Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Orange and the Daily Grind

Remember that Simon was staying in the "backpacker district?" Well, when we were house searching (who knew it would turn out to be "castle searching") we wanted to avoid all houses that claimed proximity to the BD. Too touristy and, um, scummy, we thought.
However, it doesn't take us long to discover that we are a fifteen minute walk from it, and now we admit that it does have many coolness factors: for example, at any given time of day or night you feel like you at the UN - people from all nations line the sidewalk cafes and open tourist travel agencies claiming "Manila-$10," or the Indian food I eat tonight, chicken tikka masala (going back for the dosa - an Indian crepe filled with onions and potatoes), or this picture I buy in one of many artist copy shops. I walk by one shop and do a double take at "Starry Night" -- from a distance you really can't tell the difference. Men sit in the shops with a print of the painting they are copying and paint away with their oils. So I choose this painting. Don't you think it will go well with pink and baby blue? I also buy this lamp. Brian, I don't know what is drawing me to your color...

Back to the mototaxi quest: this morning I find my guy. He's low key, drives slowly and carefully, wears a blue shirt with a red helmet, and charges 15 thousand, straight. I'm so enamoured with his driving style that when he drops me off and I see Iain the Scottish science teacher who has been here for two years, I ask him to make a request to this driver to come back for me at 5:00.

So now, in the mornings, this is how my day goes: I walk through the alley market out to the main street to my sandwich lady's stand. I hold up either one or two fingers to let her know how many sandwiches for the day and she whips them up so quickly...shredded chicken, cilantro, carrots, cucumbers, no pate, a little salt and oil on a French Baguette (Banh Mi). They are yummy. This morning Mr. Blue Shirt Red Helmet sees me at the stand and offers me a ride and smoothly drives me the ten minute route to school through the nastiest of all nasty intersections. When the guard at the front of the school sees me, he uses his walkie talkie to alert Fourth Floor Security. I climb the four flights of stairs to my room and I find it unlocked with the air conditioning on.

Nice. Then massive amounts of sixth graders fill my life for hours and hours. I really like them. And I like learning about Sumer.

At 5:00, there is my mototaxi guy waiting patiently, in his blue shirt and red helmet. I show some enthusiasm that he is there, but he merely nods and starts his bike. I hear a "hey!" from across the street and it's Creepy Taxi Guy from yesterday. He laughs a sinister laugh and I just shake my head. I will tell people about that ride for the rest of my life. My guy takes me home nicely and I tell him, "See you tomorrow!" when I slide off the bike, and he just gives me that same emotionless nod.

And then-- because I am wearing the beautiful purple dress that my next door neighbor made for me, before going the two doors down to my house I step up into their shop to show them the dress on me. Both she and her work partner smile and laugh...they are so happy to see that I am wearing the dress and that I like it. I tell them how much I love it -- it's a great moment. How lucky am I? My seamstress is the definition of "sweet," too. I don't like to use that word to describe people, really, but that's what she is. Kind, gentle, unassuming, a little bit of sly humor in her.


Just thinking --I have been here just short of a month and I have a sandwich maker, a personal driver, and a seamstress. I know where lamp street, rug street, furniture street, Electric Avenue (start singing again), ban xeo street and vegetarian street are. A turmeric rice cake maker is just minutes away from my castle rooftop, on which I sit nightly in my hammock under my palm tree like a princess. And today I feel like I can handle this job. I am smarter than a sixth grader. It seems like six months ago I arrived at the Lan Lan Hotel, it really does.

6 comments:

Brian Bowker said...

Hi Marjie! It's so good to hear that you've had a really good day! Sounds like you are finding your groove - the Marjie Groove, if you will.

I'm also honored to have inspired your lamp and art colors. (Orange goes with everything, doesn't it?)

you are making me so hungry for Bahn Mi. I found a place in Bellingham that makes it, and pretty well too! But it's not quite the same if you don't have spicy mystery meat to frustrate seagulls with at the same time. :(

Jessica said...

Marjie, your talk of Banh Mi inspired me to run up to Seattle Deli and grab a sandwich and some tofu rolls for lunch. Yum.

Amy T said...

" I am smarter than a sixth grader," ahh, a new mantra for the week. My old ESL mantra was "a page ahead of the class!" Whatever gets ya through.

I'm ready for you to immortalize the sandwich lady, et all and photograph them. Cultural issues with that? How 'bout you, purple dress and Sweetie Two?

Carol said...

I'm with Amy -- I want to see a picture of you in the purple dress. And I'm SOOO happy you have a safe mototaxi driver!

Mom

The Norris Clan said...

Um... yeah, where's the picture? Oh, btw, I LOVE the lamp. Orange and pink work great together. I am inspired to go try a new Vietnamese restaurant in town tomorrow...

kumma said...

Orange and pink - the colors of Denny's back during our days at LHS...