Saturday, September 20, 2008

Castle Party Highlights

1. We have the neighborhood cater it: the turmeric rice cake lady makes fifty cakes and a fresh spring roll lady we like makes twenty rolls.

2. We buy two big cakes from the local cake lady for birthdays: one angel food-like cake with layers of jello and one plantain cake that we mistook for rhubarb. Cakes are not Vietnam's best selling point, but they are OK.

3. Since we have yet to hire a cleaning lady, we get up at six a.m. and mop all of our decks (three) and all of our stairs and floors (we've been walking on grimy floors for two weeks). We are dripping with sweat.

4. My two roommates work for hours on their DJ playlists. Tarn, especially, concerns himself with four lists of music to go with any direction the party moves.

5. We're so exhausted from working all day, going to stores -- and getting my orange lamp wired by a personal electrician down the street-- that when I see it's 6:30 and people are coming at 8, I decide to walk two blocks down the alley to get my hair washed (I didn't want to get my bathroom dirty...the showers are over the toilets and you track dirt and water everywhere when you shower). Now I know we have been paying tourist prices: a hair wash (basically a half hour head massage), a condition, a cucumber facial (just like the ones I've had at the Korean Spa), blow dry and style at the Bum Bum salon costs me 40 thousand, or $2.40. We've been paying at least double that. I'm going back for a $2 massage tomorrow. Nice, nice people, too. These salons are everywhere: a hair wash/massage is part of the culture, just like in China.

6. Not a cloud in the sky all day...but while I am at the salon, it starts to pour and it rains harder than I've seen it yet (Yes, Megan Gallagher, like Costa Rica rain!) We have worked all day getting the roof ready...

7. Our first guests are a half an hour early. They are Vietnamese girls from the office and library. They don't eat anything before coming because Vietnamese parties always include dinner food. They chop up their watermelon and look very uncomfortable until other Vietnamese people come. We hear later that they are thrilled to be included in a "mixed" party.

8. Over fifty people come.
9. Franco the third grade teacher from Portland brings his mandolin and Linda the art teacher from Pennsylvania brings her violin. They take the balcony and play "Happy Birthday" to four September birthday people while we light candles for the cakes, then they stage a concert, beginning with "Red-Haired Boy."

10. The police come three times to tell us to lower our voices (our neighbors complained) and to tell us that some motorbikes could be stolen if left outside. A veteran teacher, Chris, says they do that kind of thing to foreigners all the time and that we can ignore them. The worst thing that happens is that Linda's shoes are stolen and she has to wear Tarn's flip flops home (just like Carrie in Sex and the City). Did the police steal her shoes? All the shoes sat in the foyer...

10. Katherine has placed the picture of me and Lyle Lovett on the mantel. A few girls see it, gasp over it and say "How do you know Lyle?" K is standing next to me and I can't help putting on a show. "We dated for a while." They believe readily. I hate their first question: "Before or after Julia?" For some reason, probably because it is very entertaining to K, I keep it up and have them going and just can't bring myself to tell them that it's not true. At the end of the night, K asks me, "Did you ever tell them the truth?" Oops.

11. The night ends on the roof, when the rain stops. "Ends" means that for two hours, between midnight and two, the ten remaining guests swing in the hammock or lounge under the palm. Four people sit on the rainbow bench, each with an instrument: Linda with her violin, Franco with his mandolin, Tarn with his harmonica and Chris with a plastic bottle and a kazoo. They play blugrass songs at Franco's direction. The only bad part about the night is that Alice is very very sick and can't come. This would have been her thing, completely. And even though Cynthia is out of the hospital and working, she doesn't make it either. She's still not feeling great.

12. This morning I am a bit sheepish when I step outside. All of our neighbors are out; the recycling lady is collecting our cans and I give a nod to everyone. Do you still like us? I am saying with my nod. A man who lives kitty corner comes over. I know he can speak English because Tarn talked to him the other day-- he is in charge of quality control for seafood exports to the US and Canada. He explains about the recycling system (the lady is paying me for all of the beer cans and I'm confused) and then he says, "So you had a party last night."

"Yes. I hope we didn't keep you awake."

"Well, we go to sleep early...but it's OK. The neighbors that called the police, they are in the house right there (he points about three houses down). They will be OK tomorrow, don't worry. Sometimes I have parties and they call the police on me, too. Did you have a good time? Was it your birthday...?" I find out that seven people live in his stack: his mother, wife, kids, brother, brother's wife, their kid.

Then I walk past the seamstresses. They come to the door, smiling. They speak no English, but they motion, "You had a party last night! Was it your birthday? Was it fun? Is that a rash on your shoulder? What is it from? You should put some lotion on it."

I ask if we kept them awake. "It's OK. You were having fun!"

I move on to the morning market. Everyone waves hello and offers to sell me eels, frogs, cakes, noodles, vegetables, jello. I love my neighborhood. The castle is open for business. Everyone asks if they can call and come over to hang out on the roof. Life is good. Think I will do something touristy today, like go to the Reunification Palace or the War Museum. Good night!


AmyT said...

Marjii's Christmas card:

"Everyone waves hello and offers to sell me eels, frogs, cakes, noodles, vegetables, jello. I love my neighborhood."

Marjii's Party: Way to go Marcia!

(Okay, B. Bunch & W. of Oz references on the same day is a bit too much. I'm out of practice being pithy.)

Brian Bowker said...

That sounds like it was the coolest party ever - with live musicians and everything! What a cool way to show off your place and build a closer bond with the other teachers!

You must have a sense of brotherhood with the other teachers since you're all in a foreign land together.

Did everyone think you guys have the coolest living arrangement?

kumma said...

What?! You dated Lyle Lovett?! How can I be your life-long locker partner, and not know about this?! Was it before or after Julia? He's a short guy - was the height difference an issue in your relationship? Did you try to help him with his hair? Details, please.

MAN, wish I coulda been there for that party... what a BLAST!

marjie said...

Amy, I LOVE your pithy comments, your plain comments, any comments. I hope you know it's your year-long job.

Brian, yes, everyone was appropriately jealous and yes, there is a definite "brother-sisterhood."

LP: "Before or after Julia?" Come on...