I am so lucky that one of my beloved besties could make it here for Christmas, and I know that I have talked about her arrival way too much for months, but it is thrilling. Her flight was scheduled to get in at 10:05am on Monday. It took literally all of my will power to wait until 9:45 to leave for the airport. The ride to the airport takes anywhere from 30 minutes until all the time in the world depending on traffic, but I knew that Kate had to stand in line to get her visa when she arrived since she had applied to do a visa on arrival rather than mailing her passport to the consulate in the U.S. She also had to get a checked bag (rare for her) since I had requested a few too many Christmas presents. So, I arrived at the airport around 10:30, and somehow assumed that she would make it through the visa counter, immigration, baggage claim, and customs in about 10 minutes. Unrealistic. Especially since the airport was packed. I sent Bess and Rachel nervous text messages about why it was taking our friend so long. I made myself wait until noon before pestering the guards about why my friend wasn’t in my arms. They were not impressed with me and firmly repeated their “no information” mantra while motioning for me to get away from them. Finally, a few minutes after noon, a real beauty came through the doors.
I had told my dear cab driver to wait for me since my friend would only be a minute. Hopefully Vinh had a good nap in the car during those couple of hours. So, as I was hugging Kate and freaking out about our reunion, I had to call Vinh to tell him to meet us at a specific location. He did, and my bag of fruit and water for the cab ride was still there. We crawled in and spent the next half and hour looking around at my new town and eating pomelo, my favorite fruit. It is sort of like grapefruit, but slightly sweeter, and way less difficult to peel and eat. I am not only saying that because usually Trang peels it for me – though that does help.
Then, we went to my house to drop off her bags and change before heading out for some lunch at Boomerang and massages at Anna. Kate was refreshed enough from sleeping on the plane that she even agreed to ride Melissa’s bike to the restaurant and spa area (only a couple of blocks, but she had seen the traffic). What a brave and wonderful friend!
After massages, we went on a little bike tour of my neighborhood including my school. Kate knows much more about biking than I do and did a great job dealing with the traffic. However, on our way home, as we were basically 2 blocks from my house, Kate’s back tire went flat. So, we hopped off and walked the rest of the way. Kate does know how to change the tubes on bike tires, but I have (had) no idea, and who knows where you would buy supplies for this endeavor. As we walked, I hatched a plan to just show my guards and attempt to ask for help. My guards are lovely and dear all the time, so I knew they would continue to take good care of me. Sure enough, my guard said tomorrow which I took as an indication of his intent to help. Then, 20 minutes later, another guard knocked on my door, did some biking charades, and motioned for me to follow him. I did. Sure enough, there was a bike mechanic downstairs with his wife and toddler and toolbox. He attempted to patch the hole, but through a translator roped into the endeavor by my guard, he communicated that he would be back in the morning to replace it because it was not good. Sure enough, that happened around 10am the next morning. Apparently, bike problems close to home are no problem because my guys know a guy. I should probably take the bike maintenance class at a local bike store that Rita told me about, but until then, I will continue to rely on the kindness of strangers. It has worked my whole life.
For Kate’s first dinner, we stayed in the neighborhood, but went over to the other side of town which is peppered with cafes and restaurants. However, the one that I planned to visit was closed for the day, so we went for tapas and margaritas instead. Fun! I am still amazed that Kate made it through the day all smiles and not a lot of sleepiness. What a trooper!
The next day we decided to go tailoring in the morning so that there would be a chance that the tailor used by the girls at school could finish some dresses in time. Kate found 3 of my dresses that she liked well enough to have the tailor imitate in a different fabric. When the tailor agreed to do the work by the 1st, Kate and I went to some fabric stores. I told her that there was a market, but that I found it too overwhelming. There were moments where even the stores were sensory overload and a bit uncomfortable, but we found some great fabrics. Then we went back to the tailor to have her measure Kate and decide how to modify my clothes before I took Kate to the narrow aisles of the fabric market to show her what we skipped.
Then we walked around a bit to explore the downtown area. Kate found the traffic amazing and a bit terrifying. There was one intersection where a guard walked us across the street. Kate thinks her desperate clutching of my arm prompted his kindness, but the same man has helped me to cross that same intersection before. I guess I always look like I need random acts of kindness. Then, we ended our tour of downtown at Propaganda for dinner once the rain started to come down in earnest. I don’t know why there has been so much rain this “dry” season, but we have had a few showers/sprinkles since Kate arrived. Luckily these storms haven’t ruined our fun.
It is so lovely to have Kate in town, and I can’t wait to share the rest of our adventures, but I have to leave for the airport soon to go get Colleen! Even more fun is on its way, and I can’t wait to double my guest count. Tomorrow the 3 of us leave for Hoi An for New Years!