A Soldier and Dog Meat Story
Not long after I arrived at the university, a young man dressed in a military uniform entered my classroom. The first thing that crossed my mind was, "He's a spy!" I was quite bothered by it, and this young man started asking lots of questions during the class. I couldn't understand him at all because his English was really bad. I tried very hard to figure out what he was saying, but ..
Anyway, he became a regular in one of my classes. His name was Dung (pronounced Zoo-oom). He turned out to be a pretty friendly guy and I was able to figure out much of what he was trying to tell me as time went on.
One day, he asked me if I'd like to go to his barracks and join him and his colleagues for a dinner to celebrate some past victory of the Vietnamese military against some chinese aggression .. I think that was what it was. He arrived at the Guest House on his motorcycle.
As we were riding along, he turned to me and asked, "Do you like dog meat?"
"Dog meat? Never tried it before! I don't think I want to try it either," I said.
"Oh", and he stopped his motorcycle and started mumbling to himself. "Never mind", he said, and we continued on our trip.
The military barracks were not that far from the university campus. As soon as we arrived at the barracks, he called one of his friends and spoke something in Vietnamese. And then I saw the man get on his motorcycle and off he went. I wondered what that was all about.
There was only one other lady in the room where the dinner was held. Nobody spoke any English there, but Dung was very nice and translated for me. The other guys had some questions for me, and so Dung did the translation.
There was plenty of food on the table, but nobody started eating until the man who had gone off on his motorcycle came back. And guess what he brought back with him? Hahaha, steamed chicken! Apparently, the whole meal on the table consisted of dog meat! Dog meat cooked in many different ways! Hahaha.
So that evening I only ate chicken and some rice, and one of the sauces meant for a dog meat dish .. even that was not very satisfactory because the chicken still had lots of red on it .. not as cooked as I would like it to be! I left that dinner party still feeling very hungry.
On another occasion, Dung invited me to a relative's house in Hanoi for dinner. It had rained a lot that day and the road was quite wet. I had to put on my rain suit just to stay dry. Some roads in Hanoi were quite flooded, and Dung was quite wet by the time we got to his relative's place.
The dinner at the relative's place was to commemorate the death of a relative who had died many years before in some war or other. The Vietnamese are really into ancestor worship and they really venerate their long dead relatives.
All I can say about this dinner was that it was a lot better than the one I had at the military barracks! Heheh.
Despite his friendliness, I still had my suspicions about Dung. I even asked him straight to his face if he was a spy. He only laughed and said, "No, I am not a spy."
P.S. I returned to Vietnam again in 2002 with Doug and his friend, Ed. Dung was there to meet us at the hotel we were staying in. I still teased him about being a spy. He still denied that he was ever a spy. The evening we arrived, Dung and Quoc, another former Vietnamese student, took us to a restaurant where eel noodles was served. I had specially requested for eel noodles because I remembered how much I enjoyed it when I lived in Vietnam and had wanted Doug and Ed to try it.