We took a one hour flight from Saigon to visit the central region of Vietnam, a popular tourist destination because of its cultural and historical significance. My mom raves about how Da Nang is her favorite city because it’s so clean and orderly and there’s never any traffic or homeless people. It’s definitely a lot more tolerable than Saigon; the streets are wide and the air isn’t as congested with pollution. It’s funny how we compliment attributes of Vietnam by comparing them to those in America; “that street is so wide and smooth, just like in America!” or “this hotel is so clean and comfortable, just like in America!” I’m starting to realize that although we can have plenty of pleasant experiences in Vietnam, it’s pointless to make these comparisons because something that is wonderful and amazing by Vietnamese standards simply would not be up to snuff by American standards, or vice versa. They are too different. My Vietnamese relatives express a mixture of horror and pity when they hear about how often we consume leftovers and frozen foods. Meals that would be perfectly acceptable in America are rejected as inedible disasters here. We visited extended relatives in the countryside and had a delectable lunch of duck salad with ginger fish sauce and fresh slices of roast beef with shrimp paste dipping sauce, all eaten with paper thin slices of green papaya, fresh herbs and sesame rice crackers. I thought it was heavenly and would be hard pressed to recreate anything like that back home, but in Vietnam it’s so typical that it’s almost unremarkable. What’s also typical and unremarkable is the relentless attack of flies. We had to swat at them constantly throughout the meal. We also drank warm beer, which we often do when the ice is from a questionable source (for some reason beverages never seem to be refrigerated). So there you have it, a collision of two cultural standards: a gourmet meal accompanied by flies and warm beer, in an impoverished countryside shack.