By Maddie Oaks

Yesterday was a dream. It really all began after a few bánh mìs and cà phê sữa đás (coffee with sweetened condensed milk) and the realization that both of us were pretty over feeling isolated in this new city. To find ourselves some friends, Jules posted in the Can Tho expat Facebook group and asked if anyone would be willing to tour us around the city for the afternoon.  I kid you not within 15 minutes we had at least 15 responses, so many in fact, we had to delete the post. Everyone in the group was SO willing and eager to help us out! I love Vietnam! Fortunately for us, a boy named Phú was free for the afternoon and offered to show us around the city with two of his other friends. Since they were seasoned city goers, we knew the day had finally come that we would become part of the motorbike mayhem.

Phú and his friends, Lâm and My, could not have been nicer! They helped us pick out our helmets and jokingly eased us away from our fear of motorbikes. They took us to one of their favorite coffee shops where we sipped more delicious coffees and exchanged conversation about our interests, hobbies, and cultural life.  All three of them are Bio-Tech Majors and took the initiative to meet up with us to practice their English-an act I thought was really admirable considering today was their only day off of work. I know the same cannot be said for me in my Don Carlos days lol.

As the conversation got rolling, awkwardness dropped and we were able to carry on conversation like old friends. Lâm and I of coursed bonded over our love for food, which then inspired us to ask about their favorite Vietnamese dishes. Thank goodness we did because after that they took us to lunch to try one of their favorite Vietnamese meals. The dish is called Bánh xèo and is a savory fried pancake that is uber thin and is filled with ground duck, sautéed coconut, shrimp and other goodies I couldn’t make out. The dish is also served with a plethora of garden veggies/leaves. Bánh xèo is served deconstructed and as our new friends showed us you make rolls out of the leaves by placing part of the stuffed pancake as the filling inside and roll the leaves around the pancake. The dish was also served with sweet deep fried bean balls (I don’t know how else to describe them but trust me they were divine!) that also could be used as part of the filling in the leaves.  We ate at Quán Bánh xèo 7 Tới, which definitely appeared to be a locals’ spot. We traveled there by motorbike and having done so there is no way Julia and I would have found it by foot!

Following lunch, our friends asked us if we wanted to go to the largest Buddhist temple in Can Tho…um hard yes. So off we went again on their motorbikes. The drive out to Thiền Viện Trúc Lâm Phương Nam (temple name) was beyond gorgeous. We road along the river in the midst of jungle trees and coconut paradise. Pure bliss. When we reached the temple, Jules and I were both in awe. The temple is incredibly beautiful with the most amazing gardens. I loved everything about it from the colors, to the smells, and most significantly the symbolism and passion I could feel from everyone in the presence of it. I cannot wait to go back on days when I feel over come by the city with a good book and an open afternoon.

After the temple our friends helped us find a converter that we were still searching for. They took it upon themselves to find us a store and translate our need to the shop because they knew how difficult it would be for people to understand us. On top of that, Phú paid for it! I am blown away everyday by the generosity and the openness of the people here. It is amazing how a feeling of loneliness can so easily be washed away by friendly people in unexpected places. Here’s to many more days like this!