Thursday, July 27, 2017

30 Days of Gratitude: Prompt 4

Traffic and page views to my blog have been on the rise this past week, so thank you for reading along! See, gratitude right there. The best thing about a blog is that it serves as an avenue for me to open and just be straight-up honest about all things life. The weekend is almost here and I cannot wait for it. I'm heading up to Door County, WI with my best friend John. It'll be a solid two days of brotherly bonding, catching up, sailing, no-alarm mornings, bonfires and unplugging. Prompt number four of this '30 Days of Gratitude Writing Prompt' I'm following is well, delicious.

Day 4: What Food Are You Most Grateful For?
When I turned on my phone this morning and pulled up the prompt, I knew the answer immediately: phở. Again, cuing this prompt in a travel-y way. Phở is a widely popular, traditional Vietnamese dish that's explosive in tastes. Served hot, it's a soup with broth, meat (usually chicken or beef), sometimes veggies, herb, spices and whatever rice noodle you want to throw in it. It is gloriously good and filling. When I lived in Vietnam for almost five months in 2011, we ate phở on the daily, sometimes twice in one day. Six years ago, one U.S. Dollar $1 equaled out to just over 20,000 Vietnamese Dong. Phở was crazy, crazy, crazy cheap. We'd order it in upscale restaurants in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), on street corners from people preparing it and selling it off the back of their bike in a big metal pot and from small phở joints that you'd have to walk through a maze of alley ways to get to. We lived in a pretty much a government-run hostel, right in District 1 across from our university we went to school at, the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, right on Đinh Tiên Hoàng street. There were five of us Americans from Loyola University Chicago living abroad that semester in Vietnam and our favorite spot to get phở, or the 'dirty, dirty phở' was just right around the corner, left on Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai street and then down an alley way on the right side of the busy street. This joint was narrow and tucked in between other stores and homes. We'd sit on tiny plastic, almost child-like, stools at a table knee-high and slurp away on this cheap, spicy bowl of wonderfulness. We'd go for lunch, dinner or if we were craving a snack in the middle of the night, venting about school, comparing days at our NGOs (non-government organizations) we volunteered at throughout the city and just general chit-chat about this vastly amazing life we were living in Vietnam. Then on our way back, there was a milkshake stand that sold the best Oreo milkshakes for again, crazy cheap. Desert, of course. In writing this prompt, I hopped on Google Earth's Street View, plugged in my old address I lived at in Saigon and found that alley way (which I've been told the phở joint is sadly no longer there). Here's a look:
I've been to a few phở restaurants here in the United States since I moved back from Vietnam, and while the dishes have been fairly spot-on, they don't even hold a candle to the raw exuberant flavor and experience of sitting down on small plastic stools on the streets of Saigon in 90-degree heat, engulfed in the constant whirring and honking of mopeds and in the company of your four best travel friends with a hot bowl of authentic phở in your lap. I'm so grateful for that cultural immersion. 

That photo at the top was shot in January 2011 of the very first bowl of real phở I had, just hours after arriving into Saigon.


On the iPod...