This is Simon from New Zealand and he is our first guest on the balcony. Katherine met him out this weekend and asked us if we could invite him over...he's backpacking around SE Asia until he takes a job as a lawyer in London (like all New Zealanders do (Tarn did the same thing--actually, they are from the same city, Wellington). We could save him a bit of money, she says. Tarn and I are all for sharing the castle with people passing through.
Nicest guy in the world, and K and I get the balcony guest room ready -- we already got our landlords to put a single bed in, but now there is a small table and a guest towel as well. What else do you need? What a gracious guest. He comes in and is in absolute awe of the castle. He loves his balcony and cannot help himself; he recites something from Julius Caesar: He wants to stay with us longer (especially after we take him to the roof and he swings on the hammock under the palm with a beer in hand), but the rest of Vietnam calls him and he will catch his bus to Hanoi in the morning. K and I decide that we will post pictures of all of our guests in the room. We plan to have many of them between the three of us.
By the way, both Pam and Jessica, friends who plan to visit from Seattle (actually Pam will be stopping by while on her world journey) write to me today asking: when I come, do I get a party with DJ's too? The answer is "of course!!"
OK, now for a re-creation of an interaction with a motortaxi driver after school. Scene: dark clouds, smells like rain, nighttime (sad, at work until 6 again), wondering--do I get a taxi or a mototaxi?
(Keep in mind that he is speaking Vietnamese. But I know what he is saying.)
I show him my address. "How much?"
"I can walk down to that street and get one for fifteen."
"OK, get on. I'll do it for fifteen."
I get on and The Intersection is massively congested. He spins a wheely and goes onto the sidewalk. His bike dies. I get off.
"I will not ride with you if you go on the sidewalk!" I say.
"OK, OK, no more sidewalks."
I get back on and then begins my wild Saigon ride. He weaves in and out, in and out, into oncoming traffic, in front of cars. Finally, when he is about a mile from my house, he goes not on the sidewalk but on the side of the road that is kind of a walkway. He is going the wrong way on the walkway, swerving to miss pedestrians. He swerves onto the road again and just misses an oncoming bus and curses at the bad bus driver, getting in his way. I hit him on the shoulder.
"Let me off!"
He stops. He's confused.
"Let me off. You are scaring me! I will walk the rest of the way," I say as I slide off the bike. I pound my heart. "You scared me to death!"
He is wide-eyed. "But miss, I am a good driver. I know exactly what I am doing. I will take you the rest of the way home, like I promised."
"I don't want you to take me home. You are a crazy driver and you were weaving all over the place and you almost hit some people and a bus. Here, take your fifteen thousand and let me walk."
Now he pounds his heart. "But miss, I am a good driver. I have been driving this motorbike since your uncle was in Saigon forty years ago. I have won medals for my superb driving skills. The way I weave in and out of traffic, it's what I am known for. It would be against my honor if I don't take you the rest of the way home."
This goes on for a few minutes. He will not take my money. I tell him if I get back on, he has to stay on the right side of the street, and he must go very slowly. He agrees.
He drives slowly all the way to my alley. I get off and he tells me that even though he swerved everywhere, he is a good driver and got me home faster than anyone else could have.
Crap. I only have a twenty thousand bill. I give it to him and he shrugs. He doesn't have any change. "It's OK miss, I won't charge you, since I scared you so badly." He hits his heart. "I don't want you to think badly of Saigon motorbikes...this one is on me. Have a nice night."
I start to walk away. Only, oops...I translated that last one incorrectly. What he said, evidently, was, "I did such a good job, you should really pay me twenty."
Because he suddely produces change.
He gives it to me, tells me "Thank you" in Vietnamese and makes me say it back with perfect intonation before he lets me go.
Now. What do you think his translation of this interaction might be when he is having a beer with his fellow drivers tonight? Something like "I was just driving this lady home and she kept getting off the bike and pounding her chest like a mad woman!"
Other news: I finally found a can of Raid in the backpacker district where K and I met Simon tonight. When we get home, the ANTS are GONE!!
I picked up my first dress and shirt tonight from the seamstress next door. She did a fantastic job! When you come, bring your patterns and ideas!