My company decided to have us work remotely from May 31. Beyond the worry about the pandemic, I also felt a little inner joy — no need to bustle in the traffic every day to get to the office and be able to sleep in again, who doesn’t want that?
In the first few days of working from home, I never walked out the door and depended entirely on ordering food to be delivered to my house. Every time my mother told me to go out to buy ready-to-eat food and breathe some fresh air, I resisted immediately. The sun was shining so hot out there, we totally could choose any other time to go out.
After the city-wide social distancing took effect on July 9, barriers began to appear near my house. Stores and restaurants were closed, we were not allowed to go from one ward to another anymore.
For the first time, going out to buy food was no longer “anytime.”
Throughout the social distancing period, I was like a bird in a cage. My heart was always screaming that the day Saigon reopened again, I had to immediately go out into the street and eat everything.
On the evening of September 30, when there was confirmed information about restaurants being allowed to reopen for take-out, I decided to go to bed early. At 6 am the next day, when I opened my eyes and went downstairs, I heard the sound of vehicles honking — a sound that I did not expect to miss so much.
For the first time in over 100 days, I actually stepped out of the alley where I live. No more wire fences, no more empty streets.
Things were not yet as bustling as before, some restaurants were still closed. Meanwhile, there was a long queue of buyers for delivery and take away at the places that reopened.
I decided to visit a street food stall selling grilled pork vermicelli (bun thit nuong) near my alley in Phuoc Binh, District 9. The dish has a little fewer inclusions than usual, even the pork was also much less. If it were before the pandemic, I would complain back and forth. But today, holding the takeaway box of grilled pork vermicelli in my hand, I was suddenly moved to tears.
Because I know to have this box of vermicelli, it required non-stop effort from everyone.
Saigon is not quite back to normal yet. But hopefully, if we all follow the rules and encourage each other, the day will soon come when everyone can walk freely to the restaurant and ask out loud: “Please give me a special bowl!” to dine in.
Translated by Thao Van