A Love Affair with Marlboro Reds

Illness strikes again, and this time Jamie is the unfortunate victim. It all started with cigarettes. We bought three packs of Marlboros in Phnom Penh because we’ve heard they can be very useful tools for greasing the wheels in sticky situations, especially in China. If someone wants to charge us a big fine, throw us in jail, rob us, etc, our big plan is to pull out a luscious Marlboro Red and smoke all our troubles away with our new friend. Right after we’d purchased the cigarettes we decided to practice smoking – neither of us have had a cigarette since college and we’ve heard that if you just hand over a cigarette to the person that wants to arrest you it can be interpreted as a bribe. You must smoke cigarettes together to truly forge the new friendship! Jamie took one puff and started choking. I was so grossed out by the smell and the remembrances of how cigarettes make you feel like you’re coming down with a cold that I couldn’t even manage one puff.

Here in Vietnam we’ve met lots of friendly people and it seems that the tradition here, too, is to offer a cigarette. Lucky for me only men smoke so only Jamie gets offered cigarettes. We’ve read that it is really rude to decline the cigarette and unless you have major issues with smoking than you might as well just take it and puff a little bit to avoid offending someone. This means Jamie has been fake-smoking on average one cigarette per day – yum!

He didn’t finish this cigarette with one new friend and instead rode off still smoking. How effortlessly cool!

After the third day of this in Buon Ma Thuot Jamie started to feel like he was getting sick with a cold or the flu. We spent one rest day here to recover from the hills we’ve been climbing that we’re not used to anymore, and during that one day Jamie got sicker and sicker. Last night he came down with the runs and spent all night running to the bathroom. As you may or may not remember, this is Jamie’s “Thing you most dread on this trip” – see the About Us page for proof. In addition to the runs he feels really achy and slightly feverish, so we both hope it’s not something more serious.

Last night I looked over at him and here’s how he was coping with his illness. Not sure how a towel around the head helps, but he seems to like it:

Today we’ll spend another day resting in Buon Ma Thuot which is not a bad thing because the spring rolls here are truly excellent, the town has a bakery, internet is only 25 cents per hour, and we have A/C in our room. This is my new equation for pure happiness (minus the sickness of course).

More views from the glorious Hwy 27:

Day Two, Sunday May 27th

We’re taking a 2nd rest day in Buon Ma Thuot, Jamie is still very sick. We’re going to try to find a clinic tomorrow if he doesn’t improve today. I spent yesterday alternately walking around town alone and then hanging around in the A/C room watching television with Jamie. He spent the day alternately running to the bathroom, watching television, and glaring at me from his sickbed.

I ate lunch alone at the spring roll place that I love so much, only this time it wasn’t much fun. One of the workers had her baby there and the baby was not happy. I could hear it in the back room screaming and crying like crazy, barely stopping for a breath. Then the mother got an idea: try to distract the baby from its crying jag by showing it something really bizarre – a white person! So she brought this red faced, sobbing, gasping one year old out to my table, pointed at me, and said “Hello!” to her baby. This is what parents here always do, they point at us and then try to get their little children to say hello to us. Sometimes the kids love this and other times they clutch at their parents clothes, hide their faces, and quiver with fear.

Now, if you know me, you know I do not have the appropriate amount of sympathy for crying babies and their unfortunate mothers so you can imagine the furious thoughts running through my head. This one year old baby was not at all impressed that there was a white person eating lunch in her mother’s restaurant. She stopped crying for a split second (I think it was most likely just to take another deep breath) and then started shrieking again. I felt sorry for the mother, but I also felt sorry for myself because the mother kept bringing the baby back to my table over and over again in a desperate attempt to distract it. I finished as quickly as possible and left.

Right now I’m sitting in one of the many cafes in Buon Ma Thuot drinking an iced coffee and listening to the funny songs they play here. One example: Rhinestone Cowboy. Country music has been really popular throughout Southeast Asia, we can’t figure it out!

One Response to “A Love Affair with Marlboro Reds”

  1. Brian Says:

    You know the rules!!! You two are not allowed to smoke unless we are all together!

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