It was an unusually busy Sunday. Metallic tables and plastic chairs, just like the one’s I had seen in Thailand, with the dining room extending from inside out to the street and the make-shift kitchen out front. Even with all this seating, finding a seat was no easy task. The few that could be spotted in the midst of the masses weren’t easy to get to or propitiously in a group of 3 for me and my hosts, Zach and Dante. The tangible gaze that fell on us made it clear that we weren’t from around here- Zach the tall white guy rocking the bun on top his head, me merely a caramel, chestnut, brown yet the darkest thing they’d seemed to have seen. Dante, the Mexican-American, however got lost in the mix. At first glance, they think he’s one of them.
After waving off our proposal of eating in the bed of the truck, (which was “parked” in neutral), the hostess cleared us a space beside two older gentlemen who were amused to be the lucky ones stuck with us. I returned their silent salutations, eyed the buttered roll and noodles they were working their way through and then up at the walls to observe the menu of pictures.
But my grumbling stomach was growing impatient and I left the ordering to Zach and Dante who’ve been in Poipet, Cambodia with LightBridge for at least a year. This spot- like the others we’d visit- are part of their regular routine.
“How bout noodles?” Zach asked.
Hands up, “Why not?! Let’s do it!”
Dante was having an egg sandwich.
As I eagerly fixed my chopsticks in something of a pencil grip, warming up the ligaments and tendons in my fore- and middle fingers, ready to dive through the clouds of steam hovering over my bowl of beef noodles- the man to my right chuckles a little and asks in wonder, can you eat noodles? My eyes were now half as wide as they were before I turned from my soup- something like pho maybe.
“Yeah, I think so,” I responded, a little tickled.
I dumped in the bean sprouts and popped in the lime juice and got to work. The noodles were pleasantly thin with a little bite. A little sweet and salty with pleasant bites of beef hidden here and there. By the time I made it to the bottom though, the locals were already making their way out. I wish I’d have finished in time to ask my spectator, “So, can I eat noodles,” but we just laughed among ourselves, considering my present life in Japan.
(Side note, Thailand doesn’t use chopsticks very much from what I’ve seen, generally preferring the spoon, using other utensils to load the spoon.)