A Quick Smile

Rising_after_lunch Vietnam is a country that’s newly wide open to the West. It’s intensely green and wherever possible, and I mean wherever, it is festooned with rice paddies. Rice_terraces_5These people can farm with the best of them, along the mountains they coax corn out of the rocky ground and work the vertical slopes like acrobats. Occasionally pausing to take in the awesome landscape before them. Cliff_hugger_2 Everyone there can be disarmed with a smile, however, and a firm hand to the shoulder. I can’t even remember how many people (men, children, grandmothers, the police) rubbed my belly, astonished at my girth, as if I was the new incarnation of Orson Welles. And every time one of them touched me, I would immediately lift them off the ground like a piece of wood over my head and pretend to throw them into the river. The eruption of laughter that followed amongst those on the street watching this preposterous event can still be heard in my head today. Never was it so easy to loosen up people by smiling. The Vietnamese are still so innocent and strong all at once. They are proud to have won the wars against the French and the interloping Americans, but in truth they’d much rather just be left alone. Riverside_throwMuch like I felt, especially as the largest human being known to man, a living, breathing Western King Kong amongst the tiny mountain men, up North along the Chinese border. I just wanted to be anonymous, but that wasn’t going to happen. Everybody stared at me, watching the way I handled my chopsticks, the way I sat in their ridiculously small chairs. And after awhile, we all were laughing anyways. Nothing this good gets left alone for long.