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Commentary: The Trump-Kim summit scared the Bún bò Nam Bộ Out of Me

(Evan Vucci | The Associated Press) U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Hanoi.

A few days ago, I received a phone call from Vietnam.

“Don’t worry, honey, there are snipers on our roof.”

On the other end of the phone is my husband in Hanoi, trying to reassure me about his safety.

“How, for the love of Mike,” I wail, still in my pajamas, “is that supposed to reassure me?”

As chance would have it, my husband is on a business trip staying in the very same hotel as Donald Trump during the summit with Kim Jong Un. Don Don (as my husband must surely feel entitled to call him now) occasionally leaves my husband’s hotel for summit meetings at the other hotel where Kim Jong Un is kicking it up.

This is the first I hear that my husband is close to the action. Hadn’t I expressly begged him weeks earlier to give Trump ’n’ Kim a wide berth, miles of it, if he were to see any presidential-looking limousine or anything remotely entourage-esque?

As soon as I hear the word “sniper,” in soft reassuring tones from my husband — like patting a baby to sleep — my adrenaline shoots through the roof. What if some lunatic does the unthinkable? Or, should I say, the thinkable, as bad things have happened before to people in high places. What kind of world do we live in where legitimate high-level fear can go from zero to 60 this fast?

My mind became a minefield of intrusive thoughts. It’s not as if Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump are people that the majority want to embrace. Aren’t they possibly the two people in the world most likely to get spat upon by a kindly hugger holding a Free Hugs poster? What if someone wants to do more than spit?

My husband says it’s different in Vietnam when he talks to locals. Yet my left eye starts twitching, even though he is telling me how much they like the Don, saying things like, “Oh, Trump! He’s a superman. We love him.”

When my husband tells me of their appreciation that Trump was in Vietnam on a mission (one that hopefully will make the whole region safer), none of it calms me.

He continues, “They realize he’s a little bit nutty. But here they admire really powerful men, so they seem to look up to him.”

Still, my adrenaline continues to spike, and I’m crying. As for Kim, well, one local told my husband they think Kim Jong Un is a “big bad baby man.” He also heard from the locals that they seem to “Love Americans, in spite of the Vietnam War.”

None of this made me feel any better in the moment. I kept imagining rogue, worrisome folk with big bad baby plans to end it all. He kept trying to assuage my fears with more talk of stairwell security soldiers; more talk of soldiers outside the perimeter of his hotel.

“Seriously, sweetheart, every 20 or 30 feet there’s another soldier. And they have machine guns. Really, I do feel safe.”

Machine guns? Like I said, none of this made me feel any better.

Do you know what did make me feel better? Well, it wasn’t when Trump cut the nuclear summit short — cancelling lunch and the signing ceremony. No, I finally felt better only when I got a phone call from my husband after the summit was over, telling me about the Bún bò Nam Bộ he was eating for breakfast, safe near the hotel lobby.

Let’s hope that in the long run, there is a similar outcome for America and North Korea.

Gwendolyn Taylor Soper

Gwendolyn Taylor Soper is a writer and musician. Her first publication was a poem titled, “Moth”, in Exponent II Magazine. She lives in Orem.

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