Brian, thank you SO much for finding a picture of my latest dress, because I was REALLY dreading playing dress up and asking Katherine and Tarn to take pictures of me. The Princess Di silver off-the-shoulder ensemble, it's exactly what I wanted.
Tonight's theme is music in its many forms in HCMC.
First, Cracking Bamboo:
Cracking Bamboo is somewhere in between bizarre, terrible and a little bit cool for about five of the ninety minute set. It's an ensemble of percussionists (and a few really bad steppers) from all over Asia and Europe (mostly Norway)-- ten drum sets, a big gong, a huge water jug, some chairs. Maybe someday someone will explain to me why even at the classy Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory, music must be played to distortion level on speakers. I spend the whole time wanting to be in bed (others from the school are also there, and I can't look at them during the abstract pieces (especially the Norwegian ones...it's like my international school experiences are colliding...because I will laugh). When it's over at ten, I just want to go home and crash.
But...I guess that I got Nam's whole family wrong earlier, because when he picks me up tonight, we turn down a different, narrow alley altogether, a few neighborhoods away from mine, and I mean a narrow, narrow alley, and we stop at a very small stack house. This, it seems, is his house. I meet his two daughters (both high school age. Amy, are you on to something?) and there is his wife--very, very gracious. Their house is small, with a tiny area hosting a TV, a fridge and a staircase upward. I ask if I should take off my shoes and his wife laughs and points at what they have...not much. No, don't take off your shoes. She invites me to sit down and the only place to sit is on the floor. I'm in a dress. But I sit. She offers me water from the fridge and a peach. The peach is to go, just a gesture of hospitality. The daughters know a little English. Nam wants to teach me how to count in Vietnamese at ten on a Thursday night while I am sitting on his floor in a dress. I try to pretend that I want to learn how to count to ten. Fortunately, we are there for a pretty short amount of time when he gestures for us to go. Phew. I wonder how many other family members I will get to meet?? After all, he has ten brothers and sisters, unless I misunderstood that, too, so this could be a long process. I think the house near mine is that of his great aunt, because his daughter tells me that their grandmother died.
Back to music.
The First Annual AIS (American International School) Musical
Each teacher at AIS must be involved with or lead an after school club. So I volunteer to help Alice put on a production of The Wizard of Oz. I know there is so much to learn from her...she is an expert in her field (I googled her and found a very positive New York Times review of a play she was in...that's The New York Times, by the way...) Sixty kids sign up to be a part of it and Alice is a diva at organizing them. Last week, with no notice whatsoever about how big the group would be, she had them walking in circles chanting, doing breathing exercises and playing drama games.
Today she reveals to the club the play we will do; none of them have heard of or seen The Wizard of Oz. So all sixty of us watch the movie for club today--auditions for parts will be next week. Imagine how sweet: sixty naive, well-mannered Vietnamese kids watching that movie all together for the first time. They cheer when Toto escapes from the nasty lady on the bike; they oooh and ahhhhh when Dorothy walks into color and when they first meet the munchkins. They laugh at the scarecrow and especially the lion. I haven't seen it for a long time, so the experience is magical.
In the evenings, K, T and I like to watch MTV Asia because they play the most obscure 80's music videos-- lots of one hit wonders. Last night it was Mr. Big: the three of us can't help but sing it altogether: "I'm the one who wants to be with you; deep inside I know you feel it too; waiting on a line (waaaaiting on that line).....just to be the next to be with you; when it's through, it's through, a fateful twist for both of you; so come on baby, come on over, let me be the one to show you..." You're all singing it now, aren't you, and you can picture them with their big hair (here's some help): Or in the morning, K and I see Rick Springfield singing "Jessie's Girl." Things like that just make your day.
Grocery Shopping Music
Everty time I go to the grocery store, I feel like I am in the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland. And yes, they play the Small World music to distortion level.
When's the last time you heard "The Theme from Love Story"? Or "A Time for Us"? Or "Guantanamaro"? Because I hear those songs now every time I get a massage. There must be a massage CD that the government makes every salon in HCMC buy. I can't think of another reason someone would willingly play this elevator music other than by a communist mandate. But they ALL do, and I should know, because I have had my share of massages here. I love the massages, but man, can I make it through that awful music for nine more months? K and I plan to someday bring our own CD to the Bum Bum...maybe they will understand?
Karaoke on Wheels
Everything is on wheels, and almost everything is on motorbike wheels. The other day we see a lady with a huge weighing scale on her bike. All you need to do is to flag her down and she will put the scale down and weigh you right there in the middle of the street. I don't see one person flagging her down. Then, yesterday, Tarn sees a guy with a "To Go" karaoke set up. He's just driving down a busy street on his motorbike when he suddenly stops, pulls out speakers and a microphone and a display screen and the music begins to play. I wish I had seen it.
Friday, Friday, Friday. What to wear? I think it will be my Princess Di.