We’ve had a lot of rain the last couple of days, but this morning sunlight is flooding the maple trees. There are a couple of robins–a mated pair perhaps–singing back & forth from the tops of two nearby maple trees. Not competitive singing, just a duet. Maybe they are teaching their fledglings the basic repertoire of the robin tribe. They do something to intensify the qualities of the morning. The sunlight on green maple leaves is a degree more intense when they are singing; the coolness of the air wafting through an open window is just a little sharper; the bark of the dogs across the river just that much more distinct.
I am well and truly here, now that I have had my first cup of cafe nau nong–literally, hot brown coffee–at a cafe beside Hoan Kiem Lake. On my first morning in Hanoi, almost fourteen years ago now, I stumbled out of my hotel and found a small cafe, where I had my first taste of Vietnamese coffee and ever since then I have associated the taste of sweet strong coffee with this city. At home, I drink my coffee black, but here I have cafe nau nong, a small cup of black coffee which conceals a dollop of sweetened condensed milk on the bottom of the cup. Stirred up, the milk just barely changes the color of the coffee from black to dark brown. After my coffee and a croissant I strolled slowly around the familiar streets north of the lake, an old gentleman in a black fedora. From the side or back, I might have been mistaken for a Vietnamese grandfather taking his morning constitutional–well, if I had been wearing my belt up around my navel, that is.