At 5:30 yesterday three long shadows headed for the bus to Saigon. Thu, Tien's sister, saw Tien and I off. One week after arriving in Binh Hoa we were headed back to Saigon, back to the airport.
One earbud and one earplug each, Tien and I lost ourselves in music as our bus flowed through mixed currents of scooters and buses through city streets and country fields, stopping a few times to exchange passengers with the outside world. At one stop I saw a slender american looking girl appearing somewhat lost, standing next to a bus and chatting with a metropolitan looking Vietnamese girl. I didn't get a chance to talk to her, though I would've liked to see what she was doing out in An Giang.
I saw a man on a bicycle with a trailer that said "hamburger" and was carrying two panes of window glass.
When we arrived at a ferry building some vendors poked into the bus selling sweet corn on the cob and tortillas and for a moment I forgot what continent I was on. As the ferry approached the far side of the river the bus driver turned on a light and yelled something back to Tien. "We need to pay more because you are a foreigner." I didn't care much to argue about it, and later when I gave the driver 50,000 more he took it and went to eat.
We went on listening to music and driving through the night. On my left, Tien fell asleep with her head on my shoulder, and the stranger on my right did the same. I couldn't sleep though, these seats were made for short people so I got no head rest. My neck was hurting and my head kept falling back. We drove a long way, sometimes down dirt roads with one lane bridges. There were countless bridges, including the beautiful My Thuân bridge.
Eventually we made it to Saigon and found a taxi to take us back to the house we stayed at on my first night in Vietnam. Two familiar faces unlocked the iron gate and let us in. By this time it was 11pm and we had to wake up at 3:30am. This didn't stop Tien and I from staying up late saying goodbyes and sharing the last of the time we'd have together for a long time.
The morning came too early and as soon as I was done showering a taxi was waiting outside to take us to the airport. The streets of Saigon were very empty at 4am, so it was a quiet, dark ride. I kept thinking of Late Night Alumni's Sunrise Comes Too Soon.
When we arrived at the airport we found our contact at the travel agency. He gave me a bright orange bag and a bright orange hat which I had no idea what to do with. I managed to stick them in my luggage though, I thought they might come in useful. Despite wishing me well a few times, Tien stayed with me until I was right at the security checkpoint, which is fantastically easier to manage than american airports. I gave her a 500,000 bill, said a final goodbye and stepped through security.
She had been my translator and guide from the time I had stepped out of the secure area, and here I was back inside it, once again without her, headed to Hanoi. I thought about this while I was sitting at the terminal, thinking about how she was probably crying in the taxi on the way back to the bus station.
I slept on the flight, somehow, and before I knew it I had landed in Hanoi and was out walking around in the terminal, wondering where the hell to go. I didn't see anybody with a sign that looked familiar, or any of the folks from the tour that had been on the flight. I decided to put on my orange hat, and no sooner had I done so than a man was welcoming me and telling me to sit and wait for the rest of the group to arrive.
So I did. I sat and waited. I ate a Snickers bar and drank a Sprite. I read some of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I wrote most of this.