San Francisco giants

So, we are tall people. And naturally we have felt extra-tall when traveling around southeast Asia. Sometimes it comes in handy, like when we need to locate one another in a crowded market or metro station. Sometimes it’s less convenient – Kevin has a collection of lumps on his head from banging it on things. But for the most part it hasn’t been a big deal, and our height has largely gone unremarked.

Until Hanoi, where we arrived to find ourselves CELEBRITIES OF TALLNESS. We’d be picking our way down the street — trying to avoid laying waste to the city’s zillion small sidewalk businesses or tripping over a broken walkway tile and pitching into the path of an oncoming motorbike — and find people poking their friends and pointing at us. Old ladies would make meaningful eye contact with me and point at Kevin, and then gesture way above their own heads. Yes, I would attempt to convey with my answering smile and nod. He is tall!

The best, though, was at the local sights and museums. In the Ho Chi Minh Museum – which is flabbergastingly bizarre, and you should go there – a young woman tailed us for a while, taking our picture when she thought we weren’t looking. One maybe 10-year-old girl came up and very politely asked if she could pose with us for a photo. And several different times we encountered big groups of elementary and middle-school kids on class trips — all in uniform, white shirts with red sailor ties — and they would goggle at us. Then — invariably! — some kid would shout out “Hello!” And we’d shout back “hello!” And then, every single kid would start yelling “hello, hello, hello!” And we would yell back “hello, hello!” And this feedback loop would continue for a bit, with us grinning foolishly at the kids, and the kids obviously getting a huge kick out of discovering and conversing with these huge zoo animals.

With one group we met – in which the kids were slightly older, maybe early high school – several members approached us, one at a time, to measure their height against ours and then say “wow.” One woman, who I think was a teacher or chaperone, squeezed my forearm, and then laughed as if to say “weird, it’s real!”

Strangely, being a traveling sideshow attraction was a really nice experience. I guess because people seemed so psyched, it made for a pleasantly reciprocal-feeling tourist experience. Here we are, checking out your cool city, and here you are, gawking at some of the more gargantuan foreigners you’ve seen lately. We go home and talk about how weird the Ho Chi Minh museum was; you go home and tell your family about how you saw this ENORMOUS dude. Everybody high-five!

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