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Dragonfruit, Road Hellos, and Homework Toiletpaper

The road wove on through Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Inside the misty blue plastic bag strapped atop our backpacks, I could vaguely make out a spiny magenta shape. What was it? Lulu stopped the motorcycle at a mountain cafe and pulled it out, wiping the condensation from its plastic cage: DRAGONFRUIT.

How is this fruit not the rockstar of all food in all the world? It is ravishingly sexy (ohh, those COLORS!), and tastes like a juiced up, thickened, sweetened kiwi. SWOON!!

The waiter (or rather, dirt-smeared ten year old boy) brought us freshly ground, freshly harvested coffee in the trademark Vietnamese steepers: a silver sieve over a shot glass. You wait for ten minutes while the tablespoon of boiling water drips thickly through the grounds, then pull off the top and sip it for five to seven glorious slurps, with or without condensed milk and ice.

The coffee of the Central Highlands is some of the best in the world. It is so rich and flavorful, it’s kin to the darkest dark chocolate. I even went three days without my usual chocolate cravings, thanks to multiple daily coffee shots! Sigh of love.

The toilet in the mountain cafe was rockin’. Hole in the ground in a shack, but with a twist: ripped up homework for toilet paper!! Ohh former students, I can hear your wisecracks now. Needless to say, I used the tissues in my pocket instead of the rough algebra. (Though perhaps using the homework T.P. would have somehow made me smarter.)

We started again, then stopped over a bridge to wave to families building fish traps far below. The little children scampered onto the biggest boulders to leap up and down and holler, “HELLO!!!”

As the sun began to tint the lower sky, we entered the hills again, and a tractor of farmers passed by, waving and smiling. We saw so many of these types of tractors: pulled by what seemed like an engine-horse… a clickity-clackity machine in front that chuggingly pulled the whole operation in jerky, smog-filled spurts. The men looked tired, but content after a long day’s work.

From what I’ve seen, in both the city and the countryside, Vietnamese folks are working their tails off to rise up higher and higher. They seem proud of their effort and of the progress being made, and optimistic about the future… and they’re not done striving yet.

Central Highlands 3: Ethnic Minority Villages
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