In the mountains

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Aug 13, 6:30pm Restaurant with a View, Sapa

The previous night there was a little more of the rigoramol between Viviane and Jacob. Gina had told Jacob off for being too protective (Viviane had been cutting an apple, Jacob had said let me cut it, Gina said Viviane is a big girl, etc...). Then Viviane was supposed to tell Jacob there was nothing (or so Gina had told me), Gina said she couldn't stand Jacob anymore (being overbearing, overprotective, selfish, rude, etc...), she felt bad, but...

Jacob complained to me that he couldn't stand them speaking in French together and wanted to know what they were saying. That, I couldn't help, I said. My French is more than a little rusty. Jacob sighed himself to sleep loudly that night (well actually he did that both nights. Every time he tossed or turned in fact).

I'd heard this partly because I'd gone off to dinner with Gina and some French friends of hers. They were numbered three: 2 women and 1 man. One was actually Vietnamese, returning for the first time in a long, long time. Gina translated a bit throughout dinner, I understood a little less, and the guy spoke a little English. So it came out okay in the end.

They were older, graduated during the heady student days in Paris, 1968, and seemed to suggest that their degrees were very easy to get then. They were all teachers now, and travelled like this every year to a different part of the world. Seemed like not a bad life that. 3 months of travel every year!

Gina told this story about a class that made all these circles on the floor of a classroom. They agreed that if their teacher stepped into a circle they would be silent, if outside they would be noisy. The only problem was, that the teacher was no dope and soon figured it out. And so he would spend all his time standing in circles!

The dinner was fun, even though I wasn't a total participant. It was just nice listening to yet another language.

I also spent a fair amount of time listening to Jacob speak Hebrew to other Israelis. There were times when I tried to listen to both Hebrew and French at the same time, when there were two parties who would meet and not mingle. This happened a couple times at meals, and much to my relief, the other Israelis seemed far more interesting and likeable than Jacob. I argued politics with one Israeli about the US's involvement in the Vietnam War. She was for it, I against. A bit strange, but there you have it.

There were a lot of war tourists there, people who had come to Vietnam to follow up on some past war. Strangely enough, I hadn't really thought of that much until after I arrived. More than likely because my parents came to the States only at the tail end of things and were unlikely to have been able to judge what was going on. And so my family was never really affected by it.

My only connection to it was through books. Not that I can't understand a serviceman wanting to come back and face that period in his life, to make peace with himself, Vietnam or whatever, but I can't really understand why you would want to buy the dog tags of a G.I. Which is something that you can do. They could very well just be manufactured, but still I wouldn't feel good until I could have carried it to the Vietnam memorial and found the name. That I suppose isn't a bad idea...

Contrary to what Gina said though, the Israelis didn't switch to English in front of me- Jacob didn't extend me that courtesy and instead often left me unintroduced- so fond he was of me that he wanted to keep me to himself, no doubt.

I spent a fair amount of time with him because he and I had to find a new room to stay in. The hotel we were in had already promised rooms to a tour, so we were kicked out. The women got to stay.

There was quite a bit of confusion when we left to. The lady had given us Viviane's passport by mistake. Jacob then had given it to Viviane, but the landlady followed us down the street asking us to give back the passport. We tried to explain but she didn't understand until I lead her back. She almost refused to go, still insisting that Jacob had the passport. It was strange. Jacob made himself aloof and let me deal with it. I really should have said something.

The other drama of the day was witnessing a fight between too local woman. They were grabbing at each others hair and pulling with all their might. One had thrown her baby on a table full of products to get at the other. The baby, rocking from the jolt, and starting to slide off, looked too surprise to even cry. He tottered there for a moment, until another woman snatched it off. The two women were pulled apart and it was over before anyone knew what was going on. They seemed to be neighboring shopkeeps.

We ate lunch on the terrace again and decided to join a hike with 2 Danes. They were both really cool, the guy was one of the few non-Israelis and non-Vivianes to break Jacob's icy reserve. The Dane knew Rumanian and Jacob is of Rumanian descent, so knows a little.

Their "friendship" did not last very long though when we started off on the hike. We were following a guide book for the hike, and climbing up a hill behind Sapa. Jacob wanted to be the one who picked the route, but the Dane looked at him and then at us, with a rude little smile on his face, and just said "no, we were going to go this way."

The path was cement and led up to houses and through fields that were scattered on the slope. Farther up, there were huge black stones like Menhirs. The path wound it's way among them. There we ran into Lisa, my French friend from Hanoi. She'd come up that day, and we talked hurriedly to catch up on what had been happening.

I was sorry to leave her, but the others were too far ahead to tell them that I wasn't coming. So I ran to catch up. They had turned off the track and into a maize field. They had found a small little trail and were waiting for me, calling my name.

It looked interesting anyway, and so off we went up towards a far off peak. The view was fantastic, the path a bit slippery, but at least a path to an unknown end.

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