a bar terrace rumpus and some pics from Hanoi to Lao

I take a seat at a street corner café, smile at the proprietress and hold up my index finger. She responds by unceremoniously plonking one glass, its light golden contents sloshing over the brim, onto the low plastic table at my side. The scent of pork marinated in herbs wafts across the street as a lady barbecues spare ribs. An adolescent boy with a spotty face chases a giggling girl  through the maze of plastic tables, the girl doing a poor job of pretending that she doesn’t wish to be caught . I look round and greet the young lad who has been shouting enthusiastic hellos at me ever since I arrived. His excitement at having a real live genuine foreigner with whom he can practise his english is overflowing in torrents. He comes over to great me. “What is your name?” he asks. “David” I tell him and ask after his name. He tells me his name and asks where I am from. We spend some time going through the phrases regarding age, domicile, siblings, and Premiership football clubs that he has been learning at school and I feel that this bright faced young lad will go far with his enthusiasm for learning. As if to save the day when the conversation begins to fade there is a commotion a few tables over as someones beer is spilled. I look up and the boy looks round to see his father,  a skinny man who has clearly spend the entire afternoon and a good proportion of the morning in the bar, making his way on unsteady feet towards us. Quite a kerfuffle follows him as he sways his way in our general direction, bumping into tables and stools upon which perch men with beer glasses in their hands. With a trail of curses and glares scattered behind him he finally reaches his destination, me, and lowers himself onto the empty stool thoughtfully left by my side. “Oh dear” I think as he peers at me through watery eyes. He attempts to look me squarely in the eye but as his eyes cross and uncross in a half hearted bid to focus he fails and falls short by several inches and settles on focusing on a point midway between us. I judge that he is about to speak as his brow furrows with concentration and rivulet of saliva dribbles from the corner of his mouth.

“Peter!” he barks. Taking this as an enquiry after my name I reply,

“David”.

“Peter” his words this time sprayed at me in an a sour mist of stale alcohol.

“No no, David”.

He guzzles at his beer and orders another glass; a disturbing development that seems to indicate he is settling in for the evening.

I look across the street, the spotty faced boy has caught the girl, she is punching his chest and he looks puzzled as to what his next move should.

“Peter!” He is looking unsteady on his stool now and his chin keeps dropping to his chest.

The girl has broken free and is standing in front of the boy swaying her body from the hips, I want to tell him that she is waiting to be kissed, but decide that as I would have to use sign language this may be misinterpreted and turn back to face my inquisitor. He is by now eyeing up the pork ribs across the street, undoubtedly a good sign. I look at the bright enquiring face of the young lad sitting at his side and remember what a hero and roll model my father was to me when I was growing up, I wonder what chance this bright young lad has with a father like this and decide that it is quite probably his uncle. I understand that uncles can sometimes be like that.

a typical bar scene

a non typical drinker

this girl was studying hard outside a shop in the back end of beyond…

she was franticly flitting from pen to chalk as she scribbled equations on the desk, and, unlike me, seemed to understand them

boys will be boys, he explained in mimes that an iPod is more fun

a rural petrol pump beneath a makeshift sun shade

the rice harvest has just finished in north west Vietnam

free range ducks forage for food in the mud of the rice terraces

the first time I saw this huge river it was little more than a brook. a damn two hundred kilometres down stream has created a massive lake at the bottom of which now sits the hotel in which we used to stay. the road at the left of this image is new, the old one along which we used to amble is now submerged.

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