Last Friday was the last day for the A2 class; they’ll be taking the TOEFL-iBT in just a couple more weeks. As a way to celebrate the end of their studies and the final push toward their test, we went out to dinner as a group. Our original dinner with the students had been at a restaurant that prominently features goat meat (called “The Most Goat”) and we’d been secretly hoping we’d return there, but the students chose another restaurant, practically a stone’s throw from our dormitory.
Built over a small (possibly man-made) lake, the restaurant consists of a dozen huts perched in the water. It’s a quaint setting with palm-leaf thatch roofs that shade your view of the other diners and definitely gives it that oh-so-tropical feeling. Thang and Chinh made sure to order some food that the kids would eat (chicken, always chicken) and took care of the rest of the food. After about a 20 minute wait, it started coming out. First the bits of pineapple and cucumbers. Then nem… these little sausage style rolls of pork skin, meat and spices that are wrapped in banana leaves. They are actually pretty tasty if you can avoid thinking of skin while you chew.
Next came the snails and after trying them I am completely perplexed by the Western notion of these as some sort of delicacy. They are chewy and thick and covered with a thin layer of mucus. It looked a bit like mildewed cartilage wrapped in nasal discharge and, personally, I’m not sure they tasted much better than that either. Yeah, definitely not a fan of the snails. It took forever to chew it up and get it down my gullet. Stuart tried, as well, and liked it just about as much. Audrey wouldn’t even come near the stuff.
But she did eat some chicken and rice. Chinh was nice enough to take it off the bones for us, not always an easy task, and find the best bits every time. We had both lemongrass chicken and grilled chicken, but they were vastly different. The lemongrass chicken came with mostly leftover bits of the bird. Rib pieces, tails, sections of the neck. Nothing with any meat and everything that made me feel like a neanderthal while chewing on it. Needless to say not much of it was eaten. Audrey found the head in there, though, nicely fried up, and was somehow able to get past the “ew” factor of plunging a chopstick in and made a little puppet. Oh my.
And I got my palm “read” by the Vietnamese teacher. Supposedly, I have a good Luck Line, meaning that I will travel abroad often (not often enough yet!). My Study Line is strong and shows that I will continue to learn and get more education (if I can ever afford it). My Love Line though is, as she put it, difficult. She said that your left hand is your love/romance hand and wanted to take a look at that to see if she could get a better answer, but the best that she could come up with after much inspection was that my love life is “complicated.” I think non-existent may be a better word for it, but it still got a good laugh. And then she measured the thickness of my hand, which isn’t so thick, and decided that I will never be rich (I was already quite sure of that) and that sometimes I will struggle financially (oh yeah, like every day). Audrey got the advice to exercise as her Health Line was a little weak and that she would get a Master’s degree someday. I can only hope.
After the palm reading and eating as much of the meat (including squid and fish, along with the snails, chicken and pork skin sausages), we headed out for karaoke. Well, the kids went home and most of the students went out to, as they call it, carry-oh-kay. I enjoyed myself as they belted out Vietnamese love songs and joined in for a mediocre rendition of “Let it Be.”
Thanks so much to everyone in the class who was there and for those who couldn’t be. I had a great time teaching you all and wish our time together could have been more than these quick seven weeks. The best of luck to you all! -Co Teresa