12.00 The flash of a foreigners camera feels like an electrical strike as the rain pounds down outside.
12.30 A food buzzer relentlessly beeps.
12.45 She shoves chopsticks and cutlery still dripping wet into plastic baskets of varying colours.
13.00 The handshake by the elderly woman plays out in my head over and over again.
13.15 A man to my right is served a steaming plate of small crustaceans. He sucks at one and a string of goo that resembles melted cheese elongates from his mouth attached to the shell he holds out in front. "Tissue?" He asks the young Vietnamese waiter who stands in blue gum boots, a red and white checkered shirt and trousers, holding a menu as a child beginning first grade would proudly hold their school hat.
14.00 You look very militant the Italian had observed. Are you here modelling? Have you been to Milan? Have you been to Italy? You look like my friend Laura, yet you are not. Can we take a selfie? I suppose my reluctance to answer his questions only encouraged him to ask more, "do you speak English?" Yes, I finally responded. Yes you can take a photo with me. Yes I've been to Italy. Yes I am a Model. No, I'm not in the military, but I will hurt you if you hurt me. The last line didn't leave my lips, but my mind attempted to decipher his coded intentions. The stall owner ushered us on wards and a thunder strike broke our line of conversation. He spun it is his favour in an attempt to continue to hold my attention. "Army Hannah get out your gun, quick it's war." I smiled at his attempt. "Go forth Army Hannah. I'm with the Australian," he proclaimed. "In Italy we don't fight. Peace and love." He paused and reflected. "Except food, we fight over food." I grew bored of the pleasant small talk. I was travelling alone for a reason. I brought the conversation to a cul-de-sac, turned around and walked away. "Let me know when you are in Milan. I'll whatsapp you..." His words drifted into the atmospheric rush of noise behind me.
16.00 I posted two letters from the royal post office, Ho Chi Min stared down upon me. 45, 000 she typed into the calculator and spun it around so it would face me. I bathed the stamps on the skin of the wet sponge before sticking them on the resigned space of the post cards. She pointed to a blue basket, I tossed them in and progressed towards the entrance, negotiating a path through the barricade of people. "She's rather tall isn't she", the overweight American observed.
16.45 Lemongrass and peach iced tea wets my throat. The beeps persist. I sit overlooking another construction site. Infrastructure is obviously booming.
19.05 I was the first to leave the red velvet seating. She called my name. Disbelief halted me. I turned to see her standing before me. The hair of Brigitte Bardot in the attire of Patti Smith; we embraced. "Have you eaten?" "No, should we?" "I know the perfect place. It has an old elevator, you will love it." She affixed the flash to her Canon AE-1. I affixed my khaki cap with the iconic red Vietnamese star stamped on the front. The traffic flew passed her back. The Opera House stood proudly in place behind mine. She took my photo and our journey began.
Arrival into Saigon.