, and decided to go ahead and go to the Vinpearl since we wanted to do something wonderful on this otherwise ruined trip to Nha Trang. We went back to the hotel to pack up some things to take and instead of going we fell asleep. When I woke up I had a fever of probably about 102, which was just a guess compared to a measurement we would take after getting a thermometer.
I got online and told my bother about my sickness. Tien and I had managed to take a decent photograph of my throat and I sent it to him. Having been a medic in the Army stationed in Iraq he had seen plenty of sore throats. He took one look at the photo and recommended penicillin saying it was probably strep throat. The diagnosis was inconclusive without a lab test, but he said that no matter what I was diagnosed with they would put me on penicillin, so it didn't really matter what I had.
I sent Tien down to the local pharmacy to get some meds and she managed to score some penicillin, which apparently is not a prescription drug in Vietnam. She also got some of other recommended medicine and a thermometer that we used to verify my fever. Needless to say we did not go to the Vinpearl and instead spent the evening inside with Tien quiet and worrying about me. I kept trying to make jokes and talk while she was caring for me but she thought I was delirious from my fever and just worried even more.
Eventually we both went to sleep, but having slept most of the day I was unable to sleep the whole night. I woke up at 2:45 and couldn't sleep. I took some more meds and found my temperature to be 100. I stayed up for about an hour playing on my computer before I managed to become tired enough to get back to sleep. Tien later told me that she had drifted into consciousness and had seen me playing on the computer, but thought it was a dream and went back to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning it was 8am and I had no fever. After breakfast we figured out our travel plans to return to Saigon and spent the rest of the morning waiting for the train in our hotel room watching Terminator. Tien had never seen it before and she was pretty intrigued by it. I didn't go into the fact that the robot who had traveled back in time to kill this woman was also the person who was running the state of California where she would be living within a year.
When we were checking out of our hotel the woman at the front desk chatted with us a bit and asked me to bring a man back from America for her. I chuckled, half out of politeness and half out of amusement that so many people in Vietnam say things like that.
We took a taxi to the train station and found that the train was delayed over an hour. There wasn't much to do or eat at the train station so we wandered down the street carrying our bags and found a restaurant that looked good but ended up being pretty awful. I longed for yelp.vn so I could write a bad review of the place.
We returned to the train station and waited some more. I went to use the bathroom and the mens room was unavailable. The women's room had no light and there was a lot of liquid on the floor, and who knows what else since it was dark.
When we finally got on the train the first thing I noticed was that it was pretty dirty. The seats were also pretty run down and rickety, but were actually pretty comfortable. Once we started rolling it was great though, so much more enjoyable than the bus. We didn't get many great vistas, but we did pass a lot of beautiful landscape that I would love to photograph. Some of the landscape looked like jungle, but there were also mountains with rocks that reminded me of Colorado and Wyoming.
We played cards for a long time and listened to music. There was also the standard television entertainment. I saw an ad for a slim TV that was only like 18" thick and was amused. A few weeks later I would go to a best buy with Dan Fava and find a television that was less than 2" thick.
We rolled slowly into Saigon that night and got a new view of city life from the window of that train passing behind buildings, looking into bars and apartments and restaurants that we hadn't seen before. I wished I had a camera that was better at photographing in darkness because there were some really awesome scenes visible from that window.
Tired from our travels, we did the usual routine of finding a taxi to drop us off at the Ruby Star.