Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michelle, Cecilie, "Sweetie" and TW

I just watched Michelle Obama's speech on YouTube...how cool is that, and how cool is she? She should be VP. Now I am trying to streamline Marty and Jody's morning show on 103.7. How cool is that (if I can figure out how to do it), and how cool are they? I'm so close to the world, here in my little Lan Lan hotel room in Saigon.

Everyone went across the street to eat green papaya salad, but I have only graduated to scrambled eggs in the baguette. My stomach turns a full rotation every hour or so, but I am not sick. I think I just have a very long tapeworm living inside of me. Soon perhaps I will hold a "Name Marjie's Tapeworm Contest." So instead of eating, I decide to wander through District One by myself.

Here is what my Eyewitness Travel book says about about the center of district one..."Arguably the liveliest part of the city, Dong Khoi does justice to the city's old nickname, "Paris of the Orient." This street became famous during the French era, and is home to elegant hotels and boutiques. The communist regime shut down most of these establishments, but Vietnam's economic liberalization in the mid 80's revived the area. Evidently, it is the center of action in Graham Greene's The Quiet American. As I walk, I just think about all of the stories this part of town could tell.

The Opera House, City Hall (pictured) the Municipal Theater and the General Post Office are all beautiful colonial buildings. But what is absolutely breathtaking is the Notre Dame Cathedral, sitting in the midst of everything. It was built in the 19th century of locally quarried stone and the red ceramic tiles were imported from France. The Virgin Mary was added in 1950.

I have to cheat and find these pictures on Google because I can't capture any of it at night. Standing in front of the Virgin tonight are about fifteen people holding books and candles, reciting a very very long prayer, followed by raised hands and singing. It's a very beautiful sight...they are surrounded by sunflowers and candles. I do have to say, though~ what they're doing does not seem very Catholic at all. But I suppose it must be.

After walking down Dong Khai, I decide to get completely lost. I have the name of the hotel in my purse and figure if it comes down to it I can just show the address to a taxi driver. What a magical place asia is at night... at least what I have seen of asia. Like in China, everyone takes advantage of the cool evenings. People are ballroom dancing on rooftops, so I can just see heads bobbing up and down, flowing gracefully together. Kids are practicing both karate and Tai Chi if they aren't text messaging while lounging against their scooters. Adults play badminton on the sidewalks.

Speaking of scooters, imagine this: You want to cross the street, but the army swarm of scooters does not stop. You scout the horizon for a break, but there really isn't one. So you just step out into the street. And you walk. And the scooters move around you, filling in the spaces between. Walking here is all about faith in the movement of people. No one gets angry...I haven't seen one bit of road rage...they just move into the open spaces. And they honk to let you know they are there. According to one of the school's Saigon experts, motorbikes stop and move for you, cars do not. Fortunately, a car did stop for me tonight when I got myself into a bit of a tight spot while practicing my walking faith. I must practice more. I'm not sure if I will ever be able to hire one of these motorbike taxis. They give you a helmet and you just get on the back. Lots of people from school do it, but I just don't know. I would have to close my eyes the entire time.

Returning to my hotel, I pass the Reunification Building. Tu did not point out many landmarks on our way from the airport, but she seemed very proud of this one. During the 19th c

entury, this was the palace of the French governor general. Later, it was occupied by Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam's president. In 1962, most of the building was destroyed by his own airforce in a failed assassination attempt. It was rebuilt soon after, but Diem was killed before he could move in, and the succeeding president fled from the rooftop in a chopper before North Vietnamese troops took over Saigon. in 1975, the South surrendered to the North, and the palace gates were knocked down by a N. Vietnamese army tank. The photograph of this event has become symbolic of the reunification of Vietnam. Everyone here talks about reunification.

OK, here's Cecilie's part: right after leaving my friends at the restaurant, feeling a little sad about my stomach, etc, I find a shop with beautiful silk clothing. I have heard that you can have clothes made very cheaply, but I don't know how that works yet (of course). So I'm just looking at all of these exquisite clothes that are very small and a cute young shopkeeper follows me, smiling.

Finally, I pantomime that I am a giant and cannot wear any of them. "Oh!" she says. "We will measure you and make your size!" Her English is perfect. We talk for quite a while and I find that she moved to the city from a rural town to learn English. Her Vietnamese name...well, I try to pronounce it but cannot. After three attempts, she says, "In English, it means 'Sweetie.' You can call me 'Sweetie.'" Now, calling someone "Honey," "Hun" or "Sweetie" does not come naturally to me. Casey and I agreed that there is a waitress at Mama's Mexican Kitchen who can call other women that (the same conclusion that Julie, Jessica and I came to years earlier about the same waitress). And perhaps someone who rides a Harely could as well. But I will call her 'Sweetie' and feel really weird doing it. I am going back tomorrow and I'm going to have a dress and a sweater made. I think they will cost about $40 and $80 respectively, but I will have to check on that. Sweetie, like all Vietnamese people I have met so far, are so eager to befriend Americans. The support staff at work today, the builders, people on the street...they are all looking and waiting for a smile and friendliness. When they get it, they give it back times one hundred.

Anyway, back to Cecilie. I want you here as my shopping partner. After the silk shop I find a shopping center with every top label you can imagine inside at very low prices. I really need an expert to help me! And I am just laughing that shopping has trumped eating for me so far. Are you all thinking of names for my Tapeworm?


Brian Bowker said...

Just our luck that you would get a tape worm that only likes french bread.

I think you should totally ride one of the motorcycle taxis! My favorite part of Puerto Vallarta was the crazy bus rides! These motorcycle taxis sound like the next level up in excitement!

The Norris Clan said...

Wow... you went a long way for scrambled eggs and bread! Doesn't Denny's serve that?

You MUST take pics of your new clothes when you get them. I love that her name is Sweetie. Too cute...

kumma said...

Name that tapeworm:

Wormy in my Tummy in Nummy Vietnammy that make no Nummy in my Tummy for this Nummy Vietnammy

Maybe too long. But very Seussy.

Brian Bowker said...

@kumma: Funny Nummy Vietnammy Tummy Wormy namey!

Angie said...

How about Tu-Tu, pronounced Doo-Doo, of which I think you have left more of in Vietnam than you wanted to!

marjie said...

Um, Brian, the "next level up in excitement..." I don't think the PV bus ride gives you any credibility. I sound like a snob, huh?

Karyn, I had to stand Sweetie up for an appointment with an apartment.

Sbill, Locker partners forever!

Angie, was that your comment, or was it made by a fifth grade boy?

Cecilie Eftedal said...

I would love to be your shopping partner next spring! Reading your blog is much more exciting than the speaker here at my job conference in Oslo. Luckily Jacob ´s sleeping in his stroller, so I can escape into a dream world of shopping called Vietnam.....zzzzz....