I’m at the Internet cafe in Hoi An, Vietnam, catching up on e-mails, working out plans to meet up with friends the next day and wondering how I’m going to watch Game 6 of the World Series. It’s raining outside, but I’m used to it. The rain has been a regular part of my time in Vietnam, even though we celebrated the end of the rainy season a week earlier in Cambodia. My new friend James has already left the cafe and is wandering around town. James was the only other young-ish, sole traveler on my flight up from Ho Chi Minh City. At baggage he struck up conversation and we agreed to share a cab into Hoi An. We arrived in town and booked rooms opposite each other at a guest house on the main road. He’s nice enough, though his thick English accent is occasionally hard to follow.

It’s raining harder now and I’m silently worried that the cafe is going to flood and then the computers are going to electrocute us all. The river has already flooded the streets nearest to the bridge. After we put our bags down in our rooms, James and I walked the block and a half to the river to take pictures of the rising water. We’d stumbled across this cute little Internet cafe just as the rain started and decided to duck inside to wait out the storm.

Forty-five minutes later the rain is still coming down. James is ready to leave but I’ve got a few more Facebook profiles to stalk. We agree to meet in another half hour at the guesthouse to get some food. James is gone for all of five minutes when everything goes black. The storm has knocked out the power at the cafe. But no, not just at the Internet cafe. In Vietnam, in small towns in Vietnam, if you don’t have power, nobody has power. The cafe owner uses the light on his cell phone to help me count out the dong for Internet, then I wander outside to find James. It was still light when we went inside the cafe, but now the sun has set and the streets are dark. I stick to the sidewalk, not yet underwater, and round the corner to my street. There’s light coming from one of the shops, and it illuminates the street in front of it, making the cobbled road glitter in the rain. I head toward the light and very nearly bump into James, on his way to find me. The shop with a light is Treats, a local bar/cafe that I remember reading about in Lonely Planet. Hoi An’s famous backpacker joint is the only place in town with a generator, which at the moment guarantees dinner, working toilets and a warm place to dry off.

James and I grab one of the last tables and check out the menu. I’m hungry, having not eaten anything since my tuna steak lunch, which while delicious, was not as filling as hoped. At this moment, everything, absolutely everything, looks fantastic.

But wait! What is that? Inexpensive wine on the menu, you say? “Are you red or white?” one of us asks the other, hoping for a split. I’m white, James is red and not keen on a rose, either. We could each order by the glass, probably a safer bet. But we’re in the middle of nowhere on the Vietnamese coast, no jobs, no responsibilities, no obligations. Hell, we don’t even have power. We each order a bottle with our burgers.

The waitress brings over our bottles a few minutes later. James pours his first glass, then sheepishly hides his bottle under our table. “We can’t have people thinking we’re each drinking an entire bottle ourselves, can we?” I point out that the red wine is noticeably different than the white in mine, and my bottle remains on the table, so it looks as though I’m outdrinking him, and what sort of Englishman gets outdrunk by a Yank, anyway? He laughs and sets his bottle on the table as a couple of Aussie girls at a neighboring table look over and give us the thumbs up.

So we drink and we talk, and we drink more and then we eat our burgers and there’s more talking and more drinking. We boarded our flight in HCMC that morning as strangers but have become fast friends as the day progressed. I tell him about my family and life in Korea, and he tells me about his job and friends and we talk about Thai beaches and travel mishaps and before we know it, the wine is gone. A glance across the street, and the power’s come back on. But we’re not ready to go yet, so we order a couple more drinks. American music sets the tone, and I hear the opening to “I Gotta Feeling.” Living in the world of K-pop, I’m oblivious to any music that’s come out of America since the fall of 2008. At first, I think it’s Journey or Billy Joel or someone else who’s been singing since I was in the womb, but James laughs and tells me it’s none other than Black Eyed Peas. Black Eyed Peas? In Vietnam? Seriously? I go with it, because they’re telling me that tonight’s gonna be a good night, and who am I to believe otherwise? We tap along with the beat and continue talking. What we’re saying becomes less important than the fact that we’re two complete strangers who have found a common ground in an uncommon place. Our friends, our family, everything familiar to us–it’s all thousands of miles away. It’s just us, our wine, our backpacks in the guesthouse and our conversation, which is becoming fuzzier as the wine takes hold.

At some point, we agree to call it a night. We split the bill, fumble through our wallets for cash and stumble out the door. Our guesthouse is only a few doors down, and we bid the other a good night and retreat to our separate rooms. I turn on the television just as Sex and the City starts, but I don’t have the desire, nor the attention span, to watch it. My clumsy, numb hands struggle to hit the power button. The television goes silent and I fall back into darkness. But there is no moment of silence. The rain is falling again, hitting the windows, lulling me to sleep. This is the happiest I’ve been in ages, and perhaps the happiest I’ll be in a long time.

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