I go to her booth this morning and have her write down all the ingredients we will need. Her sister, Tan (I thought they were just co-workers, but they are sisters), looks over the list. Tan speaks better English than Thuy. She and Thuy get into a little argument, and Tan makes a check by five of the items listed. "Get only these, she will get the rest. You won't know where to buy these."
Well, I don't know what anything is, so I go to my favorite produce lady in the market and show her the list. I tell her I only need the ones with the check marks. She fills a bag with limes, onions, peppers and oil, and says that's all she has, she doesn't have any salad or basil today. The orange lady sitting across from her in the alley comes to take a look at the list.
She begins a conversation with the pork lady and the catfish lady. They all stop what they are doing to gather in the middle of the alley and have what seems to be a heated argument about the other supplies on the list, but I know now that it's not a heated argument at all, just a discussion (their voices get really loud). I think they discussed that list for about five minutes, when finally the pork lady hits me on the arm and says, "Follow me."
Holding my yellow sticky note list in her hand, I follow as she goes from store to store, picking items off the shelf and telling me how much, then each time hitting me on the arm and repeating, "follow me."
After five stores, we are done. I have everything on the list.
I return to show Thuy and Tan and they laugh as they take each item out of the bag. One extra item I have is black beans. Tan asks me how I will cook them and I tell her I will make bean soup. "NOOOO!" she says. (Same shame tone as the rest.) "Boil them in water with sugar."
And as if that is not enough order-taking for the day, as I am walking back toward the castle, I hear, "Marjorie!" It's Nam, on foot with no motorbike in sight, running from his great aunt's home. He wants to check through my bags, too. And he, also, laughs. But he does not scold. I included a still-life picture of my market purchases, in case you all find them as funny as everyone else does.
After I drop off all of my supplies at the castle, I make a special trip to give Tran the CD I made her as a selfish gift. Since this culture is so sentimental, I put my favorite soft R and B hits on it: Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, The Manhattans, Marvin Gaye, Al Green. All of the Bum Bum Girls are sitting in a row, a classic picture. Tran is seated third from the right, and to the left of her is the girl who washes my hair. I hope Tran loves the music and puts the other CD to rest!
Stay tuned for Sunday Night Dinner, part 3!