Detour

STRANGE BREW "Young sister, you drink ruou—you must have some more," the flush-faced butcher insisted, waving the bottle in my direction. With the glowing benevolence of a newfound friend, he poured the berry red medicinal rice wine into tiny teacups. Someone shouted the ubiquitous toast "Mot tram phan tram" (which means 100%) as we downed the liquor with one gulp and, in my case, with a grimace. Binh and his fellow butchers had been sitting around the tea stall in Cao Bang market for an hour, and we were on our third round of ruou and feeling little pain. Normally, this...

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