How Old Are You?

It’s common in Vietnam to be asked your age, even by people you don’t know very well. In the little restaurant I’ve been going to on L Quốc Sư, the woman who owns the place has been kind enough to tolerate my halting Vietnamese & I have achieved the status of a regular customer. So the other evening, as she was cleaning up my table, she asked, “ngbao nhiu tuổi?” and when I replied “Su mười một” (sixty-one), she replied, “Khỏe!” which means “healthy,” but in this context meant something more like, “Wow! Not bad for an old guy!”

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.